Category — Real Estate News & Tips

5 Smart, Easy Ways To Add Smart Home Technology To Your Place

Has technology passed your home by? It’s never too late to update it. Whether you just want to bring the home’s function into this century for your personal use or are looking to put it on the market, incorporating some smart home items is, well, a smart strategy.

“The stock advice for homeowners putting a house on the market used to go like this: Give the exterior, or the front door, a fresh coat of paint; tame unruly shrubs; and swap out a few light fixtures. But today’s homebuyers are expecting a little more,” said Consumer Reports. According to Coldwell Banker’s latest annual smart-home survey, most potential homebuyers want smart-home tech preinstalled.”

Specifically, “Seventy-seven percent want smart thermostats, 75 percent want smart smoke detectors, 66 percent want smart home security cameras, and 63 percent want smart locks, to name a few.”

Smart thermostats

Not only will a smart thermostat make your air conditioner function better and make your house more comfortable, it will save you money in the process. “With a smart thermostat, easily control the temperature in your home from a central control panel, with the sound of your voice, or using your mobile device,” said Vivint. “Combined with a smart assistant that intuits and learns your preferences and behaviors, your thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature – saving you valuable time, energy, and money.”

The Nest Thermostat is one of the most popular options on the market. It “currently costs $249 but projects an average savings of around $173 per year,” said UpNest. We also love the ecobee because it has multiple sensors. The latest version, the ecobee4 ($249), also has built-in Amazon Alexa.

Smart door locks

There are lots of smart door locks out there, which eliminate the need for a key and replace it with a keypad and code that are used for entry. But, we love this August Smart Lock, which takes smart home capabilities up a notch.

“This battery operated device sells for $199, and communicates with your smartphone via Bluetooth,” said Nerds on Call. “When the Smart Lock identifies your Bluetooth signal approaching, it unlocks your door, and can lock it behind you if you choose that setting. It also allows you to set up virtual keys for guests, with the ability to grant access for only certain dates and times for each key. The activity log keeps track of when each unique user comes and goes. Perhaps the best part about this smart home upgrade is that it goes over your existing lock, meaning that you can have strong security and an intelligent lock. If you choose, you can pair the Smart Lock with the ‘August Connect’ for $79, which lets guests in and locks the door behind them. The Connect also grants real time status of locked or unlocked, and alerts you instantly when somebody comes or goes.”

The August Smart Lock Pro is also a Consumer Reports fave. “We tested the previous-generation August Smart Lock and found that it offers a wealth of smart features that potential homeowners will appreciate,” they said.

Video doorbell

The humble doorbell has come a long way in the past few years,” said Business Insider. “Gone are the days when all a doorbell would do is alert you to the fact that someone’s at the door. These days, doorbells can connect to your Wi-Fi network to offer enhanced home security with built-in cameras and microphones. Of all the doorbells you can buy, the Ring Video Doorbell 2 (currently $199) is our top pick because it doesn’t have to be hard wired and it has an excellent 1080p camera.”

Smart smoke detectors

If you’ve ever dealt with a smoke detector going off in the middle of the night, this product should thrill you. But, of course, knowing your family is safe is obviously your No. 1 priority. And why not save a little money at the same time, right?

“Another smart technology product, the smart smoke detector, could not only save you money (approximately 5% on your insurance premiums), but could even save your life,” said UpNest. “One 2014 CBS news report cites a figure of 2/3 of all home fire fatalities occurring in residences where the smoke detectors are missing or disabled — which is something many of us have resorted to at one time or other out of sheer frustration when our typical ‘dumb’ detector insists on shrieking an alarm every time we try to fry up some bacon. A smart detector will allow you to keep on frying without fear of interruption. Two such products, the Birdi and the Nest Protect, will not only monitor smoke but also carbon dioxide and general air quality. They can even send an alert to your smart phone or tablet if anything is amiss. These products retail for $119 and $99 respectively.”

Smart irrigation system

The SkyDrop: Smart Irrigation System Controller is a next-level automatic sprinkler system that allows you to control your irrigation from anywhere by using their app, and, “The best part is the irrigation will adjust itself based on your local weather,” said Nerds on Call. “The SkyDrop can be programmed to adhere to local water restrictions in order to contribute to saving water. An amazing part about SkyDrop is that it can calculate how much water your lawn uses every day and adjust the amount of watering time to keep your lawn healthy. This device sells for $200 on Amazon, and connects to your existing irrigation system along with your WiFi network.”

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1017398-20180521-5-smart-easy-ways-to-add-smart-home-technology-to-your-place?rtmpage=

May 21, 2018   No Comments

Eight Signs It’s Time To Move Up

The starter home. It was so cute and quaint and sweet when you bought it, right? But, that was before kids and dogs and overnight quests and holiday dinners that require mathematician-level logistics to finding everyone a seat in a dining room that bursts at six people.

Let’s face it: It’s probably time to move up. Lack of space is the No. 1 reason people start looking for a larger home. Families expand, lifestyles change, and the sheer accumulation of stuff can make a small home feel even tighter. “More than a third of all homebuyers last year were families with kids,” said Dave Ramsey. “And 37% of sellers age 36 and under cited cramped quarters as their reason for moving.”

But running out of room not the only reason to consider moving up.

You’ve got the equity

You may have had to scrimp and save for the down payment on your first home, but, if your home has appreciated, you may be in a completely different financial position this time around. If you’re the type who envisions paying off your home and being free and clear, moving up may not be on your mind. But, for the rest of us, having equity in our current home means greater buying power to buy something bigger or get into a neighborhood we covet.

You’re at each other’s throats

Feeling cramped and living in clutter and hating that you don’t have a space of your own or even a minute to yourself? That can create stress and leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. And, it goes against the general principle of homeownership since your home is supposed to be your sanctuary! Having some extra room to spread out and yard for the kids and dogs to play in can make a real difference in the way your family functions.

Ask yourself if “your quality of life is suffering,” said Unpakt. “This category can include many things: your ever-growing pack of dogs or cats who are driving you crazy. Your cascading piles of fabrics that you use for quilting, but just can’t keep organized in your current space. The lack of a guest room means that when family visits, you’re stuck on the couch. Whatever it might be, if your quality of life has taken a nosedive because your house is too small, well, the answer is pretty clear.”

The neighborhood is changing…and not for the better

One of the reasons you may want to start looking at a new house is because your neighborhood is starting to evolve. Maybe there are new restaurants and bars that have attracted a different crowd or plans for a huge mixed-use project that, while great for the economic potential in the area, could mean more traffic than you want in your quiet little town. Even something like a change in the flight patterns from the local airport can get you thinking about that next home.

Remodeling is price prohibitive

A good real estate agent should be able to give you an idea of what necessary (or wanted) renovations would cost to your existing home. It could be that the amount of work you would need to do on your home to get it where you want it – or get it into tip-top shape for a sale – is beyond what you want to spend. In that case, it might make better financial sense to make small improvements, put it up for sale, and put your money into a new home that better suits your needs.

You don’t want to over-improve for the neighborhood

The other important factor to consider when deciding whether to move or improve your home is how the redone home would sit in your neighborhood. You don’t want to run the risk of doing a bunch of expensive renovations only to have the home sit on the market because it’s overdone and considered overpriced.

“Weighing against renovation is the risk you’ll ‘over-improve’ your home compared with others on the block,” said Bankrate. “When you are in a neighborhood that has starter homes and smaller homes, adding a large addition or doing an extensive renovation may not yield the return one would expect.”

Everyone else has moved on

So, your kids were young and bicycles and basketball nets lined the street when you first fell in love with your home. At the time, it was everything you were looking for. But now, so many of those families have moved on, and the lively street you loved has turned rather sleepy. If you’re still holding on to the memories of what your neighborhood once was, maybe it’s time to find one that better meets your lifestyle needs today.

You’ve crunched the numbers

Presumably, a move-up home is going to be more expensive. Beyond the equity you can use to make the purchase doable, you have to consider the monthly expenses, too. “It’s not just the sticker price on the house; it’s the long-term costs associated with it,” said Realtor.com. “When you go up (in square footage), you get higher property taxes, higher utilities, and more maintenance.” And acquiring more rooms means shelling out for more furniture, too.

You can make sure you can afford a move-up home without becoming “house poor” by “using online affordability calculators to figure out how far you can stretch your dollar.

Written By Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/buyersadvice/item/1017326-20180517-eight-signs-its-time-to-move-up?rtmpage=

 

May 17, 2018   No Comments

5 Ways Tax Reform Has Impacted the 2018 Housing Market

5 Ways Tax Reform Has Impacted the 2018 Housing Market

Starting late last year, some predicted that the 2018 tax changes would cripple the housing market. Headlines warned of the potential for double-digit price depreciation and suggested that buyer demand could drop like a rock. There was even sentiment that homeownership could lose its coveted status as a major component of the American Dream.

Now that the first quarter numbers are in, we can begin to decipher the actual that impact tax reform has had on the real estate market.

1. Has tax reform killed off home buyer demand? The answer is “NO.”

According to the Showing Time Index which “tracks the average number of buyer showings on active residential properties on a monthly basis” and is a “highly reliable leading indicator of current and future demand trends,” buyer demand has increased each month over the last three months and is HIGHER than it was for the same months last year. Buyer demand is not down. It is up.

2. Have the tax changes affected America’s belief in real estate as a long-term investment? The answer is “NO.”

Two weeks ago, Gallup released its annual survey which asks Americans which asset they believed to be the best long-term investment. The survey revealed:

“More Americans name real estate over several other vehicles for growing wealth as the best long-term investment for the fifth year in a row. Just over a third cite real estate for this, while roughly a quarter name stocks or mutual funds.” 

The survey also showed that the percentage of Americans who believe real estate is the best long-term investment was unchanged from a year ago.

3. Has the homeownership rate been negatively impacted by the tax changes? The answer is “NO.”

Not only did the homeownership rate not crash, it increased when compared to the first quarter of last year according to data released by the Census Bureau.

In her latest Z Report,Ivy Zelman explains that tax reform didn’t hurt the homeownership rate, but instead, enhanced it:

“We have been of the opinion that homeownership is most highly correlated with income and the net effect of tax reform would be a positive, rather than negative catalyst for the homeownership rate. While still in the early innings of tax changes, this has proven to be the case.”

4. Has the upper-end market been crushed by new State and Local Taxes (SALT) limitations? The answer is “NO.”

In the National Association of Realtors latest Existing Home Sales Report it was revealed that:

  • Sales between $500,000 and $750,000 were up 4.5% year-over-year
  • Sales between $750,000 and $1M were up 15.1% year-over-year
  • Sales over $1M were up 17.3% year-over-year

5. Will the reforms in the tax code cause home prices to tumble over the next twelve months? The answer is “NO.”

According to CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Insights Report, home prices will appreciate in each of the 50 states over the next twelve months. Appreciation is projected to be anywhere from 1.9% to 10.3% with the national average being 4.7%.

Bottom Line

The doomsday scenarios that some predicted based on tax reform fears seem to have already blown over based on the early housing industry numbers being reported.

Written By: KCM Crew

https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2018/05/10/5-ways-tax-reform-has-impacted-the-2018-housing-market/

 

May 10, 2018   No Comments

How to Clean Your Windows and Keep Them Streak-Free

Have you ever sat in your favorite chair and looked out the window, only to see streaks and smears? Or looked out the kitchen window, only to see a community of spiders and bugs all over your screens? Windows can be a challenge to clean. But here are nine tips, trick and tools that will make your windows clean and clear.
9. Take it outside. When cleaning your exterior windows, you can use a broom wrapped with a rag to remove dust and cobwebs from the glass. Scrub the windows with the same solution of dish soap previously mentioned to lift the dirt off the windows. Dry with either a squeegee or a microfiber cloth.
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Source: https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/93853660/list/how-to-clean-your-windows-and-keep-them-streak-free

April 27, 2018   No Comments

9 Home Improvements That Can Help (and Hurt) Value

Home improvement can be taken as very demanding action,  but there are also some ways of home improvement you can do yourself. Therefore, before you start with any, see what improvements are the most needed in your home. Nowadays, a big attraction is an energy-efficient home which saves a lot of energy and reduces energy costs. On the other hand, maintenance problems and pest or bug infestations are a major turn off and should be looked into ASAP.

We bring you several great pieces of advice you can use to improve your home’s value and feel more comfortable and cozy.

1. Water Filtration System

A water filtration system in your kitchen is a small addition that will appeal to many home buyers and is used for purifying the water. When you have a water filtration system installed in your house, you don’t have to buy bottled water anymore. The best thing is that it’s not expensive at all, and everyone can afford it.

2. Removing Old Carpets

Besides looking old, old carpets might also be hiding contaminants and allergens which means you have bad air quality in your home. Sometimes the best option for testing an indoor air quality is to call a professional company because they will surely do a great job.

Wooden floors are an excellent way to bring the touch of outdoors in your home. Great examples of environmentally friendly natural products are tile or laminated floors. By replacing your old carpets with a hard surface floor, your house will be easier to clean, and you’ll have more time to do things you like.

3. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling

It is no secret that homes with popcorn ceilings are outdated so get rid of this popcorn ceiling fast. To be sure that it does not contain asbestos, it would be best to hire professionals to test it. Replacing Popcorn Ceiling is as simple as buying a solution to soften the texture from the hardware store and scraping the popcorn away.

4. Bathroom Remodeling

Remodeling bathrooms is a great way to add more value to your home. If a full rebuild is not in your budget, you can invest in many small changes that will freshen up your bathroom. Replace the dated wallpaper, old lighting, add some fancy cupboard knobs or change the faucet and shower heads.

5. Kitchen Remodeling

Just like the bathroom, a big kitchen update can do wonders. Stained sinks and old appliances are all things to look at. If replacing the kitchen cabinets is too much for you, you can always give them a new look by adding a new varnish or paint layer and swap those old doorknobs with modern ones.

6. Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance is an ongoing process, no matter if you plan to live in your house for a long time or move soon. Repairing or replacing broken appliances or fixtures will avoid further damage. Certain things are not to be left, and for example, leak spots on the ceiling can cause great damage to your roof if not taken care of immediately. If your home is up for sale, a sign of poor maintenance will make the home seekers wonder what else is wrong with the house.

7. Water Heater Upgrade

An old water heater can be a turn off for some home buyers, but you can find water heaters that come with a tankless model. This kind of water heaters are more efficient as they only heat up the water that you need.

8. Appliance Updates

Nowadays, energy-efficiency is becoming trendy. Appliances with an energy star label use 10 to 50 percent less energy and water than other conventional appliances. New models look great, and many are stainless steel which is a bonus. If you do not have the money for buying modern devices, upgrade the lighting to energy star.

9. Update Fixtures

Fixtures in your home include curtain rods, light fixtures, doorknobs, switch plates, outlet covers, etc. Make sure that these are updated because sometimes it’s the small detail that counts. For example, outlet covers and switch plates look more attractive when made of metal. These changes are easy to do yourself and aren’t so expensive, just be sure you choose the right color which looks great combined with other furniture in your home.

Written By Matt James

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1016748-20180420-9-home-improvements-that-can-help-and-hurt-value?rtmpage=

April 20, 2018   No Comments

Get The Home You Want, Millennials: Smart Strategies For First-Time Homebuyers

Hey, Millennials. Come on into the real estate market! We really need you to buy some homes so we can keep chugging along. Oh, wait. Prices are rising and so are interest rates, plus inventory is scary low. Hmmm. Well, come on in anyway, wontcha?

It’s not easy to buy a home in a hot market where inventory remains at historic lows – and that covers a lot of areas across the country at a wide range of different price points. But it’s especially hard right now for Millennials, who aren’t exactly getting a warm welcome from the market that has been begging them to participate.

“I think it’s fair to say this is the most competitive housing market we’ve seen in recorded history,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, told Curbed. “There’s record low inventory and strong interest from buyers in getting into the housing market. Millennials are reaching prime homebuying age – in 2020, the greatest proportion of that generation will be turn 30 – just as baby boomers are looking to downsize. This has created especially fierce competition for smaller homes, the type of starter homes that most first-time buyers desire. This dynamic can be especially frustrating for young adults because they may be bidding for the same smaller home as someone from an older generation who can lean on the accumulated wealth of decades of homeownership.”

But that doesn’t make buying impossible – just a bit more challenging. Get a leg up by following a few smart strategies.

Work with the right REALTOR®

This is not the right time to give your brother-in-law’s cousin’s neighbor who just got his license a shot. Having a competitive edge is more important than ever, and you need a savvy, experienced, and well-connected real estate agent to help you buy a home.

Work on your down payment

You may be competing against buyers who are coming in with an all-cash offer, which you’re going to have a hard time standing up to. But, there are ways you can make your offer look better. Remember that if it comes down to a multiple-offer situation for your home, sellers won’t just compare the offer prices. They’ll look at your down payment and the terms, and you need to have better terms than the next guy. You may only have 3.5% down, and that may be all you need to qualify for your FHA loan, but that doesn’t mean the seller will embrace you.

“Your down payment is a key part of the offer you present to the seller,” said Money Crashers. “The general rule of thumb is simple: the larger the down payment, the stronger the offer. More precisely: the greater the down payment’s share of the total purchase price, the more likely the seller is to accept.”

If you’re ready to buy and there’s no time to get a second job or go into hyper-savings mode, you can always take advantage of down payment assistance programs like the National Homebuyers Fund or hit up a relative. “If you’re struggling to pool enough cash for your down payment, a generous relative or friend can help by giving you money,” said NerdWallet. “But the money must be a true gift, not a disguised loan, and it must be documented properly through financial statements and a gift letter. If the gift is really a loan that you have to pay back, lenders won’t accept it.”

Be flexible on the closing

If another potential buyer is insistent on a 30-day close, but you could close earlier, later, and even rent back to the seller if need be, you just might end up with the house you want. Flexibility is key to submitting a winning offer, so make sure you have a Plan B – a place to stay for a few days or longer if you’re going to be between houses, and a mover/storage option squared away.

Look in adjacent neighborhoods

Yeah, you have your heart set on a specific neighborhood. But if it’s just not happening, consider the next neighborhood over. Experts say they have great potential upside.

Consider the worst house on the block

Buying the ugly duckling is a top strategy for investors, and one that can get buyers in the door (literally!) if they’re having trouble purchasing move-in-ready homes. “When your budget as a first-time buyer doesn’t stretch to a house in perfect condition in a neighborhood you adore, you might consider buying a home that needs work. Or maybe you’ve watched fixer-upper TV shows and think you could handle sweat equity. Either way, real estate experts say buying a house that needs renovating can make sense as long as you are realistic about the process,” said the Washington Post. “A fixer-upper can be a smart investment, particularly if you can buy a property under market value and then increase its value with the right projects. While some home buyers prefer move-in-ready homes, they are stuck with the choices the previous homeowner or builder picked for their countertops, fixtures and floors. Not only do buyers of fixer-uppers get to select their finishes, they also can make sure the work is done the way they want.”

If you’re worried about how you’re going to pay for all those renovations, ask your real estate agent or lender about a 203(k) loan, which rolls renovation funds into your mortgage. “An FHA 203k loan, (sometimes called a Rehab Loan or FHA Construction loan) allows you to finance not one, but two major items 1) the house itself, and; 2) needed/wanted repairs,” said The Mortgage Reports. “Because the lender tracks and verifies repairs, it is willing to approve a loan on a home it wouldn’t otherwise consider.”

The loan addresses a common problem when buying a fixer home: lenders often don’t approve loans for homes in need of major repairs.”

Waive contingencies before you submit your offer?

Note the question mark. Your real estate professional may caution you against this strategy. But, lenders like Better Mortgage are making it work with a program that “allows buyers in select markets to not only underwrite their finances, but also get the appraised value of their home before they submit an offer. That means they have the option to waive both financing and appraisal contingencies to make their offer as competitive as cash.”

Written By Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice/item/1016724-20180419-get-the-home-you-want-millennials-smart-strategies-for-first-time-homebuyers

April 19, 2018   No Comments

How To Maintain Those Fancy Countertops

Today’s luxury countertops are easy to sell – they are beautiful and durable. Materials such as granite, solid surfaces, and ceramic tiles are making a statement not only about home fashion, but about easy maintenance. But beauty lasts only as long as proper care. Good fabricators will tell you how to clean and maintain your surfaces, but even then, there may be some suggestions that might have slipped through the cracks.

Today’s consumer has a delightful array of choices for countertop surfaces. The rules are being broken with materials crossing design boundaries every day. Concrete is now being formed for countertops instead of floors and Formica(R), the leader in laminate countertops, has entered the flooring arena. Ceramic tiles have come out of the bath and kitchen and are used for decorative as well as surface applications throughout living areas, indoors and out. And marble and granite, once found only in bank buildings, fabulous hotels and ultra residences are being fabricated into floors and countertops for an increasing number of executive homes.

If you are en”counter”ing a luxury surface for the first time, you want to know what kind of cleaning and maintenance products to use so you don’t accidentally etch the stone, strip color or cause any toxic penetrations. This is particularly important on surfaces in which many hands come into contact or food is prepared. So what kind of care do these luxury surfaces require? Let’s begin by grouping the materials into two groups, natural and man-made.

Natural Stone

Natural stone is the earth’s formation of minerals and gases that have slowly cooled and condensed over millions of years into a solid core, forming rock beds of various colors, patterns and degrees of porousness. They include marble, granite, slate, terra cotta, and terrazzo. Thousands of types of stones have been quarried throughout the centuries from all over the world and are finding their way to modern luxury kitchens. Because natural stone is porous, including the most dense stone – granite, it must be sealed to protect the stone from penetrating water or oils. Sealants, known in the industry as impregnators, do not protect the surface as such, but protect moisture from accummulating within the stone itself.

According to Andrew Levine, president of Stone Care International, nothing is maintenance-free, but understanding the nature of your surface will help you provide better maintenance. Stone Care makes specialized products for cleaning and sealing all surfaces, from laminates to solid surfaces to natural stone. “You still have to clean, and cleaning with the right product is important, because choosing the wrong product can cause a problem. Household cleansers are not for all surfaces. Tilex is fine for ceramic tile, but it can actually etch marble. Fantastic and 409 will attack the color and fade stone. Some stones won’t react, but you don’t want to take a chance. You have to choose the right product for the surface.”

“Stone has a PH balance due to its high moisture content. It is a chemical in a solid form, so it has different cleaning requirements. Granite comes from magma – it is a natural acid so it won’t react to acids, but marble is an alkalai, recrystallized limestone. It is vulnerable to acids like orange juice and colas.”

Solid surface, ceramic tile, concrete

Unlike natural stone, solid surfaces and ceramic tile are man-made materials that are produced in factories. Solid surfaces, better known by name brands such as Avonite and Corian, are pressure/heat treated products in which the pigment of the surface design is consistent all the way through the countertop. As with natural stone, solid surface materials are custom fabricated for each kitchen. They are most in danger from burning, but should the worst happen, those without high gloss finishes can be sanded to restore the countertop.

Most complaints about solid surfaces center on their tendency to streak. Newspaper and fingerprints are particularly difficult to clean, along with any greasy residues. A cleanser that cuts grease, doesn’t streak, and doesn’t eat through the material is required. “Again, what you find in the supermarket may not be adequate. Windex is often used, because it won’t hurt solid surfaces and it doesn’t streak, but it doesn’t really clean either,” advises Levine.

Concrete is mixed, poured, stained, sanded and fabricated for a variety of looks including old world or very urban contemporary. Like natural stone, it requires a sealant to protect it from stains, moisture penetration and accompanying bacteria.

Ceramic tile receives a permanent glaze right in the kiln, making it fairly maintenance-free. The grout, which is porous, can have stain and sealer added to blend with the tile, and most tile can be laid so closely that the grout is not a problem. Although tile is the most vulnerable surface to chipping, it cleans easily with most over-the-counter products. Levine adds, “Ceramic tile makes a good surface. It comes from mudstone, and it is pretty safe, but watch out for products like drain openers.”

For a complete list of cleansers and sealants for a wide variety of countertops, visit Stone Care International.

Written By Realty Times Staff

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice/item/1016578-20180413-how-to-maintain-those-fancy-countertops

April 13, 2018   No Comments

Is Your Home A Burglar Magnet?

Is Your Home A Burglar Magnet? Quizzle.com

The thought of a home break-in is terrifying, but are you doing everything you can to prevent one? You might be making critical mistakes that make your home a burglar magnet, or, at least failing to take advantage of easy fixes to make your home less attractive to thieves.

While break-ins have been declining over the past decade, “It’s estimated that a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States,” said Safety.com. “That means that during the 10 minutes it takes you to read this post, approximately 40 homes will have been burglarized.” Taking a few steps now can help ensure you’re not one of the unlucky ones.

Protecting your house during the day

“When someone breaks into your house, it’s usually in the middle of the night – a masked, anonymous man swipes your jewelry before fleeing in an unmarked car. Right? Nope,” said Architectural Digest. The publication quoted Dr. Joseph Kuhns, a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who was part of a groundbreaking study on the effects of alarms on crime and criminal behavior. “Myths about burglars abound,” he said. The reality is that one in four robberies involve a known associate or the homeowner or renter, many robberies take place during the afternoon – female robbers, and there are plenty, tend to prefer this time – and most often the victim’s medicine cabinet is the real target. Most burglaries are drug-involved.”

That means making sure a home is secure during the day is every bit as important as securing it at night.

Examining the exterior of your home by walking the perimeter and taking note of areas of concern is the first step. “The best way to protect your home from the outside is to survey it with the eyes of a burglar,” said HomeAdvisor. “If you can easily tell that a window could be pried open, a thief will definitely be able to come to the same conclusion. You can even contact your local police department and they’ll provide a courtesy home assessment that can help you identify your home’s weak spots.”

Leaving doors or windows open

The number of burglars who are able to access a home through a window or door that was left unlocked is disturbing. Making sure locks are strong and in good working order is key to protecting your place.

“Most burglars reported entering open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open,” said Alarm.org. In fact, security experts estimate that almost 70% of burglars enter your home through a door. “Only about one in eight burglars reported picking locks or using a key that they had previously acquired to gain entry.”

Upgrade your door

You can help make sure you’re not one of the ones who comes home to a kicked-in door by making a smart upgrade. A solid wood door that can’t be easily breached might just make someone turn around and move on to another home.

Get a deadbolt

New door or not, adding a deadbolt is a great deterrent for criminals. A Reddit post on the topic of home burglary asked thieves how to keep a home safe from theft. The consensus: The sight of a deadbolt will likely make a burglar choose another home. Other types of locks can be easily picked, and often it takes no more than the swipe of a credit card.

Change the locks

Did you change the locks when you moved in to your house? Whether you just took possession today or have lived in the home for a few years, getting a fresh new lock and set of keys is easy, and smart. You never know if there is a key floating around out there that could give someone immediate access to your place.

Don’t hide a key

While we’re talking about keys…that whole key under the rock thing isn’t fooling anyone. It’s time to cut that out.

Secure sliding doors

Sliding patio doors can be an open invitation to burglars because they typically create a simple forced entry opportunity. A curtain rod or pole cut to size and placed in the sliding track can keep the door from budging. This easy, budget-friendly tip can make the difference between a home that is an easy target and one that causes a criminal to look elsewhere.

A poorly lit yard

When the sun goes down, it’s time time to apply another layer of protection to keep your home and your family safe, and lights are a great place to start. Not only will a good lighting system out front highlight your home and landscaping, but it will make it less likely that your home will be targeted. Motion sensor lighting is great, especially for darker areas, and newer products combine motion sensors with video playback.

Be smart about lighting

Just as you want your home to be well-lit to discourage a would-be burglar, you don’t want it to be too lit at certain times. A home whose lights stay on all night long for a few days in a row is a tipoff to someone casing the neighborhood that the residents are probably on vacation. That makes your home a great candidate to be burglarized.

Trim those hedges

Tall hedges or other greenery close to the house can act as hiding places for burglars. If you do want landscaping up close to your house, HomeAdvisor suggest planting “thorny shrubs by your windows to make it not only difficult to break in, but painful!”

And don’t forget about second-stories. A tree can be climbed for access to a window, so prune those branches!

Get to know your neighbors

You know when nosy neighbors can come in really handy? When they notice and alert you to questionable activity around your home. HomeAdvisor reports that, “Crime tends to be lower in tight-knit communities because neighbors are more likely to look out for each other and can easily spot a stranger. Your neighbors can be one of your best assets in home crime prevention because they offer extra eyes and an outside perspective. Plus, if they have a different work or school schedule from yours, they might be around during the day when you’re away and can alert you to any suspicious activity that may occur in your absence.”

If you’re somewhat of an introvert and don’t want to physically meet your neighbors, at least join Nextdoor to keep up with neighborhood happenings online. You might learn about a crime spree or suspicious individuals in your neighborhood to look out for.

Keep your plans to yourself

You may want to brag online about your European vacation and post pictures from every city on your month-long tour, but consider who’s seeing or hearing what you’re putting out there.

“Whether you announce your big vacation on Facebook or you and a friend discuss an upcoming business trip at a coffee shop, mentioning travel in public forums is dangerous,” said A Secure Life. “In these types of situations, anyone could overhear you and know that your home is going to stand empty for a few days, creating the perfect opportunity to target your home. It’s especially important to emphasize to children that when they mention outings innocently on their social networking pages, they are opening the door to strangers who might want to burglarize your home while you’re out.”

Get an alarm

If you’re on the fence about the expense of an alarm system, consider this: According to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte study, “A majority of burglars considered the presence of deterrents such as alarms, outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment when choosing a potential residential or commercial target,” said Alarm.org. “Approximately 83 percent of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary, and 60 percent said they would seek an alternative target. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars who were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary.”

A key piece of data from the study is the fact that, “Among those who discovered the presence of an alarm while attempting a burglary, half reported they would discontinue the attempt, while another 31 percent said they would sometimes retreat. Only 13 percent said they would always continue the attempt even after an alarm had been discovered.”

Get a security camera

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte study also found that video surveillance was a top choice for theft deterrent. “Nearly 60 percent of the burglars said they would consider the presence of cameras or other video equipment when selecting a target, and more than 40 percent said that would be a factor in prompting them to choose another target,” said Safety.com. “You’ll need indoor and/or outdoor security cameras with night vision and a decent hard drive to record a few days’ worth of video. If you can’t afford the real thing, fake cameras can also work as a good deterrent; just make sure they’re quality fakes and not cheap plastic that thieves will easily identify as dummies.”

Mind your porch

Package theft is one of the fastest-growing crime categories around. Home deliveries are tempting for would-be crooks looking to snatch your stuff. And, if thieves think you’re an easy mark for stealing packages, they may come back for more, or get more aggressive about their tactics. You can eliminate this temptation by only scheduling deliveries for when you’ll be home.

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1014250-20180125-is-your-home-a-burglar-magnet?rtmpage=

January 25, 2018   No Comments

Weather Winterizing Moves You Should Be Making Right Now

The bomb cyclone that hit the East Coast this week was a good reminder for everyone, regardless of whether your area is accustomed to winter weather (We’re talking to you, Northeast and Midwest) or not (Hello, Florida!). There are some easy steps you can take to protect your home from winter wear and tear, even if snow isn’t in your forecast, to make it function better and keep it – and you – safe.

Protect your home from frozen pipes

If you already live in an area where hard freezes are a regular occurrence, you probably know how to protect your pipes. For everyone else, it’s important to understand what happens when water freezes and how to avoid catastrophes at home. “Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes,” said the American Red Cross. “This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.

A few tips include opening “kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.” You can get more tips on the Red Cross website.

Turn off sprinklers

The last thing you want is a winter wonderland of ice outside your house because you forgot to turn off the sprinklers. With the weather conditions turning on a dime these days, you could very well have warm sunshine on a Tuesday and get a wicked snowstorm on Thursday.

Check your heater

It’s not too late to have a tune-up if you haven’t had your heating unit checked out this year. Experts recommend an annual check, and if you’re overdue, you could be running the risk of your heat clunking out in the middle of a sub-zero storm.

Do a roof check

Get out that ladder (or hire someone who’s willing to do the climbing) to make sure your roof is in good shape. Heavy snow and ice from last year or a more recent storm could have compromised some of the shingles, and you want to catch the issue before the roof starts leaking.

Invest a few bucks in some caulk

Air leaks in your home can stress your heating system and jack up your heating bills. A little fix can make a big difference. “If the gaps between siding and window or door frames are bigger than the width of a nickel, you need to reapply exterior caulk. (Check the joints in window and door frames, too.) Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it’s impervious to the elements,” said Kiplinger. “Check window-glazing putty, too (which seals glass into the window frame). Add weatherstripping as needed around doors, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside your home.”

Check for other drafts

“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, drafts can waste 5 to 30 percent of your energy use,” said Popular Mechanics. “Start simple and adopt that old Great Depression fixture – the draft snake, which you can easily make yourself. Just place a rolled bath towel under a drafty door.”

Clean out your gutters

Even if you had this done before the cold weather arrived, you might want to do a re-check. The “bomb cyclone” was described as a “snow hurricane”; that could have left all kinds of debris in your gutters, just waiting to cause problems next time there’s rain or snow.

Turn off outside faucets

“Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets,” said Kiplinger. “If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.”

Decrease the amount of time between filter change-outs

“Yes it’s easy to forget, but it’s important to replace or clean furnace filters once a month during the heating season,” said Popular Mechanics. “Dirty filters restrict airflow and increase energy demand. Here’s a worry-saving tip: Mark a monthly check on your calendar.”

Flip the switch on your ceiling fans

Most ceiling fans have a switch that changes the direction of the blades. This is one of our favorite cold-weather tips because not only can it help make you more comfortable in your home by forcing some of the warm air that collects near the ceiling down into the room, but it can also save you as much as 10 percent on your heating bill!

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1013680-20180108-weather-winterizing-moves-you-should-be-making-right-now?rtmpage=

 

January 8, 2018   No Comments

A Lack of Listings Remains ‘Huge’ Challenge in the Market

A Lack of Listings Remains ‘Huge’ Challenge in the Market | Keeping Current Matters

The housing crisis is finally in the rearview mirror as the real estate market moves down the road to a complete recovery. Home values are up, home sales are up, and distressed sales (foreclosures & short sales) are at their lowest mark in over 8 years. This has been, and will continue to be, a great year for real estate.

However, there is one thing that may cause the industry to tap the brakes: a lack of housing inventory. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), buyer traffic and demand continues to be the strongest it has been in years. The supply of homes for sale has not kept up with this demand and has driven prices up in many areas as buyers compete for their dream home.

Traditionally, the winter months create a natural slowdown in the market. Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at realtor.com, points to low interest rates as one of the many reasons why buyers are still out in force looking for a home of their own.

“Overall, the fundamental trends we have been seeing all year remain solidly in place as we enter the traditionally slower sales season, and pent-up demand remains substantial as buyers seek to get a home under contract while rates remain so low.”

NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, points out that the inventory shortage we are currently experiencing isn’t a new challenge by any means:

“Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in. Unfortunately, there won’t be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand.”

Bottom Line

Healthy labor markets and job growth have created more and more buyers who are not just ready and willing to buy but are also able to. If you are debating whether or not to put your home on the market this year, now is the time to take advantage of the demand in the market.

 

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Source: http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2016/11/15/a-lack-of-listings-remains-huge-challenge-in-the-market/

November 16, 2016   No Comments