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Remodel & Renovate in Austin : Real Estate Advice

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  • Home Buying768
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Activity 27
Wed Sep 8, 2010
Betina Foreman answered:
Dear Clayton AngiesList.com is a great place to find contractors. If you need a carpenter I love Noah's Ark Construction (512)569-2557. Claude LeGace (512) 585-7129 is the best and least expensive plumber I have found in Austin. I wish you luck on your project!
Betina
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Tue Oct 13, 2009
Sharon Seligman answered:
Drummer-I agree that the first thing to do is clearly understand the market. What has sold, price range, how long it took. Look at last 90 days, max, 6 months back. Compare your house to those. Choose the ones that are the best comparables. Then get the stats for the current listings.
When you have that info, you will be ready to determine what renovations you will do. 2-3 bids from recommended people who will provide references. My off the cuff response is that street appeal is important, so spiff up the plants. Fresh, neutral paint is inexpensive and always positive. At that point, I sometimes provide the consulting, other times I hire a stager to come in and assess the property. Sometimes that will help you show the house to its best advantage. A consultation, fee for the assessment, is about $75.

If you would like my help, with getting statistics for your area, providing names of qualified builders, and/or a good staging consultant, please let me know. Good that you are taking your time before jumping in.
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Thu Jul 9, 2009
DT asked:
As purchased the unit (1 bed / 1 bath) had two window units, neither of which had the option to provide heat. There was a gas fan-blown "fireplace" that could provide heat, but according…
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Sat Jun 13, 2009
Emmanuel Scanlan answered:
Hello DT,

The building codes, requirements, et al, have a tendency to become confusing the way they cross reference each other, are modified, etc., etc. My attempt below was a simplified version to explain that the City of Austin is actually being generous in their requirements. I hope you do not take this as argumentative but here is a more detailed description without placing all of the detail here.

Yes, it is not expected that as a result of removing the fixture, switch and receptacle that the remainder of the K&T will be affected. This is one of the grey areas I mentioned previously. A change was made to the electrical system requiring the work to be permitted. The local AHJ has the authority at that point to require the entire electrical system be upgraded regardless.

The City of Austin has adopted most of the new building codes. You can find a complete list and links to their codes and amendments here http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/development/bpinfo1.htm. Austin has amended the 2006 IRC and deleted Part VIII, Electrical, and has replaced it with the ICC Electrical Code. Use the link below to the free version of the ICC EC (called the Electrical Administrative Provisions at the link location) and read Chapter 9, Unsafe Systems And Equipment. As I stated below K&T was more than adequate for the electrical usage requirements for the era it was originally started to be used. K&T today is potentially inadequate, degraded and could be considered unsafe for today’s electrical requirements.

The Building Official has no idea how you plan to use the current electrical system. There are many potential hazards that can exist with the current K&T wiring and potential cross connects between the K&T and the new wiring. The City (any city) does not necessarily know how every older home is built until they receive permit requests and perform ensuing inspections as a result of the permits. In your case they now know your home has the older K&T wiring. Let’s take a scenario which can potentially be disastrous with regards to K&T wiring:

1. Everyone in the family starts coming home after work, school, etc.
2. Mom heads to her little office area and fires up the computer to do a little extra work from home.
3. The son fires up his electric guitar and cranks up his 1000 Watt amplifier.
4. The daughter fires up her gazillion Watt stereo system to listen to her favorite Jonas Brothers CD.
5. Dad fires up the electric oven and cooktop to start dinner and then throws in a load of laundry (This part is for the benefit of the ladies out their reading this, chuckle).
6. The whole time a bad connection in the K&T is heating up, the system is potentially already overloaded and the smoke alarms start going off. Fifteen minutes later the house is engulfed in flames and fire department is now doing protective services to the nearby homes as this house burns to the ground. Luckily nobody is hurt but the home and contents are a total loss.
7. In the following weeks Dad gets so pi$$ed off he hires a lawyer and tries to sue the city for passing his new electrical change but not being forced by the city to rewire a potential hazardous wiring condition, the K&T, or even being notified it could be a potential hazard.

Ergo the requirement the City of Austin is placing for you to sign this waiver. The City of Austin is doing everything it can to make sure you are aware of the potential hazard without forcing you to take large sums of money to completely rewire the home. They are giving you a choice to either sign the waiver or not have the permit finalized with a passing inspection. Again I feel it is a fully reasonable request and a surprise they are not making more of it. The City is trying to strike a balance between safety and situations such as yours where the money is just not there to do everything at once.

This is not meant to be an attack and believe me I am big on non-government intervention in private lives. What I have a difficult time understanding though is why you feel this way about having to sign the waiver? Is your Electrician balking about signing the waiver?

Emmanuel J. Scanlan
PS Inspection & Property Services LLC
www.psinspection.com
214-418-4366 (cell)
TREC License # 7593
International Code Council, Residential Combination Inspector #5247015-R5 (Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing and Building)
Certified Infrared Thermographer (ASNT-TC1A Standards)
Texas Residential Construction Commission, Third Party Warranty Inspector #1593
Texas Residential Construction Commission, Inspector, County Inspection Program
Texas Department Of Insurance, VIP Inspector # 08507061016
Hayman Residential Engineering Services, Field Technician
CMC Energy - Certified Energy Auditor

Knowledge is power, but sharing knowledge brings peace!!
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Wed Apr 8, 2009
Nancy McClary answered:
HI, again DT -

I'm sure we are all glad that our responses helped in some way. Building/renovating - changing any existing structure can be a double edged sword, if you will. To use another cliche - like a glass half full or half empty - depending on your attitude. I'm on the half full side - You are going to take a structure that so far hasn't been used to its fullest potential and modify it so it will give you much more pleasure and benefit than when you bought that house. Highest and best use! As you make the changes, please keep in mind that you may not own this home forever - and when it comes time to sell it to someone else - will your changes work for a new buyer. I'm not suggesting that you make the changes so bland that anyone would like them - just remember that extreme changes may come to haunt you in the future. You are about to set upon a new course that is SO EXCITING - have fun with the renovations - and please let me know how it all turned out. My husband and I were the general contractors for a home we built into a hillside in Connecticut and other than children and pets, there is nothing so much fun! Let me know whenever you have questions I can help with. Good luck!!! ... more
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Wed Apr 8, 2009
Betina Foreman answered:
Dear DT,
If you are using a General Contractor to oversee the construction process, they should be the ones working with the city to obtain your permits. I would discuss the entire process with them before you start the process. I would also make sure your payments are split up for example 1/3 down before starting, 1/3 at the halfway mark, and 1/3 at job conclusion. I would also make sure your contract with them has a completion date, AND I would have a financial penalty for every day they go over the finish date. This will encourage them to make a real effort to finish on time. Always do a walk through at the end with the general contractor and compile a punch-list of items that need to be corrected before the job is done, to make sure you are satisfied with the work. Good luck!
Betina
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Sun Sep 7, 2008
Betina Foreman answered:
Dear UT Horn,
You might want to check out any potential services with www.AngiesList.com and the Austin Better Business Buerau. Make sure you find someone that communicates well and always get at least three bids for the exact same scope of work. I wish you luck on your re-hab project!
Sincerely,
Betina
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