Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Moving Tip




Plan to unpack BEFORE you pack. Take photos of each room in the new home before you arrive with furniture, plants, appliances and family in tow. Write down on a clip board where each item should go in your next home before packing, and carry it with you on moving day. List out the major items that need to be assembled first. As you place each item in its new room, cross it off the list and you will be one step closer to enjoying your new home.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

10 Tips for Moving with Pets

Moving to a new home can be stressful on your pets, but there are many things you can do to make the process as painless as possible. Experts at The Pet Realty Network in Naples, Fla., offer these helpful tips for easing the transition and keeping pets safe during the move.

  1. Update your pet’s tag. Make sure your pet is wearing a sturdy collar with an identification tag that is labeled with your current contact information. The tag should include your destination location, telephone number, and cell phone number so that you can be reached immediately during the move.

  2. Ask for veterinary records. If you’re moving far enough away that you’ll need a new vet, you should ask for a current copy of your pet’s vaccinations. You also can ask for your pet’s medical history to give to your new vet, although that can normally be faxed directly to the new medical-care provider upon request. Depending on your destination, your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications, and health certificates. Have your current vet's phone number handy in case of an emergency, or in case your new vet would like more information about your pet.

  3. Keep medications and food on hand. Keep at least one week’s worth of food and medication with you in case of an emergency. Vets can’t write a prescription without a prior doctor/patient relationship, which can cause delays if you need medication right away. You may want to ask for an extra prescription refill before you move. The same preparation should be taken with special therapeutic foods — purchase an extra supply in case you can't find the food right away in your new area.

  4. Seclude your pet from chaos. Pets can feel vulnerable on moving day. Keep them in a safe, quiet, well-ventilated place, such as the bathroom, on moving day with a “Do Not Disturb! Pets Inside!” sign posted on the door. There are many light, collapsible travel crates on the market if you choose to buy one. However, make sure your pet is familiar with the new crate before moving day by gradually introducing him or her to the crate before your trip. Be sure the crate is well-ventilated and sturdy enough for stress-chewers; otherwise, a nervous pet could escape.

  5. Prepare a first aid kit. First aid is not a substitute for emergency veterinary care, but being prepared and knowing basic first aid could save your pet's life. A few recommended supplies: Your veterinarian's phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or to muzzle your pet, adhesive tape for bandages, non-stick bandages, towels, and hydrogen peroxide (3 percent). You can use a door, board, blanket or floor mat as an emergency stretcher and a soft cloth, rope, necktie, leash, or nylon stocking for an emergency muzzle.

  6. Play it safe in the car. It’s best to travel with your dog in a crate; second-best is to use a restraining harness. When it comes to cats, it’s always best for their safety and yours to use a well-ventilated carrier in the car. Secure the crate or carrier with a seat belt and provide your pet with familiar toys. Never keep your pet in the open bed of a truck or the storage area of a moving van. In any season, a pet left alone in a parked vehicle is vulnerable to injury and theft. If you’ll be using overnight lodging, plan ahead by searching for pet-friendly hotels. Have plenty of kitty litter and plastic bags on hand, and keep your pet on its regular diet and eating schedule.

  7. Get ready for takeoff. When traveling by air,check with the airline about any pet requirements or restrictions to be sure you’ve prepared your pet for a safe trip. Some airlines will allow pets in the cabin, depending on the animal’s size, but you’ll need to purchase a special airline crate that fits under the seat in front of you. Give yourself plenty of time to work out any arrangements necessary including consulting with your veterinarian and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If traveling is stressful for your pet, consult your veterinarian about ways that might lessen the stress of travel.

  8. Find a new veterinary clinic and emergency hospital. Before you move, ask your vet to recommend a doctor in your new locale. Talk to other pet owners when visiting the new community, and call the state veterinary medical association (VMA) for veterinarians in your location. When choosing a new veterinary hospital, ask for an impromptu tour; kennels should be kept clean at all times, not just when a client’s expected. You may also want to schedule an appointment to meet the vets. Now ask yourself: Are the receptionists, doctors, technicians, and assistants friendly, professional and knowledgeable? Are the office hours and location convenient? Does the clinic offer emergency or specialty services or boarding? If the hospital doesn’t meet your criteria, keep looking until you’re assured that your pet will receive the best possible care.

  9. Prep your new home for pets. Pets may be frightened and confused in new surroundings. Upon your arrival at your new home, immediately set out all the familiar and necessary things your pet will need: food, water, medications, bed, litter box, toys, etc. Pack these items in a handy spot so they can be unpacked right away. Keep all external windows and doors closed when your pet is unsupervised, and be cautious of narrow gaps behind or between appliances where nervous pets may try to hide. If your old home is nearby, your pet may try to find a way back there. To be safe, give the new home owners or your former neighbors your phone number and a photo of your pet, and ask them to contact you if your pet is found nearby.

  10. Learn more about your new area. Once you find a new veterinarian, ask if there are any local health concerns such as heartworm or Lyme disease, or any vaccinations or medications your pet may require. Also, be aware of any unique laws. For example, there are restrictive breed laws in some cities. Homeowner associations also may have restrictions — perhaps requiring that all dogs are kept on leashes. If you will be moving to a new country, carry an updated rabies vaccination and health certificate. It is very important to contact the Agriculture Department or embassy of the country or state to which you’re traveling to obtain specific information on special documents, quarantine, or costs to bring the animal into the country.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

10 Tips for Moving with Children

 

Have a Family Meeting

Get the Kids' Feedback on the New Home

Purge Before Packing

Organize a Moving Sale

Research the New Place

Make Room Plans

Do a Site Visit

Host a 'See You Soon' Party

Map the Move

Be a Tourist in the New Place

Friday, July 25, 2014

Keeping Pests Out Of Your Home: 10 Pest Control Tips From Walker Pest Management

 

Bugs

We’re not talking about your noisy neighbor or your annoying uncle Fred.  These are tips to keep those pesky pests and insects out of your home.  You know all the pests you love to hate like roaches, ants, spiders, crickets, scorpions and mice.   Here are 10 great tips to help prevent pests from ever entering your home:

  • Keep the floors clean: wipe up any spills immediately using soap and water not just a rag. Clean the entire flooring at least once a week and the kitchen floor at least twice a week.

  • Take out the trash: every day, do not leave trash in your home overnight. This includes all trash cans not just in the kitchen.

  • Keep fruit in the refrigerator: especially when ripe.

  • Keep the sink clean: wash dishes daily. If you cannot clean the dishes, then at least fill the sink with soap and water.

  • Keep a tight lid on things: make sure all food and beverage containers kept outside of the refrigerator are tightly sealed. Keep bags of cereal, seeds and grains in a sealed container.

  • Keep things dry: make sure the bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms are dry.  Fix leaks immediately and wipe up any spills or splashes at once.

  • Keep pets clean: brushing, bathing and using flea and tick protection on your animals, especially indoor/outdoor pets.

  • Seal up the house: use caulk to seal up any cracks on baseboards, cabinets, pipes, ducts, and fittings inside the home. Check outside and caulk all door frames, window frames, roof joints and any visible cracks on the exterior surface.

  • Keep the outside of the home free and clear: do not stack wood next to the home and do not leave piles of leaves laying around the yard.  Keep any plants cut back so pests cannot climb up and access your house. Keep gutters free of leaves and other debris that may harbor insects.

  • Watch what you bring into the home: many people unknowingly bring in insects or insect eggs when buying fruits and vegetables. Boxes or bags used to bring home these items can many times harbor pests or eggs. Once in your home, they multiply and can cause infestations. German roaches are especially prone to be brought in this way.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

15 Painting Tips to Paint Like a Pro

 
Primer comes before paint.
Tempted to skip the primer? Primer not only provides a good surface for the paint, but it also brings out the paint’s true color.

  Paint like a pro.
Painting is your chance to show off your skills. Use an edge pad for clean lines around doorframes, ceiling edges and corners so your walls look great — down to every last detail.

Create a sticky situation.
Paint won’t stick to the wall if you haven’t taken the time to prep. The surface must be clean, non-glossy and in good condition. 

One gallon at a time.
How much paint will it take to cover your walls? The pros recommend one gallon for every 400 square feet. Covering textured, rough or unprimed surfaces may require more.

Dry days make good painting days.
Moisture in the air keeps water-based paint from drying. Skip the humid afternoon paint project and slow drying walls won’t wreck the rest of your day.  

Put your sandwich bags to work.
Slip a small plastic bag over your doorknobs and tape the edge to avoid getting paint in places it wasn’t meant to go. You’re so resourceful.  

Out with the old.
If the old paint on your wall is flaking off, it’s a good idea to buy a paint scraper and get it out of the way. Once all the old paint is gone, sand the surface smooth, prime and your new paint will look great.

Clean finish.
If you’re looking for paint in high-traffic areas, semi-gloss is the way to go. Shiny and durable, semi-gloss is a parent’s best friend.

 Give the walls a sponge bath.
Washing your walls from top to bottom is always recommended because paint sticks better to a clean surface.

 Don’t look back.
Once an area starts to dry, it’s best to leave it alone. Going back over it can leave marks and color streaks in the paint’s surface. 

Polka dots look good on fabric—not floors.
Unless you’re trying to paint your floor, we recommend covering it up with a drop cloth. It’s the cheap, easy way to save yourself a whole lot of irritation. 

Take away the shine.
Paint doesn’t always adhere to glossy surfaces. We recommend using a light grade sandpaper to take the gloss off the surface so your new paint sticks like it should.  

Turn in the brush.
Small rooms can feel gigantic when it comes to painting. A roller will do a better job than a paint brush in less time.

 Spare the wall plates.
Before you start, remove all wall plates and tape off light switches and electrical outlets. You’ll get high marks for professional-looking results. 

Patience is a virtue.
You’ve completed your mission to fix every imperfection with patching compound. Now, make sure it’s dry. Then sand smooth, prime, and you’ll have a surface good enough for any pro.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Decorating Hacks: Genius Makeovers You Can do In A Day

white dining room       

Display a Great Collection on a Dining Room Table

In the living room of an Atlanta house by designer Beth Webb, an elm plank table from Clubcu, which often doubles as a dining table, dramatically displays a collection of Chinese porcelains. "The pieces don't have to match, but they do have to play together well," Webb says.

Hang an Interior Curtain

In the kitchen of the same Atlanta house, a linen curtain runs on a track spanning the room and can be pulled "to conceal the mess of preparation," Webb says. Steel-and-glass casements frame views of the pool and garden. KWC Gastro faucet.

 

Mix and Match Your Bedding

"We call this 'the sailor room,' because we went all out with the nautical theme," designer Ken Fulk says of a bedroom in his Massachusetts vacation house. "The mix-and-match nature of the patterns and faded batik prints make it feel like it's a collection of old textiles brought back from a journey at sea." John Robshaw bedding. Antique cage lights hang from an antique metal four-poster bed that belonged to the previous owner.

 

Put an Antique in the Bathroom

The guest bath in Fulk's vacation home "feels authentic to the period of the house, but also clean and modern," he says. Pedestal tub and fixtures from Sunrise Specialty.

 

Paint an Inexpensive Piece of Furniture White

This Kansas City house's dining room, a former loggia, is "light, bright, and airy," homeowner and designer Zim Loy says. "I accomplished that with lots of white paint." She bought a beat-up old $60 table at an estate sale and gave it a fresh new look by the painting the base high-gloss white. Its curves echo the arms of the Barbara Cosgrove chandelier.

 

Cover a Wall with Plates

Loy discovered Hackerware on eBay — "there's tons of it, and it's so cheap!" — and started collecting it for the dining room. Covering the whole wall with plates has the same effect as "one big piece of art."

Wallpaper Your Vinyl Window Shades

"I had a roll of wallpaper in my office that was left over from a photo shoot we did, and I was about to put it in the trash when I thought, 'No, I can do something with this,' " Loy says. "Then I thought of the vinyl shades in our guest room. So I wallpapered them. You gotta go for it." The vinyl shades are papered in Pierre Frey's Espalier. The canopy bed was painted black to show off its silhouette.
 

Dress Up Hallways with Turkish Runners

In the second-floor hallway of a California house, designer Betsy Burnham overlaps Turkish runners from Rugs & Art, drawing the eye to a Moroccan-inspired reading nook. The vintage carpets "can transform a plain hallway into a decorated space," Burnham says. "A really faded, tattered rug is instantly Bohemian." The window seat is covered in Tibet woven silk from S. Harris. Pillows by Hollywood at Home; garden stool from Rolling Greens.


Move Seating Away From the Walls

"Float furniture away from the walls: It creates more intimate seating," designer Betsy Burnham says. She did just that in the living room of this California house. The console table separating back-to-back sofas is decked with vintage goddess figurine lamps and Chinese monkeys "for a Tony Duquette, William Haines flavor." Sellarsbrook rug, the Rug Company. Rectangular Cocktail Table, Baker.

Reupholster Furniture with Old Curtains

"Everything in this room has a story," designer Podge Bune says of her Hamptons cottage's living room. "The easy chair is covered in my old dining room curtains, a Designers Guild fabric they no longer make."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tips For Buying A House

1. Don't buy if you can't stay put.

 

2. Start by shoring up your credit.

 

3. Aim for a home you can really afford.

 

4. If you can't put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan.

 

5. Buy in a district with good schools.

 

6. Get professional help.

 

7. Choose carefully between points and rate.

 

8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.

 

9. Do your homework before bidding.

 

10. Hire a home inspector.

Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Pet-friendly Home Additions

10 pet-friendly home additions: Smart flooring (© Gina Callaway)
 
Linoleum flooring is becoming popular among designers because it has anti-microbial properties, it's easy to maintain and it is more environmentally sustainable than vinyl flooring, says Nancy Chwiecko, associate professor of interior design at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., and author of the book "There's a Dog in the House."
Wood floors, too, are easier to maintain than carpet if you have a pet. Pick light to medium finishes, lower-luster glosses or distressed woods to help minimize scratches from pet nails. Keep your pet's nails rounded and short to prevent scratches.
If you prefer carpet, consider modular floor-carpet tiles from companies such as Flor because they can be replaced easily in case of accidents, Chwiecko says. Flor will recycle any returned tiles.
What if you have to move? There's no need to replace the floors, as long as they're still looking great.

10 pet-friendly home additions: Pet doors   (© Steve Lovegrove)

Pet doors  

If you work long hours or spend a lot of time away from home, pet doors can be a great way to make sure your dog isn't stuck inside the house for hours on end.
Pet doors can be pricey, costing between $80 and $500. But there's an array of options, says Jon Mortensen, owner of Seattle-based PetDoorStore.com, which sells thousands of pet doors each year. There are doors for walls, screens, windows — even sliding-glass doors. Some doors are activated by microchip for more security; others are built to withstand 50 mph winds.
What if you have to move? "It's possible you may have to replace the door, but not certain," says Sharon Berry, a managing broker with Windermere Real Estate in Redmond, Wash. "It's all between the buyer and seller." If the buyer asks you to replace the door, the cost ranges from $700 to thousands.

10 pet-friendly home additions: Latches on cabinets and toilets  (© Tiburon Studios)

Latches on cabinets and toilets

Childproof latches can be useful when you have a puppy or kitten that is fascinated with drinking or playing in the toilet or getting into cupboards. It's important to keep pets from getting into food, cleaners and medicine. Lysol-type cleaners, chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts and xylitol sweetener in gum can be toxic — even fatal — for dogs. Spinach leaves, potpourri and acetaminophen, the key ingredient in Tylenol, are extremely toxic for cats.
"Pets can chew through plastic bottles, so keep medicines away from your pets," says Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary adviser for the American Humane Association.
Remember, too, that cats and dogs like to chew on electrical cords, so tuck them away, unplug them or use plastic covers that snap over them. Child gates are an easy way to keep your dog away from certain areas of the house.
What if you have to move? Childproofing isn't a detriment to home value, Berry says. Buyers can remove these features if they don't want them. Childproof latches can be removed easily, as can child gates.

10 pet-friendly home additions: Window screens (© George P. Choma)

Window screens

If you live in a high-rise with open windows, screens are vital to keeping your pets safe, especially cats.
"People have the misconception that cats have good instincts and won't jump out," says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in Manhattan.
During warm months, the hospital sees two to four cats a week that are hurt or killed in falls. She says that many people think that bars or child window guards will help, but cats can get through them. Cats will also jump from balconies and fire escapes, she says.
If you rent and do not want to spend money on permanent screens, you could purchase inexpensive, accordion-style screens that fit various-size windows.
What if you have to move? Most houses have screens, Berry says. There's no need to remove them if you sell your house.

10 pet-friendly home additions: Fence  (© hightowernrw)

Fence

"I think good fencing is vital," Chwiecko says. "You're going to have a happier dog, a happier family and happier neighbors."
Invisible fences can be a good option for people whose neighborhoods do not permit physical fences. But many pet experts do not recommend them because they can inflict pain, and some dogs test the fences every day. Some dogs also have also become more aggressive because they associate the shock from the fence with passers-by, Blake says.
If you have a physical fence, ensure it is in good condition and free of loose boards or metal that could hurt your pet or allow it to get out. Another tip: Keep benches and big rocks away from fences; they can be launching points for a dog to jump the fence.
What if you have to move? Good fences make good neighbors and make good overall sense to keep, Berry says.
 

Friday, July 18, 2014

7 Pros and 7 Cons of Refinancing

Upside 1: Cheap loans

The low interest rates are the best reason to refinance now, says Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers, a personal-finance site. Recent numbers for 30-year fixed-rate loans are lower than the one-year introductory rates on adjustable-rate mortgages in most years since 1992.

Upside 2: Improved loan period

In addition to lowering your rate, consider shortening the length of your loan. In the first years of a 30-year loan, you're paying almost all interest — it's not until the later years that you start paying principal. With rates this low, you can often both lower your monthly payment and shorten the length of your loan, saving thousands in interest, says Stuart Feldstein of SMR Research Corp., which does market research on the home-mortgage business.
But there's an opposite school of thought on how to use a refi. Ric Edelman, founder of one of the country's biggest wealth-advisory firms, recommends refinancing into another 30-year fixed (or from a 15- to a 30-year) and using the savings on your payments for other investments that will generate higher returns. He adds that a longer mortgage term also nets you a bigger annual tax deduction — at least for now — than if you shorten the term.

Upside 3: More options

Be sure to shop around — the gap between the best and worst deals can be as much as a full percentage point, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Elizabeth Weintraub, a Sacramento, Calif.-based real estate agent who covers refinancing issues for About.com, says consumers should go local when possible: "That face-to-face with somebody that you've actually met, it makes a difference versus somebody you're talking to on the phone." Borrowers looking to refinance also aren't under as much pressure as new homebuyers, she says. "When you do a refinance, you have the luxury of time to really investigate your options ... Because you can walk away from a refinance. You don't have to close that loan."

Upside 4: More leverage

Because so many loan providers are offering low rates right now, you'll have more negotiating power to get a better deal. Federal law requires lenders to give you an estimate of what they'll charge to complete your refi. Weintraub suggests bargaining to eliminate or reduce "garbage fees" that appear on your estimate — things like document preparation, wire transfer, courier, commitment and rate-lock fees — which can add $800 or more to the cost of the loan. "There's usually some flexibility there," she says. She even suggests that if the interest rate falls just before you close on your loan, you should ask the lender to give you the lower prevailing rate. "They'll say no, you can't do that, you've locked in your rate and you're stuck," she says. "But that's not true … if they find out you're going to cancel it, all of a sudden that rate comes down."

Upside 5: Escape from adjustable-rate mortgages

Refinancing allows people with adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) to convert to fixed-rate loans, an advantage even if they don't save on their monthly payment immediately. "If you have an ARM, refinancing to a 30-year fixed can not only lower your rate but dramatically improve the safety of your loan by eliminating the risk that your rate might increase," Edelman says.

Upside 6: Loan mergers

Refinancing lets you consolidate a second mortgage or a home-equity loan with your home mortgage, which can save money by allowing you to pay one low rate on the entire amount, instead of a low percentage on your primary mortgage and a higher one on the other loans.

Upside 7: Cash in your pocket

If you have equity in your house, a cash-out refinance lets you pull out capital for productive uses, Schrage says. But don't make the mistake of so many people leading up to the financial crisis — draining equity to pay for vacations or consumer purchases.
"I'd only consider it for necessary expenses, such as a home renovation or [paying for] college…" he says.

Downside 1: Fees

Even if you get rid of junk fees, the cost of refinancing can offset the savings you'll get on a lower monthly payment under your new loan. Look carefully at the refinancing fees to make sure your savings will pay back those costs in a reasonable timeframe, says Don Martin, an independent financial adviser in Los Altos, Calif. Typical fees, the Federal Reserve says, range from $1,900 to $3,650, not including any loan origination fee (0 to 1.5 percent of the loan principal), private mortgage insurance (0.5 percent to 1.5 percent), or loan discount points (0 to 3 percent).
Use a refi calculator to determine your break-even point — the number of months it will take you, at your lower payment, to recoup what the lender charges for refinancing your loan. To figure out when interest rates have fallen low enough to consider refinancing, use this calculator from the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Downside 2: Financial risk

Weintraub notes that in some states your initial mortgage is a "nonrecourse" loan — if you don't pay, the bank can foreclose your house and keep the proceeds from a sale but can't come after your other assets if there's a remaining deficit. But refinanced mortgage loans are usually "recourse" products — if you default and the sale of your house doesn't cover your loan amount, the bank can seize other assets. If you're worried about what happens in your state if you default on a refi, check with the state's housing finance agency.

Downside 3: Few people qualify

Banks are being more selective given the lending problems that caused the housing crash, Feldstein says. People with even average credit scores may start the refinancing process but be rejected or pay a higher rate once banks check their scores. To get the lowest rates being advertised now, you'll need a score of 720 or above, Chris Boulter, president of loan specialist Val-Chris Investments tells Yahoo Homes.

Downside 4: Prepayment penalties

Your original loan may include a penalty for paying it off early, which includes refinancing it. The Truth in Lending statement for the loan should include information on whether it has a penalty.
You should include the costs of any penalty in calculating the time it will take you to break even on the refi. If you're refinancing with the same lender, try asking whether that penalty can be waived.

Downside 5: Less mobility

If you refinance, you'll have to stay in your house for at least a few years to recoup the fees you paid to get the lower monthly rate. Otherwise, Schrage says, you'll lose money on the deal. For example, on a refinance of $100,000 in which you drop your interest rate by 2 percentage points and pay $3,800 in fees, it would take about 32 months to break even.

Downside 6: Little savings for recent refinancers

Many people have already refinanced in the past year won't save much by doing so again now. Feldstein says refinancing "may not be such a hot idea" if you're not going to drop your interest rate by at least a point and a half.

Downside 7: Paperwork, paperwork

You have to suffer a little to get that lower rate. At a minimum, that means completing a lengthy loan application that allows for a complete review of your finances and employment history, including providing recent income-tax returns, pay stubs, investment and loan statements, and proof of checking and savings account balances. You'll also need to work with the loan officer to get a survey and appraisal completed, provide proof of homeowner's insurance, and sign off on a blizzard of documents at settlement.
"The loan-qualification process is more onerous than ever because of the credit crisis five years ago," Edelman says. So if you pursue a refi, he says, you're in for "an annoying couple of months."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

LISTING IN WAUKESHA COUNTY: 1782 STATE HIGHWAY 83


10 Reasons to Buy a Home

1. You can get a good deal. Especially if you play hardball. This is a buyer's market. Most of the other buyers have now vanished, as the tax credits on purchases have just expired. We're four to five years into the biggest housing bust in modern history. And prices have come down a long way– about 30% from their peak, according to Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Index, which tracks home prices in 20 big cities. Yes, it's mixed. New York is only down 20%. Arizona has halved. Will prices fall further? Sure, they could. You'll never catch the bottom. It doesn't really matter so much in the long haul.
Where is fair value? Fund manager Jeremy Grantham at GMO, who predicted the bust with remarkable accuracy, said two years ago that home prices needed to fall another 17% to reach fair value in relation to household incomes. Case-Shiller since then: Down 18%.
 
2. Mortgages are cheap. You can get a 30-year loan for around 4.3%. What's not to like? These are the lowest rates on record. As recently as two years ago they were about 6.3%. That drop slashes your monthly repayment by a fifth. If inflation picks up, you won't see these mortgage rates again in your lifetime. And if we get deflation, and rates fall further, you can refi.
 
3. You'll save on taxes. You can deduct the mortgage interest from your income taxes. You can deduct your real estate taxes. And you'll get a tax break on capital gains–if any–when you sell. Sure, you'll need to do your math. You'll only get the income tax break if you itemize your deductions, and many people may be better off taking the standard deduction instead. The breaks are more valuable the more you earn, and the bigger your mortgage. But many people will find that these tax breaks mean owning costs them less, often a lot less, than renting.
The June 13, 2005 cover of Time.
                           
4. It'll be yours. You can have the kitchen and bathrooms you want. You can move the walls, build an extension–zoning permitted–or paint everything bright orange. Few landlords are so indulgent; for renters, these types of changes are often impossible. You'll feel better about your own place if you own it than if you rent. Many years ago, when I was working for a political campaign in England, I toured a working-class northern town. Mrs. Thatcher had just begun selling off public housing to the tenants. "You can tell the ones that have been bought," said my local guide. "They've painted the front door. It's the first thing people do when they buy." It was a small sign that said something big.

5. You'll get a better home. In many parts of the country it can be really hard to find a good rental. All the best places are sold as condos. Money talks. Once again, this is a case by case issue: In Miami right now there are so many vacant luxury condos that owners will rent them out for a fraction of the cost of owning. But few places are so favored. Generally speaking, if you want the best home in the best neighborhood, you're better off buying.
 
6. It offers some inflation protection. No, it's not perfect. But studies by Professor Karl "Chip" Case (of Case-Shiller), and others, suggest that over the long-term housing has tended to beat inflation by a couple of percentage points a year. That's valuable inflation insurance, especially if you're young and raising a family and thinking about the next 30 or 40 years. In the recent past, inflation-protected government bonds, or TIPS, offered an easier form of inflation insurance. But yields there have plummeted of late. That also makes homeownership look a little better by contrast.
                                
                   cat
A house for sale in Shelby, Ohio. Associated Press
           
7. It's risk capital. No, your home isn't the stock market and you shouldn't view it as the way to get rich. But if the economy does surprise us all and start booming, sooner or later real estate prices will head up again, too. One lesson from the last few years is that stocks are incredibly hard for most normal people to own in large quantities–for practical as well as psychological reasons. Equity in a home is another way of linking part of your portfolio to the long-term growth of the economy–if it happens–and still managing to sleep at night.
 
8. It's forced savings. If you can rent an apartment for $2,000 month instead of buying one for $2,400 a month, renting may make sense. But will you save that $400 for your future? A lot of people won't. Most, I dare say. Once again, you have to do your math, but the part of your mortgage payment that goes to principal repayment isn't a cost. You're just paying yourself by building equity. As a forced monthly saving, it's a good discipline.
 
9. There is a lot to choose from. There is a glut of homes in most of the country. The National Association of Realtors puts the current inventory at around 4 million homes. That's below last year's peak, but well above typical levels, and enough for about a year's worth of sales. More keeping coming onto the market, too, as the banks slowly unload their inventory of unsold properties. That means great choice, as well as great prices.
 
10. Sooner or later, the market will clear. Demand and supply will meet. The population is forecast to grow by more than 100 million people over the next 40 years. That means maybe 40 million new households looking for homes. Meanwhile, this housing glut will work itself out. Many of the homes will be bought. But many more will simply be destroyed–either deliberately, or by inaction. This is already happening. Even two years ago, when I toured the housing slump in western Florida, I saw bankrupt condo developments that were fast becoming derelict. And, finally, a lot of the "glut" simply won't matter: It's concentrated in a few areas, like Florida and Nevada. Unless you live there, the glut won't have any long-term impact on housing supply in your town.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

LISTING IN WAUKESHA COUNTY: 750 CHEVIOT DRIVE


Do you pass the yardstick test?

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell--Does Each Room

 Pass the Yardstick Test? 

Have you decided to put your home up for sale?  After you have done the standard steps--clean, de-clutter, and complete all deferred maintenance items--it's time to take a serious look at each room in your house and determine if the furniture placement highlights the spaciousness of the room. 

Even small spaces can feel large if the furniture is well placed.  One of the biggest issues seen in homes on the market today is either too much furniture or awkward furniture arrangement.  Either of these usually results in constricted traffic flows throughout rooms.

If there isn't ample space to walk around and/or through rooms, buyers will feel that the home is not large enough for them, has insufficient room to entertain family/friends, and just does not feel comfortable.  So try this simple yardstick test and see if the major rooms in your home pass. 

First, find a standard yardstick or a tape measure that extends and locks in at 36".  Then, starting at your foyer, turn the yardstick horizontally, center it on your body with your arms extended straight by your sides and start walking through your house following the major traffic patterns.  Take note of where the yardstick will not pass through without angling it.  Dining rooms are common places where this happens as they seem to accumulate extra furniture.  In the dining room in the the photo below you will see that there is only 18" between the back of the chairs and the glass side table.  This is the main walk way through the dining room.  What message is this sending to a potential buyer? 

Dining Room

You're just not looking for the yardstick to fit between two pieces of furniture either.  Check the distances between the furniture and the walls, or that stack of boxes and other items that have been collecting in corners of rooms, a large potted plant and/or the bar stools and kitchen island that extend into the great room.  Just keep walking and noting the distances.  On to the bedrooms, where dresser drawers often open into mattresses and multi-purpose rooms (like offices) share space with large-scale pieces of exercise equipment or double as guest bedrooms. How about your childrens' bedrooms with the bed, dresser, desks, bookshelf and stacks of toys?  And let's not forget about hallways that have accumulated bookshelves, display pieces or wall-mounted shelves.  Just how many places do you need to turn that yardstick sideways to slip through, as in this photo below.  There is only 23" of space here.  Notice how generous the space is beyond the yardstick towards the top of the photo.  Yet the furniture placement literally acts like a funnel and constricts the traffic flow between rooms.  Potential buyers will "feel" this.

Living room yardstick

So, now that you've checked your whole house, did it pass?  Most homes have numerous areas like the above photos and these do need to be addressed before you place your home on the market.  That means it's time to move furniture or remove furniture.  The glass table in the dining room above should be removed to open up the walkway.  The desk and chair in the second photo should be moved to another area where they will be more functional so the traffic pattern will open up. 

What may be acceptable in terms of interior design furniture placement may be entirely too constricting when you want to sell your home.  Selling is all about showing the space, not the furnishings, so if there are furnishings that are hiding your "space" remove them to storage.  Think about two buyers and possibly two agents circulating through your home for a tour.  Can they all comfortably stand in one room and discuss the merits of your home?

Have the solutions?  Good, time to get to work.  Stumped?  Then it's time to call a qualified home stager.  A home stager can quickly help you open up those clogged traffic patterns and make each room welcoming to a buyer.  That's their specialty.  They will also identify other areas of your home that could be addressed to improve the saleability of your home, whether that is paint color, accessories or furniture arrangement. CALL HOME AND CURB APPEAL LLC - 262-893-5555

Feel free to call me for a consultation.  And, yes, I'll bring the yardstick!

Monday, July 14, 2014

LISTING IN WAUKESHA COUNTY: 37200 FOREST DRIVE


NEW LISTING IN WAUKESHA COUNTY: 1205 SUMMIT AVENUE


Tips for Renting Your First Apartment

Tips for Renting Your First Apartment

A guide to apartment-hunting in a challenging market, whether you’re flying solo or with roommates.

By + More 
 
This year's graduates may be entering a slightly better job market than their 2010 or 2011 counterparts, but many will face a tighter rental market. As buying property loses its allure for some, increased demand and lower vacancy in rental units is driving up prices throughout the country. According to the Census Bureau, the median asking rent for rental units nationwide was $721 in the first quarter of this year, up from $683 first quarter last year.
"Occupancy rates are the highest they've been in 10 years," says Doug Culkin, president and CEO of the National Apartment Association. "Nationally, they're at about 96 percent, which is incredibly high. It'll be harder for kids coming out of college [to afford an apartment] unless Mom and Dad are paying for it."

Of course, that's not to say apartment-hunting has been easy for other recession-era grads. In 2010, when Rebecca Odell moved to Columbus, Ohio, for an internship, she had the dual challenges of a limited budget and a long-distance apartment search. "Taking a post-grad internship narrowed my apartment choices because I needed to find a place that I could afford, especially working on an intern's budget, and where I would feel safe," she says.
After an extensive online search, Odell narrowed the field to four apartments and drove the two hours to view all four on the same day. The apartment she chose was a short-term sublease within a multi-family house, but she's since moved in with a roommate to save money, as many recent grads do.
Here's how to rent your first apartment in a challenging market, whether you're flying solo or searching with roommates.

• Set a realistic budget based on the area. The conventional wisdom is to spend no more than 30 percent of your annual income on housing costs. But given low entry-level salaries and high housing costs, you may need to budget a little more if you're living in expensive urban markets like New York City or San Francisco. "It totally depends on where you live," says Ornella Grosz, a speaker and author of Moneylicious: A Financial Clue for Generation Y. "You want to have a benchmark, but you don't want to spend your entire paycheck on rent." Websites like Rentometer.com and RentJungle.com/comparerent can give you an idea of rents in your target neighborhood so you can budget accordingly.
Splitting the rent with roommates can help cut costs, but you'll want to screen roommates carefully and "make sure they're people you'd actually want to live with," as Grosz puts it. You may like hanging out with friends from college, but that doesn't mean you'll enjoy cleaning up their messes or sharing a bathroom. Before signing a lease together, ask prospective roommates how they want to handle chores, guests, bills, and other issues.

Once you find a potential apartment, ask about possible rent increases to gauge how quickly you could be priced out of that apartment. "Do they anticipate rental prices going up?" asks Grosz. "How do they justify increases in prices?"

• Budget for the extras. In addition to paying rent, you may also be responsible for paying bills like electricity, heat, and cable. Odell adjusted her price range once she discovered that some higher-priced apartments included utilities, which made her overall costs lower than paying rent and utilities separately.
If you're on the hook for utilities, factor those expenses into your budget. Often, you can find out what the previous tenants paid by calling the utility provider and giving them the address. "Of course, your use might be different," points out Bill Deegan, CEO of Renter Nation (formerly the American Tenants Association).

• Position yourself as a desirable tenant. Rentals move quickly in competitive markets, so have your references and checkbook ready when you start searching. In some markets, you'll be expected to pay a security deposit, first and last month's rent, a nonrefundable application fee, and possibly a broker or finder's fee before moving in, all of which can amount to several times the monthly rent.

Having Mom and Dad cosign on an apartment (if they're willing) could give prospective landlords peace of mind about renting to someone without a long credit or employment history. However, if you don't have a cosigner, Grosz suggests guaranteeing extra money upfront to show landlords that you're financially responsible. Carrying a letter from your employer as proof of employment is another option. Prospective landlords may also want to run a credit check, so try to clear up any issues on your credit report before starting your search.

• Scope out the neighborhood. Real estate agents have a saying: "location, location, location." This rings true for apartments as well as houses. Choose an apartment based solely on the interior, and you may wind up in a less-than-desirable neighborhood, far from friends or work. If you're relocating for a job, Culkin suggests asking your employer for recommendations on neighborhoods. Walkscore.com can give you a sense of how walkable an area is based on proximity to public transportation, restaurants, grocery stores, and other places.
Also look at how the building or area is maintained. "If it's a high-rise, are there lights out in the hallways? Is the lighting in the parking lot adequate?" asks Deegan. If not, it could be a sign that management will be slow to respond to tenants' concerns.

• Conduct a thorough walk-through. Some people will rent off of Craigslist without seeing an apartment in person, which can lead to problems later, according to Deegan. "Any prospective tenant should make sure everything works: the stove, the refrigerator, any appliances, and make sure the water runs hot for half an hour if you take long showers," he says. Also document any preexisting issues like scratches on the floor or holes in the wall so they won't get deducted from your security deposit when you move out.

• Get everything in writing. Large apartment communities typically have you sign a lease, but individual property owners or landlords may be more lax about paperwork. Whatever the scenario, don't rely on a handshake to seal the deal. According to Grosz, your lease should answer questions like, "how much notification do you need to give to move out? Is your security deposit refundable? Are you responsible for fixing up the apartment when you leave?" If you're uncertain about anything in your lease, have someone else review it. In fact, your college may offer lease-review services to students and recent grads.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Ten Commandments When Applying for a Real Estate Loan

The Ten Commandments When Applying for a 

Real Estate Loan 


1. Thou shalt not change jobs, become self-employed or quit your job.

2. Thou shalt not buy a car, truck or van (or you may be living in it)!

3. Thou shalt not use charge cards excessively or let your accounts fall behind. 

4. Thou shalt not spend money you have set aside for closing.

5. Thou shalt not omit debts or liabilities from your loan application.

6. Thou shalt not buy furniture.

7. Thou shalt not originate any inquiries into your credit.

8. Thou shalt not make large deposits without first checking with your loan officer.

9. Thou shalt not change bank accounts.

10. Thou shalt not co-sign a loan for anyone.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Bathroom Make-over for Less than $100

Home Staging Advice -

Bathroom Make-over for Less than $100

 

Bathroom are usually overlooked when it comes to home staging.
To have a big impact, it is usually the simple changes that can have a huge impact.

First, it is extremely important that your bathroom be sparkling clean and that all personal items are put away. 

Second, fresh towels can make a great first impression and can tie together the color in a bathroom.

Third, paint is always a great way to improve the look of any bathroom.
Bathroom Before Interior Redesign and Home Staging
Here is the Bathroom Before

Bathroom Afer a Kate's Home Staging Redesign
Here is the Bathroom After


By removing the clutter, painting the walls a more neutral color, and a few well placed accessories, this bathroom has been transformed.


Friday, July 11, 2014

America's Homes Are Bigger Than Ever

America's homes are bigger than ever

June 5, 2014: 1:20 PM ET
average home size 30 years

America's biggest homes are getting even bigger.

The average size of homes built last year hit 2,600 square feet, an all-time high that surpassed even the housing bubble years, when homes averaged around 2,400 square feet, according to the Census Bureau.
But there is a clear difference between the days when everyone was building McMansions and what's happening post-housing crash.
First of all, the rich have gotten richer.
"If you had a lot of money in the stock market, it has doubled since 2009," said Stephen Melman, director of Economic Services for the National Association of Home Builders.
And many have used those riches to buy even bigger places, he said.
At the same time, relatively few first-time homebuyers -- the biggest market for smaller homes -- are able to buy homes, said Melman. Many young buyers are having trouble getting mortgages or are heavily in debt with student loans.
Related: Priced out: 'I can't afford a home in my town'
As a result, the market for smaller homes, of 1,400 square-feet and less, has shrunk to just 4% of homes built. That compares with 9% in 2005.
Why millennials love apartments
Meanwhile, extremely large houses -- 4,000 square feet and up -- have been making up a much larger slice of the new homes built.
Last year, these mega homes accounted for more than 9% of new homes. In 2005, they represented 6.6% of homes built.
Houses that are a little smaller but still verging on mansion territory, those between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet, made up 21.7% of new homes in 2013, up from 15.6% in 2005.
Related: America's growing affordability gap
Not only are the homes bigger, they have more rooms as well. There's the obligatory playroom, the home office, the den and the FROG, or family room over the garage.
And, of course, few children have to bunk up in an older siblings' room these days. Only 59,000 homes built last year came with less than two bedrooms, compared with more than a quarter million with four bedrooms or more.
"It's like growth is accelerating," said Melman.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

9 Ways to Cool Down Air-conditioning Costs

1. Improve Plantings Around Your House

     "Most heat that accumulates inside a house comes directly from the sun shining onto the roof or through windows, and heating the house directly," says John Krigger, owner of Saturn Resource Management, which offers energy conservation training in Helena, Mont.
Planting leafy trees around the building's exterior will stop the sun from reaching inside your home. "Even for the cost of going to the nursery and buying a 15- to 20-foot-tall tree, trees are still the best value," Krigger says.
      If the trees or shrubs shade your air conditioner, you could boost your AC's efficiency by up to 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

2. Clothe Your Windows

     Solar screens, or mesh-like window screens, intercept up to 70 percent of solar energy before it gets into the house, Krigger says. Window screens are particularly effective on east- and west-facing windows, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
     Window films are another option. They are transparent, metalized sheets that reflect heat before it can be transmitted through glass.
     However, windows must be shut for window films to work, while solar screens do double-duty, keeping sun and insects out even with windows open.

3. Flip a Switch

     Go ahead, get comfortable. Lower your air conditioner's thermostat setting to 78 degrees Fahrenheit when you're at home. But let that number rise to a warmer temperature at night or when you're away from home. You can save 5 percent to 15 percent on your air-conditioning bills by raising the temperature setting on your thermostat when you're away and don't need cooling, according to the Department of Energy.

4. Fan It

      No need to invest in fancy fans. Krigger says the key is to circulate air inside the house. If possible, locate fans on your house's upper level and open windows on a lower level. If you live in a one-story house or apartment, you should close windows near the fan and open windows in rooms far from the fan, preferably on your home's windward side, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
     Moving air also helps evaporate the sweat from your skin, says Paul Scheckel, an energy efficiency consultant in Montpelier, Vt., and author of "The Home Energy Diet."
    "Evaporational cooling is an incredibly efficient process for removing heat, and our bodies do it all by themselves. A little help can increase the cooling effect," Scheckel says.

5. Chill in the Basement

     Camp out in your basement, says Stan Cox, author of "Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)." In your eco-cooled basement, a television, couch or futon and a cold drink may be all you need.
     However, Scheckel says don't open basement windows when outdoor air is heavy with humidity. "Warm, moist air will cause condensation on cool surfaces such as basement walls, ultimately increasing the humidity in your home," he says.

6. Don't Bake or Cook On the Stove

     Skip the stove-top boiling and oven baking, Cox says. Decrease indoor heat by making microwave nachos or eating a cool salad. If you must boil pasta for tomorrow's potluck, cook in the evening.
     After cooking, turn on the kitchen exhaust, and use the bathroom exhaust fan after a hot shower. "Remove heat and moisture at the source," Scheckel says. "Reducing humidity can help increase comfort."

7. Maintain or Replace Your AC

     "AC efficiency is mostly a function of the technology," Scheckel says. "Keep the filter clean to allow for good air movement and keep the unit level so the condensation drains properly."
     If you replace your older room air conditioner with a newer unit, you could cut your energy costs in half, according to the Department of Energy. Look for a high-energy-efficiency ratio, or EER, or an Energy Star-qualified unit. Higher EER ratings mean a more efficient air conditioner. Energy Star refers to a system adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy to identify energy-efficient products.

8. Let Humidity Set Your AC Space 

     Set the AC fan speed on high, except on very humid days, says the U.S. Department of Energy. On humid days, set the speed on low. The slower air movement through the air-condition equipment removes more moisture from the air, improving comfort in your home.

9.  Splash in the Bath

      Hop in the shower, spray yourself with a water bottle or use a cool cloth on the back of your neck. And if you don't chill out right away, don't give up, says Cox, the environmental writer and scientist. "Our comfort range depends on the temperatures we have experienced in recent days and weeks," he says. "The body and mind adjust to rising temperatures."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How to Protect a Basement From Flooding

1. Focus on prevention. Long before you're in a flooding situation, look around your property for ways to divert rain water away from your home. Important considerations are extending rain gutter down spouts away from your home and making sure the grade of your yard surfaces slope away from your home. 

 

2. Clean the rain gutters in the spring and after all the leaves have come down in the fall. Blocked gutters will cause all of the roof water to dump directly against your foundation, increasing the likelihood of basement flooding. 

 

3. Extend the rain gutter downspouts well out and away from your home. Do not connect the downspouts to your foundation footer drain tiles or to underground dry wells. This will only cause the roof water to further saturate the ground and cause flooding in your basement. 


4. Walk around outside in your yard during a heavy rain storm. Watch to see if water is ponding next to your home and if surface water is being directed toward your home. If this is the case, seek a local landscaper or excavation contractor for advice on ways to regrade your yard so the surface water is directed away from your home.


5. Provide emergency power. Install an automatic emergency generator to provide electric service for essential circuits like your furnace or electric heat, well pump, refrigerator, septic tank pump and sump pump in the case when power is lost. Without emergency backup power, you may return home to unnecessary basement flooding, frozen water pipes and a flooded septic tank. 

 

6. Install a sump pump. An automatic sump pump should help keep water leakage normal amounts of rainfall from building up in the basement. As long as the sump pump tank has an opening in the lid, the sump pump will act like a huge floor drain and keep the water from getting deep. 


7. Install a backup sump pump. The sump pump is your first line of defense against basement flooding. However, the most reliable sump pump available in the industry is still a mechanic device and can fail. A backup sump pump system, preferably with at least a battery-operated pump, configured with a switch device to begin working if the main is out of commission, greatly reduces the chance of flood. Some systems come with additional security features such as an alarm that goes off whenever the battery operated is started. 

 

8. Make an emergency family plan. Plan ahead with your family so that everyone has each other cell phone and other contact numbers. If you live in an area that is prone to historic flooding, plan ahead of time where you'll be able to stay until flood waters subside. Keep in mind that all your neighbors will probably need housing too. As local hotels are usually inundated during flooding events, try to arrange ahead of time with some local family members away from the flooding area to have temporary housing if ever needed.

 

9. Have flood insurance. Add flood insurance onto your existing homeowner's policy. Flood insurance is provided by the government and is fairly inexpensive. In the USA, if your home insurance agent does not provide flood insurance, contact FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for local agencies that do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

House Cleaning and Organization Tips for a Tidy Home

House Cleaning and Organization Tips for a Tidy Home

By Michelle Ullman

Tidy Home
In the busy home of an active family, messes can become hazards. Toys end up scattered across the living room floors, dishes build up in the sink and clutter accumulates on the counter. A messy house can feel like a nuisance, but consider this: did you know that a mess can sometimes create dangers to your safety, health and well-being? Household messes are more dangerous than you think; consider these household cleaning and organization tips for keeping a tidy and safe home:

  • Keep escape routes open. If a fire, earthquake, flood or other emergency strikes, every second counts. Keep main escape routes in your home accessible at all times. Remove clutter that may be hindering easy movement around doorways and windows in your home, and pick up toys, shoes, and other belongings each night to leave an unobstructed pathway for your family.

  • Remove fire hazards. Clutter, like stacks of newspapers, or mail, can turn into a fuel for fire if stored too close to a stovetop. Ensure that any flammable items are stored at a safe distance away from sources of heat like your hot water heater, fireplace or oven.

  • Watch for mold. This potentially harmful fungus thrives in damp, warm environments. Clutter holds in moisture and prevents you from seeing signs of trouble. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), when mold spores settle on wet surfaces like paper, cardboard and wood, the mold settles in and grows. Health impacts can range from nasal congestion and irritation to pulmonary fungal infections. Cut down on mold risks by tossing the clutter under your bathroom and kitchen sink. Keep an eye on your basement and garage too, these areas tend to accumulate clutter, and the humidity in these spaces can cause mold.

  • Don't make pests feel at home: Bugs and pests can be sources of disease that can harm your family. The National Center for Healthy Housing warns that even dead cockroaches or roach droppings can cause gastrointestinal and respiratory illness, as well as cause asthma flare-ups in those susceptible to allergies. Old paper bags and cardboard boxes are favorite nesting spots for pests, so clear these out of your home. Wash the dishes and take out the trash daily. Remind family members to empty bedroom and bathroom trash receptacles and rinse dishes well before placing them in the dishwasher.

  • Know what you have: In a disorganized home, it's hard to know what you have. Get your family to pitch in and help clean up, then photograph and catalog your belongings with the Liberty Mutual Home Gallery App. The easy-to-use app makes record keeping a breeze, and can help simplify the process if you ever find the need to claim losses due to theft or damage.
Day-to-day living brings a bit of disorder to every home. Active families and busy schedules don't always leave a lot of time for cleaning. Take just a few minutes each day to clear away the mess, and keep your family safe from potential harm.

Monday, July 7, 2014

10 Kid-Safe Home Tips

10 kid-safe home tips to help Mom worry less (© Olga Bogatyrenko; Yaruta Igor)

10 kid-safe home tips to help mom worry less

By Scot Meyer of SwitchYard Media
The typical house can be a dangerous place for small children. Child-advocacy group Safe Kids USA says that every year, an average of 2,096 children in the United States die from injuries suffered at home.
The good news: That average has declined for the past 20 years, the organization says, and that trend can continue if parents take some simple precautions.
Here are 10 trouble spots to be aware of and tips for making sure home sweet home is also a home safe home.

1. Install a window guard

Install a window guard (© Scot Meyer)
© Scot Meyer
Each year, falls from windows kill 12 children younger than 10 years old and injure an additional 4,000, Safe Kids USA says. These falls are most common in big-city apartment buildings, but the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website recommends that parents install guards on all windows above the first floor in suburban houses, as well.
"You also need to think about which window in each room you would use as an emergency exit in case of fire, and make sure whatever device you use on that window has a quick-release mechanism," says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA.
Safe Kids USA says that fatal window falls declined by 35% in New York after the city passed a law requiring guards in windows of all apartments with children 10 or younger.

2. Add a gate to your stairwell

Add a gate to your stairwell (© Baby Bodyguards)
Photo courtesy of Baby Bodyguards
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents install stairway gates  to prevent falls. Appy says parents should place them at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Each year, about 103 U.S. children die from falls, and more than 2.3 million fall-related injuries are reported, Safe Kids USA says.
In addition to falling down stairs, infants are at risk from falls from furniture and from baby walkers, which the pediatrics academy recommends that parents not use.

3. Lock ovens and kitchen drawers

Lock ovens and kitchen doors (© Dorel Juvenile Group)
Photo courtesy of Dorel Juvenile Group
Parents can install special locks and knob covers that are designed to keep toddlers from opening the oven, turning it on or activating burners on the stove.
Most kitchen drawers and cabinets also should be secured, says Frederick Ilarraza, co-founder and president of New York baby-proofing firm Baby Bodyguards. It's OK for parents leave one drawer — far from the stove — unlatched for a child to explore, however, he says. This drawer can contain kid-friendly items, including plastic containers and plastic and wooden utensils.
"But you shouldn't allow (children) to play with pots and pans, because they won't differentiate between the pot they are allowed to play with and the one on the stove with steam coming out of it," Ilarraza says.

4. Turn down the heat

Turn down the heat (© Serenethos)
© Serenethos
The most common burn injuries for children younger than 4 come from hot liquid or steam, Safe Kids USA says. Although most scald burns are from hot foods and liquids spilled in the kitchen, hot tap water accounts for about 25% of scald burns and causes more hospitalizations and deaths than other liquid burns.
To prevent scalding in the kitchen and bathroom, parents can set the thermostat on their water heater to 120 degrees. Those who want an extra level of safety, or who don't have access to their building's water heater, can install special faucets and shower heads that shut down the flow when the water gets too hot.
"Young children's skin is thinner than adult skin," Appy says. "What might just feel uncomfortably hot to us can badly burn a child."

5. Ensure your smoke alarm works

Ensure your smoke alarm works (© Lasse Kristensen)
© Lasse Kristensen
Every bedroom should have a smoke alarm, as should any common area within 10 feet of the kitchen. Each floor of your home also should have a carbon-monoxide detector.
The National Fire Protection Association says that about 3,000 people die in the U.S. each year because of fires, and children younger than 5 are 1.5 times more likely to die in a home fire.
The association's research shows that nearly two-thirds of home-fire deaths were in residences with no working smoke alarms. Data from 2009 show when a smoke alarm was present during a home fire but did not go off, the failure was because of a dead or discharged battery 22% of the time, and the battery was missing or disconnected 53% of the time.

6. Tie down bookcases

Tie down bookcases (© Scot Meyer)
© Scot Meyer
Small children like to grab and climb, and those instincts make large pieces of furniture and other heavy objects dangerous.
"File cabinets have a mechanism that prevents more than one drawer from being opened at a time, but dressers and changing tables do not," Ilarraza says. "Bookcases can seem secure and are, so long as they are bottom-heavy. But once a toddler removes the bottom two shelves of (its) books, the piece becomes top-heavy and easily toppled."
To prevent toppling, parents can buy straps to hook bookcases, television stands and dressers to the wall. These are available where other child-proofing products are sold.
It's also wise for parents to put heavier items on lower shelves or place safe items in which children are interested on the bottom, so kids won't be tempted to climb.

7. Install bumpers on sharp edges

Install bumpers on sharp edges (© Scot Meyer)
© Scot Meyer
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends removing sharp-edged or hard furniture from rooms where children play and installing bumpers on coffee tables and other hard edges throughout the house.
Ilarraza says that corners are especially dangerous because they can create puncture injuries. "Toddlers seem to have strong magnets in their foreheads that attract coffee-table corners," he says.
Soft foam corner protectors cost a few dollars.

8. Keep kids away from water

Keep kids away from water (© Darren Epstein )
© Darren Epstein
Unintentional drowning was the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4 in 2007 and the No. 3 cause for children ages 5 to 9, the National Center for Health Statistics says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that more than 20% of the 3,443 drowning victims that year were 14 or younger.
Children can drown in less than 2 inches of water, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Thus, bathrooms should be off-limits to unattended young children, who can drown in bathtubs, toilets and even in pails of water.
Parents also should surround their swimming pool with a fence that is at least 4 feet high on all sides and that has self-latching gates.

9. Place cords out of reach

Place cords out of reach (© mypokcik; Stephen Coburn)
© mypokcik; Stephen Coburn
Young children are at risk for strangulation and suffocation around the house, says the American Academy of Pediatrics, which urges parents to place baby cribs away from windows.
Cordless window treatments are a good idea, the academy says. If that is not possible, shade cords should be tied high and out of reach and not knotted together.
Electrical cords can be hazardous, too. Baby Bodyguards says that while many people realize the dangers of cords that dangle near a crib, they think nothing of putting plug-in baby monitors near or inside the crib. "They work just as well and often better from the other side of the room, where your child can't reach the cord from the crib," Ilarraza says.

10. Cover electrical outlets

Cover electrical outlets (© SafetyCaps)
Photo courtesy of SafetyCaps, www.safetycaps.com
Young children love to poke and prod, so it's a good idea to cover all electrical outlets to reduce the risk of shock.
"Most parents know to place caps in electrical sockets," Ilarraza says. "Unfortunately, many of the socket caps on the market today are the size of a quarter (and are) a choking hazard.
Ilarraza says he recommends a product called SafetyCaps, which are larger, so children cannot get them lodged in their throat. The caps also have holes to allow air to pass.
Surge-protector covers also are available.