Part of being a good Realtor is having the right resources for your clients. As a Realtor you are typically the first person buyers and sellers call when something needs to be fixed or upgraded within their home. As my calls increased for an assortment of home improvement specialist so did the calls for several other business types. Over the years I have made a conscious effort to keep a running list of as many home improvement contacts as I can. Like-wise I have other businesses that refer constantly.
What is important in a home improvement contractor?
So many people get turned off when a contractor doesn’t take your call immediately. But think about that for a moment…most actually work the field. They are under decks, lifting HVACs , climbing on roofs, hanging drywall, etc. I most cases, expect to call a contractor a few times and be sure to LEAVE A VOICEMAIL. A good contractor for any service is hard to find, so kill them with kindness.
The #1 characteristic that I value the most is weather the contractor is familiar with the area and type of house.
There are contractors that do very well in new constructed homes.
ex. Some painters do better when they can use sprayers. If floors aren’t installed, which is usually a newly constructed home or a home with major renovations; they can use sprayers to paint. It allows them to cover a lot of wall square footage in a quick timeframe and very cost affective.
There are some contractors that truly understand the quarks of a 100 year old row home.
ex. The plumbing on Baltimore City row homes have certain characteristics that townhouses build in the 1990’s just don’t. Finding contractors that don’t need to research older homes is key. When a plumber can already tell me the problem before I finish explaining, it’s music to my ears. When they can tell me where the house ties into the city lines, it always reassures me.
There are some contractors that specialize in certain areas.
ex. Anne Arundel County is known for having Polybutylene Pipes, that failed dramatically. If you are buying a home in Anne Arundel County and you hire a home inspector that doesn’t know about this type of pipe, how are you supposed to get an accurate report?
Some contractors have such good expert knowledge in their field, I feel comfortable referring them anywhere.
ex. the master electrician I refer clients to no matter if they have an old city row home, a detached home in the county, or a condo. He has been doing this for so long that I trust his expertise in any sort of home or age of the home.
Here are the contractors and other businesses that I refer the most:
- Flooring: Wood Floors Plus – Steve Cratch – 410-636-9663 http://www.woodfloorsplus.com/
- Electrician: Magothy Electric – 410-439-0088 http://www.magothyelectric.com/
- Painter: Seneca Painting – 443-992-1245
- Decks: Tom McCleary – 410-236-9274
- HVAC: Air Source, Inc – 443-605-5100 http://www.airsourceinc-hvac.com/
- Pest Control: Defend Pest – 410-633-9100 http://www.marylandpest.com/index.html
- Home Inspection: Home Sweet Home Inspections – Ryan Siegler – 301-390-HOME
- Pool / Spas: NOVA Builders – Mark (builder) & Tom (inspector) 410-766-1770
- General Repairs: American Home & Property Services – Lisa Heisey – 443-613-6973 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pier & Bulkhead Build/Repair: Chesapeake Pile Driving, Inc – Todd “Gator” Scott – 443-604-8451
- Windows/Siding/Roofing: Horizon Construction Co. Inc – Steve – 410-256-6561
***Contact me for others***
LEGAL & FINIACIAL:
- Lending/Refi: Coastal Lending Group – Jon Vitak – 410-276-3404 http://www.clgroup.biz/
- RE Attorney (Short Sales, Estates, Landlord/Tenant, etc): Heise & Heise LLP – 410-276-1983 http://www.heiselegal.com/
- Home & Auto Insurance: Jim Himes – 443-837-2071
- Title Attorney: Capitol Title – Chris Sadler – 410-465-2437
- Commercial Lending: Susquehanna Bank – Sidney Minor – 410-539-0636 email@example.com
OTHER…(cause I always get these questions)
- Auto Mechanic: Hamilton Goodyear – 410-426-2220 http://www.hamiltongoodyear.com/
- Social Media/Advertising: Savin Media Consulting – 443-742-5012 www.savinconsulting.com
- Personal Trainer: Nick Strong (at Merritt Athletic Clubs) – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hair Stylist: West End Studio: Victoria Kidd – 443-682-7631
- Tax Accountant: Marty Peltzer – 410-526-0327
- Business Accounting Advisor: BLK Accounting & Consulting LLC – Kelly Black – 443-310-1106 email@example.com
- Financial Planner: Celestial Weath Management – Colin Exelby – 443-438-7211
- Financial Planner: Northwestern Mutual – Jason Bell – 410-659-6055
- Event / Wedding Planner: Lemon and Lime Event Design – Katey Clark – 330-730-8407 Katey@lemonandlimeevent.com
- Movers: Perry Movers – Sam Perry – 443-472-1565
How to hire a contractor checklist:
o Do you need someone with an MHIC (Maryland Home Improvement Commission) license?
o Is your quote/estimate free?
o Can the company itemize your quote?
o Is the quote an estimate or is it a final total?
o Has the contractor done anything similar in the area?
o Is the person that came out to do the quote the same person who will be on site during construction?
o Will they be hiring sub-contractors in order to complete your project?
o Will they guaranty a completion date?
o Is there a deposit due before they start?
o Does the company warranty their work for a year?
Hope you have found this helpful! Don’t hestitate to contact me with questions or contractors that you would like to recommend!
If you are looking to purchase real estate in Baltimore City, chances are your Realtor has talked to you about CHAP credit properties. But do you really understand how CHAP credits work and how big the savings can be?
What is the Baltimore City CHAP Tax Credit?
It’s the most generous available tax credit in Baltimore City. The CHAP (Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation) credit gives a 10-year credit to properties that have stayed within specific guidelines put in place by the city’s Historic Preservation. Guidelines include both exterior and interior parameters with the purpose to preserve the historic elements of a Baltimore City row house. The homeowner/investor has to re-invest a minimum of 25% of the full cash value on the property. In most cases the percentage of additional investment costs are closer to 75-100% more. Part of the approval process includes submitting photos of the property, a scope of work and a floor plan to the review panel BEFORE any construction starts. Once the improvements are complete and approved by the city, the credit is transferable from owner to owner through the life of the 10-year credit. The CHAP credit has not only been a contributing factor to the revitalization of the historic city neighborhoods but also made city living more affordable.
How does the CHAP tax credit protect Baltimore City historic districts?
Historic buildings in Baltimore were originally built using materials and techniques that today are more costly to use than more basic alternatives. By providing the tax break to only people who renovate properties using the more expensive, historically correct approaches, the CHAP credit is able to protect some of Baltimore’s most treasured buildings.
In addition to several commercial buildings, currently the designated Historical Neighborhoods are (subject to mapped limits): Arcadia/Beverly Hills, Auchentoroly Terrace, Baltimore East/South Clifton Park, Bancroft Park, Barclay/Greenmount, Barre Circle, Bellona-Gittings, Better Waverly, Bolton Hill, Brick Hill, Business & Government Center, Butcher’s Hill, Canton, Cathedral Hill, Cedarcroft, Charles Village/Abell, Dickeyville, Druid Hill Park, Dundalk, East Monument, Ednor Gardens, Eutaw Place/Madison Park, Federal Hill, Federal Hill South, Fells Point, Franklin Square, Franklintown, Gay Street, Greenmount Cemetery, Guilford, Hampden, Hochschild Kohn Belvedere & Hess Shoes, Hollins-Roundhouse, Homeland, Hunting Ridge, Jonestown, Lake Evesham, Lauraville, Little Montgomery Street, Locust Point, Loft, Madison Park, Market Center, Mayfield, Mill Hill- Deck of Cards (Wilkens Ave), Montebello State Hospital, Mount Royal Terrace, Mount Vernon, Mount Washington, North Central, Oakenshawe, Old Goucher, Old West Baltimore, Original Northwood, Otterbein, Park Circle, Patterson Park/Highlandtown, Perlman Place, Radnor-Winston, Railroad, Reser, Reservoir Hill, Ridgely’s Delight, Riverside, Roland Park, Saint Paul Street, Seton Hill, South Central Avenue, Stirling Street, Stone Hill, Ten Hills, Tuscanny- Canterbury, Union Square, Upper Fells Point, Upton’s Marble Hill, Washington Hill, Waverly, Windsor Hills, Woodberry, and Wyndhurst.
How to apply for Baltimore CHAP credits (get a Baltimore City Plan Review)
When investors purchase “shells”, homes that are in need of total renovation, the property has an assessed value. Typically this assessment is very low. A good investor will petition the assessed value if it seems higher then what it should.
For example if a shell is SOLD for 50k and the assessment at the time of purchase is 90k, the buyer has the opportunity to file for an assessment appeal. A successful assessment appeal would result in a value of 50k or lower.
Before the investor/builder is able to start demo and construction, he/she must apply through the city agency for a pre-approval of the CHAP credit. This involves a form, a new layout drawing, an explanation of redesign, and pictures of the current historical home and its features. Some important new design features are wood windows in the front, removal of form stone, rounded down spouts and gutters, and the cornice preserved or replaced to mimic the historical character. Once the home has finished construction, it’s usually sold and reassessed.
How can help assist in the CHAP credit process on my behalf?
There are several attorneys that can assist many different ways. A good contact is Todd Heise, Esq. with Heise & Heise, LLP. Local to the Baltimore City area, with an office at 3218 Eastern Ave, Heise has hands on experience with aiding homeowners/investors in the document submission and appealing for accurate assessments. He can also help the new purchaser maximize their credit.
How much money can be saved with the CHAP credit program?
Using the example above let’s say the new value is 200k.
Are you paying attention? Here’s the savings:
1. Shell was assessed at 50k (city portion of taxes is 50k x 2.268% = 1134.00)
*2.268% is per $100.00 of value
2. The finished home is reassessed at 200k (city portion of taxes is 200k x 2.268% =4536.00)
3. The “frozen” savings is $150,000. (150k x 2.268% = 3402.00)
4. Year 1 taxes would be 4536 – 3402 = 1134.00
5. IF the property’s assessment changes to (for example) 250k, your taxes would be (250k x 2.286) – 3402 = 2268.00
44 Heath Street in Federal Hill is a good example of this credit. See the link for more details on this ACTIVE property. The progress of this home can be seen on my CrabbyHomes FB page. Below are some before and after photos. .
Should I get a Home Warranty on the house? This is a question I get from most clients. Depending on whether I am representing a seller or a buyer, is how I respond.
Should Sellers Offer a Home Warranty in the Listing?
I like to bring this up during the signing of a listing agreement while sitting with the owners, but usually they bring it up before I get the chance. Home owners can expect to pay between $400 and $500 for a full warranty. Most companies base their pricing on the whether the property is detached or a townhouse. You will also pay additional for multiple HAVC systems, septic/well plumbing, washer / dryer, etc. Assuming the buyers didn’t include a home warranty within their accepted sales contract, I like to keep a Home Warranty as a negotiation tool to use after the potential buyers do their home inspections. For example if the buyers are nervous about the life expectancy of the home’s appliances or CAC but they came up in working condition during the inspection, this is a good way to ensure that in the event something were to happen with in the first year, they are protected. Buyers have the option to extend the warranty after the first year, but do so out of pocket.
Should a Buyer Ask for a Home Warranty in their Offer?
Typically, I answer yes! For the same reason as above, its added protection paid for by the sellers for the first year. But there are always exceptions. When a buyer is making an offer on a Short Sale or Foreclosure the answer is always NO. Why? It has been my experience that when banks are negotiating their short sale properties, there is never room for added costs. Most short sales and foreclosures are sold AS-IS. I make sure the buyer is protected with the addendum that allows an inspection. The process is called “As-Is with the right to terminate”. This is allows my buyer(s) to have all the inspections they want within an allotted timeframe. Once completed, if they feel like there are more repairs than anticipated, they can terminate the contract with no questions asked.
When else do I not suggest including it from the beginning? If the offer is already low without much room for an increase, it’s hard to ask for more from the sellers and can be argued easily. Sometimes sellers take low offers very personal. Asking for a home warranty ends up being salt in the wound. Now, if after the home inspection, I may suggest asking for a home warranty in lieu of repairs, especially if the results on the inspection are mostly on the working appliances.
Which Home Warranty Do I Suggest?
I have always had good results with American Home Shield (AHS). Clients have always reported to me that they had good response time and friendly contractors have come to their aid. But I just recently came across a Home Warranty Reviews in Maryland. I was happy to see that American Home Shield was ranked #2 with over all rates, customer service, and customer reviews. #1 was a company called Sensible Home Warranty. Their plans average less expensive and a lower deductible than AHS. I plan on contacting the Top 5 Home Warranty Companies for more information to be sure using the best suited.
How do Home Warranties Work?
The key to a warranty plan is to ALWAYS call the warranty company when something breaks or needs repair. The common complaint from policy holders is that the company wouldn’t reimburse them for get the repairs done on their own. You have to call the warranty company and they will send someone out. Each company has preferred contractors/service companies that they have built relationships with. With most warranty companies there will be a deductible, like any “insurance” type product. The deductibles are usually from $50 to $100 each time a service is performed. The nice feature is that most agree that if it can’t be fixed, it will be replaced. A new water heater is certainly more than $100!
Sellers – don’t kill a deal over a $500 warranty.
Buyers – ask for one from the start on “regular” home sales. DON’T on a short sale or foreclosure; perhaps purchase one on your own.
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There’s no better feeling for both a seller and a buyer when they get contracts ratified! But what happens next? The answer…a lot! But it’s a little different depending on what side you are on. SELLERS, the first thing that you should be waiting on are requested repairs from the buyer. This request addendum will come from the buyer’s agent to the seller’s agent once the home inspection is completed. Typical things to expect; service and certify the HVAC, roof repairs, plumbing leaks, etc. Other similar inspections are Radon, Pest, Water Quality, Septic, Lead Paint. Repairs can be negotiated but tread lightly; the buyer can walk if they are happy with the repairs you don’t agree to. Get your repairs done and give all the receipts to your agent.
If you have a HOA or Condo, now would be a good time to order the docs. They will typically charge you a fee for the “re sale package”. Once you get them, get them to your agent ASAP so that the buyers can review. As there is an option to void the contract if the buyers don’t like what they read in the HOA or Condo docs! The appraisal usually happens shortly after the home inspection. The seller’s agent usually meets the appraiser at the house, hopefully with comps in hand. Appraisers can be tough. With FHA and VA they are also looking for unsafe conditions, like missing handrails and broke window panes. Some appraisers know the ins and outs of the area your house is located. Some don’t. If the appraisal doesn’t come in with the value of the contract or more, the buyers have the option to walk if the seller doesn’t lower the purchase price to the appraised value. It’s a pretty serious step in the process, as I have seen appraisers give very low values with poor supporting comps and there isn’t much you can do about it. Within the contract there is a deadline for the buyer’s Commitment Letter, usually due between 25 and 40 days of ratification. This will come from the buyer’s lender. This is usually the last contingency. Get thru these 3 contingencies and you can breathe easy! BUYERS, get your inspections scheduled quickly! This way if you absolutely hate what is found, you haven’t lost too much time under contract (be courteous of the sellers time too). I try to get all my inspections done in the first 10 days. Once the inspections are done, your agent should review what you’d like the sellers to repair. I like to be very specific as to what my buyers want repaired and how so there is no question. Most home inspections take just under 4 hours. I stay the entire time but my clients usually come for the last hour. Once that has been negotiated be sure your lender has all the docs from you that they need. Yes, some seem ridiculous but don’t shoot the messenger, just get it done. This is around the time when you will pay for the appraisal, about $450.00. It’s also a good time to get home owners insurance & can BGE to let them know that you will be buying XXX property on XXX day. They will start billing in your name the date you give them. If you give BGE the time to cut the service off, you’ll be charged another fee to connect the service….yes a BS fee so it’s just easier to make the call in advance. Of course there are several more scenarios and unfortunately lots of transactions have hiccups along the way. Hopefully you have an agent you feel totally comfortable with and trust in them. If not….(ready for my shameless plug) contact Suzie Coronel! Quick facts for both sides: 1. Some VA loans won’t allow the buyer to pay for the pest inspection. Typically about $65. 2. It’s best to schedule your settlements at the end of the day to allow funds to get transferred/wired. 3. No one likes to wait on responses. Be conscious of the other side and reply quickly to repairs and other determining factors. 4. At the end of the day this is business. Try not to take things personal!