What to look for when doing a final home walkthrough

Man and woman inspecting empty house

When the process of purchasing a home is nearly complete, many buyers start focusing on other details such as packing up their belongings or looking at paint samples. However, there is one more crucial step to complete before closing on a house, and that’s a final walkthrough.

This is a homebuyer’s last chance to walk around the property and make sure everything is in working condition, and that any previously agreed-upon repairs were completed.

How to prepare for a walkthrough

When your walkthrough date is approaching, prepare by packing a few items you may need during the process, recommends Trulia. Items such as a notepad and pen, a camera, cellphone, charger and a copy of your inspection report may come in handy. You should also make sure that your real estate agent can attend with you, notes Trulia. They are likely familiar with the process and can help answer any questions you may have.

Remember that this is the time to pull out the home inspection report and confirm that any prior issues, if requested, were addressed. Be sure to take notes and photos of any issues you find so they can be reported back to the seller’s real estate agent, if needed.

Here are some areas you should pay close attention to:

Bathrooms: Turn on every sink, shower and bathtub to check for potential leaks and drainage issues. Be sure to run both the hot and cold water, as this may help you ensure the water heater is working. You should also flush the toilets and check for water leaks or damage near the base of the toilet.

Kitchen: Check or turn on each appliance to make sure they are in working order and keep an eye out for any signs of water damage near the sink or dishwasher. If the sink has a garbage disposal, you may want to check that it’s working as well.

Washer and dryer: Run the washer and dryer and keep an eye out for water leaks or drainage issues with the washer.

Windows and doors: Make sure each one properly closes and opens, and, if they have screens, make sure none are missing or damaged. You should also check for signs of moisture or water damage around the window or door casings.

Electrical Outlets: Turn the lights on and off in every room, and don’t forget to pull out your cellphone and charger — plug it into various electrical outlets to help you ensure they’re working by seeing if the phone starts charging.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning System: No matter the temperature outside, run both the furnace and air conditioning unit to ensure both are in working condition.

How to Address Potential Issues

Depending on the extent of any issues you may find during the walkthrough, you may want to report them back to the seller’s real estate agent, says Realtor.com. For example, finding a major water leak is something you will probably want to address with the seller.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Home security tips for seniors

seniors

Seniors are often targeted by criminals. Though many criminals target seniors from afar via telephone or internet, criminals still seek to enter seniors’ homes.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics offers that, between 2003 and 2013, the ratio of property crime to violent crime was higher for the elderly and persons between the ages of 50 and 64 than it was for younger persons between the ages of 25 and 49.

Home security is important for people of all ages, but especially so for seniors and aging individuals who are living alone. By following certain safety tips and developing a home security plan, seniors can feel safer at home.

• Lock windows and doors. It may seem like common sense, but failure to consistently lock windows and doors can and often does give burglars easy entry into the home.

• Think about a smart doorbell. Technology now enables doorbells to provide a video feed to a  smartphone or tablet that’s connected to the internet over Wi-Fi. This allows residents to see who is at the door and speak to this person without having to open the door. Some products like Ring will even register motion activity and record short videos from outside of the house.

• Don’t share or leave keys. Avoid leaving keys under a mat or in a flower pot. Others may be watching your actions and gain access to your home while you are away.

• Ask for a photo ID. When service people or other individuals come to the door, verify their credentials by asking to see some identification.

• Get a home security system. The best protection against burglars is a home security alarm, states HomeSecurityResource.org. Such an alarm often deters burglars from breaking in.

• Install a lockable mailbox. Locked mailboxes restrict access to sensitive information, such as bank account numbers, that are sent in the mail. Even better: make sure retirement checks or other payments are deposited directly into bank accounts instead of having them sent by check.

• Use home automation. Home automation, or a “smart home,” can be utilized to turn on lights, set the thermostat, lock doors and much more.

• Adopt a dog. Dogs can be an asset to seniors. Dogs provide companionship and can bark or alert seniors if someone is around or inside of the home.

Home security is serious business for seniors who are vulnerable to criminals.

Source: WVNews

Protecting your home from a hailstorm

Baseball size hail covering the ground after the storm in Georgetown, Kentucky on October 7, 2014

A hailstorm can begin unexpectedly and cause damage to your home’s windows, roof and siding.

In fact, in an average year, hail causes more than $1.6 billion in roofing damage alone, according to the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH). Here are some steps you can take to help protect your property and minimize hail damage when storms roll in:

Care for your roof
Your roof is your home’s first line of defense, says the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). And because hail, high winds and exposure to heat and cold can take a toll, the IBHS suggests routine roof inspections. Hiring a pro in the spring and fall to check your roof can help you spot potential problems, says the National Roofing Contractors Association.

When it comes time to replace your roof, the IBHS says it’s important to invest in impact-resistant materials (identified by a Class 3 or Class 4). Asphalt shingles, which are commonly used, typically come in both Class 3 and 4 designations, according to the IBHS. They further state that impact-resistant metal, tile and slate roofing materials are also available and are considered long-lasting options.

Protect your windows
The most common way to protect your windows, skylights and even sliding glass doors from the effects of hail is with shutters, says FLASH. There are many options, from pre-installed permanent systems that roll down or slide over windows, to temporary panels that you can store when they’re not in use.

If you’re getting ready to replace your windows, FLASH suggests buying models that are wind- and impact-resistant, because standard glass can shatter easily. FLASH says the most reliable windows will have designations noting they’ve passed specific tests.

Finally, when storms approach, Ready.gov recommends closing drapes and blinds. This can help reduce risk of injury from breaking glass and minimize the chance of debris entering your home.

Shelter your landscape
There are also steps you can take outdoors to help protect your home. Start by maintaining the health of your trees, says the Insurance Information Institute (III). They also suggest trimming trees and removing dead branches, to help prevent them from breaking free and potentially damaging your property.

If hail is in the forecast, the III suggests moving cars into a garage or under the protection of a carport and, if it’s safe to do so, bringing patio furniture and outdoor equipment into an enclosed space.

You may even try to lessen the impact hail can have on your garden. HGTV suggests fashioning a makeshift canopy out of tarps or blankets over flower beds, and turning pots or trash cans over individual plants to help shield them. If it hails frequently in your area, HGTV says you may want to invest in greenhouse tunnels (normally used to protect plants from extreme temperatures) to help protect your garden beds.

Severe storms can happen at any time. And while you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to help minimize the impact these storms may have on your home.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Spring cleaning the yard? Follow these safety tips

spring cleaning

Blue skies, chirping birds, warming temperatures — April is prime time for getting home exteriors, yards, and gardens back into shape. But before you get started on your outdoor to-do list, make sure you take appropriate safety precautions.

Dress for the job

  • Wear shoes or boots, not sandals, to protect your toes.
  • Properly fitting gloves can not only improve your grip on tools but also help keep skin safe from blisters, sunburn, bug bites, poisonous plants, and chemicals.
  • Hearing protection is a must-have when using loud equipment.
  • Safety glasses keep flying objects out of your eyes.
  • Bug spray keeps the pests away. Shower after use to remove the chemicals from your skin. And while you’re at it, take a minute to look for ticks. If you find one, gently pull it out with tweezers.
  • Apply SPF to any exposed skin. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days; you can still get a sunburn.

Work smart

  • Take time to stretch and warm up before the work begins. Weeding, trimming, and raking are repetitive motions — change your posture or stance every few minutes and switch activities every 30 minutes.
  • Lift properly by bending at the knees and hips and using leg power rather than bending at the waist and putting the strain on your back. Instead of carrying heavy or unwieldy loads, employ a cart or wheelbarrow.
  • Drink water and take breaks in the shade. Even if it’s not hot or humid, yard work is exercise, and staying hydrated is important to avoid heat-related illness.
    Ready the tools
  • Familiarize yourself with power tools and how they work. Read owner’s manuals (many are available online) and know about various switches, modes, and required maintenance.
  • Check cords on tools and extension cords for cuts, cracks, and frayed wires — and do not use them if damaged. Also check the label to make sure you don’t use an indoor extension cord outside.
  • Make sure tools are in the “off” position before plugging them in or unplugging.
  • Use ladders safely: Set on a firm, level surface; never stand on one of the top three rungs; and use a utility belt to hold tools so you can properly climb facing the ladder.
  • Call 811 before you dig. This notifies local utilities to check your property before you plant a tree, dig a trench, or set fence posts.

Protect loved ones

  • Be sure children and pets are inside (or well supervised if out) while you work.
  • Store sharp tools, weed killer, fertilizer, and other dangerous items in a locked cabinet out of reach of curious hands and mouths.

Source: State Farm Insurance

Winter means heightened carbon monoxide risk

CO detector

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. And although we can’t see it, carbon monoxide can be deadly. Keep your family safe by preventing exposure and knowing the signs of this possible hazard.

Preventing CO poisoning

  • Use CO alarms. Place a CO alarm on every floor of your house, especially near any room where people sleep. If the alarm goes off, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed or nauseous.
  • Check the batteries. Check or replace the batteries in your alarms when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.
  • Get appliances serviced. Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil, wood or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.
  • Don’t leave vehicles idling. If your garage is attached to your home, don’t leave your car or truck idling inside—even if the garage door is open.

Preventing CO poisoning during a power outage

  • Never use a generator, charcoal grill, camp stove, or other gasoline, kerosene, propane or charcoal-burning device inside your home, basement, garage or near a window.
  • Don’t burn anything in a stove or fireplace that isn’t vented to the outside air.
  • If you suspect CO poisoning and you or anyone in your family is experiencing dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, vomiting, headache or confusion, leave your home immediately, call 9-1-1 for medical attention and stay out of the house until the problem has been corrected.

Source: Consumers Energy

How to prevent pipes from freezing

frozen fipe

For anyone living in Michigan where temperatures regularly dip below freezing, a few precautionary steps to help protect your plumbing can be a cost-effective way to help avoid cleaning up after a burst pipe.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) says one frozen pipe that bursts may result in more than $5,000 worth of water-related damage.

Protect pipes before a freeze

Be sure to insulate all accessible pipes well before a cold snap. If you’re not sure what type of pipe insulation to use, ask at your local hardware store. The staff there should be able to help recommend insulation that is appropriate for your home and the temperatures likely to occur in your area.

Apply pipe insulation to water pipes in unheated areas of your home, such as the garage, or in areas where pipes are near exterior walls, such as under kitchen or bathroom sinks.

Using a sealant or caulk approved for exterior use, shore up cracks and holes on your home’s outside walls. (If you haven’t done this already, you may have to save it for next spring. Caulk typically needs to be applied in temperatures of at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Act when temperatures drop

Listen on a regular basis to your daily weather report and be prepared to act when temperatures reaching freezing levels and take heed to other winter advisories.
During severe cold snaps, keep exterior doors to unheated spaces, such as garages, closed.

If kitchen or bathroom pipes are located near exterior walls, leave the cabinet doors open and use a fan to circulate the warmer air around the pipes.

Let taps slowly drip during extreme cold snaps to help prevent water from freezing and to relieve pressure if some water does freeze.

Consider installing a water leak alarm in areas where you might expect a problem, such as the basement. The alarm sounds when water is detected and can quickly alert you to a problem.

The security experts at Solucent can install water leak detection alarms to protect your property from flooding

How to check for frozen pipes (and thaw them)

To check on your pipes, the IBHS suggests turning on each faucet (both hot and cold). If there’s only a trickle of water or, even worse, there’s no water coming out at all, then you should suspect pipe has frozen. The source of the freeze is most likely near an exterior wall or where the main water supply enters your home, so leave the faucet on and use a blow dryer (never an open flame torch or other device) to help heat the pipe until there’s a steady flow of water.

Of course, if you can’t locate the frozen pipe or just aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, call a plumber, who may help with relocating certain pipes to help prevent a similar freeze in the future.

Source: Allstate Insurance

Protect your parcels: Tips for thwarting ‘porch pirates’

porch parcels

Online shopping has made life easier for a lot of us, but it’s also created more opportunities for thieves to prey on parcels left on our doorsteps.

Beware the so-called porch pirate. They count on our being lax, but a little preparation can help thwart their plans and leave them empty handed, said Gary Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall, a company that specializes in cyber security.

“A more sophisticated porch pirate might send you an SMS message or email with malware,” Miliefsky said. “That would let them gain access to your computer or smartphone, and they could install a RAT (Remote Access Trojan). Then they can eavesdrop on your orders and deliveries.”

They also might be able to locate you through the geolocating feature on your phone, he said. That would tell them when you are away from home, the final link in their well-laid plan.

“If they know you aren’t home and that a package is scheduled for delivery, it’s going to be easy for them to steal it,” he said.

There are, however, ways around even cyber criminals. Miliefsky offers these tips for outwitting porch pirates and keeping packages safe:

• Get permission to ship all your packages to work. That way they aren’t left unguarded at your doorstep for hours where anyone walking by could snatch them. If this arrangement works out, be sure to tell all your friends and family also to ship packages to your work address.

• Ask a friend or neighbor to receive your packages for you. You might not be home on work days, but plenty of people are. Trusted friends who are retired or who work at home might be happy to let you have packages delivered to them for safe keeping.

• If a neighbor can’t receive your packages and you can’t get them at work, another option is available. Miliefsky suggests trying Doorman, a service that lets you arrange for a package to be held at a warehouse until you arrive home. Then you can arrange delivery for evening hours that better suit you.

• Disable geolocation on your smartphone so that thieves – or other hackers for that matter – can’t track your location. No need to make it easier on them.

• Set up a live recording video camera aimed at your porch. That could allow you to spot a theft as it happens and alert law enforcement, or at least provide you with video later that might help identify the thieves.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How to build your home repair expert crew

handymen

A home needs its support crew — tradespeople like plumbers, electricians, handymen and gutter cleaners willing to show up in an emergency, but also reliable enough to do the regular maintenance needed to prevent a disaster.

Finding reliable and seasoned professionals takes time and means keeping in touch with the ones you have so that your name lands at the top of their list when your furnace fails on a holiday weekend because, face it, things invariably go awry after business hours.

Here are some tips for building your crew:

A good plumber should top any homeowner’s list of go-to contractors. Water accounts for 45 percent of damage to homes, according to Chubb, a property and casualty insurance company, with plumbing failures cited as the top cause of non-weather-related water losses. “Water is your house’s worst enemy,” said Angie Hicks, a co-founder of Angie’s List. “So, having a plumber is imperative.”

Plumbers have different specialties, with some focusing on larger remodeling projects and others handling the everyday problems with water heaters, boilers, sump pumps and pipes. Most plumbers charge by the hour — usually between $45 and $200 — for ordinary tasks, according to HomeAdvisor.

Ask potential hires what they charge for emergency calls and how quickly they can respond on nights and weekends, because at some point you’re going to need one to come fast.

Where to look and what to ask

Friends and neighbors can be a valuable resource, particularly ones who have owned their homes for a long time. Connect with a wider network of neighbors through social media groups like Facebook and NextDoor. Ask pointed questions about how quickly the workers respond to calls, how well they clean up after they’re done and how they respond to mishaps.

Real estate brokers often have a long roster of tradespeople, so ask yours. The workers you hire can refer you to other professionals, too. If an electrician installs some recessed lights in your living room, for example, he may be able to suggest a painter to repair any damage done to the walls or ceiling.

Ask potential hires for references, proof of license and liability insurance. Find out how long the company has been in business, and if it offers warranties for the work. Get a sense of their personality and working style, as you want to develop a comfortable rapport with anyone who will be coming into your home.

Source: The New York Times

Make safety part of your winter workout routine

winter workout

Michigan winters mean snow, ice, freezing temperatures and darker days.

Even though staying active during these conditions may not seem ideal, there are many health benefits, both physical and mental, to working out during the winter months. Of course, adding snow and ice to a workout routine presents additional challenges and health risks.

Before you step outside, keep these health and safety tips in mind:

Prepare for the cold. Before you walk out the door, make sure you take necessary precautions. Know the weather and dress accordingly to avoid frostbite. Wear sunscreen to protect against UV rays and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Wear appropriate footwear. Shoes that are insulated and have a rubber bottom are ideal for slippery conditions. As you walk outside in your rubber-bottom shoes, take smaller steps- it will reduce your risk of falls. To help prevent the buildup of snow and ice, spread deicer around the sidewalks and driveways before, during or after snowfall.

Know the differences in ice strengths. If you plan to take advantage of ice to go skating or play hockey on a backyard pond, make sure it’s safe. According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Resources, fresh, clear ice with a blueish tint is the strongest. The DNR warns that ice under snow is almost always weaker than ice that is exposed. Avoid patches covered in snow and/or slush; that is a sign the ice is no longer freezing. Most importantly, proceed with caution. Ice can change thickness and strength quickly.

Wear a helmet when sledding, skiing or snowboarding. Winter sports usually involve sliding down a slippery slope. To avoid head injuries, be sure to wear a helmet as you slide down the hill.

Pick a safe spot to work out. If the winter activity involves sliding or skating, make sure the area is free of obstacles that may cause injury. Fences, trees and poles all pose dangers to the individual working out.

Additionally, certain health conditions may worsen when exercising outdoors. Before you head out, consult a doctor to make sure you are physically prepared to take on winter exercises.

Now that you know how to be safe outdoors, bundle up and get your best winter workout in!

Source: A Healthier Michigan

Why do people die shoveling snow?

snow shovelingSnowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, SnOMG!

There is no end to the terms for “really big snowstorm,” and those terms came in handy, particularly in America’s snowiest cities. Just check out these average annual snowfall totals, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

  • Mt. Washington, NH – 281.2 inches
  • Houghton, MI – 207.7 inches
  • Syracuse, NY – 123.8 inches
  • Sault St. Marie, MI – 120.4 inches
  • Caribou, ME – 108.7 inches
  • Flagstaff, AZ – 101.7 inches
  • Traverse City, MI – 101.4 inches

With big snow storms – and even every day, run-of-the-mill snowfalls – there is a risk of death by shoveling. Nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.

So, why so many deaths? Shoveling snow is just another household chore, right?

Not really, says the American Heart Association. While most people won’t have a problem, shoveling snow can put some people at risk of heart attack. Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury.

And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. It can make blood clot more easily and constrict arteries, which decreases blood supply. This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.

The National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Take it slow and stretch out before you begin
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it’s lighter
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion
  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them; every minute counts
  • Don’t pick up that shovel without a doctor’s permission if you have a history of heart disease. A clear driveway is not worth your life.

Source: National Safety Council

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