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Be Thankful for Our Essential Workers

Nov 25, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Thankful for . . .

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To say 2020 has been a very stressful and challenging year is truly an understatement. For those who have been sick or lost a loved one, this Thanksgiving will be difficult. Many families are not together and may be celebrating this special holiday from afar either through telephone calls or video conference.

Despite everything that has occurred, the old hymn Count Your Blessings still applies, especially if you have a roof over your head and a warm bed to sleep in. During this holiday, there are millions of our fellow Americans that do not have a home to call their own and do not have a warm bed to sleep in. Through bad circumstances, generational poverty, mistakes, affordability, and mental illness challenges, they are left alone in this world with no place to call home.

It is at these times we are all reminded of how much having a home to call our own or a permanent place to reside means to us. Not only do four walls and a roof shelter us from the elements they provide security and the hope of a better day. Our society has lost sight that affordable housing is essential for everyone’s future.

This year, we have all discovered that essential workers in our society are critical to our survival as a nation. Is it too much to ask that the people we depend on have a decent, affordable place to live? Not every person can be a college graduate, a wealthy businessperson, or someone born into great wealth. Most of our citizens are hardworking people doing the best they can with the talents that have been gifted to them by God. That is okay, because their contributions to our society are just as important. What would we have done without the nurses, cashiers, truck drivers, and sanitation workers this year?

I truly hope that one of the big lessons learned from this awful pandemic in 2020 is that we can finally value the services of all essential workers and develop policies that will encourage clean and affordable workforce housing. Right now, there are people who served all of us nobly during the pandemic who cannot afford a home or apartment. Instead, they are living in substandard housing, cars, with friends, or with family. Their children do not know the security of having a bedroom of their own and live in constant fear of changing schools or being in embarrassing situations.

While some will say it is because people are not being paid enough, the current affordability crisis in housing is not only keeping the poor out of housing it is denying a huge number people who are working hard every week to make ends meet. The discussion must begin with reducing the price of housing by changing the type of housing allowed and putting the first rung of the housing ladder back in place. The cost of housing is the real issue.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, do not focus on the things that have changed or what you cannot do. Instead, remember those who are less fortunate that have nothing. Think about all the essential workers who have worked so hard this year under unimaginable stress who may be eating their Thanksgiving meal in a car.

In that wonderful all hymn, Johnson Oatman, Jr. wrote these two lyrics:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Take a moment during this Thanksgiving holiday to be grateful for your home because there are millions of people who would give anything just to have a place to call their own.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Who is in Charge of Your Construction Project?

Nov 18, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Job Site Tips

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Whether it is a remodel or new home construction project, many times the homeowner is not completely satisfied at the end of the project. In fact, disappointment is somewhat commonplace. After the finger pointing and blaming, it usually comes down to the homeowner saying, “I did not get what I paid for.” When asked why, if the homeowner is being honest with themself, it is because they allowed a builder, contractor, subcontractor, or material provider to take charge of their project and talk them into something they did not want.

Who is in charge of your construction project? It should be you.

In my view, the person who pays has the final decision. Whether you hire a builder or act as your own contractor, hundreds of decisions (both large and small) must be made. If you allow others to make these decisions for you, there is a 100 percent certainty that you will be disappointed.

There is one point in every construction project that many people do not understand—the small decisions on construction projects are just as impactful and noticeable as the big decisions. For example, a poor choice for a trim color in a room can make a magnificently built room look ugly.

Why do so many homeowners allow others to take charge of their construction projects?

First, it is in their DNA. There are people who do not like conflict, struggle with making a firm decision, and they do better with others who will assume the hassle. This is how their brains are hardwired. The only problem with this type of personality is they blow up when so much of the project ends up being a disappointment. If you hate or avoid making decisions, you should purchase a pre-built project and instead of constructing a custom project.

Next, about 60 percent of the homeowners are too nice. These are the homeowners who do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings or be direct because it may seem insensitive. In the construction industry, following details by builders, contractors, and subcontractors is hard enough without someone beating around the bush. Most would rather you just tell them what you want in an unvarnished manner. If you make decisions or give directions in an ambiguous nice way, most will interpret that as leeway to change the decision. You should be direct and firm.

Technology is great. Details and instructions should be sent via email and/or text message followed up with a discussion. All conversations and written communication should be memorialized for the time when something is done wrong and people try to pull out the old, he-said-she-said card. I hate this, but it is true. Women are particularly tormented by this and many men will claim they just did not understand. Although it is sexist and wrong, it happens every day. Unfortunately, women are forced to document more.

The final reason why others take charge of your construction project is because of your poor planning. The failure to plan your project as to what you want with the corresponding details will lead to chaos. Chaos is simply an absence of leadership. Some builders and subcontractors will take advantage of those who fail to plan and use the chaos to blame them for everything that goes wrong on the project—even their mistakes. Before you start any project, plan out the details. If you cannot, do not start the project.

On every construction project there must be someone in charge who is the ultimate decider-in-chief. If you are paying for the project and it is not your or your spouse, then expect disappointment. Do not be afraid to take charge—it is not as hard as you think.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Read before You Sign or Check the Box

Nov 11, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

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The one course that should be taught in every grade from kindergarten through college is reading comprehension. Goodness, no one reads details and people have become so accustomed to just checking boxes and signing forms on the internet without reading that they are literally taking responsibility for everything.

A very wise attorney told me years ago that every contract is written in favor of the person who wrote it. Think about it. Every time you sign a document that is presented to you by another party, it is written to their benefit, not yours. Plus, poor reading comprehension creates mistakes, especially in the construction industry. Most of the conflicts on any job are created by a misunderstanding of the facts and details by the parties.

Consider this point. Every day, new home buyers and remodel customers shell out tens of thousands of dollars for projects to builders and contractors, yet they allow the builder or contractor to write the terms of the contract. Even worse, the overwhelming majority of these prospective new home buyers or remodel customers do not read the document or seek the advice of legal counsel to ensure what they are signing is fair. In most transactions, the person who is paying the money dictates the terms of the contract, not the employee.

These contracts are not like a quick check mark on an internet site agreeing to some terms. Rather, these contracts make the homeowner responsible for mistakes, accidents, and errors on the contractor’s part. In addition, you can diminish your rights to litigate because you waived your rights. In legal terms, the words “and” or “but” used in a connotation of a contract can change the complete intent. Unless you have experience reading complex contracts, homeowners should seek professional legal advice before signing any contact on a construction project. Also, never allow anyone to force you to sign something quickly without an opportunity to read and review it.

The other big area where poor reading comprehension hurts homeowners is when contracting for work, products, and services. The jargon, nomenclature, and imprecise nuances of construction talk confuses and confounds most people who attempt to build a construction project. Things like a 28 door really is 32 inches or that a window can be a fin or fame measured either like 3 high or 3050. It is almost like learning a new language. This coupled with builders and subcontractors who are not well-known for explicit details can lead to an array of problems and disappointments.

When discussing scopes of work and construction materials with a contractor or supplier it is perfectly alright to tell them if you do not understand something. Furthermore, it is very advisable you write down what you want and insist they match your specifications. Never write a book in another man’s language and never sign a scope of work with jargon you do not understand.

The best advice for dealing with any contract, scope of work, or special order in the construction process is to consider every initial or signature as a bond with a solemn handshake. Instead of flippantly signing documents without understanding them, value your signature as if it were an unshakable vow that you cannot break. In other words, put meaning behind your name. This will force you to read and understand what you are signing.

Believe me, if you sign something that you do not understand, you have just set yourself up for failure on the construction project. Remember, it is your project, your money, and it should be on your terms.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Although Housing is Strong Do Not Expect a Boom

Nov 4, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Real Estate

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Coming out of the spring shutdown from COVID-19, the housing market has been hot. If you listen to the headlines in the news, housing sales and starts are record-breaking. However, in reality they are not. There was pent-up demand from the spring shutdown and there seems to be a real migration from the large cities to the suburbs and countryside. Even with historically low interest rates, both housing sales and starts are not record-breaking.

Nationally, housing starts in August were 1.4 million, which was 5.1 percent below the prior month and only 2.8 percent better than the previous year. This number includes the pent-up demand and huge push of people from the large urban centers.

To put these housing starts in perspective, consider that during the housing boom in January 2006, housing starts came in at almost 2.3 million, which is 64.3 percent more than August 2020. Conversely, housing starts in Florida for August 2020 were 10,100 compared to a high of 20,044 during the housing boom. If you look at historic norms, especially compared to population, housing starts are actually low. Affordability, increased material costs, and labor shortages are just a few reasons why a fewer percentage of Americans can afford a home today.

There is no doubt that the housing market in Lake County is hot. According the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, the average selling price of a home in Lake County has gone from $240,140 in January to $265,917 in August, which is up 10.7 percent. In line with this, the price per square foot for a home has increased from $131.83 in January to $142.22 in August, which is a price level that knocks many people out of the housing market. The number of average days to sell a home has gone from 61 days in January to 52 day in August, with an increase in sales of 40.1 percent.

What do all these numbers really mean?

First, inventory is tight and there are fewer homes on the market for sale. Next, this demand is pushing prices upward. With each move, there are more people who are unable to purchase a home. Next, it is a seller’s market. If you want to sell your home, now is a good time. Finally, despite the challenges with the pandemic and the negative impact on tourism, Florida’s real estate market will be a shining economic star for the state. Expect the migration of people to Florida to intensify a lot this year, especially since the state has been spared a direct hit from a major hurricane, which is a first in four years.

Construction and real estate are strong in Florida and this should continue into 2021, unless there is a major economic turndown, which will tangle up the state. With that said, do not expect another 2005-2006 housing boom in Florida. The fundamentals are different because the homes being purchased are for new residents, not speculative. Plus, with the economic turndown in other parts of America along with the pending eviction and foreclosure crisis, lenders will demand good credit and accurate appraisals. What will make the housing market more exuberant in 2021 is the huge number of cash buyers who will look at Florida as an investment they cannot afford to lose.

Although the housing market is strong, and should remain strong, do not expect a boom.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Now is the Time to Winterize Your Central Florida Home

Oct 28, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in house doors, residential homes

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To our winter residents from Wisconsin and Minnesota—please do not snicker when we talk about winterizing a home in Central Florida. Believe it or not, during the winter this area will experience some cool weather and maybe a morning or two of freezing temperatures. Residents who ignore these cooler temperatures could have some problems around the house. So, it is a good idea to take a few hours to make sure your home is ready for winter.

Let us get the winter safety issues resolved first. Before November 1st, replace the batteries in the smoke detectors throughout your home because Central Florida is the world center of electrical space heaters. Thousands of homeowners throughout Central Florida use electrical space heaters to knock the chill out of the room. Many times, homeowners will use frayed extension cords or place the electrical space heaters too close to flammable objects in the room. Electrical fires caused by space heaters and holiday lighting increase in the winter months, so smoke detectors are vital.

If your home has any open flame for cooking or heating, you should have a carbon monoxide detector to prevent asphyxiation due to carbon monoxide poisoning. If you have an attached garage and an automobile without a key, a carbon monoxide detector is a good idea because homeowners who inadvertently fail to turn their automobile off are suffering from sickness and death.

For homeowners who have a water well, the first thing you should do before cold weather is insulate and wrap the small pipe around the pressure switch and pipes exposed at the pump. The small flow pipe just below the pressure switch can freeze very easily on a cold morning, which will result in no running water in your home. You will learn sooner than later why you need a hair dryer to warm up your water well. Another great tip is to put ant poisoning around your water well. In the winter, ants will make their way into the pressure switch and stop the switch from operating. Keep ants, bugs, and lizards away from your well as they look for warm places to hide during the winter.

Most homes have multiple hose bibs around the house, which can also freeze on cold mornings. A hose bib that freezes and subsequently busts can be a big mess if the pipe in the wall is damaged. Wrap and insulate your home’s exposed hose bibs, faucets, and pipes.

Although sprinkler systems should be adjusted to run one day per week during the winter months, it is imperative you make sure that enough water is getting to your yard. Sprinkler heads that are malfunctioning or not enough time watering the lawn zones can ruin a beautiful lawn. If you are not competent to adjust your sprinklers properly, hire a professional.

Have a strategy for protecting your tropical plants and fragile décor palm trees. Some palm trees are hardy and can take freezing temperatures while many like the Robellini palm will freeze and die. You should have frost blankets and coverings ready to protect your fragile vegetation. A great piece of advice: if you keep tropical plants in a pot, they can easily be moved indoors during freezing temperatures. Never use plastic sheathing to cover tropical plants as this can cause more damage than leaving them exposed.

If you like working in your garage, you should consider insulating your garage door before wintertime. An insulation kit can be installed on most single-pan garage doors and it really helps with keeping cool weather out of the house.

Check your door weatherstripping, which is on both sides and the bottom of the door. It is not uncommon for little dogs to rip up door weatherstripping, which can result in cold weather flooding into the home along with bugs, snakes, and critters. Most door companies have replacement weatherstripping for the sides and bottom of doors, which can really protect your home during wintertime.

Pull your attic stairway down and check the insulation in your attic (do this only if you are physically able to). Look for areas in the attic that may show thin areas, because blown insulation can shift with heavy winds. Move it around, if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, hire a professional.

Finally, before cranking up the heating system in your home, have it checked out. Many HVAC systems in Central Florida have heat strips, which can become dirty in a course of months since they are not used during the summer. This could damage your system. Having the heating system tuned-up prior to its use in the winter is a very good idea.

While a cold morning is 25 degrees in Central Florida, failure to prepare for these mornings can create real aggravation and expense. At least you do not have to shovel snow.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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