It’s unfortunate, but studies show that burglaries and other property crimes increase around the holidays – for a multitude of reasons. Fortunately, lots of options are available today for protecting your possessions from some of the most common types of holiday crime. Following is a summary of the solutions that have proven the most effective to help keep your home secure at the holidays.
The Best Defense
Studies show that professionally installed security systems with 24-hour monitoring and guard-response are still the best against home burglaries. When an intrusion is registered, these systems send a real person to personally inspect and assess the situation. That’s what makes them so effective. Whole-house alarm systems without the guard-response feature are also very effective. Some, like the model from SimpliSafe, are wireless and easily self-installed. If the cost is holding you back, check with your property insurance company about discounts they may offer for protecting your property with one of these systems.
Doorbell cameras have become one of the most popular alternatives to traditional alarm systems, thanks to their low cost, easy installation and robust smart-phone compatibilities. Any time someone comes within range of the doorbell, you’re alerted via your smart phone, allowing you to easily see and speak to the person.
Sliding Door Security
Many homeowners have a high-security deadbolt installed on their front and rear entry doors, but their sliding doors are secured with nothing more than a standard hook latch. To better guard these entry points, consider placing a thick wooden dowel (custom-cut to the correct size) between the door frame and the slider when it’s not in use to prevent the door from being forced open or easily pulled off it’s tracks.
Secure the Garage Door too
Getting into most garages is as easy for a burglar as sliding a wire through the gap at the top of the door and unlatch the emergency release lever. Once inside an attached garage, they can not only steal what’s stored in there, but also gain entry to the rest of the house (and be protected from view the whole time). To guard against this, secure the garage door emergency release with zip ties, which can be cut or broken in an emergency. Also, carry the remote with you instead of leaving it in your car where it can be stolen and used to gain access to your home. And make sure the entry door between your garage and your home is solid (not hollow-core) and always locked.
Make your Home more Visible
While we all value our privacy, making your yard too private can attract prowlers. Instead, keep your bushes trimmed back and install low fences. The more exposed your home, the harder it is for a burglar to force open a door or window without neighbors or a passerby noticing and calling police.
Encourage Nosy Neighbors
Having a neighbor help watch over your home is another very successful strategy. Let your neighbors know when you’ll be on vacation, when you’ll be having contractors work on your home and when out-of-town visitors will be staying with you. That way, they’ll be much more likely to recognize unusual activity.
Put the Spare Key in a Lock Box
If you want to leave a spare key outside your house, install a lock box (like real estate agents use). Keys left “hidden” in the fake rock, under the doormat, on a ledge, or in a planter are easy to find for even amateur burglars.
Resist the Urge to Post Travel Plans
Wait until you return from your travels to post about them on social media – even if your account is in private mode. Criminals can use those online insights into your personal life to their advantage.
Source: Windermere Home Update
Selling a Home in the Fall
Often, buyers looking for a home at this time of year are relocating because of job change and want to get settled before the holidays. Plus, because there are typically fewer homes for sale in the fall, buyers know they need to make a competitive offer quickly if they want to be successful. All this is good news for home sellers…if you know how best to price, position and market your home.
In most real estate markets around the country, the advantage goes to sellers. With home loan interest rates still historically low, and still far too few homes for sale in many areas, sellers can often command high prices and preferred terms.
However, many sellers have grown too emboldened and are now making the mistake of over-pricing their property. Price your home too high, and you risk alienating your most likely buyers, or not being seen by them altogether. Overpriced homes can also be seen as poor value by agents and buyers qualified for the higher price, and lose valuable time on the market.
Improving your home’s curb appeal can significantly elevate its perceived value. Consider these three changes:
- Focus on the entry – Your front door, and everything surrounding it, makes a big first impression on potential buyers(when they view photos online, and when they arrive in person). Ideas for improvement include: replacing dated railings; repairing loose steps; repainting the steps and porch; buying a new door mat; updating the address numbers; putting out potted flowers; replacing the mail box and/or porch light; even replacing your whole front door with something more modern, attractive and/or secure.
- Give your landscape a makeover – Few landscapes have the right balance of greenery. With many, mature plantings have grown so large that they hide much of the house; other yards have so few trees and shrubs that the property looks stark and staid. Hire a professional landscaper to give your hard true symmetry. And, while they’re at it, ask them to intersperse some colorful plants, as well.
- Less-obstructive fencing – If there’s a full-height solid fence between your home and the street, consider removing it, removing select sections, or replacing it with one that’s lower.
The open house is your opportunity to make real estate agents and prospective buyers fall in love with your home. To make the best impression, focus on the following:
- A cleaning blitz – A top-to-bottom cleaning of everything should be your priority before an open house because, in the eyes of those who tour it, a clean house is a well-maintained house.
- Swap something old for something new – Installing a modern, digital thermostat is an easy way to give your old heating system a new-and-improved look. Swapping an old toilet seat for one that’s shiny and new can make the who bathroom look better.
- Lots of light – Open all the window coverings and consider installing new light fixtures. But think twice before simply installing a brighter bulb in an existing light fixture as harsh lighting can also be a negative.
- Explanatory notes – You can’t be there to point out all the best features of your house to everyone who tours it, but you can strategically place note cares with messages like “New bathroom fan is very powerful and quiet” or “Built-in entertainment system to remain with the home.”
As an added bonus, we’re also going to touch base on safety around the home before you start handing out those Halloween sweets to trick-or-treaters.
- Lighting is key – The pathways leading to your front door should all be well-lit. Inexpensive, solar-powered walkway lighting kits are available online and at your preferred home-improvement store.
- Electrical matters – Use electrical equipment specifically designed to withstand wet weather; avoid overloading outlets (ask a neighbor if you need more places to connect cords); make sure extension cords don’t pose a tripping hazard.
- Clear the porch – Pumpkins sitting on the porch or front stairs can be a dangerous tripping hazard. Move these and any other decorations away from the walkway before the youngsters start visiting.
- Keep your pets contained – For their safety and that of visitors, keep your pets in a separate room while you’re greeting trick-or-treaters at your front door.
- Make quick work of any shenanigans – If you become the target of a Halloween night prank, clean up the mess as soon as possible to keep visitors safe and minimize work. It’s much easier to clean up things like soda, eggs, toilet paper and graffiti before they’ve been sitting too long.
Source: Windermere October Home Update
You don’t need to live near a body of water to be concerned about flooding in your home. You’ve got hundreds of gallons of water pumping through the pipes in your walls and floors. In fact, the most common form of household water damage is that caused by plumbing leaks and appliance failures (toilet flooding, a leaking refrigerator, burst plumbing pipes, etc).
When flooding occurs, the key to protecting your property is to act quickly and tackle the following ten steps:
1- Stop the flow of water: If the water is coming from an appliance or a plumbing pipe inside your home, use one of the main shutoff valves to cut all water flowing to the house. If the water is coming from outside your home, try to redirect the water elsewhere (if you don’t have sandbags, fill garbage bags full of dirt from your yard).
2- Turn off the electricity: When water comes into contact with electricity, it can electrocute anyone who touches the water.
3- Collect the water: Use any/all towels, sheets, and other linens to get water off the floors. If it’s draining from pipes or through ceilings, use buckets to contain it.
4- Gather valuables: Designate someone to gather all valuables while the others contain the flooding.
5- Wear protective gear: Put on rubber boots and gloves to protect yourself from polluted water.
6- Consider leaving the premises: If sewage or chemicals are in the water, live electrical wires are underwater, or the level of water is above your ankles, it’s best to evacuate the house.
7- Call for assistance: Call 911 if you need immediate medical assistance. Call your landlord if you’re a renter. Call your insurance company if you’re the owner of the home.
8- Document the damage: Once the situation is under control and everyone is out of danger, but before any major clean up or repair work begins, take photos of the damage done to your home, as well as any belongings damaged during the flooding. Your insurance company will want a record of this.
9- Start the restoration: Cleanup from flooding should begin within 24 hours. If the water soaked your sheetrock walls or the sub-flooring (the wood below your flooring), call a professional restoration company that specializes in water cleanups. If the damage is less extensive than that:
- Remove any water-soaked carpeting. Carpet is a breeding ground for mold.
- Quickly dry or discard cardboard and paper that was water-soaked to avoid mold infestation.
- Rent floor fans and use them to help dry the flooded area.
- Rent, borrow or buy a portable dehumidifier and use it in combination with the fans.
- Use a bleach solution to sanitize furniture and hard surfaces.
10- Watch for mold: Monitor walls, ceilings, floors, and belongings for the appearance of black spots. A musty smell is another sign of mold. Signs of mold exposure include itchy, watery eyes, runny/blocked nose, sore throat, sneezing, headaches and respiratory issues.
To respond promptly, you’ll need to know ahead of time where the main water and electricity shut-offs are located. This is something everyone who lives in your home should be shown as soon as possible. The main electrical panel is usually housed in a gray metal box attached to the wall in your basement, or in a utility closet. Typically, there’s one switch inside the box that cuts all power to all other switches. Most homes have two main water shutoffs. One is in a box in the ground in front of your home. And the other, typically, has a handle attached to a thick plumbing pipe inside your basement or utility closet.
Source: Windermere Home Update
Now that spring has sprung, let’s clear the cobwebs and get your home ready! Here is our quick guide to spring home maintenance:
Inspection top to bottom: Now that the weather is temperate you will want to check on how your home weathered the winter. Check the roof for leaks, the gutters for damage, and the siding for cracks. You will also want to inspect your basement or foundation for any shifts. Make repairs now to prevent further damage.
Clean out the gutters: April showers bring May flowers… so clear out the gutters to keep rain from pooling on your roof or near your foundation.
Pest control: Spring is mating season for eight-legged critters, so sweep out cobwebs, clear debris, and check the nooks and crannies. If you live in an area prone to dangerous species like brown recluse or black widows, you may want to contact your local pest control, but otherwise, household spiders do help eliminate other bugs.
HVAC system: If you have an air conditioner now is the time to check to make sure it is ready before summer gets here and everyone else is clamoring for maintenance. Now is a good time to check your home air filters and replace or upgrade to keep allergens at bay.
Clear the clutter: Do a sweep around the house and get rid of junk that you don’t use! Take a little time each week to tackle a room. Closets, playrooms, and basements can be especially daunting, but getting rid of old stuff and refreshing your space will go a long way!
Deep clean: On a nice day open the windows, dust, wipe, scrub, and clean. You will get a nice workout and your home will look and feel so fresh after a winter of being cooped up.
Update your décor: Add a splash of color to your home with small embellishments. Add a colorful vase, a lighter throw for your sofa, pretty pastel pillows, or spring-time candles, to upgrade your living space.
Take it outdoors: Let your throw rugs, curtains, and other tapestries air our outside. Shake off the dust, spot clean what you can and let everything bask in the sun for an afternoon.
Don’t forget the back yard: It may not be time to start up the grill, yet, but you can get started on your outdoor entertaining checklist. Check your lawn, and if you have some spare spots start filling in with seed. Check your outdoor plants, prune, plant bulbs, start to replenish the soil for your garden, and mow, so you are ready to start when the season allows.
Speaking of the grill – if you have a gas grill you will want to pull this out and perform a maintenance check. Clean everything up and check to make sure all the gas lines are clear, as these can get clogged after sitting idle all winter. Make sure the grill is clear of spiders too, as they can build webs in the tubes, causing damage to your grill. You can start to bring out your garden furniture too, or clean it up if you left it covered outside all winter. Because before you know it, it’ll be barbecue season!
Source: Windermere Real Estate Blog
With Winter fast approaching, there are a few maintenance and safety tasks every homeowner should tackle:
- Protect wood floors and carpet: Place a floor mat and/or boot-scrapper just inside the main entries to keep water and mud from being tracked onto expensive and easily damaged floorings and rugs.
- Seal cold-air gaps: Air gaps around windows and doors make it harder, and more expensive, to keep your house warm.
- Clean the gutters: Now that the trees have lost most of their leaves, give the gutters a thorough cleaning before they heavy rains arrive.
- Check your detectors: During the winter months, there’s a sharp increase in carbon monoxide poisoning and home-heating fires. To protect your family, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are less than 10 years old and have fully charged batteries.
- Revisit your emergency supplies: According to FEMA, every home should have enough food, water and medicine on hand to last for two weeks in case of an earthquake, major storm or other natural disaster.
Another winter maintenance to consider is Holiday Lights Safety. Wrapping the house and yard with lights is a beautiful holiday tradition, but it needs to be done with care to ensure there are no accidents.
Here are five tips from professional lighting designers:
- Enlist a helper to hold light strings, steady ladders and more.
- To avoid shocks: don’t work when it’s raining; use a fiberglass ladder and wood poles; wear gloves and rubber-soled shoes.
- All lights should be plugged into a legitimate outdoor outlet with a built-in GFCI circuit breaker. A 15-amp circuit can handle a maximum of 1,800 total watts; a 20-amp circuit can handle 2,400 watts.
- There are special clips available for hanging lights on just about any surface, so avoid staples, nails and screws. for rough surfaces (like concrete and brick), try using hot glue.
- Put all the lights on timers to ensure they’re safely turned off at the end of each night.
Source: Windermere Real Estate November Home Update.
If you think it’s okay to let your roof languish, know this: Doing so could nullify your homeowners insurance coverage. If your roof is nearing or past its expiration date – or if you’ve notice leaks, water stains on the ceiling or other telltale signs of a possible leak – no is the time to take action.
Inspect it before winter
It never pays to wait and see if a worn roof still repels the rain. So make time in the fall, before winter kicks in, to ensure it’s fit for another winter. The safest way to assess its current condition is to use binoculars to look for curled shingles, cracks, loose or missing shingles, moss growth and other signs of damage. If you have access to the attic space, check the underside of the roof for water stains, especially around chimneys, vents and roof valleys. If you find signs of leaks or serious wear, ask for evaluations from a couple of reputable roofing companies – or an independent certified maintenance professional. I’m happy to provide a referral if you need it.
Determine the number of layers
If you currently have just one layer of asphalt shingles on your roof, and they need replacement, you may be able to simply add another layer. However, if there are already two layers, you must remove both before installing new. A roofing contractor can assess the situation and explain your options.
Stick with the style you have
Switching to a different roofing styles can be an expensive, involved process. Before considering such a radical change, take a look at the options available for the style of roofing you already have.
Higher quality is your best option
The most expensive aspect of a roofing project is the cost of labor. so it’s to your advantage to choose higher-quality, longer-lasting materials – which will allow you to rest easy knowing you won’t have to re-roof again for decades.
Keeping cool with better venting
When heat gets trapped in your attic during the summer months, it prevents the interior of your home from cooling down, even after the outside temperature has dropped. To keep that heat blanket from forming, consider installing more roof and attic venting – especially if you’re having a new roof installed.
New gutters are optional
If your gutters are damaged or of poor quality, it’s a good idea to replace them when the house is re-roofed, but it’s not necessary. Your gutter system is separate from the roofing system, and both can be repaired or replaced independently, by different companies.
Also not included…
Don’t expect roofers to make chimney repairs (that’s a job for a mason). The roofers also won’t paint the trim around your roofline, prune overhanging branches, or perform other maintenance chores around the upper areas of the house.
Alert the neighbors
Be proactive and tell the neighbors about your roofing plans. Depending on the space between homes and the access required, your roofing contractor may need to get their permission before setting ladders and other equipment on their property. Even if that’s not the case, your neighbors will no doubt appreciate the notice.
A final note for prospective sellers
If you’re thinking of selling your home anytime soon, you’ll want to be sure to tackle any necessary roof repairs before the inspection. For other pre-sale preparations tips, contact me.
*Source: Windermere Home Update September 2018
Fast Fixes That Sell Homes
If you’re planning to put your home up for sale this spring (one of the best times of the year), you probably already know that any deferred maintenance issues need to be addressed beforehand, clutter needs to be swept away, and the property needs to look its best inside and out. Here are nine industry secrets that will help you shape up your home faster than you ever thought possible:
Focus on the Entry – Your front door, and everything surrounding it, make a big first impression on potential buyers. Ideas for improvement include: repaint the steps and porch; buy a new door mat; update the address numbers; put out potted flowers; replace the mail box and/or porch light; or replace your whole front door with something more modern, attractive and/or secure.
Say Hello To The Sun – Buyer’s especially young buyers, want to see interior spaces filled with natural light. Trim any trees or shrubs that may be blocking windows. Wash the windows inside and out. Replace the window coverings, if necessary.
Consider A Hanging Fixture – Changing a plain, ceiling-mounted light fixture for a hanging model with character can transform a blah room in no time. Before making the switch, ensure that the ceiling wiring is designed to support the weight of a hanging fixture.
Remove Scuffs And Coffee Rings – The “magic cleaning sponges” that are made by several manufacturers let you wipe away stubborn marks from hard surfaces like countertops, floors, walls, grout, appliances and more, all without harsh chemicals. They are abrasive though, so avoid using them on fine furniture or surfaces where the lighting spotlights your scrub marks.
Install New Hardware – To update the look of built-in cabinets without repainting, install new hinges, handles and pulls.
Keep Insects At Bay – If ants and other insects typically get active around your home once the warm spring weather arrives, be proactive by hiring a professional pest control contractor now.
Restore Old Hardware – To remove layers of old paint from door hinges and other metal hardware, uninstall it, place it in a crock pot (one no longer used for food) with a teaspoon of dish soap, and set it on low heat overnight. The next morning, you’ll be able to easily scrape off all the old paint.
Swap Something Old For Something New – Installing a modern, digital thermostat is an easy way to give your old heating system a new-and-improved look. Swapping an old toilet seat for one that’s shiny and new can make the whole bathroom look better.
Learn Even More Industry Secrets – These are just a sampling of the ideas that can quickly make a home more desirable and sellable. Contact me, and I’ll be happy to share more.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update
The (Not-SO) Secret Selling Advantage
There are lots of great reasons to entrust the sale of your home to a professional agent instead of trying to sell it yourself, but here’s one guaranteed to grab your attention: Two new batches of research prove that agent-sold homes sell for more money.
According to the most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the average sales price for homes sold by their owners is $185,000, while the average for a home sold by an agent is $245,000 – a difference of $60,000.
Meanwhile, a study performed by Collateral Analytics, featuring :the most accurate method ever used to control for property differences,” compares the two approaches on an apples-to-apples basis. It found that, when a homeowner and a real estate agent sell similar homes, the owner-seller, on average, nets nearly 6% less money than an agent.
To put that second study into perspective, you need to understand that most real estate professionals charge a commission of about 6%. That means many owner-sellers take on all the work, worry and risk of selling their own home, only to net the same amount they would if they had paid an agent to handle everything.
New Online Resources Not Helping
For years there has been rapid growth in the number of online services and resources for homeowners who want to sell their home without the help of a real estate agent. However, researchers studying the issue note that the success rate for owner-sellers has remained stagnant for decades. Meanwhile, the number of homes successfully purchased with the help of a traditional agent just keeps growing (increasing 20% since 2001, according to the latest NAR research).
Why are agents so much more effective? These are some of the keys:
Spot-on Pricing – no one is better equipped to determine the best price for your home than an agent. They have all the best information, resources and processes.
Widespread Exposure – the only way to get your home listed on the all-important multiple listing services (MLS) is through a licensed real estate agent. Plus, agents share their sales listings amongst each other through their own corporate and social networks.
Valuable Advice – your agent will be able to tell you what, if any, home improvements/repairs are necessary to ensure a quick sale, as well as whether staging could help attract a better class of buyer. They can also recommend reputable contractors to carry out those tasks.
Salesmanship – showings will be scheduled and managed by your agent. All you have to do is keep the property clean and tidy.
Negotiation – your agent will also help you review all the offers from interested buyers, prepare counter-offers, weed-out unsuitable offers and negotiate the best final terms.
Paperwork expertise – your agent will properly prepare, explain and manage all of the contract paperwork, addendums, property disclosures, and other documentation associated with the sale.
When to Make Contact
For the best results, I encourage home sellers to contact me at least 60 days before they want to sell. Even if you haven’t found a new home yet, or you aren’t positive you’re going to sell, it’s important to get the agent/client consultation process started early.
Source: Windermere Real Estate March Home Update.
BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME
According to Realtor.com, last year was officially “the most competitive, fastest-moving spring housing market in decades.”
It’s not clear yet if things will become even more heated this spring. But one thing is for sure: To be successful in a competitive real estate market, first-time buyers need to be flexible and have solid financials, an aggressive agent and a proven path.
With fewer homes available (especially affordable homes), and more well-qualified buyers hunting for homes, it’s tough for a first-timer – but not impossible. See my recommendations below.
Manage Your Emotions
After three or four weeks of searching for a home to buy, most first-time buyers come to understand what a “competitive real estate market” really is. And some become so frustrated with the situation that they give up too early.
Persistence is a very important part of the buying process. Be prepared for a long search. Don’t allow yourself to get too emotionally attached to any home until your offer is accepted. And let any lost deals quickly fade from your memory. Believe me, the right home for you is out there.
If you’ve already given up on your search for a home, allow me to suggest a new approach.
Be Realistic About Your Wish List
Many first-timers set out with an overly optimistic perception of the homes that will be available to them. It’s important to communicate your ideal neighborhood, architectural style and amenities, but consider the alternative neighborhoods your real estate agent suggests, and be willing to tour homes that aren’t a match with your list of wants.
Getting Pre-Approved Is Key
When it comes to determining how much home you can afford, online calculators are helpful. But for a far more accurate assessment of your buying power, I’ll refer you to a mortgage professional who specializes in first-time home loans. That person will educate you about the different types of loans, review your finances, then pre-qualify you for a maximum loan amount. In a hot housing market, it’s very important to get pre-approved because it makes you even more attractive to sellers when completing with other buyers for a home.
Know there is a difference between “pre-approved” vs. “pre-qualified”.
Pre-Qualification is an easy first step. You provide the mortgage professional with some key information about your finances, and they tell you what size loan you would most likely qualify for. However, it’s not a sure thing; it’s an estimate based on the information you supply.
Pre-Approval is a “conditioned commitment” based on an extensive analysis of your finances and credit history. Having this commitment shows sellers that you’re a serious shopper, and allows you to react quickly once you find a house you like. In a hot housing market, pre-approval is almost a necessity.
This is the time to start cutting your spending, because any money you manage to save between now and the day a seller accepts your offer can be applied in very important ways.
- A larger home-loan down payment
- A home inspection
- Homeowners Insurance
- Attorney’s fees, transfer fees and other closing costs
- Furnishings, repairs and/or home improvements
For more information about any of the above, as well as help getting started before the busy spring selling season, contact me as soon as possible.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.
I’m house-sitting. Actually dog and turtle sitting. The house is fine without me.
The first morning I came out to check on Hermie, the turtle. He was staring at the temperature and humidity gauge in his aquarium. Staring does not properly describe it — his neck was stretching towards the gauge with great attention.
Hermie sensed his owner was gone and he was at the mercy of my furtive fending for his needs. I’m convinced that he was staring at that gauge and thinking: “My owner is gone. This woman does NOT know what she’s doing. If those gauge indicators move outside of the required ranges, I will die. I’m terrified!”
OR — Hermie believes in the great gauge god in the sky.
Either way. Hermie’s owner has successfully overseen her turtle out of hibernation. Just in time for me to force him into existential angst.
Environments are tenuous. Any little change can cause damage, chaos, … a renewed focus on a higher power.
This is true when you buy a new home. Maybe more people are now living in the home. Systems are used differently. A period of vacancy dried out the o-rings in your [insert plumbing fixture here] and you are 3 uses away from total failure and flooding.
Home warranties cover major systems in a home for the first full year of ownership. The one time fee for coverage can be negotiated as paid by the Seller, too. In Walla Walla, American Home Shield is a common provider — www.ahs.com.
So — when it comes to care of your new home, don’t just hope and pray. Hermie needs all the support he can get from the gauge god in the sky and there’s a better resource for home owners in a home warranty.
Source: Melissa Tetz