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July 2008 Newsletter         
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From the Desk of
Arthur Lazerow

Lead Paint Assessments
for Homebuyers

Many Realtors rely on Alban home inspectors for advice. We are repeatedly asked about water intrusion, musty smells in homes, mold concerns, structural problems and radon issues. The one subject rarely raised is lead-based paint. Furthermore, this is one service that Alban can provide to buyers of older homes that is infrequently ordered by our clients.

This issue comes to mind as a result of new regulations issued by EPA the end of March 2008 requiring, effective April 2010, that all renovation and maintenance activities in homes built before 1978 must include leadsafe construction practices. The incidence of lead poisoning in children in Maryland has declined by 90% since the Maryland (H.B. 760) and Federal (Title X) laws went into effect. However, one of the major causes of childhood lead poisoning continues to be renovation activities in homes containing leaded paint.

It may be that buyers are unaware of the danger lead- based paint presents to children as their bodies develop. There are several factors that Realtors and homebuyers should be aware of which would determine the need for a lead-based paint risk assessment. These are of course related to homes built before 1978 and include: (1) the presence of a child under six years of age or a woman who is either pregnant or planning to become pregnant; (2) in anticipation of renovations; and, (3) for any older home with peeling, chipping paint.

The lead-based paint risk assessment is a screening of the paint on the interior and exterior of the home to determine its condition, the existence of lead-based paint, and whether or not its condition is causing a lead- oisoning hazard. The lead inspection report includes maintenance and remedial suggestions. Realtors should not overlook recommending a lead paint assessment where appropriate.

Lead Free Inspections

Owners of rental properties and homebuyers desiring to have lead-free inspections should be aware the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has once again tightened the regulations under which Maryland accredited lead inspectors issue lead-free certificates. A lead free determination relieves the property and its owner from obligations under both Maryland and Federal lead poisoning prevention and disclosure laws.

When the regulations were first issued by MDE, interiors were required to be lead-free and exteriors could to be lead-free in all areas that were accessible to children. The inspection industry interpreted this as no lead paint on foundations or first floors outside but higher areas were not considered accessible. MDE later interpreted “accessible” to mean any painted component on the exterior of the dwelling.

Recently, MDE forms have been amended to use the word “ALL” for exterior portions of the home. Therefore, Alban lead inspectors will not issue lead-free certifications for homes with interiors tested to have no lead-based paint unless there is either no painted components, or all painted areas are wrapped in aluminum or vinyl or tested to be lead free. For rental properties, Alban will issue limited lead-free certifications, which eliminates the need for lead dust-wipe inspections before every new occupancy, but requires a bi-annual reinspection that there is no peeling or chipping paint on the exterior of the property.

Boosting a Home's Value

Donna Evers was my superb co-host on our weekly Saturday morning radio program on WMET and is the real estate broker of Evers and Company. Donna and I had numerous discussions during our 100 shows regarding staging a home for resale and protecting its value. Certain basic truths emerged from these discussions. Deferred maintenance typically causes about a $2 decline in price for every $1 of deferred cost. Certain improvements, such as new appliances, improved salability, while certain improvements, such as a swimming pool, did not necessarily help sell a home. Also, overpricing a neighborhood through extensive renovations is not necessarily helpful.

I raise this issue of how to protect or improve a home’s value for resale because Melissa Brois, our marketing director, recently emailed me an AOL article on this subject, entitled Top Five Ways to Boost Home Value. This is an excellent list, although anyone with experience buying or selling a home could augment it without difficulty. How about this budget for preparing a home to sell:
$100 Four gallons of paint for 12x15 room and front door for do-it-yourselfers
$300 Home inspection to determine required maintenance
$700 Replace an old appliance with an Energy-Star appliance
$100 Install new fixtures
$300 Landscaping with trees or shrubs, a few plants for color, and mulch
$1,500 TOTAL

The improvements made for $1,500 provide two benefits, bettering the appearance of the home and knowledge of potential pitfalls to correct before a buyer’s home inspector gets involved. This is a very logical and smart approach to improving both the salability and value of a home.

Why paint? The first view of the home as a potential purchaser walks up to the home is the condition of the front door. Home inspectors often marvel that home owners let their front door deteriorate in the first place. Inside, the fresh smell of paint is very satisfying and subtly makes a statement that this home has been cared for.

Why a pre-listing home inspection? The answer is that the pre-listing home inspection eliminates surprises two weeks before settlement was supposed to occur, saves the seller money, and a well maintained home will sell faster and at a higher price than a “fixer-upper”. The home inspector’s list of deficiencies can be handled in a timely manner, rather than in a panic, saving money and putting the home in its best possible condition. Alban’s Certified Pre-Owned Listing inspection program fills this need.

Energy efficient appliances make a favorable impression on buyers. The gasoline price crisis has forced everyone to focus on the entire issue of energy, whether electricity, natural gas or nuclear power. Research with Realtors has found that energy efficient appliances are a big plus in the decision making process when buyers begin to select a home to purchase. Apparently, energy efficient equipment are upgrades that hold their value in a declining price market.

For a few dollars, the appearance of a home can be modernized by replacing fixtures and knobs. Home Depot has an entire wall in their hardware department containing hundreds of knobs with a variety of colors, styles, shapes and sizes. Walk down the isle of bathroom faucets and making a decision can be difficult. There are hundreds of available faucets priced under $75.00. A sparkling new faucet and a few new knobs can dress up that old vanity cabinet at minimal cost.

The same idea applies to ceiling light fixtures. Replacing that dark, dingy old family room ceiling fixture the builder spent $12.95 thirty years ago not only makes the room brighter, but a new fixture will be prettier, improving the cosmetic appearance of the room and enhancing value.

Finally, improve the landscaping around any home to be soon on the market. We hear stories from Realtors who drive up to a home and the client says, “No, don’t want to even stop here.” Fresh landscaping makes a statement about the rest of the property and is the first image of the home, even before the front door. As I walked up to a home for a pre-occupancy dust wipe inspection the other day, I noticed the flower beds were newly manicured with no weeds and the shrubbery was beautifully trimmed. This gave the home a sharp appearance and I was impressed. Think about the impact on a potential buyer.

The point of these five steps is that for a few dollars, the value of a home can be maximized and the sales period minimized. Whether in a difficult sales environment like now or in a hot market, the home that presents itself best among its competition will have the best chance to sell. Attention to detail and care of the home are free commodities, but they surely go far in the real estate market.

Alban is proud to offer FREE Continuing Education Courses in Real Estate Offices!
Call Tina to schedule one of our educational seminars, for additional information, or to schedule our services at 800-822-7200 or 301-662-6565.

Integrity in Home Inspecting, Confidence in Home Owning The ASHI Experience