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Archive for Friday, September 11, 2009

Habitat ReStores offer bargains on materials

September 11, 2009

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There are several ways to save money when launching a new construction or remodeling job. One of the best is to shop at the “ReStores” that are operated by the nation’s largest not-for-profit housing group, Habitat for Humanity.

Q: I recently heard that one of my favorite charities, Habitat for Humanity, also operates several retail stores that offer some good bargains in things like construction materials, appliances and other home-improvement items. Is this true? If so, how can I find a store near me?

A: Habitat for Humanity, which has built more than 300,000 homes for low- and moderate-income people in the U.S. and rehabilitated countless more, is one of my favorite nonprofit groups too. And yes, it’s true: Most of the group’s so-called Habitat ReStores sell a variety of construction and home-improvement items, from lumber and paint to furniture and appliances.

Items sold at the ReStores are typically donated by local retailers, builders, contractors and individuals — which allows Habitat to sell the items at a deep discount to what you would normally pay. Money from the sales is used to build or rehab even more homes, usually in the same general area where the stores are.

Some of the items at the stores are brand-new, while others are used but in good condition. Donations come in often but on an unscheduled basis, which means the items you want might not be available today but that you could find a large selection of them a week or two from now.

In Lawrence, the Habitat ReStore is at 708 Conn. and can be reached by calling 856-6920.

In other communities, the best way to find the nearest ReStore is to visit Habitat for Humanity’s Web site (www.habitat.org) and then enter your ZIP code in the box marked “Search for Affiliates/ReStores.”

Q: My wife and I have been interviewing several real estate agents to sell our home. Two of the agents want a 90-day sale agreement, another wants a four-month deal, and two others say that they won’t market our property unless we sign a contract for six months! How long should a typical sales agreement last?

I usually tell sellers to insist on a 90-day listing contract. That’s typically enough time for a good agent to market the property effectively, but also allows the seller to release the salesperson without paying a commission if the agent hasn’t found a buyer when the three-month time frame is up.

Of course, sales in many parts of the country remain slow. Although I would still never sign a six-month agreement with an agent, I might consider a four-month term if sales in my particular area were softening and I was unusually impressed with the agent’s skills and proposed marketing plan.

With sales cooling as the market heads into its usual autumn and winter doldrums, even some of the best agents need a few extra weeks to market a home properly and then shepherd the deal through to closing day.

Q: I want to buy my first house, so I am following your recent advice to have the property inspected by a professional. What does a professional inspector look for?

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors — a trade association that represents more than 3,000 certified inspectors across the nation — a typical inspector’s report should cover the condition of the home’s heating system, its central air-conditioning system, and its insulation.

The inspector should also review the roof, the home’s attic, all of its walls, the windows and doors, and its foundation and basement too.

You can find more information at the association’s Web site, ashi.org.

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