- Last year was one of the biggest ever for home gardening and this Spring many are already getting those plants in the ground. If you’re ready to find your inner green thumb, the best way to may not be to dig down but to build up, by constructing a raised bed! We’ll show you how.
- You probably know improving the energy efficiency of your home means you’ll spend a lot less money heating and cooling your home. But it’s not always easy to know which improvements that give you the best return in your energy saving investments. A home energy audit can help. We explain how – just ahead.
- A new survey shows that 1 in 4 Americans purchasing a home are experiencing buyer’s remorse. We’ll share tips to help make sure the next home you purchase doesn’t end in disappointment.
- Ready to pick up a shovel and get digging in your yard for a garden or landscape project? There’s one really important thing to do FIRST. We’ll share that tip.
- Plus, answers to your home improvement questions, about removing spray insulation on siding, installing basement flooring, safety when you have a septic field, requirements for safe well water.
Episode #2091: Building a Raised Garden Bed | Home Energy Audits | Avoiding Home Buying Remorse | Your Q & A
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Hey, what are you guys working on this beautiful spring day? If it’s your house, you are in exactly the right place, especially if you’re looking around that yard, looking around the exterior of your home, looking around the inside space and thinking, “Huh. I really want to do this.” And if you don’t know how to get started with whatever that project is, you can start by reaching out to us.
Couple of ways to do that. You can call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
Coming up on today’s show, last year was one of the biggest ever for home and gardening. And this spring, lots of folks are already getting those plants in the ground. So if you’re ready to basically source your inner green thumb, the best way may not be, though, to dig down but to actually build up by constructing a raised garden bed. We’re going to talk to you about how to do just that.
LESLIE: And you probably know improving the energy efficiency of your home means that you’re going to spend a lot less money heating and cooling that house. But it’s not always easy to know which improvements are going to give you the best return in your energy-saving investments. Well, a home energy audit can certainly help, so we’re going to explain how, in just a bit.
TOM: And a new survey shows that one in four Americans purchasing a home are experiencing buyer’s remorse. We’re going to share some tips to help make sure the next home you purchase doesn’t end up in disappointment.
LESLIE: But first, we want to hear from you. We’re standing by to answer your home improvement questions: gardening, real estate, how-to, DIY, décor. Whatever it is you’re working on or want to even think about tackling at your money pit, we can lend a hand.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Or post your questions at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Maureen from Boston is on the line with a basement-flooring question. How can we help you?
MAUREEN: Hi. My husband and I were just trying to find out if we were to try and lay a floor down over concrete, would we be best to use a vinyl laminate or could we just use a wood-laminate floor?
TOM: OK. OK. So, you have lots of options in basement floors, today especially. I mean the one kind you might want to think about is engineered vinyl plank – EVP – because it’s 100-percent waterproof and it looks great. You can go to LLFlooring.com. That’s all – the LL Flooring stores across the country carry that product.
I put down two of those this year – one for a laundry room and one for a kitchen – and it was very inexpensive and really a great product.
MAUREEN: Perfect. [Thanks a lot] (ph).
TOM: If you want the hardwood down there, the only choice you have is engineered hardwood.
TOM: You can’t put regular hardwood because it would swell and twist. Engineered is done – is basically structurally stable. It’s kind of like plywood where there’s different layers glued together. And that makes it dimensionally stable, so that’s an option.
And I believe you could also put a laminate floor down there. There’s a product called AquaSeal, that’s also made by LL Flooring, that would be suitable for a space like that.
You’ve got tons of choices, which is just great because it used to be that you could only put in vinyl or vinyl.
MAUREEN: Right, exactly.
LESLIE: You could also do tile. I don’t know how warm or cozy or what look or feel you’re going for the space. But there are so many tiles out there that have a wood look to them, that look like wood grain. There are a variety of size planks, so you can really do something interesting as a tile.
I think with the EVPs or the laminates or even the engineered, you know there’s full – EVPs and laminates, there are so many different looks to it. So depending on what you want that space to look and feel like, there’s really a choice for it. And then once you’ve got that flooring down, you can add an area rug and know that you’re controlling that moisture and keeping things nice and dry.
MAUREEN: Right. Perfect. Excellent. Thanks so much for your help.
TOM: You’ve got it.
LESLIE: Richard in North Dakota is on the line with a septic situation. Sounds gross. Tell us what’s going on. Not going to lie.
TOM: Hey, Richard.
RICHARD: Right around this time of year, probably through the end of May, the water table gets so high that the septic just constantly fills and my leach shield doesn’t drain.
TOM: Oh, boy.
RICHARD: And I don’t know what a good way to – I was thinking to put a back-water valve in but I wouldn’t know where to position it properly to where it would actually function.
TOM: What do most folks do in that area? Because you can’t be the only guy with that problem. It sounds very unique to that space.
RICHARD: Talked to another neighbor and we’re the only two in the area that this seems to happen. We’re both located about a ¼-mile west of a refinery. And all of the land around us is just farmland. So, every year we just kind of deal with it.
TOM: So when the water table is low, the septic field functions fine. But when it comes up, that’s when the trouble starts.
TOM: It doesn’t even sound like it was properly designed, because this is not a new condition. You know, this would probably have always been that way.
Is there another option on your property for the field that’s at a higher elevation?
RICHARD: No. And it’s a multi-level house, so there’s a bathroom basement – or yeah, down in the basement there’s a bathroom. So every year what I do is I go stick a plug – there’s a floor drain in there and then I stick a plug into the shower. And then the toilet – they plug that up, as well, with a balloon. So then you just don’t use the downstairs. It’s inoperable. It will flood out if you take any of those out.
TOM: Well, in most cases, where you have a high water table that is impacting the septic system’s ability to drain as designed, you typically would install what’s called a “mound system.”
So a mound system is just that: basically, what it means is that the earth is mounded up. And it’s done strategically; there’s some engineering to this in terms of what the actual layers are that go into the mound itself. But the mounded system basically puts the leach field above the grade or higher up on the grade. But I mean it kind of looks like rolling fields when it’s done but it brings it up higher.
Unfortunately, it’s a pretty expensive system. But in your case, it sounds to me like you don’t have a lot of options here. You can’t continue to use the home as you are now and plug in your basement so the whole bottom of the house doesn’t fill with septic. I think a mounded system or another type of engineered system will be your only option.
RICHARD: OK. I was thinking of something like that but instead of just a mound, I was going to do a 4-foot retaining wall. Basically, a swimming pool with dirt.
TOM: There are systems that are like that and there are new systems coming on the market all the time that use sort of an open or an aerobic treatment system that sits open. Those are used on waterfront areas and environmental-sensitive areas, as well. But 9 out of 10 times, when you have a high water table, you’re going to see a mounded system as the solution.
RICHARD: Alright. Well, thank you for confirming my worst fear.
TOM: Well, yeah. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but that is the way to fix this once and for all. And look, you’ve got to do it because it’s going to help improve your home’s value. You’re going to be kind of stuck with that place if you’ve got a system that only works half of the year.
RICHARD: Yeah. And then they really said the reason it was so cheap was because the refinery.
TOM: Yeah. Alright. Good luck.
LESLIE: Donna in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DONNA: I live in an old – it’s two-story, cedar-shingle house. And anyway, years ago I used to be able to put Olympic stain on it and I kept up the stain. But then they changed the law where I couldn’t use stain anymore. So it was painted in the late – oh, probably ‘99. Well, now the paint started peeling, so I had – one of my sons came and pressure-washed it.
This was about 2 years now but he couldn’t get all the paint off. And it’s flaking because of the shingles and these little grooves, you can’t get it all out. And I live in a two-tone house: a brown stain where the paint’s peeling and the green where the paint’s not peeling.
And it looks terrible. And I’ve called – I’ve phoned two different contractors and gave them the address and they must have just come by and looked at it. And they never even called back, let alone stopped by.
TOM: Chased them off, huh? Yeah.
DONNA: Yes. Plus, they have to have a special license because the house is so old it has to be – in this state anyway, it costs them thousands and thousands of dollars because – or in case there’s lead outside in the paint. Well, it was stained, not painted.
TOM: So, aside from all the drama associating with this, it’s really quite a basic problem. When you have all of these layers of paint that are on the material over all of these years, at some point you’re going to lose adhesion to the original substrate, which is the cedar. The only solution, in that case, is to remove the paint to get down to the originally natural wood.
So, pressure-washing it is fine for the loose stuff. But beyond that, you’ve got to scrape and sand. Because you’ve got to get some of that natural wood to kind of show itself through the remaining stained areas that are painted. Because once it’s ready – truly ready – where you’ve got all the loose stuff off and your surface has been abraded properly, then you can apply an oil-based primer. And the purpose of the primer is kind of a layer – it has different qualities than paint.
Primer is the glue that makes the paint stick. And so, if you use an oil-based primer on there, you’ll get very good adhesion to the cedar. Once that thoroughly dries, then you can paint on top of that. And the topcoat of paint does not have to be oil-based but the primer does. That’s what’s going to give the adhesion. But you can’t just keep putting good paint over bad paint, otherwise the problem of peeling will just continue to repeat itself. Does that make sense, Donna?
DONNA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, last year was one of the biggest ever for home gardening. And this spring, a lot of you guys are already getting those plants in the ground. Well, if you’re ready to find your inner green thumb, the best way may not be to dig down but to build up by constructing a raised bed.
TOM: Yeah. You know, there are a lot of benefits to gardening with a raised bed. So, for example, you can control the soil quality and you can make sure it drains super well. It’s also a lot easier to access a raised garden bed. You don’t have to bend down quite so much and the soil gets warmer sooner. That means you can plant a little earlier, as well.
LESLIE: Yeah. And it’s also one of the simplest projects that you can build.
Now, a simple raised bed can be a mound of soil or you can build a box using rot-resistant wood or composite materials. Now, the goal here is to create a deep, wide growing area that encourages plant roots to grow down and out. And it’s smart to keep it no more than about 4 feet wide so that it’s really easy to access all of the points in the flower bed or the gardening bed, I should say.
TOM: Yeah. And if you build a series of these beds, another thing that you might want to think about is irrigation, because the raised soil can dry out a little more quickly than your regular dirt. So, for example, it might be as simple as running a soaker hose just under the surface of that soil and have that hooked up to a timer at the faucet.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Doug in Virginia on the line with a siding question. How can we help you?
DOUG: Yes. I had – my son’s house has some vinyl siding on it. And the folks that owned it before he did were patching something with some of the spray-foam insulation – the crack-filler stuff – and it oozed out all over the siding. So I know I can go back and cut it loose, cut what’s extra stuff. But when I get down close to the vinyl, what can I clean the residue off with to make it clean without damaging the vinyl?
TOM: It’s very difficult because you get – those foams are usually polyurethane and they have real adhesive qualities to it. Real adhesive. So, what you can do is try to gently scrape it off with a putty knife. But make sure you use – an older one is better because it won’t be quite so sharp. And very carefully do that.
And then, I’ve stripped off some foam – errant foam – with WD-40 as the solvent. So you might want to try that with a ScotchPad, because ScotchPad is not abrasive. But you could spray the siding with the WD-40 and then work the ScotchPad back and forth. You may find that you pull off some of that residue. It really depends on what kind of foam it is. But you’re right, once it’s dry, to cut as much of it off and then try to abrade the rest of it off. But do so with a mind not to damage the siding.
DOUG: OK. Well, I’ll give it a try. WD-40.
TOM: Yep. Try it. It’s one of the thousand uses for that stuff. They say you only need two things in your tool kit: WD-40 and duct tape. They’re pretty close.
DOUG: Then I can go over the whole back of the house with WD-40 to revitalize the vinyl, right?
TOM: Well, I wouldn’t – if it’s the whole back of the house – if you’re talking about spot-cleaning, OK. But if it’s the whole back of the house, then I think you’ve got a bigger problem. I think you’re looking at new siding.
DOUG: But would I get an oily spot when I use the WD-40 that will look different than the rest of it?
TOM: You will, you will. But soap and water will take it away.
DOUG: I guess that’ll fade, yeah.
LESLIE: That’s why it’s good for only like a little spot.
DOUG: Alright. Well, thanks a lot.
TOM: Alright, Doug. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much or calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Susan in Texas is on the line with a water question. What’s going on?
SUSAN: My daughter has a country home she just purchased and there’s a 900-foot-deep water well on it. And she wanted to know, does she need to use a water softener or a carbon filter for the drinking water? And also, how much electricity would that use, that water well?
TOM: Well, the first thing she needs to do is to have a comprehensive water test done. Was that done?
SUSAN: I believe so because they had inspectors come out. But I don’t remember what she said.
TOM: Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t believe anything unless I had a result back from a water-testing laboratory. That’s going to tell you what kind of treatment you need to do locally. So, the first thing she needs to do is to get a water test done – a thorough water test done – that’s going to check for all sorts of contaminates and pesticides and that sort of thing. And then based on that, you can determine what you want to do to treat the water. But you just don’t start treating it first. You start with the test and the test is what determines what needs to be treated. Make sense?
SUSAN: Yes. Lots of sense, yes.
TOM: Alright. Good luck, Susan. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: James in Delaware, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: The other day, I was sitting in my living room when all of a sudden, this real loud whistle sound came out of my water-heater heater room. I opened it up. I’d just never heard this before and it did this for a few minutes. And then it just stopped.
TOM: You didn’t see any water come out of the overflow, did you?
JAMES: No. No. That’s what I can’t figure out.
TOM: How old is the water heater, James?
JAMES: About 4 or 5 years ago, I put in all electric. That was gas before. Put all electric. I put a Trane heater in and there was another brand that they put in with the water heater. And it seems like now – I haven’t heard that since. Now, when I use the water – the faucet – in the kitchen, right after I turn it off, a couple minutes later I hear this noise that’s like a clicking noise or something in the water heater.
TOM: So, that clicking noise is probably the pipes expanding and contracting as they heat up and cool down. It tends to amplify itself because of the nature of the copper pipes. But everything that you’re telling me doesn’t signal that I’m thinking you’re having any kind of problem. Just sometimes, as the water expands and contracts, it will make some odd noises to it.
JAMES: Do I have to drain the heater at all or …?
TOM: Do you have hard water there?
JAMES: Oh, yeah.
TOM: So if you have hard water, sometimes you get mineral deposits along the bottom of the water heater. But that wouldn’t really impact an electric water heater, because the coils are up in the middle of the water. They’re immersed right into the middle of the tank, so it’s not going to make them less efficient. So you could but I don’t think it’ll have any effect.
If you have a gas water heater, the heating element’s at the bottom. And sometimes, if you get mineral deposits that sit over the bottom of the water tank, it’s kind of like an insulator and it makes it harder to heat the water. But in the case of electric water heater, the heating elements are embedded up in the water heater, usually a foot from the bottom and a foot down from the top. So that wouldn’t affect it.
JAMES: Well, I thought there’s – isn’t there one at the top and the bottom?
TOM: Yes. But it’s immersed in the middle of the tank. It sticks through the tank, kind of at a right angle. And there’s one about a foot down from the top and one that’s about a foot up from the bottom. So you’re not going to have any settling of mineral-salt deposits on it.
JAMES: What’s the life expectancy of one of these things?
TOM: About 10 years – 10 to 12 years.
JAMES: Ten years and that’s it. And when can I guess the elements go, usually?
TOM: Well, if the elements go, they can be replaced. But the tanks tend to leak after 10-plus years.
JAMES: Wow. And where should I keep an eye – where does it – they leak in the bottom? They just leak water all over the place?
TOM: The best thing to do is if you’re going away, right, you should always turn off your main water valve. And also, turn off the water heater, because it won’t waste a lot of electricity by heating up water in the house that you’re not using.
JAMES: Listen, let me tell you something, I love you guys. You guys have a really very wholesome – a great show. Because there’s a lot of talk shows on and different things but you guys help a lot of people.
TOM: We try. Thank you so much, James. We really appreciate that. Good luck with the project and thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, most homeowners know the importance of improving the energy efficiency of their homes. However, when it comes to trying to decide which improvements will provide the most energy savings for their cost, it gets a lot harder to make a clear choice.
TOM: That’s right. But one smart way to make that decision is to get the help of an energy auditor: energy-efficiency professionals who use building science to gather the data needed to make an accurate assessment of the best ways to improve the efficiency of your home.
Matthew Dean is an energy auditor with the Association for Energy Affordability. He’s joining us now with more.
MATTHEW: Thank you.
TOM: Hey, you know, I think homeowners really struggle making these decisions. And I think part of the problem is the noise that’s out there, from every window insulation or HVAC salesman promising that their products are going to actually save the homeowners money. Do you agree?
MATTHEW: Yes, I totally agree. We see that a lot in the industry, that there are what we call BPI – or Building Performance Industry – standards, certified inspectors and crew workers and auditors.
And we see others out there who put up an environmentally-friendly green shingle and say that they do environmental work in homes but they’re really not. They’re not testing in, they’re not testing out. They’re making promises that don’t come true. They’re not making sure that health and safety is their number-one priority.
And a lot of times, they do a disservice to the industry, because people have that work done and then the neighbor says, “So, how’d it go?” And they say, “Oh, it didn’t save any money,” or, “It led to a mold and mildew problem in my home.” And that’s not what we’re looking to do.
TOM: I once had a window manufacturer – local manufacturer – who wanted us to record a commercial for this particular company. And the commercial said that they would save you 50 percent on your energy bills. And I said to the salesman who asked me – I said, “If you had no windows and now you have windows, maybe. But other than that, I’m not going to say that.”
MATTHEW: No. And you’re right. And most people don’t know that. But yeah, when you look at the total surface area of a building, the windows typically only make up 10 or 15 percent. And even if they’re leaky, a lot of times it’s not that the window itself there’s something wrong with it; it’s the install that’s wrong. And if you simply remove the trim and air-sealed around that trim and put it back on, your window would work a lot better.
LESLIE: So, now, you’re talking about really getting into the nitty-gritty of how that window is installed. But what do you think a homeowner is going to feel comfortable with when they sort of start to do this investigation? Should they jump into something like that or are there more simple places for them to look at?
MATTHEW: So, there are simpler ways to reduce your energy bills and some of those start with looking to install a programmable or smart thermostat. As long as you know how to use a screwdriver and you know someone who’s not color-blind and can match up the wires correctly …
TOM: That’s right.
MATTHEW: Right? You can …
TOM: Blue to blue, white to white and so on. Yep.
MATTHEW: Exactly. You can easily switch that out. And that can save a whole lot of money for a homeowner.
Hot-water temperature is another one. A lot of times, the hot-water tanks are just thrown all the way up on high, because the contractor doesn’t want to have to come back because maybe there’s a complaint that it’s too cold. But a lot of times, that’s 170-degree water and …
LESLIE: Geez, that’s high.
MATTHEW: Yeah. And anything over 120 can lead to 3rd-degree burns. So, we recommend the water temperature be at 120. So you can turn that down and right there there’s a few hundred dollars in savings. Combined with the thermostat, a couple hundred. Door sweeps and weather-stripping on exterior doors can cut down on drafts. Using caulking or spray foam around windows and doors or penetrations you might see on the exterior of the home can cut down on drafts.
All those types of things are things that homeowners can do in a weekend, really, and by themselves make their home less expensive to operate and more comfortable.
TOM: So, Matthew, let’s talk about the energy-auditor process. If you are hired by a homeowner – or I know sometimes utility companies do this – the goal here is to try to stop guessing as to which of those improvements is going to make the most sense and to put some building expertise and building science and data behind it. Can you explain that process for our listeners and what happens at the end, what the report shows? And does it give them that sort of blueprint to the ultimate goal of energy-efficient housing?
MATTHEW: Sure. So, the process is that the auditor or assessor would talk with the homeowner over the phone and get some general information: maybe access to their utility bills; the size of the home; how many people live in the home; where the home is located, obviously; and why they’re calling. What in particular motivated them to call? Is it a comfort issue? Is it a money issue? Is it one particular room?
And then when the auditor/assessor goes out to do the inspection, typically they do an exterior inspection where they look at the gutters to make sure that they’re not clogged up, they look at the color of the roof, the material that the exterior of the building is made out of, the condition of the windows. They look for moisture issues, the orientation of the home. They make sure there’s a chimney cap. They go around the entire building.
Then they go inside and do an interior inspection, where they do an appliance survey and a lighting survey. And they take measurements of the interior of the building to get the square footage and the volume. They look at the windows. Then they do a combustion-safety test on the heating system and the hot-water system, to make sure that they’re drafting properly and that there are no health-and-safety issues. And they also get the efficiencies of those systems.
Then they take a look at the blower-door number. The blower-door number is gotten by using a large fan that they temporarily install in an exterior doorway. And based on the size of the building, they can tell how many cubic feet per minute of air should be rushing through the building. Anything over that represents air leaks. So they’ll do that test and figure out if the building is either too leaky. Or sometimes the buildings are too tight and might need a mechanical-ventilation system.
Then they take all that information back, run it through a report and generate recommendations on what can be done to reduce their bills and make the home more comfortable.
LESLIE: And does it sort of prioritize the projects? Does it say, “This one is going to be the biggest bang for your buck”?
MATTHEW: Yep. So they do cost-savings calculations for every recommendation. They do a simple payback, they do a rate of return and then they do one called a “savings-to-investment ratio,” which basically tells you how many times you’ll make your money back.
And the industry standard is that you can’t really make a recommendation to someone unless it saves them money within the lifetime of the measure, which is generally somewhere around 10 or 20 years. So, we like to see savings-to-investment ratios for recommendations that are at least 1 but I think more like 2 or 3 is better, so you make your money back in, say, 5 to 10 years.
And there are some that have better paybacks than others. Insulation and air sealing, huge payback. They don’t cost much to install and they have a huge payback on their savings. Windows, like you were saying before, very low. Very expensive and they don’t really save any money.
TOM: We’re talking to Matthew Dean. He is not only an energy auditor, he’s a trainer of energy auditors. He’s with the Association for Energy Affordability in Bronx, New York.
So, Matthew, you know, what you’re describing is similar to what I did for a long time as a professional home inspector. But of course, we didn’t focus just on the energy issues. We focused on a lot of the other mechanical and structural issues.
But one thing about home inspectors is that they don’t have a conflict of interest, because they’re not allowed – by law, in some places – to work on the homes that they inspect. Is that the same thing in the energy-auditing business or are consumers at risk of folks saying, “Well, you need new insulation but I’m just the guy to put it in for you,” and have that built-in conflict?
MATTHEW: When you’re working with a BPI-certified contractor – which any program through either the Department of Energy or say, through a state-weatherization program or utility program usually works with, because the BPI sort of sets the industry standard for how this efficiency work should be done. They have a principal called “test in and test out.” They also have a principal called “quality control.”
And so, where I work and with all the partners I work with, the person who does the original assessment – the quality-control inspection that is done – is done by someone different. Additionally, on top of that, the programs that we’re working in will send, randomly, inspectors out to QCI jobs – like, say, 10 percent of the jobs that you do – to make sure that you did what you said you were going to do. Additionally, if a homeowner had a problem with it, they could call BPI and say, “So and so said this was going to happen. It didn’t happen.”
And just one more point. Most of the software that we work with, when they do their paybacks – like I said before, it has to be higher than one, that SIR – that keeps everyone’s prices in line. If you go to a different contractor, because we all have to make recommendations that save the homeowner money, you can’t really overcharge someone because then the SIR falls below one and then the software usually doesn’t allow you to make that recommendation.
TOM: That’s very interesting. So, the answer is yeah, you could be working with a company that does both the auditing and the work but there are built-in safeguards. And I like what you’re saying.
Matthew Dean, thank you so much. Very fascinating. I actually knew a little bit about energy auditors and now I feel like I’m much better informed as are our listeners.
Matthew Dean is with the Association for Energy Affordability in New York. If you’d like to learn more about their organization, you can go to AEA.US.org. That’s AEA.US.org.
MATTHEW: Thank you.
TOM: Well, the real-estate market has been pretty hot ever since the pandemic hit, especially in areas where families are leaving those more urban areas. But when the market gets busy, more and more buyers start to regret their purchase. And in fact, a new survey by Flyhomes shows that one in four American home buyers have experienced buyer’s remorse, which is a terrible thing after spending all that money.
So, if you’re in the market now, we’ve got a few tips to help you avoid regretting your purchases.
LESLIE: Yeah. And that is a huge purchase to feel pretty badly about. So, here’s some things you need to do.
First of all, you’ve got to prepare yourself to spend more than you expect. Now, among first-time home buyers, 40 percent are saying that they spent more than they expected to when buying the home. And nationwide, homes are going for about 20 percent or more over the listing price. I mean that’s a lot of money.
Now, don’t even waste your time looking at properties that are going to end up going for way more than you’ve budgeted for and figure out what you can afford. And then search well below your max so that you can feel comfortable about bidding and end up somewhere where you know you can afford to spend.
Now, next, you want to get prequalified for a mortgage. This way, you’re going to have all the loan process completed up front and you’re going to know exactly what your budget is. Plus, this really does help your buying power, because home buyers know that you can afford the home before you agree to that price.
TOM: Now, this is something that, based on my 20 years’ experience as a professional home inspector, scares the heck out of me. People are buying homes now sight unseen. It might sound obvious but buyers are so desperate, they’re doing what they call “Zillow-surfing” and they’re buying homes without even visiting them. And worse, they’re negotiating away their right to have those home inspections, which is a perfect formula if you really do want to buy a real-life money pit and become a lifelong listener to our program. We would love to have you do that but not because your house is a real money pit; it’s because you want to improve a good house.
So, remember, buying a home usually starts with a wish list: items like a garden, south-facing yard, plenty of storage, big bathtub. Whatever it is, in reality, more often than not, people have to make some compromises. So, be prepared for that up front and you will be a lot happier in the long run.
LESLIE: Nick has got a question about a basement that’s kind of coming apart. So Nick writes: “I live in a 1907 home and I’m trying to improve the walls in the unfinished basement. The basement gets a little damp at times but there are areas where the mortar around the brick is crumbling away. How can I fix this?”
TOM: Well, in a house that’s that old, Nick, the mortar is going to deteriorate from time to time. And if it gets powdery, what you want to do is repoint it. You’re going to mix up some mortar mix. And if you put a little extra lime in that, it will actually get stickier. And that makes it easier for you to work with on those vertical walls. You’ll need a tool called a “pointing tool,” which is the tiniest trowel you will ever see.
But it’s actually a pretty straightforward job. I would just work it one section at a time. Don’t sweep away all the old stuff and then put in the new stuff. Do it one section at a time, because I wouldn’t want to see you leave a lot of open mortar joints and then get a big rainstorm and have something collapse in on you. That’d be bad.
LESLIE: That would be super bad, like way worse than what’s already going on in Nick’s home. Definitely tackle this project and you’ll see a beautiful, new, improved space.
TOM: Well, April is National Safe Digging Month. Leslie, I expect a Hallmark card. I’m just saying it right now, OK?
But actually, it’s a good time to remind motivated DIYers, like you, to call 811 before picking up a shovel. Leslie explains why, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Yeah. You might think that planting a tree or a shrub, building a fence, even installing a post for a mailbox should be pretty minor digging projects. But if you have the misfortune of hitting an underground utility line, that simple project suddenly can get a lot more complicated. That’s why it’s really important that you call 811 before you dig.
Now, 811 is a federally-mandated phone number that’s designated by the FCC to consolidate all local call-before-you-dig numbers. Now, there are millions of miles of buried utilities beneath the surface of the Earth that are vital to everyday living. I mean think about it: water, electricity, natural gas. All of it helps homeowners and professionals avoid damaging these vital utility lines.
So, the call-before-you-dig service, it’s free. Make sure you use it. You want to make the call a few days before you’re planning on digging that project. Tell the operator where you’re planning to dig and then your local utility company is going to be notified about your intent to dig. And they’re going to send techs to your dig site and then mark that location of where those buried lines are with flags or paint.
And again, there is no cost here, so it’s not going to cost you a penny. But let me tell you, should you cause some major disruption or hit something, that is going to cost you a lot of money. So, this is a big money time-saving thing. Call 811. Whether you’re planning a new deck, installing a fence post, whatever it is, just call before you dig so that you can stay safe.
TOM: You know, last fall we were putting in some new landscaping and I knew that we would be digging in the area where the gas line came into the house, because you could see the gas meter and you can see the street and connect the dots. So I did call 811 and actually, it was a very, very simple service. It was a very simple thing to do, I should say.
I called. The operator asked me all the information. And within just a few days, somebody showed up and they determined whether or not I needed to talk to the gas company, the electric company, the water company. But they did all that. I didn’t have to make multiple phone calls. It just happened. And one day, I looked out my window a few days later and there were these nice, little flags all along where the gas line was. And so I knew to steer clear.
So it’s definitely something that you should do, because you’re right: if you don’t do that and you cause some damage, there’s some pretty serious consequences.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, nothing signals the start of spring better than some fresh blooms, like daffodils and tulips. But if you want to do that, you’d better get those bulbs planted now. We’ll tell you what you need to know, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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