Posted by admin on February 28, 2013
The home’s cobalt blue siding sets it apart from older brick houses in its River Forest neighborhood. But the color of the house on Jackson Avenue is the least of its distinguishing factors.
As northern Illinois’ first certified passive house, Corinna and Rodrigo Lema’s new house is a celebrity in architectural circles. Originated in Germany, a passive house has maximum indoor air quality and is super energy-efficient.
The Lemas’ house is the third certified passive house in Illinois, according to the Passive House Institute U.S., which certifies them. The other two are in Urbana and Champaign.
“If it were a car, it would be getting 300 miles per gallon,” said Mark Miller, executive director of the Passive House Alliance United States, which advocates for these homes. “Europe has embraced this for years. In the U.S., we’re just catching up. There are only 34 certified in the U.S.”
Corinna Lema was vaguely familiar with passive houses before she met their architect, Tom Bassett-Dilley of Oak Park.
“As energy prices went up, we knew we wanted a house that was less dependent on gas and electricity. If not off the grid, at least as much as possible,” she said.
After meeting with Bassett-Dilley, Corinna and her husband knew a passive house was the right choice. Bassett-Dilley recruited the house’s builder, South Elgin-based Brandon Weiss. Like Bassett-Dilley, Weiss has a green-building track record.
To earn certification, the house had to pass a third-party audit that included a blower-door test to detect air leaks, a visual inspection to make sure specified products were used, and an air-flow test of the ventilation system to ensure that incoming and outgoing air was balanced.
Including the finished basement, the house has 3,800 square feet plus a detached, two-car garage. That includes three upstairs bedrooms, an open living area plus in-law suite for Corinna’s parents on the main level and a recreational room on the lower level.
The first thing a visitor notices about the Lemas’ house is its 18-inch-thick exterior walls. They contain the key to keeping the house airtight — Logix insulated concrete forms, which are Lego-like panels of concrete and foam. Outside of that is a 2-inch rigid foam layer, an air cavity and SmartSide engineered wood siding.
“It’s all about making the house airtight,” said Bassett-Dilley. “It’s so airtight, in fact, we had to have an air exchanger that changes the air every three hours, and we used the healthiest building products possible.”
The health aspect of the house is a bonus, said Corinna. “And, it’s quiet. You can’t even hear the kids at the school down the street.”
To meet their goals, Weiss told his subcontractors to use eco-friendly products where possible. Their supply lists included zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and adhesives, water-based sealants, formaldehyde-free cabinetry and CertainTeed AirRenew drywall, which captures VOCs from the air.
Weiss recommended SmartSide engineered-wood siding instead of fiber-cement siding, he said, because it is all wood, stronger and lighter, but looks like traditional clapboard. It has a 50-year warranty and will not have to be painted for about 25 years, he said.
The house’s walls are framed 24-inch-on-center (24 inches between the centers of studs), which uses less wood and makes more room for insulation than conventional 16-inch framing does. Blown into the cavities is Knauf Jet Stream fiberglass insulation, made of recycled bottles.
“We researched every product for the healthiest and most energy-efficient choice — not just the products but also what goes into them, like the type of adhesive used by the plywood manufacturer,” said Weiss. “That meant taking more time and having to run around to a lot of suppliers, but it’s worth it.”
To take advantage of passive solar heat, Bassett-Dilley put most of the windows on the house’s south side. Made by Zola European Windows, they are triple-paned.
“Typically the windows are where you have energy loss,” said Bassett-Dilley. “But with these, you gain more than you lose.”
Instead of a furnace and air conditioner, a heat pump heats and cools the house by absorbing warm or cool air. Solar panels on the garage roof heat the house’s hot water. A high-efficiency water heater is a backup when solar power does not provide enough energy.
The house has no connection to a gas utility. Its electric Bosch Axxis Condensation Dryer clothes dryer requires no vents or ducts because it condenses moisture into water, which is drained. The induction stove is electric also.
Posted by admin on August 17, 2012
Q: I am in the process of buying an older single-family home and found one I like. I wanted to have my contract contingent on obtaining a favorable home inspection, but my real estate agent has been discouraging me. She claims that I may lose the house if I insist on the inspection. What do you think?
A: You are about to engage in what may be the biggest purchase of your life. You kick the tires when you buy a car. You should get an inspection, and if the seller does not allow this, walk away as fast as you can.
Inspections help buyers and sellers. The buyer gets an independent assessment of the condition of the house, from inside and outside, and top to bottom. There is a hidden benefit to an inspection, namely that if you buy the house, you will know where things are such as turning off the main water in case of a leak.
But the seller benefits also. I have represented many sellers whose buyer (after taking title) threatened to (and actually did) sue the seller, claiming multiple problems in the house.
My defense, which generally works, is, “Hey, you had an inspector and had an opportunity to walk away if you found problems.”
So, submit your contract with the inspection contingency. If the seller rejects it, he may be trying to hide known defects.
Also, many states require sellers to disclose all known problems in a house to potential buyers. If your state has this requirement, show the disclosure statement to your inspector.
The bottom line: There are two important contingencies that must be included in every real estate offer being made to sellers. First, a contingency on financing (assuming you need to obtain a mortgage and are not paying all cash). Second, obtaining a home inspection report from an independent inspector selected by you, to your satisfaction.
Don’t be pressured to sign a contract without these two provisions. In law school, we are taught that real estate is unique. In my many years of practicing law, however, I have learned that it “ain’t necessarily so.”
By: Benny Kass
Posted by admin on August 7, 2012
As any homeowner knows, your dwelling is a disaster waiting to happen. Systems fail, leaks occur, appliances wear out. And you steadily reach for the checkbook.
The financial pinch can be mitigated somewhat with a little planning.
“Prevention is way less disruptive and expensive than restoration,” said Scott Spencer, worldwide appraisal and loss prevention manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. “Simple things you can do to prevent losses will pay off in the long run. That ounce-of-prevention saying really is true.”
So as a reminder of what can go wrong — and this is by no means everything that can go wrong — Spencer has helped assemble a checklist of things a homeowner should worry about. Sleep tight.
The most common cause of loss is fire, and electrical fires are the main culprit. Don’t overload outlets, and don’t run extension cords under rugs. Do you have an outlet that gets frequent plugging in and unplugging, such as from a shaver or hair dryer? “Those outlets have a life expectancy,” Spencer said. “Next time you’re painting the room, replace it. … That loose plug creates the potential for arcing, which can cause a fire.”
If you have one, regularly clean it and have the stonework inspected, along with the lining and flue. A spark guard at the top keeps sparks in and critters out. An incorrectly installed insert can lead to a fire.
More potential for disaster. “I can’t tell you how many losses I’ve seen where a person brings the grill close to the house because it’s raining,” Spencer said. “Their hair is fine, but the house gets damaged by fire.” Unattended grills are another problem. Don’t forget to turn it off after the food is ready.
If you have a centrally monitored system, it should be inspected annually to make sure it’s operating correctly. There’s no point in having a system that goes off for no reason. You’ll start ignoring it, and a real emergency will be treated like a false alarm. If you have battery-powered alarms, change the batteries when you change your clocks. Also, go beyond the one-alarm-per-floor standard. “Mechanical areas, garages, those are places where people don’t typically put alarms, but they are critical,” Spencer said.
Basements are home to electronics, fitness equipment, game tables and other expensive items. A sump pump with a battery backup isn’t enough protection. Have a dedicated generator for the sump pump. Maybe even have a backup sump pump.
Clogged gutters can send rainwater where it shouldn’t be. Keep them clear. Also, check the grading around the home to make sure water is flowing away from the house. If you have below-grade windows, make sure they’re sealed.
Washers and dryers
Bad hoses and connections will leak; clogged dryers start fires. (Underwriter Laboratories estimates 15,000 dryer fires a year in the U.S.)
Hot water tanks
Inspect them monthly, looking for leaks. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years. (You can tell your tank’s age from the serial number on the shield; part of the serial number is the year it was manufactured, Spencer said.)
Look for loose or missing shingles.
Check areas that aren’t completely visible — under cabinets, around toilets and heating systems —and make sure there’s no water leaking. Check the caulking around sinks, tubs and showers to make sure the waterproof seal is intact. Let small leaks slide and you can have a significant problem. There are water loss mitigation devices that send an alarm if water is detected where it shouldn’t be, and others that turn off your water system if an unexpected water flow is registered.
That canopy of shade over the house is great until a branch crashes through the roof. Manage the pruning of dead or dying branches. Also be aware of trees within the fall zone of your house; it may be a neighbor’s tree, but if it falls and hits your house or takes out your trees, your insurance company will have to pay. Spencer said to hire an arborist. “There’s a big difference between an arborist and a guy with a chain saw,” he said. “The guy with the chain saw, his job is to cut and not cure. I’d recommend an arborist first. Then, if needed, the guy with the chain saw.” And if you’re hanging a tree swing, make sure it’s on a healthy branch.
By: William Hageman
Posted by admin on June 18, 2012
An unprecedented land grab for new Web addresses began in earnest on Wednesday with fierce competition for new internet real estate including .app, .blog and .web from applicants hoping to break the near-monopoly of the .com top-level domain.
The ambitious plan to liberalise internet addresses attracted 1,930 applications, almost half of them from north America, with Web giants Amazon and Google applying for dozens of domains including .cloud, .buy and .book.
The liberalisation of top-level domains beyond the fewer than two dozen in existence – dominated by .com, .org and .net – is intended to stimulate competition and innovation by giving organisations more control over their Web presence.
Critics say the new suffixes are unlikely to catch on, and some trademark owners have complained that the move is causing them unnecessary expense – at $185,000 per application plus running costs – to defend their online turf.
Previous small-scale experiments in liberalising domains led to low take-up of suffixes such as .museum, .jobs and .travel.
“At the highest level, this is all about creating competition to .com,” said Jonathan Robinson, non-executive director of internet registry services company Afilias, which has applied for more than 100 new domains on behalf of clients.
“That’s where short, memorable, distinctive three-letter type terms become very interesting,” said Robinson, whose organisation already provides key infrastructure for .org, .info and .mobi.
Competing applications were received for 231 domain names. The most popular were .app with 13 bids, .home with 11, and .inc with 12. High bids are also reportedly expected for domains such as .pets, .porn and .pizza, according to reports.
Technology giant Apple’s claim to .apple was uncontested by the Apple music label or anyone else.
“The big names of the Internet have either invested massively or not at all,” said Stuart Durham, European sales director for Melbourne IT, which has handled 150 applications on behalf of clients.
“There appear to be no applications from Facebook or Twitter. There are different strategies in play here and some big gambles.”
Just 17 applications were received from Africa, and 116 for names in non-Latin alphabets. Expanding the Internet beyond the Latin alphabet was one of the original reasons behind the liberalisation drive, which began seven years ago.
ICANN will now spend the rest of the year assessing the applications, with contested domains going to auction where more than one party has a legitimate claim. The first new domains are likely to come online in the first half of 2013.
Some critics, including senior figures at Google, have warned that the liberalisation risks effectively privatising the Internet by giving already powerful Web players more scope to control portions of it.
“Our concern is that this could lead to more Facebook-style walled gardens as big brands seek to keep you in their own areas of the Internet,” said Stephen Ewart, marketing manager for Names.co.uk, a British domain-name registrar.
“Make no mistake, this change to the domain name world will lead to more competition and consumer choice, but it could also be viewed as a silent privatisation of the Web – for better or worse,” he said.
The project is a key test for U.S. non-profit organisation the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), whose authority to administer the Web’s naming systems is being challenged by emerging nations who say it is too U.S.-centric.
“The plan we have delivered is solid and fair,” ICANN Chief Executive Rod Beckstrom told journalists at a news conference in London. “It is our fundamental obligation to increase innovation and consumer choice.”
Nations including China, Russia and Brazil are pushing for ICANN’s functions to be transferred to a body such as the United Nations, in which governments would have more control.
ICANN is set to net some $350 million from the liberalisation project – about five times its annual budget.
Beckstrom said the organisation had priced the applications to cover its costs and that the use of any surplus would be decided by its community – which includes Internet companies, governments and ordinary citizens.
By: Georgina Prodhan
Posted by admin on June 14, 2012
You might not be the only one looking forward to your summer vacation.
July and August are the most popular months for home burglaries, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a trade organization.
And being away from home for an extended period can also lead to problems of the noncriminal variety — water leaks and storm damage, for example.
Jim Gustin, a senior property specialist with Travelers Risk Control, said that many of the precautions people need to take are pretty obvious. “But in the rush of trying to get out of town people are so anxious, they forget about what are fairly common-sense things,” he said.
One of those common-sense safeguards is adjusting the thermostat.
“We wouldn’t encourage people to shut off their air conditioner, because your home will increase in humidity, and that’s not good for furniture and other things,” he said. “But raise the temperature setting so you’re not paying for cooling when you’re not home.”
Keeping the air conditioner running can also be a deterrent to crime. A silent air conditioner on a hot day is an indication no one is home.
Gustin also suggested turning off your water while you’re gone — or at least check the water connections to appliances.
“We have a lot of losses from flex hoses to washers, ice makers. Obviously it’d be best to turn the water off, but if you can’t, check for damaged hoses.”
He cited several areas that should be checked outdoors.
Put away the patio furniture. That keeps it from being blown around during a storm and causing damage, or being swiped.
Swimming pools and trampolines are “attractive nuisances,” Gustin said. “You can’t put the pool away, but you can make sure the fence is in good shape and the gate is locked. A trampoline, put it away. You don’t want someone using it while you’re not home. Certainly it’s an attraction for kids when you’re not there.”
Check the roof to make sure there are no damaged or missing shingles that could lead to roof leaks while you’re gone.
Gustin had a few other suggestions, as did State Farm Insurance and the Florida attorney general’s office:
Set timers for interior and exterior lights, as well as TVs and radios. Vary the off-on settings.
Prevent power surges: Disconnect computers, TVs, stereos and other electronic devices, or make sure they’re plugged into surge protectors.
Don’t broadcast your vacation plans via Facebook or Twitter. And don’t leave a “we are on vacation” message on your answering machine.
Let immediate neighbors know you won’t be home, and ask them to keep an eye on your place. Give them your contact information, maybe even that of your insurance agent, in case something happens. You might even have a neighbor park his or her car in your driveway on occasion to make it appear somebody is home. If they’re really good neighbors, they might cut your grass and take in the mail (if they’re not, stop newspaper and mail delivery and hire a landscaper). “Have them … possibly even put out trash cans or collecting trash cans,” Gustin said. “Nothing says I’m away from home like a trash can sitting out at the curb four or five days after the trash has been collected.”
Give a set of spare keys to a trusted neighbor in case of emergency. Don’t leave keys in obvious hiding places — under the mat, beneath a flower pot, over a doorway. If they’re obvious to you, they’re obvious to a burglar.
Lock the garage. A burglar with easy access to an attached garage can work on getting into the house without fear of being seen. And even if the unlocked garage is detached, it’s probably full of items that can be stolen.
Make sure all windows and doors are locked. Sounds simple, but in the rush to start your vacation, it’s something that can be overlooked. According to a 2010 Department of Justice/FBI report, 32.6 percent of burglaries involved entries without force.
Invest in a safe-deposit box for jewelry and other valuables. Doing so also ensures that you don’t leave anything of value out in the open, where a burglar could spot it through a window.
Keep shades up and blinds and curtains open to make it appear you’re home.
By William Hageman
Posted by admin on May 1, 2012
Who hasn’t dreamt of building their own house? Of finding that perfect little plot of land, coming up with a design and then seeing it through to completion.
It’s a powerful idea, and it might be part of the solution to Britain’s housing shortfall, which some estimates suggest will reach 750,000 homes by 2025.
Perhaps the answer is for house-hunters to take control of the situation themselves. A report by the National Self Build Association predicts a 141 per cent increase in the number of mortgages available for those building their own homes. Now the Government has backed a package of measures to help would-be home builders to get their grand designs off the ground.
“It’s an idea whose time has come,” says the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps. “At any moment, two million people in Britain are investigating the idea of building their own houses. But too many of these projects are halted before they can get started.”
The product of a joint initiative between the Government and the self-build housing industry, a new interactive website, selfbuildportal.org.uk, contains information on everything from finance to double-glazing. A postcode calculator allows you to work out how much, on average, a self-build will cost in your area.
Pricing is a key point. Television property programmes often feature multi-million-pound fantasy homes, but Shapps is keen to stress that building your own place needn’t be for the wealthy few. “The average cost of a ready-made home is now more than £232,000, but a budget of £150,000 is usually adequate to build a three to four-bedroom house. Fourteen thousand self-build homes were constructed in the UK last year, just one in 10 new homes, a figure which lags behind the rest of Europe.”
Shapps’s aim is to double the size of the UK self-build sector. He has enlisted the support of some of the biggest names in British property, including the “Restoration Man”, George Clarke, the BBC architectural historian Dan Cruickshank and Kevin McCloud.
McCloud knows better than most about Britain’s self-build frustrations. As presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, he has spent more than 13 years helping people to realise their dreams, and to deal with the myriad frustrations they encounter.
“Often people think of self-build as long, difficult and self-sacrificing,” he says. “But with the right planning, help and support it can be an enjoyable process.”
As well as individual self-builders, the portal aims to encourage community projects, where a group takes charge of a local scheme. This means that self-builders can buy a “base unit”, a plot where the foundations are laid and utilities connected.
“What we’ve seen from Grand Designs is that 90 per cent of the hard work is breaking the surface: laying foundations, connecting to utilities, that sort of thing,” McCloud explains. “One solution might be for people to buy a base unit and then put their own designs on top of that. It’s good news for home builders, and also good for the landscape because people will have more architectural input.
“Self-build homes are often more ecologically sound, so it could also be beneficial for the environment.”
One of the controversies around the Government’s new legislation to free up planning laws has been the fear that the countryside will become swamped with low-quality homes.
Restoring ownership, by having a greater number building their own properties, could help ensure that new properties are both attractive and precisely suited to people’s needs.
“It would be great if we could become a nation of self-builders,” adds McCloud. “Like the Dutch, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Swedish – the list goes on – we have lagged behind so far, but there’s no reason why we can’t catch up.
“Self-build is a dream that can stay with you through your whole life.”
By: Ed Cumming
Posted by admin on
Q: The lease for our single-family house specifies that we will do “routine maintenance.” The landlord claims that this includes fixing the roof and doing exterior painting. We had no idea that he saw it this way; we were thinking drain repair and so on. When we refused to reroof the garage, he told us he’d sue us for the water damage that will result from a leaky roof. Can he?
A: Your question illustrates the dangers of handing over maintenance duties to tenants without a clear understanding of what those duties involve. Fortunately, the problem is relatively rare, because most states do not allow landlords to contract away their duty to maintain a fit and habitable rental. Of those that do, the statutes limit the practice to single-family homes, and typically require that the duties be spelled out in writing and that the arrangement be a fair bargain (in other words, the tenant must be paid for the labor or get a good deal on rent).
The landlord must treat the arrangement separately from his other duties as a landlord. This means, for example, that if the landlord is unhappy about the job the tenant is doing, he cannot retaliate by shutting off the water.
Even in states that allow landlords to delegate legally required upkeep, few do so. Most owners are not willing to entrust the integrity of their property to tenants who may not know much about property maintenance, and have less incentive to do things right than if they owned the property themselves.
Let’s assume for now that your state allows the landlord to pass along the obligation to maintain the property, and you decline to re-roof the garage. If your landlord sues you for the resulting water damage, the burden will be on him to convince the judge or jury that you broke the maintenance agreement. And he could have a hard time doing so: The agreement, which the landlord wrote, is so vague as to be meaningless. A judge may well conclude that the landlord had a chance to write it correctly, failed to do so, and cannot now complain about the consequences.
Your landlord will be similarly out of luck if he tries to get his insurance company to cover the damage. Property damage policies cover damage that results from a sudden event, such as water that pours in after a tree has fallen on the roof. Deferred maintenance that causes water damage over time won’t be covered.
Before it comes to that, get together with your landlord and revisit the delegation issue. Although the lease was signed some time ago, there’s no reason why the two of you can’t amend it now and fix it. Make sure that if you want to take on minor repairs only, their precise nature and extent is described thoroughly in the lease, and that you are fairly compensated for your efforts.
By: Janet Portman
Posted by admin on April 24, 2012
Issue: Energy and mining companies often create homes and infrastructure in previously uninhabited areas only to leave them abandoned once operations cease
Shift: New processes let companies quickly set up, tear down and move buildings whenever they need to, creating a more sustainable and cost-effective approach to infrastructure
If you build it, they might come. But what happens when they leave? That’s the dilemma facing many thriving oil and gas, energy and mining operations that have set their sights on development in remote communities throughout northern Canada.
With the rebound in the resource industries, the sectors are surging ahead with projects that will instantly grow existing communities or instantly create new ones. But past booms and busts have shown that building a community infrastructure isn’t that simple — especially when the production life cycle will peter out within 20 to 25 years.
The questions being asked around the planning table are different from days gone by: How do we get it up and running as quickly as possible? How can we do it in an environmentally sustainable way? And what do we do with it all once the boom is over?
There is a lot of overseas mining activity in the Yukon, for example, that will demand infrastructure building in what were once virgin territories, notes John Berg, architect and senior associate for engineering firm Stantec in Whitehorse, Yukon. “The biggest obstacle for these people coming in is dealing with the environmental impact and delivering an infrastructure that they have to have up and running in a matter of months.
“That includes electrical, mechanical, structural and architectural planning.”
Infrastructure and life cycle planners need only look at the fallout of aggressive post-war development to know what not to do. When the market faltered, many communities were virtually abandoned after operations closed.
But as Scott Weston, mining sector leader for Hemmera in Vancouver, which specializes in environmental management and infrastructure design, notes, today’s planning exercises are far more future-focused.
“You need to build in a way that the smallest footprint of land is disturbed. You have to design taking into account the potential impact on human health, socio-economic and socio-community factors. And you have to consider the entire life cycle of a community and plan for closure in 10 or 20 years’ time. What’s the cost of clean-up when you’re done?”
Governments have become increasingly leery about being left on the hook for project clean-ups, he adds.
“People are now planning projects for closure so they minimize footprint and environmental impact while supporting economic development. I’m also seeing progressive reclamation, in which they remove liabilities as they go rather than waiting 19 years to start.”
As part of that, organizations are increasingly considering modular and portable infrastructure solutions from communications, energy and water-treatment systems to housing and community buildings. The reasons are simple: Modular translates into cheaper to build, faster to deploy, and, more importantly, easier to dismantle, move or recycle.
On the economic front, Mr. Weston notes that the scale of today’s operations is much bigger and the amplitude of these booms and busts are getting larger. Translation: companies need to get operational as quickly as possible to justify the investment.
The outcomes of modular thinking also deliver positive benefits on the environmental front, Mr. Weston says. “Having something that is temporary and can be moved is good from an environmental perspective. And you can scale up or down throughout the life cycle of the project. That’s a much more sustainable approach. And every mining company is thinking that way right now. It’s a new standard for how you do business.”
BioteQ Environmental Technologies Inc. in Vancouver has worked with resource industries on sustainable water treatment technologies. According to company CEO Jonathan Wilkinson, it recently engaged in a project that involved the development of a portable water treatment system for a mine site in northern Canada.
“Everyone is looking for opportunities to shrink their footprint and make things more portable,” Mr. Wilkinson says. “A lot of operations are looking at significant expansion, and need to sustain themselves through that growth. Permanent facilities are expensive and inflexible. Transportable solutions are much more desirable in many cases because they reduce both economic and environmental risk.”
Another aspect that ties into the modular movement is skilled labour shortages and high turnover. Not only do modular solutions reduce the need for skilled
construction hands, they also provide higher-grade living conditions and supporting facilities, such as arenas and schools, that are appealing enough to keep employees and their families comfortable and happy in their environs. The old trailers and metal shelters aren’t nearly enough to ensure employee retention.
That’s a big selling proposition for companies like Sprung Structures in Calgary. The family-owned company produces tension-membrane modular facilities that range in size from barracks, churches and schools to large-scale community recreation-size facilities such as gymnasiums and hockey rinks. Construction can be done by a team of 10 unskilled labourers at a rate of 2,000 sq. ft. per day by 10 workers.
Phil Sprung, president, tells the story of a team of oil company engineers walking through the two-storey modular facility serving as the company’s head office. “They told me they had just finished constructing a new office complex that took two years to build, was 30% over budget, and they had already outgrown it. Then they saw we could have had something finished and operational within 90 days at 70% less cost. All they said was ‘that changes everything for us’. It was one of the greatest meetings we ever had.”
Mr. Sprung touts the buildings as “99% reusable” because, with the exception of the bolts, they don’t corrode. Some of the buildings have had three or four lives — a more sustainable alternative to “bulldozing a site and taking thousands of tonnes of debris to a scrap yard.” Materials are also light enough to be helicoptered in if need be since materials are one-tenth the shipping size.
Out-of-the-box residential housing options have also improved considerably, notes Andrew Libera, president and CEO of RedLeaf Homes Ltd. in Victoria. RedLeaf recently signed on with ICI (Innovative Composites International) to distribute its permanent and portable homes and shelters in Canada. He reports that a 1,000 sq. ft. structure can be erected and ready for plumbing and electrical in about two days at a cost in the $60- to $100-per-square-oot range — a significant savings from more conventional builds that can run $120 to $200 a square foot or higher.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest from the mining community,” he says. “The price point and portability is such that it’s right in their wheelhouse. The best part is they can be dismantled and reused. You don’t need cranes – just some basic hand tools you’d find in any garage.”
Posted by admin on April 22, 2012
Selling a home in a buyer’s market can feel like you’re playing a game you can’t win. But buyers don’t necessarily hold all the cards. “You have to be able to see it from both sides of the table,” says Jeffrey Stanton, who teaches a Realtor certification course in negotiation. Armed with information and a smart strategy, you can play your hand wisely and get the best value for your home.
First, determine the best price you can reasonably expect given the home’s market value and the minimum you can accept. All negotiation will take place somewhere in between those two limits. Your goal is to stay as close to the top of that range as possible.
Next, count your bargaining chips. A buyer’s position is weakened and yours is strengthened by anything the buyer wants that you’re able to provide or withhold. “Price is one of the many things you negotiate for, but you need to make the pie bigger,” says Stanton. Additional slices might include flexibility with the closing or move-in dates, extra items for sale, cash concessions, bragging rights – even the deal itself, since you can always walk away.
WHEN TO USE IT: Throughout the process.
HOW TO PLAY IT: The first time the price chip comes into play is when you list your home. Look up similar homes that have sold in the area recently with online tools such as the sold properties link on the Multiple Listing Service site or Newsday’s recent home sales search tool. Use those prices to zero in on your home’s market value and to weed out lowball offers. Padding your asking price to leave room to haggle is not helpful, says Lynne Kleinman of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Manhasset – instead, price it to attract multiple offers. “You’re putting yourself in a position to be bid up if you’ve chosen the correct number.”
When you receive a written offer that’s in the ballpark, you may use a price adjustment as part of your counteroffer. A small move tests the water; a big reduction announces your willingness to negotiate, Stanton says. You can reduce the price more than once to nudge the discussion along, but in a strategic pattern: Your price concessions should get smaller and smaller as the deal progresses. This signals to the buyer that you’re approaching the bottom.
2. Bragging rights
WHEN TO USE IT: When the buyer shows a competitive streak.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “Sometimes in order for you to win, you have the make the other party feel as if they’ve won,” says Stanton. “A lot of people are competitive negotiators who want to win by taking that very last thing off the table.”
And it’s not just about ego – it’s also about nerves. Buyers who fear they could have gotten a better price are more likely to get cold feet, which could jeopardize the deal.
Satisfy the buyer’s need to win with a pattern of increasingly stingy price concessions. This creates the reassuring and gratifying impression that you’ve scraped the barrel and given up every last crumb of value – even if you haven’t.
To enhance this effect, trade away any other chips with conspicuous reluctance, regardless of their actual importance to you – and try to get something you secretly do care about in return.
3. Financial incentives
WHEN TO USE IT: When you’ve got a serious buyer and lack of funds is the only obstacle.
HOW TO PLAY IT: Consider a seller’s concession to bridge the gap: If the price is $300,000 and the buyer needs $6,000 for closing costs, you would pay those costs upfront but raise the price to $306,000. “The purchase price is artificially inflated so the buyer can finance an additional cost,” says Chandra Ortiz, an attorney on the Nassau County Bar Association Real Property Committee. This allows the buyers to make a bigger down payment, or pay points for a lower interest rate, which could increase their purchasing power to close the deal.
There are limitations and risks: The lender will appraise the home and restrict concessions to a certain percentage of the appraised value, which may turn out to be less than the purchase price you and the buyer agreed to. “When it doesn’t appraise at that figure, the bank won’t give additional money to cover the concession,” cautions Ortiz. Include language in your contract to protect yourself from having to pay the concession if the appraisal is low, she advises. Also note that a higher price will cause your transfer tax payment to go up – make sure the buyer agrees to pay for that, she says.
WHEN TO USE IT: When the buyer is on a deadline and you can be flexible – for a price.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “The way it works is whoever has the shorter time frame isn’t negotiating from a position of strength,” says Stanton. Buyers often want or need to close or move in by a certain date – they may be trying to get into their new school district before September, for instance.
If you have the ability to help them meet their deadline, you’ve got currency. Keep it in your pocket and remain noncommittal about dates until you need that extra push.
For instance, if your buyer is considering a competing property but the other sellers can’t vacate soon enough, that closing date could become the deciding factor. It can also help your bottom line, Stanton says. “If I know you have to be in by the first, that may be more important to you than price.”
WHEN TO USE IT: Periodically offer these in place of price reductions, or along with smaller reductions.
HOW TO PLAY IT: This chip could fall into your lap during talks – or it could take some creativity on your part. Pay attention; if a buyer shows interest in something, such as a piano or window treatments, you’ve got yourself an unexpected chip.
The best kinds of extras are those that are of little value to you, but could matter a lot for the buyers. For instance, if you’re leaving a grassy two-acre property for a maintenance-free condo, you won’t be needing that ride-on lawn mower anymore – but your buyers sure could use it. Swap it for a more favorable deal. A home warranty is another good one; it may only cost you a few hundred dollars, but it provides a benefit that could be far more valuable to the new owners. Get something in return for it, even if you planned all along to include it in the sale.
6. Your Plan B
WHEN TO USE IT: When you’ve exhausted your chips without reaching an agreement – or you suspect the buyer is bluffing.
HOW TO PLAY IT: “Buyers feel like they have all the time and all the choices, but when they feel a sense of urgency because another couple wants that house, then the seller holds the cards,” says Diane Saatchi of Saunders & Associates.
Use smart marketing to level the playing field. Pricing, staging and photography are key to attracting buyers – and offering a higher fee will get the agents’ attention, Kleinman says. “Brokerage fees speak very loudly to the agents who will be showing your house.” More showings could translate into more offers – and a better bargaining position.
Reserve the right to keep showing your home if the deal is contingent upon the buyer’s home getting sold and look into the possibility of renting out the place. This will ease your pressure – and, if all else fails, it allows you to walk away. It’s not easy, but sometimes that’s your best option – either your buyer will reconsider, or you’ll get yourself out of an unacceptable deal.
By: KRISTIN TAVEIRA
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If a king-size bed is your choice then opt for the split-box spring. Each piece is the size of a single box spring, which makes it easy to move around in tight spaces. You can also choose two smaller mattresses (called twin plus), which is great for customizing your comfort level from one side to the other, and still enjoy the size of a king bed. Co-ordinate the split bed with one king-size headboard and bedskirt to give a finished king-size look to the bed.
If a comfy sofa is just too large to be brought up a skinny staircase, consider a grouping of lightweight, small-scaled club chairs. You’ll create a lounge feel with the chairs around a cocktail table or large round ottoman and you’ll be seating as many people as if you had the traditional sofa and chair set. Plus, you’ll have more flexibility for re-arranging the furniture during holidays and parties (see the Tess Chair, above).
Forget about a sleeper sofa altogether; not only are they heavy, they are usually much deeper in size than a regular sofa (the extra depth helps contain the mattress mechanism).
Armoires and china cabinets too large? Find furnishings that disassemble or can be placed together once inside the desired room. If choosing a china cabinet, make sure it comes in the form of a credenza and hutch; each piece will be easier to move up and down stairs.
You can also purchase three or four smaller cabinets or bookshelves and line them up along a long wall for the look of one large piece of furniture (see the Stockholm Glass Cabinet, left).
Like a ‘ship in a bottle’
Here’s a list of easily-moved items that can offer big impact and still move easily up the stairs:
• Area rugs. Look for colourful, large patterned rugs to fill a room with style.
• Draperies. Make small windows look larger by hanging draperies on the dead wall space beside windows.
• Artwork. A big mirror or a piece of art helps create a focal point in a room and offers something large-scale without taking up precious floor space.
• Paint. If you’ve got a naturally dark room in your place paint it a dark colour for unexpected drama.
• Lighting. Whether you are renting or own your home, new lighting is a great way to make a place feel sexy at night. A single spotlight on a piece of art or a dramatically painted wall washed with light will help create a special mood in your new place.
By: Karl Lohnes