Category Archives: Consumer Advice

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.

The Right Score

When is your “credit score” irrelevant in buying a house or refinancing a home loan? A new federal legal settlement with a major credit bureau has the answer: The only score that matters is the one your lender uses to evaluate you, not some random score you got on a website. All the others you might buy or see — there are dozens of them hawked on the Internet — may be interesting, but they won’t affect the interest rates you’re quoted, the fees you’re charged or whether your application gets approved or rejected.

The new legal settlement from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau alleges that Experian, one of the big three credit reporting bureaus, “deceptively marketed credit scores to consumers by misrepresenting” them as “the same” as what their lender would use in determining whether and on what terms to offer them a loan. Experian’s promotions appeared on third-party websites, banner and display ads, direct mailings and sites such as AnnualCreditReport.com.

Which brings us back to home loans. If you’re like many home buyers and owners, you’ve seen online pitches and ordered your scores, often free. They may have come with tie-ins to credit card offers or credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. One site may have said your score is 788, ranking you as “excellent” on their scale. Then you apply to a lender for a preapproval and get the sobering news: Your middle FICO score — lenders usually pull scores from all three bureaus — is a 716, and that’s what we’ve got to use to price your loan. The score is okay, but it’s 85 points below where you thought you were, and below the cutoff point for the best interest rates and terms.

The FICO score your lender pulls for your application may not be the same as the score your credit card company might be sending you every month online. Or, perplexingly, it might even be different from the FICO score you get on MyFICO.com. That’s because FICO has introduced multiple models over the years, each with what the company describes as consumer-friendly improvements. The latest is FICO 9. The most widely used is FICO 8. The bottom line? Never depend on generic scores available online as part of your home financing planning process.

Source: Ken Harney, The Nation’s Housing

Want to know your right score and you’re looking for a mortgage?  Contact us and we will run a mortgage credit report for you

Protect Your Home

Fifty-six percent of consumers recently surveyed believe that a standard homeowner’s policy covers flood damage. But they’re mistaken, and their assumption could be a costly mistake. The survey by insuranceQuotes of about 1,000 consumers shows a lot of misunderstandings when it comes to home insurance and what’s covered and what’s not. “Being misinformed about your home policy can be an extremely expensive mistake—especially when a few inches of water in a 1,000 square-foot home can easily cost over $10,000 in repairs,” says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at insuranceQuotes. “There are a number of widespread myths ranging from coverage for dog bites to items stolen from your car that frequently trip up policyholders.” Consumers tend to overestimate the amount of coverage they have when it comes to flooding protection, according to the study.

Further, 81 percent of survey respondents knew that valuables stolen from their home were covered under most standard homeowner’s policies, yet only 28 percent knew that renter’s insurance would cover valuables stolen from their cars. “It’s critical for consumers to thoroughly explore their options and really understand the protections that are included or excluded with a standard renter’s or home insurance policy,” says Adams. “Don’t wait until right before a big storm is headed your way to get coverage because there may be a waiting period.”

Source: REALTOR® Magazine

 

Don’t Give Up on Internet Leads

Now, I’m not talking about the leads you get from Zillow or lead-generation websites.

Internet marketers will tell you that when you buy leads, be prepared to call them within 3 minutes (yes, minutes) of getting the lead. And, most of the time, those leads are either poor leads or the information is “sold” multiple times to other real estate agents.

I’m talking about self-generated leads. Leads from your website. An unsolicited email. A Google search by the client. Phone calls.

The beauty of self-generated leads is:

  • They are contacting you because they really don’t have a connection with another real estate agent.
  • If you can convey that you are “the expert” and you can build trust right away, they will be loyal to you.
  • Rarely do you have an argument about commission rates.
  • They have usually researched info about you ahead of time and that’s why they decided to contact you.
  • Consider it a long-term lead and keep in touch on a regular basis
  • They are not always 6 to 12 to 18 months out from buying or selling

When they contact you by email, your contact form from your website, a phone call — interview them!

In addition to the normal questions regarding the type of property, the dollar amount, if they need a mortgage, have they been pre-approved, ask them these questions:

  • Why did you choose to contact me?
  • What type of service do you expect from a real estate agent?
  • What type of information are you “specifically” looking for?

Set up your database. Don’t ask them how often they would like you to keep in touch with them. TELL THEM how often they can expect to hear from you.

And most importantly, call or email them when you say you are going to!

How to Fix a Running Toilet

  1.   Open the tank. Reach in and push down the flapper. If the water stops running, that means   that the flapper needs to be replaced.
  2.   Shut off the water supply. Flush and drain the water in the tank.
  3.   Remove the flapper.
  4.   Take the old one to the hardware store to make sure you buy the right one.
  5.   Follow the installation instructions.
  6.   Adjust the chain so that the flapper lies flat, with just a little slack.

Note: If the water doesn’t stop running when you push down the flapper, it may mean that the water level in the tank is too high. The water level should be about ½ inch BELOW the plastic drain pipe.

If the running does not stop and all else fails – call a plumber.