Expert Answers: Why Can’t I Look at a House with Stucco?

Expert Answers: Why Can’t I Look at a House with Stucco?

A question was submitted by a Consumer in Pennsylvania recently, asking a very interesting question.

“We are relocating to Pennsylvania from California. We found a few beautiful houses we really like, and want to see. We were told that our Relocation benefits would not apply to these properties because the houses had stucco on their exterior. We investigated further and were told that some of the properties we like with Stucco have had stucco inspections and even some repairs if there were problems found. Why would we lose our relocation benefits and why are we being restricted in what properties we can purchase?”

This has been an ongoing problem with Relocation clients in this part of the Country since as early as 2009, and more prominent into 2011 and beyond. It is a valid question and one that needs to be revisited.

PA House with Good Stucco

A Home for Sale in Chester County PA has stucco but has been inspected and repairs made, yet relocation companies exclude it from their buyers options. Why?

I am not a stucco expert, a home inspector, or a builder, but I have sold enough properties with Stucco, and those with known and even unknown stucco problems. Prior to 2004 the method in which Stucco was applied to many of these homes was a manner that did not permit enough air flow behind the stucco so that when moisture built up the risk for damage to the boarding or wood behind the stucco was severe. The Stucco was being applied from at, or below, the soil line which is one of the methods modified after the discovery of many of the problems with the stucco application.

The biggest problem with stucco applications of that era were really related to the way in which windows were installed, as well as where a roof line met a stucco surface. If “kick out” flashing was not properly installed water would then run directly into the stucco and over time – since Stucco is porous, the water would get behind the stucco and damage wood – or OSB boards – beneath the stucco. Where the windows meet the house, similar infiltration would occur.

In 2006 I had clients purchase a property with Stucco. During the home inspection an area where a roof line met a stucco wall had “discoloration” which was believed to be “dirt” or in some cases “moss” because the area did not get enough sun light to completely dry out the area. In 2008 that same property was then resold and that same area of discoloration was actually discovered to have extensive damage to the wall beneath the stucco, in fact a large portion of the wall was completely rotted out, and infested with a fungal growth. What was “just dirt” in 2006 turned out to be approximately $30,000 in damages, which is a relatively low amount in the world of “stucco problems”.

Most properties built after 2003 or 2004 with Stucco were done differently, with the stucco being started well above the soil line, and with ventilation strips to permit airflow beneath the stucco. Most problems were also discovered to be directly related to inadequate “kick out” flashing installation, which is relatively easy to correct.

Yet a lot of Relocation companies – those that administer relocation benefit packages on behalf of employers, include clauses in their documents for purchases and sales that completely exclude any stucco properties from consideration of the person receiving the relocation benefit. This is archaic, in my opinion, since many properties have no either been inspected, had corrective measure taken, or built after the era in question, but people – like yourself – are being told they can’t purchase a property with Stucco without risking all, or part, of your relocation benefits.

I began to ask all my Seller clients – as early as 2007 – to do stucco inspections prior to listing a property, and complete any needed repairs. I continue this practice to this day, yet my Seller clients don’t get the exposure they deserve, and the Buyers are being restricted in their purchase choices.

You can get a sense of whether an inspection might be warranted by looking at a stucco property from the distance. If you see obvious discoloration under the windows, in the area where water would flow from the window in a driving rain, or where a roof line meets another surface – then you might have an indicator that a problem could exist. Note I said COULD. The only person to determine this with definitive certainty is a qualified Stucco inspector. Stucco inspections can be intrusive, including drilling into walls to get a core sample and expose the areas beneath the stucco exterior.

I would suggest that you contact your employer directly to discuss the question of “stucco” as it is addressed by the administering Relocation provider. The employer can review the package that is offered and work with the Relocation company to address any concerns you have, and even eliminate the restriction all together.

This out of date mindset has definitely stigmatized the sector of luxury homes with Stucco finish, and many unjustly so. I still recommend a stucco inspection be completely, which can be costly depending on how in depth it might need to be, but a $1500 Stucco inspection can prevent a Buyer from ending up with a $100,000 Stucco repair which many insurers will not cover.

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

With the announcement of an agreement between Twitter and Google as written up on VentureBeat, there is some satisfaction at many levels, and a personal one as well, that those of us who have always been staunch supporters of the business use, and value, of Twitter can celebrate with the quiet confidence that “I told you so” isn’t needed to be said, but it obvious in the outcome – this landmark agreement between two technology giants.

Twitter Opens Fire Hose Feed to Google

The Official Twitter Bird Logo

The Value of Twitter for Real Estate
I have been a huge supporter of Twitter, and it’s power for search engine optimization in real time, since I began using the service in 2008. I spent a great deal of time educating the real estate industry on the benefits and value, the pure elegant power that is Twitter. Some would dismiss it, call it a waste of time, but those that “get it” have always seen the power.

Social networks move in and out of vogue with a near constant ebb and flow, but Twitter has remained mostly consistent in what it does, how it does it and the value proposition it has – wide open for use and interpretation. I have been asked many times, in interviews, at conferences, in meetings, while on stage talking about the power of Twitter, what my favorite social network is, it has always been – and still is Twitter.

It’s Always Been “Cool”
Although there have been times when people turned their noses down at my response, and moments when it was not “fashionable” to like Twitter, I have been steadfast in my belief, and my dedication to Twitter and the value it brings the world. The real time citizen reporter power has proven itself time and time again. The mainstream media accepts it, and recognizes the value of the live and real time conversation.

Twitter chats (using tools like Nurph) have become more and more popular ways to communicate ideas, and bring master mind resources together to brainstorm, share and evolve ideas and uses of the platform, of business use cases, and of customer service.  Look for a new Twitter for Real Estate Chat beginning on February 17, 2015 from EstateSocial.com and @mayaREguru.

The Great Twitter “Told You So”
Quietly Twitter has grown it’s business model, and the power of the data it aggregates. Now, in 2015 Google – the powerhouse of search engine optimized data – acknowledges that Twitter has what it has never been able to build – a truly successful, reliable (no more Fail Whale – mostly) and desirable social network. There is quiet satisfaction in this for Twitter, who does a lot of great things (check out their #Transparency initiatives, to see how pro-user they have always been).

I have always deemed Twitter to be the “One Ring” of social media, to connect them all, and I truly believe this proves that point even more. The true value of Twitter is that it is a totally indexable and open network, unlike Facebook which requires login and access to view, engage and post messages, Tweets are immediately available to be indexed by any spider client of whichever search mechanism.

With the agreement between Google and Twitter to open the “fire hose” feed directly to Google those Tweets will be immediately indexable, therefore the value – and therefore power – of your Tweet and Twitter account has grown exponentially.  Even InmanNews offered an interesting take on what it means to real estate.

To be clear, this is not the beginning of the indexing of Twitter – it is merely a more efficient and expeditious way for that indexing to happen.  To put it simply – the indexing of Twitter isn’t new, just the means by which it will be indexed – the speed, the efficiency, and the availability will all improve.

With that, I am going to start republishing – as well as rewriting – much of my content directed at the use of Twitter for the real estate industry, best practices, how to get the return on your time invested, and the “how to” of Twitter for Real Estate (and beyond). It’s the return of @mayaREguru and my pro-Twitter message, it’s all about positioning yourself for success in social media for real estate professionals – it’s not rocket science, it’s pretty basic and it’s really all about Twitter as the method to share the information.

As the thought leader, Twitter proponent and connector of all things Twitter – Clint Miller said it best, and a LONG time ago “Twitter is a Cocktail Party” – that’s the simplest way to understand the value and power, true social networking. Clint is posthumously proven to be a true innovator, which many of us already knew.  I know he is chuckling down on us all from somewhere in Heaven.

I have told clients, classes, publishers, publications and organizations for a long time how valuable Twitter is to their business growth and development. I think the agreement between Google and Twitter is the perfect way to validate the true quantitative value of Twitter for all those naysayers who always asked “Show me the proof” as they dismissed many of us – it has always been there, if you were willing to see it.

Welcome to 2015, the (deferred since 2007) officially endorsed by Google Year of “The Twitter” for Real Estate.

How are you already using Twitter, or have you abandoned your Twitter account? What are your biggest challenges in embracing and using Twitter? Tell me below in your comments, ask questions, if you need help I will try to offer my expertise.

Expert Answers: What is an AVM?

Today’s question comes from a consumer in Michigan.

Question: “What is an AVM?”

Expert Answer:

An AVM is an “Automated Valuation Model”.   AVM’s have long existed, most frequented used in actuarial processes for lenders or lien holders of real estate.   First, there are many different kinds of value to be determined, is the value “Fair Market” or is it “replacement” or another?

Companies have created systems and algorithms to calculate the value of a real estate portfolio, which could be the total of loans outstanding for a large lending institution or the portfolio of individual real estate investors.  Insurers also have their own methods for creating AVM’s.

Today consumers are most familiar with some forms of AVM’s that are frequently available via real estate search sites – which in reality are really media companies advertising properties to attract consumers and then sell the “consumer lead” to a real estate professional who is paying the media company for the lead.  That is the simplest means to explain these portal websites.

The AVM models displayed are proprietary, created specifically for the purpose of that use.  Data collected determines the results provided, the larger the pool of data the more likely an accurate valuation will be provided.  Many models are based on geographic methodology that might not hold water in a different geographic area.

Much like real estate itself, a property value in California can’t be determined in the same way that a property value in Boston might be.  A zip code is a lousy means to measure a value but is frequently the main means for some of the most popular portals to provide values.

Today, the most current valuations are those that use many sources for data collection.  For instance the National Association of REALTORS has invested greatly in creating REALTORS Property Resource (RPR) to help REALTORS meet the needs of the consumers seeking valuations of their properties.   RPR uses data only available to real estate professionals via listing services (Multiple Listing Services), loan processing services, various data aggregation, public records and more.   The result, as I have tested myself, is an incredibly accurate and powerful valuation model, in this case it is called an RVM – REALTORS Valuation Model.

I have been using RPR for a number of years, and for full disclosure I am a certified contract trainer for RPR.  I have shared my valuations with clients, REALTORS and appraisers.  I have been told numerous times by appraisal professionals that the RPR RVM is “spot on” accurate in the comps, and the values determined.  Yes there is some human input in the final adjusted results, as there should be in any valuation.

People are not machines, and an AVM is not for people – so looking at a portal AVM for your property, or a property you are interested in, without consulting a real estate professional, is not going to give you a realistic – nor fair – view of true value.

Before you put stock in that “estimate” of a properties value, put your faith in having a real estate professional, and even a appraiser, tell you what that true value is.