Author: onlineimage

HOLIDAY & WINTER FIRE SAFETY

Residential fires take their toll every day, every year, in lost lives, injuries, and destroyed property. But many conditions that cause house fires can be avoided or prevented. Taking the time for some simple precautions, preventive inspections, and concrete planning can help prevent fire in the home and can save property and lives should disaster strike.

  • Check holiday lights for fraying or broken wires and plugs. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as to how many multiple strands can be joined together, as a fire hazard could result from overload. Enjoy indoor holiday lighting only while someone is home, and turn them off before going to bed at night.
  • Candles add a welcoming, festive feeling, and need to be placed in stable holders and located away from flammable items, drafts, pets and children. Never leave burning candles unattended, even for a short time.
  • Keep live Christmas trees in a water-filled stand and check daily for dehydration. Needles should not easily break off a freshly cut tree. Brown needles or lots of fallen needles indicate a dangerously dried-out tree which should be discarded immediately. Always use nonflammable decorations in the home, and never use lights, even LED types, on a dried-out tree.
  • Electrical items including lamps, appliances, and electronics should be checked for frayed cords, loose or broken plugs, and exposed wiring. Never run electrical wires, including extension cords, under carpet or rugs even temporarily as this creates a fire hazard.
  • Fireplaces should be checked by a professional chimney sweep each year and cleaned if necessary to prevent a dangerous buildup of creosote, which can cause a flash fire in the chimney. Cracks in masonry chimneys should be repaired, and spark arresters inspected to ensure they are in good condition and free of debris.
  • When using space heaters, keep them away from beds and bedding, curtains, paper – anything flammable. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Space heaters should not be left unattended while in use or where a child or pet could knock them over.
  • Use smoke detectors with fresh batteries unless they are hard wired to your home’s electrical system. Smoke detectors should be installed high on walls or on ceilings on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside every sleeping area. Statistics show that nearly 60% of home fire fatalities occur in homes without working smoke alarms. Most municipalities require the use of working smoke detectors in both single and multi-family residences.
  • Children should not have access to or be allowed to play with matches, lighters or candles. Flammable materials such as gasoline, kerosene, or propane should always be stored outside of and away from the house.
  • Kitchen fires know no season. According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Association, cooking is the leading cause of house fires. Grease spills, items left unattended on the stove or in the oven, and food left in toasters or toaster ovens can catch fire quickly. Don’t wear loose fitting clothing, especially with long sleeves, around the stove. Turn the handles of pots and pans away from the front of the stove to prevent accidental contact. Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher within easy reach. Extinguishers specifically formulated for grease and cooking fuel fires are widely available and can supplement an all-purpose extinguisher.
  • Have an escape plan. This is one of the most important measures to prevent death in a fire. Visit ready.gov for detailed information on how to make a plan. Local fire departments can also provide recommendations on escape planning and preparedness. In addition, all family members should know how to dial 911 in case of a fire or other emergency.

Your local Pillar To Post office wishes you and your clients a happy and safe holiday season!

Pillar To Post Newsletter November 2018


Keep calm through the holidays

SMARTER LIVING

“Calm” for the holidays

Feeling anxious about the holidays? Try these tips to bring on the calm:

  • Don’t feel like you have to say “yes” to every invitation, menu demand or gift request.
  • Ask others to pitch in on tasks such as shopping, baking and wrapping. And if someone offers help, accept it!
  • Set a budget for gift purchases and stick to it. A mountain of new debt is no way to start the new year.
  • If you’re hosting a meal, ask guests to bring side dishes or desserts. If they ask to do dishes, hand them a sponge!
  • A 15 minute walk each day will leave you refreshed and help clear your head.


Living right at home

LIVING RIGHT AT HOME

Brighten Up Your Living Space in Winter

The shorter days will still be here for months to come, and spring can seem a long way away. But winter doesn’t mean your home needs to feel drab for months on end. Here are some easy ways to bring some springtime into your home and life right now.

Rooms of blooms
Choose a bouquet of colorful fresh flowers or a flowering plant to display in the kitchen, family room, or wherever you spend a lot of time. Or divide a large bunch of blooms into several smaller vases that you can place in a bathroom, by the kitchen sink, and on your nightstand.

Cheers!
If you live in a mild climate, a pot or two of bright flowering plants outside your front door provides instant cheer. Your neighbors (and the mail carrier) will appreciate it, too!

Punch up the color
Give your powder room or laundry area a lift with a fresh coat of paint in a fun new color, or create a bigger impact with an accent wall in any room.

Give it a spin
Whirl chunks of pineapple, mango, and banana with plain yogurt in the blender to bring a taste of the tropics to a dark morning. This healthy treat will give your day a delicious jump start and bring a smile to your face.

Be a quick change artist
Try new throw pillows or pillow covers in bright, fun fabrics to liven up your sofa and chairs. There are so are many great-looking, inexpensive options available you won’t have to splurge to give your room a fresh look.



Wind damage

SEASONAL SENSE

Before and after the storm

No matter where you live, winter storms can wreak havoc on property. Preventive steps can reduce the chance of serious damage to homes and lives.

Before the storm

  • Outdoor furniture, grills, toys, birdbaths and the like should be stored away. Secure and anchor large objects such as prefab sheds and play structures to prevent them from falling or blowing over.
  • Trees can look like they’re in good shape but may be diseased or have other problems that can cause them to fail unexpectedly. Trees stressed by drought or that are rooted in saturated soil can be more susceptible to problems when storms hit.
  • Local ordinances may require that trees be trimmed a minimum distance from driveways, structures and power lines. For safety’s sake, a qualified professional should perform this work.
  • Using binoculars, check your roof for missing or damaged shingles. Flying shingles can damage structures, while missing shingles can allow water to leak into the home. Any roofing repairs should be done professionally to ensure the work is done safely and correctly.

After the storm

  • Look for downed or sagging power lines and report them immediately to your utility company. Always assume a downed power line is live, and never approach or touch it.
  • Check around for fallen branches or other damage to trees and structures. This is also a good time to reinspect the roof for storm damage; any repairs should be made as soon as possible to prevent further problems and leaks.
  • Note any areas where water may have infiltrated siding, the foundation, or windows and have repairs done before the next storm hits.

INSPECTION INSIGHTS

Why get a pre-listing home inspection?

A pre-listing inspection can uncover previously unknown problems – major and minor – allowing the opportunity to make repairs, updates, or replacements as needed or as the seller wishes. Addressing these issues before the home goes on the market can result in cleaner offers and a smoother transaction for both parties. Having well-informed sellers and buyers will work to everyone’s advantage.

Be sure that the home inspection is comprehensive and that you’ll get the report immediately upon completion of the inspection. This will allow sellers to get the information they need right away, so they can decide on their next steps prior to listing. Photos should also always be part of a professional report so that the full documentation of conditions is available to both the sellers and potential buyers. This is especially important when it comes to issues that might not be addressed or repaired prior to sale.

Home inspection are important

Having a pre-listing inspection in hand is a great way to inform potential buyers and give them peace of mind once the home hits the market, leading to a faster sale!



Keep your family safe with home security

HOUSEWISE

Home sweet home security

We all love coming home at the end of the day to a place we feel safe. Here are some tips for keeping your home and valuables secure.

Secure Entrances – Thoroughly evaluate all entry points to your home. Make sure all doors have a secure lock and reinforce the door frames. Windows should be closed and locked at all times when you are away.

Secure Lighting – Lighting is a basic but important burglar deterrent. Indoor and outdoor lights can thwart intruders by making it look like the house is occupied when you are not home, and minimize the places burglars can hide at night.

Secure Garage – Garages are a favorite target for thieves because they contain easy to sell valuables like bicycles, tools and sports equipment. Garages can also provide easy access into the home. Keep all garage windows and access doors securely locked. Look into installing tempered glass in windows, or cover the inside of the windows with a sheet of durable Plexiglas.

Security System – There are lots of options available for homeowners who want to take this extra precaution. The latest systems can be operated using a mobile device or speaker-based “assistant,” allowing you to arm the system and remotely monitor indoor and outdoor security cameras. More conventional alarm systems include third-party monitoring, and unmonitored alarms that simply make a loud noise when triggered.


PLACES AND SPACES

The right tree in the right spot

One of the most common problems with home gardens is plants, particularly trees, that grow too large for their location.

The right tree in the right spot

Here are keys to avoiding this:

  • Research how tall and wide a particular kind of plant or tree will be at maturity. That cute sapling at the nursery could grow up to be a giant you don’t have space for.
  • Avoid planting a tree too close to the house. At full size it may damage the roof and gutters and need to be cut back.
  • If the tree is deciduous (loses its leaves each fall), will the winter sun cause the rooms nearby to be too bright?
  • Trees with aggressive and/or shallow root systems shouldn’t be planted near the house, pavement or other surfaces as they can potentially cause serious damage to the foundation.

Budgeting Basics for Homeowners

A new home often means making significant adjustments to how people spend their money. Expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance add up quickly and can easily throw the best of financial intentions out of whack. Creating and following a budget is a great way to stay on track while cutting down on financial stress at the same time.

Having a budget gives homeowners a roadmap for their financial needs and goals. Yes, their monthly home-related expenses need to be met, but they’ll also need to consider much more: food, clothing, education, healthcare, transportation, and savings for both retirement and emergency expenses.

Homeowners will definitely have unexpected costs that arise at inconvenient times – the water heater needs replacing, or the roof needs repair right away. Having a way to cover these expenses is critical not only to the home but for peace of mind.

Homeowners should start budget planning by examining their household income against expenses. First, list the monthly income – take-home pay if they get a paycheck, self-employment income, and any other outside sources of income. This amount will form the basis of the budget.

Next, make a list of the monthly fixed expenses. These include the mortgage payment, car payments, phone and internet service, trash collection, etc. For expenses that are typically billed less frequently, such as property taxes, home insurance, and school tuition, divide the total yearly amount by 12. Fluctuating costs such as gas and electric bills can be averaged to a monthly total and added to this list as well. If there are carried balances on credit cards, those payments will need to be factored in, too. Importantly, savings should be considered fixed expenses – making this commitment to the future will pay off, literally, in the years to come.

Next, list the variable expenses. These are expenses over which homeowners have some control: food, clothing, cable or satellite TV, online subscriptions, gasoline, entertainment, gym memberships, and even haircuts are some typical examples. Track these expenses for a few months to arrive at accurate numbers to work with. It’s very important to be realistic about what is currently being spent, because once the overall expense budget is developed, they may need to look for reductions in these variable items.

Add the fixed and variable expenses together and compare them to the total monthly net income. If the income is enough to cover everything, homeowners can still look for ways to budget in their favor. Reducing some variable expenses and shifting the difference into savings, for example, is a great way to boost one’s financial situation without making major changes.

And if expenses exceed income?  If an increase in income isn’t on the horizon, they’ll need to reduce expenses so that they’re in line with what they can actually afford. First, go to the list of variable expenses and closely consider each line item. Is that upper-tier cable TV package really necessary? Can more meals be prepared at home? Go to the movies less often? Reducing expenses in these categories can really add up on a monthly basis.

If reducing the variable costs still isn’t enough, they’ll need to look at the fixed expenses. Consider trading down to a car with affordable payments and raising the deductibles on home and auto insurance. Check into cheaper plans for mobile devices. The differences can be significant over the course of a year.

No matter how careful the budget planning, it won’t work if the budget isn’t followed. Personal finance software can be helpful in tracking cashflow, and adjustments can continue to be made over time. By keeping to a budget, homeowners will come out ahead and sleep better at night, too.