The Pepper Group

5845 N Calle Tiburon
Tucson, AZ 85704

(520) 977-0003


Home Improvement

Home Maintenance
Remodeling Tips
Decorating to Sell Your Home

Home Maintenance

Your home requires some regular maintenance and attention in order to keep it in good repair -- to keep small problems from becoming large problems. Use this checklist as a reminder of annual inspections and tasks, and to help you determine whether you can fix problems yourself or you need to call a professional.

Before you get started:

A. Determine what is wrong or come as close to defining the problem as you can.

B. Read the applicable owner's manual or repair book to help you determine whether you want to tackle the problem on your own or seek help.

C. If you take on the problem yourself, gather the proper tools, equipment, and materials, follow the use and safety instructions carefully, shut off water and electricity as required, and know your limitations.

D. If you need help, call the supplier or brand-name service outlet, ask friends or neighbors for recommendations for repair or service companies. Look for companies that are licensed, bonded, and insured.

Let's get started:

1. Foundations

Inspect your foundation for cracks. If there is a problem, you will most likely want to call a professional. The problem may be caused by settling, by the growth of trees whose roots are undermining the foundation, or by water.

2. Drains

Clean out your gutters and drains. If your gutters have a cover screen, keep it free from debris. Basement water leaks near down spouts are sometimes caused by clogged or broken gutters and down spouts.

3. Walls

Keep the exterior walls clean by washing with a scrubber attached to the hose. Scrape off paint blisters, sand, and repaint where needed. Don't leave unfinished or untreated wood exposed to the weather.

4. Masonry

Is mortar between the bricks loose? Are chimneys straight and in good condition? Do you use your fireplace? Has the chimney been cleaned? Does the fireplace damper close properly?

5. Exterior doors and windows

Are your doors and windows straight and unwarped? Is there any trace of rot? Is the caulking around the doors and windows sound? Is window putty sound? Is the door or window frame of good quality, and securely fastened? Are doors or windows properly finished? Is paint cracking or peeling? Are locks and deadbolts in good order? Do you need to add locks or deadbolts? Do you need security stops for limiting window opening?

If the door is rubbing on the frame, check to see if hinge screws are tight, or if the frame is pulling away from the wall. Replace cracked or broken panes of glass.

6. Roof

Clean moss off your roof annually. Use a broom, moss killer, zinc flashing at the ridge line or whatever else is appropriate for your situation. Clean leaves and debris off the roof. Replace missing roofing material. Check for and repair any leaks. Provide adequate ventilation. If you have questions about this, ask a roofing or building professional. Keep ventilation free of debris. Does the ridge of the roof sag? This may indicate improper roof framing or ventilation. Is the flashing around chimneys and dormers in good condition?

7. Interior walls and finishes

Wash or paint walls and trim as needed. When sanding old paint, take precautions -- wear a dust mask, don't allow children in the area, vacuum the paint dust and chips, don't allow the dust to spread throughout your home. For information about lead-based paint, call the Department of Environmental Quality. Repair cracks. Stable or hairline cracks can be scraped out and filled. Patch dings, dents, and nail holes. Remove unused hardware and picture hooks. Fill holes. Are their any stains? This may be caused by leaks which need checking. Stains such as pencil, crayon, smoke, or water on walls will require special primer before new paint will cover.

8. Stairs

Are stairs and banisters solid? Repair handrails, stairs, and uprights as needed. Are exterior treads slippery? Clean and apply sticky-back grip tread as necessary.

9. Floors

Do floors (especially in kitchen or bathroom) feel spongy or sound hollow when tapped? This may be a sign of rot. The supporting subfloor and possibly the joists will need to be replaced in order to repair the problem. Repair leaks and replace rotted material to stop the problem. Do floors or stair treads squeak? If the material is in good condition, squeaks can often be eliminated.

10. Basement

Does the basement smell musty? This may be a sign of rot or of water seeping into the basement because of broken draining systems. This may be an indication of a small problem or a large one.

11. Mechanical systems

Are plumbing and wiring in good condition? Are the furnace and water heater in good condition? Do all the switches and outlets work? Do the faucets work? Do sinks, basins, and baths drain quickly and without bubbling? Is the electrical breaker or fuse box easily accessible and well marked? Do you change the furnace filters regularly? Is caulking around tubs and sinks in good condition? Does bathroom fan vent outside?

12. Attic

Can you see any sign of dampness, especially around chimneys or skylights? Is there any sign of infestation by birds, bats, or insects? Is the attic ventilated? Insulated? Can you see light through the roof? These are all problems which need attention.

Give your home a thorough annual check-up. Take care of the little problems so they don't become big ones. If you decide to "do it yourself" be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions, use the proper tools and materials, and follow the safety recommendations to the letter. If help is what you need, try to define the problem as clearly as possible, then call a reputable repair or service company.

Additional information.

Additional topics.

Remodeling Tips

1. Compare the Cost of Moving to Remodeling.
Moving is expensive, typically involving a 6% commission on the sale of your current home, plus another 2-4% for closing, moving, and other costs. If you like your present neighborhood then look into what improvements you could make 8-10% of your home's current value before you decide to move.

2. Design Ahead.
You don't want to come up with an additional brilliant idea right after the job is complete. You can reduce that risk by doing some advance research. Read up on design, talk to friends with knowledge and experience with the type of remodel you're considering, and get suggestions (and references from architects and remodelers while you're in the early stages of planning. If you're changing current floor plans get some graph paper or a floor planning kit and play around. Start a file for literature about components and finishes.

3. Don't Over Improve.
This may be of less concern if you plan to remain in the home for a long time, but its very important if you're remodeling to help sell your home. Some remodeling jobs, such as a prudent overhaul of a very dated bath or kitchen or the addition of a second bath to a one bath home, can return more than 100% of the cost at the sale of the home and help you sell your home faster. However if your current kitchen is in good condition and you do a very expensive remodel just because you want a different look, you'll probably not recover the investment. The same goes for the addition of a fourth bathroom or just about any improvement in a home that is already significantly more valuable than most of the others in the neighborhood.

4. Allow Plenty of Time for the Job.
Murphy's Law applies to remodeling. If you expect a contractor to compress a six week job into four weeks, you're asking for trouble. Also, you can save money and probably get the job done faster if you have the ability to schedule it in the off season when contractors have fewer jobs to bid on and are hungrier.

5. Check the Remodeler's Credentials - Carefully.
Are they licensed and insured for workers compensation, property and personal liability? If in doubt ask to see their insurance certificate. Do they belong to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council, and/or any of the more specific trade associations in the remodeling sector? That's a sign of commitment to the trade and to professionalism. Most also offer certification and/or management training and keep their members up to date on the latest products and techniques. Ask for recent references on similar jobs (employee and subcontractor turnover is often fairly high, so recent jobs are a more reliable indicator of their current capability.) Check their record with the local Better Business Bureau while you're at it.

6. Request a Comprehensive Bid.
It should detail as many of the specifications as possible. Get bids from three remodelers. If one of the bids is unusually low make sure they have included everything. If they have make sure you've thoroughly covered Tip #5.

7. Consider Doing Some of the Work Yourself.
If the bids are higher than expected and too much for you to afford you might be surprised how much money you can save. But make sure you're not getting into something you don't know how to do or something you don't have time to do. Things that come up near the end of a job, such as painting, finish carpentry, etc., are good bets since other parts of the job aren't dependent on their completion. Some can even be done after the issuance of the final occupancy permit.

8. Get a Comprehensive Written Contract.
It will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your remodeler. Most disputes arise over issues that were not resolved in advance. Make sure it covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc. with general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defect correction, change order procedures, warranties, rights to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since more than half of the costs of lawsuits represent legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise).

9. Consider Buying Certain Building Materials in Advance.
Styles for appliances and other building materials and supplies are subject to change and are often heavily discounted when they go out of production. If there's a style you like very much it may not be available next year so consider buying and storing them when you see a really good deal. With the advent of the large super discount home improvement stores prices are down to the point that remodelers can't often get much better prices from other sources, even with business discounts.

10. Be Patient and Keep Your Sense of Humor.
Usually there will be glitches. Usually it takes longer than planned. Usually things turn out all right in the end.

Additional information.

Additional topics.

Decorating to Sell Your Home

Selling a home can be an emotional and nerve-wracking roller coaster ride, but there are things homeowners can do to simplify the process. Some basic decorating principles can be applied that improve the attractiveness (often called curb appeal by real estate agents) of the property and speed up the selling of a home.

From a decorating perspective, your goal for your home is not at all what it would be if you were just moving in. Rather, your task is to put yourself in the buyer's shoes and ask: What needs to be done to make this home truly livable for me and my family?" What you want to do is make the home appealing, but with a neutral background so that any serious buyer can visualize his or her own belongings in place.

Your Realtor has already told you to tidy up closets, cabinets and store rooms, clean the carpet and tile and generally remove the excess clutter that accumulates with daily living. There is more that you can do if a speedy sale is your goal. Look hard at your carpet or tiled flooring: Has it seen better days? Is it a bright COLOR? Remember, a floor's fresh, new appearance in an easy-to-live-with COLOR is the fastest spruce-up available.

The same is true of a fresh coat of paint, which should be a neutral hue and consistent throughout the house. This is not the time to experiment with trendy treatments or COLORs. Salmon COLORed walls may look great with your white upholstery but will clash with a prospective buyer's mauve sofa.

Window treatments can also affect your home's sale-ability. Once again, neutral COLORs are essential, and the variety of products available offer choices to a seller in a hurry. It is a real plus to a potential buyer to find a home with attractive quality window coverings which are compatible with the buyer's taste.

Treatments already installed for privacy represent a substantial savings to a buyer who can put more decorating money into other projects. Mini-blinds have been the most popular solution in this regard, although pleated shades are now gaining favor as a moderately priced window covering. In many parts of the country, where weather can be extreme, energy saving features such as metalized and honey- combed shades can add even more to the appeal of any home for sale.

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The Pepper Group™
Diversified Real Estate
5845 N Calle Tiburon
Tucson, AZ 85704
Tucson Real Estate