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Bill Gassett

Protect Your Home From Storms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Severe summer weather, such as hail, thunder, and heavy rain, can result in a great deal of damage to your home and other property. There are many steps that homeowners can take to protect themselves from the flooding and power outages that can result from severe weather events, so prepare ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the most effective actions you can take to safeguard your home and property from dangerous and destructive summer storms.

Steps to Take Before a Storm

Typically you will receive warning at least a few days before a major storm arrives. This window of time gives you a chance to make the necessary preparations. Keep in mind that weather forecasts are never perfect; it’s better to prepare for a storm that never arrives, or that turns out to be weaker than anticipated, than not to be ready at all. Keep reading to learn a few things you can do when a major storm is ahead in the forecast.

• Thoroughly inspect your home and make sure you have done everything you can to secure it. This includes the items in your backyard and on your porch as well as indoors. Bring items such as trash cans, toys, lawn or patio furniture or any lightweight items that could become airborne indoors so they cannot blow away or become projectiles. If you have a swimming pool, make sure it’s securely covered.

• If you don’t have storm shutters on your windows, installing these can be an added layer of protection for your home. Another option is to upgrade your windows to a shatterproof material. These steps will help insulate your home during cold weather and protect it during storm season.

• If you have trees with loose branches, this is a good time to give them a trimming. You should also inspect your roof and make sure all of the shingles are secure. Your drains and gutters should be clear so they are able to do their job if there’s a heavy downpour.

• It’s always sensible to stock up on essentials when a severe storm is headed your way. This includes canned food, bottled water and toiletries. It never hurts to have extra supplies in your home even if you end up not needing them right away.

Dealing with Power Outages

Power outages are common during storms. This is something you should be prepared for. One of the best ways to be ready for a power outage is to have a backup generator. You can choose one that is sized appropriately for your needs. This can ensure that your home’s pumps, heating systems and any security systems keep working. A generator can prevent many problems associated with storms, such as flooding and food spoilage.

Whether you have a backup generator or not, you should also have some low tech solutions available in case of a power outage. This includes several heavy duty flashlights with plenty of batteries. Candles are also useful for keeping your home lit when the lights go out.

Preventing Floods

One of the most potentially destructive aspects of severe storms is the flooding they can cause. In terms of threats to both property and your family’s safety, floods are a top concern. Read on to find out a few ways you can protect your home from dangerous and costly water damage.

• Make sure that your gutters divert rain away from your home. If necessary, extend your rain gutters. Gutter should be free of debris. The slope of your yard should not cause water to enter your basement. It may be necessary to consult with a landscaper or other specialist to make adjustments in the direction surface water flows. For example, you may need to upgrade the quality of your soil.

• One of the most common causes of flooding is the failure of sump pumps and other systems in your home. As noted above, a backup generator will keep your sump pump powered and ready to remove water. The next best thing would be to get a battery-operated backup sump pump that will keep working if your main sump pump goes off due to a power outage.

• Fill in any cracks in your basement walls or foundation. Water can enter these cracks and cause flooding. You can seal cracks yourself or call a professional.

• Consider installing a home security system, geared specifically to notice if floodwater has entered your home. Many people hear “alarm” and think fire or burglar protection, but local ADT services in your area, and other flood sensor manufacturers, can install a system that will alert you if water rises even 1/16th of an inch in your home.

• Inspect your sewer or septic system. A clogged sewer or a septic tank that needs cleaning can cause a flood during a storm. Make sure to have your system inspected and maintained regularly.

Have insurance against flooding. While this won’t prevent floods, it will at least ensure that you are protected in case a flood does occur. A typical home insurance policy doesn’t cover floods, so you will probably need an additional policy for this.

Severe storms can unleash their fury any time of year, but they are especially common in spring and summer seasons. Keep track of the weather forecast in your area, and plan ahead. If you live in an area where storms are common, taking additional precautions might be necessary to ensure your home and your family are safe.

Don’t be caught by surprise. When you’re secure in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to prepare, you don’t have to fear Mother Nature. Protect your home by staying ahead of summer storms!

This article comes to Massachusetts real estate news via Beth Kelly who is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

 

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Best Google Plus Real Estate Posts June-July 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The internet makes it incredibly easy for information to be found. The problem is much of the information that is found on the internet is junk. Google Plus is one of the best places, if not the best place, to find quality real estate information! Google Plus communities, such as the Real Estate Community owned by Bill Gassett, are loaded with knowledge not only to make all of us better Realtors but to help consumers by providing rich content about buying and selling homes. This is a fantastic reason to encourage anyone who has an interest in real estate to join!

There have been many great articles published since Bill’s Best Google Plus Real Estate Articles May 2014 was published. Bill was actually kind enough to ask me to come over here to his blog to share my opinion on which articles I enjoyed reading the most. Here are several articles from the months of June and July that you should absolutely check out!

The Movement Against Zillow Estimates (“Zestimates”)

Over the past couple month’s there has been many real estate professionals writing about Zillow and other third-party real estate websites. Most of these articles have discussed and proven how inaccurate Zillow and other third-party websites truly are!
The first article, are Zillow estimates accurate by Bill Gassett is an in-depth explanation of the many problems with Zillow and their estimates. He explains the process by which Zillow uses to establish these estimates, explains why the estimates fail so often, and also gives some great reasons why real estate professionals hate Zillow.

Bill’s article was just the beginning to this movement over the past month against Zillow’s estimates. Debbie Drummond, a Las Vegas Real Estate Agent, followed up Bill’s article by giving an in-depth analysis of the effect of Zillows Estimates on the Las Vegas Real Estate Market. In this article she discusses why buyer’s need to take Zillows estimates with a grain of salt, which is absolutely true. During her analysis, she found that only 8 out of the 18 homes sold relatively close to what Zillow estimated these homes were worth. There aren’t many professions out there that allow a less than 50% accuracy!

Debbie’s article was followed by a great article by Andrew Fortune, “3 Reasons Why Local Real Estate Websites Are Better Than National Ones.”  In addition to the excellent infographic, Andrew discusses why consumers need to use local real estate websites, not national ones. Many consumers don’t realize that national real estate websites make money by selling advertising and leads to real estate agents. There are no requirements to be advertised on Zillow and other national real estate websites, other than the willingness to pay!

Andrew’s article was followed up by an article by myself, Zillow’s Home Value Estimates “Zestimates” – Accurate or Not?” . Like Debbie’s analysis of her Las Vegas Real Estate Market, I decided to perform an analysis on my local Rochester NY Real Estate Market. To no one’s surprise, less than 50% of Zillow’s “Zestimates” were relatively close to the 38 homes that were used in this analysis of recently sold Rochester homes.

This article also discussed other important reasons to not trust Zillow and other third-party websites. Third-party real estate websites often have outdated data due to the fact they are not held to any National, State, or Local regulations.
Four excellent articles within a month discussing the inaccuracies of Zillow and other national, third-party real estate websites. Bottom line, they cannot be trusted, and it is important that buyer’s and seller’s remember “LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL” when looking for real estate advice and information!

Real Estate & Internet Marketing

I want to make one thing clear, not every real estate agent markets the homes they sell the same, PERIOD! Over the past couple months, there have been a couple excellent articles discussing real estate and internet marketing.

Choose the right Realtor.

Many real estate agents will take a listing, put their sign up in the front yard, enter the listing into the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), and wait for the home to sell! Bill comes up with another gem of an article with his “Is Your Real Estate Agent a Post and Pray Realtor”.  In his post he gives many examples of a how to know you hired a bad real estate agent. These are the Realtors that are notorious for taking bad photographs, writing terrible descriptions of their listings, and don’t know how to market. Before hiring a Realtor, make sure to check out this terrific article on how to pick a Realtor!

Have a real estate blog.

Many real estate agents have discovered the power of having a real estate blog. There is nothing that can brand you better or show off your market expertise than having a blog. Of course if you know a little something about SEO it is even better as your content is likely to be found by consumers doing some kind of online real estate search. Seth Williams a blogger at RE- Tipster put an excellent reference together of some of the best real estate blogs at the current time. In Seth’s overview of some of the leading real estate industry blogs he groups them by collaborative blogs, real estate investing, marketing/technology, real estate economy and local Realtor blogs.

Have a visible internet presence.

The internet plays a huge role in the real estate industry nowadays! Buyers and sellers are beginning to their research online. A real estate agent who doesn’t use social media, doesn’t blog, and doesn’t have a website is stuck in the stone age of real estate! It is necessary and don’t ever let anyone tell you it isn’t! Karen Highland’s Real Estate and Internet Marketing article discusses the secret sauce of internet real estate marketing. Search engine optimization or SEO, is this “secret sauce” that isn’t really secret.

Any Real estate agent who has taken the time to blog regularly with quality content, interact socially, and work on their websites understands what internet marketing is and the impact it has on their business! Check out Karen’s article if you don’t believe that internet marketing is a huge part of the real estate industry, I think you will change your mind afterwards!

How to Buy a Home in a Seller’s Market

Many real estate markets across the country right now are in the midst of an extremely competitive seller’s market! Sellers are being able to “pick and choose” which of the multiple offers they would like to accept. While this is great for sellers, not so great for buyers! The good news is that there are things that can be done to help a buyer succeed in a seller’s market!

First and foremost, a buyer needs to be pre-approved, not pre-qualified! There is a major difference! In the article buying a home in a seller’s market, by Lynn Pineda, she does a marvelous job on explaining what a buyer can do to help themselves succeed with their home purchase. The tips given by Lynn can prevent the heartbreak associated with losing in a multiple offer situation.

These June and July “Best of Google Plus Articles” are just a small taste of what you can expect to find on Google Plus and more specifically, in a Real Estate Community, like the one owned by Bill Gassett! If you haven’t joined, what are you waiting for?

This review of what the Google Plus real estate community has to offer was written by Kyle Hiscock a top Realtor covering the Rochester New York area.

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Top Flooring Choices Examined

Top Flooring Choices When Buying a Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking to sell your home soon (or even a few years down the road), it’s helpful to know what buyers are searching for. I work with many new home buyers, so I see what they are doing before they move in. Trends and preferences may vary based on area of country and construction of home. These preferences are for the Northeast and Mid Atlantic states and focuses on single family homes (as opposed to apartments or rentals). I will start with overall trends, and then go room by room.

By far, the biggest preference is towards hardwood flooring. This should not come as no surprise to anyone, as it is not a new trend. This preference has been growing since the early 1980′s and became the preferred surface in the 1990′s, and it continues to grow year after year.

Realtors will confirm this, as this is often a requirement for the homes that many people look for, and some will screen homes out that don’t have hardwood. In a recent, unscientific survey I did on my site, 95% of consumers prefer hardwood for the common living areas (i.e. living room, dining room, and family room.)

So, if you have hardwood flooring and if it’s hiding underneath your carpet, by all means, rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood floors. It will instantaneously improve the value of your home, and help it sell faster. If you can’t afford to do all of it, or if it’s too inconvenient, at least start with one room to show buyers what the wood could look like.

Even just removing the carpet to show the hardwood floors is a big step in the right direction. Many are pleasantly surprised by the relatively low cost of refinishing hardwood, so it’s usually an investment that gets a strong ROI (return on investment). And, it will help sell your house faster. Take a look as we examine what types of flooring home buyer’s prefer the most!

Room By Room Flooring Preferences

Dark Hardwood FlooringLiving room/dining room/family room – areas on the main level – By far, the preference here is for hardwood. No other surface even comes close. If you have hardwood in these areas, show it off. If you don’t have hardwood in the living room/dining room, I would strongly consider adding it. You will get your return on investment (assuming you have a plywood sub-floor…if you have concrete sub-floor it will be more expensive). Choose either very dark or very light floors, as these are the most stylish. And, satin finish is the most popular sheen.

 

Hardwood Floors in The KitchenKitchens – Believe it or not, now hardwood is now the preferred flooring surface for kitchens. This is followed closely by tile. Hardwood is often preferred as it’s more in style, easier on your feet, makes space look larger and easier to clean.

Hardwood is often less expensive, too. You can read more about it in this article: Kitchen floors – hardwood vs. tile. But, either way, it should, if you are remodeling, hardwood or tile is the way to go w/ 90% of homeowners preferring one of these two surfaces (10% prefer laminate, vinyl, linoleum or cork).

If you are just preparing your home for sale, and/or not doing a full remodel, your choices may be limited due to height of cabinets and appliances, so definitely involve a flooring expert before your run into an issue where you might either lock your appliances in or worse yet find that they don’t fit.

If you are selling your house, I would recommend you consult with your Realtor and/or stager before making changes here. It is easy to spend a lot of money in the kitchen and not get back your return on investment.

Bedroom flooring choicesBedrooms – Homeowners seem to be split on this one. Slightly more than half (56%) prefer hardwood for the bedrooms and 44% prefer carpet. This preference often has been influenced by homeowner’s experiences growing up and whether they are concerned about their feet being cold in the morning. But, either way, virtually all home buyers will NOT keep the carpet you have in your bedrooms.

They will either replace them or they will add hardwood (or refinish if you have hardwood underneath the carpet). Buyers do not like to live with other people’s carpets as there are usually odors and/or germs in there…or a perception that they are present. They seem to be even more concerned if they have young kids and/or babies.

So, those carpets will get ripped up – one way or another. (Unless the homeowner has moved out and then installed new carpets…and this will be obvious as there will be no furniture marks on the carpet). A small percent of customers will clean them, but my guess is this is about 10% and rarely will those furniture marks come out.

So, what should you do if you have carpet in the bedroom and you are selling your house? This depends! And, it’s a good idea to consult your Realtor. If your carpet is in bad condition, and if it smells, it’s best to get rid of it somehow. Leaving dirty carpet in place will definitely hinder your sale, especially if there is a bad odor.

If you have hardwood underneath the carpet, rip up the carpet and refinish the hardwood. (BTW, this is usually LESS expensive than replacing it with carpet)…you can read more here: If you have hardwood underneath the carpet, is it better to refinish the wood or re-carpet? If you can’t afford to refinish the floors, at least rip up the carpet. This is a step in the right direction to improving the value and saleability of your home.

If you have plywood underneath the carpet, you may prefer to re-carpet as this will be less expensive than adding hardwood. Hardwood will often give you a better return on investment, but it will also cost you more. And, be sure that you consult your real estate agent as they will know the types of flooring used and preferred in your specific neighborhood.

Foyer with Dark HardwoodEntryways – This one depends on the size of your entryway and how it flows with the rest of the home. More often than not, most new home buyers prefer to have wood in the entry, if there is wood in the adjoining areas. When you convert this area to wood, it makes the space look larger and more cohesive.

In fact, many new home buyers convert perfectly good tile hardwood when they are refinishing the floors. (This of course assumes that you have plywood underneath and that your entryway is not on a cement slab). The 2nd logical choice is to install tile in the entryway as it is waterproof.

If you are in the process of selling your house, it may or may not be worth it to change this area. If your flooring is in bad condition (e.g. if til,e is cracking or vinyl is peeling) and/or the space looks very dark (e.g. if you have slate tiles), it may be worth it to change, especially since this is your first impression of the house. If it’s just a small area, though, it may not make a huge difference and you may find the cost to fix a small area seems high. (Smaller jobs cost more per sf). But, if you can combine it with another project, it may be much more cost effective.

Bathroom flooring choicesBathrooms – This one should be obvious – tile is the preferred surface! Do not even attempt to put hardwood in a here (assuming there is a shower or bathtub). It will warp and it won’t last very long. Bathrooms are often expensive to renovate, and very often you will not get your return on investment here if you are selling.

Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes…but they also cost a lot of money. So if your bathroom is in bad shape, have a discussion with your Realtor on your selling strategy. Sometimes, it’s better to just leave it and let the new home buyer choose what they prefer; other times, it’s such an eye sore that you have no choice. In terms of style, most prefer a natural stone look – often a porcelain tile will look best and be cost effective. If you have the colored (and dated) 4 x 4 glazed tiles (pink, yellow, blue, green), a less expensive alternative is to re-glaze them white.

While tile is the strong preference for bathroom floors, luxury vinyl is often an acceptable alternative if you need to save money. Luxury vinyl has come a long way, and it does look like hardwood or tile, pending on which selection you prefer. Luxury vinyl should only be used on the floors, and never on the walls. Also, wainscoting is very stylish for bathroom walls (but not good for the shower area).

Powder rooms – New home buyers generally prefer either hardwood for powder rooms or tile. Ironically, many that install tile in powder rooms, select tile that looks like hardwood. Both tend to work really well in this area.

Basement CarpetDens (on lower levels) – Dens are tricky. While most prefer hardwood, many end up with carpet as it’s more affordable. This all depends on whether the den is on a concrete slab or over plywood, as this has major implications for cost, as well as moisture and warmth in the room. If the room is over plywood, and if it’s on or above ground level (on grade), most prefer hardwood.

If it’s over a concrete slab, there can be many complications and added expenses as the slab is often neither level nor smooth. And, many rooms like this tend to have poor insulation, so often carpet is a more practical and economic choice both for initial installation and for ongoing heating bills (at least here in the northeast).

Basements – Most people are all over the board on this and basements are very tricky. Most prefer hard surfaces (as they are concerned about moisture), but when they hear the prices on hard surfaces, they often revert back to carpet as it is much less expensive, especially given the complications that most basements in the northeast have – they are over concrete, they are cold, floor isn’t level and surface isn’t smooth.

Flooring on stairsAnd, in some basements there is asbestos tile, further limiting the options. The other factor is that most people want to spend less in this area since it’s a basement…so it’s ironic that this area often costs more. If you are selling your home, this is probably the area that will get you the least return on investment when selling your home as it’s the basement.

Steps – Most home buyers prefer hardwood steps with a carpet runner. The carpet runner is for safety, as well as style. This is followed by carpet on steps, and then that is followed by just plain hardwood on the steps. If you are selling your home, and you have carpet on the steps, but hardwood underneath, my advice to you is to rip up the carpet and refinish.

Let the new homeowner pick out their own runner for the steps, rather than trying to guess their style. Different people have different preferences, and you are more likely to be wrong than right here. The types of flooring home buyers prefer comes from many years of experience!

 Other useful flooring articles:

This article was written by flooring expert, Debbie Gartner. Debbie is the owner of Floor Coverings International in Westchester, NY. 914-937-2950.

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How to Purchase From a FSBOWe talk a lot about buyer’s agents and listings agents and the benefits of both but what happens if your buyer finds a home that’s not listed with an agent? This is actually not that unusual because buyers will look for homes everywhere and they don’t really care where they find the house, only that they want to try and buy it.

This is what happened with one of my favorite clients. A young, single woman of about 22 working at the local pharmacy in town doing very well for herself and wanted to start investing in the real estate world. This is a great direction for her since she was young, had the funds for an FHA down payment and had a great head on her shoulders.

In my mind, there was no concern for her age when it came to jumping in with both feet. She found me online so she was well versed in searching the Internet. Even though I sent her several homes that met her criteria, the one she wanted to see came from an ad in the local newspaper. Of course it was a FSBO (for sale by owner) and in most cases those sellers may not want to deal with an agent, hence the FSBO in the first place.

But I still advocated on her behalf and called for an appointment. The gentleman was also young and in the military and couldn’t afford listing agent fees so he decided to try it on his own. Here we come, agent in tow.

He was very cordial but I could see he was nervous about the idea of an agent in the mix. My buyer loved the home however and wanted to make a full price offer. The seller asked me if I could assist in the sale and I said sure, for 3% of the sale price. A modest fee since I was now facilitating the deal on both sides. He understood and because he had no previous knowledge of how real estate worked, he agreed.

I found it odd that those that don’t know the process would risk such a high liability in legal documents by listing themselves but in his case, he lucked out with an agent that was not about to swindle, cheat or lie to him throughout the process even though my loyalties were first to my buyer.

We wrote up the deal and I explained everything to both buyer and seller and even though he was a little apprehensive as to all the documentation, I assured him it was all valid and above board. He signed and on we went to inspection.

Because this was an FHA, the house had to be approved under the strict guidelines for an FHA loan. But the previous owner purchased the house under VA terms so we were more than covered for FHA.

The snag came when the appraisal came in. The appraisal came in lower than the list price, and of course, lower than my buyer was willing to pay. When I informed the seller, again he was apprehensive but I gave proof and informed him of his options. He could terminate the transaction, my buyer could make up the difference or he could lower his price. Since my buyer didn’t have the extra funds and I informed him that any appraisal might return the same results, he agreed to lower the price.

I was able to open escrow for them, help them both through the procedure and close on time. The seller was happy and satisfied and I felt that he was my client just about as much as the buyer. I even gave him a moving away gift on closing day.

A Fine Balance of Power

Now this set up worked well but it can always go south quickly. Sellers can go behind the agent’s back and persuade the buyer to drop their agent and just deal one on one. This is where close communication between buyer and agent is so crucial. Buyers that think they know everything and how it all works and can be easily dissuaded into ditching their agent. The benefit I had with my first time buyer is that she trusted me to work for her no matter which home she chose. Regardless of what home you buy, have a buyer’s agent on your side.

I can’t stress this enough. Even though I am not in real estate any more I constantly tell my friends, family and just about anyone I know, get yourself a buyer’s agent! Don’t buy a house without one. You need the protection and assistance in case there is anything you don’t agree with or understand.

Buyers may think they understand the process and they may have even closed a few real estate transactions in the past but things change; rules, laws and requirements change and real estate agents are required to keep up with all of these. If you don’t understand something you’re signing and you don’t have a buyer’s agent to help, you may be signing something you really don’t agree with and it could lead to legal issues down the line.

Read more: Differences between listing agents and buyer’s agents

Also, listing agents have one primary goal – to sell that home! They don’t care if you don’t have a buyer’s agent, they may help with the transaction but again, you are not fully protected. Just as in my buyer going for a house without a listing agent, that seller had to trust that I knew what I was doing and wasn’t going to screw him over. Of course we didn’t, but if he had his own agent, that agent could have verified the purchase and sale agreement and made sure the seller was protected.

Yes, you can buy a house from a seller that does not have the property listed with an agent and still use your buyer’s agent. It’s up to the agent to negotiate with the seller on any commissions or fees paid at closing to the agent. The buyer doesn’t have to pay for the help of a buyer’s agent. Just another one of the many reasons I always say “Have your own agent when buying a home!”

Tammy EmenethAbout the author: Tammy Emineth writes dozens of  monthly blogs to offer assistance to real estate websites as well as all types of personal websites. Tammy does marketing and online promotion through various social media channels for her clients.

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What Makes a Real Estate Agent Military Friendly?

June 25, 2014

You may have heard the term “military friendly” used in and around the real estate industry. But what does it really mean to be considered a military friendly real estate agent? While the definition may vary from user to user, the central idea remains the same. These agents want to support military home buyers. Let’s [...]

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How To Get The Best Photos When Selling Your Home

June 20, 2014

Photography Helps Sell Real Estate If you’re like me, you probably enjoy looking at homes online. Many people browse homes on the internet for fun. My wife and I like to look online at homes for sale in Colorado Springs, deep in the quiet mountain areas where we could never live, with our current lifestyle. [...]

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Don’t Get Too Emotional When Buying a Home

June 18, 2014

Keep Emotions in Check Purchasing Real Estate Getting too emotional when buying a home can cost you big time! The last thing you want to do is create a lot of extra stress for yourself when buying in home. In order to make your purchase go smoothly we have consulted with Lolly Spindler of HouseHunt [...]

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Why Have a Buyers Agent in Real Estate

June 13, 2014

Having a Buyers Agent First things first. My name is Mark Brian and I am a REALTOR in Anderson South Carolina. Bill invited me to write a post that buyers would find informative or helpful. I was surprised that one of the most influential Realtors on the web would reach out to me. So a [...]

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The Inspection and Walk Through – What to Look For

June 11, 2014

The inspection and walk through are two very different AND very important things to do when buying a home. A home inspection is a limited and non-evasive examination of the condition of a home by a home inspector. A final walk through is a final inspection where the buyer makes certain that the property they’ve [...]

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How to Mitigate Injuries When Moving

June 6, 2014

Preventing Injuries While Making a Move It’s surprisingly easy to injure yourself or somebody else when moving out of one home and into another. From breaking fragile objects and cutting yourself, to throwing your back out trying to lift heavy furniture, moving can be dangerous for the inexperienced. While it might be safest for you [...]

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