What A Real Estate Agent Really Does, And How To Find The Right One For You

Ask the average Joe what a real estate agent does, and you’ll hear things like hosting open houses and showings, staging and advertising properties and having a “guy” for everything. These are all correct answers and helpful responsibilities, but it’s like saying you go to a hospital because the reclining beds are comfortable. You go to the hospital to get well; you just end up with a comfy (or not-so-comfy) bed while you’re there.

Picture this: You’re sitting on the couch at home watching the game when the doorbell rings. You answer the door, a man confirms your name, hands you an envelope and walks away. You open the envelope and find a court complaint: Someone is suing you for $100,000. What do you do?

Do you research it online and take a go at it yourself? That’s certainly your right; after all, attorneys are expensive. You did just put the roof on the garage and install that new dishwasher all by yourself, and all it took was a few online videos to show you the ropes. But wait, didn’t it take three months to finish the roof? Oh, and the dishwasher sprung a leak and ended up damaging other parts of the house.

I’ve certainly tried my own DIY projects, and some have turned out great — others, not so much. Many times, I’ve had to hire a skilled professional to finish the project or redo what I did wrong. In the cases where I did it wrong, I usually didn’t realize it until it was too late — which cost me more money than if I had hired somebody to do it right in the first place.

The risk in the lawsuit example is $100,000. Sure, it’s possible that you could prevail if you do it yourself and save not only the $100,000 but the cost of attorney’s fees too. But what happens if your luck runs out or do it wrong? It’s going to cost a lot more than it did to fix the damage your dishwasher project caused.

The great news is that in most cases, there are professionals who specialize in doing things you don’t. You might even say they make their jobs look easy. What you might do once or twice in your lifetime, they might do once or twice a day. All of the challenges you run into in your DIY projects — for them? Child’s play.

An experienced real estate agent participates in more transactions in one month than most people do in their entire lifetimes. They know the sale process inside and out, which allows them to anticipate hurdles, identify opportunities and set realistic expectations before they are presented with them. This applies to all phases of a transaction: marketing, drafting offers, offer negotiations, inspection negotiations, the closing (escrow) process, closing and post-closing concerns.

Real estate agents know what homebuyers expect in the current market, which helps them prepare their home seller clients in terms of marketing, staging, financing, typical concessions, etc. With some smart strategizing upfront, a seller could often be positioned to net more money on their sale. Conversely, knowing what home sellers typically want in the current market, and the feelings that typically drive their decisions, an agent can strategize with a homebuyer to get them better terms on their purchase.

Good agents understand and have good working relationships with other real estate professionals in their markets. This allows them to give insight to, and strategize with, their clients about things that the opposing agent may find valuable and how they might perceive a specific request or proposal.

Professional real estate agents, like other professionals, are stewards to all aspects of the industry. They participate and offer guidance to governments planning future growth, as well as lobby for homeowners and property rights. This knowledge and advocacy directly benefits their clients, from knowing governmental decision makers to better understanding the laws affecting property rights.

While I could list a hundred “things” that a professional real estate agent does, the knowledge, experience and strategy are where the biggest values are derived.

As you seek out your real estate professional, consider the following:

  • Do ask a trusted friend or family member for a referral.
  • Do online research: Review the agent’s website for information about their experience and qualifications, review online testimonials, Google their name and explore the results page.
  • Do ask them questions about some of the topics in this article, brokerage support, and any tech tools that might be helpful to you.
  • Don’t search by price alone. The cheapest option isn’t always the best.
  • Don’t hire an agent out of a sense of obligation. Choose your agent based on their qualifications.

When you hire any professional, you’re trying to accomplish something in the most efficient and productive way and minimize risk, all with the least impact on your time and pocketbook. In short, you want to win. A professional real estate agent will help you do just that, if you choose wisely.

Source: forbes.com ~ By: Justin Fox ~ Image: 21online Asset Library

The Inside Workings of Credit Scores

Consumers are encouraged to check their credit reports once per year. The primary reason for doing so is to make sure there aren’t any mistakes. Unfortunately, credit reports are prone to contain mistakes. It’s not really the fault of the three main credit repositories, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion because all three are just a database. Whatever is reported to them is what you see. Further, someone with a similar name can show up on someone else’s report. If you’re not the only Bob Smith in town, this is certainly possible.

Someone else’s poor credit might very well be showing up on your report which can directly damage your credit scores. When you find an error work with your loan officer to get it fixed. Your loan officer has working relationships with credit agencies and can help get mistakes fixed and provide a method to get your scores back to where they should be.

But have you ever wondered how these scores are calculated in the first place? They follow an algorithm first developed by The FICO Company years ago. For a while, credit scores weren’t the primary force behind a credit decision but over time the impact of a credit score became more and more important. Most every loan program available today has a minimum credit score and if a score falls below the minimum, there’s some additional work that needs to be done to get those scores back on track.

There are five characteristics of your credit history that make up your three-digit score:  your payment history, account balances, how long you’ve had credit, the types of credit used and how often you’ve applied for new credit over the past couple of years.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Let’s say a borrower has a credit score of 600 but needs a 620 to qualify for a particular loan program. Credit scores will improve much more quickly by paying attention to the two categories that have the greatest immediate impact on a score- payment history and account balances.

Payment history accounts for 35 percent of the total score and account balances 30 percent. When someone makes a payment more than 30 days past the due date, scores will fall. An occasional “late pay” won’t really do much damage to a score but continued payments made more than 30, 60 or 90 days past the due date definitely will. By stopping the late payments scores will begin to recover.

Account balances compares outstanding loan balances with credit lines. If a credit card has a $10,000 credit line and there is a $3,300 balance, scores will actually improve. The ideal balance-to-limit is about one-third of the credit line. As the balance grows and approaches the limit, scores will begin to fall and fall even more should the account balance exceed the limit. This category contributes 30 percent to the total score.

The remaining three have relatively little impact. How long someone has used credit accounts for 15 percent of the score but there’s really nothing anyone can do to improve this area other than to wait. Types of credit and credit inquiries both make up 10 percent of the score. By concentrating on payment history and account balances, scores will improve significantly over the next few months.

Source: realtytimes.com ~ By: David Reed ~ Image: pixabay.com

Stay Safe this 4th of July

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) continues to urge families NOT to buy fireworks for their own or their children’s use, as thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured each year while using consumer fireworks. 

Despite the dangers of fireworks, few people understand the associated risks — devastating burns, other injuries, fires and even death. The AAP is part of the Alliance to Stop Consumer Fireworks, a group of health and safety organizations that urges the public to avoid the use of consumer fireworks and to only enjoy displays of fireworks conducted by trained professionals.

Fireworks Safety Tips for Families:

  • Fireworks can result in severe burns​, blindness, scars and even death.
  • Fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1000°Fahrenheit, and can burn users and bystanders.
  • Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.
  • The AAP recommends prohibiting public sale of all fireworks, including those by mail or the Internet.​​

Small Updates, Big Return: 5 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Value

No matter your budget, there’s always an upgrade or two that’ll up the resale ante.

Whether your home improvements are for you or potential buyers, consider their impact on your home’s potential resale price before picking up your toolbox (or the phone to call a contractor).

A brand-new kitchen or bathroom will undoubtedly wow potential buyers, but there’s no guarantee you’ll recoup the money you put into those pricey remodels.

To help you navigate the choices that lead to the best return on investment, we asked two industry experts (and one enthusiastic DIYer) to weigh in.

Kitchen renovations

“Renovating the kitchen is always the biggest way to add value to your home,” says Grace Fancher, real estate agent at Kansas City firm Sarah Snodgrass. “People love to cook, and everyone tends to gather in the kitchen. If you add seating, such as an island with barstools, buyers go crazy for that.”

A full remodel is a major investment, but smaller projects make a big difference if you can’t — or don’t want to — go all out. “Nicer appliances really stick out to potential buyers — even if you’re planning to take them with you,” Fancher says.

She also suggests replacing tired finishes with fresh, neutral materials. “You don’t want to be too trendy, but you want it to look up-to-date,” she says. “Everyone loves clean, white subway tiles now, but they’re really a timeless look.”

Replacing dated countertops (quartz is your best bet, according to Fancher) and flooring is also worth the time and money.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Bathroom updates

The smallest rooms in the house can have a big impact on its value, so Fancher suggests adding a second bathroom or upgrading existing ones so your home features at least two full baths.

Joe Monda, co-owner of Seattle-based general contracting firm Promondo, agrees. “People are spending more on upgrading their houses before listing them,” he says. “They really want to maximize the potential house value.”

But if you’re remodeling a bathroom just to put your house on the market, keep it simple. “Most people don’t want to pay for upgrades, so you want it to be a neutral space that doesn’t look straight out of the big DIY warehouse stores — even if it is,” says Fancher.

She adds that an easy solution is spending a little more on details, like high-quality towel bars and upgraded hardware for those big-box store vanities.

Not in a position to remodel? “Re-grouting tile, or even just using one of those grout paint pens, gives any bathroom a fresher look,” says Sharyn Young, a self-proclaimed DIY addict from Minneapolis.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting upgrades

“The brighter a room feels, the bigger it looks,” says Fancher. “And when you’re selling, you want every space to look as big as possible.”

She recommends replacing flush-mount ceiling lights with recessed and/or pendant lighting — a relatively cheap upgrade that looks modern and makes a huge impact.

“LED lighting has changed everything,” says Young. “There are so many readily available, inexpensive options now that are easy to install. I added Ikea under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen of my last house, and I was amazed at how that one simple upgrade made the space feel larger and cleaner.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Fresh paint

Like lighting, a new coat of paint can also make a space feel cleaner and brighter. Stick to neutral shades, such as light gray and beige, and if you don’t have time or budget to do the whole house, start with the living areas you see when you first walk in.

An even quicker fix is refreshing just the trim. “Beat-up, dirty trim can give buyers a subtle impression that the whole house is dingy,” Fancher says. “Repainting gives a sharper look and shows the buyer that you’ve taken care of the house.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Landscape improvements

“A lot of people overlook how important landscaping is, especially when you’re selling in the spring or summer,” says Fancher, adding that you can increase curb appeal by just putting down new, dark-colored mulch, if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on planting.

Monda suggests paying special attention to the entry. Repair or replace any damaged stepping stones, concrete paths, and porch plants, then give the front door a fresh coat of paint and add some potted plants. “You want people to be excited to walk in the door,” he says.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: LARA HALE ~ Image: Pixabay.com

Consider These Four Property Owner Responsibilities Before Purchasing

recent survey showed that 64% of US adults indicated that they believe home prices will continue to raise over the next year. This marks the highest percentage since the before the market crash over 10 years ago. If you are in the market for a house, know what responsibilities come with a property owner.

 Do I have to Property Taxes on my Home?  

The US Census Bureau conducted a recent survey on the average American household. They found that the average family pays $2,127 per year on property taxes. These property taxes aren’t optional either, and they continue to raise.

Between 2000 and 2010, property taxes rose $229 million dollars from $247 billion to $476 billion dollars. Failure to pay property taxes can lead to a forced sale of your home through a foreclosure proceeding. Additionally, the taxing authority may impose a tax lien and sell that tax lien, which could lead to the purchaser initiating foreclosing proceedings.

Am I responsible for Property Insurance?

Property insurance substantially serves the interests of insureds. These insurances provide financial compensation after a natural disaster or similar loss. In fact, one in fifteen homeowners have a property insurance claim each year. Legally, you can own a home without property insurance; however, many lenders require that borrowers have property insurance on the home.

One consequence for failure to pay homeowners insurance or a cancellation of a homeowner’s insurance policy is foreclosure. It’s important to check the language of your mortgage for the following language: “failure to pay insurance is a default.” If this is present in your mortgage, it this signifies that the lender has the right to foreclose the property against you for failure to pay property insurance.

What happens if I Neglect to pay my Mortgage Payments?

In 2016, new first lien mortgages surpassed the $2 trillion mark for the first time since the end of the housing bubble nearly 8 years prior. As the data indicates, more individuals are obtaining loans; however, it’s important to know what happens as a result for failure to pay those loans.

Mortgage payments are monthly payments paid to the lending institution from the borrower for principal interest on the home loan. Within as little of 90 days after a borrower fails to make a mortgage payment, the lender can initiate a foreclosure proceeding against the borrower. This means the lender can sell the house and collect the proceeds to apply towards the borrowed amount of the home.

Do I Need To Maintain The Property?

 Slip and Falls are the sixth most serious cause of death. Over eight million people each year have to visit the hospital for this personal injury. One of the leading causes of slip and falls is from a homeowner’s failure to maintain his or her property. A homeowner cannot neglect or abandon their property without facing legal liability.

The law states that an owner has a duty to keep the property reasonable safe and make adequate repairs for anyone entering the property (except for trespassers). This responsibility extends to inspecting the property on a regular basis to discover any dangerous conditions and either repair them or provide notice (with a sign) to anyone who enters the property. The result for failure to maintain your property is that you can be sued for the personal injuries that are caused by your neglect.

Source: Forbes.com ~ By: Jordan Lulich  ~ Image: pixabay.com

Buying Your First Home? Plan for These Hidden Costs

Get those rainy day funds in order — you’re going to need them.

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming and the price is right.

But if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might find out that the price is pretty far from perfect.

If you’re shopping for your first home, prepare for additional — and often unexpected — home-buying costs. They catch many home buyers unaware and can quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

Expect the unexpected

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they’re lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor affecting your move-in costs. If they take the refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, appliances quickly add up — especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

You’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs, unless you negotiate them as part of your home purchase agreement.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden of those you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, definitely hire a home inspector (this costs money too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot and other hidden problems you may not find on your own.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Consider the creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. It’s easy to not think fully about what you’re expecting from your new home until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

And if you’re moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

Plan ahead

The only ways to face the unknown and unexpected are research and planning. This starts with budgeting both before house hunting and throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, and then research how much those improvements could cost. Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There’s really no limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house, you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re considering to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, and then look at how much cash that leaves for improvements and minor costs, like changing the locks. That way, when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires a new washer and dryer or HVAC system upgrade.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget — otherwise, you could easily end up being house poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

Source: Zillow.com ~ By: JONATHAN DEESING

3 Credit Score Myths You Should Stop Believing

You probably know that your credit score could affect your life in many ways — from the apartment you rent to the interest rate on your car loan.

But there are a few credit score myths that you — or your friends or family — may not know aren’t true. For example, marrying someone with bad credit won’t bring your own score down.

Here are the facts.

1. Myth: Checking your score always makes it go down

Requesting your score — or getting preapproved for a loan, mortgage or credit card — won’t automatically lower it. However, applying for credit, which requires a hard inquiry, could lower it by a few points. Similarly, lenders’ queries about your score can have a temporary negative impact.

You can also be proactive and check your credit score on a regular basis. You should do so at least once a year, especially since you’re entitled by law to request a free annual credit report from the three major credit-reporting bureaus every 12 months. It’s a good habit that could help you identify potential mistakes or identity theft.

2. Myth: Marrying someone with bad credit could hurt your score

Like many people these days, you might have used excellent credit as a factor in deciding whom to date in the past. Now you’re getting hitched to someone with a low credit score — but don’t worry: Your mate’s score won’t take a toll on your own. You’ll each have your own credit histories and scores, and credit lenders won’t deny you a loan because of your spouse’s credit. Of course, his or her credit could affect your finances in other ways; for example, if you’re applying together for a loan or a mortgage under both of your names.

3. Myth: A better-paying job will help your credit score

Landed a job at the company of your dreams? It might be great for your career, but a new title and higher income won’t directly affect your credit score. Losing a job doesn’t have an impact on your score, either. However, lenders may be wary of giving you a loan if you have an employment history that includes quitting jobs after just a few months.

Source: nerdwallet.com ~ By: Valerie Lai

6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Didn’t Know You Were Forgetting

In all likelihood, your home is the biggest investment you’ll make in your life. To protect that investment, turn to regular maintenance tasks to ensure that your home will be running efficiently for years to come.

Most folks are already aware of this. But if you feel like you’re mastering your home maintenance, you may be surprised to learn that there are a few you probably never realized you were forgetting. Here are six tasks that require your attention, that you may not be tending to frequently enough, or may be overlooking altogether:

Clean Your Refrigerator Drip Pan

Did you know that refrigerators have drip pans? They do, and those drip pans need to be cleaned regularly or they can be prone to mold growth. Pull it out carefully to prevent spills, and dump excess liquid and clean the pan with an all-purpose cleaner.

Flush the Water Heater

Check the temperature of your water heater to ensure that it’s set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding. Test its safety relief valve once a year so that it operates properly and flush the system to remove sediment buildup which can cause system failure.

Reseal Your Grout

Grout needs to be resealed annually to protect your tile from wear and tear. Most grout is made of sand and cement; this means it can absorb water, bacteria and even stains. Resealing will help your grout look better and last as long as possible.

Test Smoke Alarms

Testing smoke alarms and changing their batteries is a vital maintenance task for safety reasons. Smoke alarms should be tested twice a year. Remember, at minimum, you should have one detector on every level of your home, and in each bedroom.

Change Your HVAC Filters

Have your heating system inspected, serviced and cleaned annually. Proper maintenance can extend the life of your furnace, postponing an expensive replacement. Change air filters seasonally to monthly, depending on your home’s needs, to protect against major HVAC issues.

Block Out Pests

Prevent against pests setting up camp in your home by caulking small holes or cracks to deter bugs. Also, use hardware cloth to cover any larger areas.

Mastering home maintenance tasks can be a chore, but by ensuring that you’re not missing these all-too-often ignored jobs, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing your home is that much more protected.

Source: blog.rismedia.com ~ By Brentnie Daggett

13 Simple Steps to Prep Your Home for the Best Summer Ever

Take care of your home’s hot-weather needs now, and you’ll have more time for fun in the sun.

Summer will be here before you know it, and you know what that means: Heat, hornets and yard work.

If you’re starting to miss spring already, fear not. Here are some quick projects to make your home and garden more comfortable and cost-effective this summer.

Inside the house

  • Service the air conditioning. Nothing can ruin your day like a broken A/C unit on a summer day, so keep it running smoothly by servicing it every spring. Every three months, change the filter, flush out drain lines with cup of bleach, and ensure that the outdoor unit has room to breathe by keeping vegetation about an arm’s length away.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries. You’d be surprised at how much peace of mind you’ll get after knocking out this one little chore. Change all the batteries on the same day and remind yourself to do it again in six months. If your smoke alarms were manufactured 10 or more years ago, replace them entirely.
  • Rotate ceiling fan blades. Your ceiling fan may have a switch that changes the direction in which the blades turn. If so, make sure that the blades are spinning counterclockwise and pushing air down, rather than up.
  • Clean behind appliances. You’ve been putting it off for far too long. You’re terrified of the horrors that await in the shadows of your kitchen, but it’s time to put on some gloves, arm yourself with disinfectant cleaner and roll out the oven with a brave face.
  • Clean dryer vents. If your clothes come out of the dryer damp and musty lately, it’s probably because the vent is clogged with lint — not only wasting energy, but posing a significant fire risk. To do it right the first time, purchase a vent-cleaning kit. Its flexible rod and brush attaches to your drill and will extract a puppy-sized mass of lint in no time.
  • Upgrade your thermostat. Replacing your existing thermostat with a ‘smart’ model does more than save you money. They respond to your voice, divert cool air to occupied rooms, can be operated from your phone and might even give you a weather forecast at a glance before work.
  • Repot houseplants. Give houseplants fresh potting mix in spring when they’re actively growing. Slip the mass of roots and potting mix out of the pot, gently tease apart the roots, remove rotted pieces and replace it with fresh and fertile potting mix. If the leaves are turning pale from too much direct summer sun, move them to a slightly shadier place.

Out in the yard

  • Patch your lawn. If you wait too long to plant new grass seeds or sod, aggressive weeds will happily fill the gaps for you. Luckily, grass will quickly establish if you remove all existing weeds beforehand, amend with topsoil and keep the area irrigated for the first week or two.
  • Inspect gutters and downspouts. Fall isn’t the only time to clean out the gutters, especially if you have messy trees nearby. Make sure that the gutters are soundly attached to your roof, seal any gaps with silicone caulk and remove any obstructions at the base of the downspout.
  • Inspect sprinklers. If you notice any clogged or broken sprinkler heads, shut off the water and dig a 2-inch diameter hole around the head. Unscrew the head from its riser and replace with a new one. If the head is merely clogged, remove the basket and rinse both it and the head in clean water. Reassemble the head and screw it onto the riser.
  • Get your mower up and running. Give your mower, string trimmer and other lawn equipment some TLC before the summer mowing season begins. After removing the spark plug, replace the air filters, change the oil, sharpen blades and give your equipment a good cleaning.
  • Remove hornet nests. If you have hornets, yellow jackets and paper wasps around your home, take steps to remove them now before they form a large, aggressive colony. You can play it safe by calling a professional, or spray nests at night when they’re less active. Just be sure to wear protective eyewear, a mask, pants and long sleeves.
  • Clean the grill. Prevent flare-ups and cooking fires by giving your grill a good cleaning. Ideally you’d clean after every use, but you can start fresh with a grill brush, nozzle and wet rag. Now is also a good time to stock up on charcoal and make sure your tools are ready for grilling season.

Source: zillow.com ~ By: STEVE ASBELL

10 Ways To Protect Your Home While On Vacation

Keep your home from being a target with these easy tips.

The season of long weekends and beach getaways is upon us, and the last thing any homeowner wants to imagine when they’re soaking in the sun or taking a dip at the lake is a burglar snooping around their empty home. While there is no use in being paranoid about your belongings while you’re away, home security shouldn’t be taken lightly. And it’s the right season to be wary: The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that household burglary rates are highest in the summer.

So whether you’re getting away for the day or weekend or taking an extended vacation, put these 10 summer holiday safety tips to work and make your home less of a target for robbers this season — or any season.

1. Beef up security systems

Sure, you’ve set the alarm and have motion-activated lights outside, but there are some additional things you should consider doing to protect your home. For instance, install a heavy-duty lock strike plate on your door; it’s the weakest part and where thieves may try to break in. You can also add sash pins to double-hung windows to make them more secure.

2. Make your home look lived in

One big clue to burglars that you’ve gone away during the summer? An unkempt lawn. Be sure to mow it before you leave — or hire someone to keep it trimmed while you’re gone — so your home looks well cared for. The same precaution can be transferred to winter months — if you’re expecting a big snow, have someone on retainer to shovel your walk and driveway.

3. Don’t keep your windows open

String lights can be a great way to illuminate a deck or outdoor space during summer months, but don’t run electrical extension cords through your windows. If your windows don’t close and latch, you’re sending burglars an invitation to invade.

4. Don’t fall for door-to-door solicitations

A common way to scope out what kind of goodies you have in your home is by posing as a charity asking for donations. If someone comes to your door, don’t open it, or ask for an ID that links them to the charity — and don’t let them see inside.

5. Use the latest tech

Take advantage of a devices like FakeTV, which mimics the flickering light of a TV to make it look as though you are home. Other home automation devices, like Wi-Fi-enabled security systems or plug-in devices that allow you to turn lights on and off remotely with your cellphone, can also help ward off thieves.

6. Keep your valuables out of sight

That shiny new laptop, your favorite jewelry, or basically anything valuable you’ve forgotten to stash out of sight could tempt burglars. Before you head out of town, do a quick walk-through in each room and hide all valuables.

7. Make a record of valuables

It’s a good idea to take pictures of your stuff — particularly big-ticket items such as laptops and TVs — and keep serial numbers in a safe place. Should the worst happen, you’ll have a record of what was taken and be able to confirm your things are truly yours if they are recovered by police.

8. Do your packing out of sight

Sure, you have to make room for the bikes, load up the boogie boards, and stash away some snacks, but be smart about where you pack up the car. If possible, keep your car in the garage or out of sight, advises Heather Dodson, a real estate agent at Team Leung in Greensboro, NC.

9. Be smart about boxes

If you’ve bought new gear to bring along on your summer vacation, don’t leave the empty boxes on the curb for everyone to see. Instead, break down the cardboard and put it in your container for recycling or trash pickup.

10. Don’t publicize your vacation plans

It’s hard to fight the allure of Facebook and Instagram. But it’s probably not the best idea to share your travel plans online with your 500 closest friends. Your Facebook profile might not be as private as you think — and it’s better not to take the risk.

Source: trulia.com ~ By: Ginny Gaylor