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By Ellie Kravets, Realtor, ABR | Agent in San Francisco, CA
  • Roofing Terminology 101

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco, Home Ownership in San Francisco  |  October 30, 2013 9:20 AM  |  647 views  |  3 comments

    Whether purchasing a house, selling a house, or simply maintaining one, the integrity of the roof is a basic concern for all owners or would-be owners. Who has not heard the phrase "providing a roof over their heads" in relation to parental responsibilities? Yes, we are familiar with the phrase, but what exactly comprises a roof?

    A roof is a system; hopefully one that is energy efficient and designed to keep inclement weather out and air-conditioned or heated air in, along with, of course, keeping your belongings and loved ones secure.
    The roofing system consists of many components. Let's see if we can bring some familiarity to the different parts that make up a roof.

    Although there are many different types of roofs, we will discuss the most common type for residential homes: the Composition Shingle Roof.

    Some Key Words

    • Roof truss- the structural framework designed to support a roof, triangular in shape.
    • Rafters- one of several internal beams extending from the eaves to the peak of a roof and constituting its framework. Sometimes rafters are used in lieu of trusses. Rafters do not provide the same support and strength as trusses, but provide for more space, since a rafter is a single board versus the trusses, which are triangular.
    • Roof decking- the roofing material layer between the framing and the weather proofing layers in a typical roofing system, normally made of plywood.
    • Roof shingles- a roof covering consisting of individual overlapping elements. Shingles are flat and rectangular in shape and are laid in rows from the bottom edge of the roof on up, with each successive row overlapping the joints in the row below. The shingles are impregnated with asphalt and have a mineral surfacing.
    • Fascia - a type of roof trim or edging that runs horizontally and sits under a roof edge. It has an aesthetic function and protects the roof and the interior of the house from weather damage. Most often the gutter systems are attached to the fascia.

    Let's Talk Warranties

    A warranty is a written guarantee issued to the purchaser of a roof by its installer and/or manufacturer, promising to repair or replace the roof if necessary within a specified period of time. The warranty MUST be in writing, and it is best to remember that it is a contract, and that its terms will vary from contract to contract. The common issues of the warranty are generally as follows:

    Requirements to enforce

    A homeowner should always notify the roofing company of a claim. It is important to highlight that the typical roof "warranty" is usually two warranties. There is the warranty from the manufacturer of the shingles, and then the warranty from the roofing company that installed the roof. The homeowner, therefore, in the exercise of caution, would be prudent to notify both entities after discovering a problem with the roof. This "two company" situation will have to be taken into account as we discuss other warranty issues such as transferability and waiver.


    For the homeowner who has purchased the long-term warranty, being able to transfer its benefit is a marketing advantage should the house be up for sale. A good warranty will be transferable, but the owner should strictly adhere to the requirements for transferring the warranty.


    Generally the waiver situation occurs when a homeowner undertakes to make repairs on his own. Unless it is an emergency, the homeowner should not engage another roofing company to do any work without first notifying the installation company and providing them the opportunity to do the work. Remember, notices must be in writing. If notifying by phone call, follow up with a written message.


    The typical warranty of a roofing installer will exclude certain elements of the roofing system. It may well be that the warranty will not cover, for example, roof decking or elements inside the decking, and consequential damages which could include damage to your TV from a leak. A roof warranty will not cover unusual events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, and windstorms. A warranty will also not cover leaks caused by settlement or movement of the home's foundation.

    Your Roofing Knowledge

    Being familiar with some roofing basics will give you an advantage when communicating with contractors. You can feel confident in knowing what a roofing system is, as well as having the knowledge of what a warranty entails. The next time you are confronted with a roof repair or inspection, you will be able to "talk the talk!"

    Written by Sarah Pleuthner

  • Can Color Help Sell Your Home?

    Yes! Just like curb appeal matters, the colors of your home can and will influence buyers. With that in mind, we explore which colors tend to appeal to the masses.

    The color scheme of your home from the outside in, sets the tone. It's like going to see a theatre play and seeing an intricately crafted and appropriately painted set for the production. It can immediately intrigue you–before the play has begun and even if you knew few details about the play.

    When it comes to color, be sure to consider the location. A peach-pink home in a retirement community might be okay, but that same color in an upscale, urban city may be unappealing to younger city dwellers.

    The outside of your home is one of the largest areas potential buyers will see. So make your decision carefully and be sure to have a professional paint job done. If you choose white for the exterior, your home is likely to appeal to the masses, according to one study that indicated upwards of 40 percent of people liked white homes.

    The great thing about a white home is you have plenty of options to make the home stand out by using an accent color for the trim. The downside is that white gets dirty very fast and shows it more than other colors. So before you list your home make sure that you have a fresh coat of paint applied or pressure wash the exterior to bring back that newly painted look.

    Also take into consideration the color of other homes on the block. Typically, white will not look out of place. However, if you had a purple home on a block where the homes are mostly beige and neutral colors, you'll get noticed but likely not the kind of attention you want.

    Beige with neutral-colored trim is another popular color scheme. Both beige and white are safe exterior colors. They don't turn buyers off.

    There's also been a trend to paint just the front door a deep, rich color like red. This may not be appealing to all. However, buyers would tend to overlook it because it's a simple change as well as one that can easily and cheaply be changed to the new buyer’s choice. As long as the colors look good together, this wouldn't necessarily turn buyers away.

    The paint inside your home is equally important. In fact, one good tip for sellers is that if they can do nothing else, they should get some fresh paint up on the walls. The new paint helps showcase the home and gives it a new-home feel.

    There are a wide variety of interior colors. Don't feel like you have to go with only beige. You can be a little more daring, using bold accent colors. Just make sure the paint colors you choose don't give a dark, closed-in feeling. Aim to create comfort, a sense of calmness, relaxation, and a place where family can unwind. Earth-tone colors convey this very well.

    For a more chic and sophisticated look, interior designers often choose from the grey palette. A dark grey color can create a bold statement and attract the eye to a particular area.

    Whatever colors you choose, remember that your aim is to appeal to the masses. Test the colors out first. Get opinions from the experts.

    Your real estate agent has likely been in hundreds of homes and can offer you some very good guidance.

    Written by Phoebe Chongchua

  • Real Estate Investments: Single Family vs. Multi-family

    Posted Under: Home Buying in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco, Investment Properties in San Francisco  |  October 23, 2013 8:50 AM  |  392 views  |  No comments
    Investing in real estate can be a very lucrative, if not risky, pursuit. With regards to the types of real estate investments available, one decision to make is whether to invest in a single family or multi-family home. Both options can prove to be worthy investments and weighing the pros and cons of each will help determine which is best for you.

    A big advantage to investing in single family real estate is that as a landlord, there is only one family of tenants to manage. With multi-family real estate, consider that problems between tenants can quickly escalate into time-consuming issues.

     Another advantage of single family real estate is that it is much easier to sell in the event that you no longer want the property. Single family real estate appreciates much more quickly than multi-family and typically will provide a larger pool of interested buyers to choose from.

    Single Family Cons

    One of the main drawbacks to single family real estate is the cost. Single family properties tend to be more expensive per unit, although their overall cost is typically lower. There are, however, some disadvantages in regards to maintenance. While there are often times where a single fix can benefit all of the tenants in a multi-family home, each single family property you own will require its own individual repairs.

    Another disadvantage associated with single family real estate is the increased risk posed by vacancy. Unlike with multi-family real estate, where the risk of vacancy is diminished by the other tenants living there, vacancy in a single family property means you will be paying for all the upkeep and bills yourself.

    This can make it difficult to control cash flows when making multiple investments because most real estate auctions demand the full sum upon purchase. However, this financial strain can be lessened by purchasing real estate through online auctions. This is due to the fact that many online auctions only require a deposit upfront.  

    Multi-Family Pros

    Although single family properties usually have more potential buyers to choose from, multi-family properties typically have a larger pool of tenants. This is because the rent in multi-family buildings is usually lower.

    Another advantage of multi-family real estate is the convenience of only having to travel to one location to make a repair or resolve an issue with a tenant, rather than driving to multiple single family locations.

    Multi-Family Cons

    One disadvantage of multi-family units is that they require greater involvement in property management. The problems caused by one tenant can quickly become magnified as they can begin to cause issues with other tenants that would otherwise not exist. Also, because you have more than one tenant, it means you will have to respond to more families in regards to maintenance issues.

    Also, multi-family units usually have a greater initial cost. Jumping into a multi-family unit is typically more expensive initially, especially when you start looking at anything over a duplex or triplex.

    There are advantages and disadvantages associated with both single family and multi-family real estate. Weighing these various pros and cons against each other can help you determine which is best for you. Although investing in real estate can be a bit precarious, it also has the potential to be quite profitable. 

    Written by Joseph Givens

  • Homeowners Insurance Policy Terms, Conditions Can Contain Hidden Costs, Coverage Gaps

    Posted Under: Home Buying in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco, Home Insurance in San Francisco  |  December 20, 2012 10:41 AM  |  551 views  |  No comments
    When buying a home, don't overlook the terms and conditions of your homeowner's insurance policy.

    Overlooking them could result in delayed, reduced or denied claims and higher premiums.

    The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and United Policyholders (UP) says with more insurers shifting the risk and cost to policyholders, it behooves you to read your insurance policy, especially the small print.

    If you don't understand something, get help from your insurance agent, broker or insurer, or someone who gets insurance policy lingo.

    Pay particular attention to:

    Exclusions Most policies contain exclusions for floods, earthquakes, or landslides. In areas prone to floods, earthquakes, and landslides, you'll need special coverage.

    Policies also may not cover or limit coverage for mold damage, non-flood water damage, high-value items (art, collectibles, jewelry, etc.), work-at-home equipment (computers, printers, etc.), food spoilage and other specific items.

    "There are new exclusions in property insurance policies today that consumers are not aware of that can blow their financial security to shreds after a serious loss," said Amy Bach, Executive Director of United Policyholders.

    Deductibles Deductibles are up-front costs you pay before benefits kick in. Most policies have two different deductibles, a flat dollar amount for most losses and an higher deductible for high wind-related losses.

    High-wind losses can blow you away. Clarify with your agent or insurer what your out-of-pocket costs will be in the event of a high-wind related loss.

    Hidden clauses Check your policy for a provision called an anti-concurrent-causation (ACC) clause. It could result in a denial of claim if a structure is damaged at about the same time by two risks when one covered, (say, wind) but the other is not (say, flood). Even if one peril would have covered the damage, the ACC clause can limit or wipe out coverage for damage or destruction by two causes acting together.

    Market demand surge costs Another, lesser known insurance-related pain in the policy can come from demand-driven rising construction costs that follow a disaster . Some policies don't come with a guaranteed home replacement cost provision. In an after-disaster market that experiences demand surge conditions, your policy could leave you with a fixed amount stated on the policy.

    Your out-of-pocket expenses could cause a financial disaster.

    Building codes Building code compliance issues increase rebuilding costs, but aren't always covered by your policy. Some policies exclude additional costs if a local construction ordinance or building code requires upgrades, such as earthquake upgrades in a quake zone. You'll have to purchase this coverage as an add-on to your basic policy.

    Price Homeowner insurance policy prices are based on a host of factors. Compare prices when you initially purchase coverage and again if you experience a large rate increase. Also, shop around once every few years to make sure you are getting the best rate for the coverage you need.

    "We recommend that every homeowner conduct a careful review of their policies and contact their agent or insurer to ensure they have the coverage they need and expect," Bach said.

    by Broderick Perkins

  • 4 rules of gutter replacement

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco, Investment Properties in San Francisco  |  June 5, 2012 11:02 AM  |  502 views  |  No comments
    What you should know if lumping job in with new roof.

    Homeowners spend weeks agonizing over which shingle color and texture is best for their new roof. Then, after going to all this effort, they simply leave it to the roofing company to install any old piece-of-junk gutters.

    Since rain gutters and downspouts can be even more conspicuous than the roof itself, you should choose new ones with at least as much care. But before you do, make sure they actually need replacement. Too often, they don't.

    In the course of bidding on a reroofing job, many a roofing contractor will say something like, "You know, as long as we're at it, this would be the time to replace your gutters." This is a bit like your barber saying, "As long as I'm cutting your hair, I should give you a nose job as well."

    To be blunt, installing new gutters in conjunction with reroofing is simply a way for roofing contractors to make a little extra profit, while freeing their workers from having to protect the existing gutters from damage during the job. These are both perfectly valid reasons to replace your existing gutters -- but from the contractor's perspective, not yours.

    What's more, the quality of most replacement gutters and downspouts is typically worse than that of original gutters in sound condition. Hence, homeowners who agree to lump in gutter replacement with their new roof often wind up with a flimsier, less attractive, and quite unnecessary "improvement."

    I've even come across some clueless homeowners who allowed a roofer to rip out superb old custom-made steel gutters and ornamental downspouts and replace them with utterly inferior prepainted aluminum dreck.

    The rules of thumb regarding gutter replacement are simple:

    1. If your original gutters are straight, solid and don't leak, they don't need replacement, period.

    2. If they do leak, there's a fair chance they can be repaired. In the case of steel or copper gutters, contact your local sheet metal shop. For redwood gutters, have a good handyman determine if they can be caulked or patched.

    3. If you do decide on replacement, demand gutters that are at least equal to the originals in quality. Ask a knowledgeable but disinterested party (not the roofer doing the work) to recommend the best material.

    4. Lastly, put at least as much thought into choosing the gutter profile (the cross-sectional shape) as you do into choosing the roofing material. Don't let the contractor make this choice for you; many will simply fall back on the style of gutter that's the least trouble to install.

    If you're replacing your home's original gutters, simply choose the profile that best matches the original.

    Traditional home styles typically have more ornate profiles; for example, the familiar ogee gutter (or "K-style" as it's known in the trade) looks more or less like a fancy molding when installed.

    Another common traditional profile -- often found in Spanish and English Revival homes -- is the beaded half-round gutter, which has an almost medieval appearance and is typically installed with round downspouts.

    All of these styles are commonly available, so don't let anyone tell you that what you want is obsolete. That just doesn't hold water.

    By Arrol Gellner
    Inman News®

  • Which Housing Style Is Right For You?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco  |  April 26, 2012 7:49 AM  |  586 views  |  No comments
    Shopping for a home is an exciting experience but there are many things to consider, starting with the fundamental question: which housing style is right for you?

    You might be thinking, I want to own my own home which translates in your mind to a single- or double- story house. However, your finances, where you live, affordability, and practicality may factor in and cause you to consider other options. So let’s explore some of them.

    Single-Family Housing. When many people think of owning their own house, the single-family residence first comes to mind. This type of home is the most independent. The walls are typically not joined together with any other homes. The heating and plumbing systems are separate. And, while, the house may be in a planned community that has covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) regarding what you can do to your home on the outside, there is generally the most freedom with this type of home. Some of these homes have additional fees (Mello-Roos fee) to pay for schools in the area.

    These residences are usually detached houses and have land surrounding them unless, it’s a zero-lot-line house. Then the house sits on or very close to the property line. These houses are packed into areas and may offer extra space inside but at the compromise for little land outside.

    Row houses are often situated this way. However, while the single-family home can have a little different look, the row houses are generally identical and lined up side-by-side, thus the term: row houses. Sometimes there is a small backyard area behind the row house. The row houses also usually share a wall or two with the other houses. This also makes them more affordable than the detached, single-family house.

    The Duplex. This type of house shares a roof and one wall but the other side is separate from other homes. You can also choose from triplexes and quadruplexes. Some buyers decide to go for this style of housing because they can live in one of the units and rent out the others to help pay for their mortgage. This allows them to save to and, later, if they choose, to purchase another home and rent out all of the units.

    Townhouse. This style of house shares a wall and common areas such as parking lots, and walkways.

    Condominiums. These units often look a lot like apartments. In fact, some apartments have been part of a condominium conversion. The individual unit is owned by a homeowner. Often the homeowner purchases the unit and rents it out. Homeowners have an ownership interest in the common elements which can include halls, stairways, elevators, parking lots, open areas, and other amenities.

    As with townhouses and even single-family homes that are in planned communities, there is a fee for the care of the common areas.

    The Microhouse. They may be small as the name states but they can be plenty big especially for those who are living alone or traveling frequently and simply want an easy-to-care-for home.

    These micro or mini houses can be just a few hundred square feet to a thousand. Often they are vertically built and they have more living space by the use of lofts and smaller- than-usual furniture and appliances. Some have unique features such as a deck on the roof.

    So whether you’re shopping for a single-family, detached home or a minihouse, having a basic understanding about what you can expect with each housing style is an optimal way to begin your search. Then let your experienced real estate agent guide you to the suitable options that can best meet your specific needs.

    by Phoebe Chongchua

  • 3 Red Flags When Applying for a Mortgage

    Posted Under: Home Buying in San Francisco, Financing in San Francisco, Property Q&A in San Francisco  |  November 7, 2011 9:31 PM  |  881 views  |  No comments

    More lenders are scrutinizing mortgage applications since the financial crisis fallout, which has triggered fears of borrowers who will default or walk-away from their mortgage or mortgage fraud. 

    Here are the triggers that may cause the most lender scrutiny of loan applications, according to a recent article at The New York Times: 

    Large deposits of money: Lenders are required to account for any cash gifts for down payments, such as from relatives. So if a borrower earns $5,000 a month and suddenly deposits an extra $10,000 beyond that, lenders may question where the money came from when applying for a loan. 

    The home’s new address: Buyers who are purchasing a primary home three hours from where they work may also draw increased scrutiny from lenders, according to The New York Times article. Borrowers may even need a letter from their employer stating that they work from home a few times a week. That’s because lenders may want to ensure the borrower plans to be an owner-occupant and not buying the property to rent or flip, which must be disclosed.

    Signing up for new credit cards: Borrowers should avoid taking on extra debt when applying for a loan — so they may want to wait to buy all the new furniture. Extra debt can be a red flag to a lender and could even jeopardize closing on a new home if the debt pushes the borrower’s total debt levels beyond lender-accepted limits.

    Source: “Mortgages: Triggers of Lender Scrutiny,” The New York Times (Nov. 3, 2011)

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