We are being asked about changing fireplaces nearly weekly lately. It must be something in the air- or maybe just that turn of season that’s making people think about that coziest of features- their fireplace. Sometimes the cause for the question is that, flat out, the fireplace doesn’t work- it smokes, it leaks, it won’t light, or it won’t stay lit. Other times, there’s an aesthetic issue- you just don’t like the size, shape, or look of the fireplace or it’s surround. So, to begin with, there’s two main parts to the fireplace- the firebox and the surround. The firebox is the business part of the fireplace, that’s where the flame and smoke is. The surround is the (hopefully) beautiful part around the firebox, which would include the mantle and overmantle (if you have one). The fireboxes come in 2 main flavors-masonry and manufactured. Personally, a full masonry firebox, beautifully done, can’t be beat. But, if you don’t already have one, they are fairly expensive and difficult to add later. The manufactured variety comes in all kinds of styles-some can be woodburning, some gas logs only. Any of these can be changed, but the change may entail changes to the flues and chimneys as well. Changing the surround is typically messy, but not so difficult. The benefit is that, since the fireplace is usually the centerpiece for the room it’s in, changing the look of the fireplace can totally change the feel of that room- and maybe the spaces around it too!
I recently had a chance to talk to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal about construction lending to smaller builders. It’s interesting for me to hear what’s happening around the country and talking to Ken gave me a window on what’s happening in other areas. In general, though, business post-recession hasn’t returned to “normal” for custom builders-especially when it comes to banking relationships. Myers Homes used to have open lines of credit that we used to finance our projects for our customers – today, we need to help our customers navigate the borrowing world and can’t offer that service as the banks won’t establish those kinds of lines of credit for us. I’m lucky to have been able to establish a new banking relationship when our previous banking relationship hit the rocks-but others haven’t been so lucky. Ironically, it appears that banks are getting more comfortable making vastly larger, infinitely more risky, loans than those to builders like Myers Homes. Here we go again!
While I don’t think smallish custom builders had much, if anything, to do with the banking woes in 2007-2012, we have paid a relatively heavy price. Fortunately, today we have great resources for our customers to use and are able to fund whatever kinds of projects come our way. And, someday, maybe the banks in general, will come to remember what they used to know without a second thought- custom builders are in the business of servicing clients- those they build for, and those they build with- and weren’t the ones that would cut and run when trouble started! Here’s a link to the WSJ story- enjoy! http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/lending-for-construction-grows-4-in-2nd-quarter-1409247736?mobile=y
I came across an article in Bloomberg this morning about a lawsuit in CA in which a buyer claims that a Realtor inflated the square footage of a home that the buyer wound up buying. This is one of the oldest issues in real estate transactions- how big is the home? Different areas have different customs for what is included in these calculations. Here, in OH, it is customary to include only the main living levels, not outside porches, basements, or garages. In Florida, I’ve noticed two numbers- the square footage “under air” and a total that may or may not include outdoor spaces. In the case at hand http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-20/chinese-millionaire-roils-brokers-over-shrinking-mansion.html , a California community seems to have actually changed, by statute, what is included, and the Buyer and Realtor were not only from different countries, speaking different languages, but on different pages altogether as to what each thought the square footage of this home included.
A much more interesting part of the lawsuit, though, is that the Realtor represented both Buyer and Seller- so-called Dual Agency. When you are hiring a Realtor in a given instance, it is wise to ask who they represent. In Ohio, they can represent either Buyer or Seller, or both. While the Realtor is required to disclose that Dual Agency to you, in a case like this one, it would have been better for this Buyer to have had his own fiduciary representative to explain the issues to him, maybe. It is customary in our state that the Seller pays the costs of the commissions out of the proceeds of the sale- Realtors, unlike lawyers, accountants, or other advising professionals, aren’t compensated for actions taken or services rendered, but by the size of the transaction. So, even a Buyer’s agent has an inverse incentive relative to their client- they get paid more the higher the cost of what the client buys. While the Realtors I know don’t let that influence their service to the client, it isn’t really a very good set up for consumers. I thought when, in OH, they created the Buyers Agency relationship that the industry would move more to a pay-for-service model, but so far that hasn’t happened. Maybe lawsuits like this may re-start the discussion-
Every now and again someone comes up with a seemingly great new building product- here’s another one. A doorknob that you can open one of three ways- push, pull, or rotate. I haven’t seen one of these yet, but it looks promising. Unknown are the aesthetic options, or the fit/feel of it. But it sure seems like a good idea-I hope that the mechanism is built well-which time will test, as it does every new building product. Ours is the least forgiving environment to roll out new products- your home! Check out the Brink’s knob idea-http://nahb.wpengine.com/?p=1691
One of our friends had the unthinkable happen- his home was hit by lightning and destroyed. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the home is a total loss. We’ve had clients that have suffered myriad lightning strikes and had various levels of damage-this was the worst. Lightning can hit any part of your home, and it will destroy something- we’ve seen chimneys blown up, chimney caps blown off, electrical or plumbing systems destroyed and disrupted-fortunately no injuries. The best protection is a lighting rod system installed by a trained professional company, but sometimes even that isn’t sufficient. Lightning can get into your home through any metallic raceway-conduit, wire, nails, piping-anything metal. It is seeking a way to the ground-and will go through anything that leads it that way that conducts. If it’s a body, it will generate heat and still try to go through it. So, when thinking about lightning protection, it isn’t sufficient to protect only the line voltage part of your home, or to make sure your plumbing is grounded, but also to make sure that-if you have a low voltage system (lighting or sound control) that it too is protected in some way. One thing you don’t want is to have a lightning strike be a major life-changing event!
I recently had a friend ask for help with a problem. When they originally redid their home, they installed an actual commercial range by Southbend- a firm which does not make appliances suitable for residential installations. It looked great, but when they used the oven, they almost set their home on fire! But, because the range isn’t designed for residential, its dimensions aren’t stock residential dimensions. So, to replace it with a Wolf stove (http://www.subzero-wolf.com/oven/gas-range) , we needed a 60″ wide stove, and we had to pack it out 6″ extra. So, we needed a moving company (to get the original stove out) a plumber (to change the gas connection to a residential style), an electrician (to add a 220V outlet) carpenters to provide backers in the wall for a replacement shelf, a granite fabricator to build a 6″x6″ granite shelf, matching their existing countertops, to account for the 6″ difference in depth between the Southbend and the Wolf, and an iron fabricator to build a replacement plate shelf. Whew. Of course, when all is said and done, it came out great- and won’t burn my friend’s house down!! The simplest thing becomes totally complicated, and it happens all the time!