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August 2016 Newsletter
Backyard Summer!  Decks & Patios
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Summer Housing Market Updates

Boosted by a greater share of sales to first-time buyers not seen in nearly four years, existing-home sales maintained their upward trajectory in June and increased for the fourth consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

In the Midwest, total existing-home sales jumped 3.8% from June 2015 and remain at their highest annual pace since February 2007!   The median price in the Midwest was $199,900, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.

Backyard Summer! Decks & Patios

 
Evaluate your home for a deck of patio addition or upgrade by understanding costs, the shape of your property, and variables such as sun and shade.  Planning a successful deck or patio requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should -- or shouldn't -- include.
Adding a deck to your home is one of the most worthwhile of all home improvement projects and is considered such a good investment because it increases living area at a minimal cost per square foot and is an asset when you sell your home.

Deciding on the Site and Size

Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better. 

Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day -- having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

 

Think Local

To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.” 

Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn't built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’"

If you love the great outdoors, you’re not alone. Outdoor living is one of the fastest-growing segments of the remodeling market.  In addition to helping expand usable square footage, patios add to the salability and curb appeal of your property.

Study your lot

Get to know the characteristics of your yard. Watch patterns of light throughout the day to determine patio sites best suited for most shade, sun, or a combination of both. Also consider convenient access to the house, especially from the kitchen or family room, for seamless entertaining and maximum usage.

Evaluate locations that offer privacy from neighbors. Also determine a realistic size for a patio. Estimate the number of people you typically entertain and make sure there is enough space for them to maneuver.

Envision furniture and other future amenities, such as grills and service bars. Be careful not to skimp. A 12x12-foot patio should be roomy enough for a dining table and chairs for six people, with plenty of room for a 42-inch wide grill, according to David McCullough, a landscape architect in San Diego.

Lastly, consider your lot’s grade and how best to deal with any slope issues. Sometimes adding steps leading to a flatter, lower level is a less expensive alternative than re-grading or adding fill. Building two smaller patios rather than one larger expanse can keep costs for contouring your yard to a minimum.

 

Check neighborhood restrictions and permits

Become familiar with current setback requirements, zoning concerns, neighborhood covenants, homeowner association CC&R’s (codes, covenants, and restrictions), and local building regulations and permits. These are available by visiting your city’s local planning department or website.

“When evaluating your yard, take into account any possible obstructions,” notes Chris Fenmore, principal with Southern California-based Garden Studio Landscape Design. “This may include existing or old irrigation or drainage lines, or live electrical, gas, and sewer lines. If needing to navigate over these, it's important to hire a professional.

Deck & Patio Maintenance

Annual deck & patio maintenance will forestall repairs, protect your investment, and boost your enjoyment of your outdoor space.  Because they are exposed to the elements all year round, it’s a good idea to establish a routine of upkeep that’ll protect your deck or patio and help keep everything safe, sound, and looking great while prevent expensive repairs.


Washing Your Deck

An unwashed deck is an invitation to mold and mildew, which can cause rot. Choose a cloudy day when the decking is cool and the sun won’t evaporate the cleaner.

Water toy #1: A Pressure Washer

If you don’t have a pressure washer in your tool shed, you’re missing out. They blast away dirt mostly without harsh chemicals, which is good for your deck, patio, plants, pets and environment.

Standard Washing Techniques:

  • Wood deck: Use a paint roller, a garden sprayer, or a stiff-bristled brush broom to apply the cleaner. Don’t let it pool. Don’t let the deck dry until you’ve scrubbed it clean. Then let it soak according to manufacturer’s instructions (usually about 10 minutes). Rinse thoroughly with clean water.
  • Composite deck: Scrub with a soft brush. Do not use a pressure washer -- it can permanently damage the decking and will void any warranty. Remove rust and leaf stains with a deck brightener containing oxalic acid.
  • Vinyl deck: Scrub in a circular motion using a stiff broom, then rinse thoroughly.
Washing Patio PaversScrub with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water), which will get rid of stains. More stubborn stains may require treatment with muriatic acid, which is best left to professionals. To prevent future stains, lay outdoor mats on stain-prone areas, like under the grill or patio table. 


Sealing Your Wood Deck


It's recomended to wait two days for your wood deck to dry before sealing.  Finish options include:
  • Clear sealer that lets the wood’s natural grain and color show through
  • Toner that adds a bit of color but fully reveals the grain and provides some protection against sunlight (ultraviolet or UV light)
  • Semi-transparent stain that tints the wood, but lets some grain show
  •  Solid stain and opaque color that seal weathering damage and completely cover the grain

Expect to reapply clear sealers and toners annually. Reapply stain finishes as needed (every other year is a good routine) using the same or a slightly darker color. Be sure to wear gloves, a safety mask, and eye protection when applying stain and sealers. 

1. Choose a two-day period when you’ll have clear skies and moderate temperatures. 

2. Lightly sand the deck. Use a pole sander equipped with 80-grit paper to remove any furriness caused by washing.

3. Replace any missing or popped nails and screws. Replace protruding nails with deck screws slightly longer than the nail. If a nail only slightly protrudes, you may do more harm than good trying to pull it out. Pound it home.

4. Apply the sealer or stain. Use a roller to apply the sealer to the decking, covering three or four boards at a time. Use brushes and small rollers for railings, planters, and benches. Don’t let the sealant dry or puddle. Two thin coats is better than one thick one. 

 

Inspect & Repair

  • Look for signs of rot
  • Inspect the ledger
  • Check remaining joists, posts, and beams
  • Check for cracks or rotten decking boards
  • Check the railing
 

Preventive Measures

  • Trim nearby bushes and trees. They need to be at least 12 inches from the deck to slow mold, moss, and rot.
  • Don’t let leaves and other debris pile up in corners.
  • Move planters, chairs, and tables occasionally to avoid discoloring the decking. Keep nearby gutters and downspouts in good repair.
Bill Harper
Bill Harper, Realtor
RE/MAX Platimun
325 W. Eisenhower Pkwy
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
(734) 756-2001
bharpermax@gmail.com
www.bharpermax.com
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Copyright © 2016 Bill Harper Real Estate, All rights reserved.


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