Top 4 Reasons Why Guys Need a Man Cave

There are several good reasons why guys really do need this man cave and why it can make them better husbands and fathers.

There are lots of terms for it out there: Manland. Mantuary. Man Space.  But whatever you call your man cave — that garage, spare bedroom, shed, workspace or other area that is exclusively yours and that you can go to in order to just be yourself — is actually more important than you or your partner might realize.   

De-stressing

Many men have high-stress jobs and can spend long hours at work to earn money and help support their wives and children.  Work- and life-related stress can build up and if there is no healthy outlet for it — such as a man cave to escape to for a while to unwind — then the stress can build up and lead to physical problems like high blood pressure or tension headaches.

It can also lead to emotional problems like irritability, a short temper or even chronic anger, which can put a real strain on the marriage.

If a man has a place he can go to in order to process these emotions away from others, it can help with the emotional health of family life.  The man cave provides a place to temporarily get away from life’s pressures and to decompress so that there is emotional energy left over for family life.

Regulating Emotions

Many men are not aware of this on a conscious level, but there is a relationship between one’s feelings and one’s environment — and in many households, women tend to have more of say in how this environment looks than do their husbands or partners. This is why, notes home design journalist Mitchell Parker, in his Houzz blog, it is so important for men to have a space that have decorated and laid out for themselves in a way that expresses their own individual tastes and personalities. Having this kind of environment to escape to helps them to regulate their emotions and to explore and interpret who they are in privacy and without the rules that being around others naturally brings.

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Getting “Me” Time

Obviously, both men and women need some “me” time, even in a strong and healthy marriage. This can be a sticking point with women, however, who can sometimes feel offended if their husbands need space or time to themselves without them

But for men, it can be even more important. John Gray, author of the famous Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series, notes that, “There is a part of the brain that helps us to interpret time and space. That part of the brain is much larger in men than it is in women. This means that men have a much bigger awareness of the need for space and time to themselves, “me” time.  Also, it is worth noting that “me” time can be quite different for men and women: for women, this can often include talking or texting other women, whereas for men, the desire for actual solitude seems more paramount.  When this need is fulfilled, it is easier for men to emerge from the cave and be ready and able take up the responsibilities of being husbands, fathers and breadwinners.

Getting Physical

Most of the reasons for man caves mentioned above are emotional or psychological ones.  But there is a physical aspect to this as well: man caves can also be a great place for men to be able to work out and be active, whether it’s a session on your treadmill to the tune of your favorite CD or a weight-lifting sessions to build up those pecs. 

Why is this is important? Because according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 3 out of 4 men are overweight or obese — and this is a major risk factor for heart disease, which remains the number one killer of American men.  So, if used properly, a man cave can not only help fulfil a man’s emotional needs but his physical health.

So while the man cave can be the subject of much joking and jesting in family life, there is a more serious side to its presence — and when men and women take this side into account, it is more likely that both will make it more of a priority.

Source: goodmenproject.com ~ By: Dr. Bryan W. Wu ~ Image: Pixabay.com

4 Things First-time Homebuyers Should Know About Credit Scores and Mortgage Payments

With the housing market improving, you might be tempted to finally start looking for a place to call home. Before you begin your home search and choose a real estate agent to work with, you should consider looking at your own situation and determine whether you are financially ready to apply for a mortgage and pay for a property.

Here are four things every first-time homebuyer should consider before buying a house:

1. Have a Good Credit Score
The first step you should take before looking for a home is to request your credit report from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus. You will then get a better idea of your financial standing as a potential homebuyer in the eyes of potential lenders. Lending standards have tightened since the housing market collapse and lenders will be evaluating applications for mortgages more carefully. As part of this process, lenders will look at your credit score to ensure you are able to handle a long-term obligation like mortgage payments, which not only includes the loan payments themselves, but also property taxes, insurance and private mortgage insurance if applicable. The minimum credit score lenders will consider is 620 and ideally, lenders will want to see a credit score that is in the mid-700s or above.

2. Hard Inquires Could Lower Your Score
When a lender has to pull your credit report, this event will be marked as a hard inquiry on your credit history. Similar to when banks will check your credit before deciding to approve you for a credit card, mortgage lenders will examine your history to determine whether your score is up to par after you apply for pre-approval for a home loan. Having a hard inquiry will potentially drop your credit score and when you are shopping around for the right lender or interest rate, the number of hard inquiries on your report could accumulate fast. Although hard inquires could decrease your credit score, there is good news as credit score provider FICO will consider all hard inquiries as one inquiry if they are made within a 45-day period. As long as you are able to get pre-approved for a loan within this time span, you can limit the hit hard inquiries will have on your score during your home search.

3. Higher Credit Score Means Lower Interest
Although you might be approved for a home loan, the interest associated with your loan may vary depending on your credit score. The lower the credit score, the more you are likely to spend on interest per month. Lenders tend to see consumers with higher credit scores as less of a risk. According to FICO, a score between 760 to 850 could result in the lowest interest rate. The chart provided by FICO shows an interest rate of 3.866 percent for consumers with this score. In contrast, if you have a score ranging between 620 and 639 – hovering just above the minimum score needed for approval – your interest rate could be 5.455 percent, which is more than 1.5 percent higher. Although an interest rate that is 1.5 percent more might not seem like a big difference, these payments add up significantly, especially with interest on a 30-year mortgage.

4. Be Prepared to Juggle Mortgage Payments with Other Bills
First-time homebuyers should plan out their house hunting budgets with their mortgages in mind. Mortgage payments can represent a huge chunk in their monthly spending and first-time homebuyers need to determine whether they can comfortably handle their mortgage payments in addition to their other bills. If buyers cannot juggle their mortgage payments with other credit obligations, they should seriously reconsider whether a home in a higher price range is right for them.

With these tips in mind, first-time homebuyers are more prepared to apply and be approved for a home of their dreams.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com ~ Image: 21Online Asset Library

The Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Everything you need to do to keep your home and yard in tip-top shape this summer.

With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer’s here, you’ll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.

Check detectors. Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.

Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven’t already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:

  • With the help of your spouse, install window air-conditioning units. Remove and clean the filters before firing up the AC. If you have central air-conditioning, consider a professional servicing.
  • Clean all ceiling fans and other fans with a damp rag. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling-fan duster can help you de-grime hard-to-reach blades.

Enjoy a dry spell. Install an outdoor clothesline to dry your laundry in the summer sun; you’ll save money and energy by skipping the dryer. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of air-dried sheets?

Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:

  • For gas grills, turn the heat up to high and let the grill cook with the lid closed for about half an hour. Allow the grill to cool and then brush it off with a grill brush. Wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge and a gentle cleanser. Clean the grill’s drip pans.
  • For charcoal grills, completely empty the grill and wipe out any ashy residue. Then clean it inside and out with hot water, a scrubby sponge and some liquid dishwashing soap. Let the grill dry completely before using it again.

Polish your porch. Thoroughly sweep painted porch floors; then mop them with an all-purpose cleaner. If there’s a lot of built-up dirt on the floorboards, you may need to scrub them with a brush.

Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck’s boards. If the water beads up, you’re in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it’s time to reseal that sucker.

Wash your windows. If you didn’t tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now’s the time to get your glass clean.

Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It’ll give your plants a chance to grow.

Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks — even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.

Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they’re busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.

Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.

Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer’s mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.

Source: thenest.com ~ By Laura Fenton ~ Image: Pixabay

Mortgage protection insurance: Should you buy it?

When you take out a mortgage, you can expect to be pitched mortgage protection insurance. It comes in several forms, but it typically covers your loan payments if you lose your job or become disabled, or it pays off your mortgage when you die.

Would you benefit from mortgage protection insurance? Or is it just another way for your mortgage company to siphon extra money out of your wallet each month while protecting itself upon your death?

The answer depends on your health, financial situation and what you want to happen when you die. Here are the pros and cons of mortgage protection insurance, along with tips for getting the best policy at the right price.

What is mortgage protection insurance?

Mortgage protection insurance, or MPI (sometimes called mortgage payment protection insurance), is simply a form of life insurance. The cost depends on factors such as the amount of your mortgage, your age and your health. For MPI policies that cover a mortgage in the event of disability, costs also vary depending on your occupation.

If you purchase mortgage protection insurance that pays off your mortgage when you die, the insurance company will send a check directly to your mortgage company, leaving your heirs with a home unencumbered by a mortgage.

Payments also go directly to your mortgage company if your policy pays upon disability or job loss — but only for a certain period, typically a year or two, and there may be a waiting period before payments kick in. Also note that disability or job-loss policies pay only the principal and interest on your mortgage. But you may be able to get a rider to cover other mortgage-related expenses, like homeowners association fees.

Many people confuse MPI with private mortgage insurance, or PMI.

“You’re required by law to get PMI if you put less than 20 percent down to purchase your home,” explains Christopher Ketcham, a visiting assistant professor at the University of Houston Downtown, who teaches courses about insurance. “It has nothing to do with disability, job loss or death. It pays the bank if you’re foreclosed on.”

Pluses of MPI

A major benefit of mortgage protection insurance is that it’s typically issued on a “guaranteed acceptance” basis.

“If you fill out the application, few questions will be asked to keep you from getting coverage,” says Kevin Lynch, an assistant professor of insurance at The American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “That’s valuable for people who are uninsurable or insurable at a high rate because of health issues.”

It’s also valuable for people who work in high-risk occupations, such as roofers, who usually can’t get disability insurance.

Consider whether you want to spend the money on a mortgage protection insurance policy after you’ve factored all of the other big costs of owning a home.

Minuses of MPI

Mortgage protection insurance is a waste of money if you own your home outright. In addition, MPI is a declining-benefit policy, which means that even though you pay a set premium for the life of your mortgage, the payoff amount decreases as you pay down your home loan.

Having a policy that wipes out your mortgage if you die may not be best for your family. “When my father passed away very young, my mother’s home was paid off by a lump-sum payment to the mortgage company,” Lynch says. “Her mortgage payment was something like $112 a month. It would have been more beneficial for her to receive the lump sum and earn the 18 percent interest banks were paying in the 1980s while continuing to make the mortgage payment.”

Some financial planners say purchasing MPI is like buying tires, when what you really need is a car.

“Focusing on insuring for the mortgage is relatively myopic,” says Vernon Holleman III, principal at BCG Holleman, a financial planning company in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “Whether to pay off the mortgage upon a breadwinner’s death is a question you can’t answer unless you’re taking a comprehensive look at the family’s finances.”

Choosing and saving on MPI

If you have health or job risks that make life or disability insurance unavailable or too expensive, mortgage protection insurance is probably a smart option. But don’t sign up through your mortgage company without shopping around.

“Ask about the price and features of each policy and whether it can be converted into whole life insurance,” says Ketcham. “Also investigate the insurer’s financial condition through A.M. Best Co., which rates insurers.”

If you’re considering MPI payable upon your death, you might buy a level life insurance instead. Your policy wouldn’t decline in value and would cover not only your mortgage but also your family’s living and educational expenses in the absence of your income.

“You’re far better off using a level product because most insurance carriers allow a later reduction in the policy’s face value,” Holleman says. “If at, say, year seven in your policy, you decide your need isn’t $1 million but only $800,000, you can reduce the face amount and save through the reduced premium. You’re better off controlling the benefit than having it automatically reduced.”

Source: bankrate.com ~ By: G.M. FILISKO

Do You Need A Home Warranty?

When you purchase a home, even a home that isn’t new, there is a very good chance that you will be offered a home warranty. The seller may offer to purchase one on your behalf to provide peace of mind that any component of the home that fails can be fixed affordably. If not, you will likely receive numerous mail solicitations to purchase a home warranty once the sale closes. A home warranty may sound like a great form of financial protection against expensive, unforeseen home repairs. But is it really the safety net homeowners expect?

What Is a Home Warranty?

A home warranty is not the same thing as homeowners insurance, nor is it a replacement for homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance covers major perils such as fires, hail, property crimes and certain types of water damage that could affect the entire structure and/or the homeowner’s personal possessions. A home warranty does not cover these perils. Rather, it covers specific components of the home.

A home warranty is a contract between a homeowner and a home warranty company that provides for discounted repair and replacement service on a home’s major components, such as the furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical system. A home warranty may also cover major appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators and swimming pools. Most plans have a basic component that provides all homeowners who purchase a policy with certain coverages. Homeowners can also purchase one or more optional components that provide additional coverage at additional cost.

Home warranty companies have agreements with approved service providers. When something that is covered by a home warranty breaks down, the homeowner calls the home warranty company, and the home warranty company sends one of its service providers to examine the problem. If the provider determines that the needed repair or replacement is covered by the warranty, he completes the work. The homeowner only pays a small service fee, plus the money she has already spent to purchase the warranty. (For for information, check 6 Tips To Sell Your Home Faster.

What Does It Cost?

A home warranty costs a few hundred dollars a year, paid up front (or in installments, if the warranty company offers a payment plan). The plan’s cost varies depending on the property type e.g., single-family detached, condo, townhome, duplex, and whether the homeowner purchases a basic or extended plan. The cost usually does not vary with the property’s age, unless the home is brand new, which increases the cost of coverage. The home’s square footage also does not affect the price in most cases, unless the property is more than 5,000 square feet. Separate structures, such as guest houses, usually are not covered by the basic policy but can be covered for an additional fee. However, garages should be covered by the basic policy.

In addition to an annual premium, home warranties charge a service call fee (also called a trade call fee) of around $75-$125 every time the warranty holder requests that a service provider come out to the house to examine a problem. If the problem requires more than one type of contractor to visit (e.g., a plumber and an electrician), the homeowner may have to pay the service fee for each contractor.

Having a home warranty doesn’t mean the homeowner will never have to spend a penny on home repairs. Some problems won’t be covered by the warranty, whether because the homeowner didn’t purchase coverage for that item or because the warranty company doesn’t offer coverage for that item. Also, home warranties usually don’t cover components that haven’t been properly maintained. Furthermore, if the warranty company denies a claim, the homeowner will still have to pay the service fee and will also be responsible for repair costs.

The Benefits of a Home Warranty

Like all warranties, a home warranty is supposed to protect against expensive, unforeseen repair bills and provide peace of mind. For a homeowner who doesn’t have an emergency fund or who wants to protect their emergency fund, a home warranty can act as a buffer. Home warranties also make sense for people who aren’t handy or who don’t want to worry about tracking down a contractor when they have a problem. Warranties can also make sense for people with expensive taste in appliances.

The subject of home warranties often comes up during the sale and purchase of a home. A home warranty can provide reassurance to a homebuyer who has limited information about how well the home’s components have been maintained (or how well the home has been built, in the case of new construction). A warranty can also be helpful for someone who has just depleted their savings to buy a home and wants to avoid any additional major expenses. For home sellers, offering the buyer a paid-up, one-year home warranty with the home purchase may provide a measure of protection against buyer complaints about any home defects that arise after the sale closes. However, providing a home warranty does not exempt the seller from her legal requirement to disclose any known problems with the home. (To learn more about protecting yourself, read Consumer Protection Laws You Need To Know.)

Home Warranties Have Drawbacks

If home warranties were perfect, everyone would have one. But they don’t. Why is that?

One major problem with a home warranty is that it will not cover items that have not been properly maintained. What is considered proper maintenance can be a significant gray area and is the source of many disagreements between home warranty companies and warranty holders. In a worst-case scenario, unscrupulous warranty companies may use the improper maintenance clause as an excuse to deny valid claims. In another scenario, the homeowner and the contractor who makes the house call may simply disagree over what constitutes proper maintenance.

Another common problem is that when a homeowner purchases a used home, it might come with a 10-year-old furnace that the previous owner did not maintain. At that point, no matter how well the new homeowner tries to care for the furnace going forward, he can’t correct the previous lack of maintenance. In addition, warranties have numerous exclusions, as well as dollar limits per repair and per year.

Home warranties aren’t expensive compared to the cost of repairing or replacing most of a home’s important components, and this fact is one of a warranty’s major selling points. However, there may be many years when nothing at all breaks down or wears out in the home. In these years, the homeowner gets nothing (except, perhaps, peace of mind) in exchange for his premium. That money could be put into an emergency fund for making the same repairs and replacements that the home warranty would cover. Also, if the homeowner tries to use the warranty and the claim is denied, he will probably feel like the money spent on the premium and the service call fee was wasted.

Home warranties do eliminate the need to find a contractor when something breaks. However, they also eliminate the freedom to choose your own independent contractor if you want the warranty to pay for the repair or replacement. If you don’t like the contractor or the work they do, you may be stuck with them. Furthermore, repairs may be more complicated with a third party (the home warranty company) involved in the process than a direct negotiation between a homeowner and a contractor would be. Also, the homeowner may have little or no say in the model or brand of a replacement component – though the warranty contract should provide for a similar- or equivalent-quality replacement.

The Bottom Line

A home warranty is not a perfect solution to the risks homeowners face. Before purchasing one, homeowners should read the fine print in the home warranty contract and carefully consider whether the warranty is likely to pay off. Home sellers who want to offer a warranty to buyers and homeowners/buyers who would feel more comfortable having a home warranty should also do careful research to find a reputable home warranty company that will actually pay for legitimate repairs when they are needed. (To help you with your home purchase, check out Top Tips For First-Time Home Buyers.)

Source: investopedia.com ~ By:  Amy Fontinelle

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

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