Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.
3 Important Featured Articles to Share This Month
How to Reduce Crime In Your Neighborhood
11 Things You Must Know When Finding A Home
Protecting Your Home from Fire and Carbon Monoxide
How To Reduce Crime In Your Neighborhood
While we don't like to talk about it - or even think about it - crime is on the increase in North America, and throughout the world. The number of burglars, muggers, auto thieves, robbers, purse snatchers, etc., is growing at an alarming rate. Now you, as a resident, working with neighbors can help reduce the crime rate.
How? By organizing and/or joining a neighborhood program in which you and your neighbors get together to learn how to protect yourselves, your family, your home and your property. Working together, you can get the criminals off your block and out of your area.
There's safety in numbers and power through working with a group. You'll get to know your neighbors better, and working with them you can reduce crime, develop a more united community, provide an avenue of communications between police and citizens, establish on-going crime prevention techniques in your neighborhood, and renew citizen interest in community activity.
"Citizens Safety Projects" are set up to help you do this. It is a joint effort between private citizens and local police. Such programs have been started all over. Maybe one already exists in your community.
These organizations don't require frequent meetings (once a month or so). They don't ask anyone to take personal risks to prevent crime. They leave the responsibility for catching criminals where it belongs - with the police. This is NOT a "vigilante" group.
These groups gather citizens together to learn crime prevention from local authorities. You cooperate with your neighbors to report suspicious activities in the neighborhood, to keep an eye on homes when the resident is away, and to keep everyone in the area mindful of the standard precautions for property and self that should always be taken. Criminals avoid neighborhoods where such groups exist.
Through cooperation with local law enforcement agencies, some of the things you will learn - and all free - are:
What to do in an emergency.
How to best identify a suspicious person.
How to identify a vehicle being used in a suspected criminal activity.
Signs to watch out for before entering a house or apartment that may be in the process of being burglarized.
What to do in case of injury.
What to do about suspicious people loitering on your street.
How to identify stolen merchandise.
How to recognize auto theft in progress.
How to protect your house or apartment.
How to recognize a burglary in progress.
How to protect yourself and family - and much more.
It's easy to get your group started. All you have to do is contact your neighbors and arrange a date, place and time for the first meeting. Hold the meetings at your home or that of a neighbor. Try to plan a time that is convenient to most of your neighbors - preferably in the evening.
Then call your local police department. They will be happy to give your group informal lectures, free literature - and in many instances, window stickers and ID cards. Remember, police officers can't be everywhere. Your cooperation with them is for the benefit of you, your family, your neighbors and your neighborhood.
11 Things You Must Know When Finding a Home
Once you've decided to buy a home, there's a number of issues that need to be considered. Because buying a home will be one of the biggest purchases you make in your life, learning the "11 Things You Must Know When Finding a Home" can make the process easier.
In this report, we outline 11 Questions and Answers to help you make informed choices when purchasing a home.
1. What Should I Look For When Deciding On A Community?
Select a community that will allow you to best live your daily life. Many people choose communities based on schools. Do you want access to shopping and public transportation? Is access to local facilities like libraries and museums important to you? Or do you prefer the peace and quiet of a rural community? When you find places that you like, talk to people that live there. They know the most about the area and will be your future neighbors. More than anything, you want a neighborhood where you feel comfortable in.
2. How Can I Find Out About Local Schools?
You can get information about school systems by contacting the city or local school board or the local schools. Your real estate agent may also be knowledgeable about schools in the area.
3. How Can I Find Out About Community Resources?
Contact the local chamber of commerce for promotional literature or talk to your real estate agent about welcome kits, maps, and other information. You may also want to visit the local library. It can be an excellent source for information on local events and resources, and the librarians will probably be able to answer many of the questions you have.
4. How Can I Find Out How Much Homes Are Selling For In Certain Communities and Neighborhoods?
Your real estate agent can give you a ballpark figure by showing you comparable listings. If you are working with a REALTOR®, they may have access to comparable sales maintained on a database.
5. How Can I Find Information On The Property Tax Liability?
The total amount of the previous year's property taxes is usually included in the listing information. If it's not, ask the seller for a tax receipt or contact the local assessor's office. Tax rates can change from year to year, so these figures maybe approximate.
6. What Other Tax Issues Should I Take Into Consideration?
Keep in mind that your mortgage interest and real estate taxes will be deductible (USA residents). A qualified real estate professional can give you more details on other tax benefits and liabilities.
7. Is An Older Home A Better Value Than A New One?
There isn't a definitive answer to this question. You should look at each home for its individual characteristics. Generally, older homes may be in more established neighborhoods, offer more ambiance, and have lower property tax rates. People who buy older homes, however, shouldn't mind maintaining their home and making some repairs. Newer homes tend to use more modern architecture and systems, are usually easier to maintain, and may be more energy-efficient. People who buy new homes often don't want to worry initially about upkeep and repairs.
8. What Should I Look For When Walking Through A Home?
In addition to comparing the home to your minimum requirement and wish lists, consider the following:
Is there enough room for both the present and the future?
Are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms?
Is the house structurally sound?
Do the mechanical systems and appliances work?
Is the yard big enough?
Do you like the floor plan?
Will your furniture fit in the space? Is there enough storage space? (Bring a tape measure to better answer these questions)
Does anything need to be repaired or replaced? Will the seller repair or replace the items?
Imagine the house in good weather and bad, and in each season. Will you be happy with it year 'round?
Take your time and think carefully about each house you see. Ask your real estate agent to point out the pros and cons of each home from a professional standpoint.
9. What Questions Should I Ask When Looking At Homes?
Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues. Does anything need to be replaced? What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)? Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues. Be sure the seller's or real estate agent's answers are clear and complete. Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given. Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive.
10. How Can I Keep Track Of All The Homes I See?
If possible, take photographs of each house: the outside, the major rooms, the yard, and extra features that you like or ones you see as potential problems. And don't hesitate to return for a second look. You may also wish to find out if the home is available online. Photos of the property may already be up on a website for you to review.
11. How Many Homes Should I Consider Before Choosing One?
There isn't a set number of houses you should see before you decide. Visit as many as it takes to find the one you want. On average, homebuyers see 15 houses before choosing one. Just be sure to communicate often with your real estate agent about everything you're looking for. It will help avoid wasting your time.
Protecting Your Home from Fire and Carbon Monoxide
Safety & You
Everyone wants to live in a safe and worry free environment with their families, spouse, and children. However, most people are closer to a disaster waiting to happen than they think. Safety may not be an issue that comes to mind as you go about your daily routine. You may feel safe. Yet, lurking in your home are dangers that can take lives and destroy property.
Thousands of people die from fire every year. Most residential fire deaths occur because of inhalation of toxic gas, rather than contact with the flames. The tragedy is that many of these deaths could be prevented by taking a few precautions.
General Fire Prevention Tips
Do not plug too many appliances into an electrical outlet.
Make sure that combustibles are not too close to heaters, stoves and fireplaces.
Never smoke in bed, or leave a burning cigarette in an ashtray.
Do not use damaged or frayed electrical cords or extension cords.
Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
Teach your children about the dangers of playing with fire.
Never use extension cords with heating or air conditioning equipment.
Purchase smoke alarms and fire extinguishers for each floor of your home.
Have an Emergency Escape Plan! Practice it frequently!
Develop an emergency exit plan and an alternate exit plan. The most obvious way out may be blocked by fire. A window will usually be the second way out of a bedroom. Make sure that screens or storm windows can be easily removed. If you live in a two story home, you should have an escape ladder for each occupied bedroom. Escape ladders are available for purchase, and they can easily be stored under a bed or in a closet.
Establish a meeting place outside your home to be sure everyone has escaped. Every family member should participate in practicing escape drills at least two times per year.
In the event of fire, do not stop to get dressed or gather valuables. Seconds count - do not search for the family pet.
Teach your family that in a fire they must stay low to the floor to avoid smoke and intense heat. Passageways may be completely filled with dense smoke, so everyone should practice exiting on their hands and knees while blindfolded.
Train family members to feel a closed door before exiting. If the door is warm, open it slowly, and close it quickly if heat or smoke rushes in.
Establish a rule that once you're out, you never re-enter under any circumstances. As soon as two people have reached the meeting place, one should call 911 from a neighbor's house.
Through education and media campaigns, most people now realize the importance of smoke alarms, and most homes in North America have them.
Purchase a smoke alarm for every floor of your home, and read the instructions on how to use it and where to position it.
Smoke alarms should be placed near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or six to twelve inches below the ceiling on the wall.
Local codes may require additional alarms. Check with your fire department or building code official.
Locate smoke alarms away from air vents.
Test your alarms regularly to ensure that they still work.
If you have a battery powered alarm, change the battery every six months when you change your clocks.
For maximum protection, install BOTH ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms in the home for the optimum detection of fast flaming fires and slow smoldering fires.
To guard against small fires or to keep a small fire from developing into a big one, every home should be equipped with a fire extinguisher. Because almost all fires are small at first, they might be contained if a fire extinguisher is handy and used properly. You should take care, however, to select the right kind of fire extinguisher, because there are different ones for different kinds of fires. Install fire extinguishers on every level of the home and include the kitchen, basement and garage.
Selecting a Fire Extinguisher
Extinguishers are classified according to the class of fire for which they are suitable. The four classes of fires are A, B, C, D:
Class A fires involve common combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, trash and plastics. They are common in typical commercial and home settings.
Class B fires involve flammable liquids, solvents, oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers and other oil-based products. Class B fires often spread rapidly. Unless they are properly suppressed, they can re-flash after the flames have been extinguished.
Class C fires involve energized equipment such as wiring, controls, motors, machinery or appliances. They can be caused by a spark, a power surge, or a short circuit and typically occur in locations that may be difficult to see or reach.
Class D fires involve combustible metals.
A typical home or office fire extinguisher should have an ABC rating.
One of the greatest threats to your safety is the quality of air within your home. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a subtle yet dangerous threat because the gas is colorless, odorless and tasteless.
Each year, hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Thousands of other people suffer the effects of the gas without realizing it. Because CO symptoms mimic the flu and other common illnesses, CO poisoning can be easily missed during a routine medical examination.
CO is produced when any fuel does not burn completely because of insufficient oxygen. Mild exposure to CO gives most people a slight headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue ("flu-like" symptoms) followed by a throbbing headache, drowsiness, confusion, and fast heart rate. If the entire family becomes ill after a few hours in the home, and feels better when they leave the home, carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected.
Possible sources of CO include:
Furnace or boiler
Gas or fuel-oil water heater
Gas or wood fireplace
Gas kitchen range
Plugged, rusted, disconnected, or defective chimneys or vents
Back drafting of combustion gases into the home
Automobiles in attached garages
Certain clues can indicate a carbon monoxide problem. Check to see if you have any of the following:
Rusting or streaking on chimney or vent
Loose or missing furnace panel
Soot on venting or appliances
Loose or disconnected venting
Debris or soot falling from chimney
Moisture on interior side of windows
CO can be produced and spill into your home without any of the preceding clues present. Heating appliances that appear to be operating correctly can still be sources of CO. Burning charcoal or wood produces CO that can spill into the home. Gasoline engines, when first started, produce large amounts of CO. Autos in attached garages are often sources of CO.
How To Protect Yourself
To avoid CO exposure in the home, it is important to:
Make sure heating appliances are installed and used in accordance with manufacturer's instructions.
Make sure chimneys and vents draw all gases out of the home.
Have the heating system, chimney and vents inspected and serviced annually by a qualified heating contractor.
Never use charcoal grills indoors.
Never heat your home with a gas kitchen range.
Always use a kitchen range hood, vented to the outdoors, when cooking on a gas range.
Never warm-up or run vehicles or other gasoline engines in garages or indoors.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that every residence with fuel burning appliances be equipped with at least one CO alarm. For added protection, place one on every level of the home. Read and follow manufacturers' instructions.
If your alarm indicates high levels of carbon monoxide in your home:
Immediately move outdoors to fresh air and do a head count
Call your emergency services
Do not re-enter the home until emergency service responders have arrived, aired out the house, and determined it is safe to re-enter
Correct the problem before starting the heating appliances
If a carbon monoxide alarm sounds again, repeat the above steps. Do not ignore alarms.
Fires are traumatizing and frightening, as is a carbon monoxide incident. It is essential to fully recognize the hazards of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning and to take preventative action. A regular home inspection, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and an emergency exit plan will help you and your family live more safely.