Introducing: Ask The Agents #1

Editor’s note: Do we get questions! Whether one is listing a home for sale or looking to buy a new home, everybody seems to have questions about the real estate process. Well, we’re here to answer your questions, assuage your worries and point you in the right direction. Introducing our new feature, Ask the Agents.

Question: What should I do with my dog when my house is being shown?
Answer: Ideally, all pets should be absent during showings. With the goal being to allow prospective buyers to feel at home and to make an emotional connection with the property, pets make that difficult. They are, after all, part of the seller’s family and are perceived by buyers as an extension of the homeowner – even tropical fish on display in the house.

If you’re able to take your dog for a drive, drop Fido off at a friend’s house or board him at one of the many pet resorts around town, your house will sell sooner. Put away dog bowls, chew toys and beds, too.

Shutting the dog in a locked room is a bad idea for both the dog and the buyers, creating anxiety all around. A barking dog in a pen in the backyard is an improvement, but still highly intrusive for the buyer experience. And, even if your dog is crate-trained and is quiet and cute in the presence of strangers, it really is best to be absent.

With several dogs at home ourselves, we would make arrangements for them to be gone if we were selling our house.

Question: What are the pros and cons of pier-and-beam and slab foundations?
Answer: We are not engineers, so can only speak from personal experience.

Slab foundations function well if properly engineered. Unfortunately, many Houston slabs poured in past decades were under-engineered and have subsequently failed and required repair. Additionally, utility and sewer lines passing through a monolithic slab are not easily accessed for repair or replacement. Most houses built in the Houston area are on a monolithic slab.

Pier-and-beam foundations were typically used for construction in the Houston area prior to World War II. They are still used for houses of specific historic design and for houses that are required by code to be raised above ground prone to flooding. These raised foundations are much more expensive to build, but provide access under the house. For older homes, this allows for easily running new utility lines or, for example, adding water lines and sewer for a new bathroom.

Additionally, when there is settling and movement of ground beneath the pier-and-beam structure, the foundation can be adjusted fairly easily.

Please consult a structural engineer when trying to determine whether a foundation needs to be repaired or adjusted.

Question: We have an above-ground pool in our backyard. Should we remove it before listing our house for sale?
Answer: We have worked hard over many years to limit our market area to exclude houses with above-ground pools. But if you happen to have one, we would be delighted to help you sell your house.

Please remove the above-ground pool and replace with elegant landscaping. You and your family have derived so much enjoyment from that pool, and now it is time for the next homeowner to try something different.

Question: Our 20-year roof is 17 years old. Should I replace it before putting our house on the market?
Answer: We would also recommend a good haircut when showing up to one’s own wedding. Good grooming is a strong indication of sound health, like dental hygiene.

There are three major elements of a house that can make or prevent a sale: the foundation, the structure and the roof.

An old roof, nearing the end of its expected life span, will likely cause two problems when marketing a house. First, buyers will hesitate at its appearance, even if not sure if the roof is in poor shape; they just sense that something looks amiss. Second, problems will be discovered in the inspection process. Not only will it be indicated that the roof will need replacement soon, but all those tell-tale stains on the inside roof decking and water penetration in other areas will spook the buyer.

It is more economical for a seller to replace an aged roof than to assume that the seller will factor this expense into the sales price. Replace with a good-quality new roof in order to give reassurance to the next homeowner.

While you’re at it, you might even consider getting additional advice from a home inspector about enhancing some of the roofing features when the replacement is performed – notably, kick-out flashing and flashing around chimneys and dormer windows. These are inexpensive when done during roof installation and can save the homeowner a great deal of money in the future.

Question: I want to list my house for sale. Should I replace my black kitchen appliances? They work fine.
Answer: You will get your money back if you do so. This assumes that your house is not otherwise a complete remodeling project. Appliances are a key category that sell a house. If you have the white appliance package you should consider replacing those too.

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