Assessing Your Property Taxes

Property Taxes

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

In the last few years, most property taxes have risen in step with the increase in home values. But it never hurts to find out if your taxes are higher than they should be. Getting them reduced is a chore that’s worth the effort.

* First, look for errors that may be inflating the value of your house. Check the list of factors used to come up with your assessment on the property record card, which is kept at your assessor’s office. Look for obvious errors, such as the incorrect square footage or the wrong number of bathrooms.

* Because many appraisals are done on a drive-by basis, the assessor may have overlooked defects that could lower your tax bill, such as a wet basement or cracked walls. If you can show that the assessment was based on erroneous information, you may be able to get your tax bill reduced without going through the appeals process.

* Check out similar properties. Talk to your neighbors or property owners to see whether their tax bills went up as much as yours did. The homes you check should be of similar size and age as your own. If your assessment is considerably larger than theirs, you have a good shot at winning an appeal.

* Some localities base assessments on the cost of a home replacement plus the value of the land. An amount for depreciation is subtracted. Others use recent sales of comparable homes in the neighborhood. You might be able to challenge the assessment by doing your own research. A real estate agent could provide recent sales prices for comparable properties.

* Check to see if the assessor credited you with all the property tax relief available to you, including credits for senior citizens and veterans, or any local benefits.

 

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia.
If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.
NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home.
Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

Canada: gpiweb.ca/FindAnInspector
United States: npiweb.com/FindAnInspector

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Fire Safety Tips from the Inspector

By Stephen Gremillion, NPI Property Inspector, Montgomery, Texas

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) http://www.nfpa.org, there were about 365,500 household fires in 2015. As an inspector, I’ve learned that many house fires are preventable. In fact, the NFPA also states that three out of five fire deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms. This, to me, says that simply installing and maintaining smoke alarms could save your life.

When talking about fire safety, I like to break it down into three categories: Fire Prevention, Fire Preparation, and the Fire. Fire Prevention items are things that you can do to prevent a fire. Fire Preparation items are things you can do to be prepared in case of a fire, and the Fire is what to do if you find yourself in a house fire.

Fire Prevention:

  • Use caution when using electrical resistance heating items like toasters, heating blankets, etc.
  • Use caution when using open flames like candles, barbecues, fireplaces, tobacco, etc.
  • Keep your kitchen clutter free and clean of grease.
  • Fix sub-standard electrical work.
  • Add Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) protection. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2016/2510/afci-and-gfci-outlets-improve-electrical-safety-in-your-home/
  • Keep your dryer vent and lint trap clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1248/have-you-cleaned-your-dryer-vent-lately/
  • If you have a wood burning fireplace and use it regularly, the flue must be kept clean. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1728/keeping-your-chimney-clean/
  • If you use portable heaters, they should be monitored and have a tip safety. A tip safety is a function that shuts off the heater if it tips over. Also, it should be kept clear of combustibles.
  • Get a home inspection. A home inspection can reveal problems like sub-standard electrical work, improper fireplace hearths, etc.
  • Get a thermal imaging inspection. A thermal imaging inspection can reveal electrical problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye.

Fire Preparation:

  • Proper smoke alarm placement and maintenance. You should have a smoke alarm in each bedroom and each adjoining space. These should be tested once a month, have the battery changed once a year, and be completely replaced every ten years.
  • Fire extinguishers. We recommend that you have clear access to an extinguisher in the garage, kitchen, and bedroom. You should be familiar with their use and have the right type. For more info: http://www.npihome.com/2014/1863/1863/
  • You should have two escape options from each room. (Second-story windows do count).
  • Teach your kids some basic fire safety.

The Fire:

Hopefully, you never find yourself in this situation. However, if you do, here are some basic tips.

  • If the fire is small, try to put it out with your extinguisher.
  • If the fire cannot be contained, then you must leave immediately. Gather your family and an extinguisher and leave through one of your planned routes.
  • Door handles may be hot. It is best to grab them with a piece of cloth.
  • Close doors behind you! It may seem silly, but it’s for a good reason. A door can act as a barrier in two ways; 1) It can restrict airflow, 2) It acts as separation that the fire will take time to burn through.
  • If you find yourself trapped, there are two important things you must do:
  1. Signal for help. A piece of cloth hanging from the window is a largely recognized symbol, but a phone call is better.
  1. Minimize your exposure to smoke and flames. This can be done by opening a window, getting low, covering your mouth with cloth, and blocking underneath doors with wet cloths.

 

Make sure to be diligent about fire protection to keep your home and family safe. Practice these steps and have a happy and healthy 2017.

Stephen Gremillion Stephen Gremillion is a professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Garner Gremillion in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, call 936 230-3440 to schedule your home inspection with Garner or Stephen.

Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.

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Christmas Tree Safety Tips From The Inspector

 

By Stephen Gremillion, NPI Property Inspector, Montgomery, Texas

Christmas tree fireEvery year fires are started or fueled by Christmas trees. Now in no way am I saying that you should substitute a real tree for a fake one but here are some tips to help keep your home more safe.

Water Your Tree!
It may seem a little too obvious but a dry, dead tree is the first step to a fire and it can be easy to forget.

Switch to LED lights.
Not only do LED’s use less power but they also produce less heat. It’s a win-win; save on power while keeping your home and family safe. Most new light strands are LED so this is something to be cautious of if your lights are older.

tree2Remove Nearby Heat Sources.
It can be easy to do it without even thinking about it. Maybe you put an electric heater next to your tree. Or maybe an end table with a candle. Just be mindful and pay attention to avoid a potentially devastating mistake.

Check On Your Tree Regularly.
Remember your tree is most flammable when it’s dry. If it becomes a too dry you may want to consider removing the lights.

Ttree3urn the Lights Off When You’re Not Around.
Even though LED’s give off very little heat it’s still a good idea to turn them off when unattended. Just unplug the lights when you leave or go to bed. It may also prevent unwanted attention from pets.

Take the Tree Out By the End of December.
Don’t be someone who still has their tree up in the middle of February. By then it will be as dry as a tinder box.

Keep these tips in mind to make it a great holiday for you and your family.

 

Stephen Gremillion Stephen Gremillion is a professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Garner Gremillion in Montgomery, Texas. If you live in the area, call 936 230-3440 to schedule your home inspection with Garner or Stephen.

Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.

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How To Properly Prepare Your Walls For Painting: A Beginner’s Guide To Getting Professional-Quality Results

By Ion McBain

man-painting-wall_shutterstock_184931876_lowerAdding a fresh coat of paint is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to completely transform the look of a room. Whether you go soft and neutral or bright and bold, the key to getting great results is to properly prepare your walls before you start painting. Below is a complete how-to guide for beginners on getting a room ready for fresh paint.

  1. Create a clean surface. Dust and dirt naturally accumulate on walls over time. Before you apply a coat of paint, it is important to thoroughly clean the surface so that the paint goes on smoothly. Try using a floor duster to clean your walls. The long handle on the duster makes it easy to reach all of the corners of the room without having to bend or stretch. For any stuck-on dirt, grime, or food particles, reach for a damp rag instead.
  1. Repair cracks, dents, and holes. As you clean your walls, keep your eyes open for any areas that need to be repaired. Holes left behind by picture hangers should be filled with wood filler. Cracks and indentations can generally be filled with spackle. Use a putty knife to apply a layer of spackle over the damaged area. Once the surface has dried completely, sand it smooth using fine-grit sandpaper. A sanding block is ideal for holding the sandpaper flat against the wall so you get a smooth, even surface. Remember to use a tack cloth or damp rag to remove the sanding dust when you are done.
  1. Mask off the edges of the room. Using painter’s tape, create a clean line along all of the edges of the room. Don’t forget to go around doors and windows as well. Taping is easiest if you work in small sections. Begin by tearing off a piece of tape about the length of your arm. Apply it to the wall in a straight line, making sure to put it on the side where you don’t want the paint to go. Use a dull object such as your fingernail or the end of a pen to press firmly down on the edge of the tape, making sure that it is securely stuck to the surface so that no paint can seep underneath it.
  1. Apply primer. Begin by cutting in the edges of the room with primer. In essence, this means using a paintbrush to manually apply primer along all of the edges of the room and around the windows and doors. Next, use a paint roller to cover the rest of the walls with primer. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly before you begin painting.

Although preparing the walls before painting can be extremely time-consuming, it is absolutely essential. If you try to skip over the prep work and just go right to painting, your results will be subpar. Only by thoroughly cleaning the walls, repairing any damage, taping off the edges, and priming the surface can you get professional-quality results that you can be proud of.

 

Ion McBain  is a successful businessman and runs the website 1stPaintingContractors.com which provides top quality painting services specializing in residential interior and exterior walls.

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Extending the life of your water heater

By Jon McCreath, NPI Property Inspector, Emerson, Georgia

drain_water_heaterExtending the life of your water heater is something most homeowners don’t think much about.  Draining your water heater tank is something that you should do every year, and it only takes about 5-10 minutes.  How can this procedure extend the life or your water heater?

Over time, any type of water heater tank will build up sediment- which has three harmful effects on your home’s hot water system.  First, the sediment takes up space, effectively making your water heater smaller.  Second, the sediment can insulate the bottom of the tank in a gas water heater where much of the flame’s heat is absorbed into the water, or even cover a lower element in an electric water heater causing a reduction in heating efficiency.  Third, the sediment scratches the glass lining of water heater tank, resulting in exposed metal – which leads to rust and eventual tank failure.

You can extend the life of the tank and increase the efficiency of the system by simply draining a couple gallons of water off the bottom of the tank.
1. Shut the unit down, either by turning the gas valve to “pilot” or “off”, or flipping off the breaker to an electric unit.
2. Turn off the cold water supply line, usually located on the right side as you face the unit.
3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater tank, and run it to a drain.
4. turn on a hot water faucet somewhere in your home to allow the water to flow, and then open the drain valve toward the bottom of the tank.

Check the color of the water that drains- at first it may appear dark, but after just a few gallons it will become clear.  At that point, you can close the drain, and turn off the hot water faucet you had turned on previously.  Turn the cold water supply back on, turn the power or gas supply back on, and you’re done!  The next time you turn on a hot water faucet, there may be a couple of air pockets, so don’t worry if you hear a bit of noise as the noise should abate quickly.

While it may also be a good idea to have your water heater examined by a professional on a regular basis, draining your tank is relatively easy and can save you some money while helping to extend the life of your water heater.

McCreath PhotoJon McCreath is a professional National Property Inspections home inspector in northwest Georgia. If you live in the area, call 404.426.3661 to schedule your home inspection with Jon.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for an assessment of your home.

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Moving With Pets

Family + House_shutterstock_59577916Moving can be a stressful time for the whole family, and especially for your four-legged family members. A little forethought can help make the transition to a new home easier on your pets.

Visit your veterinarian before you make the move. Make sure to get copies of your pets’ records, including vaccination records. You also may want to check state/province and local laws in the area you are moving to. Some areas may require additional vaccinations or specific information for licensing.

During the moving period, try to keep your pet’s schedule as familiar as possible. Don’t change foods or introduce new foods if you can help it. And, if you have dogs, try to walk them every day as usual, even though it may be difficult to remember while you’re busy preparing for the move.

Avoid leaving pets alone in a parked car. On warm days, temperatures can reach over 120° F (48° C) in just a few minutes. When moving, either bring pets to the new house first and then close them in a bathroom, or close them in a bathroom at the old house and move them last. This will prevent your furry friends from getting lost or injured while you’re loading and unloading boxes and furniture. Place a large, “DO NOT ENTER,” sign on the door and inform anyone helping you to avoid that room.

Finally, make sure your pet wears identification at all times. Open doors and trips in and out of the house during a move are the perfect time for pets to escape. A collar with identification tags and a microchip may help find your pet faster.

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Don’t Let Dirty Windows Dull Your Home

Empty RoomNow is the perfect time to clean the winter grime off your windows and let the sunshine into your home. Here are some tips to help you get gleaming windows.

  1. Remove the window screens. Lay them on a flat surface. Wet the screens thoroughly and scrub lightly, being careful not to bend the material in the screen. Repair any holes in the screens.
  2. Clean windows from the inside of your house using window cleaner and a soft towel or newspaper. Did you know that newsprint works wonders for a streak-free shine? It does, so put those old newspapers to good use. To clean the exterior side of windows, you may need a ladder. If you have second-story windows or very high windows, you may opt to use a window cleaner that attaches to your garden hose. These cleaners are available at any home improvement store and offer an easy, affordable way to clean hard-to-reach windows.
  3. You should also open any weep holes that are clogged by sealant, dirt or paint. This will help pull moist air out of your home and prevent mold and mildew.
  4. Reapply weather stripping or sealant around the window. Vacuum any debris from inside the sill and then replace the screens. You can use a fine steel wool to clean the window tracks to prevent sticking.
  5. Reassemble the windows and enjoy the terrific natural light.

If you can, clean and repair windows on cool, cloudy days. Warm, sunny days tend to cause windows to dry too fast, leaving behind streaks and spots.

If you are using a ladder to reach exterior windows, it might be a good time to check the gutters and downspouts for build-up, debris or damage. Clean out any leaves, twigs or other items that may be clogging gutters. Be sure to follow proper ladder safety guidelines at all times.

Did you know that your local NPI or GPI home inspector can provide you with a copy of our seasonal home maintenance guide? Call or email your local inspector if you’d like one.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Building a House

New home being built in a residential area.

New home being built in a residential area.

So, you’re ready to build your dream home? It might surprise you to know that all too often home buyers make critical mistakes during the home-building process. We’ve rounded up the top 10 mistakes people make when building a home, so you will surely want to avoid these pitfalls.

1. Acting as Your Own General Contractor
A general contractor will gather bids; work with any subcontractors; and make sure that the work on your house is done correctly, within budget and on schedule. You may think it sounds like a great idea to save money and do all of that yourself, but it could end up costing you more money in the long run.

2. Taking a Laid-back Approach
This dream home is going to be one of the biggest investments of your life. Don’t assume things will take care of themselves.

3. Cutting Corners
A builder who can build your dream home $30,000 cheaper and two months faster than any of the others likely indicates a significant difference in the quality of materials. In addition, a builder may bid low to win your business and then tack on expenses later.

Even if you are working within a tight budget don’t cut corners on design and materials, especially those for bricks, roof tiles and windows. Also, if a job requires 20 hours, don’t try to convince the tradesman to do it in less time. Quality workmanship comes at a price.

4. Choosing a Poor Location
When scoping out the land for your dream house, think about the following:

Busy streets and stores are not quiet or family-friendly.
Consider resale value before settling on a lot because it’s the cheapest around.
Consider the lot’s slope, water table and terrain, which affect how easy it is to build a home on the land.

5. Building a House That Doesn’t Fit the Neighborhood
Before designing your home, take a good look at the other houses in the neighborhood. Make sure the size of your home is similar to others in the area. The smallest or largest home in a neighborhood is often the most difficult to sell. Furthermore, the style and architecture of your home should be in line with the rest of the neighborhood. A stucco home is going to stick out like a sore thumb in a neighborhood full of Victorian-style homes.

6. Setting a Budget Without a Buffer
A budget is crucial when building a home, but make sure to include an additional amount that takes into consideration unforeseen circumstances and overages. Even with the best-intentioned bid, incidentals will likely arise.

7. Working With the Wrong People
When hiring a builder, take the time to find someone who is right for you. Interview a few builders, talk to their previous clients, check out their websites, check review sites like Angie’s List, ask to see examples of other houses they’ve built (both photos and in person). Make sure the builder you choose is one you feel a connection with and who can transform your ideas into reality for your dream home.

Professional architects have a formal education, sit exams and do years of apprenticeships to become licensed. If you are building a custom home and don’t hire an experienced and qualified architect, you may find that the plans don’t turn out the way you wanted.

8. Paying in Advance
Paying builders in advance is another common mistake. If a builder does not trust you enough to start work without cash up-front, you should not trust them either. Set up terms and pay when different stages of the work are completed.

9. Not Designing the Home to Fit Your Needs
Make sure your planning sessions with your architect produce a plan that is exactly what you want and need in terms of space and layout for your new home. Do not start the build unless you are completely sure of what is laid out on paper. Any changes made after the design plans are finalized can throw off the whole project and trigger a domino effect of problems and costs. Make sure to plan the size and placement of closets smartly. And, although a playroom, game room, gym or multipurpose room sounds enticing, make sure it’s a room you will use or it will likely become a dumping ground.

10. Not Considering the Placement of Rooms

  • The laundry room, or washer and dryer, should be relatively close to the bedrooms.
  • Bedrooms need to be as far away from noise and traffic as possible. The master bedroom should be away from the central living areas.
  • The kitchen is more convenient near a garage or back entrance.
  • The garage should lead to the main level, near a mud room or the kitchen.

Sources: Angie’s List, Freshome.com

Tips for Moving Into Your First Home

By Hunter Newell, NPI Property Inspector, Milledgeville, Georgia

Couple + Moving Boxes_shutterstock_154243535Buying your first home is an exciting, though sometimes stressful, experience. It is easy to overlook some things while you are caught up in all of the paperwork, stress and deadlines. Here is a list of things you may have forgotten:

Debug Before the Move: If at all possible, consider scheduling a pest exterminator to set off a “bug bomb” before you move your stuff into the house. This can be incredibly helpful and one less thing you have to deal with after your belongings arrive.

Change Your Address: It is important to notify your local post office whenever you move into a new home. You can pick up change-of-address forms at your local post office. Also be sure to notify friends and family, your bank, your credit card company and your subscription services of your new address.

Take Inventory: As you pack, make an inventory list of everything you are moving. After everything has arrived at the new house, check the list to make sure all of your belongings are present. When moving an entire home’s worth of belongings, it is easy to lose a thing or two.

Unpack Methodically: It may seem overwhelming when staring at the fort of boxes in front of you. That’s OK, everything needn’t be unboxed at once. Locate the essentials, such as bed and bathroom accessories, and unpack them first. Take everything else at a slow pace and organize it as you go. It’s OK to take days, weeks and even months to unpack everything. Be sure to enjoy your new home.

Remember, moving can be an exciting experience, but don’t stress yourself out. Congratulations on your new home!

Newell PhotoHunter Newell is professionally trained NPI property inspector working for franchise owner/inspector Buddy McKenzie in Middle Georgia. If you live in the area, call 478.412.6741 to schedule your home inspection with Buddy or Hunter.

Before you move, make sure to have your house inspected by an NPI or GPI home inspector. Visit the links below to find an inspector near you.

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Common Mistakes Home Owners Make

Couple Planning Remodel_shutterstock_111839573Your home may be the largest purchase you ever make, so it’s worth your time to keep it in good repair. What you don’t want to do is create more work for yourself. The following are some common mistakes home owners often make in the name of maintenance or home improvement:

Ceiling fans: Ceiling fans are not ordinary light fixtures. Their weight, size and motion require extra support. Never hang a ceiling fan from a light fixture box or install it without the proper electrical connections or support. Improperly installed ceiling fans will be noisy and potentially dangerous.

Wooden fences: To help prevent wood-destroying insect (WDI) problems, keep wood — including fences — away from the walls and foundation of your home. Use decorative rocks or other materials instead of wood mulch, and avoid nailing wood fence posts to the walls of the house.

Permits: Before starting any home remodeling project, determine what permits and inspections are necessary. Check with your local building department or other regulatory agency to ensure that your project adheres to the proper safety and local building codes. This can save you money in the long run, and prevent problems when you sell the house.

NPI and GPI home inspectors have the tools and knowledge to assess your home from roof to foundation. Consult with your local NPI or GPI inspector for your next home inspection.

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