Little crooked house • Defining Homes

Don’t get tripped up on uneven floors before buying that new home

By M. ­­M. Adjarian

After a long stretch of searching, finding that perfect house is not only a relief, it’s a glimpse into a whole new future. When the pieces fall together, such as location, price and a great neighborhood, you might pinch yourself thinking “Is this too good to be true?” The idealism in it’s close proximity to work, school, shopping and the big yard for the dogs is shaded by beautiful trees might give the impression that this really is home sweet home.

But you keep hitting your foot on that little bump in the floor. Before you think it’s just the character of the house, give it another look and then have a professional take a gander. There could be more to that misstep than you think.

“If there is unevenness in the beginning,” Brian Mulvehill warns, “between heat and contraction and all other issues, it’s only going to get worse over time.”

As the Fort Worth-based owner of Carpet Direct, Mulvehill knows his floors, and uneven ones can slip through the buying process if one doesn’t take a close eye to the walk-throughs. For instance take a look at where the floor meets the baseboard and if you see gaps; those will indicate uneven floors.

Once a floor starts to warp, one of two things will eventually happen. The floor will either pull away from the house walls or start pushing against them. Neither scenario is especially desirable, but when the floor pushes against the walls, it’s also pushing against molding and drywall, which could get messy — and expensive.

“Once drywall starts to crack, or moisture gets into the drywall, then you’ve got big structural issues,” says Mulvehill.

Regardless of whether the flooring is wood, tile, laminate or carpet, warping problems usually have to do with the installation — something to which a potential homebuyer will not have been privy. Reputable installers should be licensed and come with a good reputation and references. That person should always check the slab or sub-floor before laying any material on top of it. A problem with either indicates a need for structural rebuilding, which could cost thousands of dollars. More typically, though, the problem will arise from the quality of the materials actually used.

“One of the big things a buyer should know is [to] ask the potential home seller what the floor is made of,” advises Mulvehill.

He notes that if the floor is made from cheaper imported wood, chances are that’s why it’s uneven. “You can take a plank out of a box coming in from China, and just twist it. It will actually warp in your hand.”

If faulty building materials are to blame for uneven floors, a potential homebuyer could have them repaired through a procedure called floating,which usually runs about $200 per 1,000 square feet floated. A contractor will pour concrete-like material under the affected areas to raise them up so they are level with the rest of the floor.

So exactly how can a homebuyer tell whether floors are level are to begin with?

“It might sound crazy,” says Mulvehill, “but just get down on one side of the floor and just look across.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Look closer • Defining Homes

Buyers and owners alike can always find hidden discounts

By M. M. Adjarian

These days, there’s no denying that anyone who owns, sells or buys property is concerned with the bottom line. With liquidity in short supply and loans more difficult to secure, homeowners and homebuyers are looking for ways to get the most and best for their money. Besides, who doesn’t like a good deal?

With his experience as a Dallas Realtor, Rogers Healy of Rogers Healy and Associates Residential Real Estate, knows what to look for regarding money-saving opportunities for people standing on either side of the property-owning fence.

If a property owner is specifically renovating to sell, taking care of electrical, plumbing, roofing, foundation and window issues should be at the top of any to-do list.

“It’s the stuff that a homebuyer’s going to ask for when they get the house under contract,” says Healy.

Healy advises to do research on how much projects will cost and then to get bids from contractors.

“In the economy that we’re in, people are definitely willing to work for less,” he says.

Just don’t limit searches for bids to the newspapers and telephone book. Consider a modern approach. Healy suggests that social networking is a reliable way to go with the search. Plus, feedback is easily found.

“I think you can catch some great deals on Facebook fan pages and on Twitter as well,” Healy says. “That and also skimming the paper. Places like Home Depot and Lowe’s will compete against each other for your business, meaning they will want you to come to their store for the better deal.”

Realty offices are a surprising resource. After buying your home,  the affair, with your agent doesn’t stop there. Agents and firms can also provide homeowners the names of vendors specializing in renovation materials and services.

Healy’s own firm has a service provider list “of at least three people for everything from aquarium installation to air duct cleaning” that it shares with clients and non-clients alike. The one word of caution Healy has for home renovators is that a project could run double the expected price tag.

“Prepare for it to cost more money than you think,” he says.

Financial flexibility is crucial for those selling their home. Properties stay on the market longer due to the economic situation and seasonal fluctuations. These conditions are creating possibilities for property discounts that come from homeowners willing to sell for a lesser price.

One option would allow the seller to finance a home purchase. Another, which is becoming increasingly popular, is leasing to own the property.

“People who maybe have been burned or don’t have great credit or don’t have a huge amount of liquidity can get on a contract and then have an extended option period which is the lease,” Healy explains. “At the end of the lease, they have the option to apply a percentage of the money they’ve paid as rent as a down payment and purchase the property.”

Neither method of financing provides buyers with discounts, but  offer possibilities for home ownership to more people.

Affordable options and breaks are also offered to veterans, individuals who have owned property for two or more years and first-time buyers.
Or you could just be in the right job at the right time.

“A couple of banks I know of are doing creative financing if the buyer is a CPA, a dentist, an accountant or an attorney,” Healy adds.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas