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  • November 21, 2023

    More and more of my recent inspection requests are as a HUD Consultant where I play an important role in the 203(k) loan process. I knew nothing about this as a home inspector until I was recruited by MakeOver Homes For those of you interested, but unfamiliar with 203(k) loans, here's a primer: What Is An FHA 203(k) Rehab Loan? It is a form of home financing or refinancing that enables home buyers and homeowners to combine both costs associated with the real estate itself and expenses due to be incurred through renovation into a single mortgage. Basically it allows the borrower to ROLL RENOVATION COSTS into the mortgage. How Does An FHA 203(k) Loan Work? The loan takes into consideration the AFTER RENOVATED VALUE to determine the value. A client obtains a renovation BID from a contractor and that bid amount and scope of work are given to the appraiser to come up with an ARV. Then the lender includes the renovation costs, plus other allowable costs into the loan. What Improvements Can NOT Be Included In An FHA 203(k) Loan? Luxury items such as a pools, hot tub, outdoor firepit or BBQ pits are not deemed eligible expenses by the FHA under the terms of a 203(k) loan. As a general rule, any upgrade or improvement that does NOT improve the actual functioning or attractiveness of the property won’t be covered under an FHA 203(k) loan. What Type Of Property Qualifies For An FHA 203(k) Loan? Owner Occupied Properties. 1 to 4 units as long as the borrowers primary residence is one of the units. What Type Of Property Do NOT Qualify For An FHA 203(k) Loan? Certain types of properties may also be prohibited from application, such as mixed-used properties (which combine residential and commercial space) and co-ops. Be sure to do your research before applying for an FHA 203(k) loan. Some properties do NOT qualify. An experience 203K Consultant can help. Who Can Qualify? FHA 203(k) Loan Qualifications As with any personal loan or mortgage, home buyers or homeowners must meet certain minimum requirements in order to qualify for an FHA 203(k) loan. These requirements are similar to normal FHA loan requirements. 110% Loan To Value Using An FHA 203(k) Loan FHA allows a loan amount up to 110% of the After Repaired Value. This is helpful when renovating items that do not add much value to an appraisal. This rule gives the borrower a little more wiggle room vs. using a traditional mortgage or other type of renovation loan. Can An FHA 203(k) Loan Be Used To Refinance A Home? YES, it does allow homeowners to refinance and roll renovation costs into the new mortgage. In summary, the choice between an FHA mortgage and an FHA 203(k) mortgage depends on your specific needs and the condition of the property you're interested in. If you're looking to buy a home that needs significant renovation, the FHA 203(k) loan can be a valuable option, but it does come with added complexity and requirements. On the other hand, a standard FHA mortgage may be more straightforward but may not provide the funds needed for extensive repairs or renovations. It's important to carefully consider your financial situation and the condition of the property before making a decision. Consulting with a mortgage lender experienced in both types of loans can be beneficial.

  • November 15, 2023

    Fall in Minnesota transforms the landscape into a breathtaking palette of reds, oranges, and yellows as leaves gracefully descend from the trees. However, with this autumnal beauty comes the inevitable task of leaf cleanup. Raking leaves is a time-honored tradition, but is it really worth the effort? Let’s explore the pros and cons of this seasonal chore in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as we enjoy a beautiful day outside in the mid-60's. Pros Lawn Health Regular leaf removal prevents a thick layer of decaying leaves from suffocating your lawn. This allows sunlight, air, and nutrients to reach the grass, promoting a healthier, lusher lawn come spring. Pest Control Piles of leaves can harbor pests like rodents and insects. Raking eliminates these cozy hideouts, reducing the risk of infestations and protecting your home and garden. Curb Appeal A well-manicured lawn enhances the aesthetic appeal of your home. Raking leaves contributes to a tidy and well-kept exterior, boosting your property’s curb appeal. Municipal Regulations Some municipalities in Minnesota have regulations regarding leaf disposal. Raking ensures you stay compliant with local rules, avoiding potential fines or penalties. Cons Eco-Friendly Alternatives Allowing leaves to decompose naturally can enrich the soil with essential nutrients. Some argue that leaving leaves on the ground is a more environmentally friendly approach, benefiting the ecosystem and reducing waste. Labor-Intensive Raking leaves can be a physically demanding task, especially if you have a large yard. It requires time and effort, and for those with physical limitations, it might not be a feasible option. Backyard Biodiversity Fallen leaves create a habitat for various insects, fungi, and small animals. Raking disrupts this natural ecosystem, potentially affecting the biodiversity in your backyard. Composting Potential Instead of sending leaves to the landfill, they can be turned into valuable compost. Some argue that leaving leaves to decompose or composting them is a more sustainable and eco-friendly option. Whether you embrace the rake or choose a more laissez-faire approach, the beauty of fall in Minnesota remains, painting the landscape with vibrant hues.

  • November 13, 2023

    Continuous radon measurement equipment plays a crucial role in safeguarding indoor air quality and protecting individuals from the harmful effects of radon gas. Radon, a colorless and odorless radioactive gas, is a natural byproduct of uranium decay in the soil. Prolonged exposure to elevated radon levels can pose serious health risks, including an increased likelihood of lung cancer. To ensure the effectiveness of radon mitigation efforts, it is essential to calibrate measurement equipment regularly and adhere to state and federal standards. Calibration is the process of adjusting and verifying the accuracy of radon measurement devices. Proper calibration is vital for obtaining reliable data on radon levels in indoor environments. Over time, equipment may experience drift or deviation from the intended measurement accuracy. Regular calibration helps correct any discrepancies, ensuring that the readings obtained are precise and trustworthy. This is particularly important given the sensitivity of radon detection – even small inaccuracies can lead to significant misinterpretations of indoor radon concentrations. Compliance with state and federal standards is equally critical in maintaining the integrity of radon measurement practices. I follow the MN Department of Health and the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP). Different regions may have specific regulations and guidelines regarding acceptable radon levels and the use of measurement devices. Staying abreast of these standards ensures that professionals in the field are employing the most up-to-date and effective methods for radon detection. It also helps in providing accurate information to homeowners, allowing them to take informed actions to mitigate radon risks. Continuous monitoring is a key aspect of effective radon measurement. Unlike short-term tests, continuous monitors provide real-time data, offering a more comprehensive understanding of radon fluctuations throughout the day and across seasons. Regular calibration of these continuous monitors ensures that they consistently deliver accurate and reliable results, enabling prompt intervention if radon levels exceed recommended thresholds. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides guidelines for radon measurement and mitigation. Adhering to these federal standards is essential for professionals in the radon industry to maintain credibility and ensure the safety of occupants in homes and other indoor spaces. I am required to have annual calibrations on the equipment that I own. Both of my Continuous Radon Monitors (CRM) came back recently and passed. I just set them up in my lower level to measure levels in a room I did two years ago. This commitment to precision and adherence to standards is fundamental to creating healthier indoor environments and safeguarding public health from the dangers of radon gas.

  • November 7, 2023

    Does West Egg install ... fireplace mantels? Yes we do. I just finished installing this 4' x 6" x 8" wood mantel on my brick fireplace. See the installation video here:

  • November 6, 2023

    The holiday season brings joy and warmth, often marked by festive decorations adorning homes. Amid the excitement, it’s crucial to ensure safety while decking the halls. From wreaths to lighting, here’s a guide to safely embellishing your home for the holidays: Wreaths When hanging wreaths, choose sturdy hooks or hangers suitable for the weight of the wreath. Inspect artificial wreaths for any damaged wires or sharp edges. For live wreaths, mist them regularly to keep them fresh and prevent them from becoming a fire hazard. Keep them away from heat sources and always remove them promptly after the season ends. Exterior Lighting Before hanging lights, carefully examine each strand for frayed wires, broken sockets, or any signs of wear and tear. Use outdoor-rated extension cords and lights to prevent hazards. Safely secure lights using clips or hooks rather than staples or nails to avoid damaging wires. Ensure all outdoor outlets are protected from the elements with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) to prevent electric shocks. Indoor Lighting When using indoor lights, don’t overload electrical outlets. Use surge protectors to prevent electrical issues and fires. Turn off decorative lights when leaving the house or heading to bed to avoid potential hazards. Always unplug lights before changing bulbs or adjusting the display. Fire Safety Keep decorations, especially wreaths, trees, and lights, away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, and candles. Consider using flameless candles or LED candles to create a cozy atmosphere without the fire risk. Ensure smoke detectors are functioning correctly and have a fire extinguisher on hand in case of emergencies. Secure Decorations Avoid blocking exits or pathways with large decorations, ensuring a clear escape route in case of an emergency. Secure all decorations, particularly heavy or tall items, to prevent them from toppling over in case of strong winds or accidental bumps. Tree Safety If opting for a live tree, keep it hydrated to reduce fire risks. Choose a fresh tree, regularly water it, and place it away from heat sources. For artificial trees, check for fire-resistant labels to ensure safety. Child and Pet Safety Avoid using small decorations or items that could be choking hazards, especially in households with children or pets. Keep potentially harmful plants or decorations out of reach. Ladder Safety Before stepping on a ladder, read the safety label and follow the weight limits and usage recommendations. Always keep in mind these rules: If possible, use the "buddy system" and have someone hold the base of the ladder while you are on it. The base of the ladder should be placed so that it is one foot away from the building for every four feet of height to where the ladder rests against the building. Follow the “belly button rule”: Face the ladder, keep your belly button toward it at all times, and center your belly button between the right and left side rails of the ladder. Maintain three points of contact with the ladder — either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Do not stand on the top step or the ladder cap. By implementing these safety measures, you can cherish the joy of holiday decorations without compromising the safety of your home and loved ones. Enjoy a wonderful, safe, and beautifully adorned holiday season!

  • November 2, 2023

    In the frigid winter months of Minnesota, keeping rodents, especially mice, out of your home becomes a crucial task. As temperatures drop, mice seek warmth, shelter, and food, making residential spaces an inviting sanctuary. Implementing comprehensive strategies is key to preventing these tiny invaders from gaining access to your home. To fortify your home against mouse intrusion, begin with meticulous exterior inspections. Seal any potential entry points such as cracks, gaps, and holes in walls, foundations, windows, doors, and pipes using steel wool, caulking, or metal sheeting. Mice can squeeze through incredibly small openings, so even the tiniest gap can serve as an entrance. Another vital step involves maintaining the surroundings. Keep the immediate area around your home clear of debris, such as piled firewood, leaves, and clutter, as these can serve as nesting spots for mice. Trim back tree branches and bushes that could act as a bridge for mice to access your house. Inside, uphold high standards of cleanliness. Regularly clean up crumbs, food spills, and residue, particularly in the kitchen. Store food in airtight containers, including pet food, and promptly dispose of garbage in tightly sealed bins. Eliminating potential food sources deters mice from taking up residence. Strategically placed traps or bait stations can be effective in controlling mouse populations. However, ensure these are kept out of reach of children and pets. Consider using humane traps that capture the mouse for later release outside. For larger infestations, it might be prudent to consult professional exterminators who can employ more advanced methods to eliminate the issue. Employing natural deterrents like peppermint oil, cloves, or ultrasonic devices can also repel mice. Peppermint oil, for example, can be placed on cotton balls and positioned at entry points, as the strong scent is known to be a deterrent for rodents. Furthermore, a cat can serve as a natural predator and deterrent for mice. The mere presence of a cat in the house can dissuade mice from taking up residence. Their keen senses and hunting instincts make them effective at keeping rodent populations in check. Weather stripping around doors and windows also plays a crucial role in keeping mice at bay. This prevents mice from slipping in through small openings created by deteriorating or poorly fitted weather stripping. In Minnesota’s harsh winter, where temperatures plummet, it’s also important to monitor your home’s heating systems. Maintain regular checks on HVAC units and chimneys to ensure they are well-sealed and functioning properly. Mice are drawn to warm spots and might seek refuge within these systems. By implementing preventative measures such as sealing entry points, maintaining cleanliness, deploying traps or deterrents, and considering professional help when needed, you can create an inhospitable environment for mice, ensuring a rodent-free home throughout the winter.

  • November 1, 2023

    Ice dams can form on pitched-roof overhangs in cold climates such as Minnesota. Heat loss through the roof and heat from the sun (even in freezing temperatures) can cause snow on a roof to melt. As water runs down the roof onto the overhang, it freezes and forms an ice dam just above the gutter. The ice dam traps water from melting snow and forces it back under the shingles and into the building’s interior. Watch the edge of the roof overhang for evidence of ice dams and look at the eaves and soffit for evidence of deterioration and water damage. If the house has an attic, the underside of the roof deck at the exterior walls can be checked for signs of water intrusion. Ice dam removal is a pain, so try to prevent them from forming in the first place. The key to preventing ice dams is simply to keep your attic and roof cold. After a snowfall, a cold roof will have a thick blanket of snow. A warmer roof, however, will soon have clear spots where the snow has melted off, and may well have icicles hanging from the eaves. To keep your roof cold, follow these steps: Close up attic bypasses The Minnesota Energy Code says "An attic bypass is any air passageway between a conditioned space and an unconditioned attic." Attic bypasses are the driving force behind ice dams, as well as frost, moisture, and mold in the attic. If you eliminate all attic bypasses, you'll probably eliminate all of these problems. That's why it's so important to address attic bypasses before doing anything else. Sealing attic bypasses will also help to reduce energy bills and help with the comfort of your home. In reality, the biggest source of heat loss is through the attic, and the best return on investment is usually accomplished through air sealing and re-insulating the attic. Measure your attic insulation level Many home attics in Minnesota have some insulation; most can benefit by adding more attic insulation. Increasing attic insulation to an R-60 can provide a good barrier to heat loss (the code minimum for new buildings is R49). To determine the present R-value of your attic, have an energy assessment. You can also measure the height of the insulation and multiply times the R-value per inch of the material that is in place (2.5 to 4.0 per inch, on average). Roughly 12 to 20 inches (depending on the material used) will provide an R-50 rating. Although it generally won’t hurt to add more, the return on the investment decreases as the R-value increases above R-50. Add roof and soffit vents Roof vents allow airflow through your attic or roof space, helping balance temperatures and preventing moisture build-up. In the hot summer months, they enable hot air to escape, reducing the strain on your air conditioning system, while in the colder months, they prevent ice dams and mitigate the risk of mold and mildew growth. This ventilation process ultimately protects your roof and your home’s interior.

  • October 30, 2023

    As winter approaches in northern climates like Minnesota, preparing gardens, flowers, trees, and bushes is crucial to safeguard these plants and ensure their resilience through the harsh winter months. Several key measures can be taken to fortify these living elements against the frigid temperatures and snowfall typical of "The Frozen Tundra". (I've been watching too much NFL films and Steve Sabol). Garden and Flower Preparation Cleaning and Pruning As autumn progresses, cleaning the garden becomes essential. Remove dead annuals and trim back perennials to prevent diseases and stimulate healthy regrowth in the upcoming season. It’s also advisable to clear debris and fallen leaves to avoid mold and disease from taking root. Mulching Applying a layer of mulch over garden beds helps insulate the soil and protect the roots from extreme cold. Mulch regulates soil temperature, retains moisture, and serves as a protective blanket for delicate plants. Protecting Bulbs For bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, ensure they are well-insulated by adding extra layers of mulch or covering them with burlap to shield from freezing temperatures. Tree and Bush Care Pruning and Trimming Prune trees and bushes to maintain their health and structure. Remove dead or diseased branches and any overgrowth to reduce the risk of damage from heavy snow or ice accumulation. Winter Wrap and Support Wrap the trunks of young trees and thin-barked species to prevent sunscald or frost damage. Additionally, use tree guards to shield against gnawing from rodents and deer. Provide support for branches of bushes to prevent breakage under snow load. Hydration Before the ground freezes, water evergreens adequately to ensure they are well-hydrated throughout winter. This is particularly vital in dry periods when these plants can suffer from dehydration. Implementing these measures will fortify the garden’s ability to withstand the cold and facilitate robust growth when the frost thaws, promising a thriving and healthy garden in the spring.

  • October 23, 2023

    Gutters and downspouts might seem like simple components of a house, often overlooked by homeowners, but their role in safeguarding a home’s foundation and basement from water damage is paramount. Water is both a necessity and a potential threat to our homes. Rainfall, if not managed properly, can infiltrate a house’s foundation and basement, causing structural damage and mold growth. This is where gutters and downspouts come into play. They collect rainwater that falls on the roof and channel it away from the house. The importance of gutters is to prevent roof runoff from cascading down exterior walls. Without gutters, rainwater would pour over the roof’s edge, saturating the soil around the foundation, and seeping into the basement. This not only leads to a damp and potentially mold-infested basement but can also compromise the foundation’s structural integrity. When rainwater infiltrates the foundation, it can cause cracks, weakening the very core of the house. Downspouts are equally vital as they direct the collected rainwater from the gutters to a safe distance from the house. A downspout serves as a conduit, channeling the water into a drainage system or a well-placed exit point, such as a splash block or underground pipe. Without downspouts, the gutters’ collection of water would be pointless. Ideally, the ground should drop one inch for every one foot that you move away from the house for the first 5-to-10 feet around your house. The role of gutters and downspouts in removing water cannot be overstated. They work in harmony to ensure that rainwater does not infiltrate the home’s foundation, which would lead to costly repairs and potential health hazards. The well-maintained gutters and downspouts protect against erosion, prevent flooding in the basement, and maintain the structural integrity of the house. Make sure to clear out your gutters and downspouts on a regular basis to ensure they work properly. Properly installed and maintained gutters and downspouts are essential components that homeowners should never underestimate.

  • October 22, 2023

    As the vibrant colors of autumn fade and the temperature drops, homeowners should prepare their properties for the upcoming winter season. Simple maintenance tasks performed in the fall can make a significant difference in ensuring a worry-free winter. Here, I'll discuss some key steps that homeowners can take to protect their homes from the cold, snow, and ice. First and foremost, it’s essential to inspect and clean the gutters. Leaves and debris tend to accumulate in the fall, which can lead to clogs. Clogged gutters can cause water to overflow, potentially damaging the foundation and creating ice dams in freezing temperatures. Regular gutter cleaning will prevent such issues and ensure proper water drainage. Next, homeowners should check their heating systems. This includes having the furnace or heating system serviced by a professional. Regular maintenance ensures that your heating system operates efficiently and minimizes the risk of breakdowns during the coldest months. Additionally, replace air filters to maintain air quality and heating efficiency. Another critical aspect of fall maintenance is winterizing outdoor plumbing. This involves draining and disconnecting garden hoses, shutting off outdoor water valves, and insulating pipes in unheated areas. By doing so, you can avoid burst pipes and costly repairs caused by freezing. Sealing gaps and cracks around windows and doors is equally important. This prevents cold drafts from infiltrating your home, reduces energy consumption, and keeps your living spaces cozy and warm. Weatherstripping and caulk are inexpensive materials that can be used to seal gaps effectively. Finally, homeowners should inspect their roof for any damaged or missing shingles. Ensuring that the roof is in good condition prevents leaks and water damage during winter storms. By investing time and effort in these tasks, you can enjoy a comfortable and stress-free winter season while preventing costly repairs in the long run.

  • October 17, 2023

    Once summer is over and your air conditioner is taking its off-season vacation, many people wonder if they should be covering their AC until time to use it again in the spring. The short answer – no. However, there is a better time of year to cover it and you need to make sure it is covered properly to avoid damaging the unit. SNOW DOESN’T HURT YOUR A/C Your air conditioner is built with a sturdy metal covering that is made to resist the elements, including snow, rain, and extreme heat. These units were made with the purpose to sit outside year-round. COVERS HOLD MOISTURE AND CAUSE MOLD You may think that putting an air conditioner cover on your unit will prevent moisture from invading the unit, but with humidity, condensation, and other natural elements, there is no way to prevent any moisture from entering your unit. With a cover on you will trap what moisture is in your unit and over time this will mold. This moisture can also cause rust in your air conditioner. If the parts inside the AC garner enough rust, then this will cause your air conditioner not to work properly and need replacement parts. COVERS ATTRACT CRITTERS Another reason we see homeowners using AC covers is to prevent animals from nesting in the unit. However, a cover will actually make a nice, warm retreat from the cold for mice and other small animals. They tend to find materials in the unit to build their nests. WHEN YOU SHOULD COVER YOUR AIR CONDITIONER If you have a lot of trees near your unit then during the fall you should consider covering the unit to avoid leaves, berries, twigs and other fall debris from entering the unit. If debris does happen to get into your unit, then this should be found and cleared during annual maintenance service before it becomes an issue. This is part of the reason we recommend trying to get your AC serviced before you turn it on for the very first time the following year. It is not necessary to cover your air conditioner during winter but be cognizant if you have icicles forming above it and make sure to remove these to avoid them falling into the unit. If they cannot be removed, a sturdy top cover or piece of wood may be used to prevent the icicles from damaging your unit if they fall. You can also still use mesh coverings during the winter if you’d like, but they will not help protect against potential falling ice. HOW TO PROPERLY COVER YOUR AIR CONDITIONER To cover your air conditioner, cover only the top of the unit. Some full-sized AC covers may look pretty, but they can damage the unit for some of the reasons already mentioned. BUY AN AIR CONDITIONER COVER You can make your own air conditioner cover, but it is often easier just to purchase one. You can find them on Amazon or at Home Depot for $30 or less, just remember to only purchase the top covers, not the full unit covers. As mentioned, covering the full unit can lead to rust and mold. Make sure the measurements of the cover you are purchasing fit your air conditioner before purchasing. 32” x 32” is the standard size AC cover and will fit most units. CONCLUSION Covering your air conditioner, especially with a full-length cover, leads to issues of mold, rust, and other problems. Your unit is made to withstand the snow and a cover is not needed for protection. It is recommended to only cover your AC during the fall months. Be sure to have annual maintenance on your air conditioner each spring to ensure everything is still in working order before turning it on again for the cooling season.

  • October 16, 2023

    Homeownership is a significant milestone, but it comes with a set of responsibilities, including home maintenance. Ensuring the safety and longevity of your new home requires regular attention and care. In my manufacturing career, "running to failure" was a maintenance strategy promoted to save money by managers that didn't know better, but not one I followed nor would I recommend. Here are five essential home maintenance tips for new homeowners: 1. Inspect Your Home Regularly: Start by familiarizing yourself with your new property. Regular inspections can help identify potential issues early on. Look for signs of leaks, cracks, or damage in the foundation, walls, and roof. Inspect the plumbing and electrical systems for any abnormalities. By catching problems in their infancy, you can prevent costly repairs down the road. 2. Maintain the Exterior: The exterior of your home is its first line of defense against the elements. Clean gutters and downspouts to prevent water damage. Check for cracks in the siding and repaint as needed to protect against weathering. Trim overhanging branches and bushes to prevent damage from falling debris during storms. Regular landscaping and lawn care not only enhance your home’s curb appeal but also prevent potential pest infestations. 3. HVAC System Maintenance: Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system plays a crucial role in maintaining a comfortable and safe environment. Change air filters regularly to ensure proper airflow and indoor air quality. Schedule professional HVAC inspections and servicing at least once a year to identify and address any issues with your system, increasing its efficiency and lifespan. 4. Security and Safety: Ensure your new home is a safe haven. Install smoke detectors in key areas of your home and test them regularly. Carbon monoxide detectors are also essential. Check and replace batteries as needed. Consider investing in a home security system for added peace of mind. Additionally, secure windows and doors with strong locks to deter potential intruders. 5. Energy Efficiency Upgrades: Save money and reduce your carbon footprint by making your home more energy-efficient. Seal gaps around windows and doors to prevent drafts. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances and install programmable thermostats to optimize heating and cooling. Consider adding insulation to improve your home’s thermal efficiency. Maintaining a new home is a responsibility that comes with the privilege of homeownership. If you have some basic DIY skills it is a great time to build upon those by initially taking on simpler / smaller projects and increasing the complexity and scope as your experience, knowledge, and confidence grow. The resources available to assist are limitless with today's technology. There are many YouTuber's that are more than happy to share their expertise. If you don't have the DIY gene, hire good qualified contractors and ask questions & watch them work. It is also a great way to learn. Follow these tips and you can protect your investment while enjoying a well-maintained home for years to come.

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