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April
23

4 Spring Home Problems (and How to Avoid Them)

Spring brings beautiful blooms and long-awaited sunshine, but for your home, spring can bring unexpected problems if you are not prepared. This season, don't let home issues ruin your fun. Some simple preparation can ensure that your home is ready for all that spring has to offer. Be sure to avoid these four spring home problems.

Unexpected Pests
Spring's weather brings bugs and small critters out of hibernation. While the flurry of scurrying animals may be cute to witness on your next hike, you don't want uninvited guests in your home. Avoid critters coming indoors by sealing any holes or potential entrances. Caulk and seal small access points to keep insects outside. Finally, ensure that you are keeping your home crumb-free to ensure that sugar-seeking ants don't make themselves at home in your kitchen or pantry.

Spring Flooding
Flooding can occur during any season, but certain areas are more prone to spring flooding. Since water damage can easily go undetected, even minimal flooding can wreak havoc on your home. Be prepared for a flood if you live in a low-lying area near a body of water–even a stream. Avoid issues caused by spring floods by waterproofing your basements, clearing debris away from your gutters and downspouts to divert water from your home's foundation, and installing a water alarm to alert you to accumulating dampness in less-trafficked areas.

Strain on Your HVAC
The shifting of seasons can cause undue strain on your HVAC system if you aren't properly prepared. Change your filters and have your system inspected to ensure that as the spring rays turn your home hotter, that you are not facing a damaged system when you need the cool air.

Lack of Curb Appeal
Spring is the perfect season to tackle your home's lack of curb appeal. Winter storms can cause dirt to accumulate on your home's exterior, sidewalks and driveway. Winds and rain can cause debris like leaves and twigs to clutter up your lawn and garden. A good power wash can do wonders for your outdoor surfaces, and a simple clean-up can ensure that your yard looks fresh. Once you have solved the problem of grunge and disarray, focus on the final touches by adding new foliage and blooms that spring can offer.

March
25

How an Energy Efficient Home Can Be a Bright Idea [INFOGRAPHIC]

How an Energy Efficient Home Can Be a Bright Idea [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

  • With inflation driving up the cost of everyday items, seeking out an energy-efficient home can be a great way to decrease the expenses you can control.
  • Energy efficiency can help lower your utility bills and possibly even save you money on your taxesOptions to look for include efficient appliances, windows, and solar panels.
  • If you're planning to buy a home this year, consider energy efficiency in your search. Let's connect so you can better understand features that can save you money for years to come.
March
13

Which Season Is The Best For Selling?

It's a well-known fact that the real estate market cools off in the fall and winter and picks up in the spring, but what is really the best season to sell your property? The answer ultimately depends on your situation and location. The reality is each season comes with its own unique advantages and challenges. To help you determine the best season for selling, we'll break down the top advantage and challenge of each season below:

Selling In The Spring

Many people believe spring is the best time to sell your home, but that really depends on where you live. While spring is often the most popular time to shop, some southern states experience intense weather in late spring. Competition is also at its peak. Here are some of the benefits

  • Advantages: Warmer weather in most areas and tax refund checks mean more buyers are hitting the market.
  • Disadvantages: More buyers also means more sellers, so the competition begins to really pick up. Kids are also still in school, so moving is more difficult.

Selling In The Summer

Statistics show that late June has the highest number of closings, indicating summer is an ideal time to sell. It's also the most popular time to move, especially because school is out. However, extreme heat in some areas of the country coupled with vacation times can drag out the closing process.

  • Advantages: Longer days and warm weather means more buyers are hunting. Many buyers are also motivated to find a home before school starts.
  • Disadvantages: Weather, vacations, and busy schedules may delay closings. Plus, competition is likely still very high.

Selling In The Fall

Once school starts, there is a noticeable decline in real estate activity, but that doesn't mean fall is a bad time to sell. There are still many buyers on the market that couldn't secure a home in the spring or summer. Selling in late September / or early October has both pros and cons:

  • Advantages: Fewer listings mean less competition, and many buyers are extra motivated to close before winter. It's also easier to find home repair professionals.
  • Disadvantages: Cooler weather might keep buyers away. Those who are shopping may be more demanding due to less competition. Curb appeal also generally declines in the fall as landscaping begins to deteriorate. 

Selling In The Winter

December is often considered to be the slowest month for real estate closings. Cold weather means fewer shoppers in most of the country, but competition is probably at its lowest point of the year. If you live in Florida, Arizona, or Southern California, winter is likely a great time to sell.

  • Advantages: There is less competition, and buyers are likely highly motivated. 
  • Disadvantage: There are fewer shoppers, especially around the holidays. Depending on location, it can be a difficult time to make renovations. Many buyers are looking for a deal.

It's certainly possible to sell your home any time of the year, and so often the right season depends on your property, location, and situation. Your real estate agent is a great resource to help you assess the market and determine the best time to list your home. When you are ready to list your home, let's connect!

March
8

How Global Uncertainty Is Impacting Mortgage Rates

How Global Uncertainty Is Impacting Mortgage Rates | MyKCM

If you're thinking about buying or selling a home, you'll want to keep a pulse on what's happening with mortgage rates. Rates have been climbing in recent months, especially since January of this year. And just a few weeks ago, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate from Freddie Mac approached 4% for the first time since May of 2019. But that climb has dropped slightly over the past few weeks (see graph below):

How Global Uncertainty Is Impacting Mortgage Rates | MyKCM

The recent decline in mortgage rates is primarily due to growing uncertainty around geopolitical tensions surrounding Russia and Ukraine. But experts say it's to be expected.

Here's a look at how industry leaders are explaining the impact global uncertainty has on mortgage rates:

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, says:

"While mortgage rates trended upward in 2022, one unintended side effect of global uncertainty is that it often results in downward pressure on mortgage rates."

In another interview, Kushi adds:

"Geopolitical events play an important role in impacting the long end of the yield curve and mortgage rates. For example, in the weeks following the 'Brexit' vote in 2016, the U.S. Treasury bond yield declined and led to a corresponding decline in mortgage rates."

Kushi's insights are a reminder that, historically, economic uncertainty can impact the 10-year treasury yield – which has a long-standing relationship with mortgage rates and is often considered a leading indicator of where rates are headed. Basically, events overseas can have an impact on mortgage rates here, and that's what we're seeing today.

Will Mortgage Rates Stay Down?

While no one has a crystal ball to predict exactly what will happen with rates in the future, experts agree this slight decline is temporary. Sam Khater, Chief Economist at Freddie Mac, echoes Kushi's sentiment, but adds that the decline in rates won't last:

"Geopolitical tensions caused U.S. Treasury yields to recede this week . . . leading to a drop in mortgage rates. While inflationary pressures remain, the cascading impacts of the war in Ukraine have created market uncertainty. Consequently, rates are expected to stay low in the short-term but will likely increase in the coming months." 

Rates will likely fluctuate in the short-term based on what's happening globally. But before long, experts project rates will renew their climb. If you're in the market to buy a home, doing so before rates start to rise again may be your most affordable option.

Bottom Line

Mortgage rates are an important piece of the puzzle because they help determine how much you'll owe on your monthly mortgage payment in your next home. Let's connect so you have up-to-date information on rates and trusted advice on how to time your next move.

February
17

3 Things New Homeowners Don't Know

Becoming a new homeowner is an exciting milestone. It can also be an overwhelming process full of decision-making, seemingly endless paperwork and new responsibilities. When the dust settles and you officially sign for your new home, your work doesn't end there. Many new homeowners don't realize these important things. Don't be caught unaware, be sure you understand these important tips.

Your Insurance Needs to Be Updated
Your home loan likely will require you to have adequate insurance on your house itself. This guarantees that in the event of an unpredictable situation, your lender will be protected. After all, if your house burns in a fire and is uninsured, the owner is unlikely to pay off the loan. 

However, this is not all you need. If you and a partner purchased the home together, you will need to look into an updated life insurance policy. In the event of a death, the other person must be able to continue house payments, and the correct life insurance policy can help make that possible. Consult a financial advisor to see how you can best prepare for the unexpected.

You Should Hone Your Handyman Skills
Between maintenance tasks, small updates, and routine fixes, you will likely spend a lot of cash if you don't learn how to DIY a few projects as a homeowner. Be sure you know your way around basic tools, and make certain you understand what annual maintenance needs to be completed to keep your home in its top form.

Shadow a friend or family member as they complete odd jobs around their home. Be willing to help them and you may learn some skills and get a worker the next time you need assistance. If this isn't an option, or you have a specific task you need to learn, consider signing up for a class at your local hardware store.

You Should Keep Your Renovation Receipts
While general repairs do not count, update and renovation costs to increase your home's basis. This means if you keep the receipts for any improvements to your home, you could find yourself saving some funds when you go to sell your home. This is because money spent on capital improvements can help lower your tax bill when you sell your home. Consult a tax professional to navigate this process. A higher cost basis reduces your total profit (or capital gain) and will result in paying fewer taxes at the time the seller purchases. For this reason, you will want to be sure to keep those receipts and save!

February
16

The Biggest Myths Of Selling A Home

Selling a home is a relatively rare life event for most people, so it's normal not to know what to expect. When seeking advice from neighbors, friends, or family, it might seem like everyone thinks they're an expert on real estate transactions. It's also common to hear myths and tall tales about the market or the selling process. 

As a first-time seller, don't believe everything you hear. Getting caught up in real estate myths can lead to bad decisions that ultimately cost you money in the long run. If you're planning on selling your home soon, be cognizant of these five myths of selling a home:

  • Renovations And Staging Aren't Important
    One of the biggest myths we hear in a hot seller's market is that staging and renovations aren't necessary because buyers are so eager to make an offer. This is simply untrue. Even though the market is incredibly competitive, a home in bad shape is still going to be unattractive to buyers.  Making renovations and staging your home is still your best bet for generating the best return. Just because the market isn't hot doesn't mean sellers should be lazy or skip the important parts.

  • You Can Save Money By Selling Your Home Yourself
    While it's certainly possible to sell a home on your own, you'll likely need to have experience, skills, and a lot of time on your hands in order to pull it off. While it may save you from paying an agent commission, there is also a good chance you'll leave money on the table.

    Real estate agents perform a number of tasks that provide tremendous value by helping you achieve a higher sale price. Staging, marketing, and negotiating are all important pieces. Without an expert in your corner, you might not get the best return.

  • Setting A High Price Leaves Room For Negotiation
    Many sellers think setting the bar high will leave more room for negotiation, but the truth is, many buyers won't even consider a home priced well above its value. By setting a high asking price, you're ultimately putting yourself in a position where you'll likely have to reduce the price after a few weeks, which may lead to buyer suspicions about potential problems.

  • Open Houses Don't Sell Homes
    Open houses have been a home selling tactic for decades, and they didn't disappear during the pandemic. While many people assume real estate agents hold open houses to drum up new business, they can actually be a very effective sales tactic. Open houses are likely to generate quick exposure to the market and can attract a higher number of interested buyers in a short period of time.

  • The Market Will Continue To Rise
    With the exception of two recent economic downturns, home values have consistently been on the rise for many years.  However, these recent recessions have proven that real estate is not a risk-free investment. The myth that home values will continue to rise year after year may influence a seller's decision to list their home. However, the truth is home values can and do fall, and they will fall again.

Selling a home isn't always easy, so arming yourself with the most accurate information is the best way to make decisions that lead to a good return. Of course, experienced real estate agents are often the best source of reliable information about the market. Let's connect when you are ready to learn more about today's market!

February
14

How to Fall in Love With a New Neighborhood

Falling in love with a neighborhood can be equally as important as the house when you're home searching. Whether you're looking to socialize with neighbors or you prefer to keep to yourself, selecting a neighborhood you love is essential to your overall contentment. Read on to determine the factors to consider as you search for a new home in a new neighborhood.

Commute Time
Suppose you regularly commute to your place of employment—this distance and time matters. Whether you drive or take the train, knowing the average daily commute time is an essential factor to consider. If you drive, calculate how long the drive will take, and if you take the train, make sure that the local train stop offers express trains.

Recreational Activities
Whether it's a country club, golf club, fitness center or pool, living near the amenities you use regularly is essential. It will result in less commuting time, less stress and afford you more time to engage in the recreational activities you love.

School Ratings
Regardless of if you have school-aged children or not, living near a highly-rated school should be an essential part of the home searching process. In addition to how the schools are rated on sites such as greatschools.org, you can review the school's state test scores, school programming options such as Advanced Placement (AP) classes, extracurricular activities, athletic programs and the Parent Teacher Association.

Access to Nature
If having access to nature is important to you, research the nearby parks, walking trails and hiking areas that are close to the neighborhood. If you enjoy taking long walks closer to home, ensuring the area has sidewalks or walking trails may be necessary.

Quantity and Age of the Trees
Tree-lined streets are an important part of a neighborhood to many home buyers. They signify a more established area and offer a certain charm that newer communities lack. They also provide health benefits, as they clean the air.

Neighborhood Amenities and HOA
Depending on your stance on homeowner's associations (HOA's), they may entice or deter you. For example, if you're looking for a neighborhood with a community feel and amenities such as a pool, clubhouse and other shared spaces, it likely means the neighborhood will have an HOA. On the other hand, an HOA's regulations may be too restrictive. Review the neighborhood's HOA bylaws before making an offer to ensure you're comfortable with the requirements that are in place.

Walkability
If you're someone who enjoys an early morning walk to get your coffee, making sure the local coffee shop is a quick walk away is one of the minor aspects that add up to your overall quality of life. Likewise, suppose you want the ability to walk into town to grab lunch, go shopping or for your hair appointment. In that case, ensuring your neighborhood is close to the town's central business district is an essential factor to add to your list.

Ultimately, the elements of a great neighborhood are the most important factors to you. Whether it's having a short commute time, highly rated schools or tree-lined streets, your requirements are all part of your unique home buying process.

February
4

How Remote Work Impacts Your Home Search [INFOGRAPHIC]

How Remote Work Impacts Your Home Search [INFOGRAPHIC] | MyKCM

Some Highlights

January
31

Little Things That Can Have A Big Impact On Your Sale

Preparing your home for a listing can be a lot of work — from cleaning to staging, you always want to position your home in a way that impresses potential buyers. However, when it comes to home sales, it's the little things that tend to often have the biggest impact. A lot of minor issues that may not give you a second thought may cause a buyer to hesitate before moving forward.

If you're getting ready to list your home, don't sweat major renovations. Instead, your time may be better spent focusing on the little things that can make a big difference. Here are some examples:

  • Clutter 
    Too many personal items, overflowing closets, and junk lying around can all be off-putting to a buyer. Clutter can ruin a buyer's perception in two ways: it can make your home appear small, stuffy, and cramped, which can give off the impression that the home is too small. When a buyer is surrounded by someone else's clutter can also make it difficult for them to picture themselves living in the home. Decluttering is one of the most important things you can do before listing your home.

  • A Shaky Railing
    You don't want to surprise your buyers with a shaky banister when they grab hold of your railing on their way up
    the stairs. This not only may be a surprise, but it also could be dangerous. Make sure your railing or banister is sturdy and all screws are secure before opening up the home for tours.

  • Bold Paint Colors
    Loud, bright colors may be your style, but it can be a turn-off to many buyers who don't share your same taste in color. If your paint colors consist of bold tones, you may want to consider painting over them with some nice neutral shade. Give your buyers a blank slate to work with.

  • Odd Odors
    Many sellers become nose blind to certain smells and weird odors over time, but buyers will be quick to pick up on the scent of pets, mold, clothes. Even if your home has a bit of a musty smell, you can bet the buyers will notice. Make an effort to eliminate any source of foul odors before listing your home. If you're going to use any candles or scents, be sure they're not too strong.

  • Poor Patching And Touch-Ups
    If patching holes and paint touch-ups are not your specialties, it might be best to leave these to a professional. A poor attempt at filling holes in the wall or touching-up paint can create quite an eyesore. Instead, call a professional painter or carpenter to come in and freshen up the space.

  • Bad Flooring
    Cracked tiles or loose and squeaky floorboards can give buyers the impression that your home is in disrepair. It's also one of the very first things buyers will notice when touring the home. Spend a bit of time fixing-up flooring before listing your home on the market.

  • Dead Light Bulbs
    Don't leave your buyers in the dark. Flipping a non-functioning light switch when touring a home can leave a bad impression. Make sure all bulbs are working and your light switches are functioning, so buyers can truly get a sense of each room.

Major upgrades and renovations may not be necessary before listing your home. Instead, focus on the small, inexpensive repairs that can have a major impact on the outcome of your home sale.

January
12

9 Home Items to Get Rid of for the New Year

The new year can bring new beginnings. Unfortunately, without the proper planning, you will feel like you are already behind on day one. If you truly want to start the new year off on the right foot, you'll need to do some prep work before the day arrives. Getting your home and your mind ready for your New Year's goals can require letting some things go. Here are some items in your home that you can easily get rid of for the new year to bring more organization to your home and mind.

- In Your Living Spaces:

Outdated Books 
Book lovers may want to keep their favorite tomes, but even they can agree that a dated atlas or textbook doesn't serve the reader well.

Broken Trinkets
That glass item you had on display broke months ago, and you've still been meaning to fix it. If you won't repair it or take it to be repaired right now, it's time to let it go. 

Inherited Memorabilia
Your great aunt's favorite collection may have made its way onto your shelf, but do you enjoy the real estate it takes up? If not, pass it along to another person who will. Keep one or two favorites and donate the rest to family or a charity.

- In the Kitchen:

Expired Spices
Spices lose their pizzazz over time. Keep your food tasting its best by discarding anything too old.

Chipped Dishes
Chipped or cracked dishes are liable to break unexpectedly when heated or cooled. Discard them to ensure that you don't have a mess on your hands in the future.

Specialty Cooking Tools 
Holiday cooking items and one-off cooking tools can take up a lot of usable space in your kitchen. Be honest about what you have the space, time and skillset to cook or bake in your current space.

- In Kids' Rooms or Play Spaces:

Incomplete Games or Puzzles
No one wants to spend time on a puzzle only to leave it unfinished due to missing pieces. Save everyone the frustration and avoid the donation pile, toss this item straight in the recycling bin.

Age-Specific Toys
Donate toys that are too young for your child. If you do plan to have another, most items can be bought gently used later. 

Party Favor Toys
Low-quality toys are not fun long-term, but still make a big mess. Do yourself a favor and toss or recycle the tiny and cheap items. Your child likely will never notice.

December
7

6 Popular Home Wellness Trends

Incorporating wellness features into the home design process is not only becoming more mainstream, it's becoming more expected in homes, especially in the luxury market. The foundation of health and wellness begins at home, so it's no wonder that these features are becoming more conventional. Below are the home wellness design trends expected to become increasingly more prevalent in the coming year.

Home Air Purifiers
As the country continues to return to a more normal way of living, having proper ventilation and pure indoor air quality is more important than over. An indoor air purifier can lessen air contaminants, bacteria and viruses. Air purification systems can be installed into HVAC systems and take the form of stand-alone units.

Indoor Gardening
Bringing the outdoors in can offer a host of health benefits, from physical to mental. Greenery can be visually calming, air purifying and can contribute to an immunity-boosting diet. Building an indoor garden can deliver all these benefits. Whether you create a stand-alone greenhouse or a more undersized garden stand, you can have fresh fruit and vegetables readily available and the live plants can aid in purifying your air.

Touchless Appliances
Touchless appliances can help curb the spread of germs throughout your home. From motion-activated toilets, kitchen faucets, bathroom faucets, light switches, locks or garage door openers, simply waving your hand to activate these high-touch surfaces can help stop germs from spreading.

At-Home Fitness 
Creating a fitness space beyond the Peloton and treadmill makes a well-rounded fitness and wellness routine at home. A heated yoga studio or meditation room facilitates a mind-body wellness routine from the comfort and safety of home. For additional wellness benefits, adding a massage studio lets your masseuse come to you.

Embracing Minimalism
A clutter-free home creates a stress-free oasis that is so important for mental clarity and health. Devising a decluttering system that works for you can be therapeutic and result in long-term psychological and physical health benefits. Aspects of this system may include a more sophisticated custom storage system or hiring a professional organizer. In addition, a lighter physical space can often create a lighter headspace.

Enhanced Outdoor Living
Outdoor living and entertaining increased over the pandemic and don't show any signs of slowing down. From full outdoor kitchens to enhanced lounging areas to additional protection from the elements, equipping your home with the features to host and live comfortably outdoors is essential.

By prioritizing health at home, you're more likely to integrate it into every aspect of your life.

December
3

Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year

Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year | MyKCM

There's no denying the financial benefits of homeownership, but what's often overlooked are the feelings of gratitude, security, pride, and comfort we get from owning a home. This year, those emotions are stronger than ever. We've lived through a time that has truly changed our needs and who we are, and as a result, homeownership has a whole new meaning for many of us.

According to the 2021 State of the American Homeowner report by Unison:

"Last year, staying home became a necessity and that caused many homeowners to have renewed gratitude for the roof over their head."

As a nation, we continue to work through the challenges of a pandemic that's pushed us all to new limits. Over the past year and a half, we've spent more time than ever at home: working, eating, schooling, exercising, and more. The world around us changed almost overnight, and our homes were redefined. Our needs shifted, and our shelters became a place that protected us on a whole new level. The same study from Unison notes:

  • 91% of homeowners say they feel secure, stable, or successful owning a home
  • 64% of American homeowners say living through a pandemic has made their home more important to them than ever
  • 83% of homeowners say their home has kept them safe during the COVID-19 pandemic

It's no surprise this study also reveals that homeowners are now more emotionally attached to their homes as well:Home Is Where the Heart Is More than Ever This Year | MyKCMAs we've learned throughout this health crisis, homeownership can provide the safety and security we crave in a time of uncertainty. That sense of connection and emotional stability genuinely reaches beyond just the financial aspect of owning a home. As JD Esajian, President of CT Homes, LLC, says:

"Aside from the financial factors, there are several social benefits of homeownership and stable housing to consider. It has long been thought that buying a home contributes to a sense of accomplishment. Still, most individuals fail to realize that homeownership can benefit your mental health and the community around you."

Whether you're thinking of buying your first home, moving up to your dream home, or downsizing to something that better fits your changing lifestyle, take a moment to reflect on what Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, notes:

"Buying a home is not just a financial decision. It's also a lifestyle decision."

Bottom Line

If you're considering buying a home, it's not entirely about the dollars and cents. Let's connect so I can help you when it comes to weighing the non-financial benefits that may truly change your life when you need them most. 

November
15

4 Things Every Renter Needs To Consider

4 Things Every Renter Needs To Consider | MyKCM

As a renter, you're constantly faced with the same dilemma: keep renting for another year or purchase a home? Your answer depends on your current situation and future plans, but there are a number of benefits to homeownership every renter needs to consider.

Here are a few things you should think about before you settle on renting for another year.

1. Rents Are Rising Quickly

Rent increasing each year isn't new. Looking back at Census data confirms rental prices have gone up consistently for decades (see graph below):4 Things Every Renter Needs To Consider | MyKCMIf you're a renter, you're faced with payments that continue to climb each year. Realtor.com recently shared the September Rental Report, and it shows price increases accelerating from August to September (see graph below):4 Things Every Renter Needs To Consider | MyKCMAs the graph shows, rents are still on the rise. It's important to keep this in mind when the time comes for you to sign a new lease, as your monthly rental payment may increase substantially when you do.

2. Renters Miss Out on Equity Gains

One of the most significant advantages of buying a home is the wealth you build through equity. This year alone, homeowners gained a substantial amount of equity, which, in turn, grew their net worth. As a renter, you miss out on this wealth-building tool that can be used to fund your retirement, buy a bigger home, downsize, or even achieve personal goals like paying for an education or starting a new business.

3. Homeowners Can Customize to Their Heart's Content

This is a big decision-making point if you want to be able to paint, renovate, and make home upgrades. In many cases, your property owner determines these selections and prefers you don't alter them as a renter. As a homeowner, you have the freedom to decorate and personalize your home to truly make it your own.

4. Owning a Home May Provide Greater Mobility than You Think

You may choose to rent because you feel it provides greater flexibility if you need to move for any reason. While it's true that selling a home may take more time than finding a new rental, it's important to note how quickly houses are selling in today's market. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average home is only on the market for 17 days. That means you may have more flexibility than you think if you need to relocate as a homeowner.

Bottom Line

Deciding if it's the right time for you to buy is a personal decision, and the timing is different for everyone. However, if you'd like to learn more about the benefits of homeownership, let's connect so you can make a confident, informed decision and have a trusted advisor along the way.

November
12

Tips and Tricks Every Homeowner Should Know

Becoming a homeowner doesn't equip you with the basics of household know-how, although time and experience will likely teach you how to tighten up a leaky faucet. But technicians say that up to 30 percent of their service calls require nothing more than the flip of a switch or the push of a button to 'repair' the stated problem.

To save you from such an embarrassing experience—not to mention the cost of a service call—Readers Digest offers tips to help every homeowner recognize and 'fix' common issues:

  • The fridge is warm. Check to see that nobody messed with the temperature dial. Turn it up if need be, and be sure no food containers are blocking the fridge and freezer compartment vents, which supply the flow of cold air.
  • The bathroom lights don't work. Sometimes all the bathroom outlets or several exterior lights are powered through a single GFCI (the red button in the middle of some outlets located in one bathroom). If there's an outage, push the reset button on the GFCI, and you could be back in business.
  • A kitchen appliance won't turn on. When a light goes out in one room or a switch doesn't turn on the coffeepot, check the main electrical panel for a tripped circuit breaker. Look for a switch that's not in line with the others. Flip it fully to the off position, and then back on.
  • The toilet is running. The most common cause is a worn flapper that no longer seals properly. The flapper is easy to replace without calling a plumber. Your nearest home store can sell you the part and tell you what you need to know.
  • The paint needs a touchup. Mimic the texture a paint roller leaves on the wall without calling the painter. Dip an old washcloth in the paint, dab it on the spot, and toss it away.
  • The garage is stuffed. Before you call a carpenter to add more shelving, mount a section of wire shelving to the undersides of the beams to give you a row of neat storage nooks. Unlike solid shelving, wire lets you see what's up there. Then pick up a pack of S-hooks at a home center, and turn a length of wire shelving into a rack for holding garden and/or cleaning gear.
November
11

10 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays

Attract homebuyers during the holidays with these tips.

When most people think about the holidays, they think about family gatherings, turkey dinners, and gift-giving.  Selling their home during the holidays isn't something they usually imagine.  No one sells their home during this time of the year ... Right?  Wrong!

In fact, selling your home during the holidays has its advantages. Since fewer homes are on the market, there is less competition.  And home buyers are usually more serious and ready to buy.

How do you make the most of this selling season?  Here are ten tips to get you started.

  1. Deck the Halls
    When selling your home during the holidays, you absolutely should deck the halls to help your home feel festive. However, avoid any religious decorations and be careful to not go overboard. A few classic pieces can go a long way towards bringing the holiday spirit to your home.
  2. Look for Motivated Buyers 
    If someone is trying to move during the holidays, it is very likely that they have a big reason for doing so. Look for buyers on a deadline, such as someone relocating for a job, as they will be more motivated to buy quickly.
  3. Host a Holiday Open House
    At the open house, bring a few holiday touches to the event. Serve freshly baked cookies alongside hot cider and cocoa. Play holiday ambient music to set the mood.
  4. Price to Sell
    Negotiations can take a lot of time. Instead of pricing your home high and gradually making small price reductions, during the holiday season it is better to price your home to sell.
  5. Prioritize Online Marketing
    When the weather outside is frightful, potential buyers rely on online home listings more than ever. Make sure your listings are filled with high-quality pictures and an online video tour to pique their interest.
  6. Clean Up the Exterior
    Bare tree branches give potential buyers a much clearer view of your home's exterior. Pay attention to every detail so the exterior looks perfect. Clean the leaves out of the yard and gutters. Touch up paint on the siding, doors, and trim. Keep the walkways clear of ice and snow.
  7. Keep Your Schedule Open
    You never know when an interested buyer might want to come to look at your home. While you should set aside time to spend with your family on Thanksgiving and Christmas, try to keep as many days clear on your calendar as possible to make scheduling showings easier.
  8. Tidy the Inside Again and Again
    Tracking in mud and snow can make a clean house look dirty in seconds. Vacuum, sweep, and mop regularly to keep the house looking spotless for any impromptu showings that may come up.
  9. Make Your Home Cozy
    When stepping inside from the frigid cold, you want potential buyers to immediately feel cozy and "at home". Turn up the heat to keep them warm. Turn on the lights to make the house bright and cheery.
  10. Hire a Dependable Real Estate Agent
    The right real estate agent to help you with selling your home is important at any time of the year. But during the holiday season, you really want someone who is dependable and will be present when you need them the most. When you are ready to sell, let's connect!

Although selling a house during the holiday season will definitely keep you busy, don't forget to take the time to enjoy the season too.

October
27

7 Critical Steps to Safeguard your Business and Help Avoid Potentially Devastating Financial Loss From Occurring to Clients

Heightened Discipline for Wire Fraud - North Carolina Bar Association

About two years ago, a respected industry attorney and cybercrime expert released a video, giving real estate professionals the one "100% surefire way" to protect your computer against cybercrime:

  • Close all programs.
  • Power off and unplug said computer.
  • Carry said computer to your backyard, dig a hole and pitch computer into the hole.
  • Follow by pouring gasoline on the computer and setting it on fire.

"This," the lawyer quipped, "is how you secure your computer 100% from cybercrime."

Of course there is no 100% surefire way to eliminate the risk of cybercrime.

In fact, 2020 was a record year for cybercrime with nearly $4.2 billion in reported losses, up from 2019's $3.5 billion, according to the FBI's 2020 Internet Crime Report.

The pandemic has certainly played into the hands of the cybercriminals with more people working from home and systems going remote. One-third of all cybercrime over the last five years occurred in 2020, including $213 million in real estate-related crime losses.

Why Hackers Love Targeting Real Estate Professionals

Real estate fraud is particularly pervasive for a number of reasons: Cybercriminals love targeting small- to mid-sized companies, such as brokerages. Real estate agents handle large sums of money; work off multiple devices; deal with sensitive financial data; and interact with multiple players during the transaction, including buyers, sellers, agents, escrow agents, lawyers, mortgage brokers and banks — all of which makes them the perfect target.

The nature of our industry's remote work makes agents and transaction coordinators particularly vulnerable.

Moreover, the average real estate customer doesn't experience a real estate transaction frequently and, therefore, can be more susceptible to fraud.

So what can real estate professionals do to protect themselves and their customers? They can help to prevent cybercrime before it occurs and results in devastating consequences. Here's how.

How Real Estate Agents Can Help Prevent Wire Fraud

In 2020, NAR data revealed that 13,638 people fell prey to real estate wire fraud, representing a 17% increase over 2019.

Even more alarming, title insurance professionals reported cybercriminals attempted to trick employees into wiring funds to a fraudulent account in one-third of all real estate and mortgage transactions, according to ALTA's 2021 Wire Fraud and Cyber Crime Survey. Fortunately, the thieves were only successful in a little over 8% of these attempts, thanks to proper training and education.

Typically, a cybercriminal targeting a real estate transaction will assume the identity of the title, real estate agent or closing attorney. Just before the deal closes, they will forge an email, which is then sent to the unwitting buyer with new wire instructions. Before anyone has detected what happened, the cybercriminal diverts the buyer's funds into their bank account.

These emails can look quite convincing and indeed appear identical to those sent from one of the trusted players in the transaction. However, real estate agents can take action to help prevent this type of wire fraud from occurring:

STEP 1 - Send Earnest Money Digitally

Emailing sensitive data like banking accounts and social security numbers can leave clients vulnerable to identity theft and loss of large sums of money. However, there's an easier, more convenient alternative to mailing checks and wire transfers, both of which can result in fraud.

Earnnest provides another option to buyers who opt to pay their deposit directly to the escrow holder via a digital transfer using dotloop's safe, secure Earnnest integration. Unlike the manual means of depositing a paper check or a wire transfer, Earnnest processes the funds using a bank-level encrypted transfer, the same high-level security implemented by banks.

Here are the three key steps to how an Earnnest digital transfer works:

1. SELECT ESCROW HOLDER

The real estate agent selects their escrow holder with Earnnest. If the escrow holder is not in Earnnest's network, the agent can invite them to enroll.

2. REQUEST EARNEST MONEY

When it's time for the buyer to pay their earnest money, the agent sends the client a request for earnest money via dotloop, which auto-completes the buyer information to kick off the process.

3. COMPLETE THE DIGITAL TRANSFER

The buyer receives the request, pays the earnest deposit through Earnnest digitally, and the agent and buyer receive a payment receipt email when it's complete.

Unlike wire transfers, digital transfers through Earnnest allow agents and buyers to request and pay earnest deposits from anywhere while protecting their sensitive information. The system automates receipts, provides payment tracking and verifies funds, ensuring a swift delivery and speedy transaction process.

Earnnest takes several steps to ensure the security of all parties. First, the portal fully verifies the identification of the buyer and verifies funds. Also, Earnnest never stores banking information, so the buyer's sensitive data is never visible to anyone other than the bank and the escrow office where it's sent.

The entire process occurs within a matter of seconds, and it's free to real estate agents, costing the buyer only $15.

STEP 2 - Confirm by Phone

Most agents know this, but it bears repeating: Always advise clients to confirm wire instructions by phone using the contact information shared verbally, not via email. Hackers can spoof signature blocks in emails so convincingly, there have been some cases in which clients have called fictitious numbers to verify the wiring instructions only to unwittingly surrender their sensitive bank data to the hackers on the other line.

The best approach is to give the client the phone number of the escrow or title officer at the beginning of the transaction and verbally communicate any changes to the points of contact before any funds are transferred.

Agents should warn all parties involved in a transaction to remain suspicious and vigilant regarding any information exchanged via email, and clearly post these warnings in listing agreements and other visible means of communication.

STEP 3 - Use Secure Wi-Fi

Always use a secure Wi-Fi connection — not a public, unsecured Wi-Fi connection that hackers can easily breach. While it can be tempting to do business over a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop, Wi-Fi connections in public places are favorite targets of hackers.

STEP 4 - Don't Overshare on Social Media

Cybercriminals are notorious for gleaning key information from agents' social media accounts that they, in turn, use to forge a convincing email or identify their next potential victim.

As Chris DeRosa, NAR's member information and eCommerce product lead, points out, "Realtors® are very public people and social media makes it easy for hackers to learn about you. With the right logos and branding, information on listings and clients, photos and domain names that are very close [to your real one], someone could easily convince the target user that the communication and request is legitimate."

Be conscious of what you post on your social media channels and ask yourself, "Is this information a hacker could use to forge an email in my name?"

STEP 5 - Practice Safe Email Habits

Agents and clients can further protect their emails by enabling two factor authentication and, if using Gmail, clicking on the Details link at the bottom of the page in the inbox to show any recent activity, such as from a foreign country. If your email provider offers alerts of any unusual activity, make sure to set these notifications to "on."

As a general rule, always think before clicking on a link. Agents should particularly pay attention to referral emails, which might look like they're from a colleague or a client in another state.

Avoid sending personal information in emails or texts, such as social security numbers and bank account numbers, and regularly purge unwanted email.

Most importantly, avoid and caution clients to avoid clicking on any embedded links and attachments within emails if not from a verbally confirmed, valid source. Hackers often use an infected link or attachment to install malware that can devastate personal finances or wipe out a business's entire operation.

STEP 6 - Update Computer Security Often

It's important to ensure your computer is protected with the latest security updates. On Macs, updates can be installed using the Mac App Store or by choosing System Preferences and then Software Update from the Apple menu. On Windows 10, updates can be found in Settings. Select Update & Security and then Check for Updates.

You'll also want to install and frequently update virus protection as well as make sure your system firewall is enabled.

STEP 7 - Practice Good Password Hygiene

Keeping up with passwords can be a royal pain with the number of apps and devices the average user interacts with daily. However, it's critical that real estate professionals make sure they're not using passwords that can be easily hacked. Avoid using obvious password phrases and the same password for all your systems. Some experts recommend using long phrases of 20 characters or more. Also, consider using an encrypted password vault that stores and encrypts your passwords.

If You Suspect Fraud, Take the Following Steps:

  • Notify the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/. There's a critical 72 hour window after a breach, in which victims need to notify the authorities to optimize their chances of recovering diverted funds.
  • Notify all parties involved in the transaction to stop any further spread of fraudulent activity.
  • Change all usernames and passwords.
  • Review your insurance policy and contact your insurance company immediately.

Blog post sourced from dotloop.

October
22

Celebrate Fall With Family Fun Activities

Autumn is sometimes that overlooked period between the last of summer's outdoor activities and hectic preparations for the holidays. But fall offers its own opportunities for rewarding family fun. Check out these leisurely ways to make some happy autumn memories.  

  • Check Out the Foliage In most areas of the country, you are no more than a couple hours drive away from some vibrant fall foliage. If you need ideas, get online to find out where you can best view the best of fall's amazing colors. Pack a picnic and head out for an afternoon of splashing about the falling leaves.
  • Pick Pumpkins …but not from the local market. Look for a fall festival or farmer's market where you can get your fill of fun activities and head home with the best of autumn's harvest, including the perfect pumpkins.
  • Go Apple Picking Apple picking season usually starts in August and peaks through September, but there's still time to squeeze in a trip to a nearby apple orchard during the first half of October. You can take photos, pick apples, eat cider doughnuts and stock up on homemade apple cider.
  • Enjoy Oktoberfest Somewhere in your area, you can probably find a commercial or sponsored Oktoberfest celebration, featuring authentic German foods, a beer and/or cider garden, guides in German folk dress and a variety of games and shopping opportunities the whole family can enjoy.
  • Take a Haunted Road Trip For a good, friendly scare, find a haunted house to explore during the month of October. If all else fails, tour a cemetery at night and make up your own ghost tales.
  • Make Costumes Forget the commercially-made costumes at the store and brainstorm some ideas of your own. Find the fabrics and accessories you need and spend some happy family hours making your costume wishes come true.
  • Get Cooking Spend some time in the kitchen together making pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin pies or even some pumpkin-based soup. You'll be making memories your kids will remember all while enjoying the fruits of your labor.
October
14

Very Superstitious: Home Traditions That Are Still Alive Today

Superstitions are often over the top. There's probably nothing magical about a rabbit's foot, and walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror won't lead to doom. But then again, trying to bring a little luck to your house can't hurt.

There are traditions that promise to bring good fortune to your new home. And even though these rituals are just old tales, following a few can give you a sense of peace and comfort. Here are a few:

Hang a horseshoe. There are a lot of theories as to why horseshoes bring good luck, with some sources claiming it dates back to ancient Egypt. There's even debate as to how a horseshoe should be placed on a wall. Some say the shoe should point upward, U-shaped, so that the luck doesn't drain from the shoe, while another theory says pointing it down allows the luck to pour down on people.

Buy a new broom. Legend says your old broom not only cleaned up dust and debris, but also collected your bad experiences, and you don't want to bring those into your new home. This could be a trick by the broom industry, but if you follow it, at least you'll have a nice, new broom.

Pick the right day. Did you know moving on a Friday or Saturday is said to be bad luck? It's an old superstition that may derive from the fact that those are common moving days when it's hard to find a mover. Moving on a rainy day is supposedly risky, while in Chinese culture, the No. 8 is believed to bring good fortune, so planning a move on the eighth might be a good idea. According to Indian culture, Thursday is the best day to relocate.

Bread and salt. These are traditionally given to new homeowners as a gift, with the bread representing all the wonderful food that will be enjoyed in the household while the salt ensures flavor, not just to meals but to life in general.

Ring the bells and shine a light. These are easy ones. First, after moving in, open all your home's windows and ring a bell in each room to ward off old, negative energy. Then complete the cleansing by lighting a candle at night.

Let's connect when you're ready to buy or sell!

October
2

4 Tips to Gradually Minimize Clutter

We all know that minimizing clutter can make your home more manageable and more welcoming. A clutter-free home can also help with your mental health. Thankfully, keeping your home clutter-free doesn't require extensive decluttering sessions all the time. These four tips can help you minimize clutter gradually without a lot of effort.

One in, One Out Rule
Your home has a finite amount of space. Use this rule to help yourself remember that. Every time you purchase an item, a like item needs to be tossed, recycled or donated to ensure that you don't clutter your home. This can help you evaluate items based on need and it can even help you spend less money. That new dish towel is a great purchase since it can easily replace the worn and stained one you want to discard, but do you really want a new dress enough to donate one you currently own?

Gift Activities as Presents
A great gift comes from the heart, and time spent together can be far more valuable than a toy that will soon be forgotten. To keep clutter at bay, consider gifting activities instead of physical presents. This is especially great for children who can get overwhelmed with too many toys. Gift a trip to the zoo, movie theater or a theme park instead. For adults, gift a cooking class, tickets to an art museum or go on a trip together.

Read the Room
They say the best defense is a great offense. Instead of trying to declutter constantly, read your room and fully evaluate if you have a spot for an item you want. That souvenir figurine may look beautiful on the shelf at the gift shop, but if you can't think of exactly where you would happily display it at home, it may become cluttered quickly.

Keep an Outbox
Keep an outbox at all times so you can be constantly decluttering items that no longer serve your needs. Did you try on a shirt that you don't like anymore? Toss it in the outbox. Did you find a duplicate kitchen utensil hiding in the drawer? Into the outbox it goes. Keeping an outbox on hand ensures you don't forget about items when it is time to donate them.

September
21

5 Tips for Frugal Urban Living

Urban living is expensive—especially for recent college graduates who are living their dream of getting a good first job in the big city. But successful urban living, financial advisors say, is all about being thoughtful and learning to spend wisely and well.

  • Know the 3 Ns: Necessities, Nest Egg and Non-Essentials – Necessities, like rent, food, clothing and transportation, should take no more than 50% of your income. Aim for a nest egg—savings in an interest-bearing account that includes cash enough for three month's expenses or emergencies, plus a chunk of your monthly income going into a retirement account—and designate no more than 20% of your income for discretionary items such as entertainment, dining out, vacations and other non-essentials.
  • Know the 4 Rs: Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle – Before you buy something, ask yourself: Do I really need it? Can I buy it second-hand or trade for it? Can I recycle or repurpose something I already have? Can I find it on the cheap? Get acquainted with local websites devoted to buying and trading used merchandise.
  • Stick to a List – Resist impulsive buying. Whether it's groceries, clothing, household goods or non-essentials, make a list of what you need and do your best to stick to it when you shop. And a good piece of advice…never do your grocery shopping on an empty stomach!
  • Try Not to Pay Full Price – Clip coupons, download apps and sign up for loyalty programs. Check the internet for books and tips on purchasing almost anything you need at a discount. Facebook Marketplace is a good place to start looking for preowned items at affordable prices.
  • Put People Over Things – Money can't buy relationships. Even casual conversations can lead to friendships, and friends can be your greatest asset. Apart from the emotional support that friends provide, you can live more frugally by cooking together instead of eating out, playing games at home instead of spending on expensive entertainment, and keeping each other on the straight and narrow when it comes to spending wisely.
September
20

Is It Time To Move on to a New Home?

Is It Time To Move on to a New Home? | MyKCM

If you've been in your home for longer than five years, you're not alone. According to recent data from First American, homeowners are staying put much longer than historical averages (see graph below):Is It Time To Move on to a New Home? | MyKCMAs the graph shows, before 2008, homeowners sold their houses after an average of just five years. Today, that number has more than doubled to over 10 years. The housing industry refers to this as your tenure.

To really explore tenure, it's important to understand what drives people to make a move. An article from The Balance explores some of the primary reasons individuals choose to sell their houses. It says:

"People who move for home-related reasons might need a larger home or a house that better fits their needs, . . . Financial reasons for moving include wanting a nicer home, moving to a newer home to avoid making repairs on the old one, or cashing in on existing equity."

If you've been in your home for longer than the norm, chances are you're putting off addressing one, if not several, of the reasons other individuals choose to move. If this sounds like you, here are a few things to consider:

If your needs have changed, it may be time to re-evaluate your home.

As the past year has shown, our needs can change rapidly. That means the longer you've been in your home, the more likely it is your needs have evolved. The Balance notes several personal factors that could lead to your home no longer meeting your needs, including relationship and job changes.

For example, many workers recently found out they'll be working remotely indefinitely. If that's the case for you, you may need more space for a dedicated home office. Other homeowners choose to sell because the number of people living under their roof changes. Now more than ever, we're spending more and more time at home. As you do, consider if your home really delivers on what you need moving forward.

It's often financially beneficial to sell your house and move.

One of the biggest benefits of homeownership is the equity your home builds over time. If you've been in your house for several years, you may not realize how much equity you have. According to the latest Homeowner Equity Report from CoreLogic, homeowners gained an average of $33,400 in equity over the past year.

That equity, plus today's low mortgage rates, can fuel a major upgrade when you sell your home and purchase a new one. Or, if you're looking to downsize, your equity can help provide a larger down payment and lower your monthly payments over the life of your next loan. No matter what, there are significant financial benefits to selling in today's market.

Bottom Line

If you've been in your home for 5-10 years or more, now might be the time to explore your options. Today's low rates and your built-up equity could provide you with the opportunity to address your evolving needs. If you feel it's time to sell, let's connect.

September
9

When Should You Hire a Surveyor?

A surveyor is a professional who determines the exact location of a property line. Many homeowners don't know the boundaries of their yards and operate under erroneous assumptions. That can lead to disputes between neighbors that are stressful, costly and preventable. 

You Need to Know the Location of the Property Line Before You Build
If you're thinking about building an addition or constructing a fence, you need to know exactly where the property line is so that you don't accidentally encroach on your neighbor's land. If you don't have your property surveyed and you inadvertently build in your neighbor's yard, you can find yourself in legal and financial trouble. You may be required to move a fence or have an addition torn down, or you may have to purchase a piece of land from your neighbor to rectify the situation and avoid a lawsuit.

Local zoning laws typically require that additions and other structures be located a minimum distance from a property line. You'll need to know precisely where that line lies before you begin building, or even designing, an addition. You don't want to spend time and money to develop a plan, then learn that you don't have the legal right to follow through with it.

You Need to Know Who Owns a Tree
Trees are often located on or near property lines. The location of the property line is important because it determines who is responsible for maintaining a tree. It can also impact liability if a tree falls in a storm. If the tree is located in your yard and it falls on your neighbor's property because you failed to have dead branches trimmed, you may be held liable for repair costs.

You Need to Know If There Are Additional Factors That Affect Land Ownership
Sometimes a property owner is granted an easement that gives that party permission to use a portion of someone else's land for a particular purpose. If an easement exists, you may not be aware of it, but it can affect your rights to build in your yard. A surveyor can research the issue and note any easements in a report.

You Need to Know Where Utilities Are Located
Pipes, gas lines and cables are often placed underground. It's critical to know what's beneath your property and where it's located before you or a contractor begins digging for any type of project. A surveyor can find and mark the locations of underground utilities to help you avoid an accident.

Get Accurate Information So You Can Make Informed Decisions and Prevent Disputes
When neighbors get into disagreements about property lines, things can get heated. Often, a dispute stems from a misunderstanding. If you want to build on your property or if you think your neighbor may be violating your rights, hiring a surveyor is a good first step. Once you have accurate, unbiased information, you'll be able to decide how to proceed. 

August
28

5 High-End Front Porch Ideas

Whether it's a wraparound, screened-in, a loggia or a veranda, porch designs are endless. A porch can be a place to make a first impression on guests, a location for your morning coffee, a destination for sunset cocktails or even a place to enjoy an evening fire. Read on to learn how to create a well-designed front porch that will be sure to wow guests and become your own luxurious oasis.

Fireplace Focal Point
Incorporating a stone fireplace into your front porch design creates both a stunning visual focal point and is a destination to warm up and unwind. Both practical and beautiful, it can be used year-round and will impress anyone who visits your home. Accentuating the space with ambient lighting, comfortable seating and a cozy rug underneath will make this the most used area of the house.

Indoor-Outdoor Inspired Living
A porch isn't solely a place for guests to enter your home, but it can be an additional living space. Creating an outdoor living room on your porch means bringing in a beautiful rug, sofa and chairs, and filling the area with abundant blooming flowers and lush greenery. Spend your evenings lounging with a crisp beverage while watching the sunset or welcome passing neighbors for an impromptu chat.

Private Sitting Space
Since a porch is typically in the front of the house, it doesn't offer the same level of privacy a backyard does. However, you can create a private sitting area with a wall of wall-placed shrubs to create a natural privacy screen without interrupting the existing porch design.

Front Door Technology
Equipping your front porch with the latest home technology trends will give you insight into who's coming and going, even when you're not around. A video doorbell gives you the luxury of seeing who is at your front door, detects motion and provides two-way audio—all from the convenience of your smartphone. Having a keyless entry keypad on your front door gives you the option of distributing the code for anyone who may need easy access, whether it's a dog walker, cleaning service, etc.

Delivery Drop-Off Station
In a world where nearly everything is available with a few taps on a smartphone, having packages pile up on the front steps can be unsightly. A valet closet, a closet designed to drop off packages, dry cleaning, food delivery, groceries or any other items delivered by delivery personnel, can keep parcels secure until you're able to retrieve them. In addition, installing a keyless entry code on the door will allow delivery personnel to safely leave your items if you're unavailable to receive them directly.

Whether you're building a space to rest or adding additional levels of convenience, your front porch is responsible for your home's first impression.

August
26

How to Make Stairs Safer for Seniors

As people get older, physical decline can increase the risk of falling. For seniors with limited mobility, arthritis or poor vision, stairs can be particularly dangerous. A fall can lead to broken bones, head trauma and even death. Here are some ways to make stairs safer for an older family member.

Reduce the Risk of Tripping and Slipping 
Shoes, clothes and other objects that don't belong on the stairs can increase the chance of falling for people of any age, but especially for seniors. Put things away where they belong. If you don't want to take multiple trips to carry things upstairs, put them on a table or in a basket near the stairs, but not on them.

Smooth stairs can be slippery. Stair treads and non-slip floor coatings can make stairs safer for your loved one. 

Make the Stairs Easy to See
Poor lighting and shadows can make it hard to see, which can increase the risk of falling. Check the lighting above and near the stairs. Make sure that every step is well lit and install additional lighting if necessary. 

As people get older, their vision tends to decline. Limited vision and problems with depth perception can make it difficult to see exactly where a step is located. That can cause seniors to set a foot in the wrong place and fall. Painting the steps a different color than the area around them can make it easier for your loved ones to see where each step is and prevent an accident.  

Check or Install Railings
If a staircase currently has railings, check them to make sure that they're secure. Every step should have a railing within reach on either side. There shouldn't be any gaps. If necessary, replace damaged railings or install new railings on one or both sides of the stairs.

Consider Installing a Stair Lift and/or Outdoor Ramp
For seniors with limited mobility, walking up and down stairs may simply be too dangerous. In that case, a stair lift can be attached to the stairs to make upper floors accessible. Your loved one will be able to sit on a seat and ride safely along a rail to another level of the house. The seat can be folded up when it isn't being used so others will be able to walk up and down the stairs without bumping into it.

If your family member's house has steps leading up to an outside door, they can pose another safety hazard. Outdoor steps have many of the same risks as indoor stairs, but rain, snow and ice can increase the risk of falling. Installing a ramp can make it easier to get in and out of the house safely. Non-slip treads, paint or tape can prevent slip-and-fall accidents for all ages.

August
25

Should You Ever Buy a House Sight Unseen?

A buyer who is interested in a property typically visits it in person to inspect its layout, features and condition. It's also possible to buy a house without seeing it in person. A buyer can make a decision based on photos and videos, and possibly also the observations and opinions of a real estate agent or another person who visits the property on the buyer's behalf.

When Might It Make Sense to Buy a Property Without Seeing It in Person?

If you're planning to move a long distance, it may not be possible for you to travel to another state to see a house yourself. In that case, you may decide to purchase a home sight unseen, especially if you need to move soon.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people buy and sell homes. Strong demand has caused properties to be snapped up quickly. In addition, concerns about the spread of the coronavirus have made buyers more willing to purchase a property without first seeing it in person.

With properties currently receiving multiple offers in a matter of hours, interested buyers have to act quickly. If you find a property that appeals to you, you may decide to place an offer without seeing the house in person so you can avoid a bidding war. 

How Can You Protect Yourself When Buying a Property Sight Unseen?

Pictures and videos can provide valuable information about a home, but they can't tell the whole story. The listing photos and videos may not cover the entire house. Defects may not be apparent in the images that are provided. Other negative features, such as an unpleasant odor, will only be detectable during an in-person visit.

Even if you can't go to a house yourself before you place an offer, another individual can act on your behalf to help you make an informed decision. Your real estate agent or a family member or friend who lives in the area can visit a property that you're interested in buying and give you information on any issues of concern. If you have questions, let's connect!

Before buying any house, you should have it inspected so you know if it has major problems, such as a cracked foundation or a leaky roof. A home inspection is even more critical when buying a property sight unseen. 

Include an inspection contingency in your offer. That will allow you to have the house inspected and will give you the right to request repairs or a price reduction, or to back out of the deal if the home inspector finds serious problems. 

August
22

5 Things to Do Now If You Plan to Retire in 5 Years

The prospect of retirement can be exciting,  rewarding and sometimes a little scary, especially if you have concerns about your financial readiness. Presumably, it's a prospect you've spent years preparing for. But no matter how diligent you've been about saving, if you are planning to retire in five years or so, financial advisors suggest you take the following five steps right now. 

  • Map Out Your Long-Term Plan – Do you plan to move? Travel? Stay where you are? Rein in your spending or keep it level? How much money will it take to accomplish your plan? If you haven't done so already, this is the time to meet with a financial expert who can help you calculate how much money you will need to meet your goals over the long term.
  • Increase Your Savings – Even if you think you are on track, this is the time to bulk up your savings. Increase the automated amounts you've been saving out of every paycheck, socking away as much as you can into retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, savings. Remember, you can never have too much to fall back on.
  • Check Your Portfolio – Make sure it's diversified and aligns with your retirement time expectation. If your risk tolerance is decreasing as you are aging, talk with your financial advisor about making changes.
  • Think About Health Insurance – If it expires when you retire, it can be a huge expense, especially if you will be retiring before age 65, the eligibility age for Medicare. Be sure you have a plan for managing health-related expenses.
  • Explore Your Non-Financial Choices – Unless you plan to become a dedicated couch potato, you should investigate your lifestyle choices now. Do you want to work part-time? Start a business? Move to a new city? Pick up a sport or a new hobby? Now is the time to explore the possibilities and requirements, so when the day comes to turn in your keys, you can embark on retirement with confidence.
August
3

Protecting Yourself from Alarm System Scammers

If you have a sign in your front yard warning burglars that you have a home alarm system in place, you could be attracting a new breed of scammer. That's the warning from the consumer watchdogs at Consumer Reports, who say scammers look for signs of existing installations, especially older-looking signs, then strike with one of two approaches:

  1. Fraudsters claiming to be remote access technicians from your security company tell you, they noticed glitches in your system and they want to repair it. You let them in and they tamper with your system so they can return and burglarize your house.
  1. Scammers claim your company has gone out of business and they've taken over their accounts. They "examine" your system and convince you to buy new equipment. They take your money and are never heard from again.

The fact is that legitimate home security system companies never simply send a repairman unannounced to your door. Even if they telephone first, call them back to confirm. Similarly, if your monitoring company had gone out of business, you would have been notified by mail, not by telephone and certainly not by someone simply showing up.

Security experts say you can protect against these scams by taking the following steps:

  • Get references. Ask any salesperson for names of previous customers, especially in your neighborhood, whom you can check with for legitimacy.
  • Do a background check. Demand information about the contractor's license: the number, state of registration, etc. Check them out before taking any action.
  • Get it in writing. Insist that estimates for service or equipment be in writing, specifying who will install it, how it will be maintained and the cost—and pay by credit card, not with cash.
  • Read the contract. Ensure that everything you've agreed to is written into the contract. Check the small print for any monitoring fees or terms you did not agree to.

Most importantly, remember that the FTC's cooling-off rule gives you three business days to cancel the deal if you sign the contract at home. You do not have to give a reason and you can change your mind even if the equipment has already been installed.

When you're ready to find your forever home, let's connect and get your dream home a scam free alarm system!

July
4

July
1

4 Tips for Starting Your Home Search Online

With people shopping online more than ever, it comes as no surprise that this tech platform has become ubiquitous within the real estate industry. From millennials to boomers, homebuyers of all ages and demographics are starting their home search from the comfort of their own computer or mobile devices. Taking into account that more listings than ever offer virtual and 3D home tours, there is so much information available online that buyers depend on. Here are four tips for starting your home search online and finding your perfect home from wherever you are.

Check the Right Websites
House-hunting online wouldn't be possible without websites like ours, BayStreetRealtyGroup.com. With certain research tools available, such as searching by location, price point, number of bedrooms and more, you have the ability to find exactly what you are looking for. Also, with 3D tours, 360-degree room views and aerial drone footage of the property and neighborhood available, it is easier than ever to explore a home's floor plan and imagine what it could be like to furnish and live in a specific space. 

Review Public Records
Head to your town or city county assessor or treasurer office online and enter an address of a home you are interested in. Because tax records are public information, you can see what the current owner, as well as past owners, paid for the property. Here, you can also explore the assessed value, property taxes, construction and remodel permits, property lines, square footage and more. 

Explore the Neighborhood
While you enjoy the ease of searching online, nothing compares to the real thing. If you find a home or property online that you are interested in, and if you are close enough in distance, take a ride to see the home with your own eyes and explore the neighborhood. Or, continue your online journey, enter the address into Google maps and use the street-view to see what is around the home, including different neighborhoods, businesses and school districts.

Hire a Real Estate Agent
Of course, you don't need a real estate agent at the beginning of your online home search. But even if you aren't ready, whether emotionally or financially, a professional can help you especially in your online search. Real estate agents have access to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and proprietary databases not available to the masses. These websites are more accurate than the regular home search websites and can offer more accurate information. Hiring an agent can help you take advantage of all of these resources and especially help you move to the next step in finding a new home. 

January
28

A Beginner's Guide to Painlessly Going Green

You've heard the warnings about global warming, you feel compassion for stranded polar bears and you worry about overwhelming the landfills. As a homeowner, you may not be ready for composting, but there are ways to become an eco-friendlier household.

Ecologists provide simple but useful tips that even the laziest activist can use to do their part in helping the environment:

Cut down on water use. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Drink tap water in reusable containers instead of plastic bottles. Lower the water level when doing small laundry loads and don't run the dishwasher until it's full.

Use less power. Shut off the lights before you leave in the morning, and unplug electrical equipment that you aren't using during the day and while you sleep—especially your work and home computers.

Adjust the thermostat. Set it for a few degrees higher in summer, and a few degrees lower in winter. You likely won't feel much of a difference, and you'll like the decrease in utility bills.

Replace your light bulbs. Sources say if every American household replaced one regular lightbulb with a compact fluorescent bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road.

Change your shower-head. A low flow version will save water while providing just as much pressure.

Save on paper. Keep a digital calendar and notes instead of paper ones. Whenever possible, re-use the back side of old printed sheets for new but less important print jobs. Sign up for paperless billing and pay your bills online.

Use less plastic. Use reusable grocery bags even where they're not required. Re-use empty plastic food containers with tight fitting lids, such as cottage cheese containers, for leftovers and storage purposes—be sure any unwanted plastic goes into the recycle bin.

Eat less meat. If you're not ready to go vegetarian, try committing to a meatless dinner once or twice a week to decrease the resources you use. Producing wheat and even veggies takes far less water than producing beef, and there are plenty of tasty meatless recipes online that families can explore together

January
28

Fraud Alerts: How They Can Help You

Victims of identity theft or fraud may feel they don't have many options to protect themselves. An easy stopgap, however, is to place a fraud alert on your credit report.

A fraud alert can be placed fairly simply. Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to ask that they place a fraud alert on your credit report, giving potential lenders and creditors notice that someone may be trying to fraudulently use your identity to apply for credit. The three main credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—the one that you report the problem to will notify the others.

It alerts them that they should do more thorough vetting, including calling to check if you're really at a store trying to take out new credit, and verifying your identity before extending credit in your name.

Two Types Available
An initial fraud alert lasts 90 days, after which the credit bureaus will automatically remove it from your credit report. You can then request another 90-day fraud alert if you think you're still at risk for identity theft. You can also request that the 90-day alert be removed early if you no longer need it. You must notify each bureau separately to have them remove it.

The second type is an extended fraud alert that can last up to seven years. It can only be placed on your credit report after your identity has been stolen and you've filed an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission. You may also need to file a report with local police.

An extended alert requires creditors to contact you in person or through your designated contact method to make sure you're the person trying to request credit. You can still open a new account after the creditor contacts you.

This type of alert isn't the same as a credit freeze, which is also called a security freeze. This prevents lenders from checking your credit to open a new account, effectively preventing new account openings.

Keep in mind that a fraud alert can be a red flag for lenders, and there's no guarantee it will stop identity theft. After filing a fraud alert, get a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau and check it for warning signs of fraud. These include accounts opened in your name that you don't remember opening, or charges on your credit card that you don't recognize.

June
14

Tips for Tree Risk Assessment and Limb Failure.

Tree Risk Assessment

While not a perfect science — given the unpredictability of nature — there are many signs to look for that could indicate the potential for tree failure. Some caused by improper pruning practices, and others occur naturally. In this article we will discuss signs and growth patterns that may indicate a trees potential likelihood for failure, along with how you — as the manager of your own little slice of our urban forest — can be educated when hiring a tree service contractor in hopes of mitigating these potential risks.

It's easy and understandable to be concerned about large trees near or over your home with the annual threat of hurricanes. As long as your house is within striking distance of a tree, there is the potential for impact if such a storm does occur; or, if structural problems with the tree go unnoticed or untreated. The goal of this article is to familiarize you with some common defects so you can be informed and are able to address potential issues. Also knowing how to identify some of these problems and understanding mitigation options will help you weed out potential "tree choppers."  These individuals may feed off of your fear of property damage and make unnecessary recommendations that can cost you significant money and oftentimes be damaging to your trees.

Tree Risk Assessment

First off, check to see if your tree is over or within striking distance to any targets. These include structures, high traffic areas, playgrounds, etc. If it isn't, move on to others. If it is, let's take a closer look:

Does the tree have any large, dead limbs? These are most easily spotted in summer when healthy limbs generally have leaves.

Do you notice a lean in the tree? Has the lean noticeably worsened over time? You could see heaving of the ground/roots on the opposing side of the lean. Are the majority of the limbs (weight) on the side of the lean, or does the canopy balance out the lean?

Now let's look at the larger branches, leads (large tree parts that grow from the truck off of which branches are attached), and trunk. Do you see any decay on these? Binoculars may be helpful. Keep an eye out for cavity dwellers: bees, raccoons, etc.. These are an obvious sign of hollow areas. Look at the "forks" of the large limbs. This is the area where the trunk branches out to smaller sized leads and limbs and often times where limbs break in high wind. The optimal fork will have somewhat of a "U" shape on the top side. Spread your fingers wide, and look at the base where they meet your hand. Notice the small webbing like appearance — that is what we are looking for in an optimal tree fork. This is the strongest growth form. If you instead see a harder, more "V" like connection, often times with swollen or discolored bark — this could be included bark.

Included bark will cause a weakened attachment of the leads predisposing them to possible failure. A supplemental support system (Cables and/or braces) may be necessary to prevent failure.

Moving on, let's look at the trunk and base of the trunk, "root flare" (Root flare is the base of the trunk where the trunk meets the roots)- do you see any cracks, cavities, loose or missing bark, conks or water Stains? Do you see flat areas as opposed to the mostly uniform roundness? Do you see any deep recesses or ridges at the lower portion of the trunk near the root flare? These are often times an indicator that the trunk may be hollow. If you don't spot any of these, let's move on to the roots.

Do you see any mushrooms or other such fruiting bodies? These could indicate root rot issues. Has there been a driveway recently installed, or other such disturbances that may have damaged the anchoring system of the tree? Do you see any lifted areas of soil or roots? Is the area a low spot? Oversaturated soil due to poor drainage could cause a tree to uproot easier in high winds and is also a breeding ground for root rot causing pathogens further weakening roots.

Risk Assessing Multiple Trees on Your Property

Now let's take a broader look at all of the trees on your property that could be a risk. Here is a list of potential hazardous trees and the risks they pose.

  1. Trees left after development. Often densely wooded lots are cleared with the exception of just a few trees. These trees are more likely to fail in high winds, given they previously shared wind load with other trees. They are usually tall with very thin trunks, low live-crown ratio, and lack a root flare. Root flare is swelling at the base of the trunk caused by added structural wood as a result of wind loading and is a desirable structural feature.
  2. Water Oaks and Laurel Oaks. These trees have a short life span and often develop decay and included bark with age. Keep in mind that just because the leaves are green and appear healthy, the trunk may still be largely hollow. Further inspection may be necessary by an ISA Certified Arborist if the tree is in a critical location.
  3. Trees that have previously been topped or lions tailed. We will dive further into this later in this article.
  4. Large limbs that extend well past the crown of the tree.
  5. Trees in low lying areas. Soil may provide poor anchoring, upping the potential for uprooting in high winds.
  6. Trees with excessive leans.
  7. Trees with low live-crown ratio - usually Pines. Live-crown is measured from the lowest limb to the top of the tree. Optimally this just be about ⅔ of the total height of the tree. The more limbs are concentrated above the halfway mark of the tree, a lever arm action is created in high winds.
  8. Bradford Pears. These are the perfect candidate for limb failure given all of the limbs generally grow from the same area on the trunk, resulting in weak attachment.

How Improper Pruning Practices May Result in Tree Hazards

Topping

Topping is the indiscriminate cutting of tree limbs to stubs or to lateral limbs that are not large enough to assume the terminal role. Often times people assume that by shortening a tree they are ensuring it is receiving less wind load or is less of a hazard because it now won't reach the target if it falls. While the immediate result of topping is just that, many more problems arise down the road. Depending on the severity of the hack job, the tree may die shortly after. Remember — trees need leaves to supply food to sustain. If the tree does survive this travesty, it will sprout out numerous shoots all from one area at the end of the nubbed off limbs. These shoots grow to large limbs over a few years and are weakly attached and prone to break much more than before. Compounding this issue is the trees reaction to topping. It will allocate all of its energy to putting out new shoots/leaves and very little energy to the sealing process, leaving the end of these limbs open for decay. The newly grown limbs will be even more prone to failure. Avoid topping trees.

Lions Tailing

Lions Tailing is when all of the inner limbs of a tree are removed, leaving only the foliage near the ends of the large limbs - resembling a lion tail. The misunderstanding is that by doing this the wind will more easily flow through the tree reducing its wind resistance; however there is actually the adverse effect. Now that all of the wind resistance is at the tip of the limb, a lever arm is created and forces are amplified. Instead of removing this interior growth, weight/limbs should be shortened. As an example, try holding a 5-pound weight with your arm fully extended. Now rest the 5-pound weight directly on your bicep. The latter is much easier. Furthermore, the tree will react to lions tailing by exponential sprouting where the limbs were just removed in an effort to replace lost leaf area. You will hire someone to do it all over again and again. Avoid lions tailing limbs.

Making Large Pruning Cuts on Mature Trees

Large limbs/leads of trees over your house or valuables can be nerve wracking. The first thought is often to remove the entire tree part (i.e limb or lead) all the way back to the trunk. This may not be the best choice. It's important to know that every cut is a wound. The larger the wound, the longer it takes to seal - if ever. Open wounds from large cuts are the perfect opportunity for decay causing pathogens to enter the tree. Instead of having large limbs removed, consider removing weight/limbs from the tip to lighten the load.

Hiring a Tree Professional

Now that you are informed, this should be much easier. Avoid "point and cut" companies. These are the ones who know little about arboricultural practices but have a chainsaw and are willing to cut wherever you point. Find an ISA Certified Arborist — preferably with a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification. They have the knowledge to guide you on what is best for both you and your trees. Yes the initial cost may be a little more, but the results will save you far more down the road. My hope is that this brief "do it yourself" tree risk assessment is helpful. Importantly, this is a very watered down version as a guide to help you spot defects and hazards and should not be a substitute for a tree professionals thorough inspection and advice.

By Shem Kendrick
ISA Certified Arborist SO-7151A
Tree Risk Assessment Qualified
TCIA Tree Care Specialist

Coastal Arbor Care

912-272-0175
www.Coastalarbor.biz

May
6

Hurricane Preparedness Week 

In the Lowcountry, we are less than a month away from the beginning of the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and now is the time to make sure you are prepared. We have recently had two seasons with close calls and you can read what  we learned about preparing here 

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is an upcoming event in the annual formation of tropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere. The season will officially begin on June 1, 2019, and end on November 30, 2019. These dates historically describe the period each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin and are adopted by convention. 

While predictions right now favor average activity for hurricanes in the Atlantic, it is still important to be ready. Don't wait until the last minute to make preparations. One of the most important things you should do, and do immediately, is to check your homeowner's insurance. Most standard homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Check your flood zone at the Georgia Department of Natural Resources DFIRM Flood Map. Then, make sure to have adequate flood insurance for your home. Flood insurance coverage usually takes 30 days to go into effect.

Make sure that you are aware of your community's  evacuation plan and evacuation route. A great way to be prepared for a hurricane and to stay informed during a hurricane is to sign up to receive local alerts and warnings.

Pay attention to local weather forecasts. Storm paths change quickly and without much warning, so listen out for local weather alerts. Also listen to local officials for warnings and instructions, such as evacuation orders. Follow the Chatham Emergency Management Agency, or CEMA, on Twitter and Facebook and check in often for updates.

The FEMA mobile app is also a great resource for hurricane preparation, and includes checklists for hurricane preparation. The FEMA mobile app also provides weather alerts from the National Weather Service and maps of open hurricane shelters and recovery centers. 

Create and review your family's emergency communication plan and make sure that your family is all aware of the contents and location of your emergency supplies. Another important way to be prepared is financially. Strengthen your financial preparedness in the event of a hurricane by collecting and securing important financial, insurance, medical, and other personal records. 

Protect Your Investment

If you have an investment and/or rental property, do not neglect it, even if it is vacant. Instead, make sure to conduct a full hurricane preparedness check on the property every year. This ensures that your property is ready to withstand the high winds and heavy rainfall that is common during the Atlantic Hurricane Season. The staff at Cora Bett Thomas Property Management are available to conduct a Full Weather check on your property, which includes:

  • Complete Roof Inspection
  • Siding and Entry Inspection
  • Window inspection
  • Comprehensive Plumbing and HVAC Check

Once the check has been completed, you can approve any work or repairs that need to be done to ensure that your property is ready to withstand the forces of Mother Nature. The peace of mind that comes from having your property ready will be worth the effort and expense.

These are just a few tools and resources that can help you and your family get prepared, and offer some peace of mind as we approach the 2019 Hurricane Season. 

September
5

National Preparedness Month. 

Preparing for an emergency

2018 has been a quiet year in general throughout the 100 Mile Coast. However, the rest of country has seen its share of fires, storms and flooding. So, with September being National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to check up on your preparedness level. Although never really wants to sit down and consider worst-case scenarios that we can face, by taking the time to make sure that you and your family are preparing for an emergency, you are giving yourself peace of mind and staying one step ahead. Preparing for an emergency may sound like a daunting task, but it can be reduced to 3 easy steps: Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

Get a Kit.

While most of us automatically reach for bottled water and flashlights in an emergency, there are some other items to consider as necessities in your emergency kit, such as:

  • A stocked first-aid kit (There are many options on Amazon) 
  • A radio (either battery-powered or hand-cranked)
  • A multi-tool
  • Cell phones and chargers
  • An emergency blanket
  • Sanitation and hygiene items
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Copies of personal and important documents (deed/lease, birth certificate, passport, insurance policies, etc.)
  • Medications (7-day supply) and any necessary medical items
  • Extra cash
  • Map(s) of the area

You'll want to make sure that you have these items in an easy-to-carry container that you can use either at home or take with you in case of an evacuation. This is just a list of necessities that you should have on hand in your kit, but it is by no means a definitive list. You will want to make sure that you pack additional items based on the types of natural disasters common to your area (i.e., rain gear, surgical or N95 masks, plastic sheeting, etc.), as well as your family members (extra supplies for infants and the elderly).

Make a Plan.

One of the most important things that you can do to remain safe for an emergency and/or natural disaster is to meet with your family members and discuss how you will respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live. This includes:

  • Assigning specific responsibilities to each family member
  • Choosing a place outside of your home to meet, in the event of a sudden emergency such as a fire
  • Choosing a place outside your neighborhood to meet, in the event that you cannot return home and/or must evacuate immediately
  • Choosing an out-of-state emergency contact person, and making sure that each family member has that contact information in writing and/or saved to their cell phones.
  • Planning what to do if you are forced to evacuate: determine whether or not you will stay with friends/relatives in a safe location, go to a hotel/motel, or to an evacuation shelter. You will also want to make sure that you are familiar with not just your evacuation route but also with an alternate evacuation route.
  • Don't forget your pets; you will want to make sure that you have a list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and shelters if you have to evacuate with your pet.

Be Informed.

Don't wait until it's too late. Learn about the types of disasters that are more likely to occur in your area, whether it's something that affects only you and your family, such as a house fire or medical emergency, or something that affects your entire community, such as a hurricane or flood.

  • Identify how local authorities will notify you of a disaster and relay subsequent information — radio, tv, etc.
  • Know the difference between different weather alerts, such as watches or warnings, and the appropriate actions to be taken for each.
  • It's a good idea to make sure that at least one person in your family is familiar with first-aid, especially CPR, and can operate an automated external defibrillator (AED), since disasters can affect emergency response times from ambulances, police officers  and firefighters.

Make good use of the resources available to help you prepare yourself and your family members for disasters/emergencies, such as those offered by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), CEMA (Chatham Emergency Management Agency), and the American Red Cross. Preparing both yourself and your family for emergencies and disasters takes only a little bit of your time, and should you ever find yourself in need, that time will have been well worth it.

August
3

Ensure That You, Your Family And Property Are Protected.

Flood

Nobody ever really wants to stop and consider the possibility of bad weather, but anyone who is looking to buy a home should consider the impact of bad weather on a potential purchase. Realistically speaking, any place in the world that you choose to live is going to have some sort of weather condition that isn't necessarily favorable, and the local governments have invested considerable time and money over the past 20 years to lessen the risk of structural flooding our communities. However, all of the effort in the world will never fully eliminate such a risk, and that is why it is important to understand and make sure that you are proactive in flood preparation

That being said, potential and new homeowners in Savannah and the Lowcountry should make sure to consider the possibility of flooding. Since the region is a low-lying coastal region, various areas are susceptible to flooding during long periods of moderate rainfall or during high-volume, short duration rainfalls. If you plan on buying property that is waterfront, you'll want to make sure that you not only keep an eye on the weather and rainfall, but also tide levels.

One of the most important things that you can do, but is often overlooked by many homeowners is purchase flood insurance. In the course of a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance that you might experience a 100-year flood. Since most policies have a 30-day waiting period before going into effect, you want to make sure that you plan ahead and purchase coverage accordingly. You also may want to consider scheduling a flood preparation site visit from the City or the County (depending on where your property is located); staff can help you with issues related to flooding and stormwater drainage, and can also address any flooding concerns specific to your home and property. You should check with the Chatham County Department of Engineering or City of Savannah Development Services to find out what flood zone you are in and what the Base Flood Elevation is for your lot.

What You Can Do

You can check out the resources available at your local library to determine if retrofitting your property would be beneficial. Retrofitting is altering a building to reduce or eliminate or reduce flood damage and includes several options such as elevation, flood barriers, dry flood proofing and wet floor proofing. You can also consult the FEMA guide for more information on retrofitting your home. Even if you decide not to retrofit your home, it's still a good idea to keep materials such as sandbags, plywood, lumber and plastic sheeting in case of a serious flooding threat; not only can these materials help minimize flood damage, they can also be useful in minimizing damage caused by hurricane-force winds.

An easy way to help prevent localized flooding in your neighborhood is to make sure that ditches, culverts, and storm drains are kept clear of yard waste, leaves, trash and other debris. It is illegal to dump trash, grass clippings, leaves or other materials including chemicals, oil, gasoline or household products into ditches or other drainage systems, so if you see illegal dumping, report it to the local public works department or local law enforcement agencies. 

Make sure that you understand the flood warning system (you can get more information on this from the Chatham Emergency Management Agency), know how to turn off the utilities at your house, and know evacuation routes and emergency shelter locations. Move to higher ground if you can do so safely, but do not attempt to drive or walk through moving water or flooded areas. If you are caught at home and have no way to leave, avoid rising water by moving to the second floor or roof of your home — seek out higher ground, and take your disaster supply kit with you.

If you are instructed to evacuate due to a hurricane, and are able to do so, make sure that you return home only when authorities have indicated it is safe to do so. Check your home for structural damage. Check your heating and electrical systems, as well as appliances prior to using them again after a flood. Don't consume any food or water that was exposed to floodwater.

The Bottom Line

The trick is to be ready, but not afraid. Be prepared and not in denial that such a thing can happen. By making proper flood preparation and making sure that you and your family are protected, you are ensuring the safety of your loved ones and the durability of your property should flooding occur. If you want to learn more about waterfront property on the along the 100 Mile Coast, contact Cora Bett Thomas Realty & Associates.

June
21

Protect Your Dog on Hot Pavement.

Dog on Hot Pavement

Summertime is nearly here in the Lowcountry. This means longer days full of sunshine, which is great if you're at the beach, but not so great if you're trekking across hot pavement. It's always fun to go shoe shopping for summer sandals, but don't forget about your four-legged friends' feet. Sure, shoes are available for dogs, but those can be uncomfortable (and hot!) in the summer. A cheaper and more comfortable option is a paw protection wax . 

Paw protection wax is an all-natural product that forms a barrier on dog's paws. Formulated with vitamin E to moisturize, help soothe wounds and keep paws healthy paw wax is nontoxic, hypoallergenic, and easy to apply. The wax is absorbed into the paws and forms a semipermeable shield, which allows perspiration to escape through the toes. In addition to snow, ice, and hot pavement, paw protection wax also protects from irritants such as sand, salt, and rough terrain. 

Paw protection waxes are made from food-grade waxes that are non-toxic and non-allergenic, so it's ok if your dog licks their paws after an application of the balm. You can even use it on yourself as a protective balm against windburn. 

One of our favorite paw protection waxes is Musher's Secret, a dense, but breathable wax originally developed in Canada for sled dog races and it's ideal for protecting your dog's paws from extreme temperatures — hot or cold. While any paw protection wax will need to be reapplied depending on your dog's activity, a little bit of the product goes a long way. Just a small amount on each paw is good for a week's worth of walking.

Make the most of the summer days in Savannah for you and your pooch, and keep their paws protected. 

Where to Find Paw Protection Wax

Locally, find paw protection wax at Woof Gang Bakery locations. But just call ahead to make sure paw protection wax is in stock at your nearest location because of its popularity. Find your nearest store here.

You can find Musher's Secret online at Amazon.

And don't forget to pick up a travel dog bowl to keep your pal hydrated too!

January
12

What Did You Discover During the Snowpocalypse?

Winterizing Your Home | Cora Bett Southern Realty News

Savannah doesn't always experience winters that are as harsh as other parts of the country. Every winter in Savannah there will be a few days when you discover an extra draft or two around the house. But as this season has already shown us, it's always good to have strong plan to winterize your home. A draft or two during a typical cold snap is pretty tolerable, but a few days and nights well below freezing can make a older Southern home more uncomfortable. Here are a few tips for making sure your home is ready for whatever the rest of this winter throws at you.

4 Easy Post Storm Winterizing Your Home Tips

Winterizing Your Home | Cora Bett Southern Realty News

Run Fans in Reverse

Many homes in Savannah have ceiling fans, which are absolutely necessary in the sultry summer weather. But many people don't realize that running fans clockwise will change the distribution of the air in your house produce a warming effect. Most ceiling fans come with a handy little switch that will reverse the direction of the fan blades from counterclockwise (cooling by driving air down) to clockwise (warming by drawing air up).  Just don't forget to switch them back!

Reduce Drafts

Drafts can waste anywhere from 5%-30% of your home energy use. This is a problem that can be easily remedied with a draft snake. Make one of your own by using a rolled bath towel, or get creative with scraps of cloth and fillings such as sand or kitty litter for added heft.

Mind Your Thermostat

It's easy to forget to turn down the heat when you're leaving your house, but doing so is one of the easiest ways to save money. Most houses shell out 50%-70% of their energy budgets on heating and cooling. For every degree that you lower your thermostat during the winter, you will save between 1% and 3% on your heating bill. Better still, invest in a programmable thermostat such as a Nest.

Put Up Some Plastic

Like the draft snake, this is an easy and inexpensive and temporary method for winterizing your home. Pick up a window insulation kit at your local discount or hardware store. If properly installed, the plastic will be virtually invisible. A little patience, the kit and a hair dryer and you will have less drafty and more efficient home. Speaking from experience, you will notice a difference in the amount of heat that your home retains from insulating your windows with one of these easy-to-use kits. 

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