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5 Common Sunroom Issues to Watch For

by Charles Furlough


We all need a little sun sometimes. Even though a sunroom isn’t the major consideration in buying a home, it’s often the cherry on top that encourages you to write the down payment check. What makes these rooms so irresistible is obvious: Read a book in a sunroom in the winter, and automatically it becomes
summer again. Sunrooms range in scope and drama—the term can describe anything from a room with oversize windows, all the way up to glass-enclosed wonders. But unfortunately, not all sunrooms are as well-built as they are nice to look at. Whether you’re having a new sunroom built, or perhaps you’ve just bought a home that has an older sunroom, here are some common sunroom issues to look out for:

1. Water leakage: Overall, this is the biggest sunroom problem, and it can be due to several factors. Most commonly, the joints and connecting materials between panels are one of the most vulnerable areas for leakage, especially in older sunrooms. Present-day sunrooms have much more air-tight connectors; if you have inherited an older sunroom and find any caulking at the joints, that’s the sign of a problem. Another area that is particularly susceptible to leaks is the point where the roof joins the house; this is one of the most difficult connection points for installers, and inexperienced installers do not complete the job tightly enough. If your sunroom’s roof is leaking at the point where it connects to the house, it must be rebuilt to remedy the problem; caulking won’t do the trick for long.

2. Condensation: A sunroom with a lot of glass can encounter condensation quite easily, either on the exterior during hot weather, or, more seriously, indoors in cold-weather months—which can lead to mold. Especially if you live in an area with extreme temperatures, choose an installer or restorer who knows which materials to choose to reduce or eliminate the risk of condensation.

3. Safety glass: You might let a leak go, but safety is not an option. It is essential that all glass, especially any overhead glass, be tempered safety glass that adheres to the most recent codes. Some areas even require laminated glass (which has a plastic film holding it together, for an extra layer of protection when it breaks).

4. Beware the converted deck/porch: A lot of people think that simply enclosing an existing terrace, deck or porch can create a sunroom—but these conversions are much more susceptible to problems than sunrooms that are built specifically as such. Converted porches may suffer from a sloped, wavy floor—an exterior flooring surface is not built to the same standards as an interior one, meaning that floors in converted porches often leave something to be desired. A converted deck may have even more significant structural problems. A deck is generally safe, as there’s nothing above it; but often, it’s not an adequate structure to support something built on top of it; in the most serious cases, this can result in total structural failure.

5. Call in the experts: If you’re building a sunroom, don’t even think of having someone start a job without asking for references. And if you’re buying a home with a sunroom, get a home inspector’s opinion on its safety and integrity, and make the repairs as soon as possible to avoid potentially more expensive repairs later.

Shop Carefully to Find Deals on Home Upgrades

by Al Heavens

The situation: You want to make some improvements to your house, but don’t want to spend money you don’t have. Nor do you want to waste the money you do have by buying something inappropriate for your needs.

A tall order, for sure, and a situation many homeowners find themselves in as the economy totters toward a recovery that always seems just shy of a sure thing.

The Internet has made finding the best price for a product easier than it was 10 years ago, says developer Carl Dranoff, who has written the checks for more than a few renovations at his buildings over the years.

“The Internet has driven down the prices of just about everything,” he says, “so there is little variation” from, for example, one manufacturer’s refrigerator to the next.

Need replacement windows? A modest federal tax credit—up to $1,500—is available until Dec. 31.

Energy-efficient windows will cut utility bills 7 percent to 15 percent, government data shows. But the cost of complete window replacement for the average home is $7,500 to $10,000, according to the folks at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

They advise this: When you’re interviewing contractors, ask them to break down the price quote by labor and materials, keeping in mind that although energy-efficient windows cost more, the labor costs for installation should be the same for all kinds of windows.

In general, experienced buyers recommend that you shop carefully and know exactly what you want before you hand over your credit card or write a check to a supplier.

“A dozen years ago, you might have to go to specialty stores to find the really groovy items,” said Center City real estate agent Mark Wade, who also buys and renovates condos for resale. “Today, it is as simple as hitting Lowe’s, Target, or Home Depot.”

Stores don’t stock everything they offer, though. “Go online and see their entire product line,” he suggests.

Durability is what developer Liz Solms looks for when she shops for products.

Solms is using sustainable or “green” materials to renovate apartments at Touraine in Philadelphia, one of the buildings she co-owns around the country. She said she measured the value of these products by how long they would last.

“Time is money, right?” she says.

Jay Cipriani, president of Cipriani Builders, a Woodbury, N.J., remodeling contractor, thinks so.

“Features to consider other than price might include durability, as well as whether the product will result in a healthier or safer environment” in your home, he says.

Another question to consider, Cipriani says: “Does it add value to the home?” He suggested looking for lesser-known names to get a good product and warranty. Look into how to buy directly from the manufacturer “rather than through big-box store or distributor,” he says.

Sometimes, immediate need compels us to buy something without considering all the factors.

It’s hot, and you need a window air conditioner. You find a website that lets you calculate the size you need—say, a 7,500-Btu unit. Several retailers are selling them for about $300, so finding the lowest price isn’t the overwhelming issue. What else do you need to think about before you buy?

“Sales tax is one,” Dranoff says. “Can you pick it up yourself, or do you need to have it delivered? Can you install it yourself, or do you need someone to do it for you?”

Not to mention these pertinent details: Can it make it through the doorway? Is the window too small or too big? How can you adjust the window opening so it will fit?

How close is the outlet? Is the outlet grounded? Will you need an electrician to install the proper outlet? How will the unit drain?

What about the warranty? Who will repair it if the unit breaks down? How easy is it to obtain parts?

If you plan to install something yourself, Cipriani says, “think about the hidden risks of self-installation, such as technical obstacles—plumbing or electrical, for example—or whether or not you need a permit before installation.”

Dranoff favors American-made products because of the availability of parts and people who know how to repair them if they break. He prefers established products to new ones.

“New is not necessarily better,” he says. “Consumer Reports suggests waiting a year on any product before you buy so that it will go through a cycle of consumer testing.”

Of course, the goal is to do it right the first time, and that requires planning and common sense. Measuring helps, too.

How many times have you heard of people buying mattresses that won’t fit up their stairs? Or granite countertops too heavy for their cabinets? Or refrigerators with ice-makers for spaces where there are no water lines? Or gas dryers where there is no gas connection?

“It is as easy,” Dranoff says, “as asking if that washer you want to buy can make it down the basement stairs.”

Ulster County Real Estate Statistics, First Half 2011

by Ben Shor

The following statistics were taken from the Ulster County Multiple Listing Service (MLS). These statistics include all single family homes sold in Ulster County that were listed on the Ulster County MLS. We will be comparing statistics for the first half of 2011 with the first half of 2010.

 

You will see that there were major changes in the Ulster County real estate market when you compare the first half of 2010 with the first half of 2011. After two years of stable prices, there has been a noticeable drop in the median price of single family homes during the first six months of 2011. In addition, the number of homes sold has decreased significantly, single family homes are on the market longer, and they are selling for a lower sale price to list price ratio.

The median sold price for single family homes decreased by about 9% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $214,000 to $195,000.

The number of single family homes sold in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 28% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 509 to 369. You may remember that during the first half of 2010, there was an 8% tax credit for first-time home buyers, which expired at the end of May 2010. During the first half of this year, there was no tax credit, which reduced the urgency to buy.

The sale price to list price ratio decreased by about 2% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from 93.89 to 92.07%. That means that in 2011 the average single family home sold for about 8% less than the final listing price for that home.

The number of days a sold house was on the market from the time it was listed until the closing date, increased by 14 days (about 8%) when comparing the first half of the first half of 2010 to 2011, from 180 to 194.

The number of single family homes listed in the first half of 2011 decreased by about 5% when comparing the first half of 2010, from 1,656 to 1,579.

The average sold price for single family homes increased by about 12% when comparing the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011, from $234,563 to $261,861. The main reason for the increase in average price is the greater number of homes sold for over $500,000. In the first half of 2010, ten homes sold for $500,000, and in the first half of 2011, 23 homes sold for over $500,000.

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Photo of Laurel Sweeney Real Estate
Laurel Sweeney
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nutshell Realty
1209 State Route 213, PO Box 452
High Falls NY 12440
Office: 845-687-2200
Toll Free 877-468-5783
Fax: 845-687-4162

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