Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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House Buying Tips for First Time Homeowners


The first of our six-part First Time Homeowner series follows home improvement expert Danny Lipford and his daughter Chelsea as she hunts for a house to call her own. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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House Buying Tips for First Time Homeowners

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Danny Lipford, daughter Chelsea, and wife Sharon meet with Realtor at house.

When hunting for a house to buy, consider a variety of sources, including:

  • Newspapers
  • Realtor listings
  • Online ads
  • Canvassing neighborhoods

Take into consideration:

  • House location
  • House condition
  • Neighborhood
  • Size of the lot

Inspect potential houses carefully for cracks or unlevel windows, door, or floors which could be signs of foundation settling. Also, examine the:

  • Roofing
  • Siding
  • Plumbing
  • Wiring
  • Heating/cooling system
  • Insulation
  • Crawlspace or basement

Before actually buying the house, consider having a home inspection conducted to find any problems you might have missed.

Before moving in is the best time to tackle any remodeling projects you plan to take on, such as patching cracks in walls and painting rooms.

Read the episode article and visit our First Time Homeowner website to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we are beginning a six-part series called First Time Homeowner. It’s all about the joys of finding, buying and making that first house your own. And I’m right in the middle, because that new homeowner is my daughter. Ah, feels pretty solid over here, Chelsea. See if you can find any soft spots over there.

Hello, and welcome to the show this week. Where am I? Well, I’m under the recently purchased home of my oldest daughter, Chelsea. You know, owning a home can be one of those fantastic experiences of your life. But going through the process of buying a home? Well, not so much.

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to share with you some of the things that Chelsea’s learned along the way. And how she’s realized all the little things you have to do before you move into a home. And we got some great tips for you. Whether you are buying, selling, maintaining or improving your home, you need to stick around.

But first let me take you back a little while and show you how we ended up here. Like most people shopping for homes these days, Chelsea started her search online before we hit the streets together to check out a few houses up close. A lot of these, they are only like, two-bedroom, one bath.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: And this is one of those neighborhoods that has got a mixture of, you know, real old folks and real young folks. So…

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, the houses all seem to be designed the same.

Danny Lipford: Is that the one we are looking at?

Chelsea Lipford: Think so. Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, yeah. New price. Ah, I’m surprised there’s not one house that’s for sale in here.

Chelsea Lipford: I guess that means people like it.

Danny Lipford: Mmm-hmm.

Chelsea Lipford: There’s one.

Danny Lipford: Location is always important in real estate. But, because Chelsea’s hobby is running, feeling comfortable in the neighborhood is also a high priority. Well, the lots sure aren’t very big. Well, guess you don’t want to do a lot of yard work anyway, do you? So, what are you looking for ultimately?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I mean, I only need one bedroom. So, I guess, two-bedroom, one bath will be good.

Danny Lipford: Well, there’s a small neighborhood up here that’s similar to this one. I like these established neighborhoods with trees. In older areas, a nice mix of newly restored homes and well-kept original homes is usually a good sign.

Chelsea Lipford: Here is one.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, here we go. Yeah. That one’s the one. Good God, I don’t know how they put their carport so close to the property line.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s not very big either.

Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s a skinny little thing. Maybe it’s for a bicycle. I see a window unit.

Chelsea Lipford: Uh-oh, that’s not a good sign.

Danny Lipford: I don’t know about that.

Chelsea Lipford: Got to have your AC down here. Oh, this is the one that has the basement and the attached garage.

Danny Lipford: Basement?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, it has a basement.

Danny Lipford: Whoa! That looks pretty nice. But, it’s important to not stop looking after you see something you like. This house is a great example of that. They put this on the market like that? I mean that just makes you feel like everything is neglected.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Look at this right here. See, that’s termite damage.

Chelsea Lipford: That’s termites?

Danny Lipford: You can tell by the layers it has.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, yeah.

Danny Lipford: Look, how they just painted it. Just really… Yeah, this looks… There is no telling what you would find on something like this. What the heck!

Chelsea Lipford: What is that?

Danny Lipford: What the heck is this? A carport for a bicycle?

Chelsea Lipford: Maybe that’s the basement entry.

Danny Lipford: And then… Where does the water go in here? No, this is not for you. At this stage in a search, you have to work at not getting too attached to each house so you can remain objective.

Chelsea Lipford: Green one.

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, that’s it.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s it. You’re a good painter. At first glance, something like this cedar tree seems to be an asset. But after a closer look, it appears to be overtaking the house. So, it’s up on piers, you can see that. But you see how that water kind of traps down in there?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: I wonder why they would build a carport with some kind of… Well, that garage doesn’t look like it’s in too good a shape.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: I wonder how they got away with building this. Right here, and why they didn’t attach it to the house.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, it’s kind of weird.

Danny Lipford: Now, this again. What, it’s like 1940?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Look. Look at that. How that’s…

Chelsea Lipford: Hurricane wind.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, but look at all the camellias, and whatever that is. Pretty cool.

Chelsea Lipford: Anything you see that says, “No, we shouldn’t even. contact the realtor.”

Danny Lipford: No, I mean, I don’t see… You know, it’s up off the ground a little ways.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: Still little water, seems like it’s trapping in here, but I think I’d like to see inside this thing.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Why don’t you call your realtor and see if we can get inside this one? It’s got a good feel to it.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: While Chelsea sets up an appointment with her realtor, Joe has a Simple Solution that may be helpful if you are making a move.

Joe Truini: Did you know the average American moves nearly 12 times in their lifetime. Regardless of whether it’s your first move or your 50th, moving day can be both an exciting and stressful time. Here are a few tips that going to make the day go a little more smoothly.

First, when you are packing up the boxes at the old house get some color tape and mark each box with two little strips. Then you take the same colored tape and you mark the door in room. This way, when you’re bringing the boxes in, especially if you have someone helping you, they’ll just know to put the boxes with the red tape in the room with the red tape on the door. And you get tape in various colors. So you have plenty of options for a bunch of different rooms.

Now, once you get the boxes to the new house, you have to cut them open. Here is a little tip that works really well so you don’t damage any of the goods inside. Take a utility knife and extend the blade the shortest possible distance,  just an eighth of an inch or so. Then tape the switch with some duct tape so that it doesn’t move. Then you can, very neatly and easily, cut open boxes without damaging anything inside.

Danny Lipford: My daughter Chelsea, like many of you, is trying to buy her first house. And she has found one that interests her enough to make an appointment with the realtor, Julia Wright. Julia’s a family friend and this is a family event as my wife Sharon and I tag along for the tour. Nice little room.

Chelsea Lipford: It’s got some nice carpet.

Danny Lipford: Well, I don’t know about the carpet.

Julia Wright: It’s a little less than a 1,000 square-feet.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Julia Wright: Two bedrooms and one bath.

Danny Lipford: Oh, there you go. Hardwood.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, wow!

Danny Lipford: And so the rest of them, see if the rest of them in there is also hardwood.

Julia Wright: Chelsea, this house has only had one owner which is unusual for a home this age.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, wow!

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty cool. You’ll probably find a lot of original features. But this is obviously an addition. The Celotex ceiling and the ol’ wood paneling.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, geez. I think I just went back a few decades. Oh!

Julia Wright: A celebratory bottle.

Danny Lipford: Oh, there you go. I’ll bet that’s a nice vintage. That’s pretty neat.

Sharon Lipford: Odd placement, but…

Danny Lipford: Good point.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, wow!

Danny Lipford: An old porch they converted, huh?

Chelsea Lipford: I love those windows.

Sharon Lipford: Oh, this is really nice. Except for the floor.

Chelsea Lipford: Be a good place to put that washer and dryer. Get it out of that tiny little kitchen.

Danny Lipford: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Wow, look at this. You know, I’ve been in these… I have been in houses in this neighborhood before and I can’t figure this out. I mean, it’s the access from the hall way. What is that? Like 16 inches wide.

Chelsea Lipford: Keeps you from eating too much when you’re in the kitchen, that’s for sure.

Danny Lipford: Oh! There’s not a crack at all in here.

Sharon Lipford: There might be if you keep jumping on the floor.

Julia Wright: That looks like original tile. Do you like it, Chelsea?

Chelsea Lipford: I like the tile. It’s neat.

Sharon Lipford: I think it’s cute.

Danny Lipford: Look, a laptop… A laptop desk.

Chelsea Lipford: I know, I know. That’s cool. This might need to go, though. I don’t know if I need that much storage in my bathroom.

Julia Wright: It’s a nice-sized backyard.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, I like this deck. Might need a little work.

Danny Lipford: Julia, how tall were these people that lived here? Golly!

Julia Wright: Probably shorter than me.

Danny Lipford: And how about your…

Chelsea Lipford: Stairs to nowhere?

Danny Lipford: Plant stand?

Chelsea Lipford: Ah, okay. Is that what it is?

Danny Lipford: Someone has spent a lot of time in here. These old places like that, look at all the little, I can just see a little old man in here, you know, puttering around, doing things on the little shelf and things like that.

Julia Wright: What do you think about it so far, Chelsea?

Chelsea Lipford:  Well, I like it. There’s a lot of negative things that dad has said that concerns me, but…

Danny Lipford: Well, I mean, every house that you get, is, you know, this age or something that hadn’t been remodeled, and you can’t afford something that’s been remodeled.

Julia Wright: It’s such a great area, too. Location, location, location. It’s really great looking’ at a home with an expert. As a realtor, I’m learning a lot.

Danny Lipford: After we say our goodbyes to Julia, the three of us head to lunch at a local cafe, to talk it over. Well, we have seen several houses. What do you think?

Chelsea Lipford: I like that one. And you really can’t beat the location. It’s one of the places I wanted to live.

Danny Lipford: It’s within walking distance to here.

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah.

Danny Lipford: So you can eat here all the time. But you won’t have any money for that.

Chelsea Lipford: Well, I mean…

Danny Lipford: Well, the thing that I like about it, you know, all the houses I’ve remodeled and everything is when you have like a one owner or two-owner house like that, to find a house like that that’s only had one owner, 71 years.

Chelsea Lipford: Mmm-hmm. I guess it’s really… I mean, I like the house and it suits my needs perfectly. It’s really more about if it’s a good house, you know.

Danny Lipford: They still seem like they would be more competitive than that as far as the price goes.

Sharon Lipford: It’s really the least expensive house in the neighborhood. But it probably needs a lot more work.

Chelsea Lipford: I mean, I really like that one. I think I do want to look at it one more time and make sure everything’s in check like we thought it was.

Sharon Lipford: I think if she could get some off of it, but, you know… If she could get a lower price on it, we need to snatch it up. Because the location is just really wonderful.

Danny Lipford: Well, we’ll see what happens. The very next day Chelsea gets a call from Julia with an update on the house.

Chelsea Lipford: They dropped it how much! Oh, well, that really changes a lot.

Danny Lipford: The sellers have just reduced the price by $30,000. And that bit of good news offsets almost every negative I found with the place. So Chelsea pulls the trigger on the deal, and in no time she is closing on the house. Chelsea is now the proud owner of a 71-year-old cottage that has lots of charm, but needs more than a few repairs.

So the list of things you want to do before you move in in the kitchen. Repair cracks, move the washing machine dryer somewhere. Move the dishwasher over. Well, you’re going to have to paint the ceiling and the walls. And then we’ll check out for plumbing and everything. And then you’re going to have to decide on your floor. Not a very pretty floor. Need a new light. It’s cracked. It’s not too bad in here. So this is the big master suite, huh?

Chelsea Lipford: “Suite,” not so much.

Danny Lipford: What about these burglar bars? You want to get rid of those?

Chelsea Lipford: I think so.

Danny Lipford: That’s ugly. What about the hardwood floors?

Chelsea Lipford: Well, it definitely needs little work.

Danny Lipford: You don’t want to put carpet over it or anything, do you?

Chelsea Lipford: No, definitely not. No. I saw this earlier. Is that…

Danny Lipford: While we keep adding to our list here, Jodi is at the Home Depot with this week’s Best New Product.

Jodi Marks: I remember when I became a first time homeowner. After signing my life away at the closing table, I didn’t have a lot of money left over to go out and buy new furniture. So I was always shopping at flea markets and yard sales, and spray paint became my best friend. Well, a lot has changed in the spray paint department since I bought my first house. Look at all of the different colors and styles. And actually finishes that you have to choose from now, and I like this one right here.

This is the Rust-Oleum Universal. And this is great because it also is an all-surface spray paint. Which means it can go on just about any surface be it wood, metal, plastic, masonry. I mean, the list goes on and on. And again, look at all the colors you have to choose from. What I like about the Universal series though is you could choose from a hammered-looking surface or a metallic, or even a satin-looking surface. And again, because it’s a spray paint it’s very easy to use.

But look at this. Remember when you try to spray paint upside down, your can would get clogged and the paint wouldn’t come out? Well, now it’s designed to be actually rotated 360 degrees all the way around and it’ll still give you a smooth finish every time. I tell you what, I think the hardest thing that you are going to have to do is choosing which ones you want to buy.

Danny Lipford: My daughter Chelsea has just become a first time homeowner. And our cameras are tagging along for the ride as she prepares her fixer-upper to move in. She’s getting good at giving tours of this place so she pretty much has it down to an art by the time Jodi Marks drops by to check on her progress.

Jodi Marks: Oh, I love it. Oh, God! Look at this fixture.

Chelsea Lipford: I know.

Jodi Marks: This is so neat.

Chelsea Lipford: And this is the kitchen, we like to joke that it’s very efficient because you can work both, all the appliances at once.

Jodi Marks: Your refrigerator right there and you can do your laundry, too. Wow!

Chelsea Lipford: Little sun room.

Jodi Marks: Oh, yeah! Wow! Oh, this is nice. This is the perfect size. I love your ceiling, how it slopes.

Chelsea Lipford: I know. How it kind of slopes down.

Jodi Marks: Good job!

Danny Lipford: In fact Jodi’s so excited about Chelsea’s project that she offers to take her back to The Home Depot for a shopping expedition to get ready for the work ahead.

Jodi Marks: When you do paper tape, you have to lay a bed, put the tape in it and lay another bed.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh!

Jodi Marks: So this just goes right on the wall itself and then you go over it.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Jodi Marks: So this is easier. You want to get that one?

Chelsea Lipford: That sounds good.

Jodi Marks: So, this is 165 and this 200. How much is this? 10.98. And this is 9.98. Ah, sold!

Chelsea Lipford: A small putty knife and then Concrobium.

Jodi Marks: Yeah, that’s going to be…

Chelsea Lipford: Here is some… Here’s mold blocker.

Jodi Marks: Oh, here it is. Ah! Fantastic! She got it.

Chelsea Lipford:  Okay, the list is complete.

Jodi Marks: Okay! Now we got to get to work.

Jodi Marks: Got to go pay.

Chelsea Lipford: We have to pay first.

Danny Lipford: Back at Chelsea’s new house, she and Jodi start with the stuff that Chelsea knows she wants to get rid of first. Like those highly attractive burglar bars in the kitchen.

Jodi Marks: It would have been a good idea if you could have saved it but…

Danny Lipford: Then there’s also that beautiful built-in entertainment center in the bath.

Chelsea Lipford: Take that, hamper.

Jodi Marks: That’s right.

Chelsea Lipford: There is like Q-tips and pencils in here.

Jodi Marks: Fun! All right, Chels! Knock it to me. This way? There you go. Yeah. There you go. Oh, look at all your room! You got it?

Danny Lipford: There is also plenty of plaster repair to be done in this house. And Jodi’s given Chelsea some quick tips to get her started.

Jodi Marks: All you’re going to do, stick this, push it.

Chelsea Lipford: Wow! Does it matter how much is on each side of the crack?

Jodi Marks: No, really doesn’t.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Jodi Marks: Okay. Now, push it hard and pull it. There you go. Good job.

Chelsea Lipford: Must be hungry, because that looks like cupcake icing. Wow! These are like Mickey Mouse gloves.

Danny Lipford: But by far the biggest change has to be the removal of that gorgeous decades old carpet.

Jodi Marks: There’s no telling the mites. Carpet mites. Yeah.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh, gross. Oh, wow! This just tears right down in the middle.

Jodi Marks: These floors look really good!

Chelsea Lipford: I know.

Jodi Marks: Oh, my gosh! Look at your floors!

Chelsea Lipford: Wow!

Jodi Marks: These are going to be awesome, Chelsea. That’s a lot of work, isn’t it? But it’s so worth it. I mean look at your floors.

Chelsea Lipford: Oh! It’s hard to imagine what they look like when all that nasty old carpet’s on it. But this is wow!

Danny Lipford: Those wood floors have a few low spots so her next chore is figuring that out, which means a trip under the house. A string stretched out inside. And when that thing comes up, where I showed you the other day, when the floor comes up, you will see it level out.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: Then you need to let us know. We are going to go a little bit higher than what we need to, put the pier under it, then we’ll let it back down, and you’ll keep watching. Should be able to talk to us through the floor.

That string we ran between two blocks of wood acts as a gauge so we can tell when we jack the floor joist up high enough. When it comes up and just let it go just a tad higher, we’ll put the pier under it and let it back down, and then you’ll check it. We should be able to get just about all of this out of there.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay.

Danny Lipford: With these blocks, I’m adding to existing piers and creating new ones. So once we raise the floor to level, it will stay there. I need concrete blocks.

Chelsea Lipford: Okay. Let me… I’ll be right back.

Danny Lipford: You’re supposed to carry one in each hand.

Chelsea Lipford: I don’t see any movement.

Danny Lipford: What! How we looking’ now?

Chelsea Lipford: Yeah, you’re getting closer.

Danny Lipford: Huh?

Chelsea Lipford: Getting close.

Danny Lipford: Closer to the hall way, is it lower?

Chelsea Lipford: Huh?

Danny Lipford: Closer to the hall way, is it lower?

Chelsea Lipford: No. Uh-uh.

Danny Lipford: Is it lower towards the dining room? Your right hand?

Chelsea Lipford: No.

Danny Lipford: Looks like we might be working on this one a little longer. In the mean time, why don’t you check out this week’s Ask Danny.

Randy Asks: How do I decide whether a DIY project is more than I can handle?

Danny Lipford: One of things you have to consider is your skill level and how much time do you have to commit to a particular project. There are a lot of do-it-yourself friendly type projects for your home. Like painting, that’s an easy one. And also there’s a lot of flooring out there that’s very do-it-yourself-friendly like a lot of the laminate floors.

But a couple of areas you want to stay away from, electrical and plumbing is better left to the professionals. But you can save a lot of money and get involved with a larger project like this kitchen renovation by doing a little bit of the demolition yourself. Removing all of the cabinets, the counter tops, maybe the flooring and in this case, even some of the dry wall, to make it very accessible for the contractor and that means it’ll be a lot cheaper. It’s kind of like being your own little demolition team.

Danny Lipford: My oldest daughter Chelsea has reached a big milestone with the purchase of her first house. Like many first time homeowners, her place is a bit of a fixer-upper, and it’s still not quite ready for her to move in. But it’s getting closer every day. Well, now that we have all of our foundation problems behind us, we can really concentrate on everything that’ll be necessary for her to move in to her new house.

Now, Chelsea is very excited about that part of the project, but also a little overwhelmed. The list is pretty long, but we are going to pitch in next week and make sure everything gets done so she can have that big move-in day. And we’ll see that, next week right here on Today’s Homeowner. I’m Danny Lipford. Thanks for being with us.