Tips on Dealing with Spring Repairs and Preventive Care

Today's better-built, well-insulated homes can trap excess moisture inside, especially if there is inadequate ventilation. The unwanted moisture shows up as musty odors, rusty stains around light fixtures, damp, sticky floors, and mildew and mold growth.

Good preventative maintenance can help eliminate many moisture problems, according to C.J. Gehlke, president and founder of REO Nationwide in Newport Beach, Calif. It is important to fix leaky faucets and dripping toilets. Common problems include stoppages of toilets and drains, garbage disposals, clogged air conditioner lines and deterioration, and bursting of water lines. Roots in sewer lines can cause backups and damage as well.

"A dripping pipe can cause water damage inside your home," said Ms. Gehlke. "To find problems before they cause damage, here are some tips. Suggest your agent listen for unusual hissing sounds. Periodically ask your agent to check around the water heater and under the sinks."

Also, she said, look for discolored floor coverings or subfloors, usually a sign of a leak. Water stains and wetness are often caused by loose or damaged plumbing fixtures or fittings. Moisture at the base of the toilet may indicate a deteriorated wax ring, which is easily replaced. If interior water damage is discovered, have the problem corrected immediately. "If the water supply has over 80 pounds of pressure, consider having the handyman install a pressure regulator to help avoid high water pressures that may cause a line rupture or leak."

During the rainy season, it is also important to check the gutters. Wind-driven rain and leaves can cause them to clog up again in a short time. To keep debris out of the downspouts, install a filter screen.

"Rain gutters do a great job of keeping excess water away from the foundation and keeping a home's outside walls and windows cleaner, but they will clog without some attention and they must be kept clean to work properly," she said.

To repair minor leaks or small holes, make sure the gutter is dry, then thoroughly clean the inside of the leak area with a rag, suggests Ms. Gehlke. Next apply a generous layer of silicone caulking compound to the joint or hole. Overlap the affected area about an inch on all sides. Allow it to set up overnight before water testing. With used or resale homes and REO sales, inspection reports provide information for buyers rather than directives for sellers. Most requests are negotiable and not legally binding upon the seller, especially when the original purchase contract was written with the clean intention that the sale was to be consummated "as is" as of the date the purchase contract was accepted by the buyer.

Repair requests can and should be made with the understanding that the seller has rights of refusal. With this ground rule in mind, buyers should divide their inspection findings into four categories. Legally mandated repairs include some conditions that require repairs in accordance with state laws or local ordinances. Common in many areas are requirements to provide water-conserving toilets and showerheads, and to upgrade smoke detector placement. If the sale is not stipulated "as is," some conditions may be specified for repair in the purchase contract, including that broken windows be replaced, or that the roof be certified by a licensed roofing contractor.

All property defects not included in the first two categories are negotiable and buyers should carefully divide these according to importance. Structural problems or safety violations are generally regarded as reasonable repair requests. Examples of these include faulty foundations, a non-permitted additional, a defective furnace, a substandard chimney and faulty electrical wiring.

Finally, there are those common property defects that should be regarded for disclosure purposes only. Examples of conditions of minor concern include rotted fence posts, peeling paint, rubbing doors, cracked pavement and worn carpet. Ms. Gehlke says these four standards should be applied when reviewing an inspection report, as a means of separating repairs to be requested from conditions to be accepted.

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