Archive for Checklist

Home Appliance Maintenance Tips

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , on August 27, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Just like your car, your home systems and appliances all need periodic maintenance checks to make sure they’re operating safely and efficiently. American Home Shield, a unit of the ServiceMaster Company, shares these expert tips to help you keep your home’s systems and appliances in great shape:

Air Conditioning

  • Check filters every month. Clean or replace as needed.
  • Keep the condensing units free of debris.
  • Trim shrubs and plants near condensing unit to ensure proper air flow and circulation.
  • Bent condensing unit fins can often be straightened with a fin comb.

Washing Machine

  • Inspect cold and hot water supply hoses for cracks and deterioration.
  • Look for signs of water or oil leakage.
  • Check to make sure the machine is level, and adjust it if needed, by turning the legs clockwise to lower them or counterclockwise to raise them.


  • Clean the lint screen after each load of clothes has been dried.
  • For gas and electric dryers, check and tighten supply connections.
  • Check to see whether the dryer is level; if it’s not, the drum may vibrate and damage the unit. To adjust the level, turn the legs clockwise to lower them or counterclockwise to raise them.

Water Heater

  • Drain and flush sediment from tank twice a year.
  • Check pressure-relief valve once a year to make sure this crucial safety device is not clogged.

As a company with significant experience in covering the repair of major home systems and appliances, American Home Shield is a strong advocate for preventative maintenance. They realize that it is easy to forget or postpone do-it-yourself maintenance; consequently, they offer annual preventative maintenance plans by a qualified professional. To learn more about preventative maintenance plans, and how you can get one, visit

Safe Home Tips While on Vacation

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on July 19, 2012 by Pat Hansen

The anticipation and excitement of an upcoming vacation can distract you from considering the risks of leaving your home unprotected. It pays to take precautions before you leave on vacation.  Creating a checklist ahead of time takes a bit of planning but is worth the effort and will increase your peace of mind while you travel.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that the majority of residential break-ins occur during the months of July and August.  Experts in home security say that the key to keeping your home secure while on vacation is to make sure your home is the least appealing target on your street.

By following the tips below, you can make your home harder to break into, and give yourself peace of mind that you have taken all necessary precautions.

  • Stay Quiet

While using personal pages on the Internet may be a convenient way to keep in touch with friends, sharing your itinerary can cause problems while you are away from home. Show some caution when you talk about your trip.  Your Blog isn’t the best place to announce that you will be away from home.

Be aware of who is around when you discuss your trip. Make sure that other members of your family are discreet, too.  The less information you put out there, the less likely it is to reach the wrong ears and eyes.

  • Lock Up

Before you leave on vacation be sure you physically secure and check all windows and doors. This seems obvious, but it is easy to forget. Locking your home makes it less attractive to burglars; if you don’t make it easy, there is a better chance that when you get home, your home will be in the same condition as you left it.

  • Unplug Electronics

Turning off your garage door is an effective way to keep thieves from opening it with a universal remote.

Don’t leave a portable GPS in your car when you use the long-term parking at the airport. It will alert thieves that you are not at home and may give them a convenient map to your home.

  • Maintaining Appearances

If your home is obviously uninhabited, you may be at risk of becoming a target for a burglar. Remember . . . an occupied home looks lived in. Lights go on and off, and cars come and go. When you’re away, everything stops. To help create the illusion that the residence is still occupied, invest in timers that turn on the interior lights for a few hours every night. If you can get a neighbor to take out your garbage and put away the cans after the pick up, it’s another way to send the message that everything is proceeding normally at your home.

Paying someone to keep the yard mowed while you are away is a good idea if you will be gone for a significant amount of time in the spring or summer. Parking a car in your driveway can also make it appear as though someone is home. If you keep your blinds or window treatments open when you are home, be sure to do the same while you are away.

  • Mail Delivery

Piles of mail and newspapers can make it obvious that you are away. While you can temporarily stop mail and newspaper delivery, the fewer people who know that you are away, the better.  Ask a friend or a neighbor to pick up mail and newspapers, daily, to prevent telltale piles from accumulating.

  • Protecting  Your Home

A burglar alarm, while not foolproof, helps secure your home. While alarm systems are expensive, the Insurance Information Institute reports that a sophisticated alarm system can result in insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent.  If you don’t have an alarm system, installing deadbolts on doors and windows can make it more difficult for thieves to enter your home.

The Insurance Information Institute also recommends turning your computer off and locking up important documents to prevent burglars from accessing financial and personal information. Placing expensive jewelry and small electronic devices in a safe or lock-box before leaving home will help you avoid the theft of your most valuable possessions.

  • Consider Hiring a House or Pet Sitter

The best way to make sure your house is safe while you’re gone is to have someone you trust stay in it while you’re away. You may be lucky enough to have a tidy and conscientious relative who will move in temporarily and water the plants, feed the pets and pick up the mail and newspapers. If not, there are services you can use for house sitting and pet sitting while you’re away. This can be a pricey option, but it’s a solution that touches all the bases.

  • Returning from Vacation

When you return from your trip, be sure to inspect your home immediately. Look for signs of entry or missing items. If you notice anything amiss, be sure to call the police immediately. It’s a good idea to wait outside the home until the police arrive and when they do, be sure to allow them to collect fingerprints. Be sure not to allow anyone to walk on the lawn until the police have left.

I Wish I Had Thought About That – Master Baths

Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That, Renovation with tags , , , on August 31, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Building a new home or remodeling is an opportunity to consider some new concepts or products for your new Master Bath.  Creating a wish-list will help you identify the must-have items and help eliminate those last minute, budget-busting extras.

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider:


  • Larger showers with frameless enclosures
  • Coated, clear glass enclosures for easy cleaning
  • Dual shower heads; wall-mounted, hand-held shower heads with sensor temperature controls
  • Shower fixtures in oil rubbed bronze, Tuscan bronze, black, brushed nickel and more
  • Pulsating water jets that provide spinal and foot massage
  • Warm, neutral tile tones with colorful glass tile accents  
  • Recessed shelves for shampoo, etc. tall enough for Costco-size containers
  • Built-in benches


  • Tubs separated from showers
  • Smaller soaking, jetted and non-jetted tubs
  • Sunken Roman tubs
  • Eco – friendly stone and wood bathtubs
  • Artificial stone bathtubs available in various shapes


  • Pump powered, pressure-assisted quiet, dual-flush system
  • Comfort height versus regular height toilets
  • Water efficient models
  • Heated seats


  • Vessel sinks in glass, porcelain or metal
  • Geometric and free shaped modern sinks
  • Hand painted sinks integrated into vintage furniture  vanities
  • Stainless steel sinks


  • “His” and “Hers” separate vanities; his with additional height.
  • Separate vanity locations
  • Storage garages for hair styling equipment
  • Coffee bar cabinets with refrigerator
  • Side storage cabinets above countertop
  • Armoire cabinet for linen storage


  • Antique framed mirrors above furniture vanity
  • Contemporary, stainless steel custom frames
  • Wall-to-wall, countertop to ceiling or crown molding
  • Steam-resistant glass


  • Glass tile in ocean colors
  • Metallic accent pieces for ceramic tile
  • Combination of glass and porcelain tiles creating borders or accents

Today’s homeowner is looking to make the master bath more comfortable, stylish and personal. For homeowners who aren’t confident in their design capabilities, it is best to consult a professional. It is better to get expert advice ahead of time, instead of after a project has gone wrong.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on August 15, 2011 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.

  • 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. This takes work, especially if you have lived in the home for a long time and have many memories there.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Do 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.
  • 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.
  • Remove 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.
  • 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.

I Wish I Had Thought About That – Electrical

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , , , on July 22, 2011 by Kevin Fox

Building a new home can become a daunting task without a little guidance.  There are so many things to consider that it is easy to miss something.  In the case of electrical items, remembering too late either means doing without or expensive repairs, including special trip charges for the electrician and drywall contractor and perhaps re-inspection fees.

Here are some of the ideas you may want to consider:

□    Outlet for irrigation system – this should be located in the Garage

□    Master bedroom bedside outlets and lighting

  • Each night-stand light should be on separate 3 way switch from door to bedroom
  • Outlet on each side of the bed for an alarm clock/radio/CD player
  • Provision for night reading – mini recess lights with spot bulbs, switched at bedside – allows reading without disturbing partner
  • Outlet for electric blanket
  • Outlet for heating pad
  • Outlet for plug-in type reading light in lieu of special recessed lights
  • Outlet for nursery monitor

□     TV and equipment – where will the main TV viewing take place?  Will you have additional TV’s throughout the house?

□     Computer – location for desktop computer and internet modem

□     Technology wiring – it’s best to consult a specialist contractor for the latest techniques.  Innovation in this area is happening rapidly

  • TV
  • Phone
  • Alarm

□     Satellite TV cabling – if you plan to install a dish it’s best to determine the location and provide cabling to that location during construction.  The last thing you want is to have a contractor drill holes in your brand-new home to install a satellite dish.

□      Basement outlet for refrigerator

□      Christmas lighting outlets and switches

  • Outside for lights
  • Inside for lighting on stair rails

□      Bedroom lights – whether you switch an outlet for a lamp or utilize a ceiling outlet, provide a 3 way switch to the side of the bed.

□      Closet lights – door activated switches are a nice luxury touch

□      Sconces – use them in hallways in place of ceiling lights.  Use them in Dining Rooms, Living Rooms and at fireplaces for accent and mood lighting

□      Dining room lights – measure your furniture and locate it on a plan of your new home.  This will help you center the ceiling fixture.  Will a single light be enough?  If you have a large dining table you may want to add recess lighting in addition to the main ceiling fixture.

□      Heights of light fixtures – work with your interior designer or your light fixture supplier to determine the proper height for each hanging light fixture.  That way your fixtures will be supplied with the correct length of chain.  This will also prevent charges for re-hanging.

□      Provision for future wiring – consider installing a pipe or chase from the 2nd floor attic to the basement to provide a path to run additional cables.  This inexpensive item can save hundreds of dollars in future drywall repairs and man-hours of expensive electrician time.

□      Decora – this style of outlets, switches and dimmers is very popular

□      Dimmers – very nice feature, although this is one item that can be done after closing

□      Chandelier lift units – somewhat expensive, but a great thing to have if you don’t have a ladder tall enough to reach a light fixture in a 2-story room.  Just turn the key and the chandelier lowers to waist height level for easy cleaning

□      Recessed lighting – add them sparingly or often depending on your taste and budget

□      Kitchen lighting

  • Undercabinet task lighting – LED fixtures with dimming capability are now available
  • Over cabinet accent lighting
  • Top of cabinet accent lighting for cabinets with glass doors and glass shelves

□      Whole house lighting controls – there are lighting systems available that can be programmed with various “Scenes”.  These can control all or just some of your lighting.  You can also control them via smart phones.  Consult an expert if you want to install one of these systems.

□      Landscape lighting, outdoor lighting and outlets

□      Prep for electric car charging in the Garage

□      Prep for generator – you will need to decide whether you will use a portable or permanent generator (your community may have restrictions an rules on generators – consult your building department)

□      Additional electrical circuits

□      Size of meter

□      Ceiling fans – use of ceiling fans can reduce the need to operate air-conditioning

□      Floor outlets – plan your furniture layouts to determine locations

□      Reinforced outlets for heavy light fixtures – usually Foyers and Dining Rooms

□      Special electrical outlet locations for appliances – some refrigerators require outlets in specific locations

□      Pilot switches – these switches enable you to know whether exterior lights (usually) are on if you switch them from multiple locations

□      Multi-point switching – very handy for providing a path of light when walking through the home at night

When the rough electrical is completed, take your digital camera and photograph each wall and ceiling, room by room.  When you have finished mark up plans with the photo numbers (use 8 ½” x 11” plans).  Don’t forget the Garage and Basement. Scan the marked up plans and burn to a disc with all the photos.  If you ever have to make any plumbing or electrical modifications your contractor will thank you for the information.

This list is by no means complete, but it should help you avoid expensive late changes and repairs. Comments and additions to this list are very welcome. Happy building.

Top Five for New Home Owners

Posted in Around Your Home, Housing News, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on June 29, 2011 by Kevin Fox

You’ve gotten through shopping for a home, the closing process, and even unpacking your boxes. But it’s not time to put your feet up and relax just yet! There are a few more things you should do shortly after moving into a new home to make sure you and your family will have a safe and healthy place to build lifelong memories in.

1. Create a home maintenance checklist.

To make sure your home stays safe and healthy for you and your family, you should regularly check, clean and/or test a wide variety of interior and exterior systems and structures. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a Home Maintenance Checklist that you can download from their website It provides basic guidelines for keeping your home dry, clean, well-ventilated, free from contaminants, pest-free, safe and well-maintained.

2. Make sure you have enough insurance coverage.

At a minimum, you need to purchase a home owners insurance policy to cover the house and all of your family’s belongings inside. To determine how much insurance you need, find out how much it would cost to rebuild your house today on your existing lot. Your personal property coverage should then be anywhere from 55 to 75 percent of that amount.

Damage caused by natural disasters such as flooding, earthquakes and hurricanes are not covered by regular home owner’s policies, so depending on where you live, you may want to consider additional coverage. Your insurance agent can help you figure out the right amount of coverage and suggest upgrades or additional policies that would be appropriate for your specific situation.

3. Protect your home from break-ins.

If you bought an existing home, you should re-key the locks right away. You never know who the previous owners gave keys to. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends that every exterior door should have a dead-bolt lock with a one-inch throw. They should be at least 1 3/4 inch metal or hard wood with the hinges on the inside.

Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer—not a chain—in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Sliding glass doors can be secured by placing a long piece of wood at least one inch thick in the track. Keep all entrances and doors well-lit, and prune shrubs so they don’t provide hiding space for someone who wants to break in.

4. Prepare an emergency kit.

In the event of a disaster, local officials and relief workers may not be able to reach your home immediately, so you should have an emergency kit on hand.

Basic services such as electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and telephones may be cut off for days, or even weeks, so you should be prepared. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends stockpiling at least three days’ worth of food and water for your family. Their website offers a list of items to include in a basic emergency preparedness kit, as well as guidelines on food and water storage and protecting yourself from airborne contaminants.

5. Improve your home’s energy efficiency.

Even if you’ve purchased a brand new home with the latest energy-efficient building materials and techniques, there are still some improvements you can make to save even more money on utility bills. For example:

    • Replace incandescent light bulbs with longer-lasting CFL or LED bulbs.
    • Install a programmable thermostat that can be set to automatically adjust the heat or air when the home is most or least used.
    • Increase the insulation in your attic, on exposed water pipes and around your water heater.

The U.S. Department of Energy has an online Home Energy Saver™ tool for home owners at that recommends energy-saving upgrades that are appropriate for the home, the climate and local energy prices.

Even if you haven’t just moved, these suggestions will help you protect your family and maintain your investment for years to come.

New Home or Remodeled Home – Moving Checklist

Posted in Around Your Home, Housing News, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle with tags on April 21, 2011 by Pat Hansen

You’ve bought that new home.  If you bought a re-sale perhaps you had the kitchen or bath remodeled.  With those projects out of the way, its now time to get moved.

After you have completed your research and have decided on a moving company, it’s time to make a checklist of everything that needs to be done before moving. 

□       Get rid of items you don’t use. Why pay to have them moved?

□       Organize items for a garage sale, charity or trash pick up.

□       Decide on items you will move yourself and items that will be transported by moving van.

□       Notify the van line if you have added or subtracted items from the original quote.

□       Finalize transportation plans for you cars. Make a reservation for car carrier.

□       Take pets to the veterinarian to ensure proper updates on inoculations or other health certificates.

□       Contact physicians, dentists and pharmacy for records to be transferred.

□       Notify schools, post office, insurance companies, utility companies, internet provider, newspaper delivery service, phone and cable companies, bank and financial institutions, travel/auto club and church.

□       Give away plants if you can’t transport them by car. Moving companies won’t take them.

□       Disassemble and disconnect your computer system and back up all files onto a disk. You may want to take the files with you in the car as exposure to extreme temperatures can damage your software.

□       Make final packing decisions. Mark with stickers, items you will take in the car, and mark boxes to be shipped with “Fragile”, “Do Not Load”.

□       Drain the lawn mower, snow blower and power tools of oil and gasoline to ensure safe transportation.

□       Dispose of any household cleaning or other hazardous items that are not allowed to be shipped.

□       Schedule appliance disconnection and preparation with a service provider.

□       Empty, defrost and clean your refrigerator, freezer, and clean stove and oven at least 24 hours before moving to let them air out. Use baking soda to get rid of any odors.

□       Pack items to take in car. Plan on taking all important items such as a will, stock certificates, jewelry and coin collection.

□       Be on hand when the moving van driver arrives and throughout the loading process.

□       Accompany the driver during the inventory. Check on the condition of your items as they are loaded.

□       Make a final tour of your home to see that nothing is overlooked.

□       Sign the bill of lading and make sure your new address and phone number are correct.

Lock the doors and windows, get into the car and relax, knowing that you have completed your checklist and have not forgotten anything.

For information on remodeling, call Pat Hansen at 248-895-1115.  For information on new home building, stop by our model at 6363 Deer Cross Dr, Clarkston MI 48348 or visit our web site at

Moving to a New Home?

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , on April 5, 2011 by Pat Hansen

You finally found your new home after considerable searching and are excited to move in. Now is the time to organize your belongings and move them into your new home. Moving can be overwhelming, but with proper planning, it can be a stress-free experience.

  • Make a detailed checklist.  Smart moving preparation should start with a checklist that can make your move cheaper, easier and faster.
  • Keep a moving file. A moving file will hold all the information you need for your move, with everything from moving companies’ price quotes to receipts.
  • Inventory possessions. Make an inventory of all household items to be moved, especially in places where there may be considerable items such as the basement or attic.
  • Get moving company quotes. Get several quotes from moving companies and ask what is included in the price and what is not. Ask about coverage for damaged items. Standard moving company insurance usually pays only a percentage of broken items. Full value protection will cost more, but may be worth the added expense if you are moving fragile and valuable items.
  • Get rid of items you don’t need.  Plan a garage sale or donate items you don’t need to a charity. Charities are in need of usable household items and clothing. Donating will also allow you to claim a tax deduction.
  • Start a filing system.  Invest in an accordion folder, file box or fireproof safe. Rent a safe deposit box for vital records, such as your deed, mortgage note and will. Keep separate folders for tax files, including tax returns, receipts, property tax documents, and one for all your new home product warranties and instruction manuals.
  • Packing for the move.  Start packing two to three weeks before the move, one room at a time. You can save money by getting boxes from local stores. Be sure to have adequate markers, labels and tape on hand. If the moving company is packing for you, they will usually arrive one to two days before the move. You should supervise this phase of the move. The movers are the experts in handling the antiques and fragile items. They can provide you with special cartons for clothing, dishes mirrors and mattresses. They will not transport plants or flammable items.
  • Packing electronics.  It’s best to pack computers, printers stereos and other electronic equipment in their original boxes if you have them. If not, wrap the components in plastic to protect them from dust and place them in a sturdy box, marked “Fragile”.  Since tapes, CDs and floppy disks can e damaged by heat, arrange for their safe shipment or take them with you, along with your other valuable items and legal documents.
  • Make a floor plan.  Create a simple floor plan for your new home so that the movers can place furniture and beds where you want them.  Discuss the inventory checklist with your mover. The inventory record is one of your most important shipping documents. You will need to refer to it at your destination and will be asked to sign it again after you have received and inspected your goods.
  • Keep needed items handy. Pack as if you are going to stay in a hotel for a week of so. Each family member should have their own easily identified suitcase, filled with necessary clothing and personal items. Also, pack a box with some bedding, eating utensils and cooking items. With careful planning, you should be able to survive comfortably amid the boxes for a week or two.

Eventually, all of the boxes will be unpacked, all of your belongings will be in their proper places, and you will be able to relax and enjoy your new home.

Hiring a Qualified Home Inspector – Tips from Pat

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Renovation with tags on March 29, 2011 by Pat Hansen

Ask for opinions

Talk to friends who have had an inspection recently. Did their inspector do a thorough job? You can ask the inspector for references, too, but keep in mind they probably won’t give you the names of unhappy clients.

If you are working with a real estate agent you trust, ask who they recommend.  Agents deal with inspections often; they know who the good inspectors are. The agent should give you at least three references and not steer you to one inspector.

What does the inspection cover?

What systems are covered in the home inspection?

Are there some services that require an extra fee, such as a septic inspection?

A septic report is required for FHA and VA financing. Doing it at the same time as the home inspection is usually less expensive than bringing the inspector back again later.

Will you be given a detailed report with photos of problem areas? It should include a checklist showing results for all systems evaluated. It should also include reports in paragraph form. Inspections can take 3-4 hours or more.

Inspect the inspector

If statements in the appraisal or pest report cause the lender to ask for a structural inspection, they will expect that the inspection be done by a licensed professional.

Before you select an inspector, find out what type of licensing the lender requires if a structural inspection is necessary. If your inspector qualifies, it may save you time and money since you won’t have to hire a second person to verify the structural integrity.

Important questions

  • Where was the inspector trained?
  • Does he or she attend continuing education classes?
  • Does the inspector belong to a professional organization?  If so, what are the requirements for membership?
  • Does the inspector carry Errors and Omissions insurance?  This type of insurance may come in handy if the inspector overlooks a major problem.

On inspection day

It’s best if you attend the inspection yourself.  Inspectors should report all defects that are found, no matter how minor.  Home buyers sometimes get excited about minor problems simply because they don’t have an understanding of what’s really wrong. Witnessing problems, first-hand, will give you a better grasp of what is and what is not an issue.

IDENTITY CRISIS: How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , on March 10, 2011 by Pat Hansen

By Andrew Wooten, President of S.A.F.E.

In the March 2011 issue of Michigan Realtor Magazine, *Andrew Wooten wrote about Identity Theft


Your credit score has significantly increased. You receive a bill for a credit card you don’t have. You go to apply for a car loan and are denied because of poor credit. You notice $0.01 charges in your checking account. What happened? Most likely, you’ve had your identity stolen.

Identity theft is when, by trickery or using publicly available data, someone obtains personal information about you, assumes your identity, and applies for credit cards, checking accounts or other financial access. The crook has become “you.” They can now go on a spending spree, using up your good credit and reputation.

To safeguard yourself, be vigilant about protecting your personal information. This means not giving out credit card numbers, bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, your birth date, or even your mailing address over the phone unless you initiate the call. Protect your incoming and outgoing mail-and your trash-from thieves.

Multiple Methods

Thieves use a variety of methods to obtain your information including “dumpster diving,” where they go through your trash for mail or papers that contain personal information like your Social Security number on an old tax form or a mailing from your credit card company. These papers are a gold mine to an identity thief. You can block thieves by buying and using a shredder. Shred all documents containing personal information before you discard them.

Identity thieves also use “skimming,” “phishing” or just a simple change of address. Skimming is when someone steals credit or debit card numbers by using a special storage device when processing your card. This can happen anywhere, so be sure to watch when they scan your card at a store, restaurant or gas station.

Phishing is when false financial institutions or companies send spam or pop-up messages on a website to get you to reveal your personal information. Remember: no legitimate company is going to ask for your personal information unless you contact them.

Finally, some thieves will divert your billing statements to another location by changing your address. Keep track of when you receive your bills and statements. If one doesn’t show up, contact the company immediately.

Lock Down Your Information

How can you protect yourself? Make these identity-protecting steps a habit:

  • Memorize your Social Security number and all your passwords and PINs.
  • Sign all your credit cards upon receipt and never loan your cards to anyone.
  • Save all your credit card receipts and match them against your monthly bills.
  • Report all lost or stolen credit cards immediately, and notify credit card companies and financial institutions in advance of any change in your address or phone numbers.
  • Order your credit report annually and inspect it for anything suspicious.
  • When you make Internet purchases, be sure it’s through a secure website.
  • When you complete a credit or loan application, you only need to list the last four digits of credit cards. This is enough information for creditors to match up what’s on your credit report.

Most importantly, protect yourself by leaving your “identity” at home, not in your wallet or purse. You should never carry around your birth certificate, passport, PINs or Social Security card. If you carry blank checks, carry only as many as you need and do not print your driver’s license number or Social Security number on your checks. Keep back-up records of all your credit card information in a secure place at home. Finally, don’t take out your wallet until you actually need it. Never put it down next to a cash register, on a bar or even on top of your car.

If you become aware of anyone using your identity, immediately notify the creditor involved, law enforcement authorities and the major credit bureaus.

In addition, be extremely wary of companies (even well-established, legitimate companies) that are selling monthly protection plans, there is no 100% guarantee! But, following these guidelines can help decrease the possibility of you becoming a victim of identity theft. For more information, contact S.A.F.E.

*Andrew Wooten is an author and professional speaker and has been in the safety and security industry for over 26 years. Visit the S.A.F.E. Website

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