Baltimore Real Estate Market

Don't Run Out of Steam

You're a few minutes into hot, relaxing shower and then it happens... nothing but cold water.

A little love for the hot water heater will make sure this doesn't happen to you. Occasional maintenance will also improve efficiency and longevity, saving you money on your gas or electric bill and on future repairs.


It's time to do some simple maintenance to your hot water heater.

Preventative maintenance will result in energy & cost savings, and will extend the life of your water heater.

How?Consider hiring a plumbing company to do semi annual service to all of your water systems, including your hot water heater. Many offer plans that do HVAC and plumbing services as a package deal and can be quite affo...

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As spring begins to really set in across the country a lot of homeowners are finally getting out into the yard and garden, soaking up the sun’s rays. Something else is taking in the rays in a big way right now: your neighbor’s solar panels. Although they function all year, just to be clear, the longer days mean more electricity production and lower utility bills. If you’ve been glancing up at those panels with envy in your heart, maybe it’s time to get your own mini electricity plant.

Depending on where you live, getting started with green energy can be a simple process with a range of providers to choose between. You should still learn as much as you can before choosing a system.

Solar Panels and Green Energy 101: Start Here
Before you dive head-first into a solar system, we want to give you a bit of a primer so you know what you’re looking at when you see it. Pretty much everyone knows that solar panels somehow make sun into electricity, but that may be the end of their knowledge base.

What’s actually happening inside is that the sun’s rays are being captured by special solar cells and converted into DC electricity. Just how that all works and what you need to make it happen is more of a mystery. Luckily, you don’t have to be a scientist to choose a good system.

Solar Panel Materials

Not every solar system is the same, which is why they vary in price so much. See, solar cells can be made from one of two main materials: monocrystalline silicon and polycrystalline silicon (thin film options are also becoming more widely available, but the adoption rate is low due to high cost). The first one, monocrystalline silicon is a more expensive, but more effective, solution. You’re gonna get more juice out of this material per square foot. That matters a lot when you have limited space on your roof to place panels.

Polycrystalline silicon is meant for areas with more space to spread out, like solar farms (or even dairy farms). But, the larger surface area means more maintenance, more chances of failure and so forth. For your house, focus your efforts on monocrystalline silicon if you’re serious about green energy.

Configuring Your Panels

Although there’s a very clear answer for the materials that should be inside your solar panels, how to configure them from there is a bit more open. You should really think about what it is you want your solar array to do before committing to a setup. These are your primary options:

Photovoltaic Direct. Unless you’re only going to use it for a single application that you do during the day, configuring an array as photovoltaic direct doesn’t make much sense. Basically, this is the kind of solar power that’s on your calculator (remember those?). It’s on-demand and when there’s no light to use, there’s no juice.

Off-Grid. Mountain Men and vacationers alike can take advantage of off-grid photovoltaic systems. These are systems that aren’t hooked up to the grid (hence the name), but are sufficient to provide your entire power needs. Used in conjunction with a battery bank for those long, dark nights, an off-grid system can make sense for temporary setups (like your RV) or very remote ones (that cabin way up on the hillside).

Grid-Tied with Battery Backup. After coming back to civilization, you may want to consider a grid-tied photovoltaic system with a battery backup. This way, you kind of have your cake and eat it, too. You store your own power, but you can also pull from the grid if you don’t make enough. You’ll be able to use these systems in an outage, since you’ve stored some electricity. Once the batteries are used up, though, karaoke party time is over. That aside, metering techniques have changed enough that it may be more cost effective to chuck the battery bank.

Batteryless Grid-Tied. Most systems today will be batteryless grid-tied photovoltaic. Essentially, your solar energy goes into your house, whatever needs to be used in that moment is sucked up by your TV and your fridge and so forth, then it travels out of your house to the grid. Your electric meter keeps track of how much electricity is leaving your house, as well as how much is coming back in during the night when you’re not generating any of your own juice. The only real downside to these systems is that they cannot act as an electricity backup in case of a power outage.

Getting the Most Out of Solar
Not all areas of the country are a good fit for solar, no matter how much you may want them to be. In fact, not even every house in an area generally believed to be good for solar is good for solar, so it pays to do a little legwork here before getting too emotionally invested. And by little, go to Google’s Project Sunroof and type in your address. It’ll do the rest.

Of course, having a house that’s awesome for solar is just the first step. There are several things you should do before making the leap to get the most out of the sun, including:

Weatherproofing your house. All those tiny leaks and the lack of insulation in the attic can impact how much you really benefit from solar in a big way. Because your air conditioning or heat is going to be influenced by those points, it’s a good idea to start by weatherproofing your home, no matter the season. Do it tight, do it right.

Upgrading the windows. Normally, if windows are opening and closing safely, they’re basically good. But when you’re talking about squeezing every cent out of your pricey solar panels, a window (and other glass panels like patio doors) upgrade is a great idea. Look for a low U-factor, indicating a tightly constructed window. Solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) is another story. If you’re trying to use passive solar heat with your active solar panels, choose a high rating. If you’re trying to stay cool, or at least prevent outside heat from coming in unauthorized, go with a lower number. Your local window experts should be able to advise you on what’s best for your location.

Investing in Energy Star appliances. Energy Star appliances have long been the standard for efficiency. When you see an Energy Star tag, you know you’re looking at a washing machine, dryer, microwave, refrigerator or whatnot that’s among the most efficient in the market. If your new solar panels are trying to power your 50 year old refrigerator, you’re wasting an awful lot of power for nothing. Upgrade that fridge right away (they have some new ones with really cool features like on-door touchscreens and cameras that can show you what you forgot to get at the market)!!

Planting trees and bushes strategically. This is another one of those “depending on where you live” suggestions, unfortunately. In some areas, you simply can’t grow a tree tall enough to shade problematic parts of your home, for example, but maybe you can grow a taller bush to shade your air conditioner condenser from the heat of the summer so it works more efficiently. Grow all the things, but nothing too big too close to the house.

A Note on Solar Panel Financing
When you’re looking to pay for these fancypants solar panels of yours, there are plenty of options. There are a lot in most states, including rebates and grants, so seriously, go find a good loan.

Find a Pro to Help You Design the Perfect Solar Arrangement
Although some brave homeowners have configured their own solar systems over the years, the inspection requirements are getting more complicated as more people are adopting these systems. It’s usually worth it to hire a pro, since besides avoiding the hassle, you’ll also avoid penalties for installing one without a permit if you didn’t realize you needed one and the headache of having to give it two or three goes to get the system right. There’s no shame in it, not everyone can know the secrets of solar energy.

When you’re ready to reach out to a pro, just pop into your HomeKeepr community and send up a flag. Your Realtor has already recommended plenty of pros who can help you with various home projects, including solar panel design and placement.


There’s nothing as stately as a red brick house covered in green vines. This iconic image has been portrayed on television, in movies and, sometimes, in actual neighborhoods. Little does the general public that are busy oohing and awing at these buildings actually know, they’re really watching a house being destroyed bit by bit.

Clinging vines are some of the worst things nature throws at your home on a regular basis, but a lot of homeowners have no idea because it’s death by a thousand cuts. Any one day isn’t probably hurting your house much, but as time passes, more and more hidden damage is taking place.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if your house has vines running up it, it’s time to figure out what you’ve got growing and start getting aggressive about destroying damaging vine infestations.

Telling the Good Guys From the Bad
Not all vines are the Devil — it just so happens that most of the ones people like to train up their houses are. This may be because they hang on for everything they’re worth, so a strong wind or a violent storm won’t result in a massacre. Whatever the reason, it’s led to a lot of damage to homes for hundreds of years, even if the homeowner never knew it.

Identifying damaging vines isn’t difficult, even the beginner horticulturalist can spot the differences once they’ve been shown what to look for.

Elements of a Damaging Vine

Vines don’t set out to destroy your home, they’re merely doing what vines do: climb. It’s just that some of the climbing methods that vines use tend to be fairly destructive in a long term kind of way. Vines have several different methods they use to climb. Some will literally grow in a spiral form to wrap around a nearby support, others send out specially modified parts called tendrils that coil around whatever they can find.

Those two types of climbers are basically harmless, at least as far as your siding is concerned. The real killers are the vines that climb using an adhesive disk or adventitious roots. Both adhesive disks and adventitious roots are very difficult to dislodge once they’re established. You can imagine how this kind of tenacity could bust masonry, dislodge vinyl siding, pull down gutters and lift shingles from your roof.

Adhesive disk of P. quinquefolia

Vines with adhesive disks literally have shoots coming off the vine tipped with roundish pads that grip tight using an adhesive that the plant produces. A common troublesome vine that uses this technique is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). Virginia creeper is a beautiful disaster for houses pretty much everywhere. In the summer, it’s a deep green and as fall approaches, it turns to a burning red-orange. It can be hard to make a villain out of a vine like that.

Adventitious roots on brick home

Adventitious roots are a little less complicated, biologically speaking. These are just extra roots that the plant uses to grab hold of things by penetrating any available crack or nook that’s available. The plant doesn’t care if that happens to be a crack in a brick on your house or a nook in a tree somewhere. These structures look a bit like the air roots that orchids produce, or, for those of you who don’t cruise the floral department at your market, they can appear much like thick hairs and cause a centipede sort of effect on the leafless parts of the vine. English Ivy (Hedera helix) is a champ at producing these roots and also climbing up houses.

Know Thy Enemy
The vines that could be destroying your house already aren’t some kind of plague or an unlucky hand you’ve been dealt. In almost every case, they were planted purposefully. In fact, you can get them at your nearest greenhouse or home improvement store. Neat, huh? People go in looking for a vine to train up their house, then they leave with a bag full, not knowing what they’re about to do. A few examples of the worst vine offenders include:

Wisteria (Wisteria spp.). This glorious vine with hanging purple, white or pink flowers can make a dramatic statement when raised in the right spot. When it’s close to your house, however, the statement it makes is, “I’m about to destroy your siding and your roof.” There have been many cases of Wisteria getting out of control, climbing to the roof, invading the gutters and lifting shingles off of homes. It’s an amazing plant, but keep it far from your home.

Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). The configuration of the five-part compound leaves of Virginia creeper has caused a lot of confusion for homeowners, with some believing it to actually be poison ivy. Virginia creeper is not a plant to worry about from a medical standpoint, but it does put out both adhesive pads and, as it grows, adventitious roots, making it one tough sucker to uncling from your house.

English Ivy (Hedera helix). If there was an Olympic category for climbing and also plants were allowed to compete, English ivy would probably lose to a human that can move faster than it can. But, for a plant, English ivy is quite fast and strong. It’s also enormous. A single English ivy vine can grow to 80 feet in length. That makes it more than capable of climbing to the roof, consuming your television antennae and anything else that it fancies.

Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris). Like English ivy, climbing hydrangea can be a tough number to contend with. The masses of white flowers are awesome, but the adventitious roots will invade any space they find to hold tight, allowing the plant to achieve its full potential: 80 feet of vine growth. Don’t kid yourself, this isn’t a plant to put near structures.

The Indirect Problem With Climbers on a Structure
Beyond being able to cause direct damage to your home anywhere and anywhere they can get a root in sideways, growing climbing plants on a house opens you up for all sorts of interesting problems. Remember that the environment under that mass of leaves is generally very humid, making a perfect place for mold, insects or rot to take hold.

There’s no question about it, growing a vine on a house is really a very bad idea. It was traditional at one point, but now we know better, so we should do better. Tackling an established vine is no picnic, but with patience, consistency and plenty of herbicide, you can wrestle the monster to its death. Removing all the attachments is a different story, though. Depending on your siding and the type of vine you’ve killed, you may just have to learn to live with root remains until they finally dry up and blow away.

Not Ready To Go On A Killing Rampage?
If you can’t bring yourself to destroy the vines that are trying to destroy your home, or you simply don’t have the time, log into your HomeKeepr community. You’ll find highly recommended landscape contractors who can not only remove those killer vines, but suggest vines and other landscape elements that will be more compatible with your home and your longer term remodeling goals.


You should never judge a book by its cover, or a house by what you can see during a showing. Not only are showings about seeing yourself in a space, rather than assessing a home’s structural stability and system functionality, they’re generally too brief to really get to the nitty gritty. No Realtor is going to wait around while you crawl through the attic.

Anyway, that’s what home inspectors are for.

What a Home Inspection Is and Isn’t
One of the biggest misconceptions about home inspections is that the report you get is a run down of a static structure that’s unchangeable. The truth is that a home — or even an empty lot — is a constantly changing ecosystem. In a house, there are lots of parts behind the scenes that are growing and shrinking, shifting and moving, albeit slowly.

A home inspection isn’t a projection of the future health of your house. It’s a right now look at the structure and all the moving parts. A home inspection is a snapshot and it can only reflect what the inspector sees during the time they’re at your future address.

This means that a year from your home inspection the furnace may go out, or the roof may succumb to high winds. Your house may change in ways no one can predict now. But, that doesn’t mean that a home inspection has no value.

Three Big Reasons to Have a Home Inspection
Home professionals know what they’re getting for the price of a home inspection, but many home buyers balk at the idea of spending even more money trying to buy a house. Granted, home inspections aren’t cheap, but they provide a lot of value for the money. There are plenty of reasons to hire a home inspector, but these three biggies are worth pondering if you’re unsure about pulling that trigger.

1. Home inspectors can sniff out problems you may have missed when viewing the home. No one wants to buy a money pit, but people do all the time because they’re either overestimating their abilities or they’ve failed to get a home inspection. When your home inspector goes through your home, they’ll not just walk around in the living room. They crawl through the crawl space, they get up into the attic, they really give it a good look. Home inspections take hours to complete, but when they’re done you’ll be given a report that provides you more information than you could ever imagine. The types of problems found will help you decide if you can really deal with the house in the longer term or if you can afford the house at all.

2. They’ll prepare you for upcoming repairs. Although your home inspection is a snapshot of your home at a particular moment in time, and not meant to predict the future, there are many parts of the ecosystem that predictably show signs of wear. When your home inspector sees that your shingles are starting to lose their asphalt coating, for example, they’re going to make a note of that in the report. If the furnace is beyond its useful life, even though it still works, you can brace yourself for replacing it. Knowing that there are problems in your future can give you more time to prepare for fixing them, even if that means changing loan types to a mortgage with a rehabilitation loan component, like an FHA 203(K).

3. Don’t forget, an inspection report is also a bargaining chip. Most real estate contracts allow you an inspection period, during which you can get your experts out and have them look around the property. You also have the right to ask for repairs based on what they find, provided these were not readily apparent issues. (If the carpet’s worn in the hallway, you can’t ask for that during the inspection period because you could see it. You should request those kinds of repairs with your initial offer.)

Those less visible defects are everything. Say, for example, that your home inspector found that the plumbing is leaking under the house. When that report comes in, you can request that the seller fix this issue, because it’s obviously a major problem you couldn’t have known about. If they refuse, you can come back and ask to lower the sales price (with most loan programs). Some lenders will require that something as important as the piping is in working order before closing, so make sure you and your Realtor know what your loan requires before breaking out the home inspection bargaining chip.

After closing, a lot of buyers lose or toss their home inspections. This is kind of a mistake. You can use that home inspection as a punch list of items to update, repair or replace, and check them off as you go. Later, when you go to sell that house, you can show your potential buyers that you literally fixed everything on the home inspection. That’s a confidence builder, for sure.

You Need a Home Inspection — and an Inspector!
Your Realtor knows lots of home inspectors, so when it comes time to look that house over from top to bottom, connect with them in the HomeKeepr community. You’ll be able to view your agent’s recommendations for home inspectors in the area, along with other home experts you may need to help with repairs further down the road.


Of all of the dramatic and awe-inspiring developments of the modern era, surely climate control is high up there among the most beautiful. It can be a muggy 95 degrees Fahrenheit outside and yet, with a well-maintained air conditioner, it’s amazingly 74 and dry inside. In the winter, you can walk into a cozy 68 degree house after shoveling your -4 degree sidewalk. There truly isn’t much better in the whole world.

That’s why when your climate control system isn’t working, it sort of creates a bit of a panic. After all, you wouldn’t want to actually have to deal with -4 or 95 degree weather. That’s definitely a bummer. Luckily, a lot of the most common reasons for your forced air unit’s failure to do its duty can be easily DIY-ed.

Wielding Power Over Sun and Rain
Hey, there’s nothing unimpressive about what your friendly neighborhood HVAC expert can do when it comes to turning a brutal building into a climate-controlled structure, but you, too, can take a little bit of credit for keeping the weather under wraps. Before you call in your HVAC expert, a bit of troubleshooting can save you money and your repairman time.

Many of the problems with HVAC systems can be corrected at the filter, the condensation line or the breaker box. Let’s take a look at each issue in a bit of depth.

HVAC Filters are Your Worst Frenemy
When your climate control system kicks on, it immediately starts sucking air into the cold air return, pulling it across the air handler, which is either set to heat or cool. After a quick pass, that air is pushed out through the ducts, to be collected again by the cold air return and put through the ringer again.

As your air filter picks up more dust, hair and other airborne particulate, it gets harder for the air handler to suck air into the system. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a position where the filter is so dirty that there’s almost no air flow and, therefore, no climate control. Strangely enough, most homeowners aren’t ever told how often to change their filters — the three month estimate on a lot of filter packages is a ridiculous overestimation of how long that filter will last.

Instead, HVAC experts recommend you check your filters at least once a month and replace them any time they start to look dirty. The higher your filter’s MERV rating, the more frequently it’ll need to be changed. This doesn’t mean you should seek out a filter with a low MERV rating, though. Too low of a MERV rating will leave your HVAC system vulnerable to dirt and dust collection inside the system, rather than on the filter. For most homes, a MERV of 7 or higher will filter out the stuff you really don’t want in the air, like mold spores, pollen and dust and protect your system.

If it’s been a while since you changed the filter and the system’s still kicking on, just blowing the wrong temperature, start at the filter. Change it, even if it’s only discolored. This can indicate that the tiny passages in the paper are clogged.

Awkward Conversations About Condensation
Plenty of people who are fairly hands-off when it comes to home maintenance don’t realize that their systems have something called a condensation line. This is essentially a tube that moves water from the air handler to a drain or outdoors, depending on the way your system is configured. Sometimes, your system will do something weird like kick on and off again rapidly or simply not cool properly as the only sign that your condensation line needs help.

In a modern HVAC system, the air from your cold air return is pulled across a special tent-shaped coil system that gets really cold when the gases inside are compressed. As that warm air passes and is cooled, it drops much of the liquid it was holding and that water collects in a pan below the coil. From there, the water goes into a dedicated line or vinyl tube, the condensation line, and out of the house.

When the condensation line is blocked, this process is disrupted. Some air handlers are designed to essentially stop working until the standing water is removed from the pan, others will simply spill everything into the floor, which is not a good time. This is why it’s usually recommended that you flush that condensation line every time you change your HVAC filter.

If you suspect a clogged condensation line, flushing it with straight vinegar or a diluted vinegar/ hot water mix can get the water out of the catch pan and restart the air conditioning party.

Have You Tried Turning it Off and Turning it Back On Again?
Hey, if it works for computers, televisions and all manner of electronics, turning it on and turning it off again should work on your air conditioner, should it? The truth is that your HVAC system is not your granddad’s system. There are plenty of computerized parts that are necessary for it to do its job property. When you’ve tried replacing the filter and you’ve cleaned the condensation line until it’s allowing water to flow free and neither of those things worked, it doesn’t hurt anything to reboot the system.

Most HVAC systems have at least two breakers in different parts of the house. Your air conditioner, for example, should have a double-wide breaker inside your main breaker box, as well as a breaker on the outside of the house. This outside breaker is housed in a little box of its own, hanging on the house very close to the outdoor unit.

Both of these need to be reset, since the problem could be anything from a computer that’s simply confused or a partially tripped breaker that was the result of a particularly windy night. Start by flipping the breaker inside your house to the “off” position, then go to the outside breaker box. Depending on the type of electricity interruption technology inside, you may just need to flip a switch, or it may require that you pull the fuse out and put it back in. Once you’ve done that, you can go back inside and turn the power in the main breaker box back to “on.”

Still Got Nothin’? Time to Call in the Calvary!
Anything beyond what’s explained in this blog is probably a bit more than a homeowner should be trying to fix on their own. HVAC systems are not only technically complicated, they’re sort of dangerous inside. But, hey, you’ve already got a great HVAC service in your HomeKeepr network that your Realtor has recommended! You’ll save time and get your power to control the indoor climate back in a snap — you’re totally winning today!


Of all the things that you can do to get your home ready for the market, there’s nothing as effective or inexpensive as decluttering. Not only does it allow you to really showcase the best features of your home, it helps you get ready to move and to possibly shed some items you really don’t need anymore anyway. Two birds, one stone.

A proper decluttering can be a big project, though. It’s important to have a plan before you get started.

Decluttering 101: Getting Started
The goal of decluttering for a home sale is to make your house appear as large and functional as is possible within its structural limitations. Obviously you’re not going to turn a 12 foot by 12 foot living room into a massive parlor simply by getting some stuff out of the way, but as with anything you’re looking to sell, it’s a good idea to put the best foot forward possible.

Removing clutter helps rooms feel more open and airy, so make this the hard focus of your life until it’s totally done. Bringing in some friends who will give you an honest opinion can also help you find more things to get out of the house before your Realtor comes to take the photos for your listing.

These tips can help you stay focused:

1. Begin at the beginning. The first thing a potential buyer is going to see is the yard, then the driveway and then the front door. These areas need to be very neat and tidy or else they’ll simply stay in the car and drive away. You don’t want to waste a lot of energy inside for buyers to be turned off because your front porch is covered in shaggy planters and old patio furniture.

2. One room at a time. There are any number of apps for planning big projects like this, so pick one and get to making a list. Every room in the house, even closets and hallways, should have their own entry. Break the effort into the smallest chunks possible to make it easier to accomplish. The more you check off, the better you’ll feel and the more momentum you’re going to build.

3. Do you really need all that furniture? Rooms crammed with furniture are great for get togethers, but they’re terrible for showing a buyer how they can use the same space. All they can see is your furniture, so get as much of it out of the way as possible. Leave the pieces that are the nicest or the newest for the very best first impression.

4. Clean all the counters off. It’s the easiest thing in the world to get into the habit of using your counters for storage, but when buyers see this practice, they just assume you don’t have enough storage. nobody wants a house with not enough storage — that’s probably the reason they’re looking for a new place to begin with.

5. Clean the showers. It’s an incredible hassle and something you probably only do when company is coming, but assume that company will be coming every day until closing from now on. Black mold on shower grout is an huge turn-off. Those buyers won’t know that you haven’t cleaned the back shower stall since 1989, they’ll just see that black mold and leave.

6. Your collections have gotta go. Yes, you have the most amazing collection of paperclip stick figures ever assembled, but they don’t need to be on display. In fact, they’re probably standing between you and a potential buyer right now. Pack them up, get them out of sight, make the room where you keep them look enormous.

7. Declutter the garage and storage buildings, too. Oh, don’t think we’ve forgotten about these guys. They’re great places to dump stuff you don’t want to get rid of, but don’t know where to put, but that potential buyer is going to want to know if their own stuff that they can’t figure out what to do with will fit in that space. Clean that garage and those storage buildings up and, if necessary, install some heavy duty shelves or racks to give them some appearance of organization.

Where Do You Put The Decluttered Clutter?
Once you’ve sorted out the things you can live without for a while, you have to decide what to do with them. You have a few options. You can sell them, maybe make a little bit of cash at a resale shop or a garage sale. You can keep them, but in a storage unit somewhere away from your home. You can recycle them. You can donate them. Probably, realistically, you’ll do a few of these things, depending on the clutter.

Whatever you do, don’t keep them in the boxes in your house. That defeats the entire purpose of decluttering. Remember, you want to make your house look huge, not like a tightly packed storage unit. So banish the boxes, clear the clutter, make it go far, far away. You’ll also be mostly ready for your move, should you sell that house quickly because of how clean and shiny it is, so that’s nice.

Need a Hand With the Mission: Impossible?
It can be a huge and daunting task to declutter a home you’ve lived in for a while, there’s no doubt about it. But that’s why there are professionals who have tons of experience organizing and staging spaces for home sellers. If this isn’t your forte, your HomeKeepr community can help you find someone who lives for it. Since your Realtor has already recommended these pros, you know they’re going to do an amazing job. You won’t even recognize your own house!


Congrats! Your fixer-upper is well on its way to be a fixed-upper now that you have a remodeling plan in place and a way to pay for it. You’re almost certainly imagining how lovely a soak in that new bathroom will be after a long day at work or how many family members you’ll be able to pack into your newly opened-up kitchen and dining area. The one thing you’re not thinking about right now is what could possibly go wrong.

That’s ok. We’re here to toss a little storm cloud over your remodeling plans, or at least bring you down to Earth a bit so you’re not blindsided by things you might have never thought to prepare for when redoing your home.

Surprise! Your Remodel Just Got Weird


When you chose your home, you knew it needed work. That wasn’t really a shocker, even as the list from the home inspector seemed to go on and on forever. But now that you’re about to dig in and tackle those projects, now is really the best time to prepare for as much as you can. The older your house, the more surprises you’ll likely find — time has a way of doing that to homes.

Houses constructed more than about 30 years ago were largely built to whatever code seemed fancy in the moment. It wasn’t until 1997 that the International Code Council published the first edition of the International Building Code, which has been updated and reissued every three years since. Before that, many homes were built professionally, but when it came time to remodel anything there were zero standards to hold anyone to. Basically you can kind of think of your home as a time capsule of the most terrifying variety.

Or, you know, it might be totally straightforward. There’s literally no way to know until you get started. So, are you ready?

A Few Surprises to Watch For
No matter how well you think you know your house, you should make sure you’ve got a respirator that can filter both lead paint and asbestos, as well as gloves and work clothing that will protect you from anything before you even think about getting started. These things aren’t a small investment, but if you want to do the work yourself, you need to protect yourself just like a pro would. There are so many things that can jump out and bite you during a remodel, this list contains a few of the most common:

Hidden metal, pipes and wiring. If you’re taking out walls or even taking out tiles with the hopes of replacing them with something more modern, you may discover that your wall interiors are a whole other world. Behind your kitchen’s wet wall, there’s a maze of pipes that snake around to nowhere. Your bathroom has random metal plates just stuck in the wall under some tiles. And, this wire… it goes nowhere. It should go without saying that you should always use tools that have non-conductive handles when you’re working in walls and behind objects that you can’t see through.

Surprise mold and pests. Surprise! You have mold and termites! Wait, that’s a bad thing… hopefully you had a home inspection and a termite inspection that would have found this problem ahead of time, but if you’ve owned your house a few years, pests and mold certainly could have popped up over time. Termites will likely require professional treatment (check the HomeKeepr community for a great pest control pro!), mold is a mixed bag. Some molds are very dangerous for people to breathe, but others are just kind of always in the environment.

At this point, you need to put all the tools away and have a mold test done. While you’re waiting for the results, figure out where the source of moisture that’s keeping this part of your house moist enough to let the various flora and fauna thrive is coming from and repair that problem right away. You may have to adjust your construction budget, but there’s no vessel sink that’s worth ignoring a termite-eaten sill plate.

Dry. Rot. Dry rot comes from similar conditions as mold and pests, but there’s not a pest or mold around. It’s just that your house is sort of rotting. This is not awesome, but it’s an easier fix than some things. Depending on the extent and location, you may want to bring in a structural engineer to assess the amount of repair that’s going to be needed to get your house back into shape.

A really good handyman or general contractor can take it from there. Structural repairs are not really a DIY situation, but if the dry rot is on outside trim pieces or somewhere your engineer doesn’t think is going to influence the way your house functions, go ahead and fix the source of the damage, replace the damaged boards, seal them and get back on track.

Poorly done prior work. This is what you’re hoping to avoid with your current remodel, so take photos as a sad remember that someday, someone else will Instagram your poorly done remodel if you don’t take this seriously. Whatever you uncover, you’ll need to correct it before you move forward. Don’t put good repairs over bad ones, you might as well not bother to remodel your home at all.

Really gross stuff. Homes that have had less than perfect owners or tenants often have less than perfect secrets. Sometimes they verge on the horrific when it comes to the gross out factor. Anything from lively, active pest infestations to evidence of old pest infestations that were completely out of control could be hiding under those layers of wallpaper. It’s alarming what an insect can hide under and still manage to completely disguise itself. (If you find something of this level, you’ll know — call a pest control pro immediately, you do not want to DIY this!)

Really illegal stuff. Sometimes a fixer upper or a repo has had a pretty sketchy history. Illegal activities, especially related to drugs, are not uncommon reasons for someone to lose their home. Most blogs on the topic of surprises in remodels won’t touch on this, but this is a very important consideration if you don’t know anything about the house. The very last thing you want is a needle with an unknown substance and origin falling on you from a drop ceiling you’re taking out piece by piece.

If you find drugs or paraphernalia during your remodel, call your local police department (not 911) for help with proper disposal. Make sure you have all the paperwork with you that proves you just bought the house and make it clear that you want to surrender these things you’ve found during your remodel that are absolutely and in no way related to you. Once it’s all gone, it’s all gone and you can move on like nothing happened. Yet another reason to wear gloves and protective clothing.

Really historical stuff. So as not to send you out on your remodeling adventure on a bad note, let’s talk about something fun you might find. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you’ll find some neat historical stuff. You probably won’t see it in an easy to access place, but if you have some built-in cabinets that you’re trying to refinish, for example, make sure you look under and beneath all the drawers. Subfloors might yield coins of unusual age, basements and attics can have all sorts of treasures in them.

These things might not make the Antiques Roadshow, but they’re fun mementos to keep around and they’ll help you tell the story of your home, assuming they’re fit for mixed company.

The Biggest Surprise of All May Be Your Project’s Timeline
Even if you don’t encounter mold or roaches or magazines from the 1950s during your remodel, you could come across the biggest surprise of them all: just how much time it really takes to do a proper remodel and still work a full time job. If you’re finding that you just can’t make yourself pick up a hammer or a paintbrush after a 9 to 5 at the office, you’re not the first and you’re not alone. That's what we are here for! Contact us to get our recommended list of contractors to help you.


You’ve finally found the home of your dreams. It’s perfect, the price is right, the neighborhood is wonderful (and walkable!) and it has some really awesome appliances. But when you go to your final walk-through, you’re shocked to discover that those awesome appliances have been removed, with absolutely no clue left as to their current whereabouts. Well, that certainly can’t stand! Where are the appliances?

You stop in your tracks. Dead in your tracks. And you utter the words no Realtor ever wants to hear, “I’m not closing.” Your Realtor calmly pulls up the listing information on their phone to check the status of the appliances. Then they have a heart to heart with you about appurtenance.

Appurtenance and Private Property

There are few concepts within the real estate world that bring more tears, screaming and actual legal fights than appurtenance. This is basically a sort of wavy line between where real property (like a house or a piece of land) starts and private property (like a bird feeder or a stove) ends. Because so many homes are shown while occupied, there are usually a lot of things inside that don’t go with the house when it’s sold.

You’d never assume that piano stayed or that the couch was a gimme with the home, those are fairly clear-cut pieces of private property you know not to plan on owning. But there are also things that are a lot hazier. For example, that freestanding range or the neat light over the kitchen bar. These things are less straightforward. After all, every kitchen needs a range, right? And that light fixture, it’s just a light fixture, so whatever — you’ll just replace it with something cheaper when it’s time to move.

That’s not actually how it works, though. Appurtenance means, essentially, that an item belongs to the house. It’s not yours or the new owner’s, but instead it sort of travels with the property. In a very basic example, you could say that a pool and the pool house are appurtenant. They clearly go with the property indefinitely, until they’re destroyed. No question there.

The Appurtenance Litmus Test

A pool is one thing, but that stove, that light fixture, even a satellite dish, these are quite different questions. How do you know when they stay or go? First, you should always check the listing carefully — often your answers are spelled out right there. But if they aren’t, there’s a litmus test you can use to help better understand what “belongs.”

Ask yourself, “Is this item meant to be permanently attached to the house, and if so, will it damage the property if it’s removed?” It’s a two-part question that is always in the same two parts. First, it has to have been attached with the intent of being permanent. Secondly, it has to cause cosmetic or structural damage if it’s taken out.

This means that the freestanding stove, which is only plugged in and pushed between two cabinets, is in no way appurtenant. The light fixture, however, was installed in a permanent fashion, so it is appurtenant. The piano is still completely off-limits.

It’s not that this concept by itself is so difficult to understand on the surface, it’s more that some people have different ideas of what “permanent” and “damage” mean. Let’s look at another example. Say there’s a really cool television mounted above the fireplace in the house you’re interested in buying. You assume it’s appurtenant because it’s attached, right? It’s mounted in the brick, so taking it down would damage the fireplace.

Yet, the seller takes that television when they move, but they kindly leave you the brackets so you can install your own television in the same spot. You scream bloody murder. Your Realtor points out that there’s no damage and the bracket is still attached to the fireplace. In this case, the television itself wasn’t actually appurtenant, but the bracket was.

A Few Tips for Determining What Stays
Buying a house is stressful, and there’s nothing good about making it more stressful by introducing concepts like appurtenance, but it’s also no fun to be blindsided at your final walk-through, either. Even if you’ve never done a single DIY project in your life, these questions should help you figure out if that thing you really hope is staying will actually hang around after closing:

Is it plugged in? Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, if something’s plugged into the wall, it’s not appurtenant. Garbage disposals break this rule because they are often plugged in, but they’re also permanently attached in other ways, so you can generally assume they’re going to be waiting for you like a puppy dog after a long day at work.

Was the surface material broken to install it? Let’s say the thing you’re now worried about is a satellite dish and it’s installed on the chimney. You can see from the ground that it’s just strapped up there with sturdy plastic straps. Because the method of attachment is considered non-permanent (aka. It doesn’t damage the surface material), that satellite can be removed by the seller. If they leave it, you should seriously think about having one of your HomeKeepr pros attach it more solidly, though.

Is the item required to make the property function? This is a little weirder of a question, unless you’re already thinking about your house as one giant thing made up of lots of little systems. All those little systems have to be in balance to make it work, from the gutters to the soffit vents. Let’s say that your sellers ran off with all the downspouts from the gutter system (this would also be a weird thing to take, but this is a very fictitious example). Although they’re not permanently affixed to the house, they are a part of the gutter system, which is required to keep water from running under your house and into the basement. Those downspouts could be argued to be appurtenant since they’re part of a necessary system.

You can think about this concept in terms of items that belong to your house, if that makes it easier, but you have to keep in mind the intent and damage aspects, too. If you’re going to try to fight a seller for an appurtenant item, however, make sure it’s worth the cost. These battles can literally take years and cost much more than it would to simply replace the item. Sometimes it’s worth the effort, sometimes it’s not. Your agent can give you advice on what to do if your walk-through turns into an alarming episode of cataloging missing pieces.

Appurtenant or Not, You’re Never Alone in Your Home Journey


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