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Fall Home Maintenance and Clean Up Tips

There is a chill in the air and the leaves are changing color signaling that soon winter will be upon us. If the Farmer’s Almanac is correct, and I hope it isn’t, we are in for another nasty winter! If you are a homeowner, there are things you should be doing now to prepare for whatever winter has in store for us. Right now you are probably mowing your yard for one of the last times this year and getting ready to rake all those leaves, but that shouldn’t be the end of your yardwork. Fall is a good time to lay down new grass seed and once it starts to come up you can add fertilizer. If your lawn is healthy before winter you will have less weeds in the spring. You should also add a fresh layer of mulch, but not more than 3 inches, to your planting beds to help protect the roots of your plants. Fall is also the time to plant those spring bulbs so you can enjoy those early blooms next year. Now is also the time to cover or put away your patio furniture and grill before the snow flies. Make sure to give both a good final cleaning so they will be fresh and ready for use in the spring. This is also the time to make sure your gutters have a final clean out before they get filled up with ice and cause damage. Drain and store your outdoor hoses and shut off the water to the spigot to prevent the pipes from freezing. When all the yard work is...

Realtors® Team Up to Provide Relief for Area Flood Victims

Our area has certainly been impacted by the recent flooding and there are many Freeport residents that have not received assistance or have not had access to a program to apply for assistance. Our local Realtor® Association- The Realtor® Association of Northwestern Illinois along with the Rockford Area Realtors® and Illinois Realtors® have teamed up to provide $25,000 in grant assistance for Stephenson and Winnebago county flood victims. The grant is made available through the Illinois Realtors® Relief Foundation or IRRF. IRRF is a 501(c)(3) organization that receives tax deductible donations from Realtors® and others to assist disaster victims throughout Illinois. If you would like to make a donation or would like more information on the Realtors® Relief Foundation you can visit their website at: www.illinoisrealtors.org/about/foundations/irrf. As I have said many times throughout my columns, real estate is local. Our local Realtors® live and work here and we do more than just list and sell real estate. We are champions and protectors of property rights and we take pride in our community. When our local residents are affected by a disaster such as the recent flooding we want to help our neighbors. We want to encourage anyone in Stephenson or Winnebago County that has been affected by the flooding to apply for this assistance and as local Realtors® we are here to help you through the process. Each applicant can request up to $500 in grant money which can be used to pay expenses like a mortgage payment, rental fees for temporary shelter and unreimbursed losses directly related to the flooding such as an insurance deductible. The grants are...

What You Need To Know About Lead Paint

Many homes built before 1978 have lead based paint in them which can pose a serious health hazard. Federal law requires that sellers and/or landlords disclose known information on lead based paint hazards before selling/leasing a house. In addition, if you are renovating, repairing or painting a house built before 1978 lead safe work practices need to be followed by lead safe certified contractors. Lead paint can be harmful to children and adults if ingested. Lead paint dust can result from repairs or renovations when lead paint is disturbed, and can be inhaled or it can settle on food or food preparation surfaces and be consumed. Small children may also eat lead paint chips. Lead is especially dangerous to children under the age of 6 because it can affect their nervous systems and brain development and to pregnant women because high lead levels in their system can transfer to the baby and affect fetal development. If you are unsure whether or not your home has lead based paint it can be tested by a trained certified lead paint inspector. You can find local inspectors on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/lead. There are ways to minimize hazards from lead based paint in your home before abatement. Carefully clean up paint chips so as not to create dust, use a mop or sponge with warm water to clean floors, baseboards and window frames and rinse thoroughly and wash children’s hands thoroughly and often, especially before eating. There are other sources of lead in addition to paint that you need to be aware of. Lead pipes in older homes can cause led...

What is a Smart Home?

One of the fastest growing trends that todays’ homebuyers are looking for are homes with smart home technology. A smart home is a collection of smart devices connected to each other working together to automate a homes’ processes. There are many different smart devices available and the cost can vary depending on the product. One of the most commonly used smart devices is a smart thermostat that allows you to control your home’s temperature remotely and can cost around $200 or more. Smart locks can be used to control who has access to your home and to see who is coming and going when you aren’t home. These also cost around $200. Lights in your home can also be controlled with your smart phone or voice enabled assistant to turn on and off, adjust the brightness or put on a timer and vary in price from $50 to $200. Cameras can be controlled to alert you to intruders, record video or even alarm if necessary, at a cost of around $200. Smart smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors can alert you via your cellphone to increased levels of carbon monoxide or the presence of smoke and cost about $100. These devices can be controlled through one app through a smart hub and can unify all the devices and chain together events to ensure the comfort and protection of your home. You can program the hub to turn on certain lights and the air conditioning during the hours you are home and to turn down the heat and turn on other lights when you are away. As you can already...

What You Should Know About Homeowner’s Insurance

If you own your home you probably carry homeowner’s insurance on it. If you have a mortgage, your lender will require you to maintain insurance on the property. You probably pay your premiums and don’t think too much more about it, but there are some things you need to know about your policy. The purpose of homeowner’s insurance is to protect you (and your lender) against certain losses and damage to your home. When you first buy your home, your lender will require you to purchase a policy as a condition of the mortgage before you close. If you have an escrow account your future premiums will be paid by the lender from the funds in that account. If you pay cash for your home or you no longer carry a mortgage balance then it will be up to you to determine what kind of coverage you wish to have. The coverage you carry will depend on whether you choose replacement cost or a dollar amount of coverage. Replacement cost will give you the actual cost to replace your home if it is destroyed, otherwise you will receive whatever the dollar amount of coverage you have chosen. If you choose to insure your home for $100,000 and it is destroyed by fire, you will probably only receive up to $100,000 even if it costs $200,000 to replace it. A lender will require you to keep the property insured for at least the amount of the mortgage. A standard homeowner’s policy not only insures the structure but may also cover the personal property inside it and additional structures like garages,...

Tips to Get Your Home Market Ready

The snow is finally gone and you are thinking of getting your home on the market. How do you prepare your home to look its best? Here are some easy tips that will have your home looking market ready and hopefully get you a quick sale. The first step to getting your house ready to sell is a thorough cleaning and de-cluttering. By thorough cleaning I mean wash windows, clean carpets and curtains or blinds, wash light fixtures, clean moldings and baseboards, mop floors, clean cabinets and appliances and thoroughly clean bathrooms including shower walls and doors. In other words, all the jobs that most people have been meaning to do but never quite got to! If budget allows, consider hiring a professional cleaning service to take care of all these jobs quickly. A clean house is perceived as being well cared for by buyers. Now that it is sparkling clean you will need to de clutter as much as possible. Take everything that is non- essential off your kitchen counters, pack up out of season clothing to allow more space in your closets, minimize Knick knacks, collectibles and family photos so buyers can visualize their family in your space. Try to reduce the amount of large furniture pieces if possible so the rooms appear larger and less cluttered. Pack everything away in bins or boxes neatly stacked in the basement or garage. Next tackle those minor repairs you have been putting off like doors that stick, torn window screens, dripping or leaking faucets, missing or cracked grout and burned out light bulbs. These are small items but if...

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