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Get Ready For a Safer Clean-Up before a Hurricane or Severe Weather Strikes

June 11, 2014 4:18 am

Far too often, people face grave safety threats after a hurricane or severe weather ends when they begin to clean-up their homes and businesses. It's important for homeowners and businesses to have proper equipment on hand and to be familiar with safe operating procedures when an emergency hits.

During National Safety Month in June, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners and businesses to take stock of their power tools and equipment for storm clean-up, such as chainsaws, pruners, generators, and utility type vehicles.

OPEI's President and CEO Kris Kiser says it's important to think ahead about equipment you may need. "Often after a disaster there is a rush on power equipment like generators and chainsaws – just like there's a rush on supplies at the grocery store. Having the proper equipment on hand before the post-storm rush means you avoid being left empty-handed."

The trade association also cautions consumers to know how to handle that equipment safely. Kiser says before a storm strikes is the best time to familiarize yourself with your power equipment operation and safety manuals. "When you're in the throes of an emergency, you might not be thinking clearly or you may have trouble locating your safety manuals," said Kiser. "So it's important to brush up on the user and safety guidelines before disaster strikes."

Here are a few tips to help:

Use common sense with chainsaws. Remaining calm and using common sense are important when using chainsaws to clear storm debris. Be aware of fundamental dangers that can occur with chainsaws, including kickback, which may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. This can cause the saw to suddenly jerk back toward the operator.

Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the saw chain blade. Also, hold the chainsaw with both hands, and never overreach or cut above shoulder height.

Keep firm footing when using pole saws and pole pruners. Pole saws or pruners are effective in selectively removing dead or damaged limbs. When operating these tools, make sure you always keep a firm footing on the ground. Observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area.

Give portable electric generators plenty of ventilation. Generators produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless and poisonous gas. Generators should never be used in an enclosed area, even if the windows or doors are open. The muffler on a generator can get extremely hot, so any combustible materials (leaves, grass, brush) must be cleared away before operating. Remember to clean out any stale fuel by draining old fuel out of the tank and the carburetor bowl to avoid engine problems, such as starting issues and rough running.

Drive Utility Type Vehicles (UTVs) with care. UTVs can be useful for hauling debris, particularly when clearing damage in rural settings or on large properties. When the vehicle is loaded, the center of gravity is higher, and so is the risk of overturning. To keep the vehicle stable, drive slowly and do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope or hill as this could increase the likelihood of overturning.

Have the proper fuel on hand for your outdoor power equipment. It's also important to have the proper fuel on hand for your equipment, as filling stations may be closed after a storm. Make sure you store fuel properly and buy the type of fuel recommended by your equipment's manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol content in outdoor power equipment (for more information on fueling properly see

Find your safety gear now. Before the storm is also a good time to locate any safety gear you may need for storm cleanup. Sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing and work gloves may be helpful and in short supply after a storm.

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is your Relationship Ready for DIY?

June 9, 2014 3:54 am

Each year, thousands of couples across the country will embark on a journey that may be one of the most rewarding and challenging events in their lives: the shared home improvement project.

Whether it's newlyweds walking down the aisle and purchasing their first home, or couples preparing to freshen up their home and landscape, warmer weather is known to awaken the home improvement bug – for better or for worse.

In a recent survey, 2,000 people were asked how partnering on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects impacts their relationship:

• Sometimes couples working on projects hit a bump in the road – more than 60 percent of people admitted to having a disagreement with their significant other during the course of a DIY project.
• Don't feel like a failure if your project stalls halfway through – one-third of couples surveyed had left a project partially complete at some point, and didn't expect to finish them for more than three months.
• But there is a happy ending - people still want to work on projects with the one they love. Nearly 80 percent of respondents turn to their significant other as the first choice for help when it's time to DIY.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Helpful Tips on Clutter Cleaning

June 9, 2014 3:54 am

When you have clutter everywhere what is the best way of removing the problem? Is it one big massive expedition into clutter cleaning or is it better to take it in smaller bits and pieces?

The first thing you need to realize is that clutter cleaning is a long process, so it is advisable to take the small approach rather than the large approach. One of the most useful methods is what we would call box therapy. Using boxes is useful in the decision making, because it uses a fairly simple approach in order to help with clutter cleanup. One of the boxes would be allocated for trash, another for donation and the final one is for things to keep. This method allows you to remove items from your home over a period of time.

Another way of dealing with clutter is by viewing certain items with more of a utility value than a sentimental memory. This allows you to discern what is junk from what is a treasured personal item, and if that item has a specific use. The boxing allows you the ability to see how many of the items are clutter and can be gotten rid of after a certain point.

Another way of reducing clutter is by reducing the amount of media items. Media items usually tend to accumulate quickly in the case of a clutter cleanup situation. These can be a whole host of different items. Examples of this may include photographs and documents, which can be placed on your computer. Also, books and other paper media can often be read on your computer, e-reader, tablet, or smart phone. These devices can actually hold thousands of books, and you can read your newspapers or magazines on those devices as well.

Another factor that might need to be looked at is the habits that need to be broken for clutter cleanup to occur. You need to observe your behaviors and try to break them. When looking at purchasing an item, do a careful reassessment of your choices. Do you absolutely need this item or do you just want to purchase it because it is the latest and greatest? Is it financially prudent to purchase more items, before selling or giving away some of your items that you think you may need to replace.

Source: Address Our Mess

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Move Over Kitchen: The Backyard is the New Heart of the Home

June 9, 2014 3:54 am

As millions of Americans ready their outdoor space for the summer season, a new study from SABER Grills reveals just how enamored U.S. homeowners are with their backyards. Eighty-three percent of homeowners across the country say their outdoor living space is the favorite place in their home. It’s also the most used space in American households just behind the kitchen, and way ahead of the game room, living room and dining room.

While spaces like dining rooms and formal living rooms have lost favor in American homes, the backyard has gained popularity each year. The survey showed the overwhelming majority of current U.S. homeowners (81 percent) consider their outdoor space the heart of their home.

"It doesn't matter if your home is valued at $75,000 or $775,000, if you are an American homeowner, you are proud of your outdoor space and consider it an essential part of your home," said Rob Schwing, GM of SABER Grills. "Homeowners use their backyards to relax and reconnect with family – just like the kitchen."

It's not surprising then that 51 percent of all homeowners say they update the space as often as their favorite interior rooms. And, new man-cave trend alert - a full 30 percent of male homeowners say they are solely responsible for decorating their homes' outdoor space. Topping the guy's wish list for 2014 outdoor space additions? A pool or hot tub. One thing they can't live without? Their grill. And, not surprisingly, "access to wi-fi" is now among the top five most common items in demand for outdoor living spaces.

Super engaged with their outdoor space are Baby Boomers who live in older homes, mostly congregating in the Southern and Midwestern U.S., the survey revealed. Their backyard is more likely than others to be equipped with TVs, Wi-Fi and special lighting. They own at least two grills and are adventurous entertainers, frequently trying new recipes with groups of five or more.

Other regional facts:

• Midwesterners are the most interactive with their outdoor space: they update/accessorize most often and 75 percent use it throughout the week.
• Top of the wish of outdoor furnishings for all was a pool or hot tub. Southerners and Westerners are most likely to include "kitchen" in the top three.
• South and Northeast residents have the biggest parties, usually entertaining more than five people.
• Southerners are most likely to own two or more grills; Northeasterners, just one.
• Roughly 40 percent of all outdoor chefs consider themselves average grillers. More than 30 percent of Northeasterners, however, identify themselves as "confident" grillers.

Source: SABER Grills, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Family Affair: Getting Children Involved in the Home-selling Process

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

For sellers across the board, the process of preparing their home to stand out among the sea of competition is a challenging feat in and of itself. But when you add children to the mix, it can be next to impossible to keep the space clean and tidy.

While last-minute showings are troublesome enough, when you have kids—and you need to leave the house quickly—it can put a lot of stress on the situation. As any parent knows, keeping children from cluttering up your home is nearly impossible, and having a child in the house will oftentimes hinder your ability to clean.

However, it’s important to remember that you can still sell your home when children are involved. One smart idea is to create a designated play room so that when it comes time to pick up before a showing, there’s only one room you really have to worry about. If you’re looking for a space to transform, go with a game room or even an extra bedroom, as these rooms won’t necessarily make or break a deal.

Now’s also a great time to teach your child the importance of putting away his or her toys when they’re done playing; not only will this keep your house cleaner, it will get your child on the right path when it comes to picking up after him or herself. There are plenty of great children’s videos and songs that deal with cleaning. It can even be a fun game-like activity you can do together.

Keeping a bag of snacks on hand for when you need to sweep the kids away from their toys or the TV is another great idea that will keep them from making a fuss. Any parent knows a good treat can go a long way in getting kids to behave.

For those with babies, try to keep all extra diapers, wipes and lotions hidden away in a dresser or drawer and make sure the diaper pail is emptied. If possible, take out dirty diapers immediately to reduce any odors building up.

In addition, be sure to pay attention to any toys your children have outside so that the yard isn’t littered with sports equipment, bikes and hula hoops. Create a space in your garage where everything can be stored in an orderly fashion.

In the end, the most important thing to remember about selling a house when kids are part of the equation is that you shouldn’t stress too much about making sure everything is perfect. It’s a good bet that those looking at your house will have kids of their own, so they’ll understand a toy here or there or a cluttered closet in the child’s room. Just do the best you can.

For more information about getting your children involved in the home-selling process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Paying Points May Save Money in the Long Run, but is It Right for You?

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

When it comes to mortgages, choosing the right one is instrumental to successfully achieving the American Dream of homeownership. And for many buyers in today’s market, taking advantage of points is one way to ensure their mortgage truly fits their needs.

In its simplest definition, a point is an additional loan fee that is paid to the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate. Often referred to as “buying down,” points allow you to reduce the mortgage rate for the life of the loan. Before making a decision on whether or not utilizing points is the best choice for your personal situation, you’ll want to discuss what it all means with your agent and lender.

As an example, if you secure a mortgage loan for $500,000 without points, at 4.6 percent on a 30-year mortgage, your payment would be approximately $2,560 a month. If one was to pay two points ($10,000), the interest rate in this example would go down to 4.1 percent and the monthly payment would be around $2,415, saving you a little over $145 a month.

In this scenario, it would take you about eight years to recoup the money you paid up front. Therefore, if you plan to stay in the home for a period of time, this will save you money in the long run.

Homebuyers should also ask themselves some key questions to determine if paying points is a wise decision: How long will you keep the home? Do you have extra money to pay points? Could that money be better used for something else?

For instance, a savvy investor might be better able to invest that $10,000 and find greater dividends than $140 a month, but you have to weigh the variables, and if you’re not someone who does a great deal of investing, it could backfire.

Mortgage experts have a simple formula for people to follow: If you plan to stay in the house for less than three years, do not pay points. If you plan to stay in the house for more than five years, pay one to two points. If you’ll be in the house for three to five years, paying points doesn’t make a significant difference. Anything more, and paying points is a great idea.

Another positive associated with paying points is that they are interest-payment related, so they’re fully deductible on your taxes in the year that you close.

The decision to pay points is something every buyer will have to make depending on their own individual situation. Mortgage points can add up to valuable savings over the course of your loan, but the future isn’t always predictable. Even if you “plan” on staying in your home for 20 years, changes in your career or family life could alter the plan.

To learn more about points, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Keep Your Home from Languishing on the Market

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

When it comes time to move, sellers are typically interested in two things: getting their home sold for top dollar and getting it sold quickly. Whether your timeline is being cut short due to a job relocation or a change in your personal life, the following tricks of the trade will go a long way toward keeping your home from languishing on the market.

1. Price It to Sell: The most obvious way to sell a house quickly is to price it below the competition. Check out the comps in your area and then talk with your agent about a price that you’re comfortable with, but one that is less than virtually everything else in your market. By doing so, you’ll get more showings and might even incite a bidding war that will get the price closer to what you originally hoped to sell for in the first place.

2. Add Aesthetics: While it’s not always feasible to make large changes at the drop of a hat, putting in new windows or having your landscaping redone can add value quickly and go a long way toward attracting prospective buyers. Other changes that might attract buyers include repaving your driveway, adding shutters and power washing the exterior of your house. You can also buy a new mailbox and replace any address stickers that may have seen better days.

3. Sweeten the Pot: Everyone likes something for free, so offering up some of the furniture, curtains or other items in the home could be a great way to get someone to sign on the dotted line quickly. Another great tip is to offer money toward the closing costs as a way to entice people to buy. Transferable home warranties are also becoming popular, and for as little as $500, you can offer a one-year policy that will cover appliances that fail. Anything you can do to give the buyer a little extra can always speed up negotiations.

4. Use Social Media: Talk with your agent about a solid social media plan that includes utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest in order to help sell your home. Make sure you have great pictures, creative videos and unique descriptions that will get people interested. Use these sites to network as much as possible so you can reach out to new buyers and create interest in your home.

5. Stage a Neighborhood Clean-up Month: Organize a neighborhood effort to clean the streets, parks and community, and make the entire neighborhood more attractive. You can all chip in on a power washer to clean the houses and driveways; hire a landscaper who agrees to add flowers to all the yards; or even have a painting party to spruce up the older looking houses in the area. When house hunters see the quality of the neighborhood, it will make them more likely to want to live there.

For more information about getting your home to sell quickly, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Forging Connections with Men and Women Key to Finding Real Estate Success

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

We’ve all heard the notion that women typically make the final decision in terms of which house to buy, and that the most important rooms to attract female house hunters include the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. However, when preparing to list your home on the market, the last thing you want to do is neglect any potential prospect. This means you must think of both sexes—and what appeals to both—when going through the process.

While most men gravitate toward rooms with gadgets, televisions and electronics, if you have a large entertainment unit in the home, leave it on when showings are scheduled (with the sound off) to truly show off what a beautiful flat screen looks like in the room.

If the home utilizes technology to control the heating, air or lights, highlight it with a pamphlet, or better yet, create a short video showcasing these features. Then leave a QR code on the table so prospective buyers can check the video out on their mobile device. This may take a little extra effort on your part, but the payoff could be huge.

Garages are another area that men typically gravitate toward, especially if they’re clean, have lots of shelves and contain enough storage for tools and sports equipment. Adding a workbench is a great idea as well. If you typically keep your car inside, remove it before a showing. Even if you have a classic car that men will envy, a garage with a car parked inside looks much smaller than one without.

Game rooms are also big when it comes to attracting men who want a place to put a pool table or hang their sports photos or movie posters, so staging your basement or extra room in this way is a great idea. Unlike personal photos that you should always take down, it’s wise to leave up any sports memorabilia in rooms like these that men will remember and want to duplicate when they buy the home.

Open spaces and higher ceilings are also a draw for men, because psychologically, they have a larger sense of personal space. You want to create rooms where a man feels as if he can walk through the house without stepping around all sorts of furniture. Men also prefer that the home doesn’t feel too fancy or frilly. They don’t envision dinner parties, but rather think about getting together to watch football with their friends on the weekends.

Don’t forget about the yard either. Many men would rather have a well-maintained lawn with thick, healthy grass than an area full of fancy shrubs and flowers.

When a couple buys a home, it takes an emotional investment by both, so make sure you forge that connection with both men and women.

To learn more about helping your home stand out among men and women, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finding the Perfect Home

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

If a home purchase is on the horizon, you more than likely know exactly what you’re looking for. Whether you desire stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors throughout or a pool in the backyard, letting your agent know what’s on your must-have list is one of the best ways to ensure you find your dream home.

As you go through the process of searching for homes, it’s important to remember that your agent is trained in locating the best properties that fit your criteria, so if your agent isn’t pushing a home that you’ve seen online, there’s a good chance that the house won’t suit your needs.

Sometimes a sort of beer-goggle phenomenon occurs when house hunters look at homes and fall in love with a property that isn’t right for them. When staged properly, a home might appear to be perfect as prospective buyers are often distracted by the cleanliness of the space or even the antique furnishings that have been incorporated into the space to achieve a specific look. Others may be impressed with how much nicer the home is than the rental they’re living in, but again, it doesn’t mean it’s what they truly want.

A good agent will bring you back to reality by reminding you that the house doesn’t have the finished basement or large yard you’re looking for, keeping you more on point in looking at homes that actually meet your specifications.

Another thing to consider when deciding on whether or not a home is right for you is the price. Finding everything in your dream home for a price you can afford may be a little too optimistic, and chances are the right home may come along but at a price that’s a little too steep. Sometimes it’s better to give up one or two items from your list rather than be stuck with a mortgage payment that you can barely keep up with.

Don’t feel like you need to completely overhaul your list of must-haves either. Some features you should stick to your guns with. If you fancy yourself something of a cook and you want a gourmet kitchen, look at houses that only offer these. Has a walk-in closet always been your dream? Wait until you find one. If you’re determined to have a pool, don’t look at houses without them. Why fall in love with a home if it doesn’t have what you really want?

Along the same lines of thinking, if you started your house hunt wanting four bedrooms, you probably shouldn’t settle for less. There’s a reason you came up with this number and the last thing you want is to be in a home that you outgrow quickly because you jumped at a house that wasn’t really what you needed.

Of course, there are some things that can be changed in a home, so if it doesn’t have the spa bathtub you want or the top-of-the-line washer and dryer you have your heart set on, you can always make those changes down the line. Just make sure whatever needs to be added or replaced doesn’t turn into something that’s impossible to afford.

When searching for a new place to call home, take your time so that you end up with a home that’s as close to your dream as possible. Be sure to keep your agent in the loop when it comes to the things you’re looking for—and those that are an absolute must—so that you don’t spend time looking at houses that don’t fit your needs and lifestyle.

For more information about finding the perfect home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Mortgage Points

June 6, 2014 5:15 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how to manage your expectations when it comes to finding the perfect home. Other topics covered this month include five tips to keep your home from languishing on the market and simple ways to get the whole family included in the home-selling process. 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.