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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunrise at Sea Pines Lakes, Hilton Head, SC

Just another sunrise on the lakes at Sea Pines Plantation, Hilton Head, SC. 
The lakes at Sea Pines are a hidden jewel in this beautiful plantation.
There is something I find especially calming and relaxing about a sunrise over water, especially in such a beautiful setting that Sea Pines lakes offer. Perhaps it is just the promise and hopefulness of a new day unfolding with such splendor, or just the calming sense that everything is just as it should be.
Pictures affect us in so many ways. Let me know what you are feeling (or thinking) when you see this photo. Does it remind you of one of your favorite places? Does it make you want to go find your fishing pole? Or do you just simply marvel at natures continuous beauty?
Just thought I would offer a small glimpse of the natural beauty in my little corner of the world.
Enjoy your Sunday.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Feel Like Your Job is Too Tough?

Ever had moments when you thought you should have multiple personalities to accomplish your job? Or multiple assistants? Or simply days when you thought your job was just too tough?
Consider the photo I am posting. Taken in Key West, FL at the traditional daily sunset celebration, this elderly gentleman was just recovering from a major operation, and attempted several times to perform his high wire and juggling act. After several failed attempts, he went on with the remainder of his show, which was still entertaining but did not involve the high wire. I had to admire his attempts at this difficult task.
It seems that walking a high wire and juggling at the same time would take an immense amount of concentration and focus. I suspect his problem was neither of those, but perhaps a loss of that important sense of balance required for the act.
Whatever his situation, I just thought it was a great photo that might cause one to reflect on the balancing and juggling act they perform everyday, and derive their own meaning from the image. As a Home Inspector in Hilton Head, SC, I know I have days when I think I can relate to what the gentleman on the high wire was feeling.

Please let me know what your mind conjured up when viewing this photo.

Best Wishes

John M. Wickline
JW Home Inspections, Inc.

Serving the Low Country of South Carolina since 1998, Hilton Head, Bluffton, Sun City, Beaufort, Hardeeville, Ridgeland, Callawassie, and Daufuskie Island since 1998. Providing Home Inspection Services and Absent Owner Services. Licensed in SC and insured.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Buying a Foreclosure

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

    Purchasing foreclosed homes in desirable areas at below-market values can be a sound investment strategy. Appreciation on their original prices may be tax-free.  Buying foreclosed rental properties can provide positive cash flow, as well as valuable tax deductions. On the other hand, buying a foreclosure involves homework, patience, and a certain amount of luck. For those wishing to get a bargain house through the foreclosure process, it’s best to learn the basics.

Four Ways to Buy a Foreclosed Home
  • pre-sale is when the prospective buyer negotiates with the current owner before the house is foreclosed upon. Pre-sale discounts can be considerable, but communicating and reasoning with the owner isn’t always easy; they might have legal problems, lost their phone service or electricity, or greet you with suspicion, having already been hounded and threatened by creditors. And after time and energy have been invested, the deal can fall through if the owner comes up with the money to repay their debt, or for any number of unexpected reasons. With persistence, however, the seasoned real estate investor can profit from pre-sales. To find out about pre-sales, you can try one of the following avenues:
    • Ask your local county court how to search new notices of default.
    • Find out if the County Recorder has data available online.
    • Look in the "legal notices" section of the newspaper for properties that are coming up for sale at public auction. Take note of the address, the property owner’s name, the tax ID, and whatever other information is contained in the ad.
  • A foreclosed home may be sold at a public auction, in which buyers can expect a discount of 10% to 25% of market value. Interested bidders are generally required to show proof of financing, and must have a minimum cash deposit before they are qualified to bid. It might be impossible to gain entry to inspect the interior, too, which makes this type of purchase risky. The local building department may have permit records that can clue you in to the building’s layout and appearance.
  • A real estate-owned (REO) sale is a transaction where a foreclosed house is purchased directly from the bank. These properties typically wound up in the bank’s portfolio after failing to sell at auction. REO investments are relatively safe, as there are no tenants to evict or hidden liens and, unlike properties sold at public auction, buyers can usually receive a mortgage to pay for them. And purchasers might even get an unused house; the slow economy has left many builders at the end of their construction-loan periods without finding buyers for the homes, in which case the bank will foreclose on the brand new homes. Unfortunately, REOs are usually offered at near-market prices to recoup the costs of property taxes, maintenance and legal fees. To find REOs, try the following:
    • Check lenders’ websites, as they may have a list of their REOs, along with contact information for the appropriate real estate agent.
    • Call lenders and ask to speak to someone who handles their foreclosures.
    • Check newspapers.
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development has tens of thousands of HUD homes whose previous owners defaulted on federally issued loans. After a period during which local governments gain exclusive buying privileges, they become available to individual buyers who pledge to live in the property. After another 10 days, investors may bid on the property. It’s difficult to make a profit on these houses, as HUD releases them at near-market values.
Tips for Foreclosure Purchases
  • Invest time in research and preparation. Those new to the field should spend some time learning the variables of foreclosure investing before making any purchases.
  • Budget carefully to prepare for the unexpected. The house may require unforeseen repairs, such as a leaky roof or unstable deck. The price tag of the home itself is often just the first of a series of fees. What if you planned on rental cash flow to cover the mortgage, but you can’t find a tenant?
  • Avoid buying a foreclosure sight-unseen. Try to see the house yourself before buying it, or hire someone to evaluate at it in your absence. Distant investors are buying up properties unseen in bulk, and they’re often unpleasantly surprised at how much they’ve been misled.
  • Evaluate the neighborhood. If the foreclosure is rife with problems, but it’s in a desirable area with high property resale values, it may still be worth it to make a low offer. An area with several foreclosures or a high crime rate can undermine an otherwise good deal, however.
  • Consider how long the house has been vacant. Building damage – and the costs required to make the house livable - generally increases with the time that has lapsed since the last tenant vacated. Pests are a particular issue in houses that have been empty for a long time, and plumbing defects and leaks increase in likelihood in such homes, as well.
  • Examine the landscaping. Left unchecked, trees can send their roots into the foundation, and vines can creep into the windows.
  • Has the house been professionally inspected by an InterNACHI inspector? Foreclosures can be notorious for damage suffered at the hands of past tenants, through both inadvertent and intentional vandalism and theft.

In summary, there are a number of ways to go about buying a foreclosed home, and buyers should exercise patience, persistence and careful planning before buying foreclosed properties.
Member of InterNachi

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Refuse To Do A Home Inspection!

      As a Home Inspector in Hilton Head, SC, I have  observed that the level of housekeeping can drop drastically once a contract is written. It does not seem to matter how expensive the home is. By the time I get to the home, I often find quite a mess. If not just a mess from moving out (boxes and personal items everywhere), then the housekeeping itself makes me cringe. I can understand and sympathize with clutter from moving out, however just having a filthy dirty home I cannot understand. Other peoples dirt (OPD) is something I suppose we get use to as Home Inspectors but sometimes it is pretty vile. I particularly get upset when I encounter a home that is filthy and notice evidence of children living in the home (should I call social services?). While providing Home Inspection services, I have had to wade through food on walls and floors, pet droppings on floors, kitchens so filthy and cluttered I could not see the sink or counter-tops, toilets filled with various things (left to your imagination) extreme mold, and more. And then there are the hoarders, with rooms where doors cannot be opened because of trash (personal items). I cover a pretty wide geographical area to provide my services. One home in particular happened to be the farthest I have traveled to provide a Home Inspection. This home also had to be one of the worst examples of hoarding I have seen. Plus there was evidence of a cat living there (numerous unpleasant reminders on floors, and obnoxious odor permeating the whole house). The litter box I observed was overloaded and just happened to be in the spot where I had to stand for at least 5 minutes while removing the electrical service panel to check the panel interior. I never did see the cat. I wonder if the owner even saw the cat.   I have been tempted to refuse an inspection based on the filth or hoarding, but have somehow managed to press on and get the job done. 

Sometimes you just have to vent.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Shocking Truth about Staying Cool this Summer

by John M. Wickline

Home Fire Inspection       Yes, the very thing keeping you cool this summer may also be a fire hazard. From years of performing thousands of home inspections in Hilton Head, SC, I have seen many electrcial connections that were close to causing fires. One county in Florida had 6 calls for heat pump fires in a very short time span recently. They do occur. It has been my experience that many Heating and Cooling technicians do not check the tightness of the electrical connections associated with the equipment. This is a very important part of maintenance that should not be overlooked.
    PLEASE ask your Heating and Cooling technician to do a yearly check on electrical connections to ensure they are properly torqued (torque wrench set to specific settings is required for some connections). I have had personal experience of near fires from such problems. The system components generate vibration and heat from day to day operation, both of which over time will loosen the electrical connections. Loose electrical connections generate more heat and can lead to fires.
It is also important your air handling unit does not sweat (condensation forming on surfaces) or have condensate drain blockages. Moisture dripping on electrical connections can also lead to fires.
Have your heating and cooling system serviced at least twice a year.

Thanks and Stay Cool


John M. Wickline
JW Home Inspections, Inc.
John is the president of JW Home Inspections, Inc., serving the Low Country of South Carolina, Hilton Head, Bluffton, Sun City, Beaufort, Hardeeville, Ridgeland, Callawassie, and Daufuskie Island since 1998. He is licensed in South Carolina and a certified member of InterNACHI.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Just wanted to take a moment and post a picture of Sunrise at Pinckney Island, a wildlife refuge at Hilton Head, SC.
We live in a beautiful vacation area, and it is hard to believe we leave this place to go on vacation elsewhere. My wife and I recently enjoyed a short weekend off in our area (some call this a "Staycation"). I suspect we have taken many of these "Staycations" over the years, just exploring the beautiful nooks and crannies of our own beautiful place we call home.
Staycations are likely popular these days, since the economy is so bad. One of the benefits of a "Staycation" is that they do not cost as much as a full blown vacation, and you likely know better how to save money in your own locale. Most folks will have quite a long list of things to do or see in their particular area that they have overlooked or not had time to see or do. I know for certain it is that way for us.
Another benefit is they usually are more restful than a standard vacation, since travel time is usually less. I know I can think of plenty of vacations where we were physically drained afterwards (and sometimes financially drained).
Next time you need a break, try a "Staycation", to reenergize your spirit.
As a Home Inspector in Hilton Head Island, SC, I get to see many beautiful homes and settings in our locale, but often I find myself thinking that I just have to go back and explore these areas a little more. These are the ideas for "Staycations".

Happy planning, what are you waiting for? Plan your next "Staycation" now.

Best Wishes

John M. Wickline
JW Home Inspections, Inc.

Serving the Low Country of South Carolina since 1998, Hilton Head, Bluffton, Sun City, Beaufort, Hardeeville, Ridgeland, Callawassie, and Daufuskie Island since 1998. Providing Home Inspection Services and Absent Owner Services.  Licensed in SC and insured.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Barbeque Safety

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London
With barbeque season already here, homeowners should heed the following safety precautions in order to keep their families and property safe.
  • Propane grills present an enormous fire hazard, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is aware of more than 500 fires that result annually from their misuse or malfunction. The following precautions are recommended specifically when using propane grills:
    • Store propane tanks outdoors and never near the grill or any other heat source. In addition, never store or transport them in your car’s trunk.
    • Make sure to completely turn off the gas after you have finished, or when you are changing the tank. Even a small gas leak can cause a deadly explosion. 
    • Check for damage to a tank before refilling it, and only buy propane from reputable suppliers.
    • Never use a propane barbecue grill on a terrace, balcony or roof, as this is dangerous and illegal.
    • No more than two 20-pound propane tanks are allowed on the property of a one- or two-family home.
    • To inspect for a leak, spray a soapy solution over the connections and watch for bubbles. If you see evidence of a leak, reconnect the components and try again. If bubbles persist, replace the leaking parts before using the grill.
    • Make sure connections are secure before turning on the gas, especially if the grill hasn’t been used in months. The most dangerous time to use a propane grill is at the beginning of the barbeque season.
    • Ignite a propane grill with the lid open, not closed. Propane can accumulate beneath a closed lid and explode.
    • When finished, turn off the gas first, and then the controls. This way, residual gas in the pipe will be used up.
  • Charcoal grills pose a serious poisoning threat due to the venting of carbon monoxide (CO). The CPSC estimates that 20 people die annually from accidentally ingesting CO from charcoal grills.  These grills can also be a potential fire hazard. Follow these precautions when using charcoal grills:
    • Never use a charcoal grill indoors, even if the area is ventilated. CO is colorless and odorless, and you will not know you are in danger until it is too late.
    • Use only barbeque starter fluid to start the grill, and don’t add the fluid to an open flame. It is possible for the flame to follow the fluid’s path back to the container as you're holding it.
    • Let the fluid soak into the coals for a minute before igniting them to allow explosive vapors to dissipate.
    • Charcoal grills are permitted on terraces and balconies only if there is at least 10 feet of clearance from the building, and a water source immediately nearby, such as a hose (or 4 gallons of water).
    • Be careful not to spill any fluid on yourself, and stand back when igniting the grill. Keep the charcoal lighter fluid container at a safe distance from the grill.
    • When cleaning the grill, dispose of the ashes in a metal container with a tight lid, and add water. Do not remove the ashes until they have fully cooled.
    • Fill the base of the grill with charcoal to a depth of no more than 2 inches.
  • Electric grills are probably safer than propane and charcoal grills, but safety precautions need to be used with them as well. Follow these tips when using electric grills:
    • Do not use lighter fluid or any other combustible materials. 
    • When using an extension cord, make sure it is rated for the amperage required by the grill. The cord should be unplugged when not in use, and out of a busy foot path to prevent tripping.
    • As always, follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Safety Recommendations for General Grill Use
  • Always make sure that the grill is used in a safe place, where kids and pets won't touch or bump into it. Keep in mind that the grill will still be hot after you finish cooking, and anyone coming into contact with it could be burned.
  • If you use a grill lighter, make sure you don't leave it lying around where children can reach it. They will quickly learn how to use it.
  • Never leave the grill unattended, as this is generally when accidents happen.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby.
  • Ensure that the grill is completely cooled before moving it or placing it back in storage.
  • Ensure that the grill is only used on a flat surface that cannot burn, and well away from any shed, trees or shrubs.
  • Clean out the grease and other debris in the grill periodically. Be sure to look for rust or other signs of deterioration.
  • Don't wear loose clothing that might catch fire while you're cooking.
  • Use long-handled barbecue tools and flame-resistant oven mitts.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages away from the grill; they are flammable!
In summary, homeowners should exercise caution when using any kind of grill, as they can harm life and property in numerous ways.  

"W h e n   E x p e r i e n c e   M a t t e r s"
Thanks for reading my blog, and have a safe summer. 
Happy Grilling!