Presidents Columns (Fall, 2017)

REALTORS work for flood insurance extension

Because of REALTORS across the country, Congress extended the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for another 3 months, from Sept. 30, 2017 to Dec. 8, 2017. And rest assured, we are not done working for you, our home owners and home sellers. REALTORS will continue the fight until Congress extends this program for another five years.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides necessary flood protection and coverage for 5
million policyholders across 22,000 communities nationwide. Further, statistics show that over 14,000 real estate transactions could be in jeopardy without the NIFP.

What’s so import about the Flood Reform Act and why are REALTORS in support of the program? Because it…

  • Extends NFIP for 5 years
  • Preserves the practice of grandfathering for remapped property owners who build to code
  • Would enable repetitive loss property, if an owner mitigates to code, to grandfather
  • Limits rate increases to no more than 15 percent per year with a new ceiling of $10,000 maximum
  • Authorizes $1 billion in pre-flood mitigation assistance grants to elevate, flood proof, buyout or mitigate high risk properties
  • Addresses issues with repeatedly flooding properties that account for 2 percent of NFIP policies but 25 percent of the claim payments over the history of the program.

And remember to contact a REALTOR, a member of the (Name) Board of REALTORS for all of your real estate needs.


10 Simple Home Repair Jobs to Lift You Out of Winter’s Funk

With Winter just around the corner, here are a few ways to fight the winter doldrums with easy home repairs that’ll raise spirits and get your house ready for spring.

Accomplishments–even little ones–go a long way toward a sunny outlook. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy, quick home repair chores you can do when you’re mired in the thick of winter.

For max efficiency, make a to-do list ahead of time and shop for all the tools and supplies in one trip.

What to Look (and Listen) For
In each room, look around and take stock of what needs fixing or improving. Focus on small, quick-hit changes, not major redos. Here are some likely suspects:

1. Sagging towel rack or wobbly toilet tissue holder. Unscrew the fixture and look for the culprit. It’s probably a wimpy, push-in type plastic drywall anchor. Pull that out (or just poke it through the wall) and replace it with something more substantial. Toggle bolts are strongest, and threaded types such as E-Z Ancor are easy to install.

2. Squeaky door hinges. Eliminate squeaks by squirting a puff of powdered graphite ($2.50 for a 3-gram tube) alongside the pin where the hinge turns. If the door sticks, plane off a bit of the wood, then touch up the paint so the surgery isn’t noticeable.

3. Creaky floor boards. They’ll shush if you fasten them down better. Anti-squeak repair kits, such as Squeeeeek No More ($23), feature specially designed screws that are easy to conceal. A low-cost alternative: Dust a little talcum powder into the seam where floorboards meet–the talcum acts as a lubricant to quiet boards that rub against each other.

4. Rusty shutoff valves. Check under sinks and behind toilets for the shutoff valves on your water supply lines. These little-used valves may slowly rust in place over time, and might not work when you need them most. Keep them operating by putting a little machine oil or WD-40 on the handle shafts. Twist the handles back and forth to work the oil into the threads. If they won’t budge, give the oil a couple of hours to penetrate, and try again.

5. Blistered paint on shower ceilings. This area gets a lot of heat and moisture that stresses paint finishes. Scrape off old paint and recoat, using a high-quality exterior-grade paint. Also, be sure everyone uses the bathroom vent when showering to help get rid of excess moisture.

6. Loose handles or hinges on furniture, cabinets, and doors. You can probably fix these with a few quick turns of a screwdriver. But if a screw just spins in place, try making the hole fit the screw better by stuffing in a toothpick coated with glue, or switching to a larger screw.

7. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. If you don’t like waking up to the annoying chirp of smoke detector batteries as they wear down, do what many fire departments recommend and simply replace all of them at the same time once a year.

8. Exhaust filter for the kitchen stove. By washing it to remove grease, you’ll increase the efficiency of your exhaust vent; plus, if a kitchen stovetop fire breaks out, this will help keep the flames from spreading.

9. Clothes dryer vent. Pull the dryer out from the wall, disconnect the vent pipe, and vacuum lint out of the pipe and the place where it connects to the machine. Also, wipe lint off your exterior dryer vent so the flap opens and closes easily. (You’ll need to go outside for that, but it’s quick.) Remember that vents clogged with old dryer lint are a leading cause of house fires.

10. Drain hoses. Inspect your clothes washer, dishwasher, and icemaker. If you see any cracks or drips, replace the hose so you don’t come home to a flood one day.

And remember to contact a REALTOR, a member of the (Name) Board of REALTORS for all of your real estate needs.


How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

Wicked winter weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possibly burst, causing flooding and costly water damage to your home. Taking preventive measures before winter sets in can reduce and eliminate the risk of frozen pipes and other cold-weather threats.

Experts say that some pipes are more prone to freezing than others, depending on the location.

Pipes most at risk for freezing include:

  • Exposed pipes in unheated areas of the home.
  • Pipes located in exterior walls.
  • Any plumbing on the exterior of the home.

A frozen garden hose can cause more damage than a busted hose; it can actually burst an interior pipe. When the water in the hose freezes, it expands, increasing pressure throughout the whole plumbing system. As part of your regular seasonal maintenance, garden hoses should be disconnected, drained, and stored before the first hard freeze.

If you don’t have frost-proof spigots, close the interior shut-off valve leading to that faucet, open and drain the spigot, and install a faucet insulator. They cost only a couple bucks and are worth every penny. Don’t forget, outdoor kitchens need winterizing, too, to prevent damage.

Exposed Interior Plumbing
Exposed pipes in the basement are rarely in danger of freezing because they are in a heated portion of the home. But plumbing pipes in an unheated area, such as an attic, crawl space, and garage, are at risk of freezing.

Often, inexpensive foam pipe insulation is enough for moderately cold climates. For severe climes, opt for wrapping problem pipes with thermostatically controlled heat tape (from $50 to $200, depending on length), which will turn on at certain minimum temps.

Under-Insulated Walls
If pipes traveling in exterior walls have frozen in the past (tell-tale signs include water damage, mold, and moisture build-up), it’s probably because of inadequate or improperly installed insulation. It might well be worth the couple hundred dollars it costs to open up the wall and beef up the insulation.

Heading South for the Winter?
For homeowners leaving their homes for an extended period of time in winter, additional preventative measures must be taken to adequately protect the home from frozen pipes.

Make sure the furnace is set no lower than 55 degrees. Also, shut off the main water supply and drain the system by opening all faucets and flushing the toilets.

And remember to contact a REALTOR, a member of the (Name) Board of REALTORS for all of your real estate needs.


Start saving to buy your first home

For many people, especially today’s millennials, the American dream of owning a home is exactly that: a dream.

While this group were still children, or tweens, during the turbulent economic times 10 years ago, home ownership is still a priority to them. It may, however, seem that factors are stacked against them. This group tends to be well educated and have an entrepreneurial spirit that makes them creative with their money.

But for the millennials, if they want to achieve the American dream, a few critical steps will pave the way to the road to homeownership.

Get a handle on debt. This generation likes the idea of being their own boss, working from home, tele-commuting or starting their own side business while still working full-time. They can be very creative in developing money-making jobs with the Internet and start-ups are often part of their dream job, sometimes using credit cards to finance said businesses, which incurs much debt. Plus much of this generation has student loans they’re still paying off.

Like anyone interested in buying a home, focusing on reducing debt will help prepare them to qualify for a mortgage. When possible, cutting back on major expenses is a good way to start saving for that home.

Some ideas:

  • Still living with your parents? Save that money that would be spent on rent. It can add up very rapidly.
  • Keep your car longer, repairs and maintenance are still cheaper than a car payment.
  • Cut the cable and maybe even the Internet. This generation is already using their smartphones and cellular data packages to watch TV shows and get the news. Need WiFi? Head to Starbucks.

Remember, the more they save, the better prepared they are to achieve the American dream of home ownership.

And remember to contact a REALTOR, a member of the (Name) Board of REALTORS for all of your real estate needs.

 

More columns coming in February 2018