Category Archives: Consumer Advice

Selling Your Home? The Bathroom Is One of the Most Important Rooms

It’s been said that “kitchens and bathrooms” sell houses.  So, when you are ready to sell your home, here are some tips on how to “show” your bathroom in all of its glory.

First of all, concentrate on getting it as clean as possible.  There are many products on the market that will easily get rid of mildew. Lighten up the grout between the tiles. Get rid of soap scum.  Make sure mirrors and the shower door glass sparkles.

Second, remove stuff from the counter tops.

Third, hide the plunger and trash cans.

Fourth, remove the rugs.  They make a bathroom look smaller. Make sure the floor is clean.

Fifth, if you have a master bathroom, make it appear as an “oasis.”  Place some candles around the soaking tub. A couple of plush towels.  Maybe a fern or orchid plant.

The whole goal is to make the bathroom inviting and not have a buyer think they are walking into a locker room.

Preventing Break-Ins: How to Keep Your Home Safe from Thieves

A View from the Beach

It’s been reported that in the US, a home is robbed every 14.6 seconds.  The average loss is just a little over $2,000.  So, if you have a $1,000 deductible on your homeowner’s insurance policy, only half of your loss would be covered.

Here are some strategies for keeping your home safe from would-be thieves:

Tear up cardboard boxes – There’s no better way for thieves to see that you just bought a new TV, computer, microwave, than by the empty box that is left alongside the trash containers.  Tear/cut them up and bundle them so they are inconspicuous.

Lock doors and windows – It may seem obvious, but most thieves gain access through open doors and windows that someone forgot to lock.

Don’t hide your keys in the obvious places – Thieves look for the “fake rock.”  The ledge above the door.  The door mat.  Consider leaving it with a neighbor, or in a less conspicuous location.

Don’t announce your plans on social network sites – While you may be excited to share your vacation plans (or a trip out of town for a wedding or funeral), don’t announce the dates you will be leaving and returning.  Wait till you return to post your pictures.

Do a little landscaping – Cut back bushes and trees that may hide windows and doors, which may also hide a thief from view.

Replace light bulbs – Another obvious strategy, but a well-lighted house will thwart thefts.

Close drapes/blinds – Giving someone a clear view of what you have inside can be trouble.  Even if you are leaving your home for a short period of time, close the drapes or blinds so thieves can’t see what you own.

Just a little prevention can save you money, as well as the heartache of someone violating your private space.

What about Those Energy Audits?

What is an energy audit?

It’s an audit by a qualified company to determine the efficiency of your heating, insulation, doors, windows, etc.

The audit considers a home a “system” where the components work together to determine where you might improve and save money on energy costs.

The contractor provides a series of tests.

A blower door test and a duct blaster test are done.  This determines if there are potential “leaks” that can be plugged around windows, doors and furnace area.

They also should check for air-flow pressure, energy efficiency, moisture and air-quality issues.

Here’s the thing.

Many of the recommendation are inexpensive fixes.  You normally don’t have to replace windows or doors—just provide additional insulation.

Good air flow may be a matter of cleaning your furnace or servicing your air conditioning unit.

Most of all, you may save a ton of money in energy costs.

What Can You Do To Make Your Home Appraise Higher?

If you are considering refinancing your current mortgage, the mortgage company usually (but not always) requires an appraisal.

I recently read an article co-written by a couple of appraisers with some tips on how you can help ensure the highest and most accurate value of your home.

  1. Clean up the yard. Appraisers are required to take pictures of the home. If you have stuff laying around the yard or several cars in the driveway, move them before the appraiser arrives.
  1. Clean the house. They also take pictures of the rooms in your home.  Store stuff in closets.  Under the bed.  In the garage.  That may help you get a higher value.
  1. Make repairs. Maybe there is a hole in the drywall.  Or water stains from a plumbing leak.  Be sure to repair those before the appraiser arrives
  1. Lay out a sketch of your home. If you had a previous appraisal or you built your home, provide those to the appraiser.
  1. Improvements – If you made any improvement to the home, let the appraiser know. Providing copies of invoices and a list of updates within the last 5 years or so will also help.
  1. Other home sales in your area. If you know of any homes (like yours) that have sold within the last 6 months, mention that to the appraiser and ask them to check them out.
  1. Best home feature. Tell the appraiser what you like about the home.  Its location and its best “feature” (i.e., open floor plan).
  1. Safety features. Does the local government require smoke or carbon monoxide detectors?  Make sure those are installed and functioning correctly.

Please contact me if you are considering refinancing your home to lower your payment, to pay off debts or get some cash to buy a car or pay for college.

Recycling Facts I’d Like to Share with You

Recycling is one of the easiest ways we can help save the environment.  I wanted to share a few facts that made me realize the impact we can all have if we take the time to sort paper, plastic and glass.

Paper

 By recycling just 1/10th of newspapers distributed, it would save 25,000 trees per year.

  • The average household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper a year.
    • That includes – magazines, catalogs, phone books, direct mail, brochures, pamphlets, booklets, cereal, cake, cookie and cracker boxes.

Plastic

 Americans generate 10.5 tons of plastic per year with only 2% being recycled

  • Plastic items to recycle
    • Remove plastic tops from containers.
    • Empty content and Rinse plastic jars with water before recycling.
    • Crush plastic containers to create more space in your recycling bin
    • Check the bottom of the plastic containers to make sure they are recyclable.

Glass

  • All glass is 100% recyclable
  • Recycled glass is reusable and lowers manufacturing costs when reformed into a new glass container.
  • Glass items to be recycle
    • Dump and rinse out contents of the glass container
    • Remove the plastic tops and recycle with plastics
    • You do not have to remove the labels from the glass as they are incinerated during the crushing or melting process

Do you have any other recycling tips that I can add to this list?  I’d love to hear from you.

8 Things You can do to Spruce Up Your Yard

1.    Trim trees and bushes

Stand in front of your home and take a good look.  Are there any dead tree branches?  Dead or scrawny-looking bushes? Can you see your home or it is hidden from view because of the over growth.  Now go to your back yard and do the same thing.

2.    Get rid of stuff

Is there a ladder next to your home?  Paint cans?  Tools?  Toys everywhere?  Sometimes, it’s been there so long you don’t notice it anymore.  Just put everything in its proper place.

3.    Add some color

Plant flowers that are suited for our climate.  Invest in colorful flower pots and place them on your porch, patio or deck.

4.    Remove dead plants

Not all flowers or plants that you plant will live.  Remove those immediately.  Also remove them at the end of the growing season.

5.    Add mulch

Mulch is like icing on a cake.  Distribute it around trees, bushes and flowers.  It’s on the least expensive ways the spruce up your yard and make it look spectacular.

6.    Outdoor furniture

If you already have outdoor furniture, does it need a facelift?  Replacing cushions or spray painting furniture will bring them back to life.  Should you add a few pieces of furniture?  Maybe a small bench by the front door.  A small table and chairs for the back yard.  Maybe some lawn are.  Or a bench under a tree.

7.    Outdoor lighting

Are light bulbs burned out?  Is the glass dirty or have cobwebs?  Are they rusted and need to be replaced?  Outdoor light fixtures are relatively inexpensive and also can make a huge impact.

8.    Pressure washing

The equipment can be rented.  Pressure wash patios, sidewalks, the siding on your home.  This will turn the dull look into a fresh look.

By keeping your yard looking great, there won’t be much you need to do when you are ready to list your home for sale.

Avoiding Ransomware Attacks!

A View from the Beach

What is “ransomware”?

It’s a cybercrime where hackers hold your computer files for “ransom” and ask you for money to release the files back to you. When you log on to your computer, a screen will pop up, telling you that you cannot access your files unless you pay them money (they usually ask for a dollar amount to be paid in bitcoins so the money can’t be traced) and they will also give you a time limit to pay the money or you will lose your files forever.

Here are some of the ways they are able to access your files:

Baiting: Attackers will leave a USB flash drive in a place sure to be found. A person thinks they have just found a spare flash drive, but when they plug it into their computer, they have unintentionally installed malware.

Phishing: A person received what they “think” is a legitimate email, from a trusted source. But it is meant to trick you into sharing personal or financial information. Or you may be asked to click a link, which installs the malware and takes control of the computer.

Whaling: A type of fraud that targets high-profile end users, such as corporate executives, politicians and celebrities. It’s meant to trick the receipt into generating a transfer of funds into their financial institution, but the link actually goes to the attacker’s untraceable bank account.

Pretexting: This is usually a phone call or text where the attacker asks personal information to gain access to your accounts or computer.

Scareware: Tricking the person to make them think that their computer has been infected with malware or that illegal content. The attacker then offers to fix the problem by downloading software to fix the problem. In reality, you are installed malware.

Often times, the email will look authentic. They copy logos. They use words to make you think that they are specifically talking to you.

Check the email address that appears after the @ sign. It’s usually phony or has letters, numbers or the company name is “almost” correct.

If you really think that it’s an email from your bank, your mortgage company, your insurance agent, call them or forward the email to them and ask them if they actually sent this to you.