Smoke and Mirrors Day

Today is “Smoke and Mirrors” Day.  I’d never heard of it. But I like the sound of it. Is it like “Fire and Reflection” Day? “Fog and Glass” Day?  Nope, it’s a day devoted to trickery, deception and the art of fraudulent cunning.  Got your attention now, don’t I?!

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Have you ever wanted to just play havoc with someone or something? Well don’t, I really can’t recommend that (but if you do today’s the day!).

I’ve heard the term smoke and mirrors in legalese….sorry to all you lawyers out there! And possibly politicians use this as well?

But for us, let’s just all take some time today to perform a bit of magic…learn a new magic trick, make something disappear or do something nice and unexpected for someone today,

5 Reasons to have a Home Security System

But let’s start with some basic questions…Do you want one?  Do you need one?  Should you DIY or hire a professional?security

First of all, a home security system doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can install one yourself.  The latest home security systems are simple enough and inexpensive enough that you shouldn’t use that as an excuse not to read further! The safety of your family and your home isn’t something to pass off as too hard or too expensive.  In a nutshell, if you can use a smartphone, you can use a DIY security system.

If you’re not sure that a DIY is for you, there are many companies that can come in, access your needs and design a system that is perfect for you. They’ll monitor and alert you if anything changes in the areas that you have indicated are important to you.

So why have a system?

1) If you live in a cold winter climate (like me in the Northeast) but travel to warmer areas (NOT like me, I’m still in the Northeast), wouldn’t it be comforting to know that if the power/heat goes out in your home, the system will alert you to that and it could be addressed before your pipes freeze? Have you ever been in a home after the pipes have frozen and then everything defrosts?  Not pretty.

2) If you come home after dark, wouldn’t it be great to have lights come on as you approach the garage or doorway? All those hidden corners and shadowy places are bright and not scary!

3) If there is a fire, wouldn’t it be great to have the fire department alerted immediately? A smoke and fire alarm system could know about the danger before you do. The fire department might not get to the house before you notice the fire, but with a fire alert all you’d need to do is leave safely.

4) If there is an attempted break in, wouldn’t it be great to stop it before it starts…I just read that 9 out of 10 burglars said that they would not attack a home if there was a security system.  Who knows what that last one is thinking, right?! Smarter than the average bear…

5) And did you know that having a system can lower your homeowner’s insurance premium? The system just may pay for itself while giving you the benefit of some great peace of mind! And we can’t put a price on that!

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Here’s a link to a site that rates security systems, and please call if you want recommendations for local (Midcoast Maine) companies that are fantastic!!  http://bit.ly/2mY4eLv

Credit Terms Explained…

 

First, some terms and acronyms!

~ FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, which is a large company that provides the software that calculates your credit score.  One founder’s last name is Fair. The other’s is…you guessed it…Isaac.

~ Credit is a promise to buy now and pay latercredit-score

~ Credit risk is the likeliness of you paying back the debt

~ Credit reporting agency (there are 3 major ones) collect, maintain and provide information about your credit history

~ Credit score is the number that all of the above leads to! Your credit score is a number that is compiled to determine your creditworthiness

Credit scores range from 300 to about 850 and if you haven’t guessed by now, the higher the score the better your credit, and perceived willingness to repay a debt.  The 3 large reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax and Transunion, and for the purposes of obtaining a mortgage, your lender will use all three.  But your credit score is used for much more than just getting a loan to purchase a home. Credit card companies, insurance agencies, cable companies, cell phone companies and landlords are just an example of who may want to see your credit score and credit report before saying “yes” to your requests.

Here’s a great link to a booklet to find out much more about FICO and credit scores ~ http://bit.ly/2nmZmh9

And one to find out how to improve your current score ~ http://bit.ly/2mD1GAl

How’s your air?

It’s still heating season (insert frowny face here)…..and do you have any idea how your heating system is affecting your indoor air quality?

Probably not, who does?  When it’s keeping us warm we think it’s working correctly, and that’s all that we really need to know. Right? Wrong.

You may not be aware of this, but even if the system is putting out heat, it may not be working properly. For all systems (hot air, hot water) that use oil, kerosene, propane or natural gas, clogged or dirty filters, dusty ducts and cracks in heat exchangers are all things that could be happening behind the scenes.  The downside of this is not just burning more fuel than necessary; there could be health issues as well.

Minor health issues could be an increase of allergy symptoms (coughing/breathing/sneezing) but the major concern is carbon monoxide poisoning.  And that’s no joke or anything to fool around with. Carbon monoxide poisoning can start with headaches and dizziness but could end in death.

So while it’s almost time to shut that system down for the spring, I recommend you do 2 things right away.  Call your service company and have a full system inspection.  This is something that should be done every year, and they may not be as busy now as they will be next fall when everyone else is calling them.  The other suggestion is to install a CO detector.  Here’s a great site to visit to figure out which detector to buy and where and how to place them.  http://www.carbonmonoxidedetectorplacement.com/

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So while the threat of spring is in the air, we still have that heating system running and let’s just make sure it’s running right!

Rule of Thumb….or Foot?

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So you have a new house, or a new apartment, or even just new paint and furniture…and you need some flooring help….If you’re looking for an area rug but don’t know where to start, let’s begin with the basics.

  • Buy big ~ but not too big, the size of the seating area rather than the size of the room is perfect.
  • Your furniture should fit on the rug if possible ~ at least the front legs of the couch, a few feet on each side of your bed, and dining room chairs should all fit on the rug.
  • Be colorful ~ this is your place to use accent color and texture.
  • Ask advise ~ once it’s down it’s hard (but not impossible) to roll back up and return!

There are many professional home decorators that would love to come into your home and help you pick out the perfect rug (and anything else you need!). But if it’s just one rug at a time, then part of the fun is shopping isn’t it?!

2017 resolutions, starting today!

Yes, I know it’s February, but I suspect that the resolutions you made on New Year’s Eve have all been set aside and forgotten. So why not try something a bit more realistic now that the pressure of losing weight treadmill and working out is over?

I would suggest that a great way to start (the rest of) 2017 is to take a look at your credit score, and see how you can improve it.  With credit scores determining not only if you can purchase a home, your credit score also plays a big part in obtaining insurance, credit cards, etc.

If you’re planning on purchasing a home house , the best thing to do is meet with a lender (and yes, I can make recommendations!).  The lender will pull your credit and if changes need to be made, will make suggestions.

If you’re already a homeowner, or not yet ready to become one, you can pull your own report for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com

Once you know your “number” and if it needs improvement, here are 5 things you can do:

  • If there are errors on your report, dispute them ~ it will take some time and effort but really help!
  • Set monthly goals to pay down credit cards ~ start with the small ones and then use that money to tackle the larger ones!
  • Set up payment reminders ~ it’s easy to forget a payment with so much going on in our busy lives, so my reminder system saves me once or twice a month!
  • Set up auto pay on your accounts ~ but remember to have the money in the account when the payment comes out!
  • Use cash whenever you can ~ but remember that having credit is a plus on your report so don’t close out accounts, just keep the balance low and pay on time!

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National Pie Day!

Today is National Pie Day!!  For all of you (and I’m in this group) cake lovers, you might want to skip this, but know that National Cake Day is November 26th for future reference!

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Apparently, The American Pie Council (who knew there was such a thing right??) set aside January 23rd to celebrate the pie, bake the pie, share the pie and I assume eat the pie! There is also a National Pie Championship where one could win the “American Pie Council’s Best Pie in America” award.

Here’s a link to a “perfect” apple pie…but a word of caution, it starts with a boxed pie crust! http://bit.ly/1RT3Ms6

So are you a pie or a cake person?!

It’s Tax Time. Again. A few ideas to help!

So by now you’ve probably been thinking about your Federal and State taxes, and maybe even preparing just a bit for them.  And you can wait if you want, even for a few more months, but eventually, you’ll need to read this post and get to work filing your taxes.

As a homeowner, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider.  One of the most useful benefits of homeownership, after the right to paint those bedrooms purple, is tax deductions.  If this is your first year of owning a home, then check out this list!

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#1: Property Tax ~ any money paid during the year to your town/city property tax is deductible.

#2: Mortgage Interest ~ any money paid towards mortgage interest on your first or second mortgage and any private mortgage insurance payments are deductible.

#3: Closing Costs ~ some of the costs paid at your closing are tax deductible (ask your accountant which ones to include). Your may even be able to deduct some of your moving costs.

#4: Home Office ~ you may be able to use your home office as a deduction as well.

There may be others (his is when your accountant not me, your real estate agent is the professional!) so save all of your receipts for purchasing (your Closing Statement) as well as receipts for repairs, remodeling, parts etc.  My advice is to save everything for seven years, but again, let your accountant guide you on that!

If your still renting, know that your landlord is getting all these benefits…wouldn’t you rather get them for yourself??

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Home…New Construction?

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If you’ve been thinking of a new home, and by new I mean really, really (construction) new, there are definitely some things that are totally different from purchasing a pre-existing home.  Here are a few things to think about before you make the new construction decision!

#1: You probably won’t be able to negotiate the price.  Builders factor many things into their price and with new construction, what it is ~ is ~what it is!  You may be able to negotiate a few upgrades, but don’t quote me on this one!

#2: The price you start at most likely won’t be the price you end at.  During the construction process, things change.  Like you decide that you want hardwood throughout the house, not just in the living room.  Or you found lighting that you can’t live without, but it’s higher than the budgeted amount!

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#3: Your home is not going to look like the model!  White couches, no clutter, perfectly placed knick knacks are not realistic.  Don’t worry, you’ll love your home with YOUR things in it as well!

#4: Expect delays.  When the builder tells you 4 months from start to finish, plan for your home to be ready in 6 months.  That way, if it’s earlier, you’ll be delighted, if it’s later, you’ll be resigned!new construction 2

#5: Even though everything is brand new, it may not all be perfect.  Mistakes can (read “will”) be made. But the builder will go over things with you and create a punch list ~ items to be tweaked and fixed ~ and they should also offer you a warranty. Before you sign anything, ask about their warranty, if it’s not at least one year, find another builder.

Moving Day in Midcoast Maine

The big day is here, and no matter how ready you think you are, chances are, you aren’t!!  Have you thought about how to deal with exhaustion? Distractions?  Unforeseen obstacles? What about the fact that the WHOLE neighborhood is watching?

Here are 3 tips that might come in handy and might help save your sanity on moving day.

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#1: Anticipate Distraction!

Some of the distractions will come from the new neighbors. You’re just trying to unload the moving truck but the neighbors won’t offer to carry anything, they just have questions!  ~ what did you pay for the house? are you making any changes? do you have children and want to join a playgroup?  Be ready, have your answers rehearsed.  The best answer may be “I’d love to chat but can we do this a bit later, maybe tomorrow when the truck is emptied?”

#2: Fight Exhaustion!

The physical and mental stress of moving out of the old home and into the new one, even if you have lots of help, will disrupt your routines. Fast-food and junk food may seem like an easy fix, but you really need more substance to be continually refreshed and recharged during the moving process. Stock up on healthy snacks, bottles of water and energy drinks.  And don’t try to do it all at once ~ there is plenty of time to unpack the boxes after the big furniture is in the next day after you’re refreshed and rested.

#3: Prepare!

If you prepare for the worst, you won’t be surprised by some common moving day problems…the couch won’t fit through the door (measure furniture and doorways prior to the big day)…the cable and internet can’t be hooked up for 2 weeks (call the cable company 2 weeks prior to the move and schedule a set up for the day after the move)…the moving truck can’t fit in the driveway (make sure there is a clear path for the movers especially if there is snow or ice on the ground).

Moving day can be fun…if you have the right help, take deep breathes and prepare…prepare….prepare!!