Buying a house at auction

There are several things to remember if you participate in an auction:

* MORTGAGE PRE-APPROVAL IS IMPERATIVE.

There is no such thing as a “financing contingency.” In most real estate auctions, a bidder will have to have certified funds of $3,000 to $5,000 as an initial down payment to participate. If a bid is successful, the bidder will be required to deposit a 5 percent down payment in 10 days and settle on the property within a month. Failure to settle may mean loss of down payment.

Any serious participant will be “pre-approved” for a loan before bidding, not only to determine the highest bid he can offer, but also to protect his down payment. There would be nothing worse than being the successful bidder only to find out that you had overbid your capacity to obtain financing.

* AUCTION PROPERTY USUALLY DOES NOT CARRY A WARRANTY.

Property at auction usually is sold “as is, where is” and carries no warranties or guaranties expressed or implied. This makes it important for buyers to preview properties that they may be interested in to determine the condition of the property. It is normally a good idea to buy a warranty to protect all major systems.

* USE A FULL-TIME REAL ESTATE AGENT.

Sellers who put their homes at auction include a sales commission in the “reserve price.” A reserve price is the minimum price the seller will accept; this usually is 25 to 30 percent less than the property is listed for.

Sellers usually place properties at auction because of the 30-day settlement and the elimination of “contingent” contracts. Although the reserve price may start at 70 percent of list price, the property usually sells for more as bidders compete against each other. Not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder, so is price.

* THE BID PRICE IS NOT THE FINAL PRICE.

The bid price is for the property as if you were paying cash and does not include closing costs or the 3 percent “buyer’s reserve.” The buyer’s reserve is the way the auction company is paid for its services.

Closing costs can add 3 to 5 percent, and the buyer’s reserve usually is 3 to 5 percent of the bid price. This is another reason that buyers should get pre-approved and make sure that these costs can be included in the financing.

* CONSIDER “NO POINT” LOANS TO KEEP COSTS DOWN.

Once again, it does no good to be a successful bidder and then have to come up with a ton of cash to settle on the property.

Let’s say your bid of $100,000 is successful. Closing costs will add 3 to 5 percent, not including points; the buyer’s reserve will add 3 percent.

To keep your out-of-pocket costs down and your mortgage low, consider a “no point” loan. Points are prepaid interest and are used to lower the interest rate on the loan. If you are able to finance the closing costs and buyer’s reserve, this will add at least 6 percent to your successful bid price.

So let’s say that your final amount is $106,000. If a 30-year fixed loan is going for 9 percent with two points (this is 2 percent of $106,000) or an additional $2,120 out of pocket, the monthly principal and interest at 9 percent would be $846.55 ($106,000 x 9 percent). The same 30-year loan at no points would be 9.25 percent or a monthly principal-and-interest payment of $865.36 without having to pay the $2,120.

The difference in monthly payment is only $18.81, about 63 cents a day, but this saves you $2,120 at settlement.

Auctions can be fun and profitable for both buyers and sellers. The best advice I can give a potential bidder is to get pre-approved for the loan and use a full-time real estate austin texas agent who can help with the process. Also don’t scratch your head or wave at a friend – you may buy a home.

Buying an oriental carpet

Oriental carpets are special things. They are works of art, paintings made in fabric, but they are also utilitarian; you can walk on them or hang them on your living room wall.

Their aesthetic value is recognized by all societies and has remained undiminished over thousands of years. But like any other highly-developed art, there is an enormous lore about carpets, and it can be difficult to know where to begin when choosing a carpet. Here then, is a guide to oriental textiles for the budding “ruggie” from carpet showroom in hagerstown.

A good rug is knotted of high-quality wool or silk. Wool is the commonest material, and doesn’t stain or wear as easily as silk. Good wool must be both strong and pleasantly smooth. Kurk wool is one of the softest and sturdiest. Some natural oil should be present in the wool to keep it soft and shiny. Chemical washes, which make carpets look beautiful and shiny by artificial means, also make them brittle. Since the 1920s chemical dyes have been widely used, especially in Iran, and while they are as attractive as natural dyes, the Turks are returning to the use of natural, traditional vegetable dyes.

The more knots per square centimetre, the stronger and more expensive the carpet will be. Beware of carpetshops that measure knots in square inches; the numbers being higher with inches, it’s a way of suggesting the carpet has dense knotting. Fifty-six knots per square centimetre is very good, 20 is not so great. A 5’x 8′ carpet with 500,000 knots in it that took three weavers and one master weaver one year to make can cost $5,000.

Their designs and colors are myriad and specific to the individual weaver – b y its nature, a handmade carpet is unique. In general though, rural rugs made by nomads tend to be geometric in pattern, and city-made rugs tend to have floral motifs, particularly in Iran, but these styles are often seen blended together in one carpet.

Rug styles are influenced by the success of a design in the Western market, and weavers are quick to copy a successful design from another area. Consequently, it is difficult to strictly categorize rugs according to type, especially the newer carpets. What can be said is that they tend to follow tribal, not national, boundaries.

Carpet padding types

Question: I plan to buy a carpet. Some say I should use a thin pad under the carpet and some say I should use a thick pad. I called the carpet mill and they said they didn’t know anything about padding.What kind of pad should I get?

Response:

Thicker is not better in carpet padding. Look for density rather than thickness.

Padding for residential use should be 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch thick. Padding that is more than 1/2-inch thick will cause too much flex in the carpet and result in it separating from its backing. Also, furniture is more likely to leave permanent indentation marks when you have thick padding.

Furthermore, carpet installed over too-thick padding cannot be properly secured to tack-less stripping. So it will start to lift along the edges and start to develop wrinkles and buckles.

And finally, according to our carpet experts, 1/2-inch padding will void all manufacturing warranties on your carpet. You can find more information in carpet stores Stillwater.

Some carpet padding is necessary, however, to provide resiliency to the carpet and help it resist crushing and matting. Padding also improves insulation and sound absorbency and softens impact in case of falls.

There are basically three types of padding on the marketplace, all varying in thickness and density.

URETHANE FOAM may be “prime” urethane, which is solid in color, or it may be “rebonded urethane” which resembles multicolored confetti. Rebonded urethane is constructed from scraps of recycled foam which are glued together to form a slab and then sliced to the proper thickness.

Minimum density should be 2.2 pounds per cubic foot for prime and 6 pounds for rebonded urethane. A good choice for residential is rebonded foam, 3/8-inch thick, with a 6- to 8-pound per cubic foot density.

RUBBER WAFFLE is made from natural latex, preservatives and fillers. It has a life span of 10 to 15 years unless exposed to flooding. Density is rated in ounces and the minimum recommended for rubber waffle padding is 48 ounces per square yard. Minimum thickness should be just over 1/4-inch.

FELT is the longest-lasting type of padding. For years it was made from horsehair and jute (which were sensitive to dampness) but is now available as a 100 percent synthetic. Felt is often used in commercial heavy traffic settings. It is the product of choice under Berber carpets, which need a solid foundation for best performance. The minimum density of felt should be 22 ounces per square yard and a minimum thickness of 1/4-inch.

How to lay tile floor

Laying tile isn’t as difficult as contractors would have you believe, says Kevan King of Home Depot at Merchants Walk in Marietta.

He explains the process as a series of easy-to-understand steps. “You can break it down into little segments and work at your own pace, doing as little or as much as you please at one time.”

Of course, there are pitfalls, he warns. Here are tips for do-it-yourselfers:

What goes underneath tile is important. You can’t apply tile to a floor that has any movement, such as plywood. Linoleum also makes a poor surface. The best is concrete. Do-it-yourselfers can apply a special tile backing that goes down over other flooring. The tile is then laid on top, more information.

Precise measurements are a must. You need to know how much tile you will need. (Lay the pieces out on the floor so you can adjust for pieces that will have to be cut.) You also need to find the exact center of the room.

Timing is everything. The tiles are set in adhesive that gives you a three-to four-hour window before it hardens. Grout, the stuff that goes between the tiles, dries more quickly, in 10 to 15 minutes. You cannot grout the tiles until they have been set for 24 hours.

Clean as you go. When applying fast-drying grout, work in a small area – 3 to 4 square feet. Clean excess grout off the tiles after you’ve worked it between them. Once grout hardens, it’s very difficult to remove.

The entire project must be grouted at one time. Changes in humidity (if you wait until the next day to finish the room, for example) will cause the grout to dry in different colors.

The final step – and the one most people forget, says Mr. King – is sealing the grouted tile after it has cured for seven to 10 days. Otherwise, “the grout will soak up water, which will seep into the adhesive underneath the tile,” he says. This loosens the tile. It’s good to reseal grout annually.

Tips for installing a new kitchen

Take your time, and observe how your cabinets and counters were installed originally; take them apart the same way rather than trying to use force. Get a helper when removing wall cabinets so they don’t crash to the floor. Be gentle with the old cabinets so you can reuse them in your garage or basement.

Window: The window shown requires a ceiling higher than 8 ft., so it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re doing a complete kitchen remodel, consider a wider, crank-out casement or bay window. You’ll have to open up your wall for a new header to support the wall above the window, but you’ll get a new, “bigger” look in the room. Keep in mind, however, that the wider the window, the less cabinet space you’ll have.

Flooring: Since we decided to use ceramic tile on our floor, we put down 3/8-in. plywood underlayment directly over the existing floor surface to provide rigidity. A long-lasting ceramic tile floor calls for two layers of wood subflooring that total at least 3/4-in. thickness. For the best appearance, put down the tile after installing the cabinets – so the grout lines can intersect uniformly with the cabinet lines. Vinyl flooring in gadsden and thin prefinished hardwood are also usually installed after the cabinets are in place. Install full-thickness (3/4-in.) hardwood floors before the cabinets; it’s easier, and you won’t lose that 3/4-in. height in the toe space.

Electrical: Kitchen electrical requirements are tricky, and subject to the National Electrical Code or local codes. Most codes require outlets at each countertop 12 in. or wider. On larger countertops, all points along the backsplash should be within 24 in. of an outlet. Outlets must be on 20-amp circuits and be GFCI protected. GFCI protection can be either in the outlets themselves or the circuit breaker to which they run in the electrical panel. Generally, there must be at least One outlet per island or peninsula.

Two or more 20-amp appliance circuits are required for all of the kitchen outlets including the refrigerator’s. Separate 15- or 20-amp circuits must be provided for the dishwasher, disposer or other motor-operated appliances, or combinations of appliances. (Have an electrician do any work required in your electrical panel; that’s not do-it-yourself stuff.)

How can you possibly get along while you’re remodeling? Eat out. Well, for dinner at least. Maybe some of the time. But face it, a new kitchen can take a long time if you’re doing the whole thing yourself.

Hook the stove back up after you tear out everything, and just work around it. If you’ll be including the stove in your new kitchen, cover it so it won’t get damaged. Put the microwave and refrigerator in the dining room for a while. Wash dishes in the bathroom. Make a plan you can live with temporarily. It’s not as bad as you might think. After all, your great-grandparents never even had it this good.

Building the deck

The deck has to follow certain safety guidelines if it is 30 inches or more off the ground. This is very important because children can get hurt falling off decks or getting their heads stuck between railings. You could have a tragedy if the deck is not built properly”

One of the regulations is that the deck railings must not be more than 16 inches apart.

The best wood to use in a deck is chemically treated, pressurized wood, which lasts longer.

It will stand up better under the elements and even though it costs a bit more, it is worth it.

If you want to build the deck yourself, contractors recommend choosing spruce or cedar. Cedar costs about $20 per square foot, spruce about $15.
Pressure-treated wood was the best for the floor of the deck, but said cedar is too soft for the flooring and is best for railings and other sections.

Yellow pine, which is very durable, is the least expensive wood for decks.

The old standby, redwood, is still very popular, especially since its oil base fights decay and makes it durable. Redwood contains oils called tannins that help resist dampness and insects. But a redwood deck must be waterproofed every three years or so, because it tends to splinter sooner than those built of other woods.

People just looking for the lowest price for a flooring in Bossier City sometimes can run into trouble.

The lowest price is not necessarily the best job. As a matter of fact, it is usually the opposite. If a competitor says he will charge $9 per square foot for a deck, then he beats my $12.50, but if he doesn’t have a permit or insurance, then the homeowner may get burned in the end if something goes wrong.

Building a deck 30 inches off the ground requires that the homeowner get a permit, but contractors say many people don’t bother.

They are taking a chance if a town inspector comes around and makes them tear it down if it is a possible hazard. It is best to check with your local building inspector to make sure; often you don’t have to get a permit in many cases.

How long will a well-built deck last? The Lumber Manufacturers Association says a good deck will last 30 years, but most contractors say few can live up to that claim.

I haven’t seen one last that long without a lot of replacing of the wood, but 20 years is not unusual if the wood is treated and waterproofed every few years, and there is not a lot of wear and tear on the deck.

A chemically treated wood deck doesn’t have to be sealed at all, it would last longer if a water sealer was applied every three years or so.

Solid underpinnings are vital for a deck, because state regulations demand that it be able to withstand 60 pounds of pressure per square foot.

Are you still working on your house?

Ideally, he’d like to find some land and build a house but his wife, Phyllis, isn’t exactly enthusiastic about the idea. She remembers what living in a construction zone was like. At one point her living room served as both dining room and master bedroom.

If you’ve been thinking of tackling an addition or renovation, here’s more advice from an expert: For a large project, start in late April or early May so that you can get the bulk of the heavy labor done before the humidity of summer hits. If you start your project late in the summer, you may find yourself putting in windows during a snow storm. Don’t think of building inspectors as your enemies.

“You have to realize,” says Ed, “that building inspectors are there to guide you. The stories you hear about them are related to people who are trying to cut corners.”

“I had someone dig the basement. I put the footings in and then I hired someone to lay the block,” explains Ed. If you aren’t sure how to proceed with any aspect of construction, visit local building sites to see how the pros do it. Don’t buy every tool you need. Rent those you’ll only use once or twice. If you need concrete poured, a number of small companies only charge for what you use. Ed explains that large companies charge by the yard.

He adds that when the concrete truck arrives make sure you have enough bodies around to help spread the cement as it is poured. When you are ready to do the electrical work, be overly generous with wall plugs, three-way switches, cable TV and telephone jacks. Although high efficiency furnaces are something people think of when replacing an existing heating system, don’t overlook mid-efficiency furnaces.

“You have to look at your overall savings on fuel,” he explains. “A mid-efficiency furnace was better for us. When I looked at the difference in price between the two, it would have taken me 20 years to recover the cost of the high efficiency furnace.” If you are planning to use sheet flooring and you have an irregular-shaped floor, consider tiles learn more. Tiles can save you money because there is less cutting and therefore less waste. If your room is a high traffic area, Ed recommends commercial grade tiles. Watch for clearance items in stores. Sometimes, you can get a great deal.

“One day we were in Sescolite buying lighting fixtures when we noticed that they were selling off their industrial shelving at $2 a shelf,” recalls Phyllis. “We bought $60 worth of shelving for the basement. That gave us three floor to ceiling units that are 12 feet wide. They were a great find.” Recycle things from one area of your house to another. He used cabinets from their old kitchen in their basement. If you are buying kitchen cabinets, stick with standard sizes. Custom-sized cabinets are more money. When you reach the stage where only the decorating is left to do, step away from the project for a period of time.

“You can’t decorate a whole house immediately after doing the construction,” says Phyllis. “It’s too much.” Whatever your project, expect comments from neighbors.

Phyllis says friends will also ask, on a continual basis and in an incredulous manner, “Are you still working on your house?”

Budget Kitchen Renovation

Since the average kitchen renovation can run anywhere from$10,000 to $15,000, can she get the new look she wants?

Local kitchen designers say yes.

Carol Watts, of Gravelle Kitchen and Bath Studio in Burlington, says a limited budget doesn’t have to be limiting. Winner of an international award in 1987 for one of her kitchen designs, she points out that costs rise when major structural changes are made and when expensive materials are used.

Watts notes that many people give their kitchens an updated look by simply installing new doors, knobs, countertop and flooring.

When planning any renovation, the kitchen designer says a plan mapping out your strategy is essential.

According to Watts, a basic plan can cost as little as $75. Included in that should be a list of your wants, needs and things you are willing to compromise on.

She explains that laminate cabinets are the least expensive and even within this group there are varying prices.

When choosing doors for wooden cabinets, Watts says raised panelled styles are more expensive than recessed panelled doors. She adds that solid brass handles and knobs are more expensive than plastic ones. However, you could delay this purchase until you can afford exactly what you want.

As for countertops, she says post-formed laminate ones are the least costly, while self-edged or wood-edged laminate countertops are comparable in price to ceramic ones.

In flooring, Watts notes that vinyl tiles or sheet goods will be cheaper than ceramic tiles and hardwood flooring which are nearly equal in price get more information.

Like Watts, Dick DeKline, owner of Canadian Century Cabinets in Hamilton, says he isn’t stumped by clients who have tight budgets. All he needs to know is whether the budget includes new appliances, flooring, sinks etc.

“Once we know that then we can direct you to the line of cabinets that will suit your budget.”

Although wanting cherry or mahogany cabinets and being able to afford them are two different things, DeKline says there are ways around the dilemma.

“You could go with maple wood, which is less expensive, and have it stained to look like cherry.”

According to DeKline, he would rather see consumers save another six months to revamp a kitchen, than waste their money on poor quality.

He adds that when buying cabinets you can’t go by looks. Before being taken in by appearance and low prices, he recommends that people compare construction and materials used and ask for referrals.

“If a company isn’t willing to show you how their cabinets are constructed and finished, or if they won’t give you referrals, don’t deal with them.”

Mike Mark, a sales rep for Holiday Kitchens in Greensville, points out that money can be saved on a kitchen renovation without sacrificing quality, if you are willing to replace, rather than redesign.

Another cost-saver he suggests is in eliminating extras such as banks of drawers, roll-out shelves, pantry units and fridge cabinets. Expenses can also be kept down on custom cabinetry if you opt for a semi-solid interior such as plywood or melamine, rather than solid wood.

The following are some tips on how to judge cabinets:

Quality cabinets will have doors made of solid wood or plywood. A wood effect printed on hardboard indicates a cheaper quality cabinet.

On quality cabinets, the wood grain on doors will match the grain on the frame.

Drawer construction can be an indicator of overall cabinet quality. Self-closing drawers should be mounted on a pair of balanced metal slides with ball bearing rollers. The drawer slides should be rated to support 75 pounds or more per pair.

The drawers will be well made if they are constructed with screws and dowels or interlocking joints, rather than glue and staples. Look too for drawer bottoms that are as thick as the sides.

Top 10 tips for rookie travelers

Buy easy-to-carry luggage. Experts recommend using a carry-on bag with wheels, which makes it easy to zip through airports. Use a garment bag that can be hung up so suits and dresses don’t wrinkle. Always pack a change of clothes and essential toiletries in your carry-on in case luggage is lost.

Join frequent-flier programs. All major U.S. airlines offer frequent-flier programs, which are free to join. Miles earned can be redeemed for upgrades from coach-class seats to business- or first-class. There are many opportunities to earn miles without flying – from Omaha hotels, car rental companies, credit cards and other businesses.

Join an airport club. Experts say being a member of an airport club is like having an office at the airport. Major airlines have networks of private clubs at U.S. and foreign airports they serve. Memberships cost a few hundred dollars a year but travelers get access to a private lounge where they can plug in their computer, send a fax or meet clients.

Join a hotel frequent-guest program. Most are free. Earn points toward free room nights and upgrades to better rooms. You can also trade points for frequent-flier miles. Hotels have special check-in desks for members, so you don’t have to wait in long lines to get into your room.

Keep a travel diary. A diary helps you remember when you’ve found a good place to eat or a nice hotel to stay at. Road Warrior Jody Samson keeps a book, alphabetized by city, that lists restaurant, hotel and sightseeing ideas. She says it’s useful for business as well as pleasure trips.

Be prepared. Keep several pre-packed toiletries bags so you don’t forget anything. One Road Warrior suggests keeping three sets of toiletries: one for home, one for short trips and one for long trips.

Pack a snack. Bring your own food and water on airplanes in case food service is delayed because of mechanical or weather problems. Drink lots of water on the plane – and avoid alcohol – to keep from becoming dehydrated.

Dress comfortably. Wear comfortable shoes and loose-fitting clothes to make getting around the airport or getting to your hotel easier and less stressful.

Carry a medical kit. For emergencies, take a safety kit with you that includes bandages, safety pins, aspirin, and medications to fight nausea and diarrhea.

Board the plane ASAP. Getting on the plane sooner instead of dawdling in the airport will leave you more time to find a place to store your bag, get a pillow and have your pick of magazines.

Overseas tips. Apply for your passport several months in advance of your trip.

– Research business and social customs before you visit a foreign country.

– If you travel frequently to a particular country, have your business cards printed in English on one side and in that country’s language on the other.

– At international hotels, introduce yourself to the concierge. They are an excellent source of information for travelers on local customs, how to get around a city, good places to eat and sights to see.