8th April 2010

New EPA Law Affects Owners & Work Performed In Pre 1978 Buildings

contractors1 This blog covers all metro Atlanta property owners, landlords, builders, realtors, investors, property managers,   contractors, electricians, plumbers and painters who engage in any level of renovation…even turn-key between tenants.

Any renovator, owner, landlord, contractor, painter or other workmen, who disturbs lead paint while working in a pre-1978 home, school or day care center, now must be Lead-Safe Certified. If you’re not, you can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Plus, you put the health of yourself, your workers and your children at risk, which could result in lawsuits.

Beginning April 22, 2010, there are new Federal rules regarding how you perform any work that disturbs lead-based paint in homes, child-care facilities and schools built before 1978. You or your workers or contractors, now must be EPA certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination in pre 1978 properties. And, the EPA defines “disturbing lead” very broadly.

Failure to follow the new rules can result in federal fines of up to $32,500 per day or up to 5 years in federal prison, or both.

The EPA’s new regulations on lead paint take effect on April 22, 2010. The regulations are contained at Title 40, Part 745 of the Code of Federal Regulations. There are some very important highlights:

Effective April 22, no owner, firm, or individual may perform repairs or renovations in “target housing” without certification (40 CFR 745.81). Target housing means any housing constructed prior to 1978, so agents & brokers, landlords, owners and investors working in homes, apartments or condominiums built prior to 1978 should take this seriously.

There are only very limited exceptions, such as where a certified inspector has determined the project is free of lead paint beyond permitted levels (40 CFR 745.82). Private homes with no children or pregnant woman that are owner occupied may also qualify for excluding coverage, but only if the owner signs off that the firm is not required to meet the regulatory practices (40 CFR 745.82).

* Anyone performing renovations has extensive obligations to give disclosure and notice to building occupants in writing prior to renovation, including providing mandating EPA publications (40 CFR 745.84)
* The regulations further include specific work practice standards, so watch out for potential employee personal injury claims and OSHA inspections and violations as well (40 CFR 745.85)
* Even relatively minor work is included in the requirements: generally work disrupting more than 6 square feet of painted area is regulated. (40 CFR 745.80, 745.83) This includes most “turn-key” painting and touch-up unless extremely minor!
* Persons and firms performing work in this arena must provide their customers the EPA’s brochure, Renovate Right (40 CFR 745.81)(note: the publication requirement is already in effect, so if you are not doing that now, you need to start immediately!).

If you or your contractor own or work on pre 1978 properties, make sure you or they have taken and passed an EPA recognized course of instruction to become an “EPA CERTIFIED RENOVATOR”. These are typically one day courses and upon completion you will receive an EPA-approved color photo ID attesting to your certification. These certifications will be good for 5 years according to EPA rules.

For more detailed info on this new law, go to:


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8th January 2009

To A Prosperous New Year!

By Robert Whitfield
I wanted to take a moment to address the current economic situation and reassure you that your Atlanta area home is still one of the best investments you could have made or own during these troubled times.

I watch Squawk Box on CNBC every morning and always note the latest DJIA current and year to year stats. Just before this writing – stocks were down 38+ % from the same time last year! I am sure many peoples investment/retirement portfolio has lost even more. Except for certain California and Florida “bubble” markets, nowhere have home prices dropped nearly as badly as stocks. For example, per the latest Case-Shiller index, Atlanta prices are off only 10.8 percent over the same time last year. Since early ‘07 Forbes and Business Week have ranked Atlanta in the top 15 most stable US housing markets.

The market will come back as it always does and you can bet future home prices will only rise. Why do I and so many others think buying real estate is the best investment of all time? For many reasons – the worlds population keeps growing and people will always need somewhere to live. I have personally made and helped others make more profit in one transaction in a short amount of time than they ever could have in the stock market with the same amount of money and time span. In addition, as my grandfather used to say and as we’ve all heard “they aren’t making any more land” – thats true and one of the fundamental powers of real estate, but in the context of this article I am referring to “developed or improved land”. I dont recommend investing/speculating in raw land ever – unless you’re a developer, a population trend expert, visionary, or gambler with deep pockets! Why, because the hold time can be decades! Sure, I know someone who made a fortune selling land in and around the Perimeter Mall area 25 – 30 years ago but that land was in the family for half a century and the area was essentially a cow pasture then! I dont personally know too many other people who have done very well in land speculation. I do know plenty of people who have made money with single family homes and for the more sophisticated investor, multifamily apartment acquisitions.

Investors are absorbing great deals right now which is advantageous to themselves and the market as a whole. (Let me rant for a moment.) I get disgusted when certain media refers to investors as “vulture investors” – as if buying an already foreclosed home is doing a disservice to the family who used to own it! If investors don’t “take advantage”, many markets will remain so flooded with deteriorating bank REO assets (foreclosures) that it will take much longer for thier housing markets to stabilize. Someone should ask these reporters, “Would you rather see a foreclosed home on your own street become a vacant (often vandalized) REO home – a neighborhood eyesore that only drives down prices the longer it is vacant, or be purchased ASAP by someone who will fix it up, rent it to a deserving family and sell it for the highest possible price when the time is right – thereby maintaining or even raising neighborhood values?” The answer is obvoius when you frame it in reality – investors play an important role in bringing this housing market back to some kind of equalibrium – and in my opinion, we should be thankful they have the money, intestinal fortitude, and vision to do what they do.

Couple all of the historical and forward looking benefits of owning real estate with some of the current advertised and unadvertised deals available, the cheap mortgage money, and our up to $10,000 Cash Reward and a reasonably well planned real estate transaction can be a great opportunity.

The Economic Downturn is a Huge Plus for investors, first time buyers, and even move-up buyers needing a larger home. Move up buyers? Yes, as an Atlanta area seller you will not get as much for your home as in ‘06/’07, but you can more than make up the difference when you buy, and if your credit is good, mortgage rates are really outstanding. Investors, you need a buy and hold strategy; flipping is tough unless you’re a pro at certian market segments or wholesale deals to other investors. Buyers, get with your lender before you even think about looking – rates are great but qualifying is harder – it’s a good idea to make sure you can get a loan! I have seen to my surprise a few deals not be approved or not be viable because of extra underwriter requirements this year (not subprime either) that would have been a slam dunk in 06 and even the first half of 07. One involved credit scores in the high 700’s, the other was a Physician making over $800K a year. Exceptional deals are there IF you have cash or can get a mortgage. This market will be looked back upon by buyers and investors who are making shrewd acquisitions now and in the comming months, as one of the golden opportunities of a lifetime!

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9th September 2008

Paulson’s Fannie/Freddie takeover plan: So far, so good.

Early reaction to the Fannie-Freddie takeover by the Fed has been roundly positive. Mortgage rates dropped almost a half point and that will be a boon to homebuyers with decent credit as rates are in the 5% range again as they were in 2005.

As Treasury secretary Paulson had hoped, the spread between the yield on mortgage-backed securities and risk-free Treasury bonds narrowed sharply Monday and mostly held those gains Tuesday. The tightening of those spreads has the effect of bringing down rates on the mortgages the companies are eligible to buy or guarantee – so-called conforming loans, typically those of $417,000 or less though up to $729,000 in some pricier areas. The rate for a conforming 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 5.88% Monday from 6.26% a week ago, according to BankRate.com.

The steep decline in mortgage rates will be good news for the housing market if it holds, by allowing some troubled homeowners to refinance and by generally making financing more available.

“Mortgages tightened a ton,” says Merrill Lynch mortgage-backed securities strategist Akiva Dickstein. “The question now is whether there’s more tightening to come.”

If so, people looking to buy houses could find purchasing a house more affordable. That could bring more buyers into a market struggling to digest near record levels of houses for sale, and slow the decline of prices. Prices in 20 big metro areas have fallen 16% over the past year, according to data from the S&P/Case-Shiller national survey.

In an additional bit of good news, Treasury bond prices rose in the wake of the rally in mortgage-backed bonds, and the dollar continued its two-month-long ascent against other major currencies.

Now is one of those windows of opportunity to refinance, buy a new home, or buy a second home – especailly now that the deal out there can be acquired with cheaper money.

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