Home upkeep an investment in the future

It starts with a small drip in a bathroom faucet, or a couple of curling roof tiles.

But left untouched, the dripping faucet and peeling tiles can become a homeowner’s nightmare of extensive property damage and big repair bills.

Maintenance problems can reduce the value of a home and even stall a sale, real estate executives said.

Poor overall maintenance was rated one of the five problems most frequently found during home buyers’ pre-purchase inspections, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Home Inspectors.

The Arlington Heights, Ill.-based trade association said many homeowners end up hiring contractors to perform major and costly repairs for problems that could have been avoided through preventive maintenance.

Maintenance can be as simple as mopping the bathroom after a shower to prevent water damage, said Mark Shuey Sr., president of Real Estate Structural Inspection Service, established in Nevada in 1981.

“When people take a shower, the water often leaks around the front of the tub past the curtain and it causes dry rot. If they’d mop up after showering, they’d prevent a lot of water damage,” Shuey said.

Water damage and dry rot are major problems that can be prevented with simple maintenance and quick repairs when a problem develops, he said.

Dry rot is a fungous decay that causes wood to become brittle and crumble to powder. It is caused by the constant presence of water on wood surfaces.

“Dry rot can cause major structural problems to a house. It’s best to try to prevent it instead of having to do major repairs later. I’ve known of situations where the walls had to be torn out and replaced,” Shuey said.

Repairs can cost hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars, he said.

Over time, plumbing can fail, leading to water leaks and damaged walls, ceilings and flooring, home inspectors said. If you want to replace flooring in your home, please visit Hudson flooring store.

Homeowners who smell a foul odor, particularly a moldy odor, in or near bathrooms or the kitchen, probably have the beginnings of a dry-rot problem and should attend to it immediately, they said.

Landscaping sprinkler systems are a major cause of problems that could be easily prevented, said Scott Mitchell, owner and president of National Property Inspections, which he established in Las Vegas three years ago after working as a home inspector in New York.

“The sprinkler systems are too close to the house and there’s too many heads close together. People overwater, and the sprinklers damage the stucco and in some cases the foundation and sill plate,” Mitchell said.

Before the damage sets in, homeowners can solve the problem by eliminating about 30 percent or more of their sprinklers and using low-volume sprinkler heads, Mitchell said.

Also, wood trim and roof eaves take a beating from sun and moisture from nearby sprinklers. They should be repainted often to preserve the wood, inspectors said.

Many people are not aware of problems in their home, he said.

“I inspected a home … it was three years old and in good condition … but when I checked the attic, there was no insulation. The homeowners were new to the area and didn’t know that their air conditioning bills were too high,” Mitchell said.

Electrical problems, including improperly installed and unsafe wiring, are also common and can lead to serious damage, including fire.

“I advise people to hire a licensed electrician for any work on the electrical systems in their homes. I’ve seen a lot of do-it-yourself wiring that’s not completed,” Mitchell said.

Home inspectors advise property owners to check their homes for maintenance problems at least once a year and quickly tend to any problems that are developing.

“Walk around the roof and inspect it. Tiles come loose. Not every tile is nailed down. They need to be checked,” said Mark Lorusso, owner of Home Smart Inspections.

Lorusso said that about 75 percent of the homes he inspects are well maintained, but he sees problems with property that is rented.

Maintenance problems can reduce the value of a home, said longtime local real estate appraiser Kelly Wade, a principal of Wade & Associates.

“Generally speaking, you always have a loss of value because of inferior maintenance. The loss is typically equal to or greater than the cost of repair,” Wade said.

A poorly maintained home is unattractive to prospective buyers and is difficult to sell, said longtime local Realtor Jack Matthews.

“Many of the resale properties remain on the market for extended periods of time because of the lack of maintenance,” Matthews said. “Buyers take an offensive attitude because they believe everything in the house hasn’t been maintained.”

Matthews said property owners who plan to sell should attend to all maintenance and repairs, including property cleanup, to ensure a quick sale.

Many people get used to living with the problems in their home and no longer realize they’re a problem, he said.

“They live with it every day; they get used to it. They don’t realize that it’s going to be offensive to a buyer.”

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