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Your Property: Lightning Myths and Protection

June 30, 2016 1:04 am

Did you know lightning can be as damaging to the home—if not more—as other weather events?

There are many misconceptions about lightning and its effects—the ol’ rubber trick, for instance, is a myth. According to the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), rubber tires or rubber-soled shoes will not protect a person from lightning. Metal is not a magnet for lightning, either. Lightning, too, can strike the same place twice—take the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower, both of which have been struck repeatedly.

A lightning protection system is one the most effective ways to prevent damage to your property, according to the LPI. A whole-house arrester or surge protector, though beneficial, should be just one component of that system.

Green and smart homeowners, especially, should install a system to protect the other systems in the home—lightning strikes often damage multiple systems at once.

Leave the installation of the lightning protection system to the professionals, the LPI advises. Look for an LPI-certified specialist, who adheres to strict safety standards when it comes to the design and installation of the system.

Source: Lightning Protection Institute (LPI)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey: Homeownership a Sound Investment

June 30, 2016 1:04 am

Homeownership works.

That’s the resounding sentiment from a sample of 55-plus homeowners in a recent survey by Freddie Mac, who said they’re not only confident about retirement, but also confident homeownership “makes financial sense at almost every stage of adult life.”

Close to 40 percent of the 55-plus homeowners surveyed plan to move at least one more time in their life, while the majority of those (70 percent) plan to purchase their next home. This migration will have significant implications for the housing market overall.

“The decisions the nation's baby boomers and other older homeowners make will have an enormous impact on the demand for housing and new mortgage credit for the foreseeable future,” said Dave Lowman, executive vice president of Single-Family Business for Freddie Mac, in a statement. “Whether they buy new homes or decide to refinance and renovate their current ones, the size of this generation and the fact that they hold close to two-thirds, approximately $8 trillion, of the nation's home equity makes it very important that we watch what they do.”

Would-be homebuyers weary of the recession should consider the outcome for the majority of 55-plus homeowners.

“The overwhelming message of the Freddie Mac 55+ Survey is that homeownership works,” said Lowman. “The American Dream delivered greater financial stability and satisfaction to the homeowners who lived through every recession since the 1970s, including the housing crisis of 2008.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Is Pyrrhotite and How Can It Affect My Home?

June 29, 2016 1:04 am

One of the highest-impact issues in the residential construction industry has hit home. Pyrrhotite, an iron sulfide mineral prone to oxidation, has extensively damaged homes in New England—and others may be next.

The effects of pyrrhotite first came to light in Canada in the 1970s, when the mineral’s oxidation process caused foundations to crumble.

New issues have now surfaced, with 1,700 residential buildings potentially at risk. Connecticut alone has issued nearly 30 subpoenas to insurance companies as part of its investigation.

Many of the homes that show pyrrhotite damage were built in the 1980s and 1990s. If you suspect your foundation may be crumbling because of pyrrhotite, contact your insurance company to initiate an inspection.

Remember, cracks may take 10 or more years after the foundation is poured to develop. Reference cracks in the walls and floor individually to secure an adequate recommendation for repair.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Digital Detox: Tips for Summer Travel

June 29, 2016 1:04 am

(Family Features)—Most of us have pledged to unplug while on a vacation—a “digital detox”—only to back-pedal on that promise at the onset. Staying connected, however, can expose travelers to more than a less-than-relaxing excursion.

Security risks are high for vacationers, according to the experts at Intel Security. They are especially vulnerable because they are less inclined to be vigilant while on vacation.

Intel Security’s experts recommend vacationers remain on alert for thieves targeting smartphones, as well as to secure devices that may otherwise give cyber criminals access to personal data.

To lessen the impact should your phone be stolen, back it up before you travel, and set up a password or PIN code for added protection, the Intel Security experts suggest.

Avoid posting information about your vacation on social media before and during the trip. This is type of information can give thieves and cyber criminals the green light to burglarize your home and/or attack your devices.

While on vacation, avoid using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Connecting to an unprotected network could inadvertently give cyber criminals access to your data, including private work-related files you may be viewing while traveling.

Do not unplug, however, when it comes to your finances, Intel Security experts advise. Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. If you believe you have been victimized by a cyber criminal, take action immediately to recover any losses.

Source: Intel Security

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cooks in the Kitchen: Most Keep Mealtime Routines

June 29, 2016 1:04 am

Our habits at home say a lot about who we are—and in the kitchen, our mealtime routines are most telling.

For many of us, dinners are either “cooked from scratch,” warmed up “from the fridge or freezer” or prepared using “shortcuts.” The rest of us buy made-ahead items from the grocery store, carry-out or order in to get dinner on the table.

These are just some of the findings of a recent Harris Poll that assessed behaviors in and around the kitchen, demonstrating that meal preparation is one of the most important activities in the home.

The majority of those surveyed in the Poll cook at least once a week, with approximately one-third cooking every day. Most turn to “back pocket” recipes to prepare meals, and some rely on recipes “of their own design” or “passed down from a family member.” A significant portion of those surveyed obtain recipes from a website or a television program.

The results of the Poll underscore the kitchen’s central role in the household. As the heart of the home, it serves as not only a preparation space, but also a gathering area for loved ones to share the meal.

What are your routines in the kitchen?
 
Source: The Harris Poll

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Big Push to Protect Children with HUD's Lead-Free Toolkit

June 28, 2016 1:01 am

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is working to better protect children from lead-based paint hazards in the home, recently launching The Lead-Safe Homes, Lead-Free Kids Toolkit for families living in HUD-assisted housing. Lead poisoning’s effects are irreversible, and even low levels of lead in a young child can have long-term, devastating consequences.

Announced earlier this summer at the HUD/National Environmental Health Association annual conference, this comprehensive toolkit offers both immediate actions and a long-term vision to address lead in homes.

One of its major components is providing increased resources for families to identify and respond to lead poisoning. This component will connect HUD-assisted housing residents with early education, nutrition programs, counseling and tutoring to combat the impacts of lead exposure; create a mechanism for housing advocates assisting HUD residents to report potential violations of HUD’s lead safety regulations; and launch an online clearinghouse of information for HUD residents about lead hazards, safety and their rights.

HUD recently rolled out the Healthy Homes Basics app, designed to raise awareness about health and safety concerns in the home and offer steps consumers can take to protect themselves. The app is available via Apple iTunes and Google Play.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Hurricane Safety Tips

June 28, 2016 1:01 am

Hurricane season is upon residents in coastal areas around the country, but there are months to go before season’s end. There’s still time to prepare!

Your short list should include the following tasks:

1. Assemble an emergency kit. Set aside provisions of non-perishable food and water, a battery-powered radio, a first-aid kit, a flashlight (with extra batteries), hand tools and a whistle.

2. Gas up. Fill up your tank, provided it is still safe to travel ahead of the storm.

3. Set a plan for your household. Take time to discuss a communication and/or evacuation plan with the members of your household. Decide how best to contact each other in the event of a power outage. Charge all mobile devices—and keep them charged—in the time leading up to the storm.

4. Know your local disaster protocols. Familiarize yourself with your area’s evacuation routes, shelters and any other contingency plans—you may not be able to access this information once a storm hits.

5. Install a backup power source. Set up a portable or whole-home standby generator to keep lights on and necessary appliances operational. Never run a portable generator inside the home, even in an attached garage—this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Source: Generac Power Systems, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Paint Colors Impact Sale Price

June 28, 2016 1:01 am

There are numerous factors that impact a buyer’s decision to make an offer on a home. One of those is color—a feature that may be positively or negatively received by buyers.

A recent Zillow Digs® analysis found that listings with kitchens painted soft shades of yellow sold for more $1,360 more than anticipated. Generally, listings with rooms painted in earthy hues garnered up to $1,300 more than expected at sale, according to the analysis.

Colors to avoid, the analysis found, include slate gray, terracotta, and—contrary to popular belief—white. Generally, listings with rooms painted in dark or white shades sold below expectations.

Specific findings include:

Wheat Yellow Kitchen – $1,360 more
Eggshell/Off-White Kitchen – $82 less

Beige/Oatmeal Bathroom – $283 more
Dark Brown Bathroom – $469 less

Eggplant/Lavender/Mauve Dining Room – $1,122 more
Slate Gray Dining Room – $1,112 less

Dove/Light Gray Living Room – $1,104 more
Terracotta Living Room – $793 less

Khaki/Light Green Bedroom – $1,332 more
Dark Brown Bedroom – $236 less

“A fresh coat of paint is an easy and affordable way to improve a home's appearance before listing,” said Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist, in a statement. “However, to get the biggest bang for your buck, stick with colors that have mass appeal so you attract as many potential buyers to your listing as possible. Warm neutrals like yellow or light gray are stylish and clean, signaling that the home is well cared for, or that previous owners had an eye for design that may translate to other areas within the house.”

The analysis assessed approximately 50,000 sold homes from across the nation.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Slow to Rise

June 27, 2016 1:01 am

Fixed mortgage rates, on average, remain low. According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) is 3.56 percent, with an average 0.6 point, and the average 15-year FRM is 2.83 percent, with an average 0.5 point. The average 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is 2.74 percent, which an average 0.5 point.

Why so low? Mortgage rates are gradually responding to recent fiscal developments, says Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac.

“Mortgage rates have been slow to adjust to the 10-year Treasury yield, which has increased 12 basis points since [the week of June 6, 2016],” Becketti said in a statement. “[Last week’s] survey shows the 30-year fixed-rate inching up to 3.56 percent, only two basis points above last week’s average. The low rates continue to be good news for the housing market, as existing-home sales rose 1.8 percent to a 5.53 million seasonally-adjusted annual rate in the month of May—the highest level since February 2007.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Upgrades Every Homeowner Should Make

June 27, 2016 1:01 am

(Family Features)—Improving your home can grow the value of your investment—if the right upgrades are made. No matter which kind of home you own, these home improvements top the list.

1. Power Backup – Natural disasters are on the rise, and expected to become more impactful in the future. Installing a standby generator system is one upgrade that will pay dividends in peace of mind. Look for a system that has automatic “power management” technology—this will power all of your home’s appliances efficiently and safely.

2. Smart Home Automation – The smart home is here to stay, and more and more homebuyers are looking for properties outfitted with the latest in home automation. Whether it’s an app that flicks on the lights or a thermostat that self-adjusts, integrating this technology can save you from inconvenience, more money and more time.

3. Security – You can’t put a price on safety. From keypad and silent alarms to cameras and motion detectors, a home security system is well worth the expense. Consult a home security expert in your area to determine which system will be most beneficial for your home.

These three upgrades are ideal for any homeowner. Keep these in mind the next time you invest in improving your home—they will be well worth it!

Source: Briggs & Stratton

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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