10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Your Sellers

When your clients are opening their doors to the public for showings, they need to take extra precautions. Share these suggestions to help them keep their belongings safe.

  December 2016 | By Tracey Hawkins
After Christmas, many people put the empty boxes their expensive gifts came in out on the curb. What do you think that says to potential burglars? It screams, “I just got a brand-new TV! Come and rob me!”
That’s just one example of some unwise habits homeowners have. If those owners are sellers opening their doors to the public for showings, habits such as these put them in even greater danger. The above example is a good warning to give to your clients now, since we’re in the holiday season. But use it as a jumping-off point to have a deeper conversation about safety — and to show that your safety knowledge is an asset to sellers.
Consider using this checklist (you can request it as a customer handout on my website) during listing appointments to better prepare prospective sellers and show your value as a real estate professional. We spend a lot of time telling sellers how we’ll market their home, and while that is obviously important, we rarely address their true concern: how to keep their home safe while it’s open to the public. Touch on these 10 anti-burglary tips so your clients will know that you have their best interest at heart.
National Snapshot of Burglaries

A burglary is committed every 20 seconds, with nearly 1.6 million such crimes nationwide annually, according to the FBI’s 2015 Crime in the United States report. That’s down 7.8 percent from 2014. Total property crime, which includes arson, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft, reached nearly 8 million instances in 2015, down 2.6 percent from 2014.
– Maintain your property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned and, therefore, an easy target. Shoveling your walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.
– Know your neighbors. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.
– Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind.
– Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
– Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.
– Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
– Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office.
– Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.
– Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
– Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.
Tracey Hawkins

Tracey Hawkins, founder and CEO of Safety and Security Source, is a former real estate agent who, for 21 years, has been a national speaker and educator on real estate safety issues. She has created the country’s only real estate safety designation, the Consumer Safety and Security Specialist (CSSS) program.


Gardening 101: Beginner’s Guide to Protecting Your Garden from Critters

Jennifer Coloma, July 15, 2016

Now that you have a few of the basics down with our Intro to Gardening: Beginner’s Guidelines, you may be wondering: how do you protect your garden from dogs, cats, birds, raccoons, and all the wildlife that lives in your neighborhood? If you own pets, you may even be wondering how to protect your garden from them while still keeping them engaged in the yard. At Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, we’ve done the research and compiled this handy guideline so you can spend less time guessing and conducting trial-and-error processes and more time enjoying your critter-free garden!


Dogs may be “man’s best friend,” but they can also be a “garden’s worst enemy.” Similarly, while cats are wonderful creatures and great hunters, they can also be a bit overly friendly with the plants – sometimes eating, trampling, or rubbing against them too affectionately. Here are some ways to keep your pets happy and your garden safe:

  1. Spicy & Bitter Plant-Based Repellents: Both dogs and cats, along with many other animals, dislike bitter and spicy plants. Use this natural repellent to protect your garden by either sprinkling it into the dirt or turning it into a liquid solution and spraying it on your plants. There are a variety of different combinations, from crushed dried peppers mixed with powdered mustard to coffee grounds with bitter orange or straight up chili pepper with water. Keep in mind that when taste-based repellents are sprayed on plants, they have to be reapplied after rain, and that they will affect the taste of food. So if you’re growing a vegetable garden and are allergic to peppers, avoid this tactic. Additionally, be careful when creating pepper-based sprays as pepper products are known to irritate eyes, skin, and your nose. Protip: coffee grounds not only repel dogs, but are also a great fertilizer!
  2. Pungent Plants: Some plants smell so terrible to animals that they don’t want to go anywhere near them. Plectranthus caninus (also called Coleus canina) is a mint-based herb that many call the “Scaredy Cat Plant” due to its ability to deter cats. No scientific research exists to back up the claim though, and a side-effect of the plant is that cats will often avoid the plant and go straight to more pleasant areas in your yard – such as your garden. Tall-growing varieties of lavender are reportedly more effective than the Scaredy Cat Plant and additionally have the benefit of smelling wonderful. If you’re aiming to experiment with different plants for one that repels cats or dogs, keep in mind that some plants are actually quite toxic and dangerous to your pet’s health. For some plants to avoid, check out this Houzz.com article featuring 22 different plants that you should keep away from your pets.
  3. Built-in Paths: Instinctually, dogs perform periodic patrols around the edges of their territory, trampling through your unfenced vegetable garden or gallivanting across the flowerbed, to ensure that their territory is safe and well protected. Instead of scolding them for trying to protect you, build a designated path around the perimeter of your yard that they can use for patrolling. If you’re using mulch as part of the path, take into consideration your dog’s fur coat, as finer mulch will cling to long-haired dogs and end up in your house or on your furniture. Protip: cedar chips are great ground cover to protect your dogs and cats from fleas!
  4. Catnip: For the overtly affection cat rubbing against all your plants, or the cat digging up your seedlings, provide them with catnip in an area away from your garden. The overpowering scent will attract them to this plant, as opposed to your garden, and they’ll spend their energies there. If you want to be sure your cat spreads their scent around your garden so wild animals won’t be enticed by the defenseless plants, then build a short fence around your garden and place the catnip outside of that fence.
  5. Digging Deterrents: Dogs dig. When addressing digging, first try to determine your dog’s end game: is it trying to cool off, to escape, to bury a toy, or to be distracted? As with building a path around your yard, you can be proactive and provide your dog with a designated digging spot to bury items and frolic, similar to a sandbox. Encourage your dog to use the sandbox by putting toys in there and praising them when they use it. For cooling off, provide a shady place to hide or a miniature pool to climb into. For escape artists, adding boards or chicken wire at or below the soil line is another good deterrent. Some people recommend planting periodic wooden stakes throughout your garden to make digging unpleasant; just be sure these are visible so they don’t harm your dog. For cats, placing obstacles such as bricks underneath the dirt and around your garden is an option.
  6. Designated Bathrooms: Some dogs just need a place to relieve themselves, or an item to mark as their own. Providing dogs with a specific part of the yard to call their own is a good way to keep your grass green and your plants from dying off. If you don’t want to deal with keeping the grass green in this designated spot, use gravel instead. It’s not only easy to wash off, but dogs also tend to prefer gravel to grass!

Wild Animals

The easiest way to get rid of many animals is to own cats or dogs and let them roam your yard freely. This isn’t always possible or the most animal-friendly option though, so here are some other methods of protecting your garden from wild animals:

  1. Egg Shells: Many animals, such as squirrels, raccoons, and rabbits, will dig up and eat plant seeds or eat the plants when they’re still small seedlings. At this stage, sprinkling broken egg shells on top of your garden and mixing them into the dirt is not only extremely effective at making digging an unpleasant activity but also a great fertilizer for those little seedlings.
  2. Fencing: Although not always attractive, often one of the best and most-effective ways of keeping all animals, including deer and birds, out of your garden is to build a tall fence around the entirety of it and to cover your plants with bird netting or chicken-wire cages. Raccoons are capable of digging but also dislike having anything stick to their paws, so draping bird netting on the ground is an effective countermeasure. Building the fence out of a material that animals cannot see through and attaching noise-makers to the fencing also work well.
  3. Removing Habitats: One of the simplest solutions is to make your yard unappealing to the average animal by removing the groundcover in which they would naturally hide or nest. For rabbits, this means removing low-growing shrubs, tall grass, and rock and brush piles from the immediate area around your garden. For groundhogs, be sure to block the area beneath any deck, porch, or shed. Otherwise, they’ll make themselves a cozy home.
  4. Predator Urine: If you don’t own a cat or dog and natural predators aren’t abundant in your area, then predator urine, such as coyote urine, is a good way to frighten off animals invading your yard. The predator urine will make them think it’s unsafe to inhabit your yard as a predator already lives there. Unfortunately, predator urine needs to be re-applied weekly and especially after rain. With large yards, pouring the liquid urine can get expensive. An alternative is hanging liquid urine dispensers; these only need monthly refills.
  5. Predator Decoys: In place of predator urine, another tactic is to place predator decoys around your garden. Owl statues frighten off raccoons and predator lights scare most other animals, from bunnies to dogs. The Solar-Powered Nite Guard, which costs $24 on Amazon, is waterproof and charged by sunlight. It automatically turns on at night and begins to emit a periodic flash of red light that frightens off many animals. For engineers, an alternative is to build and program your own solar-powered, motion-activated predator light with red LED lights and a Raspberry Pi. Just be sure to make your equipment water-proof in the event of rain.
  6. Electronic Repellents: Other electronic repellents, such as motion-activated sprinklers and timer-based vibrators, are great at targeting skittish groundhogs, moles, and chipmunks.
  7. Designating An Animal Garden: If you’re growing a vegetable or fruit garden, try blocking off your garden with a fence or caging and then creating a smaller, open and accessible garden in another area of the yard that is specifically for animals. Having this second garden will make attempting to get into your actual garden especially unappealing, as there is an easy food source in the same vicinity.

If all else fails, there’s always the option of moving all the plants indoors or hosting your own greenhouse vegetable garden! Having potted plants throughout the house has been known to drastically decrease stress and enliven the indoor environment. Just keep in mind that if your food garden has been moved inside, some plants need to be pollinated by wind or bees to produce vegetables or fruit, and so will need to be hand-pollinated.

If you have tips or techniques on keeping wild animals or pets out of your garden, we’d love to hear about them in the comment section below!

Tips from Howard Hanna: How to Keep Your Home Sparkling Clean

Jennifer Coloma, May 11, 2016

Keeping a home clean can be challenging, especially on a day-to-day basis. To make the process easier, we’ve compiled the following list on what parts of the home you should focus on cleaning each day, week, month, and season!


  • Take out the garbage and the recycling.
  • Sweep the floors.
  • Wipe down surfaces in the kitchen, including the counter tops and the sink.
  • If you have a dishwasher, be sure to rinse dishes and store them in the dishwasher by the end of the day. The next morning, you can multitask with the dishwasher by running it while you’re out of the house. If you don’t have a dishwasher but have dishes coated with something hard-to-scrub, fill them with warm water and soap and let them sit overnight. It’ll make cleaning the dishes much easier the next day!


  • Clean the floors thoroughly by mopping, sweeping, or vacuuming, and vacuum upholstery.
  • Wash the laundry: the clothes, the towels, the bedsheets, etc.
  • Change the bedsheets.
  • Scrub bathroom fixtures: the toilets, the tubs, the sinks, and the showers.
    • Tip: If you have multiple bathrooms, let a cleaning agent work its magic in the toilets and on the showers while you clean the sinks and counters. When you’re done with them, it’ll make scrubbing the toilets and the showers much easier and faster!
  • Clean the mirrors.
  • Dust surfaces, objects, and shelves.
  • Wipe down appliances in the kitchen.
  • Throw out expired food from the refrigerator and check the expiration on anything that you don’t plan to eat soon: if it’s close to expiration, toss it out as well to prevent unwanted mold.


  • Clean both the microwave and the oven.
    • Tip: Use a cleaning spray that needs to soak for a few minutes to optimize cleaning. Let it sit and soak while you work on other items. When it’s done soaking, it’s much easier to clean as you won’t need to scrub as much, just wipe!
  • Wipe down all the kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Get the details: wipe down the doorknobs, the lamps, and the light switches.
  • Wipe down the baseboards and vacuum the vents as well.
  • Disinfect and clean all the garbage cans.


  • Air out the rooms and the draperies.
  • Clean the pantry and get rid of anything that’s expired.
  • Wash the pillows, the throw blankets, the comforters, and the duvets.
  • Sort through the closets and organize items into four piles: keep, donate, clean or repair, and store for the season.
  • Wash the windows and dust the windowsills.

Download the complete checklist here.

​Tips for Moving with Children

Jennifer Coloma
Moving with children is never easy. The act of moving by itself is no walk in the park, with finding a home, planning the relocation, packing all the items, making sure finances are cleared, ensuring friends and family are aware, and so forth—adding children to the mixture can make moving appear impossible.
But with the right planning and the right interactions, you can make moving with your beloved children a thousand times easier. The following is a guide on how to move with children of all ages.
Suggest Moving
Although it seems odd to suggest moving to your child, it will actually make the act of informing them of the upcoming move much easier if you’ve already planted the idea in their brain. Doing this will also make the child feel as though they are part of the decision to move, which is crucial. As soon as you know there is a move in the future but don’t yet have the exact details, begin talking to your children about the concept of moving. Be sure to emphasize all the wonderful aspects of moving: getting a new and better room, painting their room a certain color, a bigger yard, a neighborhood with more children or playgrounds and sports fields, a nicer school, etc.
For example, if you have multiple children, maybe the benefit is that each child gets their own room; if you live in the city or an apartment and don’t currently have a yard, maybe the benefit is that you will have a yard with the next home; if you live in a school district that doesn’t offer recess time, maybe the benefit is that the new school district mandates recess; etc. For high school-age children, some benefits could be: a larger selection of electives, the opportunity to join a sports team, a school closer to home and therefore a shorter bus ride, etc.
With suggesting moving, the primary goals are to get your child to A) express what they would want out of a move and B) express excitement for the prospect of a potential move. By knowing what they want from a move in advance, you can then coordinate the upcoming move such that their wants/needs are met as closely as possible, further making the move easier. With older children, keep in mind that one of the hardest parts of a move is staying in touch with friends. Today’s technology makes staying in touch much easier than before, but it’s always good to bring up the various possibilities, from Skyping and texting friends to using social media. When possible, the ability to visit old friends is always a great item to bring up.
Inform Your Child of the Move
Once the move is certain, break the news to your child with a family meeting. Be sure to draw from earlier conversations and emphasize all the wonderful new parts of the move. If your move is a military relocation, then depending on the age of your child, they may be concerned that this isn’t a move but actually a deployment. In this event, clarify the difference between a move and a deployment and be sure to reassure them that you are staying.
Give Your Child Control
Ideally, at this stage, you’ve already given your child a sense of control by having them contribute their thoughts on what the new home should have to meet their particular needs. Once the move is underway, additional ways to give your child control include:
Assigning them a specific task to do on moving day, such as packing a special bag to take with them in the car, on the plane, on the train, etc. This will help keep them preoccupied while you’re packing and moving furniture. Children often have favorite toys that they’re particularly concerned about losing or prefer not to be without, so having them pack a special bag will help give them peace of mind and ensure those toys are safe during the move.

If traveling by car, include some of your child’s favorite snacks to help make the move an adventure. If you’re driving across the country, take it a step further and plan out a few stops at interesting places (museums, monuments, etc.) and rest stops where your child can get out and run around, such as playgrounds. Giving your child the chance to stretch their legs will help decrease the likelihood of an outburst from being cooped up in a car, and help tire them out so they’re more likely to nap through the drive.

Determining what their future room should look like by drawing it. Not everything can be incorporated, but this will tell you more about what your child is hoping to get out of the move, how to help them achieve it, and provide your child with a sense of control in the move.

Have your child create a pre-moving-day checklist of which items are especially important to pack, which should stay with them during the move, and so forth.

Have your child maintain a moving journal, such as the one we provide below, and document their journey from their old home to their new home. This journal will give them another outlet through which to express their emotions.

Getting Your Child to Pack
The child who has a lot of dolls, stuffed animals, action figures, or army men may not want to pack their toys for fear of the toy being frightened or injured. In this event, tell them that their toys need to go to sleep by being packed away during the move, otherwise they will be frightened and they may injure themselves in their fear. Once you’ve reached the new house, you can wake the toys up together by unpacking them; the toys will then be excited about being in a new home. This tactic works best on children under ten years old.
Listen to Your Child
Even very young children are capable of voicing their fears and concerns in some way. Be sure to listen to these concerns and answer any questions they have: acknowledging their worries will go a long way to alleviating them. As is the case with adults, children just want to be heard.
Maintain Your Child’s Routine
As challenging as this may seem during something so uncommon as moving, it’s important to maintain as much of your child’s typical routine as possible throughout the move and to reestablish it once in the new home. For example, if you have a ritual for going to sleep, maintain it even when the house has been mostly boxed up. If you eat a particular type of food on a certain day of the week, be sure to keep doing that as well. These routines will help ground your child and make the move appear less foreign and frightening, and more natural and exciting.
Be Prepared for Regression
Moving is just as stressful for your child as it is for you. As such, be prepared for your child to regress temporarily, especially if they’ve only recently been potty-trained. Regression may even occur after you’ve moved and as your child is adjusting to the new environment.
Enjoy the New Home Together
Home may be where the heart is, but it doesn’t always feel like that right away. It takes some work to make a house feel like a home. Even though there will be a lot of unpacking to do, take it slowly and unpack the items that make you and your children feel most comfortable and at home first. These small touches, such as favorite family photos and throw blankets, will help bring the house to life. In addition, a great way to welcome your children to their new home is to have a housewarming present waiting for them in their room, bathroom, or closet. If it’s a toy, you can encourage your child to show the toy their new home and go on a tour through the house – this will also help ease the transition for your child and give them an outlet to deal with any nervousness from the move.
Remember, children pick up very easily on emotional cues from their parents. If you’re nervous or agitated about the move, then your children will be similarly nervous and agitated. But if you’re excited about the move, then your children are much more likely to enjoy the move or at least handle it well.

Vacation Safety: Protect Your Home While You’re Away

Jennifer Coloma, July 7, 2016

With the start of the summer comes the start of traveling season. Traveling around the world can be a simultaneously exciting and worrying experience. What about your home? How do you keep it safe without doing something costly like installing a solar-powered alarm system or live-streaming cameras? At Howard Hanna Insurance Services, we’ve done some sleuthing to uncover tips on how to ensure that your home remains safe in a cost-effective way while you enjoy traveling.

Protecting your home from potential unwanted attention, such as burglary, can be broken down into three simple steps: limiting your home’s vulnerability, maintaining the impression that you are still home, and refraining from announcing to the world that you will be away from home.

Limit Your Home’s Vulnerability

  1. Spare Keys: Thinking of leaving a spare key under the rug so your neighbor can get in to water the plants? Instead, just give your neighbor the spare key. Under the rug, in the pots, or on top of the doorframe – these are all places that a burglar will look first for a spare key and an easy way to get into your house. By removing this spare key, you’re taking a major step towards protecting your home.
  2. Lock the Windows and Doors: In the chaos of those last few minutes where everything must be packed and everyone ushered out of the house, it’s easy to forget the simple things. Make sure all your windows and doors are firmly closed, sealed, and locked. This includes the door to the yard, the door to the deck, the door to the garage, and especially the garage door to the outside world. In the case of sliding glass doors and windows, put a stick in the groove where the door or window would normally slide to ensure it remains shut, even if the lock is picked.
  3. Close the Curtains: By closing the curtains, you limit a stranger’s ability to see inside your home and determine what valuables may be available to steal. You also make it difficult for a potential burglar to determine whether or not you’re home.

Maintain the Impression That You Are Still Home

  1. Mail and Packages: If you’re expecting large packages to arrive while you’re away, call your local delivery system and ask whether they can hold onto the packages until you return. If they can’t, ask a neighbor, friend, or family member if they can pick up the packages and hold onto them until you’re back. Having packages, mail, and newspapers stack up in your yard is a clear and obvious sign that you’re away. For mail, call your post office and ask them to hold onto all of your mail while you’re on vacation.
  2. House Sitter: In a typical week, what do you usually do? Check your mail, mow the grass, weed the garden, pick your fruits and vegetables, water the plants, take out the garbage, walk your dog, turn your lights on and off, and more? A creative way to deter burglars is to make it seem as though your weekly routine is still going on. One way to do this is to ask a neighbor, friend, or hire a trusted teenager to come by each day and check your mail, water your plants, turn the lights on and off, etc. You can take it a step further by asking them to come watch television, listen to music, or open and close the curtains for a few hours. If you have a pet, hiring a pet-sitter to stay at your house will achieve the same result—and keep your pet relaxed in a familiar environment!

Refrain From Announcing to the World That You Will Be Away From Home

  1. Social Media: While it may be tempting to share every intimate moment of traveling, from the moment you board that flight to the moment you touch down in another state or country, this is the fastest and easiest way to alert potential robbers of your home’s vulnerability. The easiest way to protect your home is to just not share that you are traveling on social media. A less-effective alternative would be to keep your trip vague. Don’t share the exact date you’ll be home. Share a picture of your pets or plants or another part of your house while you’re on vacation to make it seem like you’re back at home, and don’t explicitly state the date of your return.
  2. Turn Off Public Settings: If you really want to share all the details of your trip, share them only with close friends and family, not the entire world, by using the group setting or by completely turning off your public visibility while you’re away.

With a few simple tips and tricks, some creativity, and a bit of ingenuity, you can enjoy traveling around the world while still protecting your home. We hope this guide helps give you peace of mind while you’re traveling, and that you have safe travels!

Home Safety Ideas

If you have wondered as much as I have on how to make my home safer for my family, we must be responsible adults in this crazy world we all are living in.

I have learned a few things as I travel down this wonderful world of real estate and I really do mean that. I can truly say that I have never had the same day or the same transaction in this business. I was working in an accounting like job that my day was pretty much the same everyday but I’ll save that story for another day. 

This letter is about the little things that I have learned that you might have heard of or not on your travels of maintaining the safety of your castle.

1. My first did you know ~ That fire detectors expire? We all have heard the saying “change batteries when you change the clocks” . We all know this is in refinance to smoke detector’s batteries but did you know that there is an expiration date on the detector itself.The little bit of material needed for the detection loses its ability to do its job . So the next time you change your batteries, look for the date!

2. My second one is ~ Open light bulb sockets bad? This one happened to us. A lamp’s bulb burns out and you are in the room when it happens. You naturally unscrew the bulb , take it to the garbage , get a new one, and head back to the lamp. Nothing out of ordinary, right? Well, as I heading back to the room, my daughter stuck a butter knife in the open bulb socket. The switch was still in the on position and the electrical current passed through the knife and her hand. By many graces, her thumb was on a metal part of the lamp and the charge left her body.

3. The third one is ~ What is the dryer Beast? The dryer beast is the little cared or noticed shiny vent tube that goes from the back to the dryer to the outside. This is a small part of the appliance but just as important as the lent trap! This also needs to be changed out every six months or so. The lent that in deposited here builds up fairly quickly and with the heat coming through can become a nasty fire hazard!

4. The forth did you know ~ Did you ever figure out what these are for? This one is coming from a home inspector. There is a stop on our windows that prevents the window from being too far! It looks like a small rumble strip about two inches from the lower pane. Put your finger on it and push it up. It should pop out! Now who would open a window and crawl out and not tell their parent. My guess would be a toddler. Nice option that I never knew about.

5. The fifth thing is ~ What is a GFI plug and why is it the talk? This plug is not new but pops up at home inspections all the time. I only know the why and it is big. Lets say you are curling your hair next to a member the family who is shaving and you place the curling iron down. The iron rolls into the sink. With a GFI plug, the current is broken and no one is hurt or worse !

6. And finally, this one ~ Who bags up your new items boxes? This one came from a police officer . We all see it on garbage day. The people in the area have their new tv or computer box just propped up next to the cans. You drive by and think , Oh the Smiths got a new 60” flat screen. There are people who drive around and note 2314 Main St has the tv we need . Simply bag up the box and invite the Johnsons over for movie night on the new tv!

Hoped these might help you and till the next time, Be Safe!

How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To

by Heidi Grant, hbr.org
February 14, 2014

There’s that project you’ve left on the backburner – the one with the deadline that’s growing uncomfortably near. And there’s the client whose phone call you really should return – the one that does nothing but complain and eat up your valuable time. Wait, weren’t you going to try to go to the gym more often this year?

Can you imagine how much less guilt, stress, and frustration you would feel if you could somehow just make yourself do the things you don’t want to do when you are actually supposed to do them? Not to mention how much happier and more effective you would be?

The good news (and its very good news) is that you can get better about not putting things off, if you use the right strategy. Figuring out which strategy to use depends on why you are procrastinating in the first place:

Reason #1 You are putting something off because you are afraid you will screw it up.

Solution: Adopt a “prevention focus.”

There are two ways to look at any task. You can do something because you see it as a way to end up better off than you are now – as an achievement or accomplishment. As in, if I complete this project successfully I will impress my boss, or if I work out regularly I will look amazing. Psychologists call this a promotion focus – and research shows that when you have one, you are motivated by the thought of making gains, and work best when you feel eager and optimistic. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, if you are afraid you will screw up on the task in question, this is not the focus for you. Anxiety and doubt undermine promotion motivation, leaving you less likely to take any action at all.

What you need is a way of looking at what you need to do that isn’t undermined by doubt – ideally, one that thrives on it. When you have a prevention focus, instead of thinking about how you can end up better off, you see the task as a way to hang on to what you’ve already got – to avoid loss. For the prevention-focused, successfully completing a project is a way to keep your boss from being angry or thinking less of you. Working out regularly is a way to not “let yourself go.” Decades of research, which I describe in my book Focus, shows that prevention motivation is actually enhanced by anxiety about what might go wrong. When you are focused on avoiding loss, it becomes clear that the only way to get out of danger is to take immediate action. The more worried you are, the faster you are out of the gate.

I know this doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, particularly if you are usually more the promotion-minded type, but there is probably no better way to get over your anxiety about screwing up than to give some serious thought to all the dire consequences of doing nothing at all. Go on, scare the pants off yourself. It feels awful, but it works.

Reason #2 You are putting something off because you don’t “feel” like doing it.

Solution: Make like Spock and ignore your feelings. They’re getting in your way.

In his excellent book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, Oliver Burkeman points out that much of the time, when we say things like “I just can’t get out of bed early in the morning, ” or “I just can’t get myself to exercise,” what we really mean is that we can’t get ourselves to feel like doing these things. After all, no one is tying you to your bed every morning. Intimidating bouncers aren’t blocking the entrance to your gym. Physically, nothing is stopping you – you just don’t feel like it. But as Burkeman asks, “Who says you need to wait until you ‘feel like’ doing something in order to start doing it?”

Think about that for a minute, because it’s really important. Somewhere along the way, we’ve all bought into the idea – without consciously realizing it – that to be motivated and effective we need to feel like we want to take action. We need to be eager to do so. I really don’t know why we believe this, because it is 100% nonsense. Yes, on some level you need to be committed to what you are doing – you need to want to see the project finished, or get healthier, or get an earlier start to your day. But you don’t need to feel like doing it.

In fact, as Burkeman points out, many of the most prolific artists, writers, and innovators have become so in part because of their reliance on work routines that forced them to put in a certain number of hours a day, no matter how uninspired (or, in many instances, hungover) they might have felt. Burkeman reminds us of renowned artist Chuck Close’s observation that “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.”

So if you are sitting there, putting something off because you don’t feel like it, remember that you don’t actually need to feel like it. There is nothing stopping you.

Reason #3 You are putting something off because it’s hard, boring, or otherwise unpleasant.

Solution: Use if-then planning.

Too often, we try to solve this particular problem with sheer will: Next time, I will make myself start working on this sooner. Of course, if we actually had the willpower to do that, we would never put it off in the first place. Studies show that people routinely overestimate their capacity for self-control, and rely on it too often to keep them out of hot water.

Do yourself a favor, and embrace the fact that your willpower is limited, and that it may not always be up to the challenge of getting you to do things you find difficult, tedious, or otherwise awful. Instead, use if-then planning to get the job done.

Making an if-then plan is more than just deciding what specific steps you need to take to complete a project – it’s also deciding where and when you will take them.

If it is 2pm, then I will stop what I’m doing and start work on the report Bob asked for.

If my boss doesn’t mention my request for a raise at our meeting, then I will bring it up again before the meeting ends.

By deciding in advance exactly what you’re going to do, and when and where you’re going to do it, there’s no deliberating when the time comes. No do I really have to do this now?, or can this wait till later? or maybe I should do something else instead. It’s when we deliberate that willpower becomes necessary to make the tough choice. But if-then plans dramatically reduce the demands placed on your willpower, by ensuring that you’ve made the right decision way ahead of the critical moment. In fact, if-then planning has been shown in over 200 studies to increase rates of goal attainment and productivity by 200%-300% on average.

I realize that the three strategies I’m offering you – thinking about the consequences of failure, ignoring your feelings, and engaging in detailed planning – don’t sound as fun as advice like “Follow your passion!” or “Stay positive!” But they have the decided advantage of actually being effective – which, as it happens, is exactly what you’ll be if you use them.

Original Page: https://hbr.org/2014/02/how-to-make-yourself-work-when-you-just-dont-want-to

Demystify the varying kinds of loans

​Elizabeth Grepp
Congratulations! You’ve used the Howard Hanna My First Home program to find the home of your dreams, and now you’re ready to begin the process of applying for a home loan. There are different types of mortgage loans available to you, and the one that you end up choosing will be just as unique as your new home.
Attempting to demystify the varying kinds of loans that are available to you can be confusing, so we’re going to clarify some basics about the options that will be available as you move forward in this exciting process.
Fixedrate loans:

These loans are among the most popular options, especially since interest rates are still so affordable. The interest rate remains the same throughout the ten, fifteen or thirty year life of the loan. Interest and principal payments never change, allowing for easy budgeting throughout the duration of the loan.
Adjustable rate loans:

In contrast with the fixed-rate home loan, an adjustable rate loan can change from year to year. The most common t kind of adjustable rate loan is a hybrid wherein the interest rate will be fixed for a certain period of time and then will adjust afterward. For instance, there may be a fixed rate of 3.5% for 10 years, and once that time is up, the loan will adjust annually for the remaining term of the loan.
Conventional loans:

For first time home buyers who have good credit, a conventional loan is an option to explore. This kind of loan is not guaranteed by a government organization such as the Federal Housing Administration. While they aren’t very much different from government-backed loans, they do tend to be more difficult to get because of the stricter qualifications.
Government insured loans:

There are two common types of government loans. The first is an FHA loan, which is insured by the Federal Housing Administration and features a low down payment, the option of financing a portion of the closing costs, and relaxed credit guidelines. The second is a VA loan, which is guaranteed by the Veterans Administration. As you may have guessed, these loans are available to current and past members of the armed forces, reservists, National Guard members, and in some cases, surviving spouses.
State Bond Money:

These loans are provided through State Housing Finance Agencies. The focus of the state agencies is to help meet the affordable finance needs of a first time buyer. Many times, these kinds of loans can offer down payment assistance and rates that are below the market. There may be income and price limits, so you’ll want to work with your mortgage loan originator to find out about the restrictions in your local area.
United States Department of Agriculture Loans:

If you’re thinking of purchasing your first home in a rural area, a USDA loan might be a good fit. They help low to moderate income people purchase, repair or renovate a home in a rural area. These loans permit a low down payment and allow the seller to pay 6% of the sales price towards their cost. They also allow low monthly payments, and as is the case with many kinds of loans, certain income and geographic restrictions do apply.
Education is key to making the best decision on your mortgage loan, and home financing is ultimately a very personal decision. There are many different loans available to suit many different homeowner needs, and this is just a rundown of some of the most common types of loans.

Remember, if you have questions, speaking directly with your mortgage loan originator or Realtor will help to clear up any confusion. They’re excellent resources!

My January Open Houses

We are starting the year off with full steam for Open Houses in January! 

Why do I still do Open House when you can just go online to see the inside of the house at two o’clock in the morning? 

  1. The lockboxes on the houses don’t generally work after 8:00 in the evening so it doesn’t give much time after work and dinner.
  2. Have you ever heard of pictures of models having airbrushing? It is harder with a picture of a laundry room but what isn’t in the picture! 
  3. The feel or the air of the room. We have been in places that it feels like the walls are closing in on you. To see how the sunshine lights up the kitchen doesn’t always comes across in the picture.
  4. We all have busy lives and having a listing open so you can just pop in on the way to a soccer game or after your church service. Or, before the playoff football game!
  5. You are considering on buying and/or listing your home and you want to interview possible agents that you feel comfortable with. That’s what we did years ago!

My first Open House is at 303 Labelle , Mt Washington, Pa on January 8th from 1-4:00pm. This beautiful home is close to Downtown Pittsburgh, fantastic coffeehouse, and bus routes!

My second Open is at 119 Fir Street, Rillton Pa on January 15th from 11-1:00pm. This listing has two homes located on a private four acres!

My final Open House for January will be at 2000 Haflinger, North Huntingdon on January 29th. This is the home’s first Open House.The time will be 1-4:00!

Thank you for reading and let’s have a great New Years!