Real estate Q&A |

Real estate Q&A

Doug Van Etten
Free Press Real Estate Columnist
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Q: Our house exterior is looking a little tired and I never really liked the wood siding. My husband and I know having a stucco surface applied to our house will be more expensive than simply painting it next summer. What I am curious to know is, will the stucco vs. painted wood siding bring us more money if we decide to sell in a few years?

A: You and I think alike, looking down the road to “future” resale value. My wife on the other hand is of another mind — “if I like it and want it, let’s do it and enjoy it while we are here, with no concern about adding to market value down the road.”

Not knowing a definitive answer to this question of value increase, or not, from changing your wood siding to stucco, I dove into the MLS data so see if there was anything significant I could share.

I searched the same hypothetical house criteria for each of three different exterior siding types: stucco, wood and vinyl. Drum roll please for the results. Fifty-five houses with wood siding have sold in 2013 within my hypothetical criteria for an average sale price of $215,600. Stucco represented 53 percent as many sales with 29, but had a 9.7-percent higher average sales price at $238,750. To add one more exterior finish type, I checked on vinyl siding which accounted for 14 sales at an average price of $206,500.

My economics professor friend at CMU might fault my analysis based on such small sample sizes, but that is what we’ve had sell within these criteria in 2013. Based on these local sales data, it looks like stucco is valued 9.7-percent higher than wood by Grand Junction home buyers. Their preference for wood tops vinyl by 4.3 percent.

When the weather gets warm and you get ready to refinish the house justify stucco by the numbers or just go with your personal preference, which I think you said, is stucco.

Q: We have been searching for houses on the Internet since last spring and began touring homes about a month ago. By the time we reached this phase of our buying enthusiasm, we were not to be deterred by weather. In fact December’s weather has let us see something that would have been unknown had we bought in October or even November. Many houses in the neighborhoods we like have icicles hanging off the roof, and in some cases you can see ice piled in the rain gutters. What causes this and how serious a problem might it be?

A: Few people I have heard talking about the weather have had much good to say, but it looks like you have found use for the snow and cold in your home search; it will show you how efficiently the attic insulation and ventilation do their jobs.

All that ice is referred to as ice damming. It is not good for the shingles, the facia board trimming the roof, or the rain gutters. And, as it drips and re-freezes, it is unsafe and hard on the concrete walkways or porch.

Attic spaces in many Grand Valley homes are empty except for insulation laid down or blown in to prevent heat loss from the warm house to the cold attic. When there is not enough insulation or the insulation has shifted, perhaps being blown around the attic by our frequent strong winds, heat escapes upward from the house into the colder attic. Attic heat eventually reaches the underside of the roof, causing the base layer of snow to melt and run off the roof until it reaches the eaves. The eaves are where the roof hangs out past the vertical walls of the house, being exposed to cold air from above and below. This causes the snow-melt water to freeze on the eaves, into the gutters and as icicles over the roof edge.

There are many different ways homeowners deal with the short-term symptoms. What I have found to be easy and inexpensive solution to the problem is a roof rake. These rakes amount to a shovel-like blade mounted on a 10- to 15-foot aluminum pole angled in a way that lets the user pull snow off the roof.

In this area where we have few and mostly light snows and with many of single story houses and low pitched roofs, the rake can be reached far enough up the roof to prevent the run-off water from freezing. By clearing snow, it lets the ice form over a wider area thus not building up at the edges and hanging over as those beautiful icicles.

A long-term solution prefers to stop the problem at the cause — escaping heat. Sometimes heat loss can be solved by adding or repositioning attic insulation. Conversely, more vents for cold air circulation can be created or existing vents can be exposed. Soffit vents allow air to circulate into the attic from under the eaves. When those vents get blocked by shifting insulation or even too much insulation, air circulation can be blocked. Gable vents at the ends of the house can help. A ridge vent along the crest of the roof is another form of attic ventilation.

Some builders or homeowners install a variety of attic fans. Those may cause their own problems. However, properly installed, they can prevent or eliminate attic heat build-up thus preventing snow melt on the roof and ice damming. An attic fan has the double benefit of cooling the attic from summer heat and heat damage that can shorten roof life.

Now you’ve learned a little about what that ice is telling you. When you look inside a house that has ice dams, if the problem has been on-going water may have forced its way under roof shingles and penetrated attic insulation or even ceiling sheet rock and beyond.

When buying a house it is always advisable to have a home inspection. If you know or suspect ice damming on a house, be sure your inspector knows about that. You can even make that one criteria for hiring an inspector, that they can adequately explain ice damming and know what to look for in the way of cause and effect, signs and symptoms.

Long story short, ice damming does not need to make you not buy a house; just be aware of the issue and prepare to deal with it after each snowfall or long term with an insulation-ventilation fix.

GJ Free Press columnist Doug Van Etten is a local Realtor with Keller Williams Colorado West Realty. He has been helping home buyers and sellers as well as real estate investors meet their needs and goals for more than 20 years. Read his articles and other postings at Van Etten’s blog:

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