Evaluate Your House for a Deck

home deck

Here’s how to plan a new deck that suits your property, meets your budget, and offers the best return on your investment.

In the summertime when the living is easy, there’s nothing quite like a deck for cooking out, entertaining, or simply relaxing. In addition to boosting outdoor living space, a deck can be an asset when you sell your home.

More good news: Decks add living space at a fraction of the cost of fully enclosed living area. You’ll pay $25 to $35 per square foot for a pro-built deck compared to $100 to $250 per square foot for an enclosed addition.

If you’re a determined DIYer, plan on spending three to four weekends building a 14-foot-by-18-foot deck yourself. If you choose this route, consider buying a ready-made deck plan. Or, put to use one of the many websites with interactive design aids, such as Lowe’s Deck Designer (registration required), and Deckorators.

Planning a successful deck requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should — or shouldn’t — include. Here are some planning priorities to bear in mind.

Deciding on the Site and Size
Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better.

Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day — having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

Think Local
To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.”

Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn’t built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’”

He emphasizes that codes exist not just to preserve property values, but promote safety. For example, railing balusters spaced too far apart can constitute a falling hazard for small children (most codes stipulate 4-inch maximum gap). In addition, a deck inadequately attached to the house can collapse, often during a party when the structure is loaded with the extra weight of many people, creating mayhem like something out of the Poseidon Adventure. So get a permit from your building department and follow their requirements.

Of course, by dint of taking out a building permit your tax assessment will rise, but only to the extent that the value of your property is increased. The effect should be minimal: Decks are considered an outdoor improvement much like a new driveway or upgraded landscaping, not additional living space.

Looking Good
Although it’s hard to put a dollar value on aesthetics, looks count. Give thought to how the deck will meld with the architecture of your house. Railings offer a good opportunity to pull in color and detail that complements your home. Consider how the deck fits in with your backyard; it should make a smooth transition from the house to the landscape.

By: Dave Toht
Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.


California Home Prices Increase in March


In March, California median home prices post first year-to-year increase in 16 months, per California Association of Realtors.

The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home jumped 9.2 percent to $291,080 in March from February’s $266,660 median price and was up 1.6 percent from a revised $286,550 recorded in March 2011. The month-to-month increase was the largest since March 2004.

“Housing inventory remains extremely tight throughout the state and at levels severely under normal market conditions,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “In areas, such as Los Angeles and Riverside counties, where the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) wants to implement the REO bulk sale pilot program, inventory is running at levels well below the long-run average. These low inventory levels demonstrate that the pilot program is not necessary in California.”

The pilot program calls for the sale of more than 600 Fannie Mae-owned foreclosed homes in Los Angeles and Riverside counties to institutional investors.

For Los Angeles County, however, year-to-year median housing price is a -3.3%.

Click here to read the entire C.A.R. article.

Del Amo Fashion Center to be Renovated

Del Amo MallAs a follow up to a previous post, I’d like to share, per the Daily Breeze, that Simon Property Group, the largest real estate company in the US, announced their plan to renovate and rebrand Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance.

The work will begin early 2013 with the north end of the mall and include a new food pavilion and for as many as 3 additional unnamed anchor tenants. Phase 1 will likely not be finished until mid to late 2014.

“It’s going to be a very clean, very modern look,” said Tom Schneider, executive vice president of development for the company. “We think we can make an incredible fashion statement.”

  • New terrazzo flooring, twinkling chandelier-like lighting handing from skylights, updated mall furniture and “sleek” storefronts
  • Different parts of the mall will be given distinct architectural looks
  • The new food pavilion – about the same size as the existing food court – will be built over Carson Street with a bank of highly visible exterior lights
  • New stores will be built closer to Hawthorne Blvd. north of the existing Crate & Barrel

This project will likely have positive results for the city from a revenue standpoint, and for the neighboring homeowners – potentially raising their home values.

The mall had been starved of capital investment by a succession of owners, and the recession exacerbated that trend, with the mall occupancy falling to 78% in 2008. Today, the occupancy has climbed to 90.6%. Del Amo Fashion Center remains a huge sales tax generator for the city of Torrance and is one of the most visited malls in the nation on one of the most profitable retail corridors (Hawthorne Blvd.) in southern California.

Potential shoppers will have an opportunity to review current plans in a series of community meetings that are tentatively set for early spring. Schneider indicated that any ideas received could be incorporated into the design.

Reference Source: Daily Breeze, Nick Green Staff Writer

Are Your Property Taxes Too High?

Property TaxDecline-in-Value application deadline is November 30th

Here’s something helpful for this tax year.

If you think your property tax may be too high, here is the Assessor’s link to see if your property has automatically qualified for a decline-in-value reduction. This FREE service eliminates the need to go through the application process, and hopefully will curtail the scam mailers from offering to submit your review application for a fee.

If your property has not already been reviewed, you may file a decline-in-value application here. But do it quickly. The deadline for filing a Decline-in-Value application is November 30th.

Recently a client of mine decided to fight for a reduction in her property taxes. She has a lovely new patio home in Lomita 90717. I say “fight for a reduction” because it took her three attempts to get it through. She now pays $100 less a month in property tax, which is helping her pay for her new gorgeous convertible. Why not try?

Visit this Los Angeles County Decline-in-Value Reassessment web page for more details.

Your friend in the business,
Lucy Garber
(310) 293-4866