What’s better—a slab or a crawlspace foundation?

Grand Junction Real Estate Advice

Dave,

What’s better—a slab or a crawlspace foundation? We’re about to start looking for homes and we’re wondering if a certain type of foundation should be on our must have list. If we find a home that we love, but it has a less superior foundation model should we give it up? This might seem like a very specific question, but we want to make sure we’re investing our money in the right home! Thanks for your advice!

Sam and Katie, Grand Junction


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Sam and Katie,

Great to see you are really thinking this one out! The good news is that if your home is on a stem wall (crawlspace) or concrete slab foundation I think you will find that both are quality options. I don’t think that you have to rule one option out and the other one in, they will both serve the purpose of creating a solid foundation for your home. First a monolithic slab is typically 4-6 inches deep and made from concrete poured over compacted soil. It will have a thickened perimeter edge that can handle the weight of the load bearing walls. A stem-wall foundation is constructed with concrete footings and concrete walls that rise above ground level to provide a raised platform for placing the home’s ground floor leaving a void (crawl space) between the ground and the sub-floor of your home. Both of these methods have advantages and disadvantages.

Both of these methods have advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s take a closer look at a concrete slab foundation. The advantages are that a concrete slab is generally less expensive and quicker to build. They are also great for preventing pests and rodents from getting under the house. If you have a water leak, concrete will not rot or become compromised like a wood sub floor. A slab foundation will generally help insulate the home a little better and can lead to a decrease in your heating and cooling bills as it rests directly on the ground. And lastly slab foundations are typically closer to the ground and do not require steps at entry or exit doors and this can prove VERY convenient depending on your age. Some of the disadvantages can be that if not poured correctly they can be un-level and uneven in spots. The biggest concern for many home owners is that if you ever need to make any repairs, primarily with plumbing, that goes beneath the house, it can be very difficult and prove expensive to remedy as it will require removal of part of the slab to correct. Typically we see monolithic slab foundations in the Grand Valley where the soils are of good quality or we have a higher water table, as they prove more economical and are structurally very sound. 

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Stem wall foundations are the second most common foundation in our area and it too has positives and negatives. The biggest perceived advantage of a stem wall foundation with a crawl space is that if there are any required plumbing repairs (beneath the floor) then they are easily made and are typically not overly expensive because all the plumbing is easily accessible. They are also softer on your joints as your floors are all built over wood, not concrete. They are typically easier to design and build if the lot is un-level as the stem walls can vary in height making it much easier to work on a lot that has variable terrain. The overwhelming disadvantage to a crawl space, in my opinion, is moisture and the need for proper ventilation and monitoring. Moisture and crawlspaces don’t mix and often can lead to mold and mildew. When this happens it typically spells a big money fix. With a crawlspace it is imperative that you divert all moisture away from the house, so it does not penetrate the crawlspace. Even if you have diverted all water away, many times water will enter a crawlspace from your sprinklers or even one of your neighbor’s sprinklers or downspouts. It is very typical to see a stem wall foundation where the soils are bad or the ground is very uneven. 

As you can see, both have positives and negatives and more than anything it just comes down to price point and personal preference, however I will say that over the past 15 years I have seen far more issues related to crawlspaces than I have a slab foundations. If you decide to go with a stem wall foundation, you MUST monitor the crawlspace regularly to ensure there is no moisture present and ventilation is sufficient. Don’t shy away from either foundation, as both are solid and have areas where one is more desirable than the other, but definitely be aware of the pros and cons! I hope this helped a little. 

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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How has advancing technology changed Grand Junction Real Estate?

real-estate-technology-grand-junction

Dear Dave,

I recently went through the home selling and buying process and things have definitely improved, thanks to technology!  I appreciated the fact that I could look for houses on-line through searches that my Realtor had set up for me and the house I was selling also had an on-line presence.

I really think technology made a difference in how quickly and efficiently both our transactions happened.  What I was curious about is how has technology changed your business and how do you keep up with it all?

Thank you for your time - look forward to reading!

Dennis and Eileen - Delta, CO


Dennis and Eilieen,

You experienced, first hand, what technology has done for the real estate business and for the most part it is a good thing. Information dissemination and transaction efficiency are probably the two most significant advances that technology has provided.

In today’s real estate process you have everything available at your fingertips. At The Kimbrough Team we set both buyers and sellers up on searches that help either locate a new home, for buyers, or inform them of every new listing and price reduction of competing homes, sellers. All this information is sent out on a set schedule and allows both buyers and sellers to effortlessly keep up on what is happening in the market and be as educated as they can be during the buying and selling process. During the transaction/contract process, all the paperwork is electronically available and signatures are rarely done in person anymore.

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No longer do you need to keep a hard copy of all your paperwork. All our customers paperwork is available via a Dropbox or Google Drive account. Every transaction document is electronically available from your phone, ipad or computer and all you have to do is log-in to gain access.

The most impactful technological advance has been electronic signatures. We now do most all of our signatures electronically. These signatures eliminate the need for printing, faxing, meeting in parking lots and picking up and dropping off copies. When you electronically sign a document, copies are automatically routed to all the involved parties. You can sign from your mobile phone or any electronic device that enables email access. I have signed documents from a beach in Mexico and from my daughters dance recital at CMU! The convenience of all the technological advances certainly allows one to conduct business while on the go like never before.

The convenience of all the technological advances certainly allows one to conduct business while on the go like never before.

Being able to conduct business on the go is a blessing and also a curse. It enables me the ability to do business while spending time with my family, but also makes it hard to ever escape the 24/7 nature of my business. I think all our customers appreciate these technological advances, as it has made everything more efficient and far less cumbersome. It has made everything easier, but as life gets more hectic I sometimes wonder if technology is not largely to blame. No doubt technology allows us to be more efficient and also allows us to do more in less time. 

From time to time it can be difficult to juggle all the information dissemination and the transaction intricacies, however having great systems and even greater people make it possible for us to manage, integrate and embrace the ever changing technological advances that will continue to change the real estate landscape. These changes will hopefully continue to make the process more enjoyable and efficient for everyone involved!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team


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Should you sell your home this fall or wait until spring?

Grand Junction Real Estate Advice

 

Dear Dave,

I am thinking about getting my house on the market but I have a couple of questions for you before I do that. First, if I'm not ready to put it on the market for another 30 days, is that going to be too late in the year? If it were you, would you put your home on this fall or just wait until the selling season in the Spring again?  Secondly, what are the 3 most important things for me to do to get the most money out of it when I do sell?

Mike, Fruita


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Let me start by saying that you should never put your home on the market until you and your home are ready. You need to be ready, emotionally, and your home needs to be in the proper condition for market. If you are not 100% ready and committed to selling then don’t put it up and make a halfhearted effort. That being said, you must also have your home in the best condition it can be in. Top tier condition can make all the difference between selling and not selling. Put in the effort to make is sparkle.

Too late to sell? Traditionally our market stays active into late October and even early November, depending on the weather. If it gets cold early, the market can slow a little earlier. We are coming off a very good summer and I fully expect home sales to remain good through the fall. Once we get to November, things do change, but typically you have far less competition and I often urge my sellers to remain on the market over the winter when many would be sellers are tired and give up for the winter. Homes do sell during the winter, we often have good winters, because we are taking advantage of the lesser inventory and know that when we have less competition our odds of selling go up! : ) Does the market slow down during the winter? Yes, but don’t fall into the “nothing sells during winter” mentality, it just is not true.  

I do not have a crystal ball, but I do not believe that waiting until the spring of next year will cost you money on the sale price and in fact it could make you a little money. I do not anticipate any significant upswings, but I do anticipate good appreciation to continue in the near term. I will add that there are sooo many variables and trying to predict how next spring will perform is a crap shoot, at best. Act on the now and if the time is right for you to sell, give it a go!! Does it matter to you if you sell in November or April? I bet not, so get it on the market.  You do not want to miss the perfect buyer in November, because you waited.               

The 3 most important things you can do to maximize your money?

  1. Make sure it is marketed properly, with a clear marketing plan and an accurate pricing strategy.
  2. Make sure your home is in tip-top condition (inside and out) and don’t put it on the market until it is ready.
  3. Accentuate your properties positive features, appeal to the right buyer!

Try to get your home ready and on the market as soon as you can and take advantage of the early fall market. I bet you can get it sold and be moving on to the next stage of your life! Best of luck with your home sale.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team


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Should we remove old furniture before getting a house on the market?

old furniture

Dave,

About 2 months ago, my dad passed away and my brother an I are in the process of trying to figure out what to do with the house and all his belongings, as we are finally in the frame of mind to go through everything. We know we are going to sell his house, but the question is, should we leave all his furniture in it or pull everything out? Most of his furniture and decor are old and not in very good condition, as he lived alone and has been using the same furniture for the better part of 25 years. My brother thinks we should leave all the furniture in it, because a couple of his friends told him that it would show better furnished. I want to get rid of everything and show it as a vacant home. Can you provide some clarity on which way we should go? I always enjoy reading your advice.

Sherri, Grand Junction


old-chair

Sherri,

Sorry to hear about your loss. I know it is an emotionally draining process to weed through the belongings of a loved one that has been lost. You did not ask, but I think it is perfect that you have waited a few months to get a clear head and hopefully you are emotionally ready to take on the task of going through his belongings, as the emotions can be raw and time can be such a wonderful healer! 

From what you have described in your question, it is hard to provide a totally informed answer, but I will give it a stab. I would first recommend that you discuss your options with your real estate agent, as they should be able to offer some good ideas after seeing his existing decor. Keep in mind an opinion of decor that is not in good condition, can be relative. What I mean is, just because you would not have it in your home or do not appreciate it, does not mean that the average buyer in his home’s price range will see it the same way. Are the furnishings in line with the home’s price range and the buyers expectations in that price range? Also, does the furniture drag down the overall feel and quality of the homes interior?  After you assess these questions, you can start to make your decision. Many times the elderly have stuff everywhere. It is not, necessarily, that they are pack rats, but that it is more difficult to put things away and they have a hard time getting rid of non-essential items, thus things start piling up. I feel very confident that I can recommend a whole home cleaning and de-cluttering session to get things started and then move on to the furniture, because after you de-clutter and clean, things may take on a whole new look and feel.

I completely understand why your brother’s friends say “it will show better with the furniture in it.”  I also watch HGTV and it is rare that you hear a home shows better empty than furnished, but it does happen. I see it with some regularity, some homes would show better without the owner’s furniture than with it. Listen, it is like clothes, sometimes the style just does not work with the person and furnishings can be the same way, they just don’t fit with the house. More often than not, your brother’s friends are right on, homes generally show better with furniture as it allows people to “see” how rooms set up, feel and live. Two other advantages of furniture are, it typically makes a home feel warmer and keep in mind that empty homes may be interpreted by buyers that the seller is “extra” motivated, which may encourage lower offers.

My suggestion is to get some outside advice from your real estate agent and have an open and honest conversation about your options and which one will help bring the highest value or help it sell quickest, whichever is your main objective.

My suggestion is to get some outside advice from your real estate agent and have an open and honest conversation about your options and which one will help bring the highest value or help it sell quickest, whichever is your main objective. You can get a professional stager or someone with some home decorating experience to come in and re-arrange the furniture he does have, as I have seen this have a dramatic effect on the overall feel and appearance of a home.  You have many options, but consider all these questions and angles as you make progress and the solution will come clear.  Hope this helps and I bet if you clean, de-clutter and re-arrange it will present in a different and better light.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team


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Should I shop around for a mortgage lender?

Dave,

Simple question: should I shop around for a lender? I’ve heard it’s good to interview a few different real estate agents before starting the home buying process. Is it the same thought for lenders or are they all pretty much the same across the board because of regulations, etc.?

Thanks man!
Gregg, Fruita


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Gregg,

Clearly you have read my column and realize I can be pretty verbose, but in this instance I think I can keep it fairly short! It is really pretty simple, no two lenders are the same and it is in your best interest to shop around and I am not necessarily talking about shopping around for the best interest rate!

Just like in real estate or any other profession, you want to find someone who works in lending full time! They should have years of experience and knowledge. Most importantly he or she should be up on all the latest lending requirements and programs and know what it will take for you to get a loan approved. I know everyone is human and can make mistakes, however it still amazes me at the sloppiness/last minute rush that some mortgage lenders put their clients through when it comes down to crunch time. I understand there is a load of paperwork that is required from the buyer when obtaining a loan and getting all that paperwork processed is a time consuming process that requires systems and processes to ensure proper handling. As with anything you have to ask questions! 

Some simple questions to find out more about your prospective lender might be:

  1. What kind of experience do you and your team have? If they don’t have a team working with them, move on….There are too many details that can get overlooked.
  2. Can I get references? If they don’t readily hand them over, move on.
  3. How much time do you need to fund? If they hesitate or say more than 45-60 days, move on (30 -45 days is typical).
  4. Can you guarantee an on time close? Most should not hesitate to give you a firm closing date. Remember you MUST be timely in document submission. Many times, it is not the lender, it’s the buyer who is dragging their feet and that causes a loan to either not close or delay closing.
  5. What are my estimated closing costs and are there any other fees or costs I should know about? They should be able to provide you a good faith estimate of all your costs right up front.
Experience matters! I know cost is always part of the equation, however knowledge, experience, track record and reputation are more important.

Clearly you should find out about the interest rate and the closing costs each lender will charge. However, I will drop this little nugget on you…you will not care or be worried about your interest rate and closing costs if your loan hits a major snag 4 days prior to closing and you lose your dream home. Imagine having to scurry about looking for a short term rental or ponder moving in with the in-laws for a few months while you sort out your homelessness. NO THANK YOU! Experience matters! I know cost is always part of the equation, however knowledge, experience, track record and reputation are more important. Trust me, when a deal starts to go bad, you will throw cost out the window in trade for someone who knows their way around a difficult deal and can find a way to get it closed. Even more important is to find a lender that never lets you get near a situation like I described above. 

Like everything else, do your homework on your lender. No two lenders are created equal and some are better than others. That being said, we have some wonderful lenders in this town who do an excellent job and are really quality people! Another good way to evaluate a lender is by reading online reviews. 

So much for keeping it short! I guess there’s always next time. I hope this helped.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team


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Is it appropriate for buyers to ask sellers to pay their closing costs?

closing-costs

Dave,

We just listed our home for sale and our agent informed us that buyers in our price range are going to ask US to pay THEIR closing costs....I was floored. I have never asked anyone to pay my closing costs when I have purchased any of our homes and certainly do not have much interest in paying them on a buyers’ behalf. I am going to have my own costs to pay, without paying theirs too. We do not feel like we should pay someone to purchase our home. The whole thing just does not make sense to us and when we asked her why, she just said, “it is the way it works now-a-days.” I agreed and just moved on, but it still does not sit well with us. Could you please give us a better explanation of why we will be required to pay the buyers’ closing costs?

Les and Joanna, Grand Junction


Les and Joanna,

I can assure you, you are not the only sellers I have heard this from, “if they can’t afford to pay their own closing costs, they certainly can’t afford to buy my home.” Seller paid closing costs must be somewhat of a newer trend, as it is my sellers who are generally over the age of 50 that have a real disdain for seller paid closing costs. They are fundamentally opposed to it. I really believe most of the time it is not the costs involved, it is the lack of understanding and the generational gap of a time when you just did not ask for help. Remember, you are not required to pay the closing costs, but let me see if I can make a case for why you should!

There are a few reasons why this has become quite the trend in home buying. First, the lenders will generally allow a seller to pay up to 3.5% of the homes purchase price towards the buyers’ closing costs.  If the seller agrees to participate by paying the buyers’ closing costs, this lessens the buyers’ “cash burden” at close and thus allows them to purchase the property with less money out of their own pocket. This leads us to our second reason this practice has become so vogue, many buyers in today’s market are “cash poor.”

It really is quite simple, you are paying their closing costs to lessen their cash requirements at close and thus increasing the size of the overall buyer pool.

Lets face it, as a society we largely live hand to mouth and save very little, although our saving habits have become somewhat better since the fiscal crisis of the past several years. Statisticbrain.com reports (numbers verified 12-26-2013) the average American family has a savings account balance of $3,800 and 25% of American families have no savings at all and 40% of families have no plan or savings for retirement! I think it is safe to say that we are a “cash poor” society and the more cash it takes to purchase a home, the fewer buyers there will be who will be able to buy. It really is quite simple, you are paying their closing costs to lessen their cash requirements at close and thus increasing the size of the overall buyer pool. By saving the upfront cash expense of closing costs, the buyer may also be wanting to make some improvements or updates to the home after closing and keeping some cash in reserve will allow them to do just that. Keep in mind that it is by no means, “every buyer” who “needs” the closing costs paid on their behalf. Many buyers choose to have their closing costs paid by the seller, as this allows them to “roll” their closing costs into their loan.

By rolling their closing costs into their loan, a loan that they likely have at around 4%, it requires them to take less cash out of other investments that may be performing at a higher rate of return than the 4% they are borrowing at. If I have an investment at a 10% return, then why take money away from that investment to pay down a loan at 4%? As a society we have become obsessed with our “rate of return” on our investments. In today’s world if you tell someone to take money away from a 10% return investment to simply lessen their borrowed amount on a 4% loan, they would look at you like you were crazy and I must admit, there is some truth to that line of thinking. 

As you can see, there are several reasons why buyers will ask you to pay their closing costs and you can be assured that if you refuse, many buyers will move on to another property, especially in the under $300k price range. I always advise my sellers to pay the closing costs and negotiate from a bottom line sales price (their net), rather than getting caught up in who is paying what closing costs. Just ask your real estate agent to give you a net sheet so you can see what your walk away number will be and negotiate off your net amount, as this is the only number you should really be concerned about. I hope this helped.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team
RE/MAX 4000, Inc.

Are Inspectors Liable if an Inspection Report Has Errors?

home-inspection

Dear Dave,

We have our home under contract and the buyers ordered a home inspection. The home inspection report contains four substantial errors in the areas of heating, cooling, plumbing and sewer system. The inspector misidentified a sprinkler valve as a sewer service cap and reported a possible "active sewer leak" in that area which is nowhere near the sewer line. The inspector may have scared the buyers out of this purchase through these errors, time will tell. 

I was surprised to find that home inspectors are not licensed through the state of Colorado which seems ridiculous considering one unlicensed man's opinion can derail a deal for the seller's agent, buyer’s agent, sellers and buyers. Do inspectors typically buy Errors & Omissions insurance and what has your experience been with sellers suing the inspector after a report filled with errors kills a deal?

Thanks,

Shawn, Loma


Shawn,

Ugh…I hate this for you! I hate it when things like this happen to unsuspecting and undeserving people.  The picture you are painting here is certainly an ugly one, however a painting that I have seen far too often on varying levels. First, I am sorry about your circumstances and I truly do feel for you and your family. It is likely that your first question was “how is this possible?” and after that answer settled in, feelings of total frustration, disbelief and outrage! Let me start by saying that inspectors are people too and mistakes are just part of being human! That being said, it certainly does not excuse them or make them any more forgivable when the errors appear to be as egregious as these might have been.

Home inspectors are not licensed by the state and are not governed by the state or required to have any amount of standardized or required training. Colorado is one of 20 states that has not adopted ANY licensing requirements. I must admit that most of the local home inspectors do a great job, but I believe they often lose sight of what they are really doing and why they are really there. Believe me, I feel your pain…I personally believe that where home inspectors get themselves in trouble is the same with all of us…they speak before they stop and think something through. Often times they provide an answer or draw a conclusion without really knowing and that is where big problems can start.

Home buyers trust their home inspectors and trust is a very powerful thing!

There is a life lesson in this and that is that if you don’t know something, don’t say something that may or may not be true. Explain that you don’t know, but will find out! Sometimes you run across things that you don’t know or are not sure of, and instead of blurting out an answer, you should dig a little deeper to gain full understanding before speaking or drawing a conclusion. We all know that it’s hard to take back words or correct an incorrect report. When it gets to that point, many times the damage has been done. An even bigger issue involved here is trust!

Home buyers trust their home inspectors and trust is a very powerful thing! When you said that the inspector may have scared the buyers off, unfortunately I am confident the home inspector is clueless about his unknown super power: trust. Listen, when a home inspector says it, it MUST be true, at least in the eyes of the buyer. Many times, especially in young home buyers, what an inspector says is treated like the gospel. I believe most home inspectors do not have any idea how much home buyer’s trust what they say and when it is wrong, it can have cataclysmic consequences on a home purchase and everybody suffers.  

I do not believe most, if any, home inspectors carry E & O insurance and, in fact, I believe it is a common practice that the maximum amount of liability for most home inspection contracts is the price of the home inspection. That means that if you paid $400 for the home inspection, the home inspector’s maximum liability would be $400! Lastly, I do not have any experience with sellers suing a home inspector for a faulty report, although I have had many who wanted to. Unfortunately, sometimes mistakes are made and from time to time it can have a significant negative impact that can cause a deal to crumble.

Shawn, I am sorry about your situation and I am hopeful things will work out. Remember, things really do work out for a reason, even if you don’t know the reason. Control what you can control and trust that the rest is meant to be! : ) I know, easier said than done!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Are trendy, contemporary kitchens a good investment?

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Dear Dave,

We’re in the market for buying a home. We have seen a lot of different houses and my wife and I are a bit divided when it comes to what we like in a kitchen. She really wants to buy a home with a more modern kitchen—you know granite counters, fancy glass backsplashes, etc. I on the other hand, want something that doesn’t seem so trendy.

What do you think of these new modern looking kitchens? Are they a good investment in a home or do you think it is a trend that will not be popular in a few years?

We would like to hear your take on this.

Thank you,

Luke and Jen - Fruita, CO


modern-kitchen

Luke and Jen,

Luke, don’t fight trendy! Give Jen what she wants and don’t look back! My bet is you will grow to love it and it will make your life better on many fronts! All kidding aside, trendy can be a problem when looking for a new home and proceeding with some caution is warranted. You ultimately want something that is somewhat timeless, if you can get it but don’t let the concern over the unknown future over ride what you love now!

Granite counter tops and glass backsplashes don’t necessarily constitute “trendy” or “modern”, however I think I know where you are going with this. A more “contemporary” look and feel is probably what is giving you some level of concern. There is no doubt the harder lines and colors that are typical of today’s contemporary kitchens are now what buyers are wanting. I believe you have to find some common or middle ground between the modern and timeless looks you each like so it will make it easier for a transition down the road. If you look closely, you can generally make about any kitchen or room less or more contemporary by changing paint colors, cabinet hardware, lighting and plumbing fixtures. Just as you can create a complete makeover on yourself, by changing your hairstyle and adding a stylish new jacket, you can do the same by making some of these small changes.

When the time comes you can make the changes needed to lessen the contemporary feel, if needed. Who knows, maybe this trend will be around for a long time and be more of a new normal, not a trend.

Some concern is warranted, however I would not be overly cautious, unless modern feel and style is over the top. When the time comes you can make the changes needed to lessen the contemporary feel, if needed. Who knows, maybe this trend will be around for a long time and be more of a new normal, not a trend. One of the things to remember is that contemporary works well in small spaces, as it feels less “heavy” and cluttered. If the size of homes continue to shrink, the contemporary style and function may stick around longer than anticipated.

One thing is for sure, regardless of what style you buy now, it will change over time. Purchase the home and style you love, or Jen loves, and don’t worry! My bet is your concern will not be worth the energy spent on it. As my wife often reminds me of the quote by Mark Twain, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” I wish I had said that, as my natural disposition is to worry about things I can’t control. I am working on this constantly and it is soooo hard! Hope this helps.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team