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How to Hire a Home Inspector

You need an experienced professional.

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So, you are buying or selling a home and you feel that you need an experienced professional to inspect the property so that you go into the sale/purchase knowing everything that you need to know to make the proper decisions and arrive at the dollar/value amount that the property is worth to you. But, how do you go about it? All of the Inspectors’ ads seem the same - they all tout the same lines of how great they are, etc., etc. It’s impossible to get a referral because you really don’t know anyone who has bought or sold a home recently, and you surely don’t trust the Realtor's choice because you are pretty sure the Inspectors that they use are “their good Ol' boys” that solicit the Realtors for work. So, what’s a person to do? 

Well, let me make it easy for you to cut right through all of the hype and “fairy tales.” I’m going to give you a downloadable short chart that you can print. On the chart will be a few of the most pertinent questions you would want to be asking of your prospective Inspector as to his/her qualifications to be sure that they will be the one that will give you the knowledge and peace of mind to move forward into one of the biggest investments/transactions you will make in your life. If you use the chart as it is designed to be used, you will be able to fill in the boxes below each Inspector's name with check marks or minimal info relating to the answers you receive from the several Inspectors that you interview. It will become evident in short order who is the most qualified Inspector that you should hire, unless, of course, you are an individual that is of the opinion that all Inspectors are the same, all inspection reports are the same, and the only difference is who is the cheapest, which, in that case, I’m sure that you will get exactly what you bargained for. Besides, who better than the Inspector himself knows what he/she is worth! Download the Home Inspectors Hiring Questionnaire as a printable PDF file.

Finally, for those that really want to know who they are hiring to perform such an important service for them, I will give you a list of additional questions that you can ask that will further qualify an Inspector to you, if you wish to know more and take the time to ask them. Hey, you’re only talking about a few hundred thousand dollars of your hard earned money here, so taking a few extra minutes of your time to hire a true professional who will be supplying you with the knowledge and peace of mind that you need at a cost of less than ½ of 1% of what the transaction will be is, well, maybe worth the extra effort. I’ll make it even easier for you; I’ll give you some links (see box to the right) to go to so you can check if the answers the Inspectors give you are true.

So, roll up your sleeves, pull out the telephone book, and go online and decide on a few Inspectors that on the surface look promising. Write their names at the top of the columns and then start dialing the phone and asking the questions and filling in the blank boxes with check marks and info.

Questions To Ask:

  1. How long have you been inspecting?
  2. How long have you been in the Construction and Home Repair business?
  3. Are you “certified” by any national organization as a Home Inspector? Are you a licensed General Contractor?
  4. Are you licensed in any thing?
  5. Have you ever hands-on built a home from scratch? If so what, where, when?
  6. Have you ever spent any “real” time in the home repair field? If so, what, when?
  7. Do you solicit realtors to obtain your work/inspections?
  8. What, EXACTLY, do you inspect and include in your inspection report?
  9. Is the report computer generated, easy to understand and have digital color pictures? Do you offer a money back guarantee?
  10. How long will the inspection take?
  11. What is your fee?

These should be the short list, lucky thirteen if you will, that should shed a little light on just how much experience your Inspector has, how qualified they are and the basics of what you can expect from them should you hire them. http://www.unbiasedinspections.com/index.htm

Additional Questions You May Want To Ask:

  1. Do have a website and what is its address?
  2. Do you have any references you would like to share with me?
  3. Can I accompany you during the inspection?
  4. Have you ever been sued over one of your inspections?
  5. How do you stand behind your inspection if a problem comes up?
  6. How much continuing education do you take every year? What other services do you offer?
  7. Do you belong to the local Realtors Board?
  8. Do you advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers?
  9. What/whose Standards of Practice do you inspect to?
  10. What Home Inspection organization(s) are you most proud to belong to and why?

MY ANSWERS To The Questions:

I have been in the Home Inspection business for 40 years.

I have been in the Construction and Home Repair business for 45 years.

I am certified as a Home Inspector by the following organizations: CalNACHI, NACHI International, IHINA.

I have been a licensed General Contractor since 1977.

I am licensed in the following: California General Contractor & California Structural Pest Inspector.

I have built many structures since 1977, including such projects as a geodesic dome home.

I have 45 years of hands-on “real” time in the home repair field/structural pest control business.

I do NOT solicit realtors to obtain inspection work.

For each report I inspect all visible and accessible portions and systems of the house and property.

Each computer generated report is easy to understand and includes digital color pictures.

I offer a money back guarantee and stand firmly behind it!

Each inspection will take 4 – 8 + hours depending on the property to be inspected.

The fee will vary depending on the property to be inspected.

I have a website at www.unbiasedinspections.com.

I have numerous client references on my website at Client Testimonials.

I encourage my clients to accompany me during the inspection, or at least be on site near the end of the inspection. 

I have never been sued over an inspection, even though I’ve been inspecting homes since 1968.

If a problem comes up regarding an inspection, I have a money back guarantee.

Each year I obtain usually 40 - 50 hours of continuing education in pertinent home inspection classes.

Other services offered… structural pest (termite) inspections, thermography scans and reports, floor level mapping, consulting.

I do not belong to the local Realtors Board in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest or collusion.

I absolutely do NOT advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers.

My home inspections are performed under the Standards of Practice of CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors).

The Home Inspection organization(s) of which I most proudly belong is CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors) because of their high standards and stringent continuing education requirements. I’m also proud to be a member of Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA) because in order to be a member you must sign a pledge NOT to solicit business from realtors!

- Ron Ringen Ringen's

Unbiased Inspections https://www.unbiasedinspections.com/home-inspection-articles/how-to-hire-a-home-inspector/

New Home Warranty

Make sure you fully understand terms and conditions.

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Q. About six months ago we bought a new home and the builder provided a one year home warranty. Recently we discovered a defect, but when we contacted the builder, he said that because we did not discover the defect during the final walk-through that it would not be covered under the warranty. Is this common practice?

A. No, this is definitely not common practice. Most builders will repair defects that are found at any time during the warranty period, provided that they are covered by the terms of the warranty, and are obviously the fault of the builder. Read your warranty contract carefully to see if you are indeed bound by the condition your builder is citing. He may be counting on the fact that you have not thoroughly read the contract. In any event, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney. When inspecting a new home, I always advise my clients to discuss the terms of the home warranty with the builder before closing, and to make sure that they fully understand those terms and conditions.

Understanding Homeowners Insurance

Many of us obtain our homeowners insurance when we purchase our home.

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Many of us obtain our homeowners insurance when we purchase our home. After this initial purchase, we do not give this insurance another thought. It is not until the roof is damaged during a violent thunderstorm, a major appliance fails and floods our basement, or the neighbor's kid slips and fractures their wrist in our living room that we dust off the policy and ask ourselves, "Am I covered for this?" Don't wait until damage or an accident happens to discover what your insurance policy covers. Instead, you should have a good idea of what you are covered for and what is not included. Every year you should assess if your coverage should increase or if there is any optional coverage you may want to add. The purpose of this article is to point out some general characteristics of homeowners insurance and help in determining if you have the right coverage. Obviously this cannot substitute for a consultation with your insurance provider, but it will give you a better idea of what questions to ask. Image of home, crutches and turning road sign.

There are five popular topics concerning homeowners insurance that we will discuss below: types of damage covered, determining replacement cost, determining personal property value, understanding liability coverage, and ways to save money on your policy.

Homeowner insurance policies typically cover damages such as: fire and smoke damage, storm damage (i.e. lightening, wind, hail, ice and snow), water damage (other than flooding as this is separate), explosion, vandalism, theft (some companies are now offering an identity theft coverage option as well), civil unrest, and damage by aircraft and vehicles. You should discuss with your insurance provider any additional hazards you may face in your location such as earthquakes or floods. There may also be hazards you are not immediately aware of that could effect your insurance cost such as your neighborhood crime rate or if you own a Flood damage is not covered by homeowner insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program is a partnership between FEMA and isnurance companies that offers coverage. Click here for more.pet that is considered to be a high liability risk (i.e. certain breeds of dogs). Depending on the probability of need, you may be required to get additional coverage for these hazards by your insurance carrier and/or mortgage lender. To find out about special hazards in your area, talk with your insurance provider or contact your state insurance commissioner. If you run a home business, you will need to get separate insurance to cover business items such as computers and liability, i.e. if you run a daycare, your standard homeowners will not cover any accidents. Other items that are not covered by your homeowners insurance but may be covered by additional or alternate policies are: tenants, multiple family dwellings, land, theft by those covered in your insurance policy (i.e. recently separated spouses), and cars. Take a look at your policy and review your coverage. Consider how you use your home or where your home is located. Do you need additional or special coverage? This is a question you should review every year.

When choosing a policy, it is important that you consider the replacement cost of your home. The replacement cost is the amount it would take to replace your home. Replacement cost is not the same as the market value of your home as the market value includes the property it stands on and the current housing market. Because of this, it may not be equal to your outstanding mortgage. You can get estimates for replacement cost from appraisers, your local builder/craftsmen association or your insurance agent. Once you have determined how much your home replacement cost should be, you should review it and make any needed adjustments every Condos usually have a Master Policy that covers liability and property for common grounds. Individual policies then supplement personal property, liability and immediate structure.year. Most insurance companies will include an increase of coverage every year to match inflation. However, other items may also require you to adjust your replacement cost. Major remodels to your kitchen or bathroom or room additions can drastically effect the replacement cost of your home. If you use special materials or there is a housing boom making building materials scarce in your area, these too may affect your replacement cost. Another item that may effect your replacement cost is the change in building codes since when the house was built. Even with partial damage, it may be necessary to take the whole area/structure down to bring it up to code. If you own an older home, you should definitely discuss this with your agent. You may also get an extended replacement policy that will help you if your replacement coverage is below what you need. However, it is more economical if you take the time to review your policy and change your replacement cost coverage each year. Finally, keep in mind your policy should also include coverage for living expenses while the home is rebuilt or repaired. With the structure insured for major repairs, you can now consider your possessions.

Determining the personal property value depends on how much time the homeowner wants to invest in itemizing their property. Traditionally, most homeowners are covered at 50% of their home's value to cover personal property. Some pay a bit extra and get 75% of the homes value. Replacement costs like this cover like items, not necessarily the same make and model. You can also make an itemized actual cash value list that will cover items' actual cost minus depreciation. Many opt for percentage replacement coverage and then add a "floater" that will cover individual inventoried items. Major items should be inventoried with make, model, original cost, and documentation by picture or video. Items like jewelry and antiques should also have an appraisal. The documentation of these items should be kept in a secure location like a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe. Even if you opt for the general 50% coverage, you should have a list of your most valued possessions in case theft as this may help in tracking the items down (see more in our Home Security article).

Liability coverage protects you, your family, house guests and pets if they should accidentally hurt someone on your property or hurt someone or damage property elsewhere. On average, liability insurance usually covers up to $100,000 per incident. However, with lawyer and medical costs high these days, many homeowners also add an umbrella which allows for greater coverage at reasonable rates. Although most think of medical coverage as part of their liability coverage, it is actually categorized separate from liability because it pays for minor injuries that do not need to prove fault or negligence to be covered. An example would be someone twisting their ankle at your home. Liability is an important coverage that you will want to discuss with your agent.

Finally, there are a few things you may do to ease the cost of homeowners insurance. One way to lower your overall insurance cost is if you know you can take a higher deductible. If you can pay $500-1000 instead of $300 for each instance, this will lower your premium. Some decide to do this as the probability is that they will not claim or use the insurance very often. In addition to this, you may also pay your premium in larger and fewer payments. Another method to lower costs is to itemize your insurance to only the hazards you think most probable to happen. However, this option may not be available if you still owe a mortgage as the mortgage company may want more inclusive coverage. Also, you may check and see if there are any improvements you make to the home that may reduce your premium. Installing a home security system for example. Finally, combining policies with one carrier will also help you get lower premiums. If you combine your home, auto and life insurance policies, many companies will give you a preferred rate. Talk with your agent for further ways you may able to save money but maintain sound coverage on your home.

Conclusion
     There are a lot of options for your homeowner's insurance policy.  When setting up a policy, shop around and talk to different insurance companies to find one that works well with you.  Find out if they have a good reputation with the state insurance commissioner and consumer reports.  Find one that is fast, offers great service and handles claims fairly (you don't want to end up with a company that argues every claim).  Hopefully this overview has helped equip you with a better idea of the coverage you may need for your home.  You should have a better idea what to look for in a policy when you contact an agent to set up your homeowner's insurance.

More Resources

Household Checklist

There are a number of checklists available online; many are available from individual insurance providers. We found the following booklet from the University of Illinois to be the most comprehensive. www.ag.uiuc.edu/%7Evista/abstracts/ahouseinv.html

Household Papers/Records:
Taken from our earlier article about Home Security, here again is a checklist of important papers you should safeguard and how long you should keep them:
- Keep in Safe Deposit Box/Fireproof Safe: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce legal papers, adoption papers, citizenship records, and other documents that are government or court related. A copy of a will, although your attorney will keep the original. Investment and business papers, government bonds, deeds, titles and copyrights to name a few more. General rule is, "Put it in if you can't replace it or if it would be costly or troublesome to replace."
- Taxes: IRS can audit up to 6 years back. However, you can get rid of pay stubs if you have your W2. Cancelled checks you will want to keep if they are related to anything you claimed on your tax return.
- Medical Bills: Keep at least 3 years.
- Household Inventory: You should have a comprehensive list for each room and what of importance is in there. This will help you claim losses in event of burglary or fire. The details of this list should be shared with your insurance carrier to make sure of coverage. It is recommended that you review this list once every 6 months.
- Deposit, ATM, Credit Card and Debit Card Receipts: Save them until the transaction appears on your statement and you've verified that the information is accurate. Then they may be shredded.
- Credit Card Statements: If there are not purchases related to taxes you may shred them once every year. However, if you have larger purchases on the card you may want to keep hold of these older statements. Special Note: Credit Card Agreements should be kept as long as the card is active!
- Loan Agreements: Keep as long as the loan is active.
- Documentation of Stocks, Bonds nd Other Investments: Keep while you own the investment and then 7 years after that.

Useful Links

National Association of Insurance Commissioners
www.naic.org FEMA: Homeowners and Renters www.fema.gov/individual/home.shtm

Spooky Vacations

Haunted Hotels, Inns, Castles and more!

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Today thrill seekers can go skydiving, cliff jumping, white water rafting or paragliding, just to name a few. Looking for a little adventure in your blood but it's too wet outside to play? Why not snuggle indoors and thrill your imagination with a haunted vacation? Many hotels, inns, and even castles offer spooky weekend getaways. Perhaps a friendly ghost will fold your clothes and lay them out on the bed; a mischievous one might turn on the lights and radio at 2AM; or perhaps one with a chip on his shoulder might give you a little bump to remind you he's there. You might find it a good laugh or a little fun to shake up the winter humdrums. Below we have compiled a short list of some haunted places to stay. We have tried to collect from across the US and added in a few international destinations just in case you want a ghost with an accent! Enjoy and have some fun! International Haunts: Ireland: Ross Castle | United Kingdom - England: The Feathers Hotel Wales: Ruthin Castle **Many haunted houses seem to get their start from murder or untimely death. Although we have not gone into graphic details here, please note that if you follow any of the links to the right, some of these sites do go into much more (sometimes gruesome) detail! 17-Hundred-90 Restaurant & Inn - Savannah, GA The History: This inn was actually built in 1820, not 1790. First a boarding house and later an inn, this home has had many owners and guests. One of these guests was Anne Powell. The legend says she was unhappily married at 16 years of age to an Englishman. She fell in love with a German sailor who left her "in the family way." She watched his boat sail away and then committed suicide by jumping from the window, landing on the brick pavement below. The Haunting: Anne Powell is the most famous ghost, believed to haunt guest room 204 from where it is said she jumped to her death. She doesn't seem to be a menacing spirit: she sits beside the fire, lays out guests' clothes on the bed or plays pranks on guests waking them up in wee hours of the morning by setting off the radio alarm. Another ghost in the basement kitchen and restaurant doesn't like women very much and likes to shove them around. But this ghost is countered by the ghost of a merchant marine who will help the staff turn the lights off at closing. How to see it: Savannah ghost tours stop here for a drink but you can go to the restaurant yourself and have a bite to eat. Or if you really dare, spend the night instead - ask for room 204! Brumder Mansion - Milwaukee, WI The History: George Brumder had the home built in 1910 for his son, George Jr. After they sold the home, the house was everything from a boarding house to an activity center for a Lutheran church. They used the home for office space, a theater, and later opened a coffee house with a live music venue. The current owners purchased the home in 1997 and opened the renovated space as a B&B in 1998. The Haunting: The Gold Room was once the room for one of the Brumder daughters who never married after being spurned in love early in life. She is said to still stay in the room, in fact she was quite appalled and upset when the current owner spent the night in this room with her dogs - no dogs allowed! Your dreams will be haunted if any dogs sleep on the bed! How to see it: It's a Bed & Breakfast, so take the plunge and spend the night - request the Gold Suite! You can even join a ghost hunting seminar or enjoy a haunted history dinner! For more information, click here. The Carolina Inn - Chapel Hill, NC The History: Owned by UNC, this inn was built by a UNC graduate in 1924. Throughout its history it has been used by the campus to host conferences, guests and alumni. Today the proceeds from the inn are given to the university library. The Haunting: Professor William Jacocks likes to haunt room 252. Although guests do claim to have encounters with the professor, the hotel staff say he has never frightened anyone to the point of packing their bags and running. Instead he is a friendly ghost who plays pranks such as holding the doorknobs so rooms won't open, rustling papers, and making the occasional noise. Some claim there are additional ghosts walking the halls and looming over their shoulder, but always more curious than menacing. How to see it: You can spend the night in this historic hotel Crescent Hotel - Eureka Springs, AR The History: Founded in 1886, the Crescent Hotel started its career as a sleek and elegant hideaway for the Victorian wealthy. However, not able to stay afloat the hotel closed. It was reopened in 1908 as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. But this school closed in 1924. In 1937 it was opened as a hospital and health resort. Norman Baker claimed to have a cure for cancer but was met with scrutiny as it came to light that he had no medical education. He was later imprisoned on mail fraud. It wasn't until 1946 that efforts were made to reestablish the hotel. The Haunting: Perhaps the fresh spring water under the hotel attracts spirits thirsting for a little human interaction. This hotel has many different haunted areas from guest rooms, to the lobby, to the grounds. Guests have seen a women in the hall, a tall man knocking on the doors, and former cancer patients and nurses to name a few. A long list of guest experiences can be found at the hotel's ghost website. How to see it: The hotel offers history tours for groups of 10 or more. Ghost tours are available by Eureka Springs Ghost Tours. Driskill Hotel - Austin, TX The History: Jesse Lincoln Driskill opened this hotel in 1886. The hotel was grand and luxurious, funded by his success as a cattle baron. In 1888, the family lost its fortune due to drought and a cold winter that killed most of the cattle. The hotel then changed from owner to owner with the most recent change of hands in 1995. The Haunting: Driskill is claimed to still wander the hotel, puffing cigar smoke while he turns lights on and off. There is the ghost of a small girl, daughter of a Senator who was left unattended and fell to her death while playing with her ball - she can still be heard bouncing the ball today. How to see it: The hotel is open to guest today and offers all kinds of pampering. The Feathers Hotel - Ludlow, Shropshire, UK The History: The original building was built in 1619 and has been added to and modified since. First a private residence, it was changed to an Inn in 1670 after the English Civil War and would remain one for the next 200 years! In 1863 it changed to a hotel and started to acquire more land and expand. Why feathers? There are faded motifs of ostrich feathers on the outer woodwork still visible. They were a symbol of the Prince of Wales and "en vogue" at the time of construction. Not to mention the town of Ludlow was royalist even during the English Civil War. The Haunting: There is a female "guest" in room 211 who is known to bother women rather then men in the room, pulling their hair and letting them know they are not welcome. There are a couple gentlemen ghosts roaming about including one who is accompanied by his ghost dog! How to see it: You can join on a ghost hunting adventure either with Eerie Evenings or Haunted Breaks. Or you may opt to spend the night and enjoy the historic surroundings. Heceta House - Yachats, OR The History: This house accompanies a lighthouse on the Oregon coast built in 1894. Many families occupied the house complex over time which included a post office, school and the light house. But it is only the keeper's house that has tales of hauntings. Many believe this is the mother of child who fell off the cliffs back at the turn of the century. The Haunting: The ghost named Rue is said to be an extra caretaker of the house. She makes it known if she is displeased with any activity in the house. One of the more humorous accounts was of her screaming in the middle of a card game, she didn't want them playing cards in her house! How to see it: This house is now a bed and breakfast. It also has guided tours from its interpretive center. Although the current owners don't play up and advertise the ghost they have said guests have told them of strange encounters. Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego, CA The History: Babcock and Story built this resort to be the "talk of the Western world" in 1888. Since then it has been visited by presidents, foreign dignitaries, celebrities and heroes like Charles Lindbergh and Thomas Edison. The hotel was famous as a backdrop for "Some Like It Hot" starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The Haunting: According to the hotel website, the tales of ghosts started with the untimely death of Kate Morgan. She was a guest in November 1892 that never left. She came to meet her estranged husband but he never showed. Kate was then found dead on the hotel steps leading to the ocean. She had died of a gunshot wound to the head that was officially deemed a suicide but is speculated to this day by some to be a case of murder. She likes to slam doors and randomly turn on the TV. Some have also seen indentation in the sheets as if someone was sleeping there. There are other ghosts in the hotel as well that love to flicker the lights, provide cold spots and make some random noises. How to see it: Of course you can stay at this stunning resort and enjoy the spa, golf course, pool or take some surfing lessons. To find out more click here (Kate's room was 312, then renumbered to 3312 and now to 3327 - check with staff to verify your request). Hotel El Convento - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico The History: This former Carmelite convent named The Monastery of Our Lady Carmne of San Jose was founded in 1651. The nuns left this convent in 1903 and site fell into ruin until 1962 when Robert Woolworth purchased it to make it into a resort. The Haunting: Dona Ana was a noblewoman who lost her husband in the war with the Dutch and then turned to her faith. She donated the land for the Carmelite convent. It is said her spirit and those of nuns can be seen about the grounds and gliding through the halls. How to see it: For information about how to enjoy a luxurious stay with these faithful spirits Jerome Grand Hotel - Jerome, AZ The History: Built in 1926, this building was originally the United Verde Hospital. The hospital was built to be fireproof and withstand blasts from the dynamite mining nearby. One of the best hospitals in the west, it unfortunately was phased out when the mining in the area began to slow down and closed by 1950. The building stood empty until 1994; it had been a time capsule having been unchanged for 44 years. It is now being restored as a hotel with many of the rooms already completed and open for guests. The Haunting: Being a hospital, there were many patients that perished in its walls. However, there were deaths of two orderlies that many believed to have been murder. There is also one recorded suicide. When the building lay dormant for 44 years, locals claimed they would still see lights burning in the vacant building. Since being reopen, more paranormal activity has been noticed. The most common is for guests to feel temperature drops and hear coughing or labored breathing in empty rooms or corners of their own guestroom. One ghost is said to be a woman who died in childbirth. She is upset that her child was buried in an unmarked grave and prowls the ground looking for the babe. How to see it: You may stay in the hotel today. Room rates begin at $110 and go up from there. Being the highest point in the Verde Valley, it offers some great views. And if you're lucky, maybe a glance at a ghost or two! Kehoe House - Savannah, GA The History: This home was built in 1892 for William Kehoe and his family. The large family (they had 10 children!) kept the home until 1930. After that the home became a boarding house, funeral parlor, and a private residence. In 1992 the home opened as a B&B, it changed ownership in 2003, but remains an inn with a B&B atmosphere. The Haunting: The main tragedy of the house (that we know of) was the death of the Kehoe twins who died when playing around the chimney. Children can be heard running the halls and some guests have even had children check in on them in their rooms. But if you don't see the children, their mother Annie is reputed to still wander the rooms, making sure to tuck in all the guests at night! How to see it: Why not spend the night? Ask for rooms 201 or 203. Kewaunee Inn - Kewaunee, WI The History: Built in 1912 by William Karsten this inn is still commonly known as the Hotel Karsten. Father and son managed this hotel until William Karsten Jr.'s death in 1964. The hotel then changed hands and received various facelifts. The most recent owners renamed the hotel to the Kewaunee Inn at Hamachek Village in May 2008. The Haunting: The ghosts at the Kewaunee Inn didn't start to bug the living until after renovations started in 1966. The inn website mentions the triad of ghosts include William Karsten Sr, Billy Karsten III (who died at 5 years of age shortly after his grandfather), and Agatha the housekeeper. Agatha seems to be the most active, floating about the halls and popping up behind you when you look in the mirror! She doesn't seem to like men much - so any male guests be on your guard! William likes to have a drink at the bar now and then and Billy still runs up and down the hall playing. How to see it: Brave enough to spend the night? Lemp Mansion - St. Louis, MO The History: This house was purchased by William Lemp around 1864 to use as a residence and office for the family brewery. William's father had used a family recipe/method to create a lager beer. This beer quickly became popular and William's father abandoned his grocery store to become a full time brewer. The beer continued to be made by the family until 1922 when family mishap and prohibition forced them to shut down and sell for good. The mansion itself has a sorrowful history with one brother dying under mysterious circumstances and three other men of the family committing suicide inside. The Haunting: With three suicides one can easily guess where the idea of ghosts haunting the mansion started. However, the families odd history also adds fuel to the imagination. There is the rumor that William Lemp had an illegitimate son with down syndrome who was kept hidden in the mansion attic his whole life. He is now said to be seen haunting the mansion and has the nickname "Monkey Face Boy." Tales of haunting first started after 1949 when the mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house. Strange knocking and footsteps throughout the mansion scared the tenants away so the house started to run into disrepair. In 1975, the mansion was saved and renovated and turned into a restaurant and inn. All types of sights and sounds have continued and are still reported today. How to see it: Spend the night! Or take a tour if you're too scared... The mansion is a bed and breakfast that offers tours and a restaurant to those who don't want to spend the night. They also host a Halloween Party and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater. Lizzy Borden House - Fall River, MA The History: As with so many haunted homes, this story begins with a murder. On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered by ax in their home. Their eldest daughter, Lizzy, was tried and latter acquitted of the murders. However, she was ostracized from the community for the rest of her life. Some consider that she had a split personality, even those close to her recall erratic and violent behavior. And of course there was the creation of the rhyme: Lizzie Borden took an ax Gave her mother forty whacks; When she saw what she had done Gave her father forty-one! The Haunting: There is a strange woman who tucks guests into bed and perhaps the same woman can be heard weeping in the night. Objects move on their own and electrical equipment such as lights and cameras have some interference. Many claim the most active room is Lizzy's old bedroom - which you can stay in if you want... How to see it: The home is now a bed and breakfast. You may spend the night, take a tour or even spend a weekend at Ghost Hunter University! Magnolia Mansion - New Orleans, LA The History: This home was built in 1857 by Alexander Harris. After Alexander died of yellow fever his widow remarried and sold the home to the Maginnis family. John Maginnis owned a cotton mill and it was rumored he was struck by lightning because of the cruel way he treated his employees. In 1939, John's daughter inherited the home and willed it to the Red Cross. The Red Cross used the home to train nurses for WWII and the Korean War. In 1954 the home was again sold into private ownership. Magnolia Mansion was renovated in 2001 and opened as a B&B in 2002. The Haunting: When renovating the home, the crew had to stop as an oily substance appeared over the walls. The owner then verbalized her plans for the place out loud so the ghosts would know exactly what she was up to. She told them she was improving the home and the ghosts would not be able to scare the guests away. This appeased them for awhile. However, ghosts are still reputed to slam doors and snuggle into bed with guests on occasion. Many guests have photos of orbs and a few extra faces from their visits as well. How to see it: This adult catering B&B offers a great escape to any non-smoker over 21 years of age. Specializing in romance with Elopement and Wedding packages, the B&B also has fun with their ghosts offering a Romantic Ghostly Getaway Package which includes a room, treats and ghost walking tours. Mason House Inn - Bentonsport, IA The History: This hotel was built in 1846 for steamboat travelers along the Des Moines River. Later, the Mason House was used as a 'holding hospital' during the Civil War for soldiers being transferred to Keokuk. It also served as a 'station' along the underground railroad. The Mason House keeps its name from the Mason family who owned the property for 99 years. The Haunting: Three of the owners have died in the building and there was also one murder in one of the guest rooms. In 1860 poor Mr. Knapp had been drinking and accidentally went to the wrong room. The occupant thought he was being robbed and stabbed Mr. Knapp in self-defense. The home had also been a 'holding hospital' in the Civil War and some patients may have died in the home. Also a Doctor renting a room in the 1940s died in the building. All in all, a great hangout for ghosts. The ghosts come in many forms. There are wisps of fog and cold spots to actual figures who appear and disappear from sight. There is a boy that plays tricks; he likes to rustle sheets and tug at guests as they sleep. There are footsteps, thuds and a woman in white. An abundance of ghosts and paranormal events for all! How to see it: Today you may stay at this B&B for about $80/night ($125 if you are staying in the restored caboose!). Request to stay in the main house on the 2nd floor (rooms 5 & 7) for the best chance of paranormal dreams! Ghost Hunting 101 and 102 classes are also available about twice a year and a Halloween Ghost Walk around Oct 31st. McCune Mansion - Salt Lake City, UT The History: This mansion was built in 1900 by a railroad tycoon named Alfred W. McCune. After leaving for California in 1920, the McCune's donated the mansion to the Latter-Day Saint Church. It was then turned into the McCune School of Music. It later became a Brigham Young University Salk Lake City Center and Virginia Tanner Modern Dance School. In 1999 it was purchased by Phil McCarthy who worked to restore the mansion and open it as a hotel. The Haunting: Music is said to still haunt the McCune halls. A small room under the stairs was used by the McCune's as a stage for hired musicians. The whole house would be filled with music but their guests did not know from where it came. It is said this music still fills the air. Other happenings include doors locking that are not fit with locks, doors opening on their own and lights going on and off on their own. How to see it: You can schedule a tour of the mansion through the Utah Heritage Foundation. Myrtles Plantation - St. Francisville, LA The History: This home was built by David Bradford in 1794 but stories of hauntings did not start until the 1950's. The house had a long history with many different owners. There is only one recorded murder of William Winter in 1871. However, there are many tales that are told about the home to justify the hauntings. Most of these seem to be fabricated tales, but many say that is just because the house is so haunted, people needed to make up some kind of explanation. The Haunting: Among the haunting activity is the ghost of a woman in a green turban who some believe to be the ghost of a slave killed for poisoning the head mistress and her two daughters. Others claim this ghost is not a young slave but an older, unknown woman. There is also a little girl who has appeared as well as a frustrated piano player who continuously practices the same cord over and over on the old piano. How to see it: You can dine in the restaurant, take a tour or spend the night. The choice is up to you. The Queen Mary - Long Beach, CA The History: Her maiden voyage was May 27, 1936 but with the coming of WWII she was refitted and used as a troop ship housing 5500 souls by May 5, 1940. By the end of the war it was used to transport as many as 12,886 war brides and children from Europe to the U.S. and Canada on six voyages in four months. More war bride voyages would follow. It became a cruise ship in 1963. By 1967 it was purchased for Long Beach, CA to act as restaurant and museum with the first hotel rooms opening in 1972. The Haunting: The first class swimming pool has some of the most recorded ghost sightings and noises. Many women dressed in 1930 swimsuits have been sighted. But the spirits like to wander and have been seen in many parts of the ship - especially the engine room where two men were crushed to death by the heavy "Door 13". Those who take the self-guided walking tour of the ship have been spooked more than once! How to see it: Brave enough? Click here to find out how to spend the night or click here to take a tour with Ghost and Legends of the Queen Mary group. The tour is technically enhanced to make certain you get a few jumps and spooks. The hotel also hosts a 'Terrorfest' of haunted mazes on Halloween. Ross Castle - Ross, County Meath, Ireland The History: This area shows record of settlement since the Iron Age. The castle tower was completed in 1537 by Richard Nugent, 12th Baron of Delvin. A family loyal to the English crown for their title and rank hoped to received the extra boon of £10 given as encouragement for each fortification built in Ireland. In time the Nugents began to marry the once rival Celtic nobles especially the O'Reillys. In 1644 the castle was pulverized by Cromwellian soldiers in retribution for Myles O'Reilly's defiance. Restoration was begun by the family in the 19th century and the castle was later modernized with plumbing and electricity. The Haunting: The castle's founder, Richard Nugent was also known as the Black Baron and, you guessed it, he had a reputation for being quite unpleasant. The Black Baron had a beautiful daughter named Sabina who had the unfortunate luck to fall in love with Orwin O'Reilly (at this time still an enemy). Moved by love to give up their home, family and wealth, they decided to elope. However, as they made their escape by boat a storm came up and it capsized. Orwin died but Sabina lived. Crushed with heartache, she pinned away in Ross Castle tower until she finally gave up the ghost which in turn walks the halls to this day. She is said to sometimes be heard screaming! The Black Baron is also rumored to haunt the grounds and can be quite unpleasant. How to see it: Besides ghost hunting, you can go fishing, golfing, horseback riding, sailing, boating, hiking, cycling, go see the races or even take flying lessons! Plenty to do and see in a romantic setting. Ruthin Castle - Ruthin, North Wales, UK The History: Legend has it that the original castle was a wooden fort lorded by Huail. He fought King Arthur and wounded him in the knee. A truce was called but Huail later mocked King Arthur and was beheaded. The first stone structure was put up by King Edward I in 1277 and the castle was owned by the crown off and on until sold by Charles I in 1632. The modern stone structure was built in 1826. However some of the older walls, dungeons and tunnels are still standing today. The Haunting: This castle comes with its own Grey Lady, dating back to the time of Edward I, this ghost was sentenced to death for killing the lover of her husband. Soldiers are said to still march around the grounds and prisoners long dead are still heard moaning in agony. How to see it: If you don't find ghost hunting or random spooks exciting enough, this castle offers other entertainment including medieval banquets (one even with a murder mystery theme!), golf, and romantic getaway packages. The Sagamore - Bolton Landing, NY The History: This hotel was originally built in 1883 to provide a getaway on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains. This historic building suffered two fires but was reconstructed in 1930. The resort was meant to be a retreat for the wealthy and is still neighbored by palatial mansions across the lake. The Haunting: This hotel has many ghosts including one of a little boy on the golf course! This boy chased balls and sold them when alive. He died in a tragic accident when he was hit by a car running after a ball. Now his shadowy form can be seen running after golf balls on the course. He likes to steal balls and laugh at golfers as they look for them. When they give up he tosses the ball at them, again, laughing. Other ghosts include the guest who come down from the second floor for dinner every night and wait patiently in the reception area before they literally vanish. Then there is the portly cigar smoker in the elevator who may not appreciate the non-smoking policy these days. How to see it: You can stay in the hotel, vacation lodges or a castle (if you have the cash!). Themed getaways are available including the Murder Mystery Weekend Oct 17-19, 2008 The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO The History: Six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, this hotel has famous views and offers a serene escape. F.O. Stanley created this hotel after moving to the west when forced to by poor health. Besides the hotel he helped to create the sewer, power and water supply for the area. A recent claim to fame is that a stay in this hotel inspired Stephen King's The Shining. The Haunting: Both F.O. and his wife Flora haunt the hotel. They are amicable ghosts that enjoy hanging about the rooms they loved so much such as the Billiard room and Ballroom. Rooms 407 and 418 have reputed activity of lights going on and off, noises and of course rascally kids playing in the nearby hallway. One story relates some guests checked out early as the kids playing in the hall kept them up all night. When the hotel staff looked at the register there were not any kids as guests (at least not any live ones!). How to see it: Not only can you spend the night but you can sign up for a Historic Ghost Tour that tells you all the history that has created a haunted playground. The hotel has fun with the reputation and is hosting 'The Shining Ball' this year on Oct 25 and 31, 2008! The Stone Lion Inn - Guthrie, OK The History: F.E. Houghton built this mansion in 1907. It served most of its years as a residence and later was turned into a funeral home. The only person to die in the home seems to be a young girl who died of whooping cough after receiving the wrong medicine. The Haunting: After turning this mansion into an inn, the new owners woke up at night to the sounds of footsteps and doors opening and closing. They called the police but no intruder was found. Soon after they realized they had their first "guest" who may be a small girl as she likes to take out the toys at night to play. The Story Inn - Nashville, IN The History: This historic inn is located at the boarders of Brown County State Park and Hoosier National Forest. This inn and its collection of buildings is actually what remains of the town of Story that was established in 1851, set up as a lodging community. The Haunting: The Story Inn is haunted by a lady in blue who floats about the second floor of the general store that has been turned into guestrooms. There has also been activity in the restaurant below. A guestbook details the experiences of the spooked over the years. How to see it: Snuggle in for the night. If you don't want a ghost watching over you there are other cabins available in this small community. Thornewood Castle - Lakewood, WA The History: Thornewood Castle was built for Chester Thorne, a successful founder of the Port of Tacoma. This Tudor/Gothic estate was completed in 1911. Inspired by the estates in Britain, the stained glass windows were even imported from a castle in Europe. The castle has many different imports that add to structure and contents of the building. One of the more interesting aspects is the "wishbone sticks" left by the Native American workers who helped in the construction. These sticks help to ward off evil and are found at the foundation in the basement. The Haunting: There are multiple photographs taken of orbs throughout the castle and reports of objects moving on their own. Tape recorders have picked up voices, one of an unknown child. One child did drown in the lake and is said to haunt its shore, perhaps they visit the house as well? Overall, the spirits at Thornwood seem to be a good natured sort. There is not a violent history attached to this home. Although the wife of Mr. Thorne is said to haunt the halls, this is more because she likes the place rather than she is out to get anyone. In fact, some believe Thornwood Castle acts as a vortex and can attract ghosts from the other side. Some guests have reported making contact with loved ones from their lives who have no connection with the castle. How to see it: You may stay in the castle as it is now a B&B. There are Candle Light Tours: for $100 and the cost of a room you can spend the night exploring the haunted halls with a small group of ghost hunters.

Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home-Part 3

This month we have completed handy tips for every 6 months.

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Welcome back to Rocky’s Corner! Last month we discussed Part 2 of an 8 part series of Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home that included every month and every 3 months suggestions.

This month we have completed handy tips for every 6 months. Every 6 Months

SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS: Change batteries and check to make sure they are operating properly. Check with your local building department to see if newer codes recommend adding more detectors than were required when your home was built Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector if you don’t currently have any.

BASEMENT AND FOUNDATION: Check for cracks and moisture and make any necessary repairs.

TOILET: Check for leaks in water feed, tank bottom and repair or replace the toilet if necessary. Consider changing older models for newer.

INTERIOR CAULKING AND GROUT: Inspect caulking and grout around tubs, showers, and sinks; clean and replace if deteriorating.

PIPES: Check your pipes for rust or white lime deposits that may indicate a leak is starting; replace if necessary. Check for leaking around the outside hose bibs. Install insulation around outdoor water pipes to protect from freezing.

WATER HEATER: If you do not routinely flush a quart of water from the tank four times a year, then every six months you should turn off the power source and drain it completely until it’s clear of sediment. Also inspect flue assembly (gas heater); check for leaks and corrosion. A leak usually means the bottom of the storage tank has rusted through. You’ll probably benefit from replacing it with a more energy efficient model.

CENTRAL AIR CONDITIONING SYSTEMS: At the beginning and end of each cooling season, vacuum out the unit and lubricate the motor. If the unit is not cooling properly, contact a technician to check the pressure level of the refrigerant.

GUTTERS AND DOWNSPOUTS: Clear/install/repair gutters and downspouts and make sure the runoff is directed away from your home so it can’t erode the soil around the foundation or run into your basement or crawl space. Install gutter accessories to divert water, channel underground drain lines into existing yard drainage or storm sewers.

NATURAL STONE TILES AND SOLID COUNTERTOPS: Natural stone needs regular maintenance every six months by sealing with an impregnating liquid silicon stone sealer to help repel both water and oil based stains more effectively and be much easier to clean with proper cleaning solutions and methods.

INSPECT YOUR ROOF: Check for warping, aging, moss, and cracking making sure that shingles, shakes or tiles are sound and repair as needed. Inspect the flashing around chimneys, skylights and vents. Seal cracks or openings where water could penetrate. Consider a roof replacement if you notice considerable wear or damage.

SIDING: Inspect siding (especially on the south and storm sides of the house) for evidence of deterioration, including cracks, splintering, decay, and insect damage; clean, treat and repair as needed. Brick and stone: check joints between wood and masonry Waterproof, repair or repaint. Wood: look for lifting or peeling paint, splitting wood or areas where the wood grain is separating . This is evidence that water is getting into the siding. Stucco: a chalking residue that rubs off on your hand is evidence of oxidation, a deterioration of paint or color coat that reduces stucco’s insulation value. If the stucco is cracked, this allows water to get in around windows and doors. Trim: look for peeling paint on the fascia boards, window sills and sashes that could allow water in to form mildew and fungus on the interior of your home behind curtains, blinds and window coverings.

LANDSCAPING: Cut back any trees or shrubs that are touching the exterior. Prune deciduous and flowering shrubs regularly to promote healthy growth, control plant size and shape, and increase the number of flowers and fruit. Check with a local gardening service or your county extension agent for information about appropriate measure in your area for fertilizing, thatching, aerating and reseeding lawn, and controlling disease and insects in all your landscaping.

DOORS AND WINDOWS: Clean exterior of upper-story windows twice a year; clean and lubricate sliding-glass-door tracks and window tracks. Lubricate door hinges and locks.

WEATHER-STRIPPING: Check the weather-stripping around all doors and windows and replace if necessary to reduce drafts and the loss of heated and cooled air. Join me next month for Part 4 of our series on Preventive Maintenance Tips for your Home. We will be discussing Maintenance Tips for once a year. Visit us at www.freminshomeimprovement.com

Home Appraisal

What to Expect & How to Prepare

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The Appraisal Foundation - USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) defines an appraisal as "The act or process of developing an opinion of value." This valuation is a determination of your property's market value - what it will likely sell for on the open market. So how is this "valuation" determined? Why does the idea of getting an "opinion of value" create so much apprehension about the process? What can you do to make your home appraise better, if anything?

What do you do if your home doesn't appraise well?
elow are commonly asked questions that hopefully will give some clarity about home appraisals. What is a home appraisal? A home appraisal is a survey of a home by a professional for their opinion of the property market value. In most cases an appraisal is done for a bank when a home is being approved for a loan for the home buyer. The home appraisal is a detailed report that looks at such items as the condition of the home, the neighborhood, what similar homes are selling for, and how quickly similar homes sell (to name a few). The appraisal may be a sales comparison or a cost/replacement opinion of value. There is also an income appraisal, but this is done primarily with commercial properties. The sales comparison will look at other properties in your neighborhood and what they are selling for and then figure how they compare to your home. With a cost/replacement opinion of value the appraiser is looking at what it would cost to replace the home if destroyed; this is more commonly used for new homes.
Important Note: An appraisal is not a home inspection! Appraisers only look for major concerns, they do not examine the home's full condition (i.e. examine the roof, appliances, etc.). For this reason a home inspection should still be requested by the home buyer before purchasing the home.

Who is an appraiser?
Appraisers are licensed by individual states and are held to strict ethical standards. Appraisers are the third party whose purpose is to give their opinion of the market value of a home. Ideally the appraiser should not be connected with anyone involved with the home transaction.

Who picks the appraiser?
When an offer is made on the house the appraiser will normally be determined by the lender. The lender may have their own appraiser or contract with an independent party. Sometimes the bank will allow the seller to choose an appraiser, but only when that appraiser is already well known to them.

Can the seller get their own appraisal done?
Yes. The home seller may commission their own appraisal before selling the property to determine cost. However, this will cost anywhere from $300-500 and the bank most likely will not accept this appraisal but request another to be done by their own contact.

If not by appraisal, how do I set the price for my home?
Home sellers can set the price of their home with the help of a REALTOR(r) using a comparative market analysis (CMA); the CMA is not a substitute for an appraisal but will give a good idea on setting an asking price (usually 5-10% more than the market price for your area).

How can you prepare your home for appraisal?
Prepare for your home appraisal like you would for a home sale. You are in essence re-selling your home. Make sure all the maintenance you can do is done; this includes clearing and trimming the yard to painting the house - hopefully most of this was already done for the sale and should at most need only a minor touch up. Be polite to the appraiser and give them full access to your home; work with them not against. Inform the appraiser of your home improvements. Let them know about the new windows, new floors, the finished basement, etc. And finally, don't be caught off guard. Do your homework! Know what similar homes are selling for in your neighborhood. This is something that should be done before setting your selling price. But in case your home has been on the market for a month or two, keep your research current. Let the appraiser know about similar homes and what they have sold for, especially if you know why a particular home that is like yours sold for less, let them know why your house is different.

What if the appraisal is low?
An appraisal that comes in lower then the asking price can jeopardize the loan and ultimately the sale. The lender will generally only loan up to 80% of the appraisers opinion of the home's value. The most common result is that the seller can lower their asking price. Or the seller and buyer can negotiate and meet at a price in-between. If the buyer still wants the home badly enough, they may put more money down; but this may still not guarantee their loan as the lender will still view it as negative equity. The final option is to dispute the appraisal. Before disputing with an appraisal, do your homework. Look at the homes in your community that have sold in the last 6 months and see what the differences are that may make your home more valuable. Perhaps there is a sale that the appraiser missed, perhaps other homes do not have the renovations and improvements you have done, perhaps the appraiser is not familiar with your type of home or neighborhood, etc. Building this case may be a good idea even before the appraisal. This will prevent you from getting rushed by the timeline after the appraisal is done. This is something you can ask for your REALTOR(r) to help with as they usually have a vast knowledge of your market area. Once you have the case, present it to the lender. They will likely get a new appraiser or request the same appraiser to reconsider it. If you do not want the same appraiser, make sure to specify this and ask for a second opinion.

What other aspects of the appraisal can hurt the loan?
By in far, the appraisers opinion of the home's value being lower than the asking price is the most detrimental. However, other factors may cause the lender to refuse the loan or require further contract negotiations. These concerns would result from property conditions that may require the home buyer to do more investing in the property to keep it valuable, such as upkeep on a private road. Your REALTOR(r) can help you with these types of objections and altering the contract to meet the lenders concerns.

The above is an introduction to answer some basic questions about the appraisal process. Please look at the links to the left for more detailed information. Now, if you are interested in what your home may be worth, check out Zillow for fun! This online program uses Google Maps to show what homes in your neighborhood are selling for or may be worth. Of course, I would suggest caution as the opinion of value given for most homes is rather high: http://zillow.com/ Happy appraising!