Tuesday, April 30, 2013
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Building a Home? Read This First.
We were fortunate to live within a couple hours ride when our daughter and her husband had their first house built. They were relocating to the area and not within distance to watch the vacant lot transfigure into the home where they had planned to raise their family.
It was so exciting to choose everything that would go into the new house. Flooring, kitchen cabinets and countertop, lighting fixtures, appliances, etc. The details were overwhelming at times.
There was so much for the young couple to learn. My husband was in the construction business and thrilled to share his expertise with them.
We were transfixed as new homes quickly filled the development. They seemed to have popped up almost overnight! How could they be erected so quickly?
We found out when we went through the final walk-through with them before closing. Some of the flooring tiles weren't properly adhered. The upper kitchen cabinets were out of alignment.
Broken Spanish clay roofing tiles could be seen through the second floor bedroom window. It would only take one torrential South Florida downpour to turn their living room into a flood zone.
The main focal point in their entryway was an ornate six-foot banister along the second floor hallway. It was pieced together in two different places. Apparently they had run out of six foot pieces of lumber but found enough leftover ends to span the space.
The kids would never have noticed these "little" defects. They were too excited about beginning their new life together to sweat the small stuff.
Their new neighbors wouldn't have noticed, either. Miami was in a growth spurt at the time, attracting new businesses and residents with their favorable tax laws. Most of them hadn't yet moved into the area. They oversaw their construction from a distance.
What they didn't see made a huge impact over the years. Leaky roofs, splitting wood and broken tiles were shrugged off by the builder when they were eventually revealed. Certainly the homeowner did something to create the damage, it wasn't their poor workmanship.
Their dream home became a nightmare.
So how do you avoid finding yourself in this same situation?
Find a real estate agent to represent you. Many won't deal directly with new house sales, but will know developers by their reputation.
Shop for a reputable builder before choosing a house. Visit your local building department and ask questions about those you're considering. Ask things like if they finish their projects on time, have they had many complaints, etc.
Talk to others living in the development. Were they satisfied? If you're among the first, visit another development constructed by the same builder.
Hire a home inspector to visit during various stages of construction and accompany you on your final walk-through. Have them inspect the foundation when it's poured, the framing once complete and the finished home.
Your inspector should examine the major systems as they are completed; the roof, plumbing, electrical, etc.
Be absolutely certain which options are included in your negotiated price and which are upgrades. This is an area that's often pretty vague - and costly.
Upgrades can add up to 20% to the cost of your new home. Some may pay off. Others not so much. The carpeting you chose may come with a price tag you didn't expect. The same model stove may be cheaper at an appliance store. That decorative beam could be made of styrofoam.
Read your contract's fine print. Many have a clause saying that the model's features may not be the same brand you'll receive. Make sure your contract includes the specific makes, models, and brands you negotiated.
Oral agreements are impossible to enforce. Get everything you discuss in writing and signed by the developer's agent. Things like agreed-upon changes, completion deadline and a reasonable date where you can cancel and get all of your money back if the builder doesn't complete it on time.
Your new-house warranty should come from an independent insurance company rather than from the builder. Standard homeowners' warranties often cover only appliances and the heating system. Your new-home warranty should cover workmanship and materials for one year; essential systems (plumbing, electrical, etc.) for two years; and major structural defects for ten years.
Building a new home can be one of the most stressful times in your life. But if you plan it well and pay attention to the detail, it can bring you years of happiness. If not, your challenges are only beginning...
Who Was George Washington?
Tales of our country's first president have faded over time. Ironically, the one story we still share today is a myth.
George Washington never chopped down a cherry tree. He never uttered the words "I cannot tell a lie." At least, not in the cherry tree context.
Washington spent much of his childhood on Ferry Farm, a plantation near Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was there that his love for farming blossomed.
He was only 11 when his father died, and his formal education ended around age 15.
George wanted to join the British Navy, but his mother wouldn't let him. So instead he traveled with George William Fairfax to survey the wilderness of Virginia. He learned the geometric principles for surveying, and became one himself at 17.
At age 20, his brother succumbed to tuberculosis. It was then that George Washington inherited Mount Vernon.
One year later, trouble began to brew between France and England over territorial rights to an area claimed by Virginia at the time. Both countries recognized the area where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River to be a strategic point as a gateway to new territory.
Virginia Governor Dinwiddie sent Major Washington to deliver an eviction notice to the French. Washington did so.
But it was his return trip that became legendary. The 900-mile journey was made in the snow. Washington fell off a raft and nearly drowned in the ice-covered Allegheny River. He had to spend a freezing night on an island without shelter. His guide suffered frostbite. Washington returned unharmed.
He kept a journal of the mission that Governor Dinwiddie had published in both Williamsburg and London. George Washington became a global icon.
George married the widow Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. It was his first marriage. Martha had two children from her previous marriage. They never had children of their own.
George Washington was happy working the farms at Mount Vernon between 1759 and 1775. His innovations transformed farming in our young country.
He switched his main cash crop from tobacco to wheat - virtually unheard of in tobacco-rich Virginia. He experimented with new crops, began crop rotation and bred livestock.
Washington began milling flour and commercial fishing to make Mount Vernon a more profitable estate. He also began making whiskey and built one of the largest distilleries in America at the time.
In June 1775, Washington was commissioned to command the Continental Army in Boston. The British had occupied the city, and he was to lead the troops that would send them packing. He sent a note to Martha, telling her he would be home in the fall.
It would be eight long years before he would see Mount Vernon again.
He was successful in driving the British out of Boston, but New York proved more difficult. We were now embroiled in the Revolutionary War. Washington's natural leadership startled the world as a fledgling nation prevailed over a better supplied, more numerous and fully trained British army.
At the war's end, George Washington wanted to go home to a quiet life. He resigned his commission and returned to Mount Vernon as an international hero.
But he became troubled by news of national affairs. The Articles of Confederation were disregarded. The United States couldn't collect revenue or pay its debts. Political, financial and military incompetence reigned. Something had to be done to preserve all that he fought to attain.
He wrote to James Madison, urging the U.S. to craft a Constitution. And soon found himself in Philadelphia, presiding over the Constitutional Convention. He was determined to draft a document that would not prove temporary, but would survive throughout the ages.
Washington would have been considered a conservative today, crafting a Constitution based on religion and liberty. "It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible," Washington said.
And again, "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth."
Today, we bicker over intent and terminology. But our forefather recognized that a moral compass is imperative to insuring justice. And that self-defense is imperative to maintaining our liberties. But he didn't have to include disclaimers as I do today in trying not to offend readers who hold a different opinion.
Once the Constitution was approved, Washington tried to retire again to a peaceful life on the farm. Yet once again, once the first presidential election was held, he found himself in public office. He remains today as the only president elected by a unanimous vote.
George Washington established the national government structure that remains in practice today. Even during his lifetime, he was known as the Father of Our Country.
Tip of the Week
When did you last check your credit report? A recent study found 22% of Americans have never taken the time to do so, despite the fact that costly mistakes can appear. Consumers are entitled to one free copy of their report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year. Spread them out throughout the year to catch problems before you get caught up in them. Your only truly free, authorized source is AnnualCreditReport.com.
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