Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Measuring Square Footage

Square footage is commonly used to determine if a home will fit a buyer's needs.  The price per square foot can be used to compare the costs of different homes and even, determine the value of a property.

The challenge is what is the source of the square footage measurement and how was it done.

County records use square footage to determine assessed value for property tax purposes.  They are assumed to be reliable but there can be inaccuracies in their tax rolls.  Another source of square footage could be from the house plans but the problem there is that the builder may have made modifications, or a subsequent owner could have made additions.

Appraisers are required to measure the home to determine square footage and they generally, adhere to a standard method which leads to uniformity in the industry.  The ANSI, American National Standards Institute, guidelines are considered the standard but there are no laws governing the process.

Because basements are below grade level, regardless of whether they are finished, they are typically not counted toward gross living area.  Attics because they are above grade level can be included in gross living area if they are finished to the same standard as the rest of the home and they meet the minimum height requirement of seven feet.

Unfinished areas are usually not considered in the square footage because it is not livable.

For detached properties, it is common to measure the perimeter of the house but to only include the living areas, not porches, patios or garages.  Gross living area includes stairways, hallways, closets with minimum height and bathrooms.  Covered, enclosed porches would only be considered if they use the same heating system as the house.

By contrast, condominiums, generally measure the inside area of the unit. Some appraisers may add six inches to account for the wall thickness.  If you were to compare the total of the interior room measurements of a detached home, it would be far less than the stated square footage using the normal method.

If the county records are significantly different from the appraisal or the plans, it will be necessary to determine which one is more accurate.  This may require getting the home measured by an appraiser which should be less than paying for a complete appraisal.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill.  Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve.  Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently.  If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool.  If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you'll need to turn it off.  Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down.  There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate.  Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner.  There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause.  Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

Checking for Water Leaks

Aside from standing water in your yard or water running out from under a sink, the first indication that you might have a water leak comes from a larger than normal water bill.  Before calling a leak specialist or a plumber, there is a simple diagnostic you can perform.

Go through your home and make certain that all the faucets are turned off and that the toilets have indeed stopped filling the reserve.  Then, go to the water meter and make a mark on the lens where the dial is currently.  If there is water in the meter box, the meter itself could be leaking.

If the meter is still turning, the leak is between the meter and the house. By inspecting the area between the meter and the house, you can look for soft, muddy areas or grass that is greener than the rest of the yard.

One of the hardest places to isolate a leak is in a swimming pool.  If you have an automatic filler, like in a toilet, you'll need to turn it off.  Mark the water line on the wall and wait to see if the water level goes down.  There will be a certain amount attributable to evaporation.

Some leaks can be very difficult to locate.  Plumbers, by the very nature of their job, will be more familiar with tracking down the source of the leak than a homeowner.  There are some non-invasive techniques like acoustic listening devices, heat scanners and miniature video cameras on fiber optics that professionals can use.

Leaks can be expensive from the loss of water and the resulting damage that it can cause.  Determining where the location of the leak can also cause damage because plumbing is usually concealed in walls or under concrete. For particularly difficult to locate leaks, discuss how the professional intends to locate the leak and minimize damage in the process.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Building Equity

Owning a home is the first step to building equity.  Tenants build equity but not for themselves; they build it for the owners.

Equity is the difference in the value of the home and what is owed on the home.  There are two dynamics that cause this to grow: appreciation and principal reduction.

As the home increases in value, it is said to appreciate.  Various authorities will annualize an appreciation rate based on average sales prices from one year to the next.  Since appreciation is based on supply and demand as well as economic conditions, it will not be the same year after year. 

If you looked at a ten to twelve-year period, some would be higher than others and there may even be some individual years that it is flat or even declined.  For the most part, values tend to appreciate over time.

Most mortgages are amortized which means that a portion of the payment each month is applied to the principal in order to pay off the loan by the end of the term.  A $300,000 mortgage at 4.5% for 30 years has $395.06 applied to the principal with the first payment.  A slightly larger amount is applied to the principal each following month until the loan is paid with the 360th payment.

If additional principal payments are made, it will save interest, build equity faster and shorten the term of the mortgage.  Using the previous example, if an additional $250.00 principal contribution was made with each payment, it would only take 270 payments to retire the loan instead of 360.  It would save $69,305 in interest and shorten the mortgage by 7.5 years.

To see the dynamics of equity due to appreciation and principal reduction, look at the Rent vs. Own.  To see the effect of making additional principal contributions on your equity, look at the Equity Accelerator.