It's not uncommon for buyers to look for six months
or more before finding the right house or condo
to buy. Sometimes, it takes even longer if listings
are in short supply. Lucky are the home buyers
who find a great property that suits their needs
soon after they start their search. But, finding
the right property earlier than anticipated can
pose a problem for some buyers.
Common concerns are: Have I looked long enough
to understand the local market and the range of
housing options available? Could there be another,
even better listing on the market, perhaps at
a better price? Will an upcoming listing be more
appealing? Should I wait and see what else might
come along, or should I go for it?
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Don't pass over an ideal property
just because you found it quickly. Instead, complete
due-diligence investigations to satisfy any concerns
you may have about the property before you make
an offer. You could regret it if you don't buy
the listing and it takes years to find another
First, search the Internet, if you haven't already,
to see if there are similar listings on the market
in the area where you want to live. Ask your agent
to show you as many of these as possible, unless
you can rule out a listing based on your criteria
without having to a look at it.
For example, you may need a main-floor bedroom
and bath for an aging parent who visits frequently.
You can usually get a sense of the floor plan
of a house from the information provided on the
Internet. If critical information isn't provided
online, your agent can check for you. Look at
as many homes as possible that might suit your
needs. This will help you to decide whether to
go ahead or wait for something better.
A critical variable to consider before making
your decision is how often listings like the one
you're considering become available. Ask your
agent to provide you with a list of similar listings
that sold within the last six months or one year.
You won't be able preview these listings. So,
ask for your agent to give you as many details
about the properties as possible, including how
long they took to sell and whether they sold for
more or less than the list price. You might want
to drive by the listings so that you can at least
get a curbside impression of how they compare
with the listing you're considering.
You may find that listings similar to the one
you like come along frequently. They don't sell
quickly and rarely for over the list price. In
this case, there's no urgency to buy quickly.
However, if you discover that listings like the
one you covet come on the market infrequently,
you should seriously consider going ahead with
an offer. Certain kinds of properties in certain
areas are always difficult to find. An example
would be a charming home in move-in condition
in a popular neighborhood that is within walking
distance of great restaurants.
When these homes come on the market, there is
often pent-up demand. You may not be the only
buyer who has been waiting for just such a listing.
This means that you could end up paying more than
the asking price if you end up bidding in competition
with other buyers who want the same kind of a
property you do.
THE CLOSING: Don't pass up a good listing because
you don't think you know enough to make an informed
decision. Instead, accelerate your due-diligence
investigations so that you are prepared to make
an informed decision.
Pro's guide to painting houses
So you've finally decided that it's time to spruce
up the outside of the house with a fresh coat
of paint. Well before you have the paint mixed
and start dragging out the ladders and brushes,
you need to take some time getting the house ready.
The more time and effort you put into proper preparation,
the easier your painting tasks will be and, even
more importantly, the longer the paint job will
All of the steps involved in preparing a house
for painting also require some precautions that
are serious enough that they can't be ignored.
Eye protection is essential to guard against dust
and flying paint chips, and you need to wear a
dust mask or respirator for protection against
dust inhalation while sanding.
If you own an older house, you need to very aware
of the potential dangers posed by lead paint.
Prior to the government's ban on lead paint in
1978, many homes were painted with materials containing
lead, and sanding or scraping lead paint can pose
some serious health risks. If you have a home
that was built prior to the early 1980s and you
suspect that your house has lead paint, be sure
to have it tested prior to undertaking any paint
repairs. You can get more information from the
Environmental Protection Agency at www.epa.gov/lead/
or by calling the National Lead Information Center
(NLIC) at 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).
FIX IT AND CLEAN IT
First, you need to complete any necessary repairs.
If the weather has rotted or splintered siding
or trim boards, for example, they need to be replaced
or re-secured before proceeding. This includes
repairs to windows and doors, weatherstripping,
roofing and any other damaged areas. Don't think
that fresh paint over a cracked board is going
to be the answer -- you're just asking for trouble
down the road.
The next step is to clean the house, which removes
surface dirt that will prevent the new paint from
sticking well, and will help expose areas of peeling
or damaged paint that require additional attention.
You can use a garden hose or a pressure washer,
but stick to a wide spray nozzle that doesn't
concentrate a strong stream of water onto the
siding. Most pressure washers have soap injectors,
which allow a small amount of soap to be mixed
with the water stream -- that may help if the
house is particularly dirty. Use a soft- or medium-bristle
nylon brush on a pole for best dirt removal.
Now you need to remove any loose or peeling paint,
working back until you are certain you're into
undamaged paint that is well adhered to the underlying
surface. There's really no easy way to accomplish
this -- it just takes time and elbow grease. One
tried and true method is to use a paint scraper.
Hold the scraper at a low angle, relatively parallel
with the board you're scraping, and work with
short, firm strokes to scrape the paint off. Work
with the grain of the wood to avoid raising grain
fibers, and be careful not to dig into the wood's
Another option is to use a sander. For small areas,
a pad or belt sander will work fine. For larger
areas, you might consider renting a disk sander
that is specially designed for paint removal.
Either way, sand only enough to remove the loose
paint -- well-adhered paint can remain, and you
want to be sure you don't sand down into the siding
Avoid the temptation to use a pressure washer
to remove the loose paint. Getting a strong enough
water stream to be effective at removing paint
requires the use of a small nozzle that really
concentrates the water pressure, which in turn
can damage the siding and drive moisture deep
If the siding, trim or other surfaces you're working
on have been painted several times in the past,
when you have scraped down to bare wood you may
notice that the surrounding areas of existing
paint are considerably higher than the surface
of the wood. This will show through your final
paint job, so take some sandpaper and feather
the sharp edges of the old paint so that it blends
more smoothly down to the bare wood areas.
Make sure all the surfaces are completely dry,
both from washing and from the effects of winter
weather. Painting over damp wood will simply cause
the paint to fail prematurely.
Now, apply a good-quality primer over any bare
spots. Use a primer that is compatible with the
final paint you'll be using, and that is compatible
with the surface material (wood, brick, concrete,
etc.). Your paint store can assist you with selecting
the best primer for your particular application.
For areas that are very dry or badly weathered,
apply two coats of primer to equalize paint absorption
with the rest of the siding.
Finally, re-caulk any areas that require it, closing
up all the gaps in the siding and trim before
painting. If you have done a lot of sanding and
scraping, a light final washing may be required
to remove residual dust. Once again, be sure the
house is completely dry before painting