The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring a Contractor

Constructing or remodeling a home is a complex, expensive endeavor. Ideally, everything goes as planned, and when the dust clears, the homeowner can settle in and enjoy the new home — and never think about the building process again.

But what happens when, nine months after the owner moves in, the floor develops a crack, the dishwasher begins to leak or the shower water won’t run hot? Or when these things happen three years later? It’s time to refer to an all-important piece of the contract: the warranty.

What Is a Warranty?

The purpose of a warranty is to protect both the homeowner and the builder — homeowners from shoddy work with no recourse; builders from being liable for projects for the rest of their lives.

A warranty may be included in a contract, or it may not be since it’s not required. There is no standard length of time for one. Rather, a warranty is a negotiable portion of the overall agreement (contract) between a homeowner and a contractor.

The laws that relate to warranties are somewhat vague and vary by state, so the advantage of having one as part of the contract is that everything can be clearly spelled out. However, by agreeing to a particular warranty without understanding its finer points, owners may inadvertently limit the protections they would have otherwise had under the law.

“A warranty describes the problems and remedies for which the builder will be responsible after completion of the project, as well as the duration of the warranty and the mechanism for addressing disputes,” says David Jaffe, vice president of legal advocacy at the National Association of Home Builders.

At least in the ideal case.

 

The Law Governing Warranties

Before homeowners agree to a particular warranty as part of their contract, it’s important to understand what protections they already have under the law. In the U.S., we have a legal concept of an implied warranty — which is a warranty that does not have to be spelled out in the contract but is simply understood to exist thanks to the law. There are two important implied warranties when it comes to home construction.

The first is the implied warranty of good workmanship, which is the reasonable expectation that a home will be built in a workmanlike manner. The second is the implied warranty of habitability, which is the reasonable expectation that the home will be safe to inhabit.

The implied warranties, however, have limits in the form of statutes of limitation and statutes of repose, which essentially are time clocks that determine for how long a homeowner may sue a contractor.

Statutes of limitation in each state dictate how long an owner can invoke various types of legal claims — for example, a breach of contract claim.

Statutes of repose apply specifically to construction projects and set the time for which builders and designers are liable for their product. These also vary by state. In California, the statute of repose is four years for most defects, but 10 years for latent defects (those that aren’t observable right away, such as a faulty foundation). In Georgia, the statute of repose is eight years for all claims related to the design or construction of the building.

Finally, most states also have a right to repair law, which means that before homeowners can sue a contractor, they need to notify the contractor of the problem and give him or her a chance to come to see it and repair it.

To find out what the laws are in your state, simply do an online search for “statute of repose” and “right to repair” in your state.

 

The One-Year Warranty

The key thing to understand about warranties is that many builders offer their own warranty in lieu of the implied warranty. Additionally, many contracts specify that homeowners are giving up their rights to the implied warranty by agreeing to the builder’s express warranty. Also, builders will “often try to shorten statutes of limitation and statutes of repose. Some states allow you to do that. Others don’t,” says Anthony Lehman, an Atlanta attorney who advises homeowners.

Though there is no industry-wide standard, many residential contractors have adopted a one-year warranty for their contracts. The practice likely trickled down from commercial construction, where a callback warranty is typical. A callback warranty means that within one year, a building owner has the right to call back the contractor and expect him or her to repair work, Lehman says.

The downside for homeowners who agree to a one-year warranty is that they likely trade away their right to the implied warranty, and they may also agree to limit the time they have to discover a defect and sue. Obviously, this is a plus for builders because it limits their risk.

But there is no real reason a homeowner has to accept a one-year warranty simply because that’s the builder’s first offer. “It’s a negotiated point, and people can negotiate warranties that are broader — and they often do,” says Robert C. Procter, outside general counsel for the Wisconsin Builders Association. “If you don’t ask for more, you won’t get more.”

 

Pros and Cons of a Builder’s Warranty

Though a one-year warranty may seem like a poor deal for a homeowner, a contract with details spelled out does provide an upside: some degree of clarity in the process. Ideally, a warranty includes not only the time period that the warranty covers, but also the standards by which various materials will be evaluated, and the steps to follow when a problem arises.

In a minority of states, the legislature has codified what a warranty is and how long it lasts for a variety of materials, Jaffe says. They are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. If you live in one of these states, you can refer to the state-set standards.

If you do not, one option is to refer to the NAHB’s publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines. “It’s broken down by categories within the home: foundations, exterior, interior, roofing, plumbing,” Jaffe says. “If there’s an issue that comes up, you look in this publication, and it tells you what the observation is — what’s the problem.” The guide then spells out what the corrective measure — if any — should be.

If you decide to use this guide as the standards by which problems will be judged, be sure you read it first and are comfortable with its terms. Sometimes having the terms spelled out is simpler than relying on the implied warranty because the implied warranty is so vague.

“The implied warranty doesn’t have a fixed time; it’s a reasonable period of time,” says Jaffe, of the NAHB. “If you’re a homeowner, and you call your builder up in year five and say, ‘There’s a crack here, and I think you should come out and fix it because it’s a defect,’ well, at that point, it may or may not be related to something that the builder did or didn’t do. Is it a defect? Who is going to make that determination? What is the fix? Who is responsible for it?”

Relying on the implied warranty means that these sorts of questions would need to be resolved in court if the parties aren’t willing to, or can’t, come to an agreement on their own. Open for debate is whether an item is a warranty item, and for how long it’s covered. Having these issues determined in court can be an expensive, time-consuming headache for everyone involved.

Still, some attorneys say owners might be better off with the implied warranty than giving up their rights for a limited one provided by the builder. “You build a house, and you expect it to be there for a long time. The buildings in Europe have been there a long time. The pyramids have been there a long time. The question is how long is it reasonable for you to expect it to last,” says Susan Linden McGreevy, an attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, who specializes in commercial real estate work. “If it has to get before a jury, the contractor has lost already. What I mean is, the jury will always find in favor of a homeowner — unless they’re a real flake.”

 

Going Beyond Warranties

Despite all this talk of legalities, there is an important caveat: Many good builders will continue to be helpful even after their express warranty has passed. Anne Higuera, co-owner of Ventana Construction in Seattle, provides a one-year warranty to her clients. Nonetheless, Ventana has made repairs and fixes even years after the one-year warranty expired. Higuera says the company does so because the builders want good relationships with their customers, and because they feel as though it’s the right thing to do. “Warranty issues come up very rarely if you do things well in the first place,” Higuera says. “Just finding a contractor who does the right thing on the front end helps you avoid issues with warranty.”

 

More Ways to Protect Yourself

So what should homeowners do if a builder is offering only a one-year warranty? One option is to negotiate for a longer period of time. “You might want to say, ‘I’ll take a one-year warranty for everything except latent defects,’” McGreevey says. (Reminder: Those are the kind that take a long time to discover, such as foundation problems.)

Another option owners have is to ask builders about insurance products. Many builders offer products with an extended warranty — as long as 10 years — that is backed by insurance companies. These are typically paid for by the builder, with the cost passed on to the homeowner.

Third, homeowners would be wise to consult an attorney to make sure that they’re not giving up rights unknowingly. Given that owners are spending thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on construction, paying for five to 10 hours of an attorney’s time (at $300 per hour, $1,500 to $3,000) to ensure that the contract is sound is probably a good investment. “Would you buy a car for $50,000 and not read any of the financing information?” says Lehman, the Atlanta attorney. “And then people do that for a home construction project.”

Finally, the most important thing is for both contractors and owners to screen each other carefully. “Ninety-eight percent of the homeowner-builder relationships, when there’s a disagreement, most parties reach a reasonable conclusion, even if they’re not 100 percent happy,” says Procter, the Wisconsin attorney. “The contracts matter more when someone is not being reasonable.”

 

By Erin Carlyle, Houzz.com

Posted on May 30, 2019 at 7:21 am
Philip Cooper | Category: For Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , ,

The Question of the Day

As we are helping people understand their new property assessments and putting together information so that they may protest their new valuation, here is the most common question we hear…

Did my property really go up that much?

Here are some stats that will help you answer that question.

First, you need to know that property assessments are done by the County every two years. So, as you look at how much your property increased in value according to the County, keep in mind that this increase is over a two-year period.

 

Next, it will help you to know how much our markets increased, on average, over the last two years. This data comes from our most trusted source, the Federal Housing Finance Authority.

Two Year Appreciation:

• Metro Denver = 18.65%
• Larimer County = 17.60%
• Weld County = 22.31%
• Boulder County = 16.28%


If you have questions about your new valuation or how to protest your property’s assessment, we would be happy to help. Just reach out and let us know.

Posted on May 24, 2019 at 1:12 pm
Philip Cooper | Category: Fun facts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vegas Baby!

 

The results are in from FHFA.gov’s latest ranking of the top performing markets in the U.S.

Each quarter they track 245 cities across the country and rank their real estate markets by home price appreciation.

 

What’s the highest performing city the the U.S.

Vegas!  Their prices have gone up 17.63% in the last year.

 

How about the worst?

Bloomington, Illinois sits in dead last where prices went down 3.58%

 

Here’s how Colorado cities are ranked:

• #10 Colo. Springs = 11.41%
• #16 Greeley = 10.68%
• #59 Fort Collins = 8.29%
• #64 Denver = 8.15%
• #97 Boulder = 6.85%

Posted on March 1, 2019 at 9:52 am
Fort Collins | Category: BlogFun Facts | Tagged 
Posted on March 18, 2019 at 7:17 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Fun facts | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

A Beginner’s Guide to Managing a Remodel

Browsing photos and ideas can be a fun part of creating your dream room. But making your designs a reality also takes smart planning and organization. Project management is an essential part of remodeling, and there’s nothing like the feeling of implementing a plan to create something new and beautiful. These tips can help you achieve your desired results.

Find a Local Contractor to Create Your Dream Home

YourSpace Contractors, original photo on Houzz

Become a list writer. Making lists is key when it comes to project management. It’s the only way to properly organize your thoughts and prevent any details from being forgotten.

The most important list is your scope of work, or specifications, document. This is basically a detailed list of everything to be done, from start to finish. If you’re dealing with one main builder who’s organizing all the work, then you’ll need to make sure he or she gets a copy, so the goals are clear and all the information is provided.

Also, having detailed specifications makes it easier if you want to obtain multiple quotes, and you’ll know it’s a fair comparison since all the builders will be quoting using the same criteria.

frenchStef Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Make sure you’re all on the same page. If you’re coordinating separate subcontractors (cabinetmaker, plumber, electrician), then it would be worth indicating who’s responsible for each task. Give a complete copy of the specifications to all of them, so they’re all aware of what everyone is doing. Discuss the specifications with your subcontractors since they may be able to provide help and advice. A schedule is also useful, so you can keep track of progress and everyone knows who’s going to be on-site on which day.

With prior knowledge that a partition wall will feature some lighting, for instance, the builders will know to leave the stud frame open for the electrician to run the wires through before it’s boarded up and plastered over. Trying to feed wires through after the fact is much harder, takes longer and risks unnecessary damage.

Sian Baxter Lighting Design, original photo on Houzz

Break into subsections. In addition to your main specifications, it’s a good idea to have sublists for each separate element of your design. For example, your main specifications may say “install 6 x recessed LED downlights in ceiling,” but your lighting specifications will detail where they are to be positioned, the type of bulb, the hardware finish and so on. The more information you provide, the more accurate your quote should be and the less likely it will be for mistakes or misunderstandings to occur. It will also minimize any unexpected costs.

This bathroom has a minimalist elegance, but it’s far from straightforward. This project would have required a builder’s spec, including layout and elevation drawings with dimensions, an electrical spec with lighting plan, a plumbing spec with layout drawing, and a decorating spec — phew!

Plan like a pro. Finalize your design before starting any work, rather than trying to do it as you go along. The process will be much more enjoyable without constant deadlines presenting themselves, and if you haven’t planned, you may find your options restricted based on work that’s already taken place.

Take a couple of weeks to put it all together, write your specifications, draw up the plans, get everything ready and make all the decisions before proceeding. This will save you time and money along the way, and significantly reduce stress levels during the project.

This clever design features well-thought-out lighting and custom cabinetry. Careful consideration would have been given to where to position the outlets, radiators, lights, switches and other details.

Yellow Letterbox, original photo on Houzz

Never assume. You know the saying. When writing your specifications or drawing your plans, never assume that someone else will know what you want unless you explicitly state it. Include every tiny detail, no matter how picky it may seem. As well as avoiding mistakes, it also prevents any disputes over what is and isn’t included in the quote.

This bathroom just wouldn’t have looked the same if white grout had been used, for instance. You may think it would be absurd to even consider using white grout in this case, but if you haven’t asked for dark gray, you can’t expect it and you can’t assume that you will be asked what color you want. White is standard, and a tiler may use it if nothing has been specified.

Stand by for decisions. Your builder will present many questions and decisions to you along the way. Which tiles do you want on the walls? Where do you want these wall lights? What color do you want on the baseboards?

Your best bet will be to try to pre-empt as many of these decisions as possible and have the answers ready or, even better, provide the information in advance. Making these decisions under pressure can lead to impulse moves you may regret later. However, taking too long could hold up the project, costing you time, money and the patience of your builder. No one wants an unhappy builder.

Inevitably, there will be some questions you couldn’t have anticipated, but if you communicate well with your contractors, they should, where possible, give you time to make a decision without holding up the project. Don’t be afraid to ask their opinion on the best course of action, but don’t feel pressured to compromise on the design if you don’t want to.

Brilliant Lighting, original photo on Houzz

Give yourself time to deliver. This is one of the classic pitfalls, so take note. When pulling your design ideas together and deciding which products and materials to use, make a note of the lead times. Many pieces of furniture are made to order and can have lead times of up to 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Similarly, tile and natural stone can take much longer than expected to arrive, and products from abroad can encounter holdups during transit.

This chandelier was custom-made for the project and looks fantastic. This is no last-minute, off-the-shelf, next-day-delivery job. It can be a huge shame if you’ve spent hours, days, weeks choosing the perfect product, but when you come to order it, you find that it will take too long to be delivered, perhaps time you can’t afford. Then you have to decide whether to hold up the work or pick something else based on the fact it can be delivered quickly.

Find a Bathroom Vanity for Your Bath Remodel

Factor in a contingency. Even when you have the very best of intentions, issues that you couldn’t have predicted may arise during your project. So it’s a good idea to factor in a 10 percent contingency within your budget for these matters, especially with old buildings. Who knows what condition the walls are in behind those kitchen cabinets before you rip them out? Or what may be lurking underneath that carpet when you pull it up?

In these situations, it’s important to expect the worst and don’t let it throw you off your game. You are a project manager extraordinaire, and you’ve totally got this. Just accept that these things happen, find out what the options are and make a decision. Your contractors will be able to advise on what to do, so harness their expertise and trust them to help you find the right solution.

Elayne Barre Photography, original photo on Houzz

Call in the cavalry. If you choose to manage your project yourself, it’s certainly an enjoyable and rewarding process, but it also takes a certain type of person. You have to be organized, calm under pressure, strategic and confident — not to mention being able to afford the time to plan, coordinate and oversee the work.

If you have qualms about taking it on yourself, then consider hiring a project manager. Yes, there will be a fee, but consider that a badly managed project can cost you time and money, and you may not achieve the results you were after. A pro will take care of everything and allow you to rest easy, knowing you’re in safe hands.

Posted on February 24, 2019 at 7:18 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Housing Trends | Tagged , , ,

What’s in a Condo? The In-Between Style of Home That Might Be the Right Fit for You

Condominium homes are a great, low-maintenance choice for a primary residence, second home, or investment property. This alternative to the traditional single-family home has unique issues to consider before buying, as well as unique benefits. Here’s some background information to help you decide whether purchasing a condo is a good match for you.

Increasingly, condos are not just for first-time home buyers looking for a less expensive entry into the housing market. Empty-nesters and retirees are happy to give up mowing the lawn and painting the house. Busy professionals can experience luxury living knowing their home is safe and well-maintained while they are away on business.  If you are considering buying a condominium for a home, here are a few things you should know:

Condominium basics:

With condominiums, you own everything in your unit on your side of the walls. Individual owners hold title to the condominium unit only, not the land beneath the unit. All owners share title to the common areas: the grounds, lobby, halls, parking areas and other amenities. A homeowners’ association (HOA) usually manages the complex and collects a monthly fee from all condominium owners to pay for the operation and maintenance of the property. These fees may include such items as insurance, landscape, and grounds upkeep, pool maintenance, security, and administrative costs.

The owners of the units in a condominium are all automatic members of the condo association. The association is run by a volunteer Board of Directors, who manage the operations and upkeep of the property. A professional management company may also be involved in assisting the board in their decisions. The condo association also administers rules and regulations designed to ensure safety and maintain the value of your investment. Examples include whether or not pets are allowed and the hours of use for condominium facilities, such as pools and work-out rooms. Should a major expense occur, all owners are responsible for paying their fair share of the expense.

The pros and cons of condominium living:

The condominium lifestyle has many benefits, but condominium ownership isn’t for everyone. Part of it depends on your lifestyle. Condominium living may not be optimum for large families with active kids. The other factor is personal style. By necessity, condominium associations have a number of standardized rules. You need to decide whether these regulations work for you or not. Here are some points to keep in mind if you’re considering condominium living.

Cost: Condominium homes typically cost less than houses, so they’re a great choice for first-time buyers. However, because condominiums are concentrated in more expensive locations, and sizes are generally smaller than a comparable single-family home, the price per square foot for a condominium is usually higher.

Convenience: People who love living in condominiums always cite the convenience factor. It’s nice to have someone else take care of landscaping, upkeep, and security. Condominium homes are often located in urban areas where restaurants, groceries, and entertainment are just a short walk away.

Luxury amenities: May condominiums offer an array of amenities that the majority of homeowners couldn’t afford on their own, such as fitness centers, clubhouses, wine cellars, roof-top decks, and swimming pools. Lobbies of upscale condominiums can rival those of four-star hotels, making a great impression on residents.

Privacy: Since you share common walls and floors with other condominium owners, there is less privacy than what you’d expect in a single-family home. While condominiums are built with noise abatement features, you may still occasionally hear the sound of your neighbors.

Space: With the exception of very high-end units, condominiums are generally smaller than single-family homes. That means less storage space and often, smaller rooms. The patios and balconies of individual units are usually much smaller as well.

Autonomy: As a condominium owner, you are required to follow the laws of the associations. That means giving up a certain about of control and getting involved in the group decision-making process. Laws vary greatly from property to property, and some people may find certain rules too restrictive. If you long to paint your front door red or decorate your deck with tiki lanterns, condominium living might not be for you.

Things to consider when you decide to buy:

Condominium homes vary from intimate studios to eclectic lofts and luxury penthouses. The right condominium is the one that best fits your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask to determine which condominium is right for you.

How will you use it? 

Will your condominium be your primary residence? A second home? An investment property? While a studio may be too small for a primary residence, it might be a perfect beachfront getaway. Also, consider how your lifestyle may change over the next five to seven years. If you are close to retirement, you may want to have the option of turning a vacation condominium into your permanent home.

Where would you like to live?

Some people love the excitement and sophistication of urban living. Others dream of skiing every weekend. Whether it’s the sound of the surf or the lure of the golf course, a condominium home affords you the ability to live a carefree lifestyle in virtually any setting.

What amenities are most important to you?

The variety of condominium amenities increases each year. Decide what you want, and you can be assured of finding it. Most urban and resort condominiums have an enticing array of extras, from spas to movie screening rooms to tennis courts.

What are your specific needs?

Do you have a pet? Some associations don’t allow them; others have limitations on their size. Parking can be a major issue, especially in dense, urban areas. How many spaces do you get per unit? Do you pay extra if you have more vehicles?

Finally, once you’ve found a property you like, examine the association’s declaration, rules, and bylaws to make sure they fit your needs. The association will provide you with an outline of their monthly fees and exactly what they cover so you can accurately budget your expenses.

Review the association board’s meeting minutes from the past year to get an idea of any issues the association is working on. An analysis of sales demand and property appreciation compared to like units may help ensure that you make the best possible investment.

Posted on February 22, 2019 at 7:16 am
Philip Cooper | Category: For Buyers & Sellers | Tagged , , , ,

Staging Your Home – Pink Flamingos not included

Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds Pink Flamingoof entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.

•  Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.

•  Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.

• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.

• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.

• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look.  And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.

• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.

• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.

Posted on February 18, 2019 at 4:14 pm
Philip Cooper | Category: Sellers | Tagged , , , ,

FUNdamentals

 

In times of change (like now), it’s valuable to look at the fundamentals of our market.

Let’s have some fun with fundamentals…

1.  Our economy is healthy – since 1990, the unemployment rate in Colorado has never been higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.  Ever.  Unemployment in Colorado sits at 2.7% today while the rate across the U.S. is 4.0%.

2.  People keep moving here – since 2005 our population has grown by just over a million people which is roughly 77,000 per year (about the size of Mile High Stadium).

3.  Our real estate outperforms other places – according the Federal Housing Finance Authority, Colorado is the #1 state for home price appreciation since 1990.

Posted on November 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm
Philip Cooper | Category: For Buyers & Sellers, Market News | Tagged , , , , , , ,

A History Lesson

One of the most common questions we hear from clients is “Where do you think interest rates are going?”

Virtually all of the experts we follow put rates above 5% going into next year and some see rates approaching 5.5% by the middle of 2019. What’s certain is that there are economic forces at work that are pushing rates higher.

So, how about a little history lesson? How do today’s 30- year mortgage rates compare to this same date in history going all the way back to 1990?

• Today = 4.85%
• 2017 = 3.94%
• 2015 = 3.82%
• 2010 = 4.27%
• 2005 = 5.98%
• 2000 = 7.84%
• 1995 = 7.75%
• 1990 = 10.22%

While today’s rates feel high only because they are higher than 2017, they are quite a bit lower than at many times in history.

Posted on November 1, 2018 at 7:21 am
Philip Cooper | Category: Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , ,

FUNdamentals

 

In times of change (like now), it’s valuable to look at the fundamentals of our market.

Let’s have some fun with fundamentals…

1.  Our economy is healthy – since 1990, the unemployment rate in Colorado has never been higher than the U.S. unemployment rate.  Ever.  Unemployment in Colorado sits at 2.7% today while the rate across the U.S. is 4.0%.

2.  People keep moving here – since 2005 our population has grown by just over a million people which is roughly 77,000 per year (about the size of Mile High Stadium).

3.  Our real estate outperforms other places – according the Federal Housing Finance Authority, Colorado is the #1 state for home price appreciation since 1990.

Posted on October 30, 2018 at 2:20 am
Philip Cooper | Category: For Buyers & Sellers, Fun facts, Market News | Tagged , , , , , , ,