Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winterizing Your Home

With the winter months upon us, it's important that your home be ready for the cooler weather, both inside and out. A well prepared home will not only be warmer, but also save you money on your monthly energy bills. Remember to take time out to prepare your home. Follow these simple tips and ideas and you will be on your way to having a winter-ready home.

Windows. A lot of warm air can escape through small cracks in your home's windows. A good way to prevent this is to inspect both the inside and outside of each window. If you find a problem, it can easily be repaired with caulk. If your windows are still letting cool air in after you have caulked the outside, try putting an insulating film on the inside of problem windows. Kits can be purchased at your local hardware store and can be installed in minutes.

Furnace. Now is also the best time of year to have your furnace inspected. This will ensure your unit is in proper working order. Also remember to change your furnace filter monthly during the winter season. A clean filter will allow your furnace to work better and improve the air condition of your home.

Ceiling Fans. If your home has ceiling fans, reversing the direction in which your fan operates can push warm air downward and force it to re-circulate. A good tip to tell when your fan is in proper winter mode is if you stand under the fan and cannot feel any air coming down on you.

Snow Equipment. Before the heavy winter sets in, check your snow equipment, such as snow blowers and shovels. Make sure they are in proper working order; if not; consider replacing them or having them serviced. It's also a good idea to stock up on ice melt or driveway salt. You can never be too prepared for snow and ice.

Follow these simple steps before the season sets in and you will enjoy a relaxing and warm winter season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Selling Your Home During the Holiday Season

The holidays are here, and the only gift you want is a "sold" sign in your front yard. In past years, it's been difficult to sell a home during the winter months. It's an extremely busy time of year, any an expensive one at that. However, selling your home during the holiday season doesn't have to be hard.
If you're determined to sell your home this holiday season, consider these tips.

Create curb appeal. Clear your driveway, walkways and stairs of snow and ice. Spruce up the front door with a wreath and a holiday welcome mat. Decorate the outside of the house with a few holiday lights. You can also put candles in your windows. However, remember to decorate tastefully; a little goes a long way when it comes to decorating.

Appear welcoming. Turn on the porch or garage light in the evening, as if you're expecting guests. Keep the house warm and toasty. It will be much appreciated by visitors during these cold months. Light your fireplace (if you have one) to create a cozy feeling. Want a more friendly touch? Bake cookies! Your home will smell delicious, and you'll have wonderful treats on hand. Not into baking? Put a drop of vanilla extract on a cookie sheet and place in the oven a few minutes before guests arrive; it will have the same effect as baking.

Don't go overboard. Decorate the interior with a few holiday trinkets, but be careful not to overwhelm potential buyers. They need to see beyond these decorations that will only stay up one month of the year. Buyers will appreciate your holiday spirit, but are also interested in the look of your home as it will appear year round.

Keep in close contact with me, your real estate agent. You don't want to have a showing in the middle of entertaining friends and family. Make sure that I'm aware of your schedule and alert me as soon as possible if something comes up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Best Mortgage Moves in a Slowing Housing Market

(ARA) - Given the recent changes in the mortgage and housing markets, many current and potential homeowners are asking themselves the question of what to do next in regards to their home financing situation. Whether you are looking to purchase your first home or are already a homeowner and want to maximize your investment, there are a number of home financing options to consider.

GMAC Mortgage (www.gmacmortgage.com) offers the following tips to help you make your next mortgage move.

First-Time Homebuyers
The biggest concerns for first-time homebuyers right now are fluctuating interest rates and home values. However, buying a home with a fixed-rate loan now will ensure that future rises in interest rates will not impact your monthly payment. In addition, because of current market conditions, many first-time homebuyers have a large inventory of homes from which to choose. Prices in many markets have stabilized or moved off their highs over the past year as demand has softened, so your dollars could go much farther than they have in the past.

If you decide to move forward with the search for your first home, consider getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Becoming pre-approved will give you a much better idea of your buying power as well as reassure home sellers that you are a serious buyer.

Existing Homeowners
If you are a homeowner with an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), hybrid ARM, or interest-only mortgage, now is a good time to consider refinancing into a fixed-rate loan. Even if the overall interest rate rises, there is a good chance that a fixed-rate mortgage payment will be lower than what you may pay if your adjustable rate loan adjusts soon.

Homeowners currently repaying variable-rate home equity lines of credit also should review their options. Refinancing to a fixed-rate home equity loan could be advantageous, but you should first check with your lender.

Buydowns Another option, whether you are considering refinancing your current mortgage or exploring your first mortgage, is to elect to buy down the interest rate. With a “buydown,” a borrower or seller pays part of the interest upfront, lowering the borrower’s monthly rate for a set period of time.

With the proper research and the assistance of a qualified mortgage professional, securing the right mortgage product can put you in a more advantageous situation to help you meet your homeownership goals.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Monday, November 19, 2007

Consumers Be Aware -- Credit Freeze a Step in the Right Direction, But Will Not Eliminate Identity Theft

(ARA) – Two of the three major credit bureaus are now allowing consumers in all 50 states to “freeze” their credit histories. The companies say the move gives consumers another option to safeguard their credit against identity thieves. But is it enough?

“It’s a good step, but it’s not the be all, end all solution,” says Justin Yurek, president of ID Watchdog, an identity theft monitoring service.

Placing a freeze on your credit report locks the data until you give permission to release the data by unlocking your report. But, says Yurek, “Every time you do this it costs money and if you want a credit card or access to credit, you have to unlock it.”

More important, Yurek says, is the fact that 70 percent of identity theft crimes have nothing to do with credit reports. “A thief could steal your wallet with your driver’s license in it and commit a crime, open a P.O. Box, get a cell phone, put utilities in your name. That has nothing to do with credit.”

According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. It cost businesses and consumers more than $56 billion in 2005 and most people do not discover their information has been stolen until 12 months after a thief first uses it. Worse, fewer than one in 700 identity theft crimes lead to a conviction.

“We need to understand that prevention isn’t a feasible concept now,” says Yurek. “If a thief wants your identity, they’ll get it. No matter how careful you are they could hack into a database, they could physically steal a laptop, there is no guarantee.” Since, as Yurek says, there is no foolproof way to guarantee your identity won’t be stolen, stay alert for signs that someone may be using your identity.

* If you fail to receive bills or other mail on time or as expected, call the sender directly. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed the mailing address. * You begin receiving credit cards you did not apply for.

* You have been denied credit or are receiving less favorable credit terms -- a higher interest rate or lower credit limit than you’ve received in the past.

* You begin receiving calls from debt collection agencies or businesses regarding merchandise you did not purchase.

FTC statistics show that once a consumer becomes a victim of identity theft, the average time spent repairing the problem is between 400 and 600 hours.

“In the year 2000 there were 100,000 victims of identity theft,” says Yurek. “In 2006, there were 10 million identity theft victims. The crime is still growing and with companies like ID Watchdog there is a new approach to identity theft monitoring and prevention.”

Services such as ID Watchdog scrutinize customer information and guarantee that if thieves slip something past, the company will fix any problems the customer experiences and help them regain and retain their identity.

“ID Watchdog doesn’t just look at reports from three credit bureaus, we monitor thousands of databases because only 30 percent of identity theft victims get hit in ways that show up on credit reports,” Yurek says. The service also educates consumers about how their personal information -- name, date of birth, Social Security number, phone number and address -- show up in databases all over the world, information most consumers just don’t have access to.

Further information on identity theft can be obtained from the FTC online at www.ftc.gov and a free trial of the ID Watchdog service is available at www.idwatchdog.com or by calling (866) 416-0783.

Courtesy ARAcontent

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Disclosing Disclosures

You know you're legally obligated to disclosure, but what exactly are you supposed to disclose? Most states require disclosure of any "material facts," that is, anything that may impact the buyer's decision or price offer, even if these material facts are not apparent. Some examples of material facts include square footage of home, age of property components and systems, leaky roof or flooding basement, asbestos problems in insulation and information about developments that might impact the property such as planned roadways, etc.Disclosure laws vary from state to state. In some cases, you may be legally bound to disclose information about violent crimes that may have occurred on the property, seismic activity reports and the notification to buyers about the availability of a list of registered sex offenders. Check with me, your attorney or city planning department for disclosure requirements specific to your area. You don't want to leave anything out.

If you're questioning whether to disclose something, it's safest just to do so. A buyer who proves you knowingly withheld from them material facts about your property can claim damages suffered or demand price concessions. As your Realtor, I will always be available to help you with any questions about what to disclose.

After you've spoken with me and have created a list of disclosures, it's a good idea to put everything down in writing. Most states require the use of special disclosure forms. After reviewing the form or list, the buyer should acknowledge receipt of the disclosures by signing and dating at the bottom.

The most important thing to remember when disclosing material facts is that anything questionable will more than likely be questioned. Think about what you would want to know about your new home, and use that as a guide for what to disclose to your potential buyers about your home. When in doubt, disclose anyway; it will save you costly legal issues in the future.

Monday, November 05, 2007


7 Tips for Prepping the Pool for Winter


If you have a house in a cold climate that has a swimming pool, then make sure you get it ready for winter. Anywhere the temperatures dip near or below 32 degrees, pools and spas should be winterized by cleaning and treating the water and protecting the equipment from freezing, according to the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals.


Here are some tips:


1. Clean the water.


Vacuum the water thoroughly making sure the waste-water is going to the appropriate place. Set the filter on the waste position, or set the vacuum to filter only.


2. Test the water.


Either balance normally or treat with the proper amount of special winterizing chemicals.


3. Reduce the water levels.


Most types of pools require low-water levels for winter. But don’t go too low. Hydrostatic pressure can destroy a drained concrete pool. If you are in doubt, leave the pool full.


4. Protect the pipes.


Drain and blow water out of all pipes and fill them with antifreeze. That includes the skimmer and main drain lines, return lines, and lines to solar heaters, cleaners, chlorinators, and other accessories. The pump, filter, and heater should also be drained.


5. Drain the values.


Be sure values below the water level are sealed securely. If they can’t be drained, they have to be sealed with heat tape.6. Clean the filters. Also, remove the drain plugs from the pumps.


7. Turn out the lights.


Remove pool lights from their niches if less than 18 inches of water is over them. Also, turn off the breaker or make sure the fuse is removed.


Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, Alan J. Heavens (11/02/07)