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By Jim Guido | Agent in 95125
  • Tip of the Week: Consumers warned about paying up-front fees to contractors

    Posted Under: Home Selling in San Jose, Remodel & Renovate in San Jose, Design & Decor in San Jose  |  August 30, 2012 4:36 PM  |  413 views  |  No comments
    Do you have or are you planning an upcoming home construction or painting project? Well if you are the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is alerting California consumers who are considering hiring a painter, landscaper – or any other type of construction contractor – that it is illegal to ask for or accept a down payment of more than 10 percent of the total home improvement contract price of $1,000, whichever is less.

    Many consumer victims who file complaints with CSLB tell investigators they were unaware that there is a legal limit for down payments.  Many unlicensed operators also are not familiar with this aspect of California contracting law, which should serve as a red flag for homeowners.  If someone asks for a large amount of money up front, the person might not have a license or the necessary project skills.  Many times, unlicensed operators take a homeowner’s down payment and never start the project. Be aware and protect yourself.
  • 7 Hot Home Improvement Trends That Make Your Home Work For You

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in San Jose, Home Selling in San Jose, Remodel & Renovate in San Jose  |  May 15, 2012 12:20 PM  |  301 views  |  No comments

    Home improvement trends embrace energy efficiency, low maintenance exteriors, and double-duty space.

    Trend #1: Maintenance-free siding

    We continue to choose maintenance-free siding that lives as long as we do, but with a lot less upkeep. But more and more we’re opting for fiber-cement siding, one of the fastest-growing segments of the siding market. It’s a combination of cement, sand, and cellulosic fibers that looks like wood but won’t rot, combust, or succumb to termites and other wood-boring insects.

    At $5 to $9 per sq. ft., installed, fiber-cement siding is more expensive than paint-grade wood, vinyl, and aluminum siding. It returns 78% of investment, the highest return of any upscale project on Remodeling magazine’s latest Cost vs. Value Report.

    Maintenance is limited to a cleaning and some caulking each spring. Repaint every 7 to 15 years. Wood requires repainting every 4 to 7 years.

    Trend #2: Convertible spaces

    Forget “museum rooms” we use twice a year (dining rooms and living rooms) and embrace convertible spaces that change with our whims.

    Foldaway walls turn a private study into an easy-flow party space. Walls can consist offancy, glass panels ($600 to $1,600 per linear ft., depending on the system); or they can be simple vinyl-covered accordions  ($1,230 for 7 ft. by 10 ft.). PortablePartions.com sells walls on wheels ($775 for approximately 7 ft. by 7 ft.).

    A Murphy bed pulls down from an armoire-looking wall unit and turns any room into a guest room. Prices, including installation and cabinetry, range from $2,000 (twin with main cabinet) to more than $5,000 (California king with main and side units). Just search online for sellers.

    And don’t forget area rugs that easily define, and redefine, open spaces.

    Trend #3: A laundry room of your own

    Humankind advanced when the laundry room arose from the basement to a louvered closet on the second floor where clothes live. Now, we’re taking another step forward by granting washday a room of its own.

    If you’re thinking of remodeling, turn a mudroom or extra bedroom into a dedicated laundry room big enough to house the washer and dryer, hang hand-washables, and store bulk boxes of detergent.

    Look for spaces that already have plumbing hookups or are adjacent to rooms with running water to save on plumbing costs.

    Trend #4: Souped-up kitchens

    Although houses are trending smaller, kitchens are getting bigger, according to theAmerican Institute of Architects’ Home Design Trends Survey.

    Kitchen remodels open the space, perhaps incorporating lonely dining rooms, and feature recycling centers, large pantries, and recharging stations.

    Oversized and high-priced commercial appliances—did we ever fire up six burners at once?—are yielding to family-sized, mid-range models that recover at least one cabinet forstorage.

    Since the entire family now helps prepare dinner (in your dreams), double prep sinks have evolved into dual-prep islands with lots of counter space and pull-out drawers.

    Trend #5: Energy diets

    We’re wrestling with an energy disorder: We’re binging on electronics—cell phones, iPads, Blackberries, laptops--then crash dieting by installing LED fixtures and turning the thermostat to 68 degrees.

    Are we ahead of the energy game? Only the energy monitors and meters know for sure.

    These new tracking devices can gauge electricity usage of individual electronics ($20 to $30) or monitor whole house energy ($100 to $250). The TED 5000 Energy Monitor ($240) supplies real-time feedback that you can view remotely and graph by the second, minute, hour, day, and month.

    Trend #6: Love that storage

    As we bow to the new god of declutter, storage has become the holy grail.

    We’re not talking about more baskets we can trip over in the night; we’re imagining and discovering built-in storage in unlikely spaces--under stairs, over doors, beneath floors.

    Under-appreciated nooks that once displayed antique desks are growing into built-ins for books and collections. Slap on some doors, and you can hide office supplies and buckets of Legos.

    Giant master suites, with floor space to land a 747, are being divided to conquer clutter with more walk-in closets.

    Trend #7: Home offices come out of the closet

    Flexible work schedules, mobile communications, and entrepreneurial zeal are relocating us from the office downtown to home.

    Laptops and wireless connections let us telecommute from anywhere in the house, but we still want a dedicated space (preferably with a door) for files, supplies, and printers.

    Spare bedrooms are becoming home offices and family room niches are morphing into working nooks. After a weekend of de-cluttering, basements and attics are reborn as work centers.

  • HUD Will Offer Grants to Fix Housing-Related Health Hazards

    Posted Under: Home Selling in San Jose, Remodel & Renovate in San Jose, Going Green in San Jose  |  April 14, 2011 1:38 PM  |  1,236 views  |  No comments

    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that it is making grants available to help eliminate lead-based paint and other housing related health hazards from lower income homes. The funding will help protect young children as well as other vulnerable populations.

    HUD is making grants available through the following programs:

    -Lead-Based Paint Hazard Control (LHC) and the Lead Hazard Reduction (LHRD) grant programs - These grants will identify and control lead-based paint hazards in eligible privately owned housing for rental or owner-occupants. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011

    -Healthy Homes Production - This grant program is modeled after the previously successful Healthy Homes Demonstration and Lead Hazard Control grant programs, and will enable public and private grantees to address multiple housing-related hazards at the same time. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

    -Asthma Interventions in Public and Assisted Multifamily Housing Grant – These grants will develop, implement, and evaluate multifaceted programs for the control of asthma among residents of federally assisted multifamily housing. HUD is targeting asthma because it is a common illness that especially affects disadvantaged populations, and because multi-pronged interventions, such as reducing exposure to environmental triggers, can help control the disease. Application due date: Thursday, June 9, 2011.

    HUD requires prospective grantees to submit their applications electronically via www.grants.gov. Any changes to HUD-published funding notices will be made available to the public through a Federal Register publication and published on Grants.gov. Applicants are urged to sign up for Grants.gov’s notification service to receive periodic updates or changes to this grant offering.

  • 4 Renovations That Could Devalue Your Home

    Posted Under: Home Selling in San Jose, Remodel & Renovate in San Jose, Design & Decor in San Jose  |  January 24, 2011 10:33 AM  |  1,143 views  |  3 comments

    Most homeowners think that all renovations or home improvement project ideas will increase the value of their property. After all, who wouldn't love a super-deluxe kitchen, or a bathroom fancy enough to be in a five-star spa? Sure, we'd all love that. But the problem is that most people don't want to pay extra for someone else's pet project when it comes to buying a home.

    [Click here to check home equity rates in your area.]

    Homeowners should of course invest in renovations that are going to make them happy and improve quality of life. It is "home" after all! But if you're going to be putting your home on the market any time soon or are in the business of flipping houses, certain upgrades could end up doing you more harm than good.

    If you think you might be selling your home sooner than later, here are four improvements to avoid:

    1. Over-the-Top Kitchen Renovations

    You may love gourmet cooking, so a $30,000 kitchen upgrade might be just to your liking. But this could be a turnoff for potential buyers who aren't crazy about cooking. To them, the restaurant-sized stainless-steel stove, kitchen island and fridge just seem excessive, and they're not going to want to pay for them. Instead, they'll pass on your home and end up buying one with a regular kitchen.

    [See Remodeling Projects that Will Increase the Value of Your Home]

    Take a look at some kitchen remodeling ideas on a budget. You can still enjoy an upgraded kitchen without going overboard and compromising the value of your home. In fact, remodeling a kitchen for less than $1,000 is definitely a possibility.

    2. Over-the-Top Bathroom Renovations

    That ultra-deep jacuzzi tub and custom Kohler 360-degree shower you just installed might make your mornings a blast. But to budget or eco-minded buyers, all that water use is going to be a serious drawback. As with your kitchen, keep your bathroom remodeling ideas modest if you think you'll be putting your home on the market any time soon.

    3. A Pool or Hot Tub

    Yes, a pool addition can add significant value to your home (11 percent on average in the Southwest, but only 6 percent in the Midwest where the swimming season is much shorter). If it's above-ground, though, then knock 2 percent of your home's purchase price, since they're less appealing than in-ground pools. The problem is that pools are polarizing. There are constant swimming pool costs ($1,500 on average per year) and they require a lot of maintenance.

    They're also a liability, especially for families with young children, and could affect your homeowners insurance coverage. Pools will limit how many people want to buy your home, so keep that in mind before you have one installed (or consider buying a home with an existing pool).

    [See the New Rules of Remodeling]

    4. Overly Specialized Rooms

    So, you just tore down the garage (which you never used) and built a four-season sunroom which resembles an English manor conservatory. You're thrilled, but your potential buyers are going to be rolling their eyes. Where are they going to park the car and store the lawn mower and all their kids' sport equipment? Installing nontraditional customized rooms (like indoor basketball courts or a basement music studio) is great if you're going to be in your home for awhile. But potential buyers are likely to see this as a waste of space, and a project (and expense) they'll have to deal with if they buy your home.

    Final Word

    We all want to live in a home that reflects our tastes and interests, and our homes should be exactly how we want them to be. Just keep in mind that if you plan to sell your home in the near future, those upgrades and expensive renovations might end up devaluing the home you're trying to sell for top dollar.

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