Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Fire Hazard update

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outletTangled extension cords? Power strips galore?  You home’s wiring system might be working overtime with all the new gadgets you currently have – and might be at risk for igniting a fire.  Straighten out these wiring problems and more with tips from This Old House.

Have a licensed electrician walk through your home every five years to look at the wire insulation and the service panel and check for any code violations.  If you’re doing it yourself, start by turning off the circuit at the main breaker panel.

Code requires outlets within 4 feet of a door and every 12 feet after that.  Extension cords can be useful, but keep in mind that smaller-gauged cords can overheat and start a fire if overused.  Adding more outlets can run about $100 per outlet on first levels and $200 upstairs.

Another fire hazard is overlamping, in which light fixtures have a bulb with higher-than-recommended wattage installed.  Check the fixtures’ wattage limit or use bulbs that are smaller than 60 watts.

Flickering lights aren’t just annoying – they could be a sign of wire trouble, too.  The outdoor fitting where overhead cables from the power line come into the house, or frayed wiring in the weather head, causes the short when the cable moves.  Call your electric utility company to have any power related lines looked at.

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Keeping your Energy bill low

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Seal of the United States Department of Energy.

Seal of the United States Department of Energy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Was your last gas bill higher than usual? Cold air might be finding its way into your house.  Conserve energy, save money and stay warm with these tips from the Department of Energy.

Let the sun shine in!! During the day, open the curtains & blinds on the south side of the house.  Feel a draft? Seal a clear plastic sheet to the inside of the window frames or install drapes or shades that are tight and insulating.  Caulking and weather-stripping windows can also keep your home warmer.

The heat is on, so keep your heating systems up and running as efficiently as possible.  Follow the recommended maintenance schedules and change furnace filters once a month.

Fireplaces also can cause heat loss.  Keep the fuel damper tightly closed unless you’re burning a fire.  Grates made of C-shaped metal tubes and tempered glass doors can help keep the room warm when the flue is open.


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Spring Break

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Spring break, should be a relaxing time, especially if you’re planning to go on vacation.  But preparing your home for your departure can be stressful.  Whether you’re leaving home for a week or a month, you can rest easy with these tips for keeping your home safe while you’re away:

v  Arrange for someone to do seasonal maintenance, such as mowing or raking.

v  Have mail or packages picked up by a friend, forwarded or held by the post office.

v  Stop newspaper deliveries and ask a neighbor to pick up freebie newspapers and circulars on the property.

v  Lower your telephone ringer (and answering machine volume) and never leave an outgoing message that says you’re away.

v  Use timers to turn lights on and off at the appropriate times.  Compensate for having lights on when no one’s home by turning off other appliances that are often left on, such as DVD players, computers and microwaves.  Also consider connecting a radio to a timer.

v  Leave blinds open in their usual position.

v  Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway.

v  Double check all doors and window locks.

v  Tell a trusted friend or neighbor where you’ll be.



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That time of the Year

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IMG_1324Kick off the New Year with a fresh attitude about home maintenance.  After all, you don’t want to wait until the furnace conks out before you deal with it.  Keep things in good working order with The Weather Channel’s to-do list.

First, take a ‘snow’ day day to organize your files and review warranties and manual for equipment, appliances and other tools.  There, you’ll find how often to check or replace items.

Take a room-by-room inventory with photos or video.  In the case of fires, floods or other disasters, a record of your possessions can be very helpful when filing insurance claims.

Examine furniture and cabinets for loose knobs and hinges, and repair as needed.  Fix squeaks in floors and stairs.

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Clearing Up Your Pre-Loan Questions

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re-financeIf you are getting ready to purchase a home, you probably have heard the terms prequalified and preapproved.  Many buyers think these terms are the same thing, but they are quite different.

Getting prequalified consists of a discussion between you and a loan officer.  A loan officer collects information regarding your income, monthly debts, credit history, and assets.  Based on that information, the loan officer then calculates an estimated mortgage amount for which you qualify.  Getting prequalified is basically receiving an estimate of what you can afford.

Getting preapproved, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive approach, providing an actual decision on a home loan.  This is actual credit approval, and it includes some considerable benefits.

As a buyer, you will have a greatly improved negotiating position when you are preapproved for a mortgage.  Sellers are more apt to negotiate with someone who already has a mortgage approval in hand.  The preapproval letter lets the seller know you are a serious buyer.  As a preapproved buyer, you also can close on a property more quickly, which is another major consideration for a motivated seller.

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Optional Entrance

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The word “mud” might not sound inviting, but a mudroom can actually be a welcoming – and useful – space.  Mudrooms, which serve as a transition between the outdoors and the inside of a home, are traditionally found in cold, snowy climates as a place to change out of wet clothes and shoes.  But, whether large or small, they’re ideal for houses in any climate.  They can minimize cleaning (no tracking dirt through the house), maximize storage and help with organization.  Whether you already have a mudroom or are thinking about creating one, consider:

Location.  Off the kitchen or near the back door are the most popular locations for mudrooms, but garages and utility closets are also prime spots.

Flooring.  This is the one place in the house where the floors are supposed to get dirty.  Choose a durable, non-slip material – tile, stone, vinyl, laminate, and concrete – in a dark color.  And be sure to include a few doormats: a fiber or rubber mat to clean off shows and an absorbent, washable rug to keep dirt from getting tracked in.

Walls.  Surely they will get dinged and scratched and splashed, so choose covering wisely.  Vinyl wallpaper or an easy-to-clean, moisture-proof paint should do the trick.

Seating.  Although you likely won’t be spending too much time in your mudroom, a place to sit is key.  A sturdy chair or bench is useful for removing wet shoes or boots.

Storage.  Choose organizing accessories based on the main purpose of the space and who uses it most.  If it functions mainly as a staging area for adults, be sure to prominently feature coat and key hooks, as well as a place to sort mail.  If kids are the main focus, include labeled storage bins and designated areas for backpacks and after-school activity gear, such as sporting goods.

No matter how the rooms is used, it’s a good idea to include plenty of shelving and racks for shoes.



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Buyers & Mortgage Brokers

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mortgageLow interest rates have enticed thousands of Americans to seek funding for a new home or to refinance an existing mortgage.  This surge has created a demand for mortgage brokers, whose job it is to help borrower’s complete applications and secure loan rates.  It is estimated that brokers process hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages every year.  If you are thinking of buying a home or refinancing  your existing one, here are some tips for finding a qualified broker to help;

  • Get good references.  If you want the help of a mortgage broker, ask friends or a trusted professional at your bank for a recommendation.
  • Get an upfront estimate.  This won’t be a problem, because federal law requires mortgage broker to provide you with a written estimate of the total cost of your mortgage transaction no later than three days after you apply.
  • Be careful about fees.  Brokers receive most of their compensation from lenders, who pay them a small commission on the mortgage deal.  If you’re asked to pay more than you expected, ask your broker for a detailed explanation of all costs.  You may find that you do not need all the services your broker offers.


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Kitchen and Bathroom – Survey say’s;

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IMG_4010As housing markets begin to recover, more homeowners are focusing on improving their kitchens and bathrooms, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Architects.  Kitchens have not increased significantly in size, but more than half of residential architects surveyed say they are reconfiguring the kitchen to accommodate a computer station or a recharging area for tablet computers and smartphones, and more than 40% indicated a demand for increased space for recycling or a pantry.  Integrating the family room with cooking activities remains popular, as does making kitchens more adaptable with universal design features that allow homeowners to age in place.

One in five say the number of baths in homes has increased while 22% report that bathrooms have gotten larger over the past year.  57% surveyed reported that adaptability and universal design features in bathrooms are also increasing in popularity.  Many homeowners are designing their baths with only a shower stall and no tub, while doorless / no-threshold showers, hand showers, LED lighting, water-saving toilets and dual flush toilets are popular options among homeowners.


 From July/Aug. CRS magazine

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Home Security is important

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Americans say they feel safe, but many don’t always take the necessary steps to ensure their safety, according to a recent survey by ADT, which explored homeownerssecurity behavioral patterns.

  • While Americans rated their home safety at an average of 85 out of 100, just 30 percent of those who owned a security system actually have it on at all times, and only six out of 10 own a carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Two-thirds of Americans (65%) say they are more likely to have a paper shredder in their home than a security system, despite the fact that 56% of them are concerned about the security of their possessions and 72% are concerned about the safety of their children.
  • More than two-thirds of homeowners trust their neighbors to keep an eye on their home while they are away.  However, most home burglaries occur during the day (53%), when most people are at work or school, compared with 27% at night.
  • Door locks aren’t always used.  Even though locking windows and doors is an obvious security measure, many homeowners don’t lock their windows and doors when they are away.  Home monitoring systems allow homeowners to check on their residence and remotely lock doors.
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Photo Shoot

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IMG_4077 Virtual tours and photo slide shows are great tools for any Realtor, and they can make or break a sale.  But a home that looks neglected on camera won’t shine in a potential buyer’s eyes.  If you’re thinking of listing your home, help your agent make your home stand out on video & photos by preparing it for its digital close-up.

Clean up.  Walk through every room and pick  up items that don’t belong – like the forgotten stack of magazines on your footstool or the shoes lounging by your bed.  They’ll be obvious in video or photos, and can distract the viewer.  Before the pros photograph your house, snap a few short and take a look — what sticks out at a glace will surely be the first things a potential buyer would notice, too.

Remove personal touches.  Remember, this won’t be your home anymore, so it shouldn’t look like  it.  Prior to showing  a house, take down family photos, heirlooms and even college  diplomas.

Update with a few new details.  Flip through a few home decorating publications and take a look at what’s trendy and adjust your décor to match.  A colorful vase of flowers on a glass coffee table, for example, make the room look warm and inviting.

Store unnecessary furniture.  A good rule of thumb is that the only furniture in the room should accurately display what the room is (a dining room table & chairs in that room, for example).  Removing  extra side tables or a chair in the corner that’s hardly used will make the rooms look larger and allow the viewer to imagine his or her furniture in the space.



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