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Archive for the ‘Your Home/Your Investment’ Category

Take Inventory of Your Home – for FREE!

How much would you lose if you had a fire at your home or some other disaster hit? How could you ever remember all you owned in order to file an accurate insurance claim. A client who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina recently related how difficult the task of filing that insurance claim was.

What You Own Home Inventory is a free software that assists you in taking inventory of your possessions. It’s easy to use and it helps you organize your inventory by room and category. You can add multiple pictures of your items, rooms and household as you go along. When you are done, you can save your file and print a report.

And best of all – it’s FREE. Check it out today.


Advice on TroopTube for Enlistees Buying or Renting a Home

8 Tips to Guide Your Home Search

1. Research before you look. Decide what features you most want to have in a home, what neighborhoods you prefer, and how much you’d be willing to spend each month for housing.

2. Be realistic. It’s OK to be picky, but don’t be unrealistic with your expectations. There’s no such thing as a perfect home. Use your list of priorities as a guide to evaluate each property.

3. Get your finances in order. Review your credit report and be sure you have enough money to cover your down payment and closing costs. Then, talk to a lender and get prequalified for a mortgage. This will save you the heartache later of falling in love with a house you can’t afford.

4. Don’t ask too many people for opinions. It will drive you crazy. Select one or two people to turn to if you feel you need a second opinion, but be ready to make the final decision on your own.

5. Decide your moving timeline. When is your lease up? Are you allowed to sublet? How tight is the rental market in your area? All of these factors will help you determine when you should move.

6. Think long term. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in this home for a longer period? This decision may dictate what type of home you’ll buy as well as the type of mortgage terms that will best suit you.

7. Insist on a home inspection. If possible, get a warranty from the seller to cover defects for one year.

8. Get help from a REALTOR®. Hire a real estate professional who specializes in buyer representation. Unlike a listing agent, whose first duty is to the seller, a buyer’s representative is working only for you. Buyer’s reps are usually paid out of the seller’s commission payment.

Published with permission of National Association of REALTORS®

Conduct Your Own Energy Audit

  • Conduct Your Own Energy Audit

    A do-it-yourself energy audit can teach you how to be more energy efficient and make you a more-educated consumer should you decide to hire an expert. Read
Visit for more articles like this.

10 Things Every Remodeling Contract Should Include

The contract is a critical step in any remodeling project; it holds the job together and ensures that all parties agree to the same vision and scope.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry spells out the following key elements that every remodeling contract should have: 
  1. The contractor’s name, address, phone number, and license number.
  2. Details on what the contractor will and will not do.
  3. A list of materials for the project in your contract. This includes information about the size, color, model, brand name, and product.
  4. The approximate start date and completion date.
  5. All required plans. Study them carefully for accuracy. Insist that you approve them and that they are identified in your written contract before any work begins.
  6. Written notice of your right to, without penalty, cancel a contract within three business days of signing it.
  7. Financial terms, spelled out in a way that you understand. This includes the total price, payment schedule, and any cancellation penalty.
  8. A binding arbitration clause, which you’ll need in the event a disagreement occurs. Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.
  9. Everything you’ve requested. Consider the scope of the project and make sure all items you’ve requested are included. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included. Never sign an incomplete contract.
  10. A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year. The warranty must be identified as either “full” or “limited.” The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty (contractor, distributor, or manufacturer) must be identified. Make sure the time period for the warranty is specified.

By Kelly Quigley, managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.

Used with permission of

7 Holiday Events that Better Your Community

Create holiday traditions that build community spirit and strengthen your neighborhood.

Make friends and influence your property values by creating neighborhood traditions. The winter holidays provide the perfect excuse to march up to your neighbors’ doors and invite them to a holiday event that brings neighbors together and builds strong community bonds.


There are smart reasons to start a holiday neighborhood tradition that fosters good relationships with your neighbors. Higher property values, strong schools, and lower crime rates are tangible benefits of neighbors’ connecting with their fellow residents and their neighborhood, according to studies by Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

There are also intangible benefits. “People feel better about themselves when their house becomes a home and their street becomes a neighborhood,” says Peggy Allen, author of Block Parties and Poker Nights: Recipes and Ideas for Getting and Staying Connected With Your Neighbors. “When you have some connection with the people whose yard you share and whose cars get parked next to yours on the street, you know they’re looking out for you.”


Organizing an event is easier than you think. “The key is to not jam an agenda down people’s throats,” says Allen. “Float your idea, make it as flexible as possible, and don’t be the only one who wants to do it.” Here are seven event ideas from your neighbors across the country:

  •  Sing songs. “We’ve been caroling every year since 1967, and we missed only one winter because it was below freezing,” says Marge Othrow of the Clinton Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. A few residents scout the route by identifying streets heavy with holiday decorations under the theory that those residents will be receptive to carolers. A community group donates the money to print flyers, and volunteers post the flyers and provide refreshments. “A lot of residents are expecting us,” says Othrow. “Sometimes we’re invited in, and some people even plan their parties so we’re the entertainment.”
  • Party with a purpose. New Orleans’ historic Strachan House is the site of the Coliseum Square Association’s annual Christmas party, where the highlight is an award ceremony honoring first emergency responders who’ve made a difference in the city’s Lower Garden District neighborhood. “We want to thank our first responders,” says Matt Ryan, CSA president, “but the end result is that we’re building our community.” The CSA spends about $1,000 for the food and the several-hundred-dollar cash awards for the first responders.
  • Swap food. With a cookie or dessert exchange, no single neighbor bears the burden of providing food for the entire neighborhood. “We have an open house,” says Audra Krell of Scottsdale, Ariz., “and people bring one tray of any kind of dessert.” Krell relies on Evites and Facebook to spread the word, so her overall time managing the event is under 10 hours.
  • Organize a search party. Families compete in a neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt in Maineville, Ohio. “I come up with a list of holiday items, like tinsel and candy canes, and give everybody a half hour to collect them,” says Tracie Watkins. “The family that comes back first or has found the most items in that time gets a $50 gift card. Last year we had 15 to 20 families.”
  • Pay it forward. The holidays are a great time to tap into feelings of goodwill toward others. Krell pairs her dessert exchange with a request for partygoers to bring toys to donate to needy children through Childhelp USA. In Logan, Utah, Jenny Johnson and 50-60 of her neighbors forego giving gifts and goodies to each other, instead purchasing Christmas gifts, food, and personal hygiene items for three to four needy families through the Sub for Santa.The average family’s financial contribution runs about $30, and the families get together at a neighborhood party to wrap the gifts they’ve purchased.
  • Feed your friendly neighbors. “We have a progressive holiday party at three houses on the Sunday before Christmas,” says Margee Herring of Wilmington, N.C. Each homeowner foots the food bill for about 100 guests, but you can share the cost by asking neighbors to sign up for a potluck dish. To create a twist, announce a different theme each year or ask homeowners to host the cuisine of a different country.
  • Light it up. Many neighborhoods come together to line their streets with candles on Christmas Eve. “We use plastic milk or water jugs,” says Herring. Costs include purchasing milk or water throughout the year and about $10 worth of 12-hour votive candles. Setup and removal takes 30-45 minutes. An alternative to luminaries is a holiday lighting contest in which neighbors vote on the home with the best holiday display.

By: G. M. Filisko 
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who will never forget her family’s tradition of opening gifts with her brother and six cousins on Christmas Eve at their grandparents’ house in Solon, Ohio. As the day turned into evening, all eight kids would be anxiously asking, “Can we open presents yet? Can we open presents yet?”

Reprinted from HouseLogic ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Holiday Lighting Checklist

It’s that time! But before you plug in and light up for the holidays, run your decorations through this quick safety check.
Lights, inside and out, are a beautiful part of the holiday season. But as with all electrical devices, you need to take special precautions. Before you deck the halls, run through this checklist to keep your holidays merry and bright.
Inspect light strings. Discard any that are damaged. Frayed or cracked electrical cords or broken sockets are leading fire hazards.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for connecting multiple strings. The general limit is three strings. Light strings with stacked plugs can usually accommodate greater lengths than end-to-end connections.

Replace burned-out bulbs promptly. Empty sockets can cause the entire string to overheat.

Make sure outdoor lighting is UL-rated for exterior use. Exterior lights, unlike those used inside the house, need to be weather-resistant. The same goes for any extension cords used outdoors.
Don’t use outdoor lights indoors. They’re too hot for interior use. For the coolest bulbs and greatest energy efficiency, try LED lights, which come in a wide range of styles and colors.

Don’t attach light strings with nails or staples. They can cut through the wire insulation and create a fire hazard. Only use UL-approved hangers.

Take exterior lights down within 90 days. The longer they stay up, the more likely they are to suffer damage from weather and critters chewing on them.
Store lights safely. Tangled lights can lead to damaged cords and broken sockets. After the holidays, coil each string loosely around a stiff piece of cardboard, wrap it in paper or fabric to protect the bulbs, and store in a sturdy container until next year.

Article From

By: Pat Curry

Pat Curry is a former senior editor at BUILDER, the official magazine of the National Association of Home Builders, and a frequent contributor to real estate and home-building publications.

Reprinted from HouseLogic ( with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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