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Homeownership: A New Year’s Resolution That Lasts

Posted in Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Manors of Deerwood, New Homes with tags , , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Why not make this year’s resolution one that will last long into the future — long after you’ve stopped bothering to set the alarm an hour early to go for a run. Deciding to become a home owner is possibly the best resolution you can make.

According to a 2012 nationwide poll, 96 percent of home owners are happy with their decision to own, and 74 percent say that owning a home is the best long-term investment they can make.

Lot 389DW (Manors of Deerwood | Clarkston, Michigan)
Here are some tips
to help you make good decisions for your homeownership resolution:

  • First, figure out how much you can afford. This depends on factors including your credit rating, your current expenses, cost of a down payment and interest rates. Don’t forget that you will need a down payment up front and money to make monthly mortgage payments.
  • Check your credit report carefully. Inaccurate information on your credit report could result in lenders offering you loans with higher-than-market interest rates or denying your application altogether.
  • Then find a lender you trust and work well with. Ask your friends, family and neighbors who own their homes for recommendations. Work with a qualified lender on getting together a budget and collecting helpful advice before buying a home.
  • When shopping for a mortgage, consider all of your options. There are many choices in terms of a loan and not everyone is right for every buyer. Don’t forget to research Federal Housing Administration (www.fha.com) programs that offer loans with lower down payments. They are often a good option for first-time buyers.
  • Keep in mind that there are tax advantages to being a home owner that can help offset costs. Depending on your specific situation, often the closing costs and some other first year costs of purchasing a home are deductible. And the mortgage interest deduction (MID) enables many home owners to reduce their taxable income by the amount of interest paid on their mortgage loan each year. More than 70 percent of home owners with a mortgage are able to claim the MID in a given year.
  • The U.S. Housing and Urban Development website (portal.hud.gov) has loads of information for home buyers, including tools to help you figure out how much you can afford, how to shop for a loan, information on how to avoid predatory lending and an explanation of the settlement process.
  • Finally, learn about the neighborhoods where you are interested in buying. Visit areas you are interested in at different hours, talk to people who live there, and find a real estate agent that you trust and knows the neighborhoods you like.

With careful and thorough planning, you will be moving into your new home before you know it. If you have questions about the home buying process, visit nahb.org/timetobuy.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

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Prepare Your Home for Severe Winter Weather

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Maintenance, Homeownership, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on January 15, 2014 by Pat Hansen

While not all parts of the country experience snow and ice storms and severe cold during the winter months, many do, and it is important to be prepared for winter weather before it strikes.

Snow Covered (Fairfield Home Plan | Clarkston, Michigan
The National Weather Service
calls winter storms “Deceptive Killers” because people don’t often die as a direct result of the weather, but due to hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold or in traffic accidents caused by hazardous driving conditions. Winter weather can also knock out heat, power and communications services to your home, sometimes for days at a time.

Here are some tips from the Department of Homeland Services’ Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help you keep your home and family safe and comfortable during the cold winter months and extreme winter weather.

  • Attic in need of insulationExtend the life of your fuel supply by winterizing your home. Insulate walls and attics, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and install storm windows. An economical alternative to storm windows is to cover them with plastic on the inside.
  • To help prevent pipes from freezing, insulate them with foam wrap or newspaper and turn on your faucets so they drip a tiny bit.
  • Debris in gutter needs to be clearedClear rain gutters so that they don’t fill with water, then freeze and tear away from your roof due to the added weight. Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home during a storm.
  • Make sure all your fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside, and the vent openings are clear of debris and snow.
  • Learn how to shut off your main water valve in case your pipes do freeze and burst.
  • Furnace inspectionHave your heating equipment and chimney cleaned and inspected every year.
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of your roof to sustain the weight of accumulated snow or water (in case the drains don’t work on flat roofs).

During the winter, many people turn to alternate heating and power sources. There is an increased risk of electric shock, house fire or carbon monoxide poisoning if the necessary safety precautions are not taken:

  • Keep fire extinguishers around the home, and make sure all family members know how to use them.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning device inside your home, garage, basement, crawl space or any partially enclosed area. Don’t place the unit near a door, window or vent where carbon monoxide could come indoors.

To learn more about routine maintenance, energy efficiency, safety and more in order to protect and properly care for your home, go to nahb.org/forconsumers.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Making and Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted in Holidays, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle with tags , , , , on December 27, 2013 by Pat Hansen

New Year (IMG_1436) (HubSpot)We are almost at the time of the year when people make promises to themselves in an effort to enrich their lives and self-improve during the New Year. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking or save some cash, there are some universal tips that will help you keep your New Year’s resolution.

  • Make it something you really want. Don’t make it a resolution that you “should” want or what other people tell you to want. It has to fit with your own values.
  • Limit your list to a number you can handle. It’s probably best to make two or three resolutions that you intend to keep. That way, you are focusing your efforts on the goals you truly want.
  • Be specific. To be effective, resolutions and goals need to be very specific. Instead of saying or thinking, “I need to exercise more”, exchange it with, “I’m working out at the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5:30 p.m.”
  • Resolutions ListMake a plan. Rather than stating one daunting goal, create a series of smaller steps to reach it. Have an action plan and figure out exactly what you want to do. For example, if you want to exercise regularly but love spending time with your friends, getting the group together to walk regularly could give you a short-term payoff and help you to meet the long term goal.
  • Automate. Automating financial goals can maximize your odds for success without you having to do anything. If your goal is to save $3,000 this year, calculate the amount out of each check, then arrange to have it automatically deposited into your savings account each time you get paid.
  • Be prepared to change some habits. One reason that resolutions fail is people don’t change the habits that sabotage them. One approach is to realize that all you ever have is the present moment, so ask what you can do now that will get you closer to your goal. It could mean trade-offs such as sacrificing an hour of couch time for your new goals. That’s how you get resolutions implemented.
  • Goals (7K0A0223) (HubSpot)Write down the goal and visualize it regularly. Writing and visualizing are effective tools for fulfilling a goal because they fix it firmly in the subconscious. If you write down your goals, put them in a prominent place where you will view them regularly, such as on the fridge or on own your desk.
  • To tell or not to tell? Having someone hold you accountable can be a powerful tool. Skip the naysayers, but if you have one or two people in your life who will act as cheerleaders or coaches, share the goal with them.
  • Forgive yourself. If you fall off the wagon, jump back on. Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they stumble, they should give up. The truth is you don’t have to wait for next year or for some magic moment. Instead, realize that slipping is part of the process; then get back to your goals.

Crime Prevention Month Tips to Protect Your Home

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety with tags , , on October 9, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Owning a home is the most valued long-term investment most Americans ever make. And owning your home is much more than a material asset, homeownership builds a sense of stability, pride, accomplishment and peace of mind. So protecting your home—and your loved ones that live in it—is a top priority for most families.

During Crime Prevention Month in October, here are some tips from the National Crime Prevention Council (www.ncpc.org) to keep your home and your family safe from crime.

Inside your home:

  • Alarm (pippalou | morgueFile.com)

    Alarm | Photo credit: pippalou | morgueFile.com

    If you have an alarm system, don’t write your passcode on or near the alarm keypad.

  • Install key locks, pins or other secure locks on every window and sliding glass door.
  • Secure windows and sliding doors with secondary blocking devices such as a stick or broom handle.
  • Use anti-lift devices to prevent windows and glass doors from being lifted out.
  • Use high quality Grade-1 or -2 locks with a bolt that extends at least one inch into the door frame to resist prying open or forceful entry.
  • Use automatic timers to switch indoors lights on and off if you’re going to be away from home overnight.
  • Keep a home inventory of valuables including serial numbers, pictures and sales receipts and keep a copy of the inventory in a safe place somewhere other than your home.

Outside your home:

  • Padlock (mconnors | morgueFile.com)

    Padlock | Photo credit: mconnors | morgueFile.com

    Lock gate latches, garage doors and sheds with high-security, laminated padlocks.

  • Keep your yard, porch, garage doors, pathways and entrances well-lit at night, either with permanent lighting or motion-detecting lights that turn on when someone comes within a certain distance.
  • Trim plants and shrubs that could serve as hiding places for criminals away from windows and doors.
  • Cut back tree limbs that could provide a way for thieves to climb into second-story or higher windows.
  • Display alarm company signs and decals on the windows and lawn.
  • Don’t hide a key outside your home. Leave a key with a trusted family member, friend or neighbor instead.
  • If you’re going to be away, stop your mail and newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to pick them up for you.
  • Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway while you’re away.
  • For items that need to be left out in the open, such as grills and bicycles, use a tarp to hide them from view and securely lock them to a stationary point such as a railing or post.

For more information about home safety, visit nahb.org/forconsumers.

This article is courtesy of the National Association of Home Builders.

Playing it Safe While Using a Ladder

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on October 2, 2013 by Pat Hansen

With the advent of fall, comes the need to do fall chores. Gutter cleaning, window washing, removing tree branches and limbs on the roof, can all be hazardous without following some simple safety rules for using a ladder:

  • If you feel tired or dizzy, or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder.
  • Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.Ladder safety
  • Wear clean slip-resistant shoes. Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use since they are not considered sufficiently slip-resistant.
  • Before using a ladder, inspect it to confirm it is in good working condition.
  • Ladders with loose or missing parts should be rejected.
  • The ladder you select must be the right size for the job.
  • The Duty Rating of the ladder (maximum weight it can carry) must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies and other objects placed upon the ladder.
  • The length of the ladder must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.
  • When the ladder is set-up for use, it must be placed on firm, level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.
  • Only one person at a time should be permitted on a ladder—unless the ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber, i.e. a trestle ladder.
  • Ladders must not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door should be locked or blocked open.
  • Never jump or slide down from a ladder or climb more than one rung/step at a time.
  • Face the ladder when climbing up and down; keep your body centered between both side rails.
  • Don’t get too ambitious and over extend your reach. Make sure you keep your weight evenly distributed.

Holiday decorating is just around the corner and many families often use ladders to spread holiday cheer to the highest places, such as roofs and rooftops, trying to get those decorations just right. Unfortunately, as helpful as they are, people often underestimate the dangers associated with ladders – more than 163,000 people make emergency room visits every year due to ladder accidents.

Playing It Safe During An Electrical Storm

Posted in Around Your Home, Home Safety, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , on August 21, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Proper storm safety measures are vital to avoiding injury from lightning strikes during a thunderstorm. When a thunderstorm roars, go indoors.  As the thunderstorm approaches, residents should take several measures to avoid injury or damage from a lightning strike, including:

  • Lightning DamageUnplug appliances. To avoid damage from a lightning strike, unplug all appliances – even those that are connected to a surge protector. Surge protectors are often ineffective in the event of a direct or near-direct lightning strike.
  • Move cars into the garage or away from trees. If a garage is available, park the car(s) inside to avoid damage from hail, downed tree limbs or wind-blown signs and debris.  If no garage is available try to relocate the car to a location that is out in the open to prevent damage from downed trees or limbs.
  • Stay away from water and pipes.  If a lightning bolt strikes nearby, the electricity can travel through water pipes.  Prevent electrocution, by avoiding the sink, toilet, shower and bath tub.
  • Don’t use the telephone.  Lightning strikes can send a surge of electricity traveling through phone lines. Be sure to have a fully- charged cell phone available.
  • Stay away from windows.  There have been many cases involving people who have been struck by lightning while standing near a window.  A downed tree or limb could come crashing through a window, resulting in serious injury for anyone standing nearby.
  • Remain in an interior room during a severe thunderstorm. Some severe thunderstorm systems have been known to produce tornadoes. Bring children and pets into an interior room or hallway. The goal should be to place as many walls as possible between the residents and the outdoors.
  • Have a battery-operated radio or TV within arm’s reach. This will enable residents to stay informed about any life-threatening developments, such as a tornado

If you think your house was struck by lightning:

  • Make sure everyone is accounted for and immediately evacuate the house.
  • Lightning DamageCheck all around the interior and exterior to make sure that it did not start a fire. If you smell or see smoke, use your cell phone to call 911. The fire department is dispatched in all cases of lightning strikes. The fire department will assess the damage and use thermal imaging cameras to make sure there are no fires within the walls.

If your house was struck by lightning:

  • Call the insurance company.  Check with the insurance agent before you discard any items you plan to claim as damaged. Find out what is covered and what is needed to file a claim.
  • Call an electrician.  Have the electrician check the entire house including all the appliances, wall outlets, outside receptacles, attic fans, doorbell and garage door opener. Damage may be random; some items may be harmed, others may be spared.

According to the National Weather Service, more than 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year in the U.S., with lightning striking more than 30 million points on the ground. The chances of a U.S. home being struck by lightning is one in two hundred, and the insurance industry estimates 6.5% of all property/casualty claims are related to lightning strikes.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on August 14, 2013 by Pat Hansen

The time has come to make a change.  Your kids are out of the house, or perhaps you are a young family in need of more space.  You think the market has stabilized and you want to sell your house.

  1. Prepare yourself to sell your home. Do your best to see the house no longer as your home, but as a product to be marketed.Inspection Report This takes work, especially if you have lived in the home for a long time and have many memories there.
  2. Consider a professional whole house inspection.  An inspection will most likely uncover any major defects before they become an issue with a potential buyer. It also signals to buyers that you are a responsible seller.
  3. Prepare the house.  Stand back and look at your home as objectively as possible. Would you buy this home? Ask friends and neighbors to do the same, asking them to be totally honest. Overlooking flaws could cost you money.
  4. EntryDo what is necessary to make your home stand out from the competition. Make certain that your home is fresher, cleaner and better maintained. Correct any problems discovered during the inspection, otherwise they could be a potential negotiating tactic.
  5. Make sure your home has positive “Curb Appeal”. It doesn’t cost much to spruce up the landscaping and add colorful plantings. The entry door should be attractive and welcoming.
  6. Personal-ItemsRemove most of the “imprint” that you have made on the home. Having a few family pictures around is fine, but if your home is a “shrine” to your family, you should take some steps to de-personalize it. Buyers must be able to envision themselves in the home.
  7. Visit “Open Houses” in the neighborhood. This gives you the opportunity to discuss with Real Estate agents what the comparable prices are. An agent may offer you a free CMA or Comparable Market Analysis in order to get your listing. Knowing what your home is worth is one of the first steps in beginning to market the property.

The majority of home sellers take on the task with an ally; a Real Estate Agent. They feel that it is better to entrust the sale of their home to a professional, rather than attempting to learn about selling a home in a trial and error method.

How do you choose an Agent who will be effective? The following questions should be asked of any prospective Real Estate Agent in order to assess their capabilities and philosophies:

  • Are you a full-time Agent? Choose a full-time Agent
  • How long have you been in the Real Estate business? 10 years in the business is a minimum
  • Are you an MLS (Multiple Listing Service) Member? MLS listings exposes your home to more buyers
  • How familiar are you with the area where our home is located? Local knowledge of the market gets your home priced correctly, which will help sell it quicker.
  • How many homes did you sell in this area last year? Is the agent successful in a difficult market?
  • Can you supply 3 names and addresses of recent clients for whom you sold a home that we can contact for reference purposes? You know the answer to this one!
  • How did you arrive at the suggested listing price for our home? The agent’s experience should be apparent through the answer.
  • What is your specific marketing plan for our home? Does the plan make sense to you?
  • How do you plan on keeping us informed of the sale progress of our home? When you check references from past sellers be sure to ask this question:  Did the agent communicate as promised?

Check your local newspapers and homes magazines. An agent with a number of advertisements most likely has a fairly extensive marketing experience. Be certain, though, that the Agent does not have too many listings to effectively service the sale of your home.

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