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Home and Auto Experts: What They Know That You Don't

Whether you want to buy it, sell it or fix it, here's the inside scoop from the pros

What They Know That You Don't, Plumber

Photography by Ryan Nicholson

Everyone needs a plunger.

The Plumber
Roger Peugeot, 73
Chairman of the Educational Foundation; National Association of Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Contractors; and founder of Roger the Plumber, Overland, Kan.

Plungers are like seniors — they've been around forever. Try using one for a sink, toilet or shower drain that's backed up. If it doesn't work, you really need to call a plumber.

Know your limitations. Don't take something apart, then wonder if there's a part for it. Get the part first. Never try to repair a bathtub faucet. It often breaks off into the wall, and then you have a really expensive repair job. Oh, and don't forget to shut off the water before you take anything off.

You might have bathrooms that you don't use. Maintenance can be as simple as flushing an unused toilet once in a while or turning on the faucet.

Never pay by the hour. You don't pay by the hour to have your yard mowed or to have your house painted. Why do it for the plumber?

Never pay upfront. Trying to get money upfront indicates the person is not running a profitable business.

The Contractor
Vince Butler, 54
President of Butler Brothers Corp., Clifton, Va., and certified aging-in-place specialist

You're getting old — embrace it. Some people 55 or 60 are already experiencing some age-related issues but may not be willing to accept it. I wish I didn't have to dance around the subject. There's such a negative connotation that some builders don't want to even bring it up.

You don't want to pay me twice. Start thinking now about the bathroom grab bars and zero-entry shower. It's a shame to have to come back and fix something later once reality takes hold.

Don't go looking for "functional" aging-in-place stuff on Pinterest or Houzz. Folks don't label it like that. Not that manufacturers aren't making home products that are both functional and beautiful. They are. You can find them online with search terms like "age friendly" and "accessible."

The Real Estate Agent
Tom Salomone, 60
Owner, Real Estate II Inc., Margate, Fla., and 2016 president of the National Association of Realtors

Your house needs work. You're proud of your home and have taken care of it. In walks an agent who tells you that it is not modernized, especially your kitchen and bathrooms. You may feel insulted. Sellers need to be realistic. Pricing is based on competition with other properties in their area.

Clutter may confuse potential buyers. They cannot visualize themselves in your home if it's wall-to-wall clutter. It also makes rooms look smaller.

Don't forget pets. The number one thing that upsets older home buyers is being emotionally halfway in the door of a new house or condo in a very specific area near friends before finding out that the family pet isn't welcome there. Now they're faced with a terrible dilemma.

Don't waste time looking until you and your spouse are on the same page. Ask a couple what they're looking for in a new home and you might get two totally different answers. It reminds me of the old TV show The Newlywed Game, except now the couple has been married for 50 years. Suddenly they have to think about things that they haven't dealt with for a very long time.

What They Know That You Don't, Auto Mechanic

Don't let too much time pass before changing the oil.

The Auto Mechanic
Todd Lewis, 43
Service manager, Gages Lake Auto & Light Truck Repair, Gages Lake, Ill.

Pay attention to time, not just miles. Sometimes older motorists don't drive as much but still wait until a certain mileage rolls around to get oil changed, tires rotated. The owner's manual will show both a mileage and a time interval for performing certain tasks.

You don't have to change spark plugs or winterize as much as you used to. Now some spark plugs with iridium can last 120,000 miles. And today's cars are made to start easily in any temperature.

Tires, the only thing connecting your car and the road, are worth a look. Age takes a toll: Dry rot can be just as dangerous as tread wear. Tires should be inspected often. They also have date codes stamped on them, and typically I don't trust tires more than six years old. Discount tire sellers sometimes sell older tires instead of freshly made ones, so learn where the date code is and how to read it, and check before you buy.

The Car Salesman
Jesse Toprak, 43
CEO,, Beverly Hills, Calif.

Get over pride of ownership. For a lot of seasoned folks, leasing is a good option. It enables you to drive the most amount of car for the least outlay. You can keep your assets, and leasing has long-term cost savings, such as repairs and maintenance, which are usually covered in the lease period. And you're driving a safer, up-to-date car all the way.

The older you get, the harder it is to convince you to look for a different vehicle. In these days of much safer, easier-to-park small cars, older buyers should consider smaller, while younger ones need the extra size and heft of a bigger car. Not only that, today's smaller cars offer options found a few years ago only on big luxury models.