Home Improvement Projects That Require The Help Of A Professional


Photo via Pixabay by Tookapic

Home improvement is a multi-million dollar industry, with thousands of Americans tackling projects both big and small every year. Whether you need to repaint your dining room or replace the roof, your home improvement project will require quite a bit of care and thought to ensure it’s a success. Not only that, you’ll need to think about whether it will be a DIY task or one that necessitates the touch of a pro. This is because some projects are dangerous and require special training to complete. Also, if you attempt to make a repair or major change without the right knowledge or tools, you run the risk of making a mistake that could be very costly to fix. 

Fortunately, there are many service professionals around the country who are ready to help out. Look online for pros near you, and do a little price comparison to make sure you’ll get the best deal. In some cases, your homeowners insurance may help you pay for the repairs--such as a new roof--but you’ll need to talk to an insurance rep to find out exactly what they will cover. 

Here are a few things to think about when it comes to home improvement.


There are very few roofing projects that are DIY, mostly because they can be so dangerous and require a lot of special skills. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure you find the right contractor for the job. Do a little research online before making a decision and take the time to read reviews. Roofing scams are, unfortunately, all too common these days, and can take weeks or even months to come to light, as they rely on giving the appearance of having fixed a problem. As soon as bad weather rolls in, the unsuspecting homeowner realizes that the issue was never fixed, and they may be out thousands of dollars to make things right. Once you find a credible roofing company, do some price comparisons to make sure you get the best deal.


Remodeling jobs are often taken on as DIY projects, but it’s important to make sure you get professional help for the big stuff, like redoing a basement. That’s because this part of the home is more than just a storage space or recreational area; it’s also a crucial part of the structure, and major problems can arise if the walls or flooring become compromised. Also, entrances and exits are often regulated by the city for safety reasons, so you’ll need to do some research on that before getting started. Hire a pro who can come in with knowledge of basement rooms and help you make the most of this space safely.

Electrical work

Anytime electrical work is done in a home, there is a risk of danger or even death, so it’s imperative to call in a pro when you need help with wiring, especially if your home is more than ten years old. When you’re dealing with electricity, you need to make sure the job is done right the first time and that any old issues are taken care of, since there’s a chance not just of electrical shock, but also fire and smoke damage.

Toxin removal

Many older homes have paint or insulation that contains toxins such as lead, mold, and asbestos. These are highly dangerous and can cause everything from allergy-like symptoms to kidney problems to death, so it’s crucial to make sure they are removed from your home by a professional who has the right tools for the job. Other types of mold can be found in damp areas of the home, such as in bathrooms and basements, which can typically be cleaned with a mixture of hot water and bleach. However, if the dampness has caused damage to baseboards, walls, or flooring, a pro should fix those areas.

Home improvement projects can become very costly if they aren’t done right the first time, so keep this in mind when shopping for a contractor or other professional. Spending a bit now may help you save thousands of dollars down the road, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your home is in good hands.

Painting Your Own Home: Tips to Make the Process Painless

Young family painting the wall

Painting Your Own Home: Tips to Make the Process Painless

While it’s might seem easier to hire professionals to paint the house, but with a little research you can find the job is not as intimidating as it seems. With a few free days set aside and some preparation, painting one room (or multiple) is easily doable for anyone. Here are a few things to consider before you start.

Apply a Primer Coat

Preparation entails most of the painting process. It’s easy to become frustrated during the preparation stage, because prepping to paint can take longer than the actual painting component of the project.

Interior walls aren’t always perfect, and painting the walls is a perfect opportunity to fix those imperfections. If you’re using a putty or a filler to patch holes, the paint will react differently to those substances than it will the wall itself. The solution here is to prime your walls, so the new paint color has a uniform surface to adhere to. It’s one simple step that doesn’t seem like much, but could end up saving you a whole lot of work at the end of the process.

Factor in taping time

Taping up the room is tedious work, but will be worth it when you don’t have to waste time being ultra-careful or nervous when getting close to edges. Instead of trying to take the tape off while the paint is still dry, wait at least 24 hours for the paint to dry, and use a knife to slice the tape off at the edge. If the paint is still even a little wet or gummy, don’t continue. Make sure the knife is sharp enough and pull the tape away at a 45-degree angle, making sure not to rip the paint.

Set up with clean-up in mind

To protect floors, a drop cloth is a necessity. In some cases, cotton or canvas drop clothes can work better than plastic. Plastic drop cloths can be slippery and don’t easily stay in place, especially when ladders are involved. Any splatters or drips of paint that fall onto a plastic drop cloth won’t dry or absorb right away and can be easily tracked throughout the rest of your house. A canvas or cotton drop cloth will be more stable and will protect the floors better. Tape the edges of the drop cloth to the tops of the trim to protect both the floor and the trims from any splattering or dripping paint.

Work top down

Not only does it prevent drips from ruining anything you’ve already painted, but it keeps the walls and baseboards free of any dust or debris from sticking to wet trim. Paint the ceiling first, move to the walls and possible crown moldings. Only then should you move to any trims around windows or doors and finish with the baseboards. Not only will this keep a system in place to ensure there’s no questioning what’s been painted and what hasn’t, but it’ll keep things clean.

Check thickness of previous paint layers

Cracks on an exterior paint job don’t reflect the owner’s best intentions and should be fixed before the damage is too much to fix. Too thick of a layer of paint means that the paint might just be too heavy to stay, and will start to crack and to peel off. It loses its grip and can’t attach to the other layers of paint. In older homes, it’s likely that some of those layers of paint have lead in them, in which case you’ll need to look into how to remove it safely. The EPA has guidelines here. This could be the one step that requires you to outsource, if the layer of paint is extremely thick, because removing it completely (and correctly) will ensure the next coat of paint will attach correctly. Hiring a home washing company can help you identify these cracks in exterior paint as well. If anything, have the exterior of your home professionally power washed, so the paint will have a clean surface to adhere to.

Using these tips, ideally the house-painting process will be doable for anyone. Prepare yourself to set aside time for set-up, knowing that it will help when you’re done painting and ready to clean up. Instead of hiring painting professionals, save some money for decorating and tackle the job yourself.

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Bio: Matt Lawler is an Internet marketing specialist from Tempe, Arizona where he attended Arizona State University. Whenever he can step away from the computer, Matt enjoys playing sports, traveling and exploring the great outdoors. Follow him on Twitter.

Laura Key, REALTOR® Cal BRE 01908085 310-866-8422

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When It Comes to Wood Floors, Choose Wisely

Rich wood flooring can spell instant warmth and patina in a home. Here’s an overview that can help you evaluate if wood floors are right for you! Laura Key 310.866.8422

Hardwood Floor

Just as with ties and hem lengths, wood flooring styles change. Colors get darker or lighter; planks get narrower or wider; woods with more or less grain show swings in popularity; softer or harder species gain or lose fans; and the wood itself may be older, newer, or even pre-engineered with a top layer or veneer-glued to a substrate to decrease expansion and contraction from moisture.

Here are key categories for consideration:

Solid Plank

This is what some refer to as “real” wood because the wood usually ranges from three-eighths to three-quarters of an inch in total thickness to permit refinishing and sanding. Thicker floors have a thicker wear layer to allow for more frequent refinishing and sanding, so they can withstand decades of use, says architect Julie Hacker of Stuart Cohen and Julie Hacker Architects. It also can be stained, come from different species of tree, and be sold in numerous widths and lengths:

  • Width and length: Designer Steven Gurowitz, owner of Interiors by Steven G., is among those who prefers solid flooring for many installations because of its rich, warm look. Like other design professionals, he’s seeing greater interest in boards wider than the once-standard 2 ¾ to 3 ¾ inches — typically 5 to 6 inches now but even beyond 10 inches. And he’s also seeing corresponding interest in longer lengths, depending on the species. Width and length should be in proportion. “The wider a board gets, the longer the planks need to be, too, and in proportion,” says Chris Sy, vice president with Carlisle Wide Plank Floors. These oversized dimensions reflect the same trend toward bigger stone and ceramic slabs. The downside is greater cost.
  • Palette: Gurowitz and others are also hearing more requests for darker hues among clients in the northeastern United States, while those in the South and West still gravitate toward lighter colors. But Sprigg Lynn, on the board of the National Wood Flooring Association and with Universal Floors, says the hottest trend is toward a gray or driftwood. Handscraped, antique boards that look aged and have texture, sometimes beveled edges, are also become more popular, even in modern interiors, though they may cost much more.
  • Species and price: Depending on the preference of the stain color, Gurowitz favors mostly mahogany, hickory, walnut, oak, and pine boards. Oak may be the industry’s bread and butter because of the ease of staining it and a relatively low price point. A basic 2 ¼-inch red oak might, for instance, run $6.50 a square foot while a 2 ¼-inch red oak that’s rift and quartered might sell for a slightly higher $8.50 a square foot.
  • Maintenance: How much care home owners want to invest in their floors should also factor in their decision. Pine is quite soft and will show more wear than a harder wood like mahogany or walnut, but it’s less expensive. In certain regions such as the South, pine comes in a harder version known as heart pine that’s popular, says Georgia-based designer Mary Lafevers of Inscape Design Studio. Home owners should understand the different choices because they affect how often they need to refinish the wood, which could be every four to five years, says Susan Brunstrum of Sweet Peas Design-Inspired Interior. Also, Sy says that solid planks can be installed over radiant heating, but they demand expert installation.

Engineered Wood

Also referred to as prefabricated wood, this genre has become popular because the top layer or veneer is glued to wood beneath to reduce expansion and contraction that happens with solid boards due to climatic effects, says Sy, whose firm sells both types. He recommends engineered, depending on the amount of humidity. If home owners go with a prefabricated floor, he advises a veneer of at least one-quarter inch. “If it’s too thin, you won’t have enough surface to sand,” he says. And he suggests a thick enough substrate for a stable underlayment that won’t move as moisture levels in a home shift.

His company’s offerings include an 11-ply marine-grade birch. The myth that engineered boards only come prestained is untrue. “They can be bought unfinished,” he says. Engineered boards are also a good choice for home owners planning to age in place, since there are fewer gaps between boards for a stable surface, says Aaron D. Murphy, an architect with ADM Architecture Inc. and a certified Aging in Place specialist with the National Association of Home Builders.

Reclaimed Wood

Typically defined as recycled wood — perhaps from an old barn or factory — reclaimed wood has gained fans because of its aged, imperfect patina and sustainability; you’re reusing something rather than cutting down more trees. Though less plentiful and more expensive because of the time required to locate and renew samples, it offers a solid surface underfoot since it’s from old-growth trees, says Lynn. Some companies have come to specialize in rescuing logs that have been underwater for decades, even a century. West Branch Heritage Timber,for instance, removes “forgotten” native pine and spruce from swamps, cuts them to desired widths and lengths, and lays them atop ½-inch birch to combine the best of engineered and reclaimed. “The advantage is that it can be resanded after wear since it’s thicker than most prefabricated floors, can be laid atop radiant mats, and doesn’t include toxins,” Managing Partner Tom Shafer says. A downside is a higher price of about $12 to $17 a square foot.

Porcelain “Wood”

A new competitor that closely resembles wood, Gurowitz says porcelain wood offers advantages: indestructibility, varied colors, “graining” that mimics old wood, wide and long lengths, quickness in installation, and no maintenance. “You can spill red wine on it and nothing happens; if there’s a leak in an apartment above, it won’t be destroyed,” he says. Average prices run an affordable $3.50 to $8 a square foot. The biggest downside? It doesn’t feel like wood since it’s colder to the touch, Lynn says.

Bottom Line

When home owners are making a choice or comparing floors, Sy suggests they ask these questions:

1. Do you want engineered or solid-based floors, depending on your home’s conditions?

2. Do you want a floor with more natural character, or less?

3. What board width do you want?

4. How critical is length to you in reducing the overall number of seams?

5. What color range do you want — light, medium, or dark?

6. Do you want more aggressive graining like oak or a mellower grain like walnut?

7. Do you want flooring prefinished or unfinished?

8. How thick is the wear layer in the floor you’re considering, which will affect your ability to refinish it over time?

9. What type of finish are you going to use? Can it be refinished and, if so, how?

10. For wider planks that provide greater stability: Where is the wood coming from, how is it dried, what is its moisture content, and what type of substrate is used in the engineered platform?

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What To Ask When Looking At Potential Homes

Buying a house can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. Here are some key questions to ask yourself and sellers before plopping down a down payment. Let me help you with my FREE homebuyer's class! Call me today! Laura Key 310.866.8422

New House
New House

Buying a house can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. Here are some key questions to ask yourself and sellers before plopping down a down payment.

What To Ask When Looking At Potential Homes

Following is a list of general questions you should always ask when considering making a real estate purchase. Keep in mind, however, you are unique.

You have particular dislikes and likes as well as factors in your life that are different than other people. The point I am trying to make is that you shouldn’t stick to just these questions. You are making an important choice, so give some thought to your situation.

1. Don’t rush into things. The first question to ask should be directed at yourself. What type of home do you want? How big should it be? What amenities do you want? Are you planning for a family in the next three to five years and will the home be able to accommodate a new bundle of joy? Make a definitive list and stick to it. If you stray from it, you could end up with a house that doesn’t really fit you and suffer buyer’s remorse.

2. The next question is what area do you want to live in? Pick a few. You may find the prices to be excessive or the selection not so hot, but make sure you exhaust those areas before moving on. Again, you want to avoid buyer’s remorse.

3. Once you start looking at homes, a key question to ask is how long the house has been on the market. The amount of time will give you an idea of how flexible the owner is on price. If the house has been on the market for a month, the owner isn’t going to be very flexible. If it has been on the market for six months, flexibility will definitely exist.

4. Has the house previously been in escrow, but fell out? If so, find out why? Was it a problem with the buyer getting financing or did the buyer find out there was something wrong with the home?

5. What kind of condition is the house in and how old is it? Remember that a seller has typically done everything reasonably possible to spruce up the home. If you can see wear and tear on the house, it may be a red flag. In such a situation, you need to get a home inspection to make sure there aren’t problems in areas you can’t see such as mold, rust and water leaks.

6. If you have children or are planning on it, you must investigate the school district. Are the schools good? Are there gangs or crime in the area?

7. In addition to the home price, you should ask whether there are any additional fees such association fees.

8. What are the property taxes and what will they be when you buy? Many people are shocked to find out how much they have to kick out in property taxes. Don’t get surprised.

9. Zoning and easement issues are often overlooked when buying a home. If you are buying in a neighborhood with many homes, zoning is undoubtedly going to be for residential living. Easements, however, can be nasty surprises. Find out if there are any easements on the property. An easement gives a third party the right to use of part of the property. This can include giving the neighbor the right to do something or a utility company to place structures on your prospective property.

10. Noise is another big issue to consider. If you are serious about the property, make sure to drive buy on weekdays and weekends. If the property shares a wall with another residence, such as a duplex or condo, make sure you view it while the neighbors are home to get an idea of how loud it is.

11. In the euphoria of buying a property, practical issues can be missed. A big one is traffic. Specifically, what is the commute like between the house and your place of work? You don’t want to buy the house only to find out it takes three hours to get to and from work each day.

Obviously, you should be asking many additional questions before making a purchase. These 11 questions, however, will help you get started. Call me to schedule a time to discuss the homebuying process in more detail. Don’t forget to look into fun things to do in the area to make sure it’s where you want to live!I care about my clients and educating them is a priority! Laura Key 310.866.8422 or email me at

Definition of Prescriptive Easement

Call me if you have some questions about a Prescriptive Easement! I have a team that can help you if you have concerns! Laura Key 310.866.8422


A prescriptive easement creates a right to use another's land for a specific purpose.  The easement is created by  making use of the land without owner permission for a period of time specified by statute.  Interference with a prescriptive easement gives the easement holder cause to bring suit.

Easement in General An easement creates a right to use land that is possessed by another for a specific purpose. One parcel of land, the "dominant tenement," enjoys the benefit of the easement, while the "servient tenement" is the land being used for the easement purpose. Once an easement is validly created, even if not used, it is presumed to be perpetual.

Prescriptive Easement A prescriptive easement is acquired when the servient tenement is used for a specific purpose, for some time without the permission of the owner. Through the continuous use and the owner's failure to stop it, the dominant tenement can acquire the right to use the servient tenement property indefinitely.  A prescriptive easement is a type of easement appurtenant, meaning that the holder receives physical use or enjoyment of the property. All who may succeed to title of the dominant tenement will be entitled to the prescriptive easement; the easement need not be mentioned in the conveyance or deed in order to be operative.

Elements Speaking generally, for legal elements are usually required: adverse use (use of the servient property without permission of the owner); open and notorious use (with no attempt at concealment); continuous use for the entire statutory period (required statutory periods vary among states, but the minimum is five years); and hostility, meaning that hte easement user knowes he has no right to use the property.  However, individual state' easement laws may display variations, and those with easement issues should consult a legal professional.

Exclusive Use Jurisdictions are split on weather a prescriptive easement requires that adverse  use of the property be exclusive in order to fulfill the legal element. A minority of jurisdictions will not allow a prescriptive easement if other parties besides the dominant tenement have also been using the servient tenement adversely for the same use. However, most do not require exclusive use, only that the dominant tenement's right to adversely use the easement "does not depend on a like right in others".  In other words, the dominant tenement may still get the prescriptive easement even if the owner or others are also using the tenement in a similar manner.

Termination of Easement As an owner may prevent establishment of a prescriptive easement by effectively ending the dominant tenements adverse use; this can be accomplished by bring suit or physically ejecting the easement user from the property.  Easements can also be terminated in several ways; the easement holder can release the servient tenement from the easement; the dominant and servient tenement can merge ownership; or the servient tenement can be condemned.  The servient tenement may also invalidate the easement by a sort of "reverse prescription," if the servient tenement uses the easement for a long time and the easement holder "sleeps on his rights."



Does HUD Offer Financing On Their Homes?

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HUD does not provide direct financing to buyers of HUD Homes. Buyers must obtain financing through either their own cash reserves or a mortgage lender. If you have the necessary available cash or can qualify for a loan (subject to certain restrictions) you may buy a HUD Home. While HUD does not provide direct financing for the purchase of a HUD Home, it may be possible for you to qualify for an FHA-insured mortgage to finance the purchase.

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