February 19, 2015

Home Improvements For Your Enjoyment Only

Home Improvement for your own enjoymentMost homeowners have a desire to fix up and improve their property with the primary purpose to make it a more comfortable place to live. Homeowners need to be careful with how they choose to spend their money on home improvement projects if they are expecting the investment to pay off. The following six items commonly lead people to think they are adding home value, but these items really don’t.

1. Overbuilding for your Neighborhood
Attempting to increase the value of a home, home owners make improvements to their property that ultimately cause their home fall outside of the norm for the neighborhood or tract.  Homeowners should be aware of the size and the amenities of the homes in the surrounding track. Improving a home significantly over the size of the average homes in the neighborhood will not pay back on a one-to-one investment. Remember, that when a buyer makes an offer on your property and they will be obtaining financing and the buyer’s lender will send out an appraiser to find a value. The more unique your home is, the harder it will be for the appraiser to do their job. Homebuyers will not pay $800,000 for a house in a tract with an average sales price of $600,000. As great as all the extra improvements are, buyers will be reluctant to set a new high for the neighborhood.

2. Flooring
New flooring is typically always a good thing to have when selling your home. However exotic flooring may not work with prospective buyer’s decorating tastes. Flooring is expensive and if you’ve picked specially patterns or colors, not only is that money down the drain, but also will cost you on the sale price of your home as buyers will want to replace all the flooring and they will calculate that cost before writing their offer.

3. Landscaping
California’s in a prolonged drought. Some estimates believe we could experience drought for another decade or two. Overly lush and water thirsty landscaping may cause buyers to have concern as to the monthly costs of watering and maintaining overly lush landscaping.  Eliminating landscaping in favor or hardscape is very expensive an will never return dollar for dollar investment.

4. Upgrades
Buyers are looking for upgraded kitchens, bathrooms and windows.  Typically high-end appliances for a kitchen can add up really quick, but will never bring a one-for-one return when you go to sell your property. Upgraded homes tend to sell quicker than their non-upgraded counterparts, however they don’t cause large upward swings and pricing.

5. Swimming Pools
Swimming pools are a toss of a coin in that as many buyers who desire a pool, there are an equal amount of buyers who do not want a swimming pool. The pool construction business in Southern California has become very expensive. A very basic in ground pool can run $65,000 or more. It’s not uncommon to see appraisers adjusted value on a property only $10,000 for the addition of swimming pool.

6. Invisible Improvements
Copper plumbing, heating/air-conditioning systems, and tankless water heaters; these are all excellent upgrades and will help your house sell faster over competing properties in the same market. Typically these items will not drive the price of your property up as buyers expect these core operating systems of the home to be in proper working order.  Homes with older systems tend to get discounted for future replacement concerns.  Again these are items that will help your home sell quicker at full market or near full market value.

The Bottom Line
Any improvement you make on your property, do it for yourself and for the enjoyment of your family. If improving your home helps improve the care and comfort of your own family, that pays dividends that will far exceed any dollars you hope to recoup when you go to sell your property. Properties that are tastefully upgraded and improved, that do not eclipse the neighborhood, will sell quickly and for full market value. The trick to all of this is find the balance of what you want and matching it to where you live.

3 Reasons Solar is a waste of time for most home owners

Solar Conversion Simi ValleyAre you thinking of putting a Solar System on your home?  Before you do, make sure you consider that it may have no positive impact on the value of your home and may possibly have a negative impact on the value of your home.  Currently the Average system for the average home in Simi Valley California costs approximately $36,000.That is a lot of upfront money just to get rid of a bill in the $90-$150 a month range. Below are the three reasons I believe homeowners should think long and hard before committing to any solar solution for their home.

1. Your home is an energy sieve to begin with.  Have you insulated? Do you have dual pane windows? How old are your appliances? All of these items should be taken care of long before talking to a solar contractor. Reducing the need of air-conditioning and heating and running more efficient appliances will help reduce the size of the solar system for your home if you decide to go that route in the future.

2. Why pay for your Utilities up front for a long term break even?  Costs are already inflated via tax credits.  The truth is that Solar contractors charge inflated rates to install Solar.  Why?  Because of the Tax Credit game.  If all the subsidies and credits went away tomorrow, you would see that the installation costs would drop dramatically. All you have to do is look around any neighborhood and see that more and more people are having soared to their homes. If this is the case then how come the cost of  solar systems is not decreased?

3. Leased systems are not added value to your property they are a liability.  If the potential buyer for your home does not qualify for the lease, then you will have to buy out your lease to sell your home. Not all solar leases are uniform and some are very tricky; tricky in the sense it is very difficult to get anyone qualified to take over your lease leaving the only option, a buyout.

What is the solution?

Convert everything possible in your home to LED and or CFL.  Do you have LED TVs?  If not, this conversion will be a huge savings in annual electric costs.  How old is your Refrigerator, Microwave, Washer-Dryer, Dishwasher?  How about outdoor lighting including flood lights and security lighting?
Did you know there is technology that will let you control lighting and your Thermostat from your phone away from you home?  Do you have children?  You can install timed switches that will turn off lights when the kids forget.

Converting all these items will help reduce your monthly bill significantly. If you could reduce your bill 25% or 30% monthly is there the same desire to invest in a solar system?

Stop! Call me before getting creative with the improvements on your home!

This might be my shortest real estate Blog post and it must be true that a picture is worth a thousand words.  I promise this has not been Photoshopped or altered in anyway.  I shot this set on Average White Balance and you can look at the sky and the no parking sign to see this is a blue house.  Not only does this hurt the value of the home itself, but can hurt the value of surrounding homes.  If you have a pending home improvement project, please give me a call for some information how your improvements may impact the value of your home, both positive and negative.  Luckily in cities like Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Santa Clarita where there are planned communities; there are regulations that can help neighborhoods have basic conforming standards.

Blue House

Sprucing up before Selling Exterior Painting Strategies for your Simi Valley Home

Dry Rot and Termites Simi Valley Home Sellers

Dry rot under new paint

Getting ready to Sell your Home?  First, I want to congratulate you for least considering strategies making your home more attractive to potential home buyers. You only get to make a first impression once and the exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer is going to see. So if you’re painting the exterior of your home, prior to putting on the market, here’s a tip that could save you money down the road.

A reputable painting contractor will not only give you a written estimate outlining the scope work; they should also alert you to any problem areas before painting. Any wood on the exterior of your home is more vulnerable to wood destroy organisms which could include fungi and or insects. Homes in Simi Valley California often see dry rot and/or termites.

If the painting contractor you hired comes across problem areas on the exterior of your home, you should consider hiring a termite company to come out, investigate and give a written report as to the extent of the problem areas. The termite companies are completely equipped to remove and replace damaged wood and treat with chemicals to eradicate any wood destroying organisms. Any damage wood should be replaced before your painting contractor begins painting.

When the time comes to sell your property, 99% of the time, the buyer will ask for the seller to provide a termite inspection report.  Typically buyers will ask sellers to pay repair for any items listed under section 1 of the Wood Destroying Organisms Report. Home sales in the Simi Valley area see this as a customary request as this type of damage to a property is seen as a deferred maintenance item.  Many sellers do not realize that if they refuse a termite inspection or termite repairs, the buyer can still bring in their own termite inspector during the investigation period and cancel the purchase under the general inspection contingencies if that report reveals enough treatment and repairs to scare away the buyer.  Now the Seller has a material fact with this termite inspection and will need to disclose it to all future prospective buyers.

The reason why mentioned earlier that the damaged wood should be replaced before painting is, that termite inspectors are very critical of newly painted houses.  They are concerned the prior damage may be hidden behind the new paint job. Any dry rot or damaged wood under new paint is easily ferreted out during the inspection.

Sprucing up your house for a good first impression is the right thing to do. Be proactive when it comes to any issues that may pop up while you’re improving curb appeal of your home.  It will save you frustration and headaches when it comes time to negotiate with a home buyer.

Simi Valley Free Tree Replacement and Wood Chip Programs

Simi Valley City Hall SignIf you live in the City of Simi Valley and need wood chips for your yards, the City of Simi Valley’s Free Wood Chip Program is just a phone call away.  By calling (805) 583-6400 or sending an email to PW-WorkOrder@simivalley.org, you can request either an approximate 8 cubic yard load or 16 cubic yard load.  The City will dump the load on your property, usually on your driveway at no charge.  The Wood Chip-mulch mix consists of leaves, twigs and wood chips.

If you have trees in the parkway in front of your home,  damaged, diseased or missing trees can be replaced under the Self-Help Street Tree Replacement Program.  The parkway in front of your home needs to be at least 5 feet wide to qualify.  You, the home owner will need to participate in the program under the following terms:

  • Be willing to plant a 15-gallon tree(s) (materials as needed will also be provided).
  • Keep the tree(s) watered on a regular basis (approximately 10-20 gallons of water per week).
  • Keep grass and weeds away from the base of the tree(s) and water basin area.  Be careful not to use tools that would harm the tree bark.
  • Fertilize tree(s) on a regular basis.
  • Protect tree(s) from vandalism.
  • Agree to plant the tree(s) within the parkway planting area in front of your home and agree to care for the tree(s) in perpetuity as outlined above

To apply for a tree, you can call call (805) 583-6400 or E-mail the City of Simi Valley Public Works department  at PW-WorkOrder@simivalley.org.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Do you have them in your home?

carbon moxide alarmsBeginning July 1, 2011, the Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Act brought by California Senate Bill – SB 183 now requires all single-family homes with an attached garage or a fossil fuel source to install carbon monoxide alarms by July 1, 2011. In Simi Valley almost every home I have been in, has a natural gas furnace in the house or attic and most homes have gas appliances in the kitchen. These gas appliances and the furnace trigger the installation of the carbon monoxide detectors.

The alarms are required to be installed outside of each sleeping area and at least one per floor of living space. The mounting height according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 720), appears to not effect performance. I have read that density of carbon monoxide is similar to that of air at room temperature, and carbon monoxide generally mixes readily with air. Considering that the CO alarms come in a plug in style, battery operated or hard wire installation mounting height may not be an issue.  However, some firemen I have spoke to recommend a lower installation height rather than up on the ceiling. You can buy a combination smoke alarm/carbon monoxide alarm, but plug in CO alarms are readily available and require no mounting hardware. Smoke alarms are still required, this new law does not change the smoke alarm requirements.  For those who want to be extra cautious you can place a CO alarm in each bedroom.

The Difference Between Updating & Remodeling your Simi Valley Home

Simi Valley Real Estate Udating or UpgradingThe primary reason anyone should have when improving their personal residence should be for their own enjoyment and comfort factor. The side effect or secondary benefit of adding to the comfort factor of your own Simi Valley home, is that those improvements could add value to your home if at some point you decide to sell. These improvements have a much shorter lifespan than most homeowners understand.

As of September 1, 2011 the new Uniform Mortgage Data Program® (UMDP) has gone into affect to provide common set of requirements for appraisal and loan delivery data. This program was established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  I have included some of the definitions and ratings to give you a better idea how the GSEs are trying to create more uniform standards for appraisals.

Not updated –  Little or no updating or modernization. This description includes, but is not limited to, new homes. Residential properties 15 years of age or less often reflect the original condition with no updating, if no major components have been replaced or upgraded. Those over 15 years of age are also considered not updated if the appliances, fixtures, and finishes are predominantly dated. An area that is not updated may still be well-maintained and fully functional, and this rating does not necessarily imply deferred maintenance or physical functional deterioration.

Updated –  The area of the home has been modified to meet current market expectations. These modifications are limited in terms of both scope and cost. An updated area of the home should have an improved look and feel, or functional utility. Changes that constitute updates include refurbishment and/or replacing components to meet existing market expectations. Updates do not include significant alterations to the existing structure.

Remodeled –  Significant finish and or structural changes have been made to increase utility and appeal through complete replacement and/or expansion. The remodeled area reflects fundamental changes that include multiple alterations. These alterations may include some or all of the following: replacement of a major component (cabinet(s), bathtub, or bathroom tile), relocation plumbing/ gas fixtures/ appliances, significant structural alterations (relocating walls, and or the addition of square footage). This would include a complete gutting and rebuild.

Below are a sample of a few of the ratings and definitions to give you an idea what this may mean to the value of your home.

Condition Ratings and Definitions (C1-C6)

C1The improvements have been very recently constructed and have not been previously occupied. The entire structure and all components are new and the dwelling features no physical depreciation.

C2 –  The improvements  No deferred maintenance, little or no physical depreciation, and require no repairs. Virtually all building components are new or have been recently repaired, refinished or rehabilitated. All outdated components and finishes have been updated  and/or replaced with components that meet current standards. Dwellings in this category either are almost new or have been recently completed or renovated and are in similar condition to new construction.

Quality Ratings and Definitions (Q1-Q6)

Q4 – Dwellings with this quality rating meet or exceed the requirements of applicable building codes. Standards or modified standard building plans are utilized and the design includes adequate fenestration and some exterior ornamentation and interior refinements. Material, workmanship, finish and equipment are of stock or builder grade and may feature some upgrades.

Q5 –  Dwellings with this quality rating feature economy of construction and basic functionality as main considerations. Such dwellings feature a plain design using readily available or basic floor plans featuring minimal fenestration and basic finishes with minimal exterior ornamentation and limited interior detail. The dwellings meet minimum building codes and are constructed with inexpensive, stock materials with limited refinements and upgrades.

The above sampling was created by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and any loan underwritten with Fannie and Freddie guidelines is going to be appraised with this new system.  So if you are planing updating or remodeling, keep this in mind so you can maximize your investment.

Top 5 Upgrades Simi Valley Home Buyers look for in a Purchase

top upgrades for simi valley home sellersSimi Valley home owners considering selling their home who would like to know what upgrades will make the difference when it comes time to sell, should look at the following list to understand what kind of competition they may be up against in the market place.  Home owners not looking to sell, but who are trying to figure out where to put their money should look at the following list as a good place to start:

1. Upgraded Kitchen – This tops the list.  Don’t start anywhere else in your house before you tackle the kitchen.  The home remodeling channels, cooking channels, and the numerous infomercials for kitchen products are enough indicators that the kitchen the focal point of any house.  A full kitchen remodel can run from $15,000 to $100,000 depending on the size and what people desire.  If you have the ability to do work yourself and hire subcontractors then the saving can be huge.  Buyer will know the difference between new cabinets and old cabinets dressed up with new doors and paint. Old outdated tile, vinyl flooring and old appliances can make the entire house feel tired and detract form other updates that may have been done.

2. Master Bathroom – This is where the new home owner is going to spend their mornings getting ready for the day and at night getting ready for bed.  Before putting money into a hall bathroom or guest bathroom, the master comes first.  As little as $5,000 can go a long way.

3. Windows – Simi Valley has plenty of homes built in the 1970s and 1960s with single pane aluminum framed windows.  Old windows shout loudly to potential home buyers that your home is going to be expensive to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Simi Valley can get windy and older windows also allow plenty of dust in your home in the high winds.  A standard bedroom window, vinyl-dual pane with low-E glazing from Home Depot can run as low as $400 for a retrofit window.  There are a ton of do it yourself videos on Youtube that show how the retrofit windows are measured, ordered and installed that you might be able to handle a window upgrade on your own.

4. Heating and Air Conditioning System – Much like the problem with old windows in Simi Valley the HVAC system on your home is important.  AIR CONDITIONING is not optional.  If you dont have it, you home is going to suffer in the market place, and when you finally do get an offer, it is going to be a big negotiating point with the potential buyer.

Why?  If you have an old furnace, good luck finding a reputable HVAC contract that is willing to risk placing a new Air-conditioning system on an old inefficient furnace.  The point really is that California has minimum energy standards and you may not be able to keep your old furnace.  A complete system installed in Simi Valley for heating and air condition on a 1500 – 2000 square foot home is going to run around the $8000 range.  An important issue to consider on homes built before 1980 is that the ducting system in the attic is most likely going to contain asbestos with will keep the the price of the system upgrade up around that $8000 price tag.

5. Roof – The majority of homes selling in the hast 3 years are in neighborhoods where composition shingle roofs dominate the material used.  This style roof will last 20-30 years and some simple maintenance along the way can gain the longer lifespan.  The ridge caps on this system will fail long before the field shingles.  replacing the ridge caps will make the whole roof look better and help prolong the life of the field shingles. When you have the ridge caps replaces have your roofing contractor tune up the whole roofing system by resealing around all penetrations and spay painting vent pipes and roof vents with a matching color.  One of the common problems I have run into with cement tile roofs with leaks is cracked tiles and failing underlayment.  A roofing contractor can remove the tiles carefully and replace the underlayment paper.  IMPRORTANT NOTICE:  Anytime you have your roof replaced or in the case of replacing the underlayment in a tile roof  replace any wood damaged by dryrot, insects and/or termites – it will be less costly in the long run.  If you think you have termites, get a termite company out for treatment.

 Look for my follow-up article “The difference between upgrades and a remodel” comming soon


Three Reasons not to buy a tankless water heater if you live in Simi Valley

There are three very good reasons not to buy a Tankless Water Heater if you live in Simi Valley California.  One involving safety, one involving economics and last just living issues.  If your water heater has finally gone out and you are looking for replacement, consider the following before opting for a tankless replacement.

1. The number one reason involves safety for your family.  Simi Valley is in earthquake country,  Those that remember the effects of the Northridge Earthquake might not realize how fast time flies and it is now 17 years after that big quake.  Are you earthquake safe in your house? Do you have 3 days provisions for your family in case the next “Big One” hits?  Your 50 gallon traditional tank style Water heater may be your only source of clean drinking water in the event we have another large earthquake.  Make sure your Water heater is braced and strapped so it will not fall over during an earthquake.  I have posted Simi Valley Earthquake preparedness – Water Heater Bracing

2. Cost; while there are a buzzillion commercials on the radio these days talking about tankless water heaters, tankless systems are often significantly more expensive.  Tankless heaters are the buzz, they are sexy and they might sound like a good thing, but for those of us in earthquake country, would you rather have a 50 gallon reserve of clean drinking water or the latest fad.

3.  When there is a power outage, you have no hot water with a tankless system  If the gas or power goes out to your Hot water heater, you will still have hot water for a couple hours.

Please make sure your water heater is properly strapped and braced.  If you need assistance from a licensed plumber, for  Simi Valley Plumbers, you can call Beck’s Plumbing at (805) 300-6146 or T-Top Plumbing  at (805) 527-886

Related Articles:

Ted makes a guest apperance on the Cindy Dole Home Wizards Show KFWB 980 am

Cindy Dole Home Wizards Show KWFB 980 amSaturday, May 1, 2010 (Los Angeles) –  I was given the privilege of a guest spot on the Cindy Dole Home Wizards Show on KFWB 980 am. The show airs every Saturday morning from 8 AM to 10 AM. Cindy covers a variety of topics on home improvement and gardening. I’ve always been a fan of talk radio and prefer to listen to talk radio over other programming. Cindy Dole’s Home Wizards Show, is great programming for Saturday morning that I can turn on my transistor radio while working around my home or listen in my car on a Saturday morning on the way to meet clients and show property.

It’s no secret that people love the topics of real estate and home improvement. Some my most read articles on my blog are home improvement articles. Cindy’s show this time moved away from home improvement and gardening and focused in on a very serious topic related to home ownership and that topic was reminiscing events of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the preparation for future earthquakes in Southern California.  Two important issues came to surface immediately. First, was understanding that Northridge type events are more common for those of us in Southern California. Examples would be the Whittier Narrows earthquake, the San Fernando/ Sylmar earthquake, etc.

Ted Mackel on the Cindy Dole Home Wizards Show KFWB 980 AMThe second issue that came to surface from the experts was that they believe a section of the San Andreas fault between Palm Springs and Palmdale has a high probability rupture in the next 30 years. The difference between an earthquake generated from the San Andreas fault versus our more recent events is that a much larger magnitude quake accompanied by longer shake times (up to two minutes) – will most likely occur.

Northridge 1994 earthquake Woodland Hills My Brother Pete's Bed  seconds after he got out of the way
My Brother Pete’s Bed with the chimney on top – seconds after he got out of the way

In sharing my experiences during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and sitting in studio with the experts I quickly realized that 16 years has passed, which has created some complacency in my own preparation. This is an important topic to stay in touch with to make sure your home is safe,  that you have enough supplies for several days and that you have adequate insurance in case of loss.

Good news for those of you contemplating purchasing a home.   Sellers now supply a natural hazards disclosure report prepared by a third-party company that shows where fault lines and liquefaction zones are located in relation to the property you are planning to purchase. Other  hazards such as flooding and fire zones are included in that report as well. If your home is located in one of these hazard zones, it helps to know so you can plan accordingly and be prepared for future likely events.

Also mandatory retrofit items for Ventura County / Simi Valley Home Sellers include water heater bracing and in Los Angeles County a earthquake shutoff valve for your natural gas service.

The player below is the recording of Saturday’s Show.  You can subscribe to Cindy’s Show on iTunes or listen live every Saturday Morning at 8:00 am on KFWB 980 am.

If you can’t see the player for the show above here is the link

Cindy Dole Home Wizards Show on KFWB 980 am May 1st Earthquake Special

Make sure to Follw Cindy on Twitter @CindyDole

Also Cindy has a Facebook Page Cindy Dole on Facebook

And of course her webpage www.CindyDole.com

Related Posts:

Northridge Earthquake 15 year Aniversary

Simi Valley Earthquake Preparedness Emergency Gas Shut Off

Simi Valley Earthquake Preparedness Water Heater Bracing

Cindy Dole’s Remembering Northridge Quake 1994

Search for Homes in Simi Valley California Simi Valley Property Values

Thanks for reading Simi Valley’s Premiere Real Estate Blog!
Author – Ted Mackel Simi Valley Real Estate Agent – Keller Williams Realty
Ted Mackel is a top producer at Keller Williams Realty Simi Valley,
specializing in Simi Valley Real Estate
(805) 432-7705



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