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10 Storm Prep Tips to Keep Your Property Safe

September 15, 2015 2:01 am

When severe weather is imminent, homeowners should take every precaution to ensure their properties remain free of damage. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), there are several steps homeowners can take, including:

1. Secure any parts of a fence that appear weakened or loose.

2. Trim trees and shrubbery away from structures and remove any weakened sections of trees that might easily break off and fall onto structures.

3. When a storm is approaching, move lawn furniture, toys, potted plants, garden tools and other yard objects inside. Anchor heavier yard objects deep into the ground.

4. If you have shutters, closely monitor local weather conditions and make sure you have enough time to deploy them if high winds are predicted to hit your area.

5. Check doors, windows and walls for openings where water can get in. Use silicone caulk to seal any cracks, gaps or holes, especially around openings where cables or pipes enter the house.

6. Place all appliances that are on the ground floor, including stoves, washers and dryers, on masonry blocks or concrete.

7. Move furniture and electronic devices off the floor, particularly in basements and on the first floor level.

8. Roll up area rugs and get them off the floor to reduce the chance they will become wet and grow mold or mildew. This is particularly important if the property will be left unattended for an extended period of time, and if long-term power outages are a possibility.

9. Inspect sump pumps and drains to ensure proper operation. If a sump pump has a battery backup, make sure the batteries are fresh.

10. Shut off electrical service at the main breaker if the electrical system and outlets could possibly be under water.

Source: IBHS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Design Tricks to Revamp Your Home

September 15, 2015 2:01 am

(BPT) – Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to spend a fortune or go to design school to revamp your home. "It's all about simplicity," says Susan Yoder, interior design expert for builder Clayton Homes. "A little goes a long way when it comes to home décor and living spaces. Only a few simple changes can make a big difference and allow you to create a room you'll be itching to show off to friends and family."

To breathe new life into your space, Yoder recommends these tips.

1. Pops of Color. "Nothing livens up a room like a bright pop of color," Yoder says. If you have neutral-toned furniture, add lamps, curtains and accessories in bold hues. If you're up for a painting challenge, an accent wall is a great way to incorporate color into a space. Choose your favorite color from a throw pillow or wall art piece in the room to pull the look together.

2. Varying Textures. A room tends to get boring when it focuses on only one texture, so it's important to create a sense of balance. Try varying the fabric types on your sofa and curtains. Add in some metal or wooden accents to draw the eye around the room. You can even play with lighting to reflect off certain objects and create visual interest.

3. Antique Feature. Choose an antique or unique piece of décor to be the inspiration for the room. This could be a rug, lamp, chair or even a chandelier - anything that gets you energized and motivated. Get creative and run with the theme it creates. Or if your style is more modern, an antique object will stand out among your contemporary décor.

4. Symmetrical yet Functional. The furniture collection in a room should form a restful, symmetrical layout. It's all about balance. There should be between three and 10 feet between each seat. Additionally, instead of pushing each piece up against the wall to create more space, give your furniture a bit of breathing room a few inches from the wall. This makes the room appear open and airy.

5. Clutter-free Organization.
Getting rid of clutter is a grand challenge for most homeowners. When you decide to take on the mess, drawers and cabinets are your best friends. Take some time to go through your belongings and decide what to keep, donate or throw away. Store any leftover items that can cause clutter in an organized, out-of-sight area.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The 3 P's of Car Care

September 14, 2015 1:58 am

Maintenance is crucial to your vehicle’s longevity. Whether you’re new to car ownership or a seasoned pro, stick to the three P’s of automotive care, says Rich White, executive director of the non-profit Car Care Council.

“Emergencies and natural disasters come in a variety of forms. Being car care aware and taking proactive steps in advance will help ensure that your vehicle is in proper working order so you will be better prepared if you encounter a problem while on the road,” says White.

The three P’s are:

1. Preventative
– Reduce the chance of unplanned, costly car trouble by following a vehicle service schedule and performing routine maintenance. Motorists can consult the Car Care Council for a free personalized schedule and email reminder service.

2. Proactive – If you find your vehicle needs repairs, be sure to address them in a timely manner to avoid more extensive work down the road. Before traveling longer distances, perform a pre-trip inspection before your journey begins so you have an opportunity to have any repairs made by a trusted technician.

3. Prepared – Keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case an unexpected situation arises. The kit should include jumper cables, a road atlas, first-aid kit, flashlight with extra batteries, water, non-perishable food and blankets. Be sure your cellphone is fully charged as well.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Watch Your Back: Leaf and Snow Removal Tips

September 14, 2015 1:58 am

(Family Features) Come fall and winter, a bad back (or the fear of throwing out a perfectly good one) can be a hindrance when removing leaves or snow from your property. To keep yourself – and your yard – in peak form, the experts at John Deere recommend using outdoor equipment that is ergonomic, or less taxing on the muscles and joints.

When shopping for an ergonomic rake or shovel, look for models with a secure grip and a height that is comfortable – but bear in mind that the longer the handle, the more energy you’ll need when hefting a load of snow.

When it’s time to rake and bag leaves, consider mulching with your mower to alleviate strain on the back. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry, as mulching wet or damp leaves can cause build up or clumping under the deck of your power equipment.

When it’s time to remove snow, use a riding mower that is compatible with a front blade attachment to push snow out of the way, or a snow blower that is more powerful than the standard single-stage, walk-behind throwers.

Additionally, there are myriad options available for lawn care services, many of which carry over into winter for snow removal. Keep in mind that you may pay a premium for an initial visit, but rates are generally lower when you commit to an ongoing maintenance plan.

Source: John Deere

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Poll: Americans Embracing the Smart Home

September 14, 2015 1:58 am

According to a recent report by The Harris Poll®, over three-quarters of Americans (78 percent) expect newly built homes to include smart home technology within the next five years - and 60 percent believe household devices that can connect to the Internet are good for homeowners, in part because they can save money, keep their family safe and protect their property from theft and vandalism.

Per the poll, the most popular devices currently owned are wireless speaker systems (17 percent) and smart/wireless home security and monitoring systems (9 percent).

For future purchases, Americans would consider the following devices, pending certain “tipping points” like price and potential “bugs in the technology”:

• Smart Thermostats (40 percent)
• Smart Lighting (37 percent)
• Wireless Speaker Systems (35 percent)
• Smart/Wireless Home Security and Monitoring Systems (35 percent)

Interestingly, many Americans have difficulty reconciling the umbrella term “smart home technology” with specific “smart” products, according to the poll. In fact, just 7 percent of Americans say they’ve adopted “smart home technology,” but nearly five times as many (34 percent) say they have at least one smart product in their home, suggesting a disconnect among retailers and consumers.

Still, over half of Americans (51 percent) say smart home technology will improve their quality of life within the next five years, and 43 percent say it will have a big impact on how they manage their home within the next five years.

Source: The Harris Poll®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Earnest Money Deposits

September 11, 2015 8:49 pm

Purchasing a home is an expensive proposition, one that prospective buyers need to plan ahead for, especially when it comes to their financial obligations. While it’s important for potential buyers to have money set aside for a down payment and be willing to work on improving their credit score, one financial obligation that’s often overlooked is the earnest money deposit.

An earnest money deposit is a deposit handed over to the seller (or their real estate agent) when a contract is signed and an offer is made. The check is normally made out to the escrow company, showing that the buyer is serious about the deal, as they’re backing it up with money.

The money is then deposited into an escrow account if your real estate offer is accepted, or the funds get ratified by both parties. The amount of the earnest money deposit varies by state, but is typically in the range of 1-2 percent of the purchase price.

Eventually, the money will get credited toward your down payment, so consider choosing an amount that will impress the seller when they’re reviewing your offer. And keep in mind that if you come in too low, you may weaken your negotiating power. In the end, you want to choose an amount that will position you as a serious player, which is especially important if there are multiple offers on the table.

When determining the amount of your earnest money deposit, its size can serve as a vital negotiation strategy and demonstrate your willingness to follow through on the purchase. The larger the amount of money, the more likely a seller may be to choose your offer over the others.

If something happens to go awry early on in the deal, the deposit is usually returned to the buyer without a fuss. When things go wrong later in the transaction, both parties are usually willing to negotiate a fair solution. However, there are times when the buyer and seller find it difficult to agree on the best course of action. To keep things from turning ugly, it’s best to have a consumer protection clause written into your contract in case a problem comes up during the home inspection that would cause you to want to pull out of the deal. This will safeguard your money and keep you from losing it altogether if the deal falls through.

Keep in mind that you can lose the money through default, which can happen when you have deliberately done something that prevents you from completing the transaction. However, these situations are rare, and if you’re serious about buying a home, shouldn’t cause an issue.

To learn more about earnest money deposits, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Selling a Home with Children in Tow Doesn't Have to Be Impossible

September 11, 2015 8:49 pm

Selling a home can be an overwhelming process, but when there are children in the mix, it can seem downright impossible to keep the space sparkling clean while maintaining a place that your kids feel comfortable in.

If you have children, you’re well aware that their toys need to be in certain spots, as well as the fact that they’re always leaving books and play things around—making it nearly impossible to keep up the staged look that real estate professionals swear by.

But if your home is on the market, the most important thing you can do is maintain a level of cleanliness around the house, while reducing the messes that your kids make.

A child’s bedroom is probably the worst place for messes, so devoting attention to this area when getting the house ready for a showing is crucial. Since most kids only play with a few favorite toys each week, take the time to pack away any extra toys that are sitting around collecting dust. To most little ones, out of sight means out of mind, and as long as their favorite toys are within reach, they should be fine.

Anything that isn’t being packed away should be placed neatly on shelves or in baskets so that there’s no clutter in the room. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to make a game out of putting things away so that your children get in the habit of cleaning up after themselves.

When it comes to the closet, remove any clothing that no longer fits and either donate these items or give them away to friends. In addition, pack away any seasonal clothes that are still lying around and color coordinate the clothes hanging in the closet to provide a tidy—but fun—appearance.

For those with babies and newborns, the nursery should also be kept tidy, with all extra diapers, wipes, lotions, baby bottles and clothes hidden away in a dresser. Make sure to empty the diaper pail daily, and, if possible, dispose of dirty diapers immediately in order to reduce the possibility of lingering odor.

You may also want to remove any furniture from the nursery that doesn’t serve a purpose. A good rule of thumb is to stick to the essentials: a crib, dresser, rocking chair or armchair for feeding, changing table and small accessories.

If you have more than one child and each has their own room, consider having them share a room for a couple of months until the home sells. This will allow you to set up the unused bedroom as a guest room or home office, adding extra value to your home.

For more tips about selling your home with children in the mix, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tile in the Bedroom Provides a Unique, Competitive Advantage in Today's Market

September 11, 2015 8:49 pm

In today’s crowded real estate market, it’s more important than ever to do any and everything you can to help your home stand out from the competition.

One trend that’s caught on recently is the addition of ceramic tile in the bedroom. While ceramic tile has long been the leading choice for bathroom renovations, it’s now finding its way into other areas of the home because it’s durable, easy to clean and available in a variety of formats, colors and designs. But the benefits don’t stop there.

Using tile in the bedroom can be a great option for homeowners who are looking to create a unique space. Not only is tile more durable, lasting up to four times longer than carpet or wood, it will never need refinishing, restaining or sanding. Tile also holds its luster longer than vinyl, and doesn’t require the special chemical treatments that natural stone products do.

And there are numerous ways to incorporate tile into the bedroom, making it easy to achieve the look you desire. For example, by adding natural stone tile flooring, you can give a room a more expensive feel and a spa-like look, which will go a long way toward catching the eye of a potential buyer.

Tile can also be used to create a seamless transition between the sleeping and bathing areas within your master suite, creating cohesion between the two. And last but not least, incorporating ceramic tile into your bed’s headboard will create a powerful design statement and solidify the bed’s stance as the centerpiece of the room.

When it comes to choosing the type of tile you’d like to incorporate into your space, there are many options to consider. Not only can you find ceramic tile that mimics the look of other popular, more costly or less durable materials like wood, glass or metal, you can mix and match colors to create the custom look you desire.

To learn more about incorporating tile in your bedroom, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Importance of Mobile in the Home-Buying and -Selling Process

September 11, 2015 8:49 pm

Whether you’re going through the process of buying or selling a home, there are a number of things you should be discussing with your real estate agent. One item that’s becoming more and more vital with each passing day is an agent’s use of mobile throughout the process.

After all, the number of mobile-connected devices now far exceeds the number of people living on Earth, a statistic from Cisco’s “Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update,” which marketers use to forecast the impact of visual networking applications on global networks.

As the industry continues to become increasingly mobile, it’s crucial that you talk with your agent about how they’re using mobile to help with your real estate transaction. While today’s buyers and sellers are constantly on-the-go, turning to their mobile devices for all their real estate needs, a mobile strategy is a key piece of the puzzle.

While the average person is within arm’s reach of their mobile phone the vast majority of the time, it’s important that you—and your agent—understand the importance of a sound mobile strategy. Even if you don’t have a firm grasp on technology, and aren’t necessarily targeting millennials, mobile offers numerous benefits for buyers and sellers alike.

With mobile, your agent can promote your property with a QR code on the front door, or through geo-track scanned codes from newspaper listings. Plus, by using QR codes, prospective buyers can be directed to a dedicated page with all the information they need to learn more about the home. Not only will this provide an in-depth view of your home, anyone interested in scheduling a showing can contact your agent through voice or text straight from their phone while they’re still looking at the property—a huge benefit in today’s fast-paced market.

Real estate experts agree that everyone in the business of buying and selling homes should take the time to review their client and prospect experiences (emails, marketing materials, listings, etc.) on a smartphone and/or tablet to give their client the best chance of success.

For more information about the benefits of a sound mobile strategy, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Your Kitchen Pop with Updated Countertops

September 11, 2015 8:49 pm

From painting to replacing the cabinetry and installing stainless steel appliances, sellers have numerous options when it comes to updating their kitchen before placing their home on the market. But real estate professionals across the board agree that if a kitchen upgrade is on the horizon, you can’t afford to overlook the countertops.

Typically occupying a large surface area in any given kitchen, countertops are an important part of the room’s overall look—whether they’re used to anchor the room or cause it to pop. And changing up the countertops is one cosmetic change that can go a long way toward creating an entirely different look and feel within the space.

For those considering a counter update, there are many new trends to take advantage of if you truly want your kitchen to appeal to the masses. One such trend is the gravitation away from granite toward calm surfaces such as quartz.

Not only is quartz composed of crushed stone and a bonding agent, the material mimics many of the qualities that people like in granite. These qualities include being impervious to water and staining, as well as being heat resistant. One key difference between granite and quartz is the fact that the movement of quartz is predictable. In addition, it can be made to look like certain forms of marble, or it can be completely uniform in its look.

If quartz isn’t your style, there are plenty of other options to choose from, including wood, steel and stone. Some people even enjoy the sophisticated look that marble incorporates into a space.

You can also take some inspiration from HGTV’s list of top kitchen materials, including granite—for being timeless, durable and easy to clean—and stainless steel. Not only are stainless steel countertops nonporous, they don’t have to be sealed and they resist bacterial growth.

Wood is another big trend that’s gaining steam in the kitchen, especially in finishes that represent its natural form, rather than high-gloss or smooth finishes. Some people also like the idea of using concrete, although this type of material is prone to cracking and chipping, even with the modern-day use of fiberglass.

With plenty of options to choose from, it’s important to stay away from materials that prospective buyers aren’t gravitating toward anymore. These include Corian, laminates and tile.

If you’re looking to make a splash in your kitchen, changing the countertops is a great way to alter the style of your kitchen from traditional to transitional. Not only will this increase the value of your kitchen, it’ll also increase the value of your home.

Contact our office today for more information about updating your kitchen countertops.

Published with permission from RISMedia.