Real Estate Information Archive


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 22

Electrical Know-How: GFCI and AFCI Devices

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

GFCI and AFCI are specialized electrical safety devices with very different purposes. Let’s take a look at how each is used in the home as well as how they work. 

A GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, is an inexpensive device that is designed to protect people from electrical shock in the home. They should be installed in any area with potential risk for electrical shock with a direct path to the ground, especially areas with plumbing. GFCI receptacles are commonly installed in bathrooms, along kitchen counters, in garages, unfinished basements, outdoor outlets and near swimming pools and spas. A GFCI monitors the electrical current leaving from and returning to the receptacle, which should be the same. If there is a mismatch in the currents, the GFCI will shut off the receptacle immediately, protecting people from serious electrical shock.

GFCIs have various configurations, including the standard GFCI receptacle with “test” and “reset” buttons. Homeowners should test these monthly to ensure proper operation. If the GFCI fails to trip or can’t be reset, it should be replaced. There are also remote GFCIs, which protect standard receptacles in the circuit. These should always have a visible label indicating GFCI protection, because there is no way to tell otherwise that a receptacle is or isn’t protected. Another option is a GFCI breaker, which is installed at the electrical panel and protects the entire circuit. These can be identified by the presence of test and reset buttons on the panel.

An arc fault circuit interrupter, or AFCI, is designed to prevent electrical fires in the home. This is a relatively new type of circuit breaker that detects arcing in an electrical circuit, shutting down the affected circuit before it causes a fire. Arcing can be caused if an electrical cable is punctured or cut by something as simple as hammering a nail into a wall. Other potential causes of arcing include frayed extension cords, loose electrical connections, and old and/or cracked insulation on electrical wires and cables.

An AFCI breaker fits into the electrical panel in place of a standard circuit breaker. AFCI breakers are much larger than standard breakers and have a test button. They may not be available for older electrical panels, so retrofitting with AFCI breakers is not always possible. In addition, old wiring may have been subjected to years of poorly-executed modifications, which AFCIs may or may not compensate for. It is always best to check with a qualified electrician who can assess your panel and electrical components before making the decision to install AFCI breakers.

Are you looking to sell or buy a house, a condo, a villa or an apartment in Miami Florida or New York City? Do not hesitate to contact us at or visit us at


Information courtesy of Pillar to Post:

The Inspection-Ready Home

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

As many of you are heading straight into your busiest time of year, it makes sense to revisit the importance of being prepared for the home inspection. By taking some important steps to prepare the property for inspection, your sellers can avoid some basic problems that might otherwise affect a clean inspection report.

  • Routine exterior maintenance is an easy way for homeowners to keep up with minor problems before they escalate. Even if the home has been well maintained overall, there are some common problems that should be addressed.
    • Prior to the inspection, repair any damaged masonry on steps and walkways, and seal cracks in the driveway. Not only will the home look better, but future problems can be prevented.
    • Recaulk around exterior doors, windows, check flashing, and replace any missing or damaged shingles.
  • Inside the home, relatively minor fixes can improve the home inspection results.
    • Repair leaky faucets and fixtures, and repair grout around tubs and sinks. An electrician should inspect receptacles and switches and make any needed replacements or repairs.
    • Replace any cracked or broken window glass, and loosen any windows that are painted shut.
      If there is a fireplace, have it and the chimney cleaned and checked by a professional.
    •  If the home inspector can’t see into the chimney because of soot buildup, they won’t be able to inspect it and may need to return after it has been cleaned.
  • Homeowners should arrange service appointments for the furnace and central air conditioning so that any issues can be addressed before the home inspection.
    • If the home has battery-operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, put in fresh batteries and install additional units if any are missing.

When the day of the home inspection arrives, a few easy steps will facilitate the inspection process.

  • First, the buyers should allow sufficient time for the inspection. A professional home inspection will take two and a half to three hours on average, longer if the home is very large. Most sellers choose not to be present for the inspection, though the potential buyer will usually want to be there. The homeowner will need to provide keys to any locked areas, and allow access to the attic, crawl space, garage, and yard.
  • Be sure that the home inspector has access to components such as electrical panels, the main water shutoff, and gas meter. Move objects from around the water heater, furnace, and central air conditioning unit so that the inspector can reach them unimpeded. In winter, clear walkways of snow and ice for safe access to the home.
  • Make arrangements for pets to be out of the home or contained in a crate for their own safety and that of the home inspector. Dogs in particular can be disruptive, and some may even be distressed by having an unfamiliar person in their “territory”.
  • It is always a good idea to store small valuables and medications out of sight and in a secure location for peace of mind. One option is for the homeowner to simply take them along when they leave during the inspection.

Taking these steps can go a long way in preventing or addressing problems that could negatively affect the inspection. An inspection-ready home presents itself best for evaluation and makes the entire process go more smoothly.

Are you looking to sell or buy a house, a condo, a villa or an apartment in Miami Florida or New York City? Do not hesitate to contact us at or visit us at


Information courtesy of Pillar to Post:

Safe at Home: Smoke Alarms

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Smoke alarms are an important defense against injury or death in house fires. The National Fire Protection Association states that nearly two-thirds of home fire fatalities happen in homes with non-working or missing smoke detectors. Most building codes now require smoke detectors in all residential structures, which has resulted in a steep drop in fire- and smoke-related deaths. Homeowners should check with their local public safety office or fire department for specific information on these requirements.

  • As in real estate, location is important! Smoke alarms should be in installed every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of the home.
  • Alarms should be placed high on a wall or on the ceiling. It’s best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement. High, peaked ceilings have dead air space at the top; in these instances smoke alarms should be placed no closer than 3 feet from the highest point.
  • For areas close to the kitchen, use a detector with a “hush button” that can be used to silence nuisance alarms triggered by cooking smoke or steam. Alternatively, consider installing a photoelectric alarm, which is better at detecting smoldering fires (vs. flames) near the kitchen. Never remove the unit’s battery to stop or prevent nuisance alarms.
  • There are two primary types of smoke alarm technology: ionization and photoelectric. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization alarms are more responsive to flames, while photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoldering fires. For the most comprehensive protection, both types or a combination unit should be installed.
  • Alarms should be tested monthly. It’s helpful to put a reminder in your calendar to do this on the first or last day of the month, for example. The units have a test button that will sound the alarm for a brief time when pressed. Any alarm that fails to sound should have the battery replaced. If the test button fails with a new battery, replace the entire detector immediately. Monthly testing is also an ideal time to dust off the unit so that it continues to work properly.
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year. A common rule of thumb is to do this when changing to or from Daylight Saving Time in fall and spring. Some alarms come with 10-year batteries; for these, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for battery replacement. Remember, a non-working alarm is no better than no alarm at all.
  • If the alarms are hard-wired to the home’s electrical system, make sure they are interconnected for maximum effectiveness – meaning that if one alarm is triggered, all of the others will sound as well. Any hard-wired alarms, interconnected or not, should be installed by a licensed electrician for safety and proper operation.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 31st Edition of CRS Consumer Article (August 19th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Controlling Allergens in the Home

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Household allergens can cause a variety of symptoms in many people, including sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and shortness of breath. Allergens may also be a contributing cause of asthma, especially in children. However, it is possible to minimize the effects of such allergens by taking steps to control their presence and dispersal in the home.

The most common household allergens include dust mites, mold, mildew, pollen, and pet dander (dried flakes of skin shed by pets, particularly cats and dogs). Effective control relies on a combination of measures that, when used properly, will reduce the levels of allergens and allergen exposure.

  • Increase ventilation to the home. Opening windows whenever possible promotes good air exchange and will reduce the concentration of airborne allergens, especially pet dander.
  • Wash bedding and stuffed toys once a week in hot water to control dust mites and cat allergens in particular.
  • Keep pets clean and well groomed to control dander.
  • Use mite-resistant mattress covers and pillow covers and wash these frequently.
  • Dust and vacuum regularly, and use microfiltration or HEPA filter vacuum bags. The jury is still out on whether bagless vacuum cleaners are more effective in removing allergens than those that require bags; some studies indicate that many bagless vacuums are not sealed tightly enough and can actually make the problem worse. Wearing a dust mask while dusting and vacuuming is also a good way to reduce exposure.
  • Consider removing wall-to-wall carpeting and replacing them with easily-cleaned area rugs, particularly in bedrooms.
  • Make sure bathrooms, especially those with showers, are well ventilated. Open the window and use exhaust fans that vent to the outdoors to prevent moisture buildup, which can encourage mold and mildew growth.
  • If possible, reduce indoor humidity to 50% or less by using room dehumidifiers or the dehumidifier feature available with many central air conditioning systems.
  • Clean or replace furnace and central air conditioner filters on a regular basis. Make sure that air conditioner drain pans are clean and that they allow the water to drain properly.

Taking these simple steps can mean breathing easy in a healthier, more comfortable home. 

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 31st Edition of CRS Consumer Article (July 30th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Help for Homeowners: Choosing a Handyman

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Whether it’s a big project such as a bathroom remodel, something small like putting up shelves, or repairs and routine maintenance, many homeowners turn to handymen to get the job done. It used to be that everyone knew “a guy down the street who can do everything”, but these days finding a qualified, professional, and reliable handyman can be a real challenge. Here are some tips for homeowners to ensure that they have the right person for the job:


Certain projects require specific skills that all handymen may not have. You will of course want to know that they have the qualifications and experience to do the job. In addition, many states require persons performing certain work to be licensed; electrical and plumbing often fall into this category. Check with your state on whether such licenses are required and verify the status of the contractor’s license if it applies.


Request at least two local references from previous customers. The handyman should be willing to do this without hesitation. Then, contact those references! Ask about the quality of the work, timeliness, professionalism, and how the handyman handled any changes that may have occurred during the course of the project. Also ask how satisfied they were with the work overall.


Online review sites such as Yelp and Google Places can offer insights into what kind of experience people have had with specific handymen. These types of reviews can be helpful in getting an overall impression, but a straight “thumbs up/thumbs down” review may not provide the information you’re looking for. Membership sites such as Angie’s List are another good source of reviews.


Liability insurance is always a good idea. If the handyman or another worker is injured while working on your property, you may be held liable for medical costs. Ask for evidence of coverage before agreeing to any work. Uninsured handymen often charge less for their services because they lack the overhead expense of insurance, but it could cost you in the long run.


Ideally, ask three handymen for written estimates for the work you have in mind. Be sure that each estimate contains enough detail so that you can make a comparison between them. For example, are the specified materials of the same quality? Does the cost include cleanup and hauling away any debris or old/broken items? Read all contracts carefully and be sure to ask about anything that you are unsure of.


Beware if you are asked to pay for the entire job up front – this is not an accepted business practice and could leave you open to fraud. Handymen will often ask for 50% when the contract is signed, which will allow them to purchase materials for the job and assure them that you are committed. Be sure to request receipts for all payments.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 30th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (July 16th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Selling Smarts: Planning Ahead

by Kijner & Sons International Realty


When it comes time to sell your home, planning ahead can help make the process smoother, the transaction faster, and the price better. It takes time and effort, but the results can make a big difference in the experience and the outcome even in markets that have seen a significant jump in housing demand going into the summer months.

First, enlist the help of a qualified real estate professional. He or she will be your representative in the home selling process, and is therefore beholden to work in your best interest as the listing agent. Your agent will help you price the house realistically, taking into account aspects of your local real estate market, your neighborhood, and how your home compares to similar properties that have recently sold (“comp sales”). A professional who is familiar with your local area will have valuable insight as to what may make potential buyers pay attention to your listing. He or she will also be responsible for marketing your home, including multiple listing service (MLS), advertising, promoting your property to buyers’ agents, and open house scheduling. The listing agent will also help you through the complex transaction process that comes with selling a home.

A professional pre-listing home inspection will help identify existing and potential problems with your home that can be addressed prior to putting the home on the market. The inspection should cover heating and cooling systems, the electrical system, plumbing, built-in appliances, the roof, and basement and crawlspace areas. An inspection report will then be issued with complete, objective findings. If you choose not to make needed repairs or system upgrades, this may need to be reflected in the selling price, or a credit may need to be given for the additional amount that the new owner will need to spend to have the work done. Your listing agent can recommend a qualified professional home inspector in your area. 

Before your home hits the market, it needs to be de-cluttered in order to show well. If the home is already vacant, consider having it staged to showcase its potential to prospective buyers. Staging is usually done with furniture, lamps, indoor plants, and a few accessory props, but is kept clean and spare overall to highlight the spaces. If you are still living in the home, minimize distractions by removing excess furniture, accessories, and personal belongings from each room. Understandably, you may want potential buyers to see how you live in your home, but they will want to envision themselves and their family in the home instead of focusing on the details of your life there.

Take a look around the outside of your home, too. Consider its curb appeal – what a buyer will see when they first drive up to – or by – your home. Maybe it can use a fresh coat of paint, or at the very least make sure that the trim around windows and doors is in good shape. Clean the exterior windows to brighten the overall appearance. Don’t ignore the landscaping; take some time to trim shrubs, mow the lawn, rake up leaves, and remove weeds. Seal any cracks in the driveway and walkways. Bright flowers near the street and front door are an easy and inexpensive way to welcome potential buyers.

By planning ahead and utilizing the help of your listing agent, your home may sell faster and at a better price, a winning combination.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 30th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (June 28th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

How Important is the Home Inspection?

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Almost inevitably, a home buyer’s agent will bring up the subject of home inspection during the buying process. Some buyers may be inclined to overlook the importance of the home inspection; there is so much else going at that time that the inspection may just seem like another task to check off the list. However, a professional home inspection is the perfect opportunity to gain insight on the condition of the home you are considering – an unbiased evaluation that can provide much-needed peace of mind at a stressful time. This information can prove extremely useful and help you avoid unpleasant surprises.

A professional home inspection includes a visual assessment of the home’s systems and structural components, including heating/cooling, plumbing, electrical, roof, foundation, walls, chimneys, doors, and windows. Appliance systems as well as heating/cooling and plumbing are tested to ensure proper operation. This evaluation is then included in the written inspection report, which should include detailed findings and identification of any potential concerns. The report should also indicate any recommended repairs based on the inspection results. At that time, your agent may recommend that the seller complete needed repairs, or if not, that the cost of doing the repairs be reflected in the selling price.

To get the most out of your home inspection, accompany the home inspector during the process. This allows you to ask questions on site and get any needed clarification about potential issues that come up along the way. It’s a great way to get to know the home and locate key items such as key shutoff valves, the breaker panel and more. Attending the inspection will also give you a better understanding of any repair recommendations.

The home inspection is truly a key part of a smooth transaction and a confident purchase. Not only that, the inspection report will serve as a reference for details about the home once the purchase is complete. They say a little knowledge goes a long way; a lot of knowledge can take you even further.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 28th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (May, 1st 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Water Heating & Energy Use

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25% of household energy costs are for water heating. Given these costs, it makes sense to evaluate various types of water heating systems with an eye toward saving both energy and money. Here we take a look at some of the options currently available for homeowners to consider.

Storage Water Heaters – These are the most common type of water heater in the U.S. In these systems, cold water flows into a tank where it is heated by gas or electric power. Once the water in the tank reaches the desired temperature, the heater will cycle on and off to maintain the temperature of the water. As hot water gets used, more cold water will enter the tank to be heated. Most of us know the phenomenon of running out of hot water after family members take one shower after another; this will occur if the tank’s storage capacity is insufficient to meet the demand. At other times of the day when relatively little or even no hot water is being used, the heater must still fire on and off to keep the contents of the tank hot. Unfortunately, it is quite inefficient to keep a tank of water hot all day even when the water isn’t needed. Adding an insulated water heater wrap can boost efficiency and energy savings – these are inexpensive and can be installed by the homeowner. 

Tankless (Demand) Water Heaters – A newer type of water heater, tankless or demand water heaters are just that. Water is not stored in a tank, but is rapidly heated by gas or electricity once the faucet is turned on. For many homes, a tankless heater can be located close to the sink or shower to heat water on the spot. Because it reaches the desired temperature so quickly, much less water is wasted while waiting for hot water to flow through the faucet. Tankless heaters powered by gas are usually much more efficient than electric heaters – in fact, electricity costs can sometimes negate much of the savings a tankless system might otherwise provide. Tankless systems normally cost more than a conventional storage water heater, so homeowners will need to do some homework on what type, size, and location might make sense for them. 

Solar Water Heating – The basic concept of solar water heating is that the sun’s energy is used to pre-heat water for the home. The pre-heated water then flows into a solar tank that monitors temperature. Then it is piped into the regular hot water system, usually a storage water heater. If no water is turned on within a brief period of time, the water circulates through the system again, making it unnecessary to keep a large tank of water constantly hot. The pre-heating is done by one or two solar panels, usually installed on the roof. Solar water heating is becoming more and more popular in many areas of the U.S. as costs for the systems continue to decrease. By some accounts, including the California Energy Commission, a typical solar water heating system can pay for itself in as little as four to seven years.

No matter what type of water heating homeowners choose, it pays to do some research first to discover the ins and outs of various types for their specific situation. With efficiency and decreased energy use as a goal, the best choice of water heater depends on what pencils out in any given home.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 28th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (April, 15th 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Water Damage: Causes & Prevention

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Water damage has a variety of causes: storms, flooding, roof leaks, broken water pipes and lines, leaking washing machines, and more. This can lead to mold and odor problems, and worse. If left unmitigated, water damage can eventually cause structural damage, which can entail significant costs to repair and can even affect a home’s value. 

Prevention is the first line of defense against water damage. Here are some basics on preventing water damage and its effects:

  • Water supply lines to and from washing machines and dishwashers should be regularly inspected for leaks. Both the hoses themselves and the connections should be examined. Even a small leak can cause water damage over time, so any leaks should be repaired immediately. If the laundry room is located on the main floor or above, damage to the floor and ceiling below can be especially problematic.
  • Tank-style water heaters are prone to leaking, especially after several years of use. Over time, the bottom of the tank can rust out and release the contents of the tank. An overflow valve should be installed that will conduct leaking water to a pipe that drains either to the outside or to an appropriate interior drain.
  • Another common source of water leaks is the icemaker supply line; this should be checked as well. Homeowners should consider shutting off the icemaker and the supply line if leaving home for more than a few days. 
  • Be aware that pipes leaking inside the walls or ceiling may be impossible to detect visually before damage has already occurred.
  • Check gutters and downspouts to ensure that water is flowing away from the home’s foundation. Make any adjustments, and check the flow again using water from a garden hose. 
  • Water leak detectors can be installed at floor level near water heaters and interior air conditioning units. Simple, inexpensive wireless models are widely available and will sound an alarm when water is detected on the floor near these appliances.

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 27th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (March, 15th 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Meth Lab Detection and Disclosure

by Kijner & Sons International Realty

Home-based methamphetamine labs are found in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout North America, and are increasingly turning up in homes for sale. Site contamination resulting from the presence of a current or former meth lab may pose a serious health threat to people living in and around these properties. Potential health problems include respiratory illness, headaches, dizziness, and skin and eye irritation. Therefore, it is important for prospective property owners to learn about any possible hazards that may exist due to a former meth lab on the site and to determine next steps if signs of contamination are detected.

Disclosure requirements for meth properties vary by state, so agents need to make themselves aware of the laws that apply in their area. In some states, no such disclosures are required, so agents and buyers are at great risk of being in the dark about a property’s true condition.  

How can one determine if a property formerly housed a meth lab?

Many communities do not have systems in place to track properties that were used as meth labs. However, doing a bit of detective work may help to uncover such circumstances. Contact local law enforcement agencies to determine if a seizure of chemicals and lab equipment was made on the premises and if any hazardous materials removal was done. In addition, the local fire department, county health department, or former owners may have information about the property’s history.

Where and how would possible contamination be detected in a home?

A professional home inspector can look for evidence of a former meth lab during the course of the inspection, but there is no conclusive method of determination from a visual inspection. There may be a cat urine odor, evidence of discarded packaging, materials, and equipment, or signs of stains from spillage on counter tops, floors, etc. Contaminants may be found in carpeting, on surfaces such as walls and sinks, and even in drains and ventilation systems, but these can only be identified by professional sample collection and laboratory analysis. Where visual clues indicate the possibility of previous lab use, the home inspector will include this information in the inspection report so that the prospective owner can decide on next steps, which may include scientific testing and professional remediation.

Having a property professionally tested specifically for meth contamination is the only way to determine if it is in fact contaminated. Professional remediation should always be followed by post-testing to ensure that the decontamination is complete. In some areas, the property owner must have the cleanup results certified before the home can be approved for occupancy, though not necessarily in order to sell the home. 

Questions? Comments? Looking to buy or sell a house in Miami or Sarasota, Florida? Contact Kijner & Sons International Realty at


Source: 26th Edition of CRS Consumer Article (February 15th, 2013) - CRS-Pillar To Post Partnership - Article courtesy of Pillar To Post Professional Home Inspection

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 22




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