Home watch services at Lake Tahoe

From October to April many owners of Incline Village real estate close up their properties while they reside in warmer climates.

There is the potential whenever a property is vacant for a long period of time that some type of damage or problem can go unnoticed. If a broken pipe or other major issue is not corrected promptly it may escalate dramatically resulting in a huge expense and headache to repair.

The purpose of a home watch service is to inspect the interior and exterior of your property on a regular basis and check for damage, leaks, broken windows, unlocked doors, invading squirrels, and other issues that could cause concern.

While condo owners may feel they are immune to this sort of problem, most homeowners associations will only look for visible damage from the outside of a property. No one will tell you if the furnace or boiler is broken and the heat is off or if a faucet is leaking.

For absentee owners of houses and condos, employing a home watch service when you are away for extended periods of time could be very valuable.

If you have a security alarm system, consider adding a freeze alarm and a redundant fire alarm system to provide backup for your smoke detectors. The freeze alarm is especially helpful in the event that your heating system goes out while you are away. It can take just a couple of very cold nights for pipes to freeze and burst, creating an enormous amount of damage inside your property.

While home watch services can help with your peace of mind, electronic monitoring devices such as a freeze alarm provide an added layer of confidence for absentee owners.

There are some firms in our communities that in addition to doing landscaping and other maintenance services can perform the home watch for you. Some property management firms offer home watch as one of the menu items on the list of services that they provide.

Whether you choose to have the service performed all year round or just from autumn to spring will depend upon your personal schedule and use of your property. You also can stipulate that the home watch service provider pay special attention to particular attributes of your property especially if you have some unique features that could be overlooked by the untrained eye.

The prices and services provided can vary greatly so it is advisable to interview a few different companies and see who will be the best fit for your particular situation.

Some home watch service providers also can be named as the primary contact in the event that your alarm system goes off. This ensures that a local person can quickly visit your property and remedy the issue as soon as it arises.

Best of all, a good home watch service can give you peace of mind when you are away for any length of time so that you are not constantly worrying about what could be happening with your property at Lake Tahoe.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.

Preparing your property for wintertime

With nighttime temperatures dropping into the 30s on occasion it is a reminder that winter weather can come early to Lake Tahoe and property owners need to be prepared.

As we approach the autumnal equinox it's time to tackle the annual household chores to prepare your property for winter at Lake Tahoe. We can't address every item that requires attention in advance of wintertime in this short column, but here are a few of the major tasks to keep in mind.

Snow removal is at the top of the priority list, so make sure that your snow blower is tuned up and you have fresh gasoline. If you have hired a snow removal service to clear your driveway, now is the time to double check your arrangements and get your snow stakes in place.

Eliminating pine needles and other debris from decks, driveways and sidewalks will make snow removal much easier.

Drain and shut off your irrigation system for the winter. While condo owners can generally rely on their homeowners association to handle this responsibility, all single-family homeowners and many freestanding condo owners are responsible for their landscaping and irrigation systems.

Owners of freestanding condos should check with their association manager if they are not sure who is responsible for maintaining the irrigation system at their property so you don't suffer a nasty surprise.

Be sure to check windows and doors for cracks, leaks and drafts and address them as necessary. Caulk and weather stripping are very inexpensive materials that are relatively easy to install and they go a long way toward reducing your heating bills.

Ensure that your thermostat is programmed for the proper hours and temperatures. If you still have one of the old manual type thermostats, we highly recommend replacing it with a programmable electronic one.

Absentee owners departing for the next several months may wish to drain the interior plumbing and put some type of antifreeze solution in the toilets. In the event of a power outage and the loss of your heating system for any length of time, this tactic will minimize the chances of pipes freezing and breaking.

In any event, vacant houses should have their thermostats set no lower than 50 to 55 degrees to maintain an internal temperature that will prevent pipes from freezing.

If you have a roofline that pitches over your sidewalk or driveway now is the time to check that your heat tape system still functions or if you don't have heat tape, consider installing it to minimize the danger from falling snow and ice.

Remove leaves, pine needles and other debris from any gutters and slotted drains so that snowmelt will run off properly and not form dams.

Critters of every shape and size are always looking for a warm and sheltered place to survive wintertime at Lake Tahoe. Unless you want bears, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and other wildlife taking up residence in your abode it is absolutely critical to take a thorough look at your property and seal up any openings that could be attractive to animals.

And don't leave any trash or food in your garage as it will attract bears and other creatures looking for a meal during a time of year when natural food sources are scarce.

Do you have a good brush for clearing snow off your windshield along with a pair of gloves handy? These items need to be accessible without having to open a frozen car door. Keeping an extra brush and set of gloves in the coat closet can be a blessing for out of town guests who come over for a visit during a winter snowstorm.

And make sure you keep extra warm clothing, water and a flashlight in your car throughout the winter. You never know when you might get stuck in a snowstorm or have to wait for an accident or avalanche to be cleared on the Mount Rose highway while making that routine shopping trip to Reno.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.

Why do some properties fall out of escrow?

When buyers and sellers open escrow everyone is always hoping for a smooth transaction. There are a number of contingencies during the due diligence period that give the buyer an opportunity to learn more about the property.

Inspection reports, the cost of homeowners insurance, appraisals, loan approval, review of the preliminary title report and homeowners association documents are all important aspects of the process.

Every step of the way there is information to be analyzed and judgments to be made as to whether to proceed with the escrow process, do further investigation of a particular issue or potential future construction project or back out of the transaction. Cautious buyers use the due diligence period to learn as much as they can and allay any concerns they may have about the property they are hoping to purchase.

While everyone uses their best efforts to nurture a transaction in escrow toward a successful closing, sometimes issues arise that cause the deal to fall out of escrow. This can happen for many reasons and in a sellers' market it tends to happen a bit less often than in a buyers' market.

With minimal inventory currently available, buyers have been less particular the past three years when it comes to making discretionary purchases of vacation homes and sellers have become increasingly finicky on the types of offers they accept.

As a result, sellers need to be satisfied with every aspect of the proposed contract terms or they will simply wait for another offer to come along and buyers have less power to renegotiate contract terms should they make a discovery during the escrow process.

Overall, the Nevada contract still is very buyer friendly and buyers still can use disapproval of one of the contingencies as a reason to cancel the transaction risking the chance that they will not find another home to buy that meets their desired criteria for some time. Simply saying that you think the cost of homeowners insurance on the property is too high is enough of a reason for a buyer to cancel the escrow in Nevada.

Sometimes inspection reports come back with unforeseen repairs that will result in costs well in excess of the amount budgeted in the purchase contract. In that case, the parties may either renegotiate or the buyer might simply choose to walk away from the deal.

In Nevada, even if the seller offers to repair everything noted in the inspection reports it's still not good enough. The buyer can simply disapprove of the inspection reports, cancel the escrow and get their earnest money deposit back minus the cost of inspections.

The loan approval process has become much lengthier in the recent years. A buyer can have enough down payment and good credit, but if the condo complex in which they wish to make a purchase is involved with litigation or has a high percentage of absentee owners, the lender might not approve the loan.

And on rare occasions buyers simply change their mind that they don't want a property and release the liquidated damages specified in the purchase agreement to the seller.

For all of these reasons and many more, a transaction can fall out of escrow even if everyone involved has worked hard to make it succeed.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.

Why do some properties fall out of escrow?

When buyers and sellers open escrow everyone is always hoping for a smooth transaction. There are a number of contingencies during the due diligence period that give the buyer an opportunity to learn more about the property.

Inspection reports, the cost of homeowners insurance, appraisals, loan approval, review of the preliminary title report and homeowners association documents are all important aspects of the process.

Every step of the way there is information to be analyzed and judgments to be made as to whether to proceed with the escrow process, do further investigation of a particular issue or potential future construction project or back out of the transaction. Cautious buyers use the due diligence period to learn as much as they can and allay any concerns they may have about the property they are hoping to purchase.

While everyone uses their best efforts to nurture a transaction in escrow toward a successful closing, sometimes issues arise that cause the deal to fall out of escrow. This can happen for many reasons and in a sellers' market it tends to happen a bit less often than in a buyers' market.

With minimal inventory currently available, buyers have been less particular the past three years when it comes to making discretionary purchases of vacation homes and sellers have become increasingly finicky on the types of offers they accept.

As a result, sellers need to be satisfied with every aspect of the proposed contract terms or they will simply wait for another offer to come along and buyers have less power to renegotiate contract terms should they make a discovery during the escrow process.

Overall, the Nevada contract still is very buyer friendly and buyers still can use disapproval of one of the contingencies as a reason to cancel the transaction risking the chance that they will not find another home to buy that meets their desired criteria for some time. Simply saying that you think the cost of homeowners insurance on the property is too high is enough of a reason for a buyer to cancel the escrow in Nevada.

Sometimes inspection reports come back with unforeseen repairs that will result in costs well in excess of the amount budgeted in the purchase contract. In that case, the parties may either renegotiate or the buyer might simply choose to walk away from the deal.

In Nevada, even if the seller offers to repair everything noted in the inspection reports it's still not good enough. The buyer can simply disapprove of the inspection reports, cancel the escrow and get their earnest money deposit back minus the cost of inspections.

The loan approval process has become much lengthier in the recent years. A buyer can have enough down payment and good credit, but if the condo complex in which they wish to make a purchase is involved with litigation or has a high percentage of absentee owners, the lender might not approve the loan.

And on rare occasions buyers simply change their mind that they don't want a property and release the liquidated damages specified in the purchase agreement to the seller.

For all of these reasons and many more, a transaction can fall out of escrow even if everyone involved has worked hard to make it succeed.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.

Take pictures of your Lake Tahoe property every season

The stunning sunsets at Lake Tahoe recently are a reminder that if you are thinking of selling your house or condo sometime in the future it's never too early to begin taking pictures of the view, landscaping and exterior.

You will want to show off your property during all of the different seasons so prospective buyers can appreciate how it looks throughout the year.

Anyone with a nice lake or mountain view will find it beneficial to shoot pictures of those gorgeous Tahoe sunsets or take photos whenever the light is particularly striking.

From October to February the sun is at a much lower angle in the sky and it brings out brilliant colors at sunrise and sunset. Also, the colors in the mountains along with the rocks and boulders that make up your landscaping will appear to be more vivid during the winter months.

With the advancements in modern electronics it is relatively easy to use a good quality digital camera and take high-resolution pictures. If you or your agent are not a whiz with a camera, there are some good local photographers who can be engaged to shoot high resolution pictures of your property.

Don't wait until you decide to list your property for sale to start taking pictures, build a portfolio in advance and you will have plenty of material to show potential buyers.

Shoot pictures at different times of day keeping in mind that the times around sunrise and sunset generally offer the best landscape photography opportunities.

Avoid shooting pictures of the Lake and mountain views on hazy days or when the fire department is doing prescribed burns.

Many people wait for crystal-clear skies and cloudless days to shoot pictures of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding mountains. While these might be nice for postcards, having a few clouds in the background especially if they are the dramatic lenticular or cumulonimbus varieties can add perspective and depth to your photographs.

While landscape photography gets a huge boost from the low angle of the sun during the winter months, shooting the exterior of a house or condo can be a bit tricky depending on the shadows that you get from nearby trees and other structures.

There are actually some benefits to shooting exterior photos closer to midday in the spring and summer that will help to avoid having shadows cast, which reduce the quality of the exterior photograph.

When a property is listed for sale it can be valuable to syndicate pictures and a description of the features on a variety of websites. By broadening the exposure for your property it will make it easier for prospective buyers to find your place and determine whether or not it has enough appeal to view it in person on their next trip to Lake Tahoe.

It is up to each agent and broker to ensure that the pictures and information posted on these various websites are accurate and portray the property in the best possible light.

We recommend that property owners pay careful attention to how the sun hits each part of their house during every month of the year and plan your photography accordingly.

It's important that every still picture and frame in the virtual tour showcase your house or condo in the best manner. Notice how the light reflects off of windows, exterior glass light fixtures, any type of copper metal trim, and other reflective surfaces as this can affect light meter readings along with picture quality.

Shoot every picture several times using slightly different settings until each scene has the look you are seeking.

When buyers are surfing the internet, great pictures will catch their eye and entice them to take a closer look at your property.

Sabrina Belleci and Don Kanare are the owners of RE/MAX North Lake. Read their blog and find weekly stats on their website at http://www.InsideIncline.com.