Whether you just bought your house or condo, or have owned it several years, Robert Irwin’s latest book, “Tips and Traps for New Home Owners,” will answer most of your questions after home purchase. Although it begins a little “soft” and “unfocused,” such as generally discussing insurance and refinancing, by the book’s conclusion it becomes highly focused, even with details such as recommending furnace brands.
Although home buyers and realty agents won’t be harmed by reading this book, it is aimed at new homeowners who have questions that often arise during ownership. Irwin, an experienced real estate broker and investor, as well as prolific realty book author, shares his expert advice on topics that homeowners often consider.
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For example, he emphasizes the criteria for determining whether home renovation is desirable and is likely to be profitable. Roof repairs, Irwin cautions, are advantageous and usually inexpensive whereas roof replacement is usually very expensive and won’t add much or any market value to the home.
On the topic of extensive and expensive renovations, the author explains why they usually don’t add as much market value as they cost. But then he hastens to suggest homeowners go ahead if they expect to stay in their home five years or longer.
One home upgrade that Irwin strongly opposes is in-ground swimming pools. He emphasizes the high cost and the cycle of how pool enjoyment usually declines after the first few years. Then he adds that pools rarely add as much market value as they cost.
The book’s second part is called “A home operating manual.” It goes into great detail with a before move-in checklist, extremely precise considerations for upgrading your home, and even a home maintenance schedule (which homeowners are certain to ignore). Frankly, this part of the book should have been in the beginning chapters.
Having read virtually all the Irwin real estate books, which must total 20 or more, as a book reviewer I can say this one is the most detailed. The author even discusses brand names of furnaces and built-in air conditioners he recommends (but he doesn’t name the bad ones).
Considerable emphasis is spent discussing outdated home components, such as plumbing and wiring, plus a substantial explanation about “popcorn ceilings” and how to handle them. This practical advice, based on the author’s extensive experience with his investment and personal residence properties, makes the book especially valuable.
Chapter topics include “How Much is Enough Insurance?” “When Should You Refinance?” “Can You Really Improve Your Home’s Value Through Renovation?” “Watching Out for Value Grabbers”; “Record Keeping and Tax Deductions for Homeowners”; “Tax Planning for When You Sell”; “Did You Pay Too Much?” “Surviving the Move”; “Upgrading Your Home”; and “Your Home Maintenance Schedule.” The superb Appendix “Tips When Renovating Your Home” is extremely valuable.
This “Instruction Manual for Home Owners” offers superb advice from an experienced professional realty investor and broker. It explains the most profitable and most unprofitable home ownership decisions. Although some home expenses become mandatory, such as replacing leaking galvanized pipes, the author warns which repairs won’t add any value to your home. On my scale of one to 10, this very complete homeowner guide rates a solid 10.
“Tips and Traps for New Home Owners,” by Robert Irwin (McGraw-Hill, New York), 2005, $14.95, 200 pages; Available in stock or by special order at local bookstores, public libraries and www.amazon.com.
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