Home Safety: Best Places to Put Security Cameras

By Beth McGuire

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

If you’ve decided to put up security cameras for your home for the first time or are considering widening your safety net, knowing the proper way to place and angle your cameras is vital to keeping your home as safe as it can be. Not only can proper camera placement catch important details of possible crimes in your area, simply placing them properly can deter a crime from happening in the first place.

The most important factor in judging where to place a camera is simple: Your home is your home. You know what the layout is, you know where the most important rooms are, and you may be in the unfortunate position of knowing how someone entered your home without your permission in the past. Before you begin placing any equipment, consider some basic questions about your home’s surveillance needs. Some questions to consider include:

  • What parts of your home are you most concerned about?
  • If someone has broken into your home before, even before you owned it, where did that occur?
  • Are there any spots on my property that aren’t plainly visible to the street or my neighbors?
  • Do you need to keep any local camera placement laws in mind?

Though you may come to a variety of conclusions and potential diagrams for your home security systems, consider the usual entry points for potential burglars when casing a home. Knowing the most common routes of entry can take a large portion of the workload off of you simply by observing recorded statistics. With over 80 percent of burglars entering a home through the first floor, whether through door or window, it’s especially important to keep the entirety of your property’s entryways covered. At the same time, trying to cover low locales, such as your doors and windows, may leave cameras in easy reach of criminals, thus completely negating their usefulness.

If you find you have a lack of safe places to place a camera, consider looking into protective caging for your equipment to protect it from being knocked out of order while you aren’t looking. This is also a good time to contemplate what special tools you may need to complete your installation, so ensure you check your camera system to see its recommended outfitting requirements that might need special preparations.

While losing a camera can mean losing important evidence to help identify vandals or thieves, there are clever ways to keep yourself safe that might goad a criminal into making a misstep. Placing a dummy camera in obvious sight not only deters crime by showing you keep your home under tight watch; it also gives an easy target to a potential burglar that can distract them from hidden cameras that catch them in the act. As an added bonus, dummy cameras are far cheaper to replace than expensive professional models.

Most importantly, you must consider the features of each camera when placing it. Cameras cannot focus on multiple ranges and angles at once, so if you want to catch a trespasser’s facial features, mounting your camera up too high can blur distinctive features, but a raised camera may have a better time picking up a car’s license plate when placed overlooking your driveway.

In the end, even poorly-placed cameras will offer better home security than not having any at all, but there’s no reason to leave proper home security to chance. Knowing how to place your first line of defense can keep you safe before and after any crime, and knowledge is always your best weapon.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Nancy Wey
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5 Ways to Create an Energy-Efficient Home for Under $500

By Suzanne De Vita

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Summer is a time filled with good times and warm weather. Unfortunately, it’s also a time for many homeowners when energy costs skyrocket as they attempt to keep their homes cool and comfortable. Thankfully, there are many things that can be done to help keep homes cool while saving energy and money. These five tips will help make the most of energy-efficient home situations this summer, and all cost less than $500.

Find and Fix Air Leaks
According to Energy.gov, air leaks are responsible for as much as 20 percent of the energy used to heat and cool the home. Stopping air leaks around doors and windows through weatherstripping is a fast and inexpensive way to help lower energy bills year-round, while stopping drafts and making the home more comfortable.

How Much Does It Save?
It’s common to see a drop in energy bills of about 20 percent after sealing up air leaks. The average cost of this project is around $168, and it will pay for itself over time with lower energy bills.

Upgrade the Thermostat
Another way to lower energy bills is to invest in a programmable thermostat. Thermostats are responsible for controlling when the air conditioner goes on and off. However, many people forget to turn them off when they leave for the day, resulting in higher than necessary bills. A programmable version that can learn the habits of the residents in house will let the system use energy more efficiently, keeping bills down.

How Much Does It Save?
Programmable thermostats cost around $200-$250 to install, and can often save roughly $180 a year on heating and cooling costs. Over time, this will help pay for the upgrade.

Update Light Fixtures
If the house still has incandescent light bulbs in its fixtures, then it’s likely using much more energy than it needs to. Energy-efficient LED and CFL bulbs use just one-third to 1/30 of the energy that a traditional bulb does. These bulbs also work in any traditional light fixture, although it is possible to install new lights made just for these types of bulbs to save even more if desired.

How Much Does It Save?
CFL bulbs cost about $10-$12 while LED bulbs cost around $15-$25. While this may sound pricey, consider this: incandescent bulbs use about $15 worth of electricity a year per bulb, while LED and CFL use less than $5. Added up, this can be a tremendous savings over time.

Change the Air Filters
HVAC systems need to be clean and free of dust and dirt in order to work properly. For that reason, it has a filter installed at its intake to keep out contaminates. Over time, the filter will become clogged with dust, dirt and hair, causing the system to work harder to pull air through. Most filters should be changed once a season, but many people overlook this simple task, which in turn results in higher energy bills, and expensive HVAC and AC maintenance.

How Much Does It Save?
Replacement air filters typically cost around $15-$60. Choose from reusable filters that only need regular cleaning. Changing the filter every three months will save roughly 15 percent on energy bills.

Clean Air Vents
AC and HVAC units will also work harder if their air vents are dirty. The more debris and dirt inside the system, the harder it needs to work to pull air through, raising energy costs by as much as 5-15 percent over time, and causing the system to age faster, requiring more maintenance and repairs.

How Much Does It Save?
Having dirty vents cleaned costs between $300-$500; however, this can save up to 15 percent on your energy bills, and save on expensive HVAC repairs, as well.

Remember, most of the things done to lower energy bills this summer will be effective year-round, keeping energy bills down in the winter months as well and increasing the amount that is ultimately saved. The home will also be more comfortable, and current and future homeowners will be able to avoid unexpected maintenance and repair costs, in many cases.

To find out how much more can be saved, visit the Fixr Cost Guides.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Study: How Have Borrowers Made Out Since the December Rate Hike?

By Beth McGuire

Borrowers on the whole were able to accommodate the interest rate hike initiated by the Federal Reserve in December, with most successfully continuing to manage their monthly payments after the rate went up, according to a recent analysis by credit reporting agency TransUnion. Of the 63 million borrowers assessed in the analysis—borrowers whose monthly payments are affected by the market rate—just one million became delinquent three months following the rise.

Researchers followed borrowers’ payment behavior through March 2017 using TransUnion’s aggregate excess payment (AEP) algorithm, which takes into account credit card and mortgage payments, among others. Roughly 10.5 million of the borrowers evaluated were determined to be at a higher risk for failing to adapt to the rate rise. Their prediction ended up bearing out only for a fraction.

“We’re pleased to see that only 10 percent of those consumers we had considered at elevated risk of payment shock from a rate increase exhibited delinquency over the study period,” says Ezra Becker, senior vice president of Research and Consulting at TransUnion. “Most consumers appeared able to reallocate their available cash, or make small changes to their spending habits, to effectively absorb the December rate increase.”

Seventy percent of the one million borrowers who became delinquent also carried higher balances in March than they did prior to the hike.

“Minimum payments are as much a function of balances as they are of rate,” Becker says. “Increased balances can lead to liquidity constraints regardless of how rates move. Consumers should always be careful to manage their credit usage within the limits of their income.”

Source: TransUnion

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Japandi Style: Embracing Minimalist Beauty and Nature in Home Decor

By Susanne Dwyer

Japandi1

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

It’s been known that those who long for simplicity in living space look towards Japanese culture and design for inspiration, but there are also those who admire Scandinavian functionality above all. Seemingly opposite, these two trends somehow merged together and today we have a beautiful blend of over-exaggerated and strict design trends. Where functionality meets aesthetics, we welcome and embrace Japandi, a wonderful combination of strict Japanese minimalism and beautiful Scandinavian design.

Even though there are elements of Scandinavian extravagance and elegance, Japanese minimalism is predominant in Japandi style. Scandinavian trend prides itself with minimalism as well, but there are a lot more colors and details that draw attention than in traditional Japanese style. You should focus on using only the things that really matter in your home, and get rid of anything that creates unnecessary clutter. It’s about perfect balance and pastel color palettes, with statement accent walls, details and materials. You should turn to nature and find inspiration there—cotton, linen, wool, stone, wood, and plenty of greenery are the main characteristics of this style.

Image Credit: Grovemade via Unsplash

Beauty in Details
If you have a lot of decorative bits and pieces that create a lot of clutter in your home, you should change that. This doesn’t mean that your home should have bare walls and floors, but when you’re picking decorations, you need to do so with care. Popular, trendy patterned designs of rugs, curtains, throw pillows and tablecloths are not the right choice. If you need to add a little something to break the strict minimalism in colors, choose items with simpler, earthy tones and delicate patterns. If, however, your furniture is textured and decorated already, you should tone everything down with plain and elegant details.

Image Credit: kaboompics via Pixabay

Dreamy Living Room
Japandi is a great way to make your living room warm and textured, yet still quite simple. You should focus on your furniture and minimize use of any accessories. Think raw forms, bold lines and sleek, modern-style furniture—wooden sofas with cotton and linen throw pillows, bulky, heavy armchairs, and modern coffee tables. Pick which pieces you’d like to be more noticeable and unique—coffee tables, shelves or sofas, and have fun looking for them. Use natural materials for cushions, curtains and sofa covers and try to get matching ones. Bring in some plants in terracotta flower pots and there you have it—a perfect minimalist living room.

Japandi3

Image Credit: (Left) Dane Deaner via StockSnap; (Right) Sylwia Pietruszka via StockSnap

Perfect Bedroom
A wonderful way to create an oasis of peace and serenity in your bedroom is to decorate it in Japandi style, as the perfect blend of calming zen and Scandinavian cold gives the best decor. As a result, your bedroom will be cool and have a calming effect, a trait you’ll appreciate after a long and stressful day. You can keep your wooden statement bed, but tone down the other pieces in the room—wardrobe, chairs and nightstands. (On the other hand, a bulky wardrobe will look great when paired with a minimal, yet bold bed.) Cold pastels and warm wood are a great combo, and when you pair it with recessed lighting, you get the perfect bedroom.

Japandi4

Image Credit: (Left) Cheryl Winn-Boujnida via Unsplash; (Right) milivanily via Pixabay

Paradise Bathroom
The bathroom is a place where you should feel at peace, so it’s important to focus on design and decor, too. A simple and effective way to achieve harmony in your bathroom is to look to nature for inspiration once again. Wood and stone are perfect, since they look rustic and sophisticated at the same time. If getting wood is too complicated and costly, faux wood panels combined with a large statement wooden mirror work wonderfully with stone basins and bathtubs, or even simple stone or wood vinyl wallpapers. Bring a couple of pots with plants and a nice moss mat and it will look just right.

Japandi5

Image Credit: quinntheislander via Pixabay

Bring Japandi to Your Home
Embracing minimalism means that your old furniture should be replaced with something sleek, elegant and functional, and you’ll need to be clearing out all unnecessary clutter in order to get more space. If you were hoping to follow the trend but not really throw your furniture away, you can always get a storage unit and move it there until you need it again. You won’t have to spend a fortune to do so, since there are many affordable lock-up storage solutions.

For some, Japandi is a way of life. Not only is this design easy to achieve, but its subtle decor statements, raw forms and beautifully balanced mixtures of natural wood and bold colors allow you to create clutter-free spaces. Japandi is a wonderful way to turn your home into your own personal paradise.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Reduce Your Stress as a Landlord With These 5 Tips

By Suzanne De Vita

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

When you become a landlord, stress levels can get very high. There may be tenants who vandalize property, are habitually late with the rent, or just disappear without notice. In general, though, the good tenants outnumber the bad ones, and you’ll able to manage your property profitably. You can cut your stress by finding ways to reduce or eliminate issues. Here are some tips for making your property management experiences go smoothly.

1. Use the Internet to Collect Rent
Collecting rent from difficult tenants is one of the most stressful aspects of the business. Automating the process can make this much easier. Whether you buy an online solution pre-made or hire a developer to create it, set up a payment system that accepts credit or debit cards, or even automatic bank transfers. You can use any one of the digital payment processing services online.

This is more convenient for both you and your tenants, and provides a transaction history for bookkeeping purposes. Your solution should also have reporting features so you can see at a glance what’s happening.

2. Outsource Maintenance
Anything beyond a few units can be a headache in maintenance, including painting and cleaning up after sloppy tenants. Hiring a crew to take care of this involves all the problems of recruiting and training employees, managing payroll and benefits, and other concerns. Hiring even a minimum-wage employee can cost you over $9,000 before they’re up to speed.

If you don’t want those additional stresses and don’t really need full-time help, outsource these routine maintenance tasks to another company. It may cost a little more than doing it yourself, but you’ll have more free time and less anxiety.

3. Keep an Emergency Fund
Whether you opt for employees or contractors or want to do it all yourself, you’re still going to pay for repairs and upkeep. Some routine maintenance you can budget for, but events such as careless tenants, storms, litigation, or burst pipes are something else. If your insurance policy won’t cover it, or units are not inhabitable, you’re losing money. It’s best to set aside what you can from the very beginning so that one major setback doesn’t cripple your cash flow.

4. Find a Property Manager
You could also pass on your landlord troubles to someone else by hiring a reputable property management company or professional. Those with special training and significant experience may be more suited to handling maintenance, budgets, and bad tenants than you are. They will definitely cost you, but they’ll eliminate all the difficulties of being a landlord while you sit back and take the profits.

5. Screen Your Tenants
Better tenants means fewer missed rent payments, less property damage, and longer tenant retention. Getting good tenants requires screening each applicant to weed out those who may represent a high risk. Screening requires verifying employment, conducting background checks, checking credit scores, calling references, and anything else you consider a good indicator.

You have to careful in how you turn prospective renters down to avoid discrimination charges. Make it clear to them why they were rejected. You also don’t want to be too fussy. If you reject one applicant after another you’ll wind up missing out on rent. No tenant at all for months on end is going to cost you more than a bad tenant. Tenant screening is another time-consuming task that you could delegate to a professional service to manage for you.

Being a landlord can be profitable and rewarding if you are thoughtful in spending your time and money.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of RISMedia.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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4 Steps to Take After Your Home Has Been Burglarized

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

What would you do if you came home and found your house was broken into and your property stolen? For millions of Americans every year, this nightmare is a reality. In 2010, there were 2,159,878 burglaries in the U.S., equivalent to nearly 700 break-ins per 100,000 people, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Most victims in this situation find themselves totally unprepared and at a loss for what to do. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to regain control of the situation, improve the odds of recovering your property, and prevent your home from being broken into again.

Call the Police
Call the police when you spot the first sign of a break-in. The intruder may still be on your property and pose a threat to your safety. Seven percent of all home burglaries involve violence against household members, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

You also need to call the police to get your case on file for insurance and legal purposes. A police report and investigation increases the strength of your insurance claim, as well as your odds of retrieving your property. The police also need to record crime scene evidence which can help convict suspects if they are caught. Don’t touch anything before the police arrive so that you don’t accidentally destroy evidence, such as fingerprints.

When the police arrive, they will want you to file a report. Take pictures to document what was stolen, and provide the police with a list of everything that was taken and its approximate value. As a preventive measure, it’s wise to take an inventory of valuable items ahead of time in case you are ever robbed.

Call Your Insurance Company
You should also copy your list of stolen items for your insurance provider. To maximize your odds of receiving reimbursement for stolen items, contact your insurance provider within 24 hours. They will need your police report to process your claim, so make sure you have already filed a police report before calling. Your insurance provider will probably send an adjuster to review the crime scene, so in order to avoid disrupting the evidence, you may wish to stay somewhere else until they arrive, if possible.

Review Your Security Camera Footage
If you have security cameras installed on your property, you should review them to see if there is any additional evidence. If you’re fortunate, you may have captured footage of the burglar breaking in, walking through rooms, or rummaging through items. You may also notice more clues or additional information about which items were stolen. Provide copies of any relevant footage to the police and to your insurance provider.

Evaluate Your Home Security
After the police and your insurance adjuster have finished reviewing the crime scene, you can begin cleaning up. You should also conduct a review of your home’s security with an eye towards preventing future burglaries. Once burglars have successfully broken into a home, they often return in the future, so it’s important to make sure you secure any vulnerabilities that enabled the initial break-in. The National Crime Prevention Council provides a home security checklist you can use to review your home security and identify any vulnerabilities that need to be fixed.

Having your home broken into is a traumatic and disturbing experience, but taking these steps can help you recover and restore your life to order as quickly as possible. Filing a report with the police, calling your insurance company, and reviewing your security footage will maximize your chances of getting your property returned and bringing those responsible to justice. Reviewing your home security can help prevent future burglaries and restore your peace of mind.

Roy Rasmussen, co-author of “Publishing for Publicity,” is a freelance copywriter.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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Home Price Change Expectations Flat

By Susanne Dwyer

Many homeowners have enjoyed a return to positive equity in recent years, with home prices on a consistent upward trend in most markets. How high will values go?

Potentially not much further, according to consumers in the June 2017 Survey of Consumer Expectations by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who held firm on their expectation of a 3.5 percent change in prices—the same expectation given in May.

Consumers, in addition, anticipate the median inflation rate to be 2.5 percent in one year and 2.8 percent in three years. The likelihood of finding a job, based on their perceptions, grew to 59.2 percent in June, and the likelihood of losing a job shrunk to 13.5 percent. The share of consumers surveyed with improved finances over the last year soared to 34.8 percent—a record.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Real Estate Reigns as Americans’ Preferred Investment

By Susanne Dwyer

Real estate is the long-term investment of choice for Americans, who in a recent survey by Bankrate.com placed it ahead of bonds, cash, gold and stocks as the best method of building wealth over time. Real estate is now the chosen vehicle for the third consecutive time in the survey:

  • Real Estate (28 percent)
  • Cash (23 percent)
  • Stocks (17 percent)
  • Gold/Other Precious Metals (15 percent)
  • Bonds (4 percent)

Stocks have never been highly favored in the survey, despite their tendency to produce significant returns for investors who have a wide enough window to weather swings.

“We’ve begun to see rising yields on savings accounts,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. “However, the preferences for cash and real estate indicate that too many people are leaving money on the virtual table by failing to be sufficiently exposed to the stock market, where higher long-term returns are found. This is especially the case for younger investors, who are in the best position to weather the inevitable short-term market volatility.”

Source: Bankrate.com

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Water Woes: Tips for Reacting Quickly to Summer Flooding

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Living in areas prone to summer flooding means you must take quick action if and when flooding occurs. Why? Because all that moisture can ruin your home and your belongings. While awaiting a call back from your insurance company and maybe a visit from a professional mold mitigation company, you can get started cleaning up.

Water and summer heat are breeding grounds for mold that can grow in any areas left damp after a flood. So, it’s important to follow a few tips to help ensure your home does not become a petri dish.

Think Safety Always
You should begin cleaning up and drying out your home right away, but don’t let this urgency mean you skimp on safety. Remember, flooding means there could be mold or other bacteria growing in and on items in the home. Keep your children and pets out of the house during the cleanup process to avoid making them sick.

If your HVAC ducts got water in them, do not turn them on until you can have them inspected. They’ll need to be cleaned to remove bacteria from floodwater. Before entering your home, make sure your electricity isn’t on if you believe electrical wiring was affected by water. You should not enter the home until you’re sure there is no risk of electrocution.

You must wear a mask, gloves and some good water-resistant footwear to keep yourself and anyone working with you safe. Depending on the extent of the flooding, you may want to wear hip- or waist-high boots or waders. Don’t touch any items in the home without wearing gloves, and throw out any food that has come into contact with floodwater.

Drying Out the Home
Do you know mold can start growing in as little as 24 hours? It’s important to get in there and launch the drying process. This includes opening doors and windows to let air in and using a wet/dry vacuum to begin sucking water from carpets.

You should also invest in the equipment needed to help dry out the home. Carpeting is hard to dry out and is often an area where mold can grow quickly. Investing in a portable fan that is stackable, lightweight, and easily portable can make drying out a carpet a little quicker and easier, especially if you live in a coastal area that floods often. The key is to get air flowing through the home in order to dry out wet basements, too. You can also place fans around the house to help circulate air.

Get Damaged Items Out
Depending on the amount of water in the home, you may have water damage in the basement—but sometimes the water rises into the first floor of the house, as well. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to throw out water-soaked belongings. This includes many items in your home, such as:

  • Carpeting and padding
  • Pillows and mattresses
  • Baby toys
  • Stuffed animals
  • Books and other paper products
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Rugs
  • Cosmetics
  • Wall coverings
  • Food items
  • Anything made of foam rubber
  • Insulation and drywall

You can usually salvage clothes — but wash them in hot water—and upholstered furniture may be salvageable if it can be professionally cleaned. Wood furniture may be saved if you quickly take it outside and remove any drawers or shelves to allow it dry out. However, keep in mind that wood does soak up water and can become moldy and unsalvageable.

Always take photos of items damaged by floodwaters for insurance purposes. To decide what to keep and what to save, consider the monetary and sentimental value. If it’s valuable to you, check with mold mitigation specialists to determine if you can properly clean the item.

Disinfect the Home
Once the home is drying out and you’ve removed all the damaged items, you can begin the disinfection process. Clean walls and floors using disinfectant cleaner and warm water. You can also use a solution of one cup of bleach mixed with five gallons of water.

Go over these areas more than once to make sure you’ve removed any bacteria and germs that may have come in with the floodwater. Sometimes floodwaters are contaminated with sewage that can make your family sick.

Prevent Future Damage
Once you’ve been through a flood, you may want to consider what steps you can take to reduce the damage next time, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.

Store your belongings up high. Instead of storing items in your basement, place them in the attic. At the very least, move them up off the floor and keep items in plastic storage bins.

Get rid of any items you no longer use. The less clutter you have, the less you’ll have to clean up should your home flood again.

While there’s not much you can do to stop acts of nature, you can jump in right away and begin cleanup to make your home safe, clean and livable as soon as possible. Have a plan in place and invest in any equipment you might need so it’s on hand and ready to clean up your waterlogged home.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893