Avoiding Scams and Winterizing Your Home

With winter approaching, I thought I’d start with a few home maintenance reminders:

  • Caulk exterior joints around your windows and doors. Not sealing gaps where the wind and cold can seep in could add hundreds of dollars to your heating bills.
  • Have your furnace inspected and cleaned. Annual maintenance is a lot cheaper than having a wintertime emergency call if it breaks down.
  • Change your furnace filters every few months.
  • If you have a wood-burning stove, get the chimney cleaned now. Chimney sweeps are not as busy this time of year and their fee may be less expensive than during the wintertime.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts and check the caulking.
  • Store your outdoor furniture. Clean it, cover it or store it to maintain its appearance.
  • Trim tree branches and bushes. Walk around your house and if you have any overhanging limbs or bushes, now is the time to trim them. Tree limbs can break and ruin your roof, and finding a roofer during the winter months is no fun!
  • Inspect your roof. Replace any missing shingles. Remove any tree branches that may have fallen during the summer. Remove moss build up.

And on that “trouble avoidance” theme, I recently learned of another scam for homeowners to avoid. Some folks have received notices offering to get them a certified copy of their grant deed or deed of trust. For a mere $189, the company offers to do something that you could do for yourself for about $5. It is good to review a copy of your grant deed and deed of trust to make sure the information is accurate. However, both documents are public records that you can go to the County Recorder’s Office and pick up yourself.

An unrelated scam has also popped up with a company that offers to appeal to the County in an effort to lower your property taxes. Again, the company charges much more than you need to pay to complete and submit a form, and there is no guarantee that your taxes will be lowered. The company simply submits a request. The form may require a little expertise, so if you have a relationship with a realtor, they can help you. If you don’t have a relationship with a realtor, they may charge you a little to help you complete the form and get the comparable sales, but it won’t be anywhere near the scam price.

A different kind of scam has to do with Canadian cashier’s checks that look legitimate, but are forgeries. The scam goes like this: buyers are ready to purchase their new home. They are from out of the area, and so they write a cashier’s check for more than the deposit and ask if you can help them out by either providing them with some cash or purchase goods in their name (and have the goods delivered to their new property). Trusting that a cashier’s check is as good as cash, and thinking that you’ve developed a relationship with this person over the course of the real estate transaction, you (unsuspecting seller or private lender) comply with the scammer’s request and end up on the losing end.

Finally, as a reminder, we mentioned a scam for renters to avoid in a previous column. Be sure you’re renting a property from the owner, and not someone posing as the owner. If you recall, I wrote about people posing as representatives for property owners on Craigslist. They invite you to rent a property from them that they do not own or manage. They often have an excuse about why you cannot actually go inside the property (grandma forgot to leave the key and is on vacation, or a family emergency came up). They say you can look through the windows and get a feel for the place. Don’t believe them and don’t give them any money.

While there are certainly unscrupulous people out there, most real estate transactions go well and people on both sides are pleased with the outcome. So, if you are preparing to sell your home, here are a few features that buyers are willing to spend extra for:

  • A home that is cable-, satellite-, TV-, and/or Internet-ready (this includes access to broadband in the area)
  • At least two bathrooms with one being an ensuite master bathroom (a bathroom that is only accessible via the master bedroom)
  • Extra storage space
  • An in-law suite
  • An eat-in kitchen
  • A den or home office
  • A laundry room
  • Central air conditioning

Next time I’ll write about whether the real estate industry may offer a career choice that’s right for you. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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