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What Do I Need to Know about the Plumbing

What Do I Need to Know about the Plumbing

“What do I need to know about the plumbing?” The answer can be rather long and rather complex, but in the simplest of terms, the plumbing of a home consists of two major parts:

• Supply System – the plumbing that brings fresh water into the home, a connection of sealed pipe sections and valves under pressure, which are intended to bring a continuous flow upon demand

• Drainage System – the plumbing that safely removes used water and waste products from within the home through a series of vented pipe sections which flow downward to allow discharge via gravity

Well, that is about as simple as the explanation gets, water in, and waste out. But there is much more to the story, such as the types of piping used, “are the pipes made of plastic, copper, or galvanized steel”?

And, “what types of connectors are used, brass fittings, soldered connectors, or adhesive materials?” And then, “what other types of fixtures or accessories are found within the system; are there well pumps, storage tanks, pressure regulators, treatment systems, water heaters, and so on?”

And, “what types of traps or clean-outs are provided for the toilets, sinks, and tub/showers”? Wow, so many things to cover, and so many locations for possible leaks. After all, plumbing systems in good service are those that deliver the inbound potable water upon demand, and then take the contaminated waste water outbound, and without any leakage along the way!

Let’s talk about the supply piping first. Prior to the early 1960’s, most homes built in the last century used inbound water pipes made of galvanized steel, galvanizing being a process of coating raw steel pipes through a corrosion resistant chemical process. Galvanizing worked well, but typically this coating material began to breakdown over time, which then left the steel piping exposed to water which in turn began the process of decay.

Usually galvanized piping had a life expectancy of approximately 40 years, maybe a bit longer depending upon their use, maintenance, or original installation methods. If the home you are purchasing has galvanized piping, it may be getting up in age and therefore this system may need to be replaced at some future point in time. Signs of corrosion or visible signs of rust detected during an inspection may suggest that the system has areas of decay, and that further evaluation may be advised.

Some other older supply systems to watch out for are various forms of flexible plastics. Only a few types of plastic piping are recommended for use within supply systems by the International Residential Code and the Uniform Plumbing Code, and these uses are very specific in nature. If you have any plastic supply piping, this should be given special attention as these are not common, and some plastic systems have been prone to have problems. Expert advice should be sought under these conditions.

Now fast forward in time just a bit. After the 1960’s construction methods began using copper piping almost exclusively. With the exception of some weaker versions of the first copper pipes (there are various grades K,L,M), extruded copper plumbing has become the gold standard. Almost all supply piping installed today in residential construction is made of copper. This type of material is largely resistant to corrosion from water, is easier to install and/or repair than steel products, and in most cases copper has become the most cost effective material overall.

The only concerns with copper piping are with respect to its softer material which is subject to puncture if struck, by a nail for example, or it may rupture if bent by accident or not supported properly. Copper piping is also subject to galvanic oxidization if connected to galvanized steel piping. Meaning that if a steel connector or section of galvanized steel pipe is attached to a copper pipe, a corrosive reaction develops slowly, usually at the point where the two sections meet.

And remember, corrosion then ultimately leads to decay and leakage. If you have copper piping, keep the entire system made of copper and all will be fine (brass fittings may also be used with copper piping as an alternative material). There are special dielectric connectors that may also be used if a steel pipe is to be connected to a copper pipe.

Okay, we are getting a bit beyond the simple explanations we promised. Just remember:

• copper = good, this is the most common material used today

• galvanized steel = fine, but regular inspection advised due to older materials

• plastic = okay, but for specific uses only in supply systems

Now before we leave the supply piping discussion we need to revisit “what does corrosion on piping really mean?” Corrosion is a process whereby external materials or very small amounts of water are making their way to the surface. Put another way, this could mean that the threads or connections where two sections of piping come together are not completely sealed tight, and therefore tiny amounts of water can get through any small gaps, thus making their way to the outside of the connection. Remember these supply water pipes are under pressure, so any weakness will give water a place to escape.

Now in this example of threaded piping, if the threads are not damaged, cleaning them with a wire brush and then adding Teflon-tape or other piping compounds to the threads might be all that is required to stop further corrosion or leakage. Repairs are not always this simple, but the point here is that corrosion is the first indication that something is not right, so any mention of corrosion on pipes/connectors or fixtures should be taken seriously as this is the plumbing systems “early warning” that repairs are needed. Left unattended, corrosion becomes a leak, and although this process may take months or weeks before a leak appears, it WILL lead to a leak at some point in time. So like most things, the sooner the problem is addressed the better!

Now let us talk about the waste or outbound drainage plumbing systems. Before the 1960s most residential applications were of clay tiles or cast iron piping (and a few less common uses of lead, brass, etc). Clay tiles didn’t last very long, only 25-40 years typically, so any clay piping still in use would be suspect to cracks and leakage. Cast iron on the other hand could last up to 80-100 years by some estimates, but also noting that there have been reports of cast piping failures as early as 40-60 years of use.

Since most of a home’s waste plumbing may be buried under a floor/slab or within the soil, it is hard to really know the true condition of the entire waste system. That being said, an inspection of the visible sections is a great placed to start, and this visual inspection can provide an indication of how the rest of the system may be functioning. Additionally, in the case of concealed areas within the soil for example, visual inspections for wet areas can also be an indication of an active leak.

Or if the water flow out from toilets/tub/showers appears to be slower than usual, this could be an indication of a break or blockages within the waste lines. If problems such as these are evident, further evaluation by a licensed plumber might be recommended, whereby these professionals could send a camera scope through the waste lines to visually inspect then from the inside out. As previously stated, the aim of any initial inspection is to detect possible warning signs, to give a general assessments, and then to recommend next steps accordingly.

If we look beyond early waste systems of clay tiles and cast iron, we move to today’s almost exclusive use of ABS plastic piping (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene schedule 40, typically black in color). Okay, that was a mouthful, but one word to remember: “Plastics.”

Unlike supply systems, for waste systems the use of plastics has appeared to have been a huge success! ABS plastic is smooth (unlike the sand-paper texture of cast iron) so clogs due paper getting caught inside the waste lines have been drastically reduced. Plastic is also rigid, meaning that unlike clay pipes that crack if struck or squeezed by tree roots, plastic piping is more likely to withstand these external forces. And did we mention that installing or repairing ABS plastic waste lines is much easier and less costly than the other materials.

Now no discussion of waste systems would be complete without a brief mention of the many connections and fixtures used. Remember that every connecting point is an opportunity for leaks. Every toilet, sink, shower, and water-using appliance should be thoroughly checked. This starts with a visual inspection to determine if the parts were assembled properly. Then further assessments are taken to look for corrosion, stains, and leaks … these steps all begin the process of “early warning” and detection! And then of course, running water through the system can be a final measure of the waste system’s current condition.

A standard inspection process may look at literally hundreds of connection points in an average home. And in addition to determining the types of materials installed, the inspection process will try to weed-out any potential problem areas. Remember, no matter what type of system you have, the key is to keep a watch out for the signs of corrosion or leakage! Plumbing system problems can be serious and costly concerns, but the home inspection can help make the process of detection and analysis a little less of a concern.

And that completes today’s course of Plumbing 101.

Message me if your thinking about buying a Fort Collins or Loveland home at m.me/EdPowersRealEstate

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Ed Powers Real Estate 970-690-3113 ed@EdPowersRealEstate.com www.EdPowersRealEstate.com

What Should You Know About Virtual Home Tours

What Should You Know About Virtual Home Tours

Starting in March, life as we knew it started shifting for most of us because of the coronavirus pandemic. Non-essential businesses were shuttered, schools were closed, and we started spending a lot more time at home.

The pandemic is still going on, despite most states being in some phase of their reopening plan, and people are doing more things virtually than ever before.  

For example, some employers are saying they’ll keep their employees working remotely for the foreseeable future.

A Changing Real Estate Market?

Inevitably, these changes have impacted the real estate market. The market has been surprisingly strong through this, with mortgage rates historically low, but that doesn’t mean buyers and sellers aren’t doing things differently.

The virtual tour is one example. Increasingly homebuyers are going through the entire process online, meaning realtors are showing them homes virtually.

A survey that came out in January, before the pandemic affected America, found that prospective homebuyers preferred to work with agents offering virtual tours. The National Association of Realtors’ 2019 report called “Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends,” found that 48% of buyers between the ages of 39 and 63 said they found virtual tours very useful as they searched for homes.

The following are things buyers, sellers, and real estate agents should know about virtual home tours.

Agents Can Go in the Home to Do the Tour

The term virtual tour is somewhat generalized, and it can refer to a few different scenarios.

In one scenario, there’s a virtual tour that’s prerecorded, and then anyone can look at it on demand.

There are also instances, particularly now, where real estate agents representing buyers will go into the home and then walk them through it live, but still virtually using something like Zoom or FaceTime.

For some buyers, this represents a better option because their agent can help them understand the nuanced details of the home that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. If you have a real estate agent who’s doing a tour for you, it’s a much more dynamic experience.

You can ask your agent to show you closets, or provide different angles. You can also ask them to look in the backyard or to examine certain components of the house like the foundation.

What are the Pros of Virtual Tours?

Since we’re still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, one of the perks of virtual tours for buyers is that it provides them with inherent social distancing.

Some people who might be planning a move far from their current location may not even have the option to travel right now, so virtual tours are the only way for them to conduct their search.

It’s also convenient, and there’s a lot to be said for that.

When you take a virtual tour, you don’t want to spend time traveling to the property if it’s something you’re not interested in.

Even if you don’t buy your home completely sight unseen, virtual tours can save you time in the overall process.

Virtual tours can help you get a handle on what you like and don’t like as well.

What Are the Cons of Virtual Tours?

There are downsides to virtual tours. First, you don’t get the full sensory experience of a home. It sounds silly, but homes have a “vibe” and you may feel one way or another about a space when you’re there in person. You don’t feel what the ceiling heights are as an example, or what the finishes feel like.

You’re also not getting a feel for the location if you buy a home without seeing it first. You can ask your real estate agent to provide you with information and perhaps even a virtual tour of the neighborhood, but still, it’s not the same as seeing it for yourself.

Tips for Virtual Tours

If you’re a buyer, there are some things to know going into virtual tours.

First, know what to ask your real estate agent if you’re doing a live tour. For example, remember to ask about the fundamentals like the laundry room, the garage, and the storage spaces. Have your agent show you the roof and the foundation, as well as the less glamorous parts of the house like the water heater and the furnace.

If possible, even if you aren’t going to go to the home, but you live relatively close by, try to drive around and see what you think about the neighborhood.

Finally if at all possible think of virtual tours as one part of your home buying process rather than a complete replacement. They can supplement your experience and save you time, but if you have the chance to go into the home it can help you visualize yourself there.

Message me if your thinking about buying a Fort Collins or Loveland home at m.me/EdPowersRealEstate

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Ed Powers Real Estate 970-690-3113 ed@EdPowersRealEstate.com www.EdPowersRealEstate.com

It’s All About The ’Burbs: In A Time Of Pandemic, More Young Families Are Fleeing The City For The Country

More Young Families Are Fleeing The City For The Country

Scoffers label it, ‘panic-moving.’ Others call it common sense. Wherever you stand, there is little doubt that, as the pandemic continues to surge, the flight of families from city to suburbs is picking up steam across the nation.

“Young New York couples typically put off a move to the suburbs until after the birth of their second child,” said Elizabeth Nunan, president of Houlihan Lawrence, a leading New York residential brokerage. “It gives them time to save some money and enjoy the perks of city living until the need for space and the cost of childcare make the family-friendly suburbs a better choice.”  

But circumstances have flipped the concept on its ear.

“Living in the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic left most New Yorkers justifiably fearful,” Nunan said. “Theaters and restaurants have all but shut down and, perhaps most important of all, thousands of parents now working from home see that as a continuing possibility at least part of the time.”

For many, Nunan observed, the idea of trading crowds and traffic for a safe space with an outdoor garden quickly grew in appeal – and the perfect storm of changing priorities, professional opportunity, and low interest rates makes it sensible to move up the timeline.

A move to the suburbs is costly.

“The entry price point for a single-family home in Westchester, Greenwich, and similar areas within easy reach of the city is close to $2 million,” Nunan said, “and yet the search for such homes is up some 60 percent over this time last year because, in the age of coronavirus, no one wants to share an elevator or other facilities in a less expensive condo or co-op.”

And the market is hugely competitive.

“It’s definitely a seller’s market,” said Nunan. “Couples are draining their savings, dipping into retirement, getting help from their parents, or pulling cash out of the stock market. Some are making all-cash offers to help them prevail in a multiple-bid situation.” 

Atlanta Realtor Debbie Sonenshein, a luxury home specialist with Coldwell Banker, sees a similar dynamic.

“The market revved up fast here in Atlanta,” she said, “where local buyers are competing with buyers flooding in from out of state for upscale homes in the Atlanta suburbs, where a good-sized property with a pool and maybe a view is less costly than in other areas.” 

With inventory low, Sonenshein said she and her team are selling new-on-market, single-family homes in good condition for somewhere between $1.65 million and $4 million depending on size, location and features.

“Many of my buyers are in health-related fields,” she said, “young doctors, nurses, people in medical product manufacturing or technology who want to move their families away from cities and hospitals into safer spaces. Others just want to be able to grow tomatoes and bake bread with their kids in a cleaner, greener environment.”

The team frequently makes use of 3D home tours and other visual technologies, Sonenshein added, to help clients narrow their choice, greatly reducing the need for in-home showings.

“We have far fewer homes than we have enthusiastic buyers,” she said. “In-person showings are for serious buyers only, and you’d better be prepared to move.”

Perceptions can vary about where the suburbs begin and end.

“People in San Francisco see Oakland as a suburb, while people in Oakland are swarming into the East Bay or even up to mountain vacation areas like Lake Tahoe,” said Linnette Edwards, founder and associate broker of Abio Properties in northern California. “With inventory tight and interest rates low, buyers are literally coming out of the woodwork, including many young buyers tired of living and working, and even home-schooling, in their 800 square-foot apartments.”

Bidding wars are common, she said, with as many as 15 offers on a single-family residence not at all unusual.

“Young buyers, especially, who can work from home and aren’t tied to their employer’s location, are scrambling to find smaller detached homes with enough yard space to add on office space or an extra bedroom,” she said.

“Prices are ticking up a bit in most areas because of the high demand,” Edwards said. “But it’s still possible to find an entry-level homes for well under $1 million in parts of Oakland and in some East Bay cities, and that is driving demand.”

One local lender, she said, pre-approved 268 borrowers for home purchases in June – an all-time record for the company, up more than 100 percent from last June, when they pre-approved 124 buyers.

 “The biggest problem we have is tight inventory,” Edwards said, “although sellers are slowly coming back into the market as they realize the value of their properties.”

Values are changing as people in the age of pandemic re-evaluate what is important to them, said Edwards, who recently purchased a second-home getaway for her own family.  

“Watching with your child as a 10-year old African spurred tortoise crosses the road can be the highlight of your day,” she said.

Message me if your thinking about buying or selling a Fort Collins or Loveland home at m.me/EdPowersRealEstate

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Ed Powers Real Estate 970-690-3113 ed@EdPowersRealEstate.com www.EdPowersRealEstate.com

Should You Refinance From An FHA Loan To A Conventional Loan

Should You Refinance From An FHA Loan To A Conventional Loan

For many first-time buyers, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan is the prudent—and often the only—choice for a mortgage. With the flexible credit and low down payment requirements, an FHA loan makes it easier to qualify than almost any loan out there.  

However, the ongoing private mortgage insurance (PMI) you have to pay when you have an FHA loan makes your monthly payments more expensive. And, unlike a conventional loan, which allows you to remove your PMI at a certain point, you can never get rid of it with an FHA loan—even when you have tons of equity in your home. So, with rates at historic lows, should you refi out of your FHA loan to a conventional loan? We’re looking at the pros and cons.

Pro: You can get rid of private mortgage insurance (PMI)

“FHA loans require certain provisions which sometimes place a heavy burden on a homeowner’s budget, often in the form of premiums paid for mortgage insurance,” said PennyMac

That mortgage insurance on an FHA loan ranges from .45–1.05% of your home loan amount every year. On a $285,000 home, “families could be spending more like $3,420 per year on the insurance,” said Investopedia. “That’s as much as a small car payment!”

That money is literally insurance for the lender in case you default on your loan. And, unfortunately, they continue to collect that insurance regardless of how far you pay down your mortgage balance or how much your home appreciates. 

“To stop paying PMI on an FHA loan you will need to refinance into a conventional mortgage,” said The Lenders Network

The solution: refinance to a conventional loan. Assuming you have enough equity in your home, you won’t have to pay mortgage insurance on the new loan. Combined with a lower rate, your monthly payment will drop. “If you have paid down the loan to 78% of the value of the home you can refinance into a conventional mortgage without having to pay PMI.”

Pro: Mortgage insurance for conventional loans may be less expensive

If you refi to a conventional loan and still have to pay mortgage insurance because you don’t yet have enough equity in your home, you may be able to benefit from the lower payments. 

“The mortgage insurance fee on a conventional loan is lower than it is with FHA. FHA MIP rates are 0.80% – 1.00%,” said The Lenders Network. “Many conventional mortgages have an annual PMI fee of 0.50%. On a $200,000 home that is savings of almost $80 per month. While it is not a huge savings, the PMI will drop off once the LTV reaches 78%. After dropping PMI, the savings is almost $2,000 per year. You can generally refinance out of FHA into a conventional mortgage after 6 months.”


With any refi, you’re going to pay closing costs. When you’re refinancing out of an FHA loan into a conventional loan, you can count on those costs ranging from about 1.5% to as much as 3%. So, on a $300,000 mortgage, you’re looking at about $9,000. There may be a few out-of-pocket costs involved in the process; Typically, you’ll be responsible for paying for an appraisal. The rest of the closing costs will come from your equity. 

When you’re trying to decide whether or not to refinance, look at the cost to you, and determine how long it will take to recoup the money with your lower payment. If you won’t break even for seven years and you’re planning on moving in three, perhaps it’s time to reconsider whether you should refinance at all. 

Message me if your thinking about buying or selling a Fort Collins or Loveland home at m.me/EdPowersRealEstate

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Ed Powers Real Estate 970-690-3113 ed@EdPowersRealEstate.com www.EdPowersRealEstate.com

Thinking of a Remodel? Here Are Your Financing Options

Thinking of a Remodel Here Are Your Financing Options

People are spending a lot more time at home. Whether it’s because of a stay-at-home edict or just choosing to work remotely instead of heading toward the office, many are choosing the stay-at-home model and some employers have found the stay-home can be an option for the employee going forward. And spending more time at home might also lead to thinking of a few household projects. Is the kitchen looking a little dated after all? How about some new countertops and upgraded appliances? Is the living room carpet looking a bit threadbare? If so, you’ll need to decide how to pay for those improvements.

The obvious way is to pay cash. It’s quick, interest-free and you can tap into a checking or savings account pretty much anytime you need it. You get a bid, decide whether or not to move forward and write a check. On the flip-side however, pulling money out of an account can put a dent in the balance and in any interest-bearing account, money out no longer pays interest. The bigger the project, the more that’s pulled out. And, once those funds are used to upgrade the kitchen, the asset is no longer liquid, it’s in the cabinets, appliances and flooring.

You can get a home improvement loan to pay for a remodel. With a home improvement loan, your loan goes directly toward the improvements. Depending upon the size of the home improvement loan, the funds might be delivered straight to your bank account at your settlement or if you have a larger project in mind, the bank might deliver the funds in stages as the work is completed.

Say for example you’d like to add on a third bedroom instead of selling your home and buying an existing three bedroom house. This would be considered a major remodel while at the same time increasing the value of your home by adding a third bedroom. This entails hiring an architect and a builder and paying for inspections and final appraisal as part of the process. With such a loan, it is phased in like most any other construction loan. The bank reviews your plans and specs, comes to an appraised value based upon what the final three bedroom project would be worth once complete. When the third bedroom is added on and finished out, one final inspection is performed to confirm completion. At the end of the project, the construction loan becomes due and a permanent mortgage is needed to replace the temporary construction funds.

A home equity loan can also be a solution. A home equity loan is a loan taken out with some of the equity in your home as collateral. There are two basic types of equity loans, a standard equity loan and a home equity line of credit, or HELOC. A standard equity loan is issued as a lump sum payment. a HELOC acts much like a credit card. You’re issued a line of credit based upon the as-completed value. If you want to pull out $10,000 for new appliances, you can do so but you also have the option of paying some or all of that $10,000 back based upon the terms of the loan, freeing up the equity to be used once again at some point in the future.

Another option is to utilize a cash-out refinance. During the process of refinancing an existing loan, homeowners may elect to pull out a little extra after paying off the outstanding principal balance and closing costs. If the loan balance is $200,000 and closing costs are $3,000, the new loan could also include some extra money in the bank account by tapping into the available equity in the home. However, exploring a cash-out refinance should only make sense if a non-cash out refinance lowers the interest rate on a low, changing loan terms, avoiding a balloon payment on its own, then pulling a little extra out in the form of cash might be an option for you.

All of these financing options have their advantages. Your loan officer can break down all the options, compare monthly payments, costs, etc. and help you choose the right financing tool for your individual project.

Message me if your thinking about buying or selling a Fort Collins or Loveland home at m.me/EdPowersRealEstate

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Ed Powers Real Estate 970-690-3113 ed@EdPowersRealEstate.com www.EdPowersRealEstate.com