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Real Estate: Get The Most Out Of Your Investment


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Photo: Getty Images


If you’re a homeowner, you probably want to get the best value out of your investment—regardless of whether you plan to sell in the near future or stay put for the rest of your life. The simplest ways to maximize your home’s worth? Keep it in tip-top shape. And remodel selectively.

Even in today’s sizzling real estate market, buyers are much more willing to pay top dollar for a well-kept house than one that needs serious repair.

“None of the components of a house last forever,” says home inspector Lance Luke. “It’s like a car. If all you do is put gas into it and drive it around, you’ll eventually find yourself stuck on the side of the freeway.”

All it takes to head off deterioration of your home is diligence. Clean house on a regular basis. It’s important to get rid of the dust, dirt and mildew that can damage paint, floors, countertops and tiles. It’s also one of the best ways to know what’s going on with your house—the countless fixtures, appliances, finishes, nooks and crannies. After all, it doesn’t take a professional to spot loose shingles, leaky faucets or termite droppings.

Take care of minor repairs as they arise. That way, your house isn’t just safer and more comfortable to live in—you’ll avoid bigger, costlier projects in the long run. This is crucial advice, even for homeowners with no plans to sell or rent out their homes.

“The vast majority of expensive repairs I see have to do with complacency, or what we call deferred maintenance,’” says Chris Terry, president of Distinctive Home Inspections. “Everyone drinks a cup of coffee in the morning—take your cup outside and walk around. I live by the saying, An ounce of prevention is worth five pounds of cure.’”

There are several issues that all Hawaii homeowners should keep an eye on:

The Usual Suspects

TERMITES are the bane of homeowners across the state. Drywood termites (the kind that leave telltale droppings) are bad, but ground termites (the ones that form mud tubes around the base of a house) are the worst. “It can get so bad that, in six months to a year, ground termites can level a house,” Luke says. Tent fumigation can kill drywood termites. For ground termites, the most effective remedy is an in-ground baiting system, such as Sentricon. Whatever treatment you buy, it pays to get the warranty, Luke advises. “That way, you’re covered if the termites come back within the next few years.”

ROOFING can last anywhere from 10 to 50 years, depending on the material used, as well as your neighborhood’s climate. “Say you have a wood-shingle house in Ma-noa or Kahaluu, where it rains a lot,” Luke says. “Although that type of roof can last more than 20 years, if it’s not maintained, it might need to be replaced in 10.” Fix leaks as soon as you notice them. Left unchecked, a leak won’t just cause water damage to your home, it can spur mold growth on everything from drywall to floors.

 Most homes need REPAINTING every four to seven years, with thorough prep work—stripping, sanding, re-caulking open joints and applying a prime coat—beforehand. You’ve waited too long, Luke says, when “the paint is chalky or you can see peeling or cracking.”

Unless you happen to be a licensed electrician, don’t tamper with your home’s ELECTRICAL SYSTEM. Call in the pros. It’s not just smarter, it’s safer. “A lot of home fires are caused by electrical problems, usually because something was done improperly,” Terry says. Some signs of outdated or inadequate electrical systems: lights dim when an electrical appliance is turned on, two-pronged outlets instead of three, messy wiring or the presence of three or more electrical panels (you may know them as fuse boxes) in a single-family home.

PLUMBING also usually requires professional help. Problems can range from old or incompatible piping materials to faulty fixtures and waste lines, resulting in dripping faucets, clogged drains and leaky pipes. How can you tell if your plumbing system needs to be replaced? “The water pressure gets lower and lower, until virtually no water is coming out of your faucets,” Luke says. If additional rooms were added to your home improperly, there’s a chance that your electrical and plumbing systems are overworked.

 Get to the bottom of things—inspect your home’s FOUNDATION. Unchecked ground-termite infestations, improper drainage systems and, especially if your home is built on a hillside, bad soil conditions can all lead to expensive problems later. “If there are cracks in the foundation, or you sink into the ground when you walk because the soil is soft, or there’s water coming out from under the foundation and it’s a sunny day, then something’s wrong,” says Luke.

 Set aside money each month for UNEXPECTED REPAIRS—just as condominium owners pay monthly maintenance fees.


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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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