13 Cost-Effective Ways to Get Your House Ready for Sale

Looking to Sell? Here are 13 Cost Effective Improvements:

You have deep cleaned, de-cluttered, put away personal items,  spruced up your landscaping, placed slipcovers on your worn sofa, cleaned the carpets, washed the windows, put out a new welcome mat, now:  what else can you do to get your house ready for sale  within a reasonable budget?

  1. Door Handles- If you have brass, tulip-shaped doorknobs from the 1960’s, they are probably dull and corroded by now. Replacing them with modern satin nickel lever handles is quite easy, as  you can use the existing  holes to install them.
  2. Paint Kitchen Cabinets- If you have  older flat panel oak doors on your kitchen cabinets, you can paint then white or gray. It’s not hard.  First give them a light sanding with  fine grade sandpaper. Then, after removing the cabinet pulls, using a small roller with a 1/8 inch nap, prime the cabinets with Zinsser shellac primer, and after they dry give it two coats of a white or gray oil base paint. Be sure to paint the edges of the doors, and any part of the cabinet fronts that show. Whether you a paint the interior is optional.
  3. Kitchen Cabinet Pulls-  You can get new pulls in a great variety of styles on Amazon or Ebay.  Just be sure to measure the distance between the holes on the cabinets. The most common distances are  3 inches and 3.5 inches.
  4. Painting the whole interior is usually desirable, but if your budget does not allow it,  cleaning smudges off the walls is a viable alternative.  One product I have found that works well is “Magic Eraser Extra Durable” by Mr. Clean. It should be available in any hardware or big box home store. If you do decide to paint, not painting the ceiling can save you up to 1/3 of the cost.
  5. Do you have a long corridor that leads to the bedrooms? Why not make that into a picture gallery? All it takes is installing a track light along the corridor, with individual light heads spotlighting each picture.  You probably already have a ceiling light there, and the track light can use that electrical box as a feed.
  6. Check your electrical outlets.  If some of them can only accommodate 2-prong plugs, they need to be updated for 3-prong plugs. This is a job for an electrician, but it is an easy fix.  You might also consider changing all of them to the modern “Decora” style outlets and rocker switches, or at the very least change the outlet and switch cover plates, if they are worn or painted over.
  7. If your kitchen floor is worn, you might consider re-tiling with modern vinyl tiles that look very much like ceramic tiles,  even  to the point of imitating grout lines. They are self-stick, very easy to apply, and can go right over the existing tile.  Available at  tile stores or big box home stores.
  8. If you have a vintage home, with ornate door hardware, consider  having the knobs professionally cleaned, and then            lacquered, for a lasting finish.
  9. 9.     If your kitchen cabinets have no under cabinet lights,  this might be the time to install LED battery                 operated lights.  It’s an easy DIY project, as they attached with a glue strip.  No electrician needed!
  10. Paint or refinish your front door. First impressions are important. If you’re in a house,  planters                 with flowers on  either side of the door  will brighten things up.
  11. If your walls are bare, consider buying some inexpensive framed posters.  If you are doing a picture gallery down your main corridor, they’ll be perfect.  Some are carried by Michaels, Ikea, and the big box home improvement stores.
  12. If you are selling a vacant house, and don’t want to go to the expenses of buying or renting furniture to “stage” it, consider  just putting in some inexpensive rugs and large potted plants, such as carried by the  big box home improvement stores.  You might also put some posters on the wall.
  13. Take a look at the house numbers on the front.  If they are worn or faded, it is very inexpensive to replace them. Also take a look at your mailbox  with an eye towards replacing it also.

So there you have it.  For a cost of from $1,000 to $1,400 if you do the work yourself, or a cost of from $4,100 to $5,900 if the work is all hired out,  you can greatly increase your chances of a quick  and trouble free sale.

1700 East 56th Street Construction

As one of the premier high rise buildings in the City, the 1700 E. 56th Street building has very high standards. Originally built to exacting specifications,  it now strives through its Board of Directors to uphold its high level of construction by requiring new work in the individual units to conform to its guidelines, as set down by its architectural advisers.

This may cause some consternation with new residents, as they may not be used to this level of oversight and architectural control when it comes to work that’s entirely within their own units.

Per Loseth, who is the principal of Loseth Construction Company, may be of service in this regard in shepherding a project through the building approval process,  and also in managing the construction process itself. He draws on over thirty years of residential and commercial construction experience,  is a 20-year resident of the building, and has facilitated the approval process, and managed construction for a number of units.

Per Loseth
Per Loseth- Facilitator/Construction Manager

Even though the approval process is complicated, it’s entirely rational and well thought out. Here are the documents ( in 1700 Building parlance called “the construction package”) needed for approval for an average project that goes beyond just painting and carpeting:

The 1700 Building “construction package”:

  • A ”Scope of Work” statement that outlines and enumerates the items to be worked on.
  • A signed contract between the unit owner and the contractor.
  • Rider #1:  Contractor’s agreement to abide by the stated building  rules.
  • Rider #2:  Unit owner and contractor agree to floor covering guidelines.
  • Certificates of Insurance for liability and workmen’s compensation from the contractor, naming the building as co-insured.
  • A floor plan drawn up to show the areas being  worked on and the extent of the work.
  • List of contractors’ and subcontractors’ names and contact numbers.
  • Start and finish date of project, if approved.
  •  Written notices to all unit owners on floor above and below the unit  about the work and the  time frame.  To be given 48 hours prior to the work starting.
  • Photographs of the underlayment as installed, if new flooring is to be installed.
  • Review by outside architect if walls are removed, units combined, entry door is moved, plumbing or electrical are removed or relocated.
  • Copy of city building permit, if needed.
  • Specifications for all new materials, fixtures, and appliances to be installed.

These documents are to be submitted in electronic form  at least  4 weeks prior to the Board meeting where the project is to be  reviewed. The Board normally meets once a month, except for in the summer months.

Here are the things that Per will help you with if you decide to seek his help:

Pre-planning Phase: Early on, in consultation with the building engineer, Per will share his knowledge of the “immovables” inside the walls. If you are planning to do any work that relocates walls, or relocates kitchen cabinets, or plumbing fixtures, these must be taken into account, and will greatly influence the design of your remodeling. These “immovables” are (1) the building structural concrete columns, which cannot be moved for obvious reasons, (2) the building plumbing pipes, which also service apartments above and below your unit, and (3) the building telephone and cable TV wires, which are carried in large conduits inside the walls in several locations. Electrical switches and outlets can be moved, so that’s not a major consideration.

Planning Phase: Having figured out what can and cannot be done in your unit, Per will help you figure out what you want to do, working within your budget, and will give you some rough cost estimates of various remodeling possibilities. Having done that, the next step would be to execute a “scope of work” with any required drawings and specifications. The more exact you can make the specifications, the more accurate your bids will be in the next stage, which is to get estimates from contractors. If you are remodeling your kitchen, for instance, it would be helpful to have a plan drawn up showing the sizes and location of the kitchen cabinets and the appliances. At this stage it is not essential to know the name brand of the cabinets, the appliances, or the accessories; you can simply work with allowances. In other words, for instance, you can state that the kitchen cabinets will have a cost not to exceed $X. If the cabinets cost less than the allowance, you will be due a credit, if more, it will be added to the contract amount. You can do the same for all the major items.

Selection of Contractor: Having a written “Scope of Work” in hand, you can now start conversations with general contractors. It is very helpful to limit your selection to contractors who have previously done work in the 1700 building, as there are some conditions in the building that are unique. The contractors you consider must also have a current City of Chicago contractor’s license, carry liability insurance, and also workman’s compensation insurance.

If you consult with several contractors, it is important they they all bid on exactly the same specifications. All contractors will have their own preferences as to materials and methods they like to use, but if you allow them to alter the specs at this point, you will have massive confusion. If you change your mind about a certain spec during the bid process, you can always alter it after you have decided on a contractor.

Approval of the”Construction Package”: Having selected a contractor, you will now execute a contract, which will be submitted to the 1700 Board together with all of the other documents enumerated above. If all goes well, approval should be gained within a month from the submission of the construction package.

The Construction Period: Per is also available to manage the construction as the owner’s representative. As such he can do the following:

  • Inspect the construction site and the outside corridor on a daily basis.
  • Make sure the contractor and the subs follow the building rules.
  • Submit weekly progress reports to the owner.
  • Handle periodic requests for payments by the general contractor and subcontractors.
  • Approve partial and final waivers of lien.
  • Supervise construction to make sure it conforms to drawings and specifications.

Selection of Materials: Per is also available on an hourly basis to aid in the selection of materials such as kitchen cabinets, counter tops, flooring, paint colors, bathroom fixtures, and appliances.

Ikea Kitchen Cabinets

Seven Reasons Why My Customers Like Ikea Cabinets

  1. The cabinets are super strong. The Ikea “Sektion” cabinet system is well thought out, and thoroughly standardized. All the cabinets have the same assembly process, so even though they come delivered in a flat pack, they go together in a rational and uniform way that is foolproof.
  2. Drawers and doors come with standard “soft close” hinges, which with other brands is an substantial extra charge. These are Blum hinges, considered the best in the world. The drawers also come with full extension slides.
  3. They come with a 25 year warranty. Because all of the cabinets use essentially the same box, and only the doors are different, replacement should be easy if needed.
  4. The cabinets are built with ¾ inch MDF (medium density fiberboard), rather than the thinner 5/8 inch or ½ inch thickness of big box cabinets. This is the same quality MDF used by the German prestige cabinetmakers “Poggenpohl” and “Bulthaup” .
  5. Cabinets are generally in stock, and can be picked up or delivered within days. Cabinets from other cabinet makers generally take from 4 to 6 weeks to be delivered, and if there is a mistake, it can take 3 weeks or more to get the correct cabinet.
  6. Since all cabinets utilize the same basic box, doors can readily be replaced, even many years after the original installation.
  7. A fulsome line of accessories is offered, such as spice inserts, lazy Suzans, pull-out shelves, recycling bins, drawer organizers, etc. Panels to match the drawer fronts are available to cover dishwashers and refrigerators.

Foundation Problems Solved

Dealing With Foundation Cracks

October 12, 2019

By Per Loseth- Loseth Construction Company

You could tackle foundation cracks– but would you want to?  Here is what is involved, as narrated by the expert Will Decker.

A Guide to Foundation Cracks

By Will Decker, CRI, CMI

One of the biggest concerns for home buyers and many homeowners is when they find cracks in their house’s foundation. I will admit that if you have a crack, or cracks, in your house’s foundation you have a problem, but the problem may not be a big one. Foundation cracks usually only mean that you may get a little water seepage into the basement during a heavy rain, but they can also be a symptom of severe and dangerous structural problems.

How do you tell the difference?

What follows is some guidelines and examples of the many types of foundation cracks that inspectors see and how we interpret them and explain them to our clients. Our hope is that this article will help you in keeping your house safe and ally some unnecessary fears.

Please keep in mind that while many home inspectors, especially advanced professionals who have had special training, like a Certified Master Inspector (CMI) are a very good source to evaluate foundation cracks, when we encounter “iffy” situations, an evaluation by a licensed structural engineer may be required, especially if a detailed repair plan is needed.

Types of Foundations:

Before we begin explaining foundation cracks, lets first understand the different types of foundations houses can have. I live and work in the Chicagoland area where the foundations are usually poured concrete and most houses have basements. In the southern United States, most houses have crawlspaces instead of basements. In Florida, where my daughter lives, most foundations are just slabs of concrete poured on the ground (the water table is too high in Florida and basements would just fill up with water). Different areas have different soil conditions and climates, calling for different types of construction. All foundations, however, serve to provide the structural base for the building. As you can see from the diagram, all types of foundation begin with a wide base, called a footing, upon which the foundation wall rests. The footing provides a wide area resting on the ground to distribute the weight of the building evenly. The footing is usually placed deep in the ground (in this area, footings should be at least 4 feet deep) so they will not be moved by water or freezing ground in the winter. The foundation wall, what most people think of as the house’s foundation, rests on the footing and extends upwards to where it meets the house’s exterior walls.

The foundation wall can be constructed of different types of materials, again depending upon local conditions and construction requirements. Some areas use concrete blocks, also referred to by their old name of cinder block. Some older houses in my area have brick foundations. There are even some areas, usually dry, desert states, where the foundations are constructed out of wood. In my area, most foundations are poured concrete with a few that are concrete block or brick and I will limit this article to those types.

Types of Foundations and How to Fix

Foundation cracks have many causes, but the cause of the crack can usually be determined by the type of crack, as can the solution to the crack problem.

Five different types of cracks, each representing a different problem
The two types of stresses on concete

Vertical crack: A vertical foundation crack is a crack that goes straight up and down or slightly diagonal, within 30 degrees of vertical. Vertical cracks are of least concern and are commonly seen in almost all houses. In fact, it is very rare in this area to have a concrete foundation that does not have one or two vertical cracks. They occur because concrete is very strong under compression but cracks easily under tension. Most houses will see one, two or even three vertical cracks form within the first couple of years after construction. These cracks are not a real structural concern, but they can allow seepage of water through the foundation wall during heavy rains. Again, this is normal and commonly seen. The solution to vertical cracks is usually simple, inexpensive and permanent.

Epoxy is injected into each of the black funnels

We recommend that you have a vertical crack repaired by urethane or epoxy

Diagonal cracks can be repaired in the same manner as vertical cracks, but more injection material is usually called for to account for any additional future movement. Repairing diagonal cracks also calls for determining the cause and position of the differential settling. This is where a certified Home Inspector, one who has specialized training in structural and foundation issues, can be of help.

Horizontal Cracks: Foundation cracks that run sideways are the most serious type of cracks. They are sometimes seen in poured concrete foundations but more commonly in concrete block and brick foundations. Horizontal cracks are caused by a bowing foundation. The foundation wall’s exterior is usually covered by the back filling of dirt and gravel. If this back fill is improperly done, does not get proper drainage or gets overly compressed (many times by the construction equipment that was used to build the house) the excessive pressure against the foundation wall cases it to bow inwards. Sometimes there is excessive rain which can also be followed by a freeze. This can increase the hydrostatic pressure behind the foundation wall and cause it to bow inwards. Bowing foundations are serious and can lead to structural failure of the foundation and collapse of the house.

Pressure from backfill dirt resulting in horizontal crack

There are a couple of different techniques for fixing horizontal foundation cracks. Some involve the installation of high-strength strapping on the interior of the foundation to keep the wall from bowing further. Sometimes a number of reinforcing posts or braces are installed in the basement of the crawlspace. There are also techniques that use anchors buried in the surrounding soil that pull the foundation wall back out and secure it.

Regardless of the solution, a bowing foundation should always be evaluated by a licensed Structural Engineer and the repair technique and plan be determined by him/her. Bowing foundations are serious and their repair should always be done by a professional.

Step cracks, resulting from uneven settling of footing or foundation

Step Cracks: Some times the cracks are not on the foundation but are seen on the exterior wall above the foundation. This is commonly seen in brick or concrete block exterior houses. Step cracks should be treated just like diagonal cracks and are the result of differential settling of the house. If the cracks are only in the mortar joints between the brick or block, the problem is usually not serious and can be repaired by the re-pointing of the mortar. However, if the brick or block is displaced (moved in or out from the material on the other side of the crack) or the cracking extends through the blocks, the problem may be more serious. Step cracks should always be evaluated by a Certified Home Inspector or a Structural Engineer to determine their severity.