Blog :: 01-2018

Don't Get Trapped! How to Spot Pests and Rodents Before You Buy That Home

Mouse TrapYour idea of a dream home probably doesn’t include mice scurrying around your kitchen cabinets or tribes of ants playing hide and seek in your bathroom. But sadly, just because you don’t see any critters during an open house doesn’t mean they’re not there.

The best approach to identify potential pest issues is to hire a professional. But if you’re not ready to shell out the extra money for that just yet, you can still protect yourself against future creepy-crawly surprises.

But brace yourself: You're going to have to play a spine-tingling game of “I Spy” during your next tour of the home - looking for pest droppings, casings, and wings.

Here are the telltale signs of vermin you need to keep an eye out for before you sign on the dotted line.

Rodents

Why you should care: When they’re helping Cinderella sew a dress, rats and mice are helpful and kind. In real life, they spread ticks and fleas. In the case of rats, disease too. Plus, they leave droppings everywhere. 

What you should look for: The most obvious sign is scratching noises coming from under the floor or behind the walls. But rats are nocturnal; depending on when you tour your prospective dream home, you might not hear a peep. And while chipmunks are adorable from afar, they can wreak havoc on your electrical wiring when they’re living in your walls.

What's a home buyer to do, then?

Rodents nest, so check small, dark crevices of the home such as cabinets, pantries, or storage rooms for signs of them, including shredded paper or fabric.

Check for dirt, grease, or small holes in baseboards. (A small rat can squeeze through a hole that’s no bigger than a quarter.)

And pay attention to how stuffy it feels inside the home—food attracts rodents, but so does humidity.

Bugs and insects

Why you should care: First off, they’re a nuisance. Moths, for instance, will devour your clothes, bedding, and furniture. Others are serious health hazards. Cockroaches top the list with gastrointestinal and respiratory illness. They can even trigger asthma attacks in some people. They're also hard to get rid of.

What you should look for: The bugs themselves will be the clearest sign. No signs of a swarm? You should also be on the lookout for dead bugs and bug parts, holes in packages, and openings in the home that bugs may creep through from the outside.

Termites

Why you should care: If a colony’s been happily living in your would-be house for some time, your foundation may be at risk. In fact, termites cost Americans $5 billion in repairs each year, according to Orkin. (And what's even scarier? Many insurance companies don’t cover termite-related damage.)

What you should look for: Visible clusters of termites and mud tunnels in the foundation. Pay special attention to any wood in the home, noting whether floors are sagging, wood has visible holes, or it sounds hollow when you knock on it.

Bedbugs

Why you should care: Bedbugs have elongated beaks (!) that they use to jab into your skin to extract blood, which they then gulp down. For most people, that's plenty reason to avoid them. Revulsion factor aside, they’re also ridiculously difficult to obliterate. If you’ve walked through a home that you suspect has bedbugs, you’ll need to obsessively check your clothing and bag for any signs of the critters, then wash everything ASAP in very hot water.

Professional bedbug removal can set you back as much as $1,500.

What you should look for: Any rust-colored stains on furniture or bedding are serious red flags, Bridges warns. (This isn’t human blood, FYI. It’s bedbug feces. Gross, right?) If you’re eagle-eyed, you may also spot tiny cream-colored eggs in the nooks and crannies of beds or other furniture.

Is there any type of pest infestation that’s a deal breaker?

The answer to that question depends on the pest, how much damage is already present that you are willing to repair, and your tolerance for the pests.

In some cases, it may not be worth the extra money you’ll have to shell out to treat the problem or repair the damage.

For example, getting rid of pest problems and keeping them out will usually require an ongoing pest control service. Unless your heart is really set on a home, it might be wiser to keep looking.

If you can’t decide whether you should make an offer or walk away, call a pest professional. Ask the pro to evaluate the infestation in person and give you an unvarnished opinion on what can be done and how long it’ll take.

Need referrals to trusted contractors to evaluate a potential home? Contact us for a referral.

The Ultimate Checklist For Moving In The Winter

New England House In WinterSo, you found that perfect new home, your offer was accepted, the paperwork is complete and it’s time to pack all your belongings and start moving. This an exciting time, but it’s January in New England, a time of year when even going outside can feel daunting.  

We've put together the ultimate checklist to help reduce some of the stress of moving in the winter and make your move go as smoothly as it would on a warm summer day.

Safety First

  1. Ice melt: The last thing you want to do is slip on a patch of ice while moving a box of your most valuable possessions. Be sure to have plenty of ice melt on hand to reduce the chances of slipping on outdoor stairs and walkways.
  2. Extra towels: Snow melts quickly when tracked inside. Have some extra towels on hand to mop up messy puddles and avoid wet slippery floors inside.
  3. Visit the new house: Before packing the truck for the move to your new home, visit to make sure all the walkways are clear and the lights are working inside and out. Dusk comes early in the winter.

Stay Warm

  1. Protect your hands: Insulate your fingers from the cold and ensure you have a good grip on boxes and furniture by investing in a pair of warm gloves with good grippers.
  2. From the inside out: Brew some coffee and tea or make a quick run to the local coffee shop. You and your team of movers will appreciate a warm beverage on a cold winter day.
  3. Preheat the moving truck: Before you load the last few boxes, start the truck and let it preheat.
  4. Pump up the thermostat: Your new home should feel warm and cozy. When you make that quick visit before the big move make sure the heat is on.

Be Smart

  1. Protect your floors: Mud and dirt can accumulate quickly, and scratches are bound to happen when furniture is being moved. Preserve the floors in your both your old and new homes with temporary floor protection paper.
  2. Avoid a costly error: Before you park your moving truck on the sidewalk or street in front of your new home, learn the winter parking regulations in your new neighborhood. Ask your new neighbors if there are any parking restrictions or visit your local city or town website. 
  3. Feet first: Moving in flip flops is never a good idea … especially in the winter. A pair of sturdy boots with good treads is a much safer choice. Boots will keep your feet warm, help avoid slips and falls and make it easier to walk in the snow or mud. Boots will also protect your precious toes if something does drop on them.

Last but Not Least

  1. Medications: Some medications (both over the counter and prescription) must be stored at a certain temperature. When packing medications, label them appropriately and make them one of the last items in the truck to ensure they do not get too cold.
  2. Shovels: Tis’ the season for snow. Don't pack your shovels! They should be readily accessible in case an unexpected snowstorm comes along or some last minute shoveling is needed to clear out a pathway for moving furniture and boxes. 
  3. Technology: Your flat screen television and computer don’t like the cold temperatures. Avoid freezing your technology by wrapping these items in blankets and loading them into the truck last.
  4. Don’t forget the lights: In the madness of celebrating the holidays, getting ready to move and shoveling snow, it can be easy to forget to take down those holiday lights outside. When you do your final sweep, check outside for any lingering holiday lights on the house or bushes.

While the winter may not be an ideal time to move in New England, the key to any big move is preparation. If the cold, ice and snow gets under your skin, just focus on celebrating spring in your new home.

 

Don't Get Burned by a Credit Freeze

credit freezeBaby, it’s freezing outside.

With Equifax and other companies reporting massive data breaches this year, more consumers are putting a freeze on their credit reports. And while a credit freeze won’t affect a borrower’s ability to qualify for a mortgage, it does require the borrower to take additional steps during the application process.

Exactly what does a credit freeze accomplish?

A credit freeze blocks anyone — including lenders and employers — from accessing your credit report. Requests for a credit freeze must be submitted by mail, online or over the phone to the three major credit bureaus individually (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). You’ll need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. The fees vary by state but are minimal -- some are free and the most costly ones are $10 each time you place or lift a freeze. Payments can be made using a personal check, money order or credit card. Fees are generally waived for victims of identity theft.

Once placed, a credit freeze stays on your credit report until you lift or remove it. Existing creditors (or debt collectors acting on their behalf) will still have access.

Do keep in mind that while freezing your credit can prevent others from opening new lines of credit in your name, it also prevents you from opening an account yourself. It can affect your ability to purchase a new cell phone, secure a store credit card or pass the security review associated with an application for employment.

Borrowing? Here's what you need to know

If you’ve instituted a freeze on your credit but now want to apply for a loan, you will have to contact each credit bureau to temporarily lift the freeze.

If you're a borrower applying for a mortgage, that freeze will probably only have to be lifted once, because the credit report will be good for the typical 30- to 45-day period from contract to closing. But there are certain situations where another report needs to be pulled by the lender nearer to the closing. In that case, as the borrower you may have to lift the freeze — and pay for it — multiple times.

In addition, borrowers could run into problems in competitive housing markets where you need to close quickly. In those instances, it might be tricky to unfreeze the credit in time for the lender to pull credit reports and complete the underwriting and pre-closing process.

Here are a few considerations if you’re applying for a mortgage with frozen credit.

Check your own credit in advance

While freezing your credit protects you from the time the freeze becomes effective, it does nothing to correct existing credit issues. Get a copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies, check them carefully and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.

Get fraud alerts

While a credit freeze “locks down” your credit, a fraud alert still allows creditors to pull your credit report as long as they verify your identity first, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For example, a business may call you to verify that you are the person requesting new credit. However, while fraud alerts may make it more difficult for others to open new credit accounts in your name, they may not prevent misuse of your existing accounts. Placing a fraud alert is easier than a credit freeze. You need only to contact one of the reporting agencies, which in turn is required to notify the others. A fraud alert is free of charge.

Know how the freeze works

Understand the logistics of lifting the freeze — and make sure you allow enough time for the lender to pull credit reports. Consumers who deal directly with the three credit-reporting agencies are given a PIN (personal identification number) to provide, either by phone, online or mail, every time they want to lift or remove the freeze, according to David M. Blumberg, a spokesman for TransUnion. Alternatively, consumers can lock or unlock their credit using a third-party service like TransUnion’s TrueIdentity, which is available online or in an app.

Putting a freeze on your credit report can protect you from identity theft; just be sure to do your homework first.

If you are concerned about fraud and identity-theft issues, contact information for the three major credit bureaus are listed below.

Equifax: 888-349-9960, www.equifax.com

Experian: 888-397-3742, www.experian.com

TransUnion: 888-909-8872 www.transunion.com

7 New Year's Resolutions For Your Home

resolutionsforyourhomeThe new year serves as a perfect opportunity to start fresh and tackle that list of house projects. To help you get started, we’ve gathered seven simple home improvement resolutions to give your house a mini-makeover in 2018.

1. No More Squeaks and Creaks

Every homeowner has those little projects that keep getting put off. For instance, creaky door hinges are an easy fix. Bob Vila offers 3 tried-and-true techniques to silence those squeaks and creaks – including something as simple as a little mayonnaise!

2. Improve Energy Efficiency

Going green does not have to be a big undertaking. While installing solar panels and on-demand water heaters can improve your home’s energy efficiency, little changes can also make an impact.

  • Replace incandescent lightbulbs with compact fluorescents or LEDs that last longer.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust heating and cooling according to a schedule you set.
  • Add weather-stripping to windows and doors to help minimize drafts.

Not only will these quick improvements save energy, but you will also save money! And if you want take it a step further, Mass Save offers no-cost home energy assessments.

3. Say Goodbye to Spots and Stains

If you have kids or pets, stained carpets, couches and upholstery are a given. Investing in new furniture or carpets isn’t necessary; rent a carpet cleaner at your local hardware store or purchase your own. Most carpet cleaners also include attachments that work on couches and upholstery. Be sure to check the tags on the furniture first, use the right type of cleaning solution and always spot test an area before tackling a large stain. It’s also important to note that some types of fabric require dry cleaning or a professional cleaning service – this should be listed on the tags.

4. Refresh and Renew

Sick of that boring beige or “impactful” paint color that’s been in your bedroom for the last 10 years? A fresh coat of paint can liven up a room and give it a new look. Cleaning dirty or stained grout is another small detail that can give your home a fresh look. All it takes is a grout brush and a cleaner suitable for your tile. The Spruce recommends a variety of cleaning formulas.

5. Get Organized

Kitchen clutter can creep up on anyone, especially if your kitchen is on the small side. One culprit is food storage containers. Take time to sort through all of yours and recycle any without a matching top or bottom. Spices can also quickly take over your cupboard. Throwing out expired spices, consolidating multiple versions of the same spice and investing in a spice rack will buy space and help you get organized. And if decluttering is just not enough, try these hacks from BuzzFeed to maximize storage.  

6. Enhance Your Curb Appeal 

With a foot of snow on the ground, outside projects may seem like a pipe dream right now, but spring will be here in just a few short months. Be ready to hit the ground running by putting together your exterior projects list before the snow melts.

  • Is your front door in need of some restoration?
  • Does your mailbox need to be cleaned or replaced? Is the house number faded or worn? Would the post benefit from fresh paint or should it be upgraded?
  • Do your outdoor fixtures need some love? Those doorknobs, doorbells and door knockers are exposed to the elements and can really take a beating.
  • Do you have cracks in the walkway or driveway that need to be filled in?
  • Does your fence need a fresh coat of paint? Do gate doors open and close easily or does the gate hardware need some lubricant?

7. Do A Clean Sweep

With colder than usual temperatures and a few months of winter to go, your chimney will certainly need some attention this spring. While it’s recommended that you leave the bulk of the dirty work to a professional chimney sweep, there are a few things you can do to educate yourself before engaging the professionals. Some tips from the DIY network include:

  • Check the bricks and mortar to make sure they are intact.
  • Remove the chimney gap and check the flue liner for damage or obstructions.
  • Look up the flue liner to look for creosote buildup.

Cheers to 2018! Here’s to making your home cleaner, more energy efficient, and even more beautiful in the new year.

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