5 Secrets for Getting the Best Last-Minute Travel Deals

By Susanne Dwyer

Summer is slipping away, and if you’re feeling the heat but think you’ve missed the boat on vacationing, the consumer editors at Reader’s Digest say it’s not too late to find a bargain.

Granted, the best deals on air travel and some vacation packages are offered months in advance. But Digest editors wrested a few cool tips from Toronto-based travel agent Brian Simpson on getting the best deals on last-minute travel:

Don’t confuse “last-minute” with “short notice.” Last-minute travel is generally accepted to mean short-notice travel, taking place within about 14 days from when you booked. However, short-notice travel means you show up at the airport and buy your ticket, as in many a rom-com movie. This method will cost you an arm and a leg, but savings of 30 to 50 percent are fairly easy to find if you can book two weeks before you pack.

Airfare deals need the most sleuthing. The best last-minute deals are often found in package deals, which include the airfare. Last-minute deals on airfare alone are rare, although tour operators needing to fill a charter flight will sometimes offer really low prices, so that’s the place to start looking if you’re looking for late-date airfare.

Mid-week travel is best. Traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday can save you big bucks no matter how far ahead you book. For last-minute travel, it’s crucial, so plan a Wednesday to Wednesday vacation if you can.

Be savvy about last-minute hotel deals. The best path for late-date hotel deals may be with Priceline, where you can name your price. Hotels like it because it helps them to fill empty rooms. But you won’t know which hotel has “won” your business until you’ve accepted the deal, so it may not be the best choice if you are really choosy.

Last-minute travel is best for adventurers. You’ll find the best deals if you are willing to take a bit of potluck about destination. The search may be less successful if you’re stuck on one place and have no flexibility on vacation dates.

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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

What Are the Worst Invasive Plants—and How Can You Stop Them?

By Susanne Dwyer

Invasive plants can ruin a perfectly functioning ecosystem, creating issues for years and potentially changing landscapes forever.

The key to controlling invasives is to be sure they don’t get where they don’t belong, according to The Nature Conservancy (nature.org).

The environmental nonprofit says that the best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Every consumer can play a role in stopping the introduction and spread of invasive species.

The Conservancy says everyone can help protect native plants and animals by following these six easy guidelines:

  • Verify that the plants you’re buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves. Don’t move firewood (it can harbor forest pests), clean your bags and boots after each hike, and throw out food before you travel from place to place.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research and plan ahead to make sure you can commit to looking after it.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.

So what are some of the most invasive species? The Smithsonian says purple loosestrife is one of America’s most pervasive invasives. Purple loosestrife can become dominant in wetlands, producing as many as two million wind-dispersed seeds annually with underground stems growing at a rate of one foot per year.

Japanese honeysuckle is another aggressive vine prolific throughout much of the East Coast that smothers, shades and girdles other competing vegetation, the Smithsonian says.

In the Southeast, kudzu grows at a rate of up to one foot a day and 60 feet annually, smothering plants and killing trees by adding immense weight, girdling or toppling them.

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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

Partnering IRA Funds: An Alternative Way to Fund Your Real Estate Investment

By Susanne Dwyer

Did you know you can partner with other funding sources to increase your investment potential? Self-directed IRAs are the only retirement arrangements that allow individual investors the freedom to pursue alternative investments, such as real estate. Investing in real estate with a self-directed IRA offers many benefits to those who are looking for creative ways to save for the future. Investors have complete control over their investment choices. Unlike other IRAs, you’re not limited to stock, bonds or mutual funds. Self-directed IRAs provide the opportunity to save money for the future on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis. In addition, an IRA is considered a separate entity that can conduct business with others. This is a common strategy used in real estate investments. The process is fairly simple, but be sure to adhere to IRA regulations to avoid engaging in any prohibited transactions.

How do I partner with others to purchase real estate using a self-directed IRA?

  1. Identify the partner you would like to invest with.
  2. Perform your due diligence and confirm that the investment fits your strategy.
  3. Combine your self-directed IRA fund with other funds to purchase the property.
  4. Your IRA will own a percentage of the property and must be stated on the title when the transaction is recorded.
  5. All income and expenses (on a proportionate basis) from the property flow in and out of your IRA and not your personal finances.
  6. If the property is sold, your IRA receives the portion of the proceeds proportionate to the percentage of ownership.

A self-directed IRA can partner with anyone at the time of initial purchase, but after the transaction is complete, the IRA cannot conduct any business with a disqualified person. Doing this could lead to significant tax penalties.

The following people are considered disqualified persons:

  • You
  • Your spouse
  • Your lineal ascendants and descendants, and their spouses
  • Any person providing plan-related services (custodians, advisors, fiduciaries, administrators)
  • Any entity (business, corporation, partnership) of which you own at least 50 percent, whether directly or indirectly

What are the ways in which I can take advantage of the partnering strategy to help me save for retirement?

  1. Partner With Another Investor
    Investors are on the lookout for new opportunities, and networking with like-minded individuals can be a great way to find an investment partner. Partnering with a fellow investor offers the potential to learn from each other, as well as disperse risk between two people.
  1. Partner With a Relative
    While you are not allowed to buy from/sell to relatives, as they are considered disqualified persons for these purposes, you do have the option of partnering with them to purchase a new investment. This can be a great way to save for retirement together with a loved one.
  1. Partner With Yourself
    It is possible to partner your self-directed IRA funds with your personal savings for the purchase of a new asset, such as a real estate property.
  1. Partner With Another Self-Directed IRA
    Partner your account funds with the funds in another IRA to maximize your purchasing power. Find another motivated retirement investor to explore your possibilities.
  1. Partner With a Group
    Sometimes partnering with one account, one investor or only yourself will not provide enough funding for the investment you are interested in. In this case, you can partner with a group! Partnering can be a great tool for retirement investing, but it is important that you understand how to utilize this strategy for success.

It’s Easy to Get Started
All you have to do to get started is open an account and fund it. There are three ways to fund your self-directed IRA: transfer or rollover an existing retirement account, such as an employer’s 401(k), into a self-directed IRA; or make regular, annual contributions to your account. Once your account has cash in it, you can start investing immediately! As you read in this article, you can partner with other investors until you have enough cash to invest in real estate on your own. Download our free report about partnering your self-directed IRA with real estate here to learn more.

Disclaimer: Before you invest in this business sector using your IRA, it is best to consult with your investment, legal and tax advisor. Entrust does not endorse or recommend any of these investments. Proper due diligence by you, the IRA holder, is recommended before entering into any transaction.

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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

Why You Really Don’t Have Enough Time

By Susanne Dwyer

Murphy_Terri_2018_60x60

You may have decided to get into real estate so you could be your own boss, set up your own working hours and make a lot of money.

So, how’s that working for you?

The challenge with entrepreneurship is being laser-focused on dollar-productive activities. When you first get into the business, you need to learn the skills, implement systems, install new programs, deploy various platforms, study scripts, market and process transactions. That’s a full-time job, and you haven’t even begun to work with buyers and sellers.

But here’s where most agents fail: They get too busy working in the business and fail to work on their business.

By nature, our business is radically unpredictable. Buyers decide to buy, and sellers decide to sell on their own timetable—and we want to be there at that magic moment—but the intensity of showing buyers, servicing sellers and maintaining prospecting can be daunting unless you develop a plan to keep all the plates spinning and the income funnel full.

The plan is simple—but getting an agent to do it is the hard part.

No matter what’s happening, only you have the power to block your day. This begins with blocking out dollar-productive activities by using a My Perfect Week Planner.*

The system visually helps you lay out a perfect week so that you’re able to establish a rhythm of daily habits that result in regular, consistent income. Think of blocking your time using a traffic light as an example:

  • Red is for non-negotiable time. These hours are reserved for your personal “big rocks” like sleep, family time, etc.
  • Yellow is used to time-block a daily prospecting hour. I can imagine you rolling your eyes right about now, but prospecting is the key to getting paid regularly. Pretend that this is sacred time, even if it’s 15-30-minute increments five days a week, and stick to it. Whether you’re prospect-phobic or simply believe prospecting is limited to cold calls, think conversation, not solicitation. Rotate through your sphere of influence with scheduled calls to update contact information and to share a save-the-date for your future client appreciation party. These approaches are easy and friendly.
  • Green is the easiest time to block on your weekly calendar. These are appointments that are related to earning or receiving money, and are usually the most fun. Block in green the hours you’ve earmarked for closings, listing appointments or working with buyers.

The goal is to increase the green in your weekly calendar. You wouldn’t want to miss a closing, so why not block out a small increment of time to talk to more people in order to make more sales so you have more green in your week?

Sit down at the beginning of each week to plan. Real estate has plenty of opportunity for busy work that will rob you of energy and income, so take control of your week before the chaos hits so that you can do those activities that serve and pay you first. It’s also a good idea to get a good coach to help you learn new habits to plan for success, and hire out the administrative work so that you can focus on being the CEO, building your business every day, one day at a time.

*For a complimentary copy of My Perfect/Productive Week Scheduler, visit http://bit.ly/2raO1Dj

Terri Murphy is a communication engagement specialist, author, speaker and coach. She is the author/co-author of five books, and founder of MurphyOnRealEstate.com. Contact her at TerriMurphy.com or Terri@TerriMurphy.com.

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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

Bring Calm to the Chaos in Your Business

By Susanne Dwyer

As the selling season continues to pick up, many agents find themselves busy and struggling to fit everything into their days. Although they’re grateful for the business, they worry that other important people and tasks are falling through the cracks. As a result, they may work long days in an effort to squeeze it all in and boost productivity, only to find themselves tired, frustrated and less productive. Here are some best practices for bringing calm to the chaos in your business…

  1. Prioritize
    When you have your priorities in place, you know where to spend your time. What are your priorities? On the business side, it could be to expand your database 25 percent or to surpass last year’s sales figures.

On the personal side, your priorities may be your children’s sports games or plays, a weekly lunch date with your spouse, a weekly morning meeting with a community group, or volunteering with a favorite organization. Your priorities are the things you don’t want to miss, no matter what. Pencil these in to your schedule before anything else.

  1. Organize
    Once your priorities are set, you can then organize everything else. Breaking the process into these four segments will allow you to regularly review your schedule so that you’re focusing on the things that are most important to you instead of becoming bogged down by less important tasks. This will help you become more productive, serve your clients better and honor your priorities.
  • Your year: Throughout the year, take out your calendar and pencil in your priorities—a family vacation, a long weekend, your children’s activities, industry workshops, client parties and other important days. Although nothing needs to be set in stone, including these things in your calendar will help you plan the rest of your year and ensure they don’t get overlooked.
  • Your month: Each month, review the priorities you’ve already accounted for on your annual calendar and add in other important activities that have come up since, such as workshops and seminars, holidays perfect for getting social with clients, etc.
  • Your week: At the beginning of the week, review what you have scheduled and include any important meetings, client lunches, etc.
  • Your day: In addition to making time for lead generation and your personal and business priorities, fill in the rest of your day accordingly. If you find yourself putting out a lot of fires, make time at the end of the day to handle all the unexpected challenges that arose during the day.
  1. Systemize
    A system will help you commit to both your priorities and your newly organized schedule. It provides a framework to follow so that you never have to wonder what you need to do each day to optimize your business. Over time, you’ll build the successful habits that are sure to cause your business to thrive. Remember to rely on a good CRM to help ensure you stick to the system and track your progress toward your goals.

Along the way, a is a valuable person to have in your corner as you try to calm the chaos. A good coach will provide an objective perspective on your business each step of the way; from helping you define your priorities to helping you organize your week. Additionally, they can help you pinpoint the aspects of your system that may prove the most beneficial to your business and help you achieve your goals within your desired timeframe. In short, a coach will help you reach your potential, optimize your productivity and build a thriving, successful business.

For more information, visit buffiniandcompany.com.

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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

Ask the Coach: Show Your Agents How to Turn Open House Leads Into High-Volume Pipelines and Future Sales

By Susanne Dwyer

Johnson_Sherri_60x60

It is officially open house season and truly the best opportunity for your agents to fill their pipeline of listing and buyer leads that, when effectively converted can turn into big profits within the next 90 days. Sunday is notoriously known as “real estate day” in every city in the country. Look at the open house as the best, free lead-generating system to be in front of potential buyers and sellers to create new business.

Use these 5 strategies to help coach and train your agents on how to maximize open houses right now to create listings and sales in the next three months:

  1. Pick the right house to hold open that will have a move-up buyer who also has a house to list. This way, you are getting two sales out of each client. Don’t sit first-time buyer open houses if you want to pick up listings. Also pick the price point that is in the highest demand—that’s where all the buyers will show up every week and create more leads.
  1. Prepare the open house in advance. If you prepare well for an open house you can drive more traffic to it. Post it up to three weeks in advance online to create urgency and showings before the open house. Invite the neighbors with a phone call and a post card. Run a boosted Facebook ad to target buyers to attend your open house.
  1. Offer value during the open house. The agent who provides the most value, gets hired, plain and simple. Offer a homebuyer guide or packet of information branded to you. Include information about mortgages, home inspections and steps in the buying process. Also add value in what you say to help convert the lead.
  1. Focus on getting appointments during the open house. You have a 90 percent greater chance of getting a yes to an appointment if you ask right then. Add value by offering to assist them before they put the house on the market. Letting prospects know you can save them time and money is one of my favorite value adds. Remember you’re just starting the relationship; you’re not going to go over their house to list it. You are cementing the relationship.
  1. Watch my webinar, “How to Make $50K at Your Next Open House.” This webinar makes for your next in-office lunch and learn or special training session to share proven strategies with new or experienced agents. My entire strategy shows agents how to properly prepare, plan and execute the most 2-3 profitable hours of their week. Email yourock@sherrijohnson.com to receive a FREE link of this priceless webinar. Your agents will have immediate results and approach open houses with a new mindset to convert more leads into listings and sales in the next 6-12 months.

Sherri Johnson is a national leader offering world-class real estate keynotes, consulting and coaching while delivering accelerated results. No other coach matches her distinguished 20 years of experience as a top agent and executive of a Top 3 National brokerage. She has recruited, trained and coached thousands of agents, and was responsible for leading over 700 real estate agents and over $1.6 billion in annual sales volume. Johnson’s relevant, real-life and proven strategies, coupled with her high energy, produce immediate results and can triple your income regardless of your current production. Johnson is the national speaker for Homes.com for its Secrets of Top Selling Agents national tour. Contact coaching@sherrijohnson.com or 844-989-2600 (toll-free) or visit www.sherrijohnson.com.

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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

How to Avoid Problems With Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

By Susanne Dwyer

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau’s Howard Schwartz, who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check bbb.org to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a “today only” special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule, and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

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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

Planning Your Spring ‘To Do’ List? Don’t Forget to Go Outside!

By Susanne Dwyer

I know it’s warm and cozy doing your spring cleaning inside, but remember that spring cleaning plans should include a thorough walk around outside, as well.

The Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC (MMA) in Minneapolis tells homeowners that an early inspection and maintenance of their property is extremely important to prevent risk. To assist in that, MMA has compiled a checklist of things to inspect each year:

Review the roof. The company suggests starting by inspecting your roof for broken or missing shingles and interior rafters for water stains. Most water stains will be found around or below an inadequately flashed chimney, skylight and other openings.

Gut the gutters. MMA says gutters are able to perform when kept clean, so remove dirt and debris from all gutters and downspouts.

Look at lights. Lighting maintenance includes inspecting street lights, outdoor light fixtures, and indoor common-area lighting to promote safety and security. Make sure lights are clean and void of any dust, dirt or salt, which can result in lost energy and money. If lights are burnt out, think about replacing them with high efficiency CFL or LED bulbs.

Don’t miss the deck. When inspecting a deck or porch, look for peeling, splintering or rotting boards, and whether the wood is unprotected. If left unprotected, wood will soak up moisture and could lead to very serious damage. If a deck or porch needs to be resealed, clean it first with soap and water to clear off any mildew or mold, then after it is clean and dry, apply sealant, stain or paint.

Take care of trees. Remove dead wood and broken branches from trees or bushes. Replant shrubs, bushes and/or flowers that have worked their way out of the soil, and rake the ground.

Freshen with fertilizer. If necessary, add new soil, mulch and/or sod and lay fertilizer. Then, plant any new seeds or plants and implement a watering schedule.

Patch potholes. Finally, MMA says spring is a great time to repair cracks and potholes. First, determine the source of the issue so you can address and fix the root of the problem. It is always best to make these repairs as quickly as possible to prevent any type of hazardous conditions.

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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

How to Catch the Lowest Possible Airfares

By Susanne Dwyer

(TNS)—Let’s get one thing clear from the start. Airfares are volatile. While it’s true that flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is cheaper than on a Friday or Sunday, there is no magic time of day, day of week or month of year to book a low airfare. Airfares can change in a heartbeat, high one minute and low the next, and the trick is to buy when a fare on your route becomes a bargain.

Fare Drop Alerts
First, sign up for airfare price drop alerts. Many websites now offer these at no charge, sending out lists of unusually cheap fares (some of them “fat finger” mistake fares), that while valid for travel over several months, usually expire quickly. Take a look at theflightdeal.com, hitlistapp.com, secretflying.com, exitfares.com and Fly4free.com. They often have the same deals, but I suggest signing up for all of them and to follow them on Twitter if you use it. Other sites, such as Kayak.com, Yapta.com and GoogleFlights.com, will track fares on specific flights and dates and alert you to price drops. When you see a great deal, buy it (you can always change your mind and cancel within 24 hours, per U.S. DOT regulations).

Here’s What I Use
My go-to sites when I arrange personal travel are Kayak.com (I love using its flexible month and flexible weekend options) and two Google offerings: Google.com/flights/explore and Google.com/flights. The “explore” site allows you to choose a trip length, departure city and an arrival city or region (such as “United States,” “Europe” or “Boston”) and then displays a selection of the lowest fares available over the next few months. It’s perfect for anyone with flexible travel dates and destinations. The “flights” site asks you to choose origin city and destination along with specific travel dates so it’s more geared to those with less flexibility; however, none of these sites include Southwest Airlines, so you also need to compare at Southwest.com. If you’re date-flexible, use Southwest’s low-fare calendar option.

Don’t Forget Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
It may be cheaper to fly out on one airline and back on another using one-way fares, and OTAs such as Expedia and Priceline are a good place to find out. They also sell air plus hotel packages that usually cost less than buying separately and they sometimes have fares that are much lower than the same flights and dates sold directly by the airline sites (I recently saw fares on Priceline to South Africa on Dutch airline KLM that were hundreds less than if bought on KLM.com and fares on Delta to Italy that were much cheaper on Expedia than on Delta.com).

Make Sure the Site Covers Delta
Speaking of Delta, that airline restricts where its airfare data appear on some popular third-party sites such as Hopper, Hipmunk, TripAdvisor and FareCompare.com, so beware. JetBlue recently removed its fare data from several “meta search” sites as well.

Choose ‘Basic Economy’ Fares With Care
Copying ultra-low-cost airlines such as Spirit and Frontier, now Delta, American and United also sell bare-bones economy class fares. On domestic routes, they typically cost $40-$60 (round trip) less than regular economy, although the savings can be greater to international destinations. Buy one of these fares and, except on Delta, you’ll pay even for a carry-on bag, unless it’s small enough to fit under the seat in front of you; you won’t be able to choose a specific seat before check-in (which means you’ll end up in a dreaded middle seat); and your fare will be entirely non-refundable and non-changeable. Although I’d never buy one of these airfares, my millennial friends, who apparently travel with just a change of clothes and a toothbrush stuffed into a backpack that slides under the seat, tell me that they’re worth the inconvenience.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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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

Spring: Time to Rev Your ‘High-Performing’ Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Did you know that just three basic home improvements—updating insulation, maintaining heating systems, and checking for proper ventilation and air-sealing—can transform your humble abode into a “high-performing,” clean, efficient and healthy home?

Experts at the utility company Eversource developed these three tips homeowners and renters can follow to make your home is high-performing:

1. Make sure your home is air-tight with proper insulation.
Don’t let frosty air into your home. Sealing cracks and gaps in walls, attics and crawl spaces, as well as around wires, pipes, windows and door frames, will help keep the warm inside air from escaping. Don’t forget about properly insulating those same walls, attics, and crawl spaces, and around your ducts, too.

2. Keep on top of home energy maintenance.
Be sure you have your heating and cooling system serviced annually by a qualified professional. Clean or change air filters every three months, or more often if you smoke or have pets. Consider upgrading to a smart Wi-Fi thermostat, which automatically adjusts the temperature and cuts down on energy usage when you’re not home.

3. Go for top-quality indoor climate and air.
Enjoying clean air and a comfortable climate in your home begins with proper ventilation and air-sealing, which not only keeps pollen and dust at bay, but also moderates humidity levels and temperature swings. Proper ventilation and air flow also reduces the chance for mold growth, whether it’s from leaky ducts or condensation in your attic and crawl spaces.

According to the U.S. EPA, there are many home pollutants that can accumulate in a poorly ventilated home, and can cause health problems such as sore eyes, burning in the nose and throat, headaches or fatigue. Other pollutants cause or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses (such as asthma), heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions.

Learn more about household pollutants that may be compromising the air you breathe at www.epa.gov.

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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