Are you prepared for a house fire?

October 17th, 2016
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Install smoke detectors to save lives

Don’t Let Your Dreams Go Up in Smoke!

What would you do if your home was on fire?  Do you have a plan?  Are you insured properly?

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the loss resulting from fires is approximately $8.6 billion annually.   House fires are the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths among children under the age of 5 and 90% of those fire deaths occurred in homes without functioning smoke detectors.

Southern Platte Fire Protection District Fire Marshal, Dean Cull, said there are three crucial things to do to make sure you are prepared for the unexpected:

  • TWO ESCAPE ROUTES: Make sure to have two escape routes from each room, especially bedrooms.  e. if there is a fire and you are in bed, the hallway may not be an option to escape.  Have another route.
  • EXTINGUISHERS AND LADDERS: Be sure to have fire extinguishers in your home and ladders to escape from everyone bedroom. A fire extinguisher can help prevent a small fire from becoming a large one.  It’s recommended to keep an extinguisher in your garage, kitchen and near your fireplace or wood burning stove.
  • FIRE ALARMS: Install a fire alarm in every bedroom.  Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.  The life expectancy of fire alarms is about 10 years.

Cull suggested creating a plan for your family and provided the following website as a tool in writing your plan:  www.preparemetrokc.org/myplan

Cull shared some information from the USFA in which they recommends paying close attention to heating equipment during the cooler months:

  • Regularly maintain your furnace.
  • Clean the area around the furnace and not stack items near it.
  • Keep space heaters at a safe distance from furniture, curtains, bedding, etc. It is suggested to keep heaters at least 3 feet away from items that can burn
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually by a certified chimney specialist. Make sure it has a sturdy screen to catch sparks.
  • Check all electrical cords from fraying or loose connections. Replace any damaged cords and do not overload an outlet.  Electrical wires can become extremely hot and start fires also.
  • Inspect your electrical box annually. Replace broken fuses and do not overload a fuse.
  • Install carbon monoxide alarms outside each bedroom.
  • Keep the cooking area clean to avoid grease fires. Keep flammable items away from a gas cooktop and your BBQ grill.

Not only is prevention key, but so is making sure you are properly insured in case of a disaster.  Jim McCall with Country Financial suggests everyone make sure their standard homeowners insurance covers fires and confirm the coverage limits. McCall explains that one policy will differ from another in various terms and suggest you look for complete protection.  Fire insurance is protection from the cost of repairing damages caused by a fire breakout and a typical policy usually covers adjacent structures. The best thing to do when insuring for fire is to insure the actual value of your home.  Insurance companies will take into consideration the base rebuilding costs calculated on the square footages.

McCall suggests every homeowner keep a file with accurate records of your home’s measurements, including total square footage, room sizes and storage/garage spaces.  He provides all of his clients with an inventory log.  This room by room inventory log allows the homeowner to track model numbers, year purchased and a place to keep receipts for large purchases like furniture and electronics. He also encourages clients to video record each room to show your personal belongs.  Then, be sure to store this information in a safe deposit box.

Top 10 tips when buying fire insurance

  1. Don’t assume that the fire insurance policy covers the contents of your house. You should always clarify with your insurance company what a policy covers and not base your actions on assumptions.
  1. Don’t assume the policy covers the cost of replacing damaged personal property. There are policies that cover the actual cost value of items at the time they were destroyed from fire because replacement cost coverage usually are a little more expensive.
  1. Don’t buy a policy for the low deductibles.  If you decide on a plan with high deductibles, you will get a higher discount on the policy.
  1. Know what the fire insurance policy covers and/or does not cover. Some perils are not covered by fire insurance: Fire arising from riots, an earthquake or any other natural calamity; theft or burglary during or after a fire breakout.
  1. Check with your insurance agent about the specific coverage options.
  1. Shop around for the best fire insurance rates possible. Compare several fire insurance policies at the same time to get the best offer.
  1. Start with your current insurance company. Most offer discounts for multiple policies from the same company.
  1. Use fire detectors that help get more discounts. If you have a smoke, fire and other detectors, this will help getting additional discounts from the insurance company.
  1. Do a background check on the insurance company before purchasing a policy. A company that is not financially stable will give you trouble when you have to file a claim.
  1. Have a written or video inventory of the belongings of your home for proof of your belongs and their condition.

Don’t become another statistic. Take proactive actions to protect your family’s largest investment – your home.  For more information on fire tips, visit www.nfpa.org and www.sparky.com

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*This article was originally published in North Magazine, September/October 2014

Curb Appeal Makeover

September 10th, 2014

Easy and Affordable Makeover Tips for Curb Appeal

Autumn is here, now is the time to give TLC to the exterior of your home with a curb appeal makeover.

When thinking about what to do, how long it will take, and how much it will cost, be sure to keep it simple. It is important to have symmetry, which is pleasing to the eye and easy to incorporate. A symmetrical entry using flowers, shrubs, and light fixtures to the front door boost your appeal and is welcoming to guests. Pick and choose, or do all ten of these easy and affordable tips to freshen up your curb appeal.

 

1. Updated hardware and house numbers:

House numbers and the entry door lockset are design elements that can add style and exterior appeal to your home. Guests walking up to your front door will notice if they are out of date or mismatched. When they match each other and compliment the style of your home, it adds the most appeal rather than just a mixture of materials.   For example, brushed nickel suits more contemporary homes and traditional homes are complimented by oiled-bronze finishes.  Simple house numbers can start around $2.00 per number or you can get more creative with customized plaques ranging from $50-$100.

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2. New mailbox:

It does not matter if your mailbox is mounted to the side of your home or a standard one installed near the road, adding a new mailbox can give your home a new feel. Mailboxes should complement the home and express the homeowner’s personality. When choosing a mailbox, start by consulting your neighborhood CC&R’s to make sure there are not any rules limiting the type, color, etc. of your mailbox. Once you have your neighborhood guidelines, pick a box that mirrors your home’s trimmings. Dress up mailboxes for curb appeal by painting the wooden post to match the house’s exterior color or surround it by a beautiful flowering garden.  Mailboxes can be purchased from your local hardware store from anywhere from $50-$300. When you install your mailbox, make sure to follow the instructions and city regulations.

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3. Add light fixtures:

Try to match your new house numbers with the finish that is on your exterior light fixtures for the most pleasing combination. When buying new exterior light fixtures, be sure to consider both the style of the light fixtures and the function of them. You want your light fixtures to be able to adequately light up your entryway to your house and make it safer. Also, look for light fixtures that have the same mounting system as the current ones that you have to save yourself some time on this home improvement project.  Exterior light fixtures can be found anywhere from $20 and up.

 

4. Install outdoor lighting:

Solar or low-voltage landscape lighting makes a huge impact on your home’s curb appeal while providing safety and security. Some homeowners go all out by adding accent lighting to trees and/or illuminate a walking path. If you aren’t able to use lights that require wiring, install solar fixtures (but understand that their light levels are not as bright or as reliable).

 

5.  Dress up your front door:

Your home’s front entry is the focal point of its curb appeal. Make a statement with your front door! How? Add a wreath that reflects the season or your personality. Give it color or replace with a custom wood door. Clean off any dirty spots around the knob and use metal polish on the door fixtures.

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6.  Enhance your doorstep:

Most homes have a gray concrete for the sidewalk and steps, which can age and crack over time. Some new creative entries are using colored and stamped concrete or tile to create a different feel from the standard concrete. This can add a fun new feel to your entry.

 

7.  Shutters/Trim:

Shutters and trim can add décor to your home’s exterior for some pop! Also, Shutters can provide privacy as well as controlling the light and ventilation. There are so many types of shutters on the market for you to compliment the style and personality of your home. They range from wood, aluminum, vinyl, composite, or fiberglass, including newer low maintenance composite materials, such as PVC resins or polyurethane.

 

8.  Paint your home:

Exterior paint is one of those regular maintenance items required with home ownership and it is one of the easiest ways to keep your home looking great. Plus it can transform the look.   Not good at picking colors? Contact a local interior designer to bring some swatches and select a color for you. This way it takes all the guess work out. Pick a bold color to make your home stick out, but just make sure that you match it to the rest of the colors on your house. Remember before you buy the paint be sure to have your Homeowners Association approve the color if it is required by your CC&R’s.  Contact the homeowners association’s management company or President for the process of getting approval.  Any obvious defects, such as cracked or rotting material, can really hurt the aesthetic of your home and quickly turn a buyer’s first impression into a negative one. Once defects are repaired, look for ways to add personality with color, trim, or shingles.  This home improvement project may take several hours depending on how much you choose to paint, so plan for at least a day of painting. If you don’t have the budget or time to paint the entire home this year, focus on the trim, shutters, and front door of your home.  You can pick up paint for around $25+ a gallon depending on the brand and warranty. Sherwin Williams Duration is more expensive, but lasts longer.  Contact neighbors, local Chamber of Commerce and utilize Facebook to find reputable contractors to paint with good materials.

 

9.  Straighten, paint or replace gutters:

Gutters serve a purpose and must be maintained to avoid long term damage. So be sure to give them some TLC regularly by cleaning them, installing gutter guards and straightening the downspouts that have been run over by lawnmowers. If your home has an older gutter system, odds are it has rust, paint peeling, or has downspouts that are not serving their purpose. If you decide to replace, be sure to research the different systems. Some newer, snap-fit vinyl gutter systems that go together with few tools and require no painting might be an option. Or if you have a bigger budget and are looking for a “WOW” factor to enhance your curb appeal, go with a copper systems.

 

10.  Update or create an instant garden:

You do not have to have a green thumb to add some color to your entry. Many places like Costco, Lowe’s and Home Depot sell buy ready-made containers from garden centers. So it takes all the guess work out of it quickly and affordably.   Or make your own with colors and flowers that appeal to you. Many staggers or landscapers recommend asymmetrical arrangement to create a dynamic setting.

For your existing garden beds, take some time to shape by pruning and pulling weeds, plant some new flowers/plants and add new mulch to restore older faded/dried out mulch. If your flower bed borders are old or falling, give them some attention by resetting/restacking. Or use new stone to create a new boarder or a decorative cast-concrete edging system for improved curb appeal.

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Remodel projects that payoff when you sell

September 5th, 2014

Have you watch HGTV’s show “Love it or List it?”  Are you debating between selling your home and remodeling it?

If you decide to sell, you may not get as much from your home as you have invested into it.  However you will be able to take advantage of historically low interest rates and great resale homes that are priced aggressively.  We are turning into a seller’s market based on inventory levels in Kansas City, which mean buyers do not have the ability to low ball sellers as they might have 2 years ago.  So if you find something you like, write an offer before someone else does!

As a REALTOR®, we are repeatedly telling a seller that just because you spent $1,000 or $10,000 on improvements to your home, does not mean you will get 100% of that value when you sell your home.  We strongly recommend contacting a REALTOR®, who is actively marketing and selling homes, along with their interior designer to tour your home and provide their professional recommendation before you start spending any money.   Some improvements you may do to your home are purely for your personal enjoyment (i.e. faux painting, light fixtures, blinds/shutters, etc.). And some will help you obtain the most amount of money when you sell in the future (i.e. kitchen and bathroom remodels).

Do you know what improvements bring the most bang for your buck and won’t break the bank?  Here are a few of the top ones:

  • Garage doors: installing doors with minimum R-12 ratings, foam insulation, thermal seals, and heavy duty steel tracks run around $2,000-$3,300. This is considered one of the top improvements you can do to your home. It is estimated that you can recoup over 80%.

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  • Entry landscape and front door: installing a steel door and having a professionally landscaped entry provides great curb appeal. Also, this is the location of a buyer’s “first impression.” Front doors average around $1,200 and will recoup 96% when reselling.

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  • Windows: replacing old, leaking windows are a great investment. They will help update the look and feel of your home, plus provide great insulation and are low-E. You will see over a 55% return on this investment  And remember, when considering doing a small or large improvement to your home; be sure to weigh the cost vs. value.

 

~The statistical data used in this article was provided by REALTOR® Magazine