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Keep Your Cool in the Pool This Summer

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Now that summer has officially arrived, if you’re lucky enough to own a pool, you’re undoubtedly the envy of your neighborhood. As temperatures continue to heat up, and your yard becomes the local hangout, you’ll want to be sure your pool is ready for some serious fun.

First, head to your local pool supply store and stock up on tubes, rafts and pool games to keep children and adults alike busy. Investing in a volleyball net or basketball hoop is a great way to ensure the pool is enjoyable for everyone.

In addition to games, you can dress up the appearance of your backyard—pool included—by incorporating resort-like chairs and furniture to provide guests a spot where they can relax and catch some rays. If you’d like to up the ante even more, think about incorporating a cooking station, fire pit and entertainment system to create a backyard oasis.

For decorations, add some color-changing LED lights in and around the pool. There are some stunning visual lights that give you the ability to change up the lighting to suit any mood or event from static colors like blue, green, magenta, red and white to dynamic pre-programmed light shows that enhance nighttime poolscapes with rich and vibrant colors.

Keeping the water in your pool blue is also vital. In addition to vacuuming and adding chemicals, it’s important to make sure the right mixture is used, and be sure to clean the pool regularly. Balancing your water chemistry is the key to keeping your pool healthy all summer long.

Chlorine is the quintessential chemical when fighting and eliminating bacteria and contamination in a swimming pool. The PH is measured by determining the acidity of the water, and a pool that doesn’t have an ideal PH balance can cause skin and eye discomfort. It’s also important to make sure there’s enough calcium in the pool to keep the pipes and heating system working properly.

Remember, there’s a reason you purchased a home with a pool. Providing friends and family with a safe environment in which to play is an important part of ensuring summertime fun.

To learn more about preparing your pool for the summer season, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are Drones Set to Take Real Estate Marketing to a Whole New Level?

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Over the past several years, there’s been a lot of talk regarding the use of drones to market homes. While drones can film a home from high above and offer a bird’s eye view of the property and its surroundings, it’s important to remember that they’re not yet legal in all 50 states.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), REALTORS® cannot legally fly an unmanned aerial system or drone around a property to capture images for marketing purposes without having the proper documentation in place.

REALTORS® may apply for a Section 333 waiver, which provides a limited-use permit to the applicant and comes with many safety restrictions on the use of the machine, but it’s not the easiest thing to come by—taking as long as six months to come through.

The FAA has received more than 1,200 real estate videography waivers in the past year, and has only approved 311 to date, generally approving about 20 - 40 each week.

Even if your agent has been granted permission to use a drone to market your property, operating drones above a property can be risky—especially if the home is located near an airport. Plus, electrical wires and power lines need to be considered.

“It’s kind of like the wild, wild West right now with real estate and drones, and it’s hard to manage and regulate,” says Raj Qsar, a real estate professional in Corona Del Mar, Calif. “It’s all about trying to connect that potential buyer to the property someway, somehow, through a story, and one way to do that is with aerial photography and drone videography.”

For example, with a traditional video, you might see the home and a car pulling up in the driveway. But with a drone capturing images from above, not only can you see a car driving through the neighborhood and into the driveway, you can also catch a glimpse of the scenery along the way, including community pools, basketball courts and hiking or biking trails. This provides an overall look and feel to the entire neighborhood.

The National Association of REALTORS® is currently working with the FAA and other relevant federal agencies on the safe and responsible operation of drones, and it probably won’t be long until agents across the board can take advantage of drones to help sell real estate.

For more information about the use of drones in real estate, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Simple Tips to Lower Your Homeowners Insurance

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Whether it’s getting rid of cable or opting to cook and eat at home on a consistent basis, homeowners across the board are always looking for ways to reduce their monthly expenses. But when it comes to matters related to the home, many homeowners are leaving money on the table in the form of homeowners insurance.

Before you renew your current policy, here are some simple things you can do to lower your monthly payments.

1. Shop Around. You can’t buy a home without purchasing insurance first, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the insurance provider you’re currently with. Make sure you compare different companies and find the best deal. Don’t leave this for the last minute because you don’t want to get stuck with a policy that’s expensive. Check consumer guides, ask friends and neighbors and search online insurance quote services, which will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices.

2. Bundle Your Insurance. Many insurance companies will offer discounts if you package multiple policies, such as your car, boat and home insurance. On average, one can save 5 to 15 percent off premiums if they purchase two or more policies together.

3. Safety First. Installing carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors and alarm systems can reduce your monthly bill, but you need to let your insurance agent know about any changes you make. Also, ask your insurance agent what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Adding a new heating or cooling system or changing out the electrical wiring can also help lower payments.

4. Increase Your Deductible. Most homeowners prefer small deductibles, but in the long run, taking on more of the financial burden if something should happen to your house is a great way to save money. By raising your deductible, your monthly costs can decrease as much as 5 to 10 percent.

5. Rethink Value. It’s not necessary to insure a house for the amount it was purchased for. Even if your house were to completely burn down, you’d still have the land, so consider that when deciding the total amount you need to insure. A good insurance agent will be able to help you calculate the proper replacement cost of the house.

It’s also wise to talk with your real estate agent and see if they have any thoughts on how to lower the cost. And, be sure to review your policy each year to ensure that it still accurately covers your home.

To learn more about homeowners insurance, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Single Buyers a Key Demographic You Can’t Afford to Ignore

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Millennials may be a lot of things, but one thing they’re typically not is quick to marry.

In fact, statistics released by Gallup in June show that the percentage of people between the ages of 18 and 29 who are married is decreasing. Taking this one step further, the numbers show that just 16 percent of people in this age bracket were married—the lowest percentage ever. Meanwhile, 64 percent of respondents were single and had never been married or lived with someone.

According to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2014 industry report, 25 percent of homebuyers were single, with single females coming in at 16 percent and single males at 9 percent. Additionally, millennials purchased 30 percent of all homes sold last year.

These numbers have not been lost on the real estate industry, which is why many real estate professionals stress the importance of marketing listings to single buyers.

Smart singles know that now’s a great time to enter the real estate market, as they can probably get a price that won’t stop them from enjoying their single lifestyle. Many of these buyers may be working on their careers and still envision getting married and having kids at some point in the future. Some may be divorced and looking to start fresh, while others may see purchasing a home as an investment that will pay off down the line.

Naturally, smaller homes with two bedrooms or less are more likely to appeal to this segment. For one, a lower purchase price will give them a mortgage they’re more likely to afford. Not only does less space mean they’ll be spending less on utilities, it also means they’ll need fewer items to furnish the home.

Single buyers are also more attracted to gadgets and security, so be sure to play up neighborhood safety and any technical improvements that have been made within the home. It’s also a good idea to highlight outdoor areas where they can bring their pets or go for a hike.

And since many of these buyers don’t have children, living in an area that doesn’t necessarily have the best school district won’t be as much of a hindrance.

Single buyers must also understand that since only one name will appear on the mortgage, their credit score can’t be overlooked when shopping for and purchasing a home. In fact, mortgage experts recommend that a monthly mortgage for buyers with one income should not exceed 28 percent of a borrower’s pre-tax monthly income.

To learn more about marketing your home to single buyers, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Common Closing Costs to Consider When Purchasing a Home

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Purchasing a home is an expensive proposition, but for many buyers, the realization that a host of closing costs need to be paid before the sale can go through is often a concern when it comes to ensuring there’s enough money set aside to go through with the transaction.

In simple terms, closing costs are the fees associated with the acquisition of one’s new home that have nothing to do with the final sale price. These costs are in addition to the actual purchase price and include everything from legal fees to land transfer taxes to moving expenses.

To ensure no financial surprises pop up when it’s time to buy your home, here are some of the most common closing costs that need to be considered.

1. Legal Fees. A real estate lawyer will be needed to assist you in drafting the deed, preparing the mortgage and conducting various searches related to the property. While the cost of a lawyer varies, you can expect to pay at least $1,000 for their services.

2. Title Insurance. Almost all lenders require that a homebuyer purchase title insurance to protect against losses in the event of a property/ownership dispute. Title insurance is basically an insurance policy that protects the homeowner from problems related to the title to their home, such as title fraud, undischarged liens, zoning issues and survey problems. Homebuyers can expect to pay between $150 - $400 for title insurance at closing.

3. Interest Adjustments. Unless you’re purchasing a home on the first of the month, odds are your mortgage payment won’t be due until the following month. However, you’ll still be required to pay interest on the mortgage up to the first theoretical payment date at closing. It’s important to ask your mortgage lender how your IAD (interest adjustment date) is calculated so you’re prepared for this closing cost.

4. Prepaid Utilities Adjustments. A buyer must also reimburse the previous owner for any utility payments they may have already paid for the upcoming year. While this means you won’t have to pay for these utilities yourself for a while, it’ll add to the closing cost pile and can run hundreds of dollars.

5. Property Appraisal. Some lenders require an independent appraisal be done before the final papers are signed, and this is usually paid as part of the closing documents. This is necessary because the lender wants to ensure that the property is valued correctly. Most appraisals generally run $150 to $350, but the location of the property will play a role in the final price.

6. Property Survey. A land or property survey is a legally written and/or mapped description of the location and dimensions of the land that you’re acquiring. This is another requirement of a lender and is necessary for any transfer of ownership. A property survey will reflect all dimensions of the house and include anything that was added since the house was originally built, such as a new addition, deck, fence or pool. It can also point out any encroachments, such as a neighbor’s fence. This will generally run somewhere between $500 and $1,000.

7. Down Payment. The most important closing cost of all, the down payment can be anything you’ve negotiated with the seller and your mortgage lender, but typically falls around 20 percent of the purchase price. If you’re selling a home as well, and the deal hasn’t been finalized, you may need to acquire bridge financing. This will cover the cost of the down payment for a short period of time, with only interest to be paid at closing. Otherwise, prepare to buy your new home with whatever money you’ve been saving.

For more information about closing costs, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Homeowners Insurance

July 2, 2015 8:43 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the seven most common closing costs that buyers must consider when purchasing a home. Other topics covered this month include the importance of targeting single homebuyers in today’s real estate market and simple tips to make sure your pool is ready for summertime fun. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


9 Safety Guidelines for Fireworks

July 2, 2015 1:14 am

Fireworks are a time-honored tradition on Independence Day. If you’re planning to host your own firework-filled festivities at home, keep in mind these safety guidelines issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

• Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

• Do not buy fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.

• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Comission

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Can the Founding Fathers Teach Us about Roofs?

July 2, 2015 1:14 am

The benefits of homeownership were not lost on the Founding Fathers. In fact, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson took steps to protect their investment, including upgrading the exteriors of their homes. Both Washington and Jefferson’s homes, which still stand today, offer home improvement insight that can inform homeowners today.

Washington, for instance, complained of his home being “plagued with leaks.” To prevent water from entering his Mount Vernon estate, he replaced his roof with a wood-shingled version common to the 1700s. Jefferson, who had a knack for architecture and engineering, considered a variety of roofing materials when planning the construction of Monticello, and eventually settled on tin shingles. Although they used different materials, both roofs made sense for each of their needs.

What’s the lesson here? Homeowners should take a cue from the Founding Fathers by considering all of their options before replacing the roof, or undertaking any home improvement project!

Source: Metal Roofing Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lightning Protection a Must for Homeowners

July 2, 2015 1:14 am

Lightning strikes may seem like a rare occurrence, but they can wreak havoc on your home if they strike your property, says Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety President and CEO Julie Rochman.

“People often underestimate the harm that lightning can cause, but make no mistake–it’s a dangerous force to be reckoned with,” says Rochman. “We encourage both home and business owners to take the necessary precautions to protect their property from the damaging effects of a lightning strike, such as power surges.”

• For protection from lightning strikes in the general area of your home or an externally produced surge, a whole-house surge protector is the best starting point for reducing the risk of damage or a fire.

• Install additional protection for important or expensive electronic equipment. This should include localized surge protection for power cords to the electronic equipment and any telephone and cable/satellite television lines connecting to the equipment. Make sure all equipment is UL-listed and properly labeled.

• Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt. The system neither attracts nor repels a strike, but receives the strike and routes it harmlessly into the earth, thus discharging the dangerous electrical event. Be sure the lightning protection system is designed and installed in accordance with accepted industry standards.

• Stay off landline/wired telephones and utilize a cell phone if necessary. In your home, do not stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay away from the television, plumbing, sinks, tubs, radiators and stoves. Avoid contact with small electric appliances such as radios, toasters and hairdryers.

Source: IBHS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don’t Let Money Get Away on Your Getaway

July 1, 2015 1:13 am

Travel is one of those luxuries everyone wants to afford, but may not be able to fit into their budget. In fact, 32 percent of Americans report they cannot afford to take a summer vacation, according to a recent Skift survey. But for families feeling the squeeze, there are ways to enjoy a guilt-free vacation. The nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) recommends planning a budget-friendly trip with these tips.

1. Plan in Advance

To save big, plan ahead by packing lunches, snacks and drinks. Instead of filling your cooler full of ice that will melt, freeze water bottles to cool your food down. When they melt, hand them to your kids for drinks. With a picnic lunch, you can avoid inflated amusement park prices and allot more money to other vacation activities. If you are staying in a hotel or flying, make sure to book your ticket in advance before prices skyrocket.

2. Drive Rather than Fly

Instead of flying, take advantage of falling gas prices by setting out on a road trip. Compared to last year, fuel cost is estimated to be a dollar less per gallon in the United States. Make the most out of your outing. Get your kids involved by using Google Maps to plot your destinations along the way. Bring fun trivia and car games to transform what could be a boring car trip into an exciting adventure.

3. Research Budget Activities and Special Deals

Do your research ahead of time to find out about special offers. Since it is summer and the economy is slow, many businesses and towns are offering free events and incredible deals on discount websites such as Instead of taking a pricey walking tour, print your own map out online and create a do-it-yourself version Visit free concerts and museums.

If you find a free deal a few states away, use it as your choice for an expedition. While on your trip, pass up the over-priced souvenirs and use your smart phones to capture photos. When your trip is over, compile your pictures into a colorful scrapbook or calendar as a memento or great gift idea for a family member in the future.

4. Find Off-Season Destinations

If you can take off week days, plan to travel Monday through Thursday so that you beat the crowds and weekend prices. Consider winter destinations, like the Caribbean, as you will enjoy their off-season prices during the summer.

5. Rethink Your Lodging

Avoid staying in the most popular locations. If you are planning a trip to a major tourist city, consider staying in a city close by. When choosing where to stay, take into account the variety of options besides expensive hotels. Camping is not only affordable, but a clever way to un-plug from your busy routine and enjoy the outdoors. If camping is not for you, consider a quaint bed and breakfast where you can enjoy a sit-down breakfast with your family.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.