How to Enjoy Your Fireplace Safely this Season

29 Nov

Fireplaces are one of the coziest amenities in a home. But they can also bring on terrible disaster if they’re not maintained properly and used wisely. Here are some essential tips for fireplace safety.

 

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Gathering the family around a crackling fire can be one of the joys of the coldest months… or it can be a nightmare. It’s one thing to be seated cozily on the couch while the firewood glows, and quite another to be standing on the curb in the cold watching the fire department trying to save your home.

 

More than 14,000 fires begin each year in fireplaces, and fires are the cause of nearly $900 million dollars in property damage. Don’t be a victim because of shoddy maintenance or careless usage of your fireplace. This goes for both wood-burning and gas fireplaces.

 

Here are some tips to maintain your fireplace and protect your life:

 

  1. Before the coldest months set in, get your fireplace inspected. Remember, most inspection companies will be very busy during the winter, so try and secure an inspection at least a month or so before you anticipate using your fireplace heavily.

 

  1. Inspect your fireplace before you use it. Take a flashlight and look in the flue. Look for obstructions. Check for cracked bricks, missing mortar, or other signs of damage. Be sure to clean out any ashes and dispose of them in a metal-lid trash can.

 

  1. Burn properly. This means using seasoned hardwood (which avoids creosote accumulation), and burning logs on an approved rack or elevated grate. Also, don’t burn trash, cardboard, or other debris in your home fireplace.

 

  1. Keep the area around the fireplace clear. Don’t put your Christmas tree near the fireplace, or anything else which is liable to combust. If it’s flammable, keep it safely distant from those flames.

 

  1. Guard against sparks. Sparks may periodically leap from your fireplace, so use a screen to prevent them from landing on rugs or nearby furniture.

 

  1. Don’t leave the house with a fire burning. Extinguishing a fire before you leave is common sense, so don’t leave those burning logs unattended!

 

Would you like a home with a fireplace? Let us help you find just the right one:

 

(321) 308-0336; CapriceAtwell@BHHSFloridaRealty.com

Protecting your college student’s possessions at school

12 Sep

If you have a son or daughter heading off to college this fall, you’ve probably sent them along with most of their most prized possessions. Laptop, stereo, smartphone, mountain bike… it all adds up to several thousands of dollars of personal gear.

 

So what happens if they get robbed? Will you be stuck for the replacement costs, or are they covered on your homeowner’s insurance policy?

 

Believe it or not, the insurance policy on your home might just cover what your kid takes to school. But there’s a catch: Many policies only cover the student if they live in a dorm on campus. If they’re in an apartment or house on their own, you might not be covered.

 

One alternative to covering your student’s possessions while they’re away at school is renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is a very affordable way to make sure you’re not out thousands if there’s a break-in. For as little as $15 – $20 a month you can have a bit of piece of mind you won’t find yourself in the Apple store again plunking down for a new Macbook Air.

 

A few notes:

 

  1. Your student won’t be covered by their roommate’s policy. Policies are specific about covering a single policy holder.

 

  1. A renter’s policy can also include liability coverage, much like your homeowner’s insurance.

 

  1. Taking inventory of possessions and keeping detailed records (with photos and serial numbers) is essential. It provides helpful evidence of ownership in the case of a claim.

 

You’ll want to talk to your insurance agent about your specific situation, needs, and your policy. Don’t overlook this opportunity to protect your student and your wallet.

 

Need a referral to an insurance agent? We can help recommend a few we know and trust: (321) 308-0336

Create a Florida Room for Summer Fun

4 Jul

Some summer hours are too beautiful to be ignored. Whether those dewy dawns before the sun is at full strength, or the long evening hours when the heat bleeds off the day, there are times when being outdoors is a tremendous pleasure.

But this doesn’t mean you always want to spread out a blanket or a lawn chair. In fact, creating a “transitional space” which blends outdoor living with indoor amenities is a great way to maximize the season. The Florida room is just one of those spaces.

Florida rooms are typically situated in the rear of a home, sometimes connected to the home by sliding glass doors. The Florida room is usually a covered space with flowing outdoor fabrics and durable, luxurious “indoor” style furniture such as chaise lounges, couches, ottomans, and even coffee and accent tables. Walls give way to curtains. It often includes a dining space or even a protected (or moveable) entertainment center. Bluetooth music systems with outdoor speakers are also a nice touch.

If you see yourself spending a lot of time outdoors, you might consider supplementing your Florida room with an outdoor kitchen. A good grill, an outdoor sink in a stone or other durable counter surface, and some built-in refrigeration for drinks is a great way to upgrade your Florida room.

The Florida room is one of the hottest trends in home design right now. If you search Google images for “Florida room,” you’ll find hundreds of design examples from down-home country living to lavish, Mediterranean-inspired decor. Pinterest and Houzz are also great places to research Florida room styles.

The beauty of the Florida room is that it can be scaled to meet your budget. Even a modest transitional space with some cover and cozy furniture can make a small home feel larger and improve your quality of life.

What does your dream Florida room look like? What are your must-haves and your nice-to-haves? How would you like to use your Florida room?

If you’re looking for a new home with the ideal space for a Florida room, we’re happy to help you with your search. Let’s talk soon: 321-308-0336; CapriceAtwell@BHHSFloridaRealty.com

Wire Fraud Warning Advisory!

20 May

Real estate transactions routinely involve the transfer of large sums of money, typically through wire transfers. Given the electronic nature of these transactions, they are somewhat susceptible to fraud. The loss of funds and the dream of homeownership for a buyer or seller can be absolutely devastating.

Recently the National Association of Realtors(R) issued a warning about a sophisticated wire fraud scam. According to this article on the NAR website (http://www.realtor.org/articles/urgent-alert-sophisticated-email-scams-targeting-the-real-estate-industry):

“Criminals are hacking into the email accounts of real estate agents or other persons involved in a real estate transaction and using information gained from the hack to dupe a party into a fraudulent wire transfer. The hackers often send an email that appears to be from an individual legitimately involved in the transaction, informing the recipient, often the buyer, that there has been a last minute change to the wiring instructions.  Following the new instructions, the recipient will wire funds directly to the hacker’s account, which will be cleared out in a matter of minutes. The money is almost always lost forever.”

First and foremost: Exercise extreme caution when sharing transaction information with anyone. Email is not necessarily the best way to communicate wire information, for example. Doing so by phone, to a verified, trusted number is a far better strategy.

Second: Confirm and “last minute” changes with parties involved, preferably on phone or in person.

Third: Never, ever click on links in email messages without absolute confidence the sender is valid and the destination is clear. Often scams will attempt users to “click here to review the document” or “click here for a private message.” Remember: No context = no click!

If you suspect you may have inadvertently fallen victim to this scam, contact all banks involved immediately, as well as anyone directly involved in the transaction.

Security is everyone’s responsibility. While we may rely every day on the conveniences electronic communication affords us, don’t hesitate to slow things down and protect yourself with a little extra human interaction.

Have questions about real estate transactions? We are happy to help guide you through the process. Contact us today: (321) 308-0385; www.BHHSFloridaRealty.com

Collecting Renovation Inspiration for Your Home

15 May

Home renovation projects are a great way to fall in love again with a home you own, or make upgrades buyers will pay top dollar for when the time comes to sell. Redoing a kitchen or bathroom can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy a space. But how do you know what you really want? Are you aware of how much is out there in terms of modern home design?

Searching for inspiration online is a good place to start. While you can haphazardly click from blog to blog, there are some easy-to-use tools to help introduce you to design options and help you organize your project.

First and foremost, if you’re not on pinterest.com, go sign up for a free account. (You can even use your Facebook login to create an account in under a minute.) Pinterest isn’t specifically about home design, but it is the best online scrapbook out there. With Pinterest, you can “pin” images you like and organize them into collections. This is especially handy if you want to separate bathroom elements, living room designs, or even individual elements such as “lighting” or “color schemes.” You can also search on Pinterest and browse other users’ public collections.

Another spectacular resource focused on home design is houzz.com. House bills itself as “a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community.” Houzz, much like Pinterest, allows you to create idea books which you can then share and collaborate on with others. With each photo you save you can make notes, highlighting what you like or don’t like about a particular image. Houzz also goes beyond design inspiration to connect you with professionals who can actually help turn your dream project into a reality. As you’re meeting with architects of design/build firms, having a Houzz account can be very helpful for guiding in-person conversations about your tastes and preferences.

When you’re in the dreaming phase of a project, it can be fun to allow yourself free reign to select anything and everything your might want in a renovation project. Projects, however, do come down to compromises. Sometimes the compromises are related to building conditions and existing systems, while other times the restrictions are simply budgetary. Keep this in mind as you “go wild” creating inspiration books online. Don’t forget this as you go along… it’ll make the project easier and more satisfying along the way.

Of course you might also decide that renovation isn’t the right move. Sometimes moving is the right move. If you ultimately decide to relocate, we’d be happy to help you find a home which has exactly what you’re looking for (or can be upgraded to meet your needs.) Get in touch!

321-308-0385; CapriceAtwell@BHHSFloridaRealty.com

Streamline Your Life by Rightsizing for Your Space

1 May

“Where will we put all of our stuff?”

This is one of the foremost questions on homeowners’ minds when they’re making a move. Whether it’s a relocation from a suburban to a city environment, or downsizing for a more comfortable retirement, “stuff” can cast a big shadow. To lighten the burden before the big day, it can be helpful to “rightsize” for your move far in advance. Not only will rightsizing save you time, money, and energy as you transition to a new home, it can also help you learn how to evaluate what you really need versus what you’ve been hanging onto for no good reason.

If you’ve compared your current floor plan to your new one, you’ve probably already made the determination that some things must go. But how do you winnow the pile? Here’s a set of criteria you can use to rightsize your possessions:

1. Is this right for the weather? If you’ve lived in places with severe winters and you’re heading for a zero-snow climate, recognize what doesn’t fit and let it go.

2. Is this right for the lifestyle? Your massive outdoor grill and patio furniture may be a waste if you’re settling into a city high-rise. The same might even be said of a second car or recreational vehicle.

3. Is this expensive to move? Some items cost more to move than replace. This is especially true if the item forces you to upgrade the size of your moving truck.

4. Is this something I really use? If you’re in a storage space looking at stuff you haven’t touched in six months or a year, you probably don’t need to transport it to your new space.

5. Is this going to look out of place? Sometimes a new house will make old furnishings and objects seem tacky or trashy. Imagine where you’re going to move it and see if you can do without.

Once you’ve decided something should go, it’s a simple matter of deciding if it’s a “sell,” “donate,” or “ditch” item. While the income from selling items may be appealing, be sensitive to how much time you have before the move. If time’s short, gifting items to friends, charity, or even the dump is a reasonable way to go.

Ready to look for your rightsized home? Let us help: 321-308-0336; info@prudentialsterling.com

A Healthier Garden for a Healthier House

17 Apr

Do you have a home garden? Are you thinking of starting one? Are you concerned about pesticides and expenses associated with growing your own food? Check out these tips for making a home garden healthier, greener, and more economical:

1. Start collecting rain water. You don’t need to run your sprinklers or hoses full-time to get the hydration fruits and vegetables need to flourish in your backyard. Purchasing and installing a simple rain barrel can help you store hundreds of gallons of free water throughout the year. Make the most of that rain water with drip hoses to supply your plants with the water they require.

2. Begin with seeds. If you want to go organic with your home garden, don’t buy young plants… plant your own seeds. Starter containers, soil, and fertilizer are the basics you’ll need to bring up your starter plants. Tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers are a great bet for your first attempts as they tend to take to home growing fairly well. Check out this Community Garden Guide from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for detailed information: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mipmcar9781.pdf

3. Fertilize & spray organically. Your local garden store or plant center should have a selection of organic fertilizers and natural, bio-based pesticides to help you nourish and protect your plants. There are plant and animal-based fertilizers available, as well as natural bacterias and plant-extract pesticides available.

4. Compost! The food you throw away is perfect fuel for your own compost bin. Plants can eat what you don’t! Small compost bins are a good place to start, though you can scale up your compost operation by investing in larger, somewhat more complex systems. For a complete guide to composting, check out this website: http://compostguide.com/

There’s nothing quite like tossing a salad full of vegetables you grew in your own yard. The freshness and satisfaction are incomparable, plus you’ll feel good knowing you’re feeding your family organic food.

Don’t have a backyard yet? We can help you with that! We can help you sell your current home or find a house ideally suited for a little organic garden of your own. Get in touch with us now:

(321) 308-0336; info@prudentialsterling.com