Stu Barnes Talks Real Estate

Welcome to my blog page.  Here I write about hot topics in the Real Estate market for Holly Springs, NC and surrounding areas.  I encourage comments and suggestions on what topics need to be discussed.  My client's and future client's opinions are very important and welcome.  

Oct. 26, 2018

Crawlspaces and Hardwoods

Does Your Home Have a Crawlspace?

If you live in North Carolina you typically have three choices as to what type of foundation your home will have.  You will either have a crawlspace, a basement, or your home will be on a slab....which is a slab/bed of concrete.  In general, the basement home is the most expensive and requires a certain slope of the lot in order to permit the home and have a solid structure.  A slab home is usually less expensive and there will be no access under the home itself.  Most homes in North Carolina will have crawlspace.  This is as it sounds...you will have a little room to "crawl" under the floor level of the home and this is where you will find HVAC ducts, wiring, etc.  Sometimes, depending on the slope of your lot, you will have a walk-in crawlspace....which, is as it sounds, you can stand up and walk under your house.

Moisture and Humidity Levels

If you do have a crawlspace it is very important to monitor the moisture and humidity levels.  There are various reasons as to why the levels may fluctuate and even more opinions on ways to control the levels.  This post is a general rule of thumb snapshot and if you are to take action you should seek advice from a qualified crawlspace contractor. With that said, your moisture levels should be around 14% or less....no more than 20%. Your humidity levels should be around 50-55%. These levels can be read by simple instruments you can buy at most hardware/big box stores.

If Your Crawlspace Has High Levels

If you do have higher levels in your crawlspace, depending on it's severity, there are several things you can do to control them.  A simple thing to do is to lay a 6-10 mill vapor barrier on the ground and have it cover 100% of the floor of the crawlspace.  This will keep the moisture under the plastic barrier.  Going a step further, the old school of thought is to open your vents from April to October and close them from November to March. These theories are changing over time and what I am seeing a lot these days are totally sealing the crawlspace.

Types of Sealed Crawlspaces

For the sake of general information, there are two types of sealed crawlspaces; the first is a total seal.  This basically means that the crawlspace is covered in a vapor barrier not only on the ground, but also on the sides of the crawlspace totally encapsulating the area. The piers are wrapped, vents are sealed, and a dehumidifier is installed along with removing insulation under the sub floor. An alternative to the dehumidifier is tapping into an air duct and having the space "conditioned" just like the livable area of the home.

A less expensive alternative is placing the vapor barrier on 100% of the ground, sealing the vents and installing a dehumidifier.  This does almost the same thing as a totally encapsulated crawlspace, just not as "complete".  A lot of new construction of the higher end homes are sealing crawlspaces with one of the methods mentioned.

My Crawlspace

My home is 25 years old and the previous owner had a sump pump installed as it had accumulated water from heavy rains. There was no real detriment to my home, but my crawlspace levels were high which was leading to my hardwood floors cupping over time.  Mine was not extreme, but I could tell it was happening so I took action.  Prior to taking action my moisture levels were around 18% and the humidity levels were around 80% plus.  I took the less expensive route and had a new vapor barrier laid down, sealed the vents and installed a dehumidifier.  Four days later my humidity level was around 58% and moisture level was 14% going down.  I can tell not only do my hardwoods "seem" to be flatter, but also, not that there was a stitch in the air, but it seems the air quality (smell and efficiency of HVAC) improved.  A semi sealed crawlspace is probably going to be around $2-3K and a full encapsulation is around $5-9K.  Below are pictures of a totally encapsulated crawlspace, a dehumidifier, and mild to moderate cupping of hardwoods.

sealed crawlspace

 

cupped hardwoodscupped hardwoods

March 1, 2018

Clean Your Dryer Vent

I, like many of you forget about routine maintenance around the house...sometimes major things like having the HVAC serviced once a year or smaller things like changing my air filters once a month.  One thing that I could almost guarantee is that the average homeowner forgets to have their dryer vent cleaned regularly.  Not the removable screen from the machine that collects lint; but the actual vent (duct) going from the back of your dryer leading to the exterior of the home.

Dryer Vent Cleaning

Most people think cleaning the lint from the removable screen does the trick.  If you do not even do that you will notice your clothes take longer to dry.  If your screen is clear and it is still taking longer to dry your vent (duct) is likely getting clogged with lint and not only will it make your dryer work harder and use more energy, but it is also a fire hazard.  Getting it cleaned once a year is probably a prudent idea.

How do you clean a dryer vent?

Our towels were taking a very long time to dry so I went outside to look at the exterior of the home where the vent exits the house above our garage.  It was totally clogged....pictures below.  Some houses have a very short 2 foot duct running to the exterior of the home...if the laundry room is on an exterior wall.  My dryer is in a closet on the second floor on the front side our our home so the duct actually runs about 25 feet or so until it exits above our garage.

I called JNJ Dryer Vent Cleaning from a google search.  This company is owned by a local full time Fireman.  The inquiry was returned within a day and we scheduled a visit.  Pete, also a full time Fireman came out on his day off and took care of the vent quickly.  The process involves hooking up a vacuum cleaner/dry-wet vac to the duct behind the dryer and then going to the exterior of the home where the ducts exits the house and putting through a brush with long extensions while  twisting it making the lint break off and end up being sucked into the vacuum cleaner.  It took about 30 minutes and our clothes dry very quickly now compared to the days before.

Be safe.  Do routine maintenance on your home and don't procrastinate, even with smaller items like a dryer vent.

**I actually had my house painted last year and the vent they installed is not one that should be used for a laundry vent as it didn't have enough room for lint to exit....see pics.

          

 

 

 

 

Posted in home maintenance
Jan. 5, 2018

Keeping Your Pipes From Freezing

Cold Weather Schmold Weather

When Mother Nature or Old Man Winter gets a ruffle in their feathers and decides to make it really cold....and I mean REALLY COLD, you have to take precautions.  The biggest one is getting your hind part inside the house...stay out of the elements...preferably with a beverage by the fire.  Even if you are not by the fire...with a beverage, you should be sure of another thing...make sure your heat works......but those are obvious right?  Your pipes from faucets are exposed to the elements even though they go down under your house.  When cold air hits them, if the air is cold enough, it could possibly freeze them....worst case they could bust.  So take a few minutes and read these five precautions to take so you don't get stuck being Harry the Homeowner and writing checks all Winter.

 

Drip Your Faucets

Go to your faucets and drip them just enough to where there is a drop of water every 10 seconds or so...it doesn't have to be running on full speed or even very low speed...just enough to see drops moving out.  This slows the freezing process by have the water moving through the pipes.

Open Cabinet Doors

By opening your cabinet doors you are letting the conditioned (warm) air enter into the cabinets and warming the pipes.  This may not help the pipes in the walls, but it will keep water moving limit damage if they freeze.

Wrap Pipes

If you can tell the water is moving very slowly when you turn on the tap you can bet the water is well on the way of being frozen...kind of like your favorite slushy at the 7/11....at 2am.  By wrapping the pipes you can slow down the freezing process and possibly stop it cold in it's tracks:)). Warm wet towels should do the trick.

Hairdryers 

Go and borrow your Mom or sister's hairdryer if yours is in the shop.  If a pipe is frozen and you can somewhat get an idea of the frozen area of the pipe...turn old faithful on and start warming the pipes...it will loosen the ice and lessen the chance of busting them.

Water Main Shut Off

Are your pipes already frozen?  Go ahead and shut off the water at the main water shut off...it should be in a closet on the lowest floor of your castle...if you have a dungeon or a basement...that is your lowest floor....you should find it there.  Righty tighty lefty loosy....choose righty tighty.  This way no more water is entering the home to freeze if you have a melt and refreeze and you are not going to be home.

 

 

Feb. 23, 2017

7 Things to Know About Your House

Owning a home is a great investment.  Protecting your investment entails regular upkeep; similar to your body...eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep.  Taking care of your home not only means getting the HVAC serviced yearly or repairing normal wear and tear of items such as a roof or leaky toilets.  In order to property care for your home you must know the basics and where certain things are located.

Filters

In North Carolina most HVAC Systems (heating, ventilation and air condition) have air returns within the house where a pleated filter 'filters' the air moving within the home.  The air is pulled 'in' to the return and passes through the filter.  Typically you can find one on each floor, but sometimes there is more than one on each floor, depending on the size of the home.  It is recommended to change your filters once a month or no more than every 6 weeks.  Filters remove dust mites, hair, pollen, and many other particles floating through the air in your home that you would have never thought existed.

Electrical Panel

Every home that has electricity has an electrical panel or 'circuit box'.  Most of the time it is located in the garage, but sometimes you can find it on the outside of the home or possibly in the basement.  It is important that you know where it is in case you lose power and have to 'reset' a fuse or if you are replacing a switch or lighting fixture.  If you are like me, hire an electrician for electrical work....electricity is tricky and very dangerous if you are unaware of how it works.

Water Main

Know where your water main shut off valve is located.  This is very important because if you ever have an overflowing toilet or any other active leaks you can completely shut off the water just by turning a valve.  Most of the time this valve is located in a closet on the lowest level in the home...typically the first floor of most homes in the pantry or coat closet.  It is recommended to turn the main 'off' if you are going on vacation or leaving the home for several days.  If the water line breaks behind the washing machine.....it will be a mess.

Type of Heat

Do you have a heat pump or a furnace?  In general, in most metro areas you will have natural gas which means you will have a furnace.  If you live outside of the city limits and there is no natural gas available you will have electric heat, which a heat pump is utilized.  This is important to know if you are looking to replace a unit or from a safety perspective if you have buried gas lines in your yard.

Sump Pump

Do you have a sump pump?  If you have a basement where there is a history of water entering the home or if your crawl space has an area where water accumulates; it is recommended to have a sump pump installed.  A sump pump is simply a bucket and is buried a few feet under ground level where water is accumulating.  When the bucket fills up, the pumps push the water out of the home through a water line directed away from the dwelling.  It sounds complicated, but sump pumps are not that expensive, but depending on the location of where it is installed, the labor could add up.

Irrigation Lines

If you have an irrigation system then you obviously have sprinkler heads located in your yard as well as water lines.  It is important to know the location of the sprinkler heads and water lines if you are going to be digging in the yard for any reason.  If you aerate your yard in the spring, you would want to mark the sprinkler heads so the aerator does not run over them.

Call Before You Dig!

I have mentioned irrigation lines, gas lines and water lines.  There are also electrical lines and other cables/internet lines buried in your yard.  If you are going to be digging in any part of your yard it is prudent to call the underground utility authority in your area to make sure you do not dig into any active lines.  It is typically free to have someone come out and locate the phone/electric lines.  In North Carolina you can call '811' to have this service performed.  Here is a link to their site as well.

 

I hope this helps.  Please contact me if you or anyone you know needs any Real Estate advice.  

Thanks, 

 

 

Jan. 23, 2017

Housing Statistics in the Raleigh, NC Market

As many of you know, the real estate market has been on fire for the past few years.  This is obviously well received by most REALTORS®, but there are also many challenges that come along on the ride.  The biggest is inventory.  When inventory is low it turns the market into a seller's market, typically meaning there is less than 4 months of inventory currently on the market.  This results in multiple offers, offers over asking price and a very stressful time for all involved.  My biggest challenge of 2016 was having first time buyers in the $180K-$250K range getting in bidding wars.  My average client wrote about 3 offers until we finally won a bid.  This wasn't always the case though.  Different towns, different price ranges and condition of properties all had a say in the numbers.

The MLS is the service agents use to access the "Brain" of the housing market.  Not only are we able to get the true numbers from past sales and concessions, we also have the ability to access other statistics such as days on the market, average home price, median home price...you name it.  There are other sites you can go to in order to access, but they all feed from the MLS; true data.  (Zillow pulls most of it's information from tax records). CSS (centralized showing service) is the company the Triangle MLS uses to schedule appointments.  The statistics provided by CSS helps us understand the number of showings a property has had, though confidential, it does provide zip codes and price ranges to break down the numbers.  In other words, you cannot see how many showings a listing has had unless you are the agent or the owner, but overall it tracks all the data and packs it into areas, age or zip codes so you can see the trends.

The video below is provided by our local REALTOR® association.  It is an informational video giving the market outlook for the year 2016 for the Raleigh area real estate market.  As you know real estate is local, so a lot of the numbers you will see are across the board and could be different if you just broke it down to Holly Springs.  A good example is in the video it is stated that the "sweet spot", the majority of demand, is for houses in the $150K-$200K range.  In Holly Springs there are very few houses in that price range so the stats are skewed.  But in general, it is a very informative video.  Some of the talking points are *closed sales in 2016 were up 5% over 2015, even with a lack of inventory; *the market actually peaks in March, not June/July like many think; 66% of resales sold within 30 days on the market.  These are just a few, but the video itself includes many numbers in which will likely be interesting to you.  

 

One very interesting piece of information for my fellow Holly Springs residents is the appreciation rate for the zip code 27540.  According to Zillow, home values have gone up 6.1% in 2016 and are projected to appreciate an additional 3.7% in 2017.  Here is the link to view the information.  

As always, please let me know if I can help you, a friend, family member or coworker.  

Sept. 23, 2016

Why You Should Sign Up With a Local Real Estate Website

If you have ever bought or sold a home you more than likely started the process online, whether is was looking for a local REALTOR® or searching in a particular part of town for a particular house with the criteria that meets your needs.  There are a lot of choices out there as far as Real Estate Search Sites go, but most people have heard of the big ones which will remain nameless on this post.

What a lot of people don't know is these big sites take the feed from an individual agent's MLS to show up on their site, then in return, they sell advertising space beside that agent's listing "to other agents".  What happens when the consumer wants information about that particular listing?  The big sites give them "your" information and before you know it you have 3 or more agents calling you trying to get your business.  I wouldn't think there is anything illegal about this, but at minimum it is misleading to the public; not to mention a lot of these sites have houses on there that "look" like they are for sale, but they actually sold months, if not years before.

My recommendation is to find a local REALTOR® that you like and trust and stick with them, have them set up searches for you on their own site which is coming straight from their local MLS.  This is true information and not just taken from tax records.  My site, just like many agent's sites out there, now require you to sign in to be able to view homes. Some people may find this annoying, but truth be told, it benefits you more than you would think.  If you are a serious buyer or seller you should not mind giving your name and contact information in order to access a reliable site.  Here are a few reasons you should not hesitate signing up and creating an account.

  • You have your own search site with total control over the criteria you choose.
  • You can decide how often you receive alerts.
  • You have one REALTOR® with your contact information, not multiple agents calling you.
  • You now have someone in your corner looking out for your best interests.
  • You can access a website that not only has accurate information, but is updated daily and has multiple search tools and state of the art technology making it easy to use on a desktop, laptop or device.

Notice there are a lot of "You(s)" in the reasons above.  That is because it is about "you", not the big real estate sites advertising profits.  

Please take a few minutes to look over my website and feel free to contact me at your convenience.