An important thing about your new home that your real estate agent is forbidden to tell you

“What’s the crime rate in this area?”

It’s a common question and we understand completely why homebuyers want the answer. Unfortunately, real estate professionals are forbidden from answering it.

So, when your question is met with silence, or you’re directed to the local police station or a website or two, please don’t think we’re brushing you off.

The Fair Housing Act

Passed into law in the late 1960s, the Fair Housing Act’s aim was to end housing discrimination. In our case, it prevents us from answering certain questions because our answers may be construed as “steering.”

Steering is when a real estate agent tries to discourage a client from buying a home in a certain area. Even if we don’t intend to steer you, crime statistics, racial demographics and even which churches are in the area are topics that are off-limits to us.

The law applies to listing agents as well. For instance, advertising a home as “within walking distance,” could be a violation of the law in that it appears we are discriminating against the handicapped.

Agents get around this by saying that a home is “within close proximity to” or “near” an amenity.

Back to safe neighborhoods

There are several ways to check crime statistics or the general safety of a community.

Crime mapping services

Crime mapping services collect data from police. In addition to gathering data from the local sheriff and police departments, some, such as crimereports.com, enlist the help of homeowners with security cameras, allowing them to register their cameras with the site.

My local police department uses crimemapping.com to get the word out. Other sites to visit include spotcrime.com and mylocalcrime.com.

City review sites

Other sites, such as areavibes.com, encourage residents to give a general overview of their cities and these reviews will often contain community-level crime information.

Neighborhoodscout.com’s Crime Risk Reports “provide an instant, objective assessment of property and violent crime risks and rates for every U.S. address and neighborhood,” according to its website. They also offer lots of informative lists, such as Murder Capitals of America, Most Dangerous Cities, Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, Safest Cities in America and more.

Social networks

NextDoor.com is growing in popularity, which please us to no end. NextDoor is a social network at the neighborhood level. It’s neighbors talking to other neighbors, sharing information on local service people, lost and found pets and, yes, crime.

You’ll get a deeper insight into a particular neighborhood here than you will on a national site.

Nextdoor is a private platform so ask your agent if he or she knows anyone who lives in the neighborhood who may be a member. Perhaps the home seller is and you can log in with his credentials.

Sex offender databases

Familywatchdog.us is probably the most popular database of the nation’s sexual predators. The site also offers a list of state registries, facts and statistics and safety tips.

The U.S. Department of Justice offers the National Sex Offender Public Website with a “regularly updated database that allows you to enter an address and map sex offenders nearby.”

Talk to the neighbors

Nobody is more in touch with local crime than residents of the community. Drive the neighborhood at different times of the day and when you see neighbors outside, stop and chat with them.

Not only will you most likely get information on how safe the neighborhood is but you may learn other valuable things about it as well. So, open your ears and soak up the gossip.

Back-to-School: Are you Ready?

Back to pencils, back to books . . . we are getting closer to the day our students head back to class.

This means it’s time to start gearing up for the fall routine ― the back-to-school shopping for clothes and school supplies, getting used to a new sleeping schedule and trying to get a handle on those transportation issues.

Thankfully, we have some tips for you to help make the transition a bit easier.

Ease everyone into the fall routine

Think back to those first days of summer vacation. If you have teenagers, especially, you know that they went from waking to an alarm at the crack of dawn (at least to them) to snoozing half the day away without missing a beat.

Yanking them into the reality of fall isn’t easy. Ease them into it instead by starting the new schedule a week or two before school starts.

Set the alarm clock for the time they’ll need to rise to get to school on time and put them through the paces of a normal school morning with breakfast, making lunches and whatever else your family does to get ready for school in the morning.

Be extra attentive to the Kindergartener

I vividly recall my first day of Kindergarten. I remember feeling apprehensive, yet a little excited.

My father walked me to my classroom and then left. I followed him, screaming at the top of my lungs to him, begging him to not leave me there. I even recall reaching my pathetic little arms through a gate, coaxing him to come back for me.

For some kids, the very first day of school can be traumatic.

Easing them into what will become years of routine is important. A lot of their anxiety centers on the teacher and fellow students. So, meet this angst head-on by attending your school’s back-to-school night.

This way, your child can meet the teacher before classes start. And, there’s a good chance he or she will meet fellow students as well. When next they meet, during school hours, they’ll have a bit of recognition of one another, making it easier to break the ice.

Shopping Tips

Some shopping experts claim that parents should buy only enough clothes to last the first few weeks of the new school year. Why?

First, in around the middle of September, retailers hold sales. It’s the very best time to buy the bulk of your child’s school wardrobe.

Next, it will take your student a couple of weeks to determine the latest fashion and which items he or she wants to add to the wardrobe.

School supply shopping, on the other hand, has to be done before school starts. Many of our local schools post a supplies list on their websites which you can print off and take with you when you shop.

Take your child with you on the shopping trip. Not only will the trip result in buying what the child needs and wants, but it helps the little ones build excitement when you point out how each item will be used at school.

If you can’t afford the required supplies, contact the Kids in Need Foundation, a nationwide program that helps parents get what their kids need. Check the list of resources to find one near you.

If there isn’t a resource center in your area, contact the school’s or district’s social worker.

Getting back to school is a tough transition for both kids and parents but getting off to a strong start is critical to your child’s success. With your planning and support, your children will thrive during the school year.

3 benefits of buying a newly-constructed home

Look at three or four resale homes during your house hunt and you’ll start getting the feeling that, should you purchase one of them, you will be buying someone else’s poor design ideas, lousy home maintenance and lack of cleanliness. Yuck.

It’s for this reason that many homebuyers choose a newly constructed home instead. Yes, they typically sell for more per square foot, but the extra money is worth the extras that come along with a new house. Let’s take a look at three reasons you may want to choose a new home over a resale.

1. Energy Efficiency

It’s a fact that energy efficient features lower your monthly utility bills. Many of today’s new homes are rated by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), which assigns each home a score. This score is readily available to homebuyers to use when comparing the energy efficiency of homes.

In addition to the money-saving aspect an energy-efficient home provides, resale values are higher. According to Zillow’s Housing Trends Report, nearly half of homebuyers say that energy efficiency is a desirable feature in a home.

In fact, according to another major real estate conglomerate’s studies, homes with energy efficient features sell for 7 percent more than homes that lack these features.

2. Fewer Headaches

Why purchase a home that needs new paint, carpet, cabinets, appliances and flooring? In a newly-constructed home everything is new. Everything is clean. No nasty grease smells, pet odors, scuffed up baseboards or well-worn floors.

Shoddy home maintenance isn’t a concern either because the home is brand new. Then, many homebuilders will supply you with a one-year home warranty, especially if you ask for it. That kind of peace of mind is priceless.

3. The Opportunity to Customize

The ability to take a blank slate and impose one’s personal tastes onto it is the biggest reason many buyers choose a new home over an existing one.

Some of the customization features that you may be able to choose include:

  • Location – often, you’ll pick which lot in the community you want to live on.
  • Flow – if you purchase before the home is built you may be able to dictate where the bathroom is located or ask that the laundry room be built upstairs instead of downstairs.
  • Design features – from wall color to flooring to cabinetry, you’ll be making a lot of personalized decision when you purchase a new home.

Buying a newly constructed home is a buyer-centered experience. As experienced new home buyer representatives, we are happy to walk you through every step of the process to ensure you get the home of your dreams.

Keep your home safe while on vacation

Planning for a vacation is distracting. Sitting at your desk at work, mentally going over what you’ll need to pack, visions of sandy beaches and cool water dancing in your brain – there’s not a lot of room to consider anything else.

But you need to make room

Crime rates increase about 10 percent during the months of June, July and August, according to the FBI and summer-on-the-brain and the distractions it causes most likely accounts for many of them.

So, before you pack another beach towel and bathing suit, take steps to protect your home from the burglars that may be lurking around your unoccupied home. 

Check all doors and windows

If you open your bathroom window to let the misty air out while bathing, don’t forget to lock it when you’re finished. Many Americans don’t remember, which is why most thieves check the bathroom window first, according to a convicted burglar, Jerome Gilgan.

“Bathroom windows have always been one of the best ways” to get into a home, he tells Kyle Iboshi, KGW News in Portland, Oregon.

Thirty-two percent of burglars gain entry to homes through an unlocked front door. But locking the door doesn’t guaranteed that you won’t become a victim.

If the door is locked, many burglars will check the most common places homeowners hide the key.

But, not finding the key doesn’t stop them. “If they know you’re not home, many thieves will simply kick in the door or remove it from its hinges,” according to the pros at Crime Prevention Security Systems.

Don’t let newspapers and mail pile up

Gilgan told KGW News that one of the things he looked for when casing which homes to burgle was overstuffed mailboxes. Hire a neighborhood kid to pick up your mail while you’re gone. Or, have the post office hold it for you.

Don’t forget to tell the newspaper delivery person to cease delivery for the period you’ll be out of town. A collection of newspapers in the driveway is a dead giveaway that nobody is home.

 

Mind your landscaping

Professional thief Michael Shayne Durden, who performed hundreds of burglaries in Texas over a period of 20 years says that one of the things he looked for when casing homes was overgrown lawns.

Durden focused on neighborhoods with well-maintained homes, so a home with an un-mowed lawn, is a “dead giveaway” the owner is on vacation, Durden admitted in a jailhouse interview by the Allen, TX police department.

Then there’s that privacy landscaping around the front of the house. Sure, it keeps out neighbors’ prying eyes, but it’s something that burglars are happy to see. Just like you, they don’t want neighbors watching them, so a home with lots of cover becomes a target.

Before leaving on vacation, have your gardener cut back anything that provides a screen between the street and your windows and doors. 

Leaving a light on isn’t enough

I “would drive through upper class neighborhoods looking for many things, like a porch light on with all window blinds closed,” one burglar inmate told KGW News.

Gilgan wholeheartedly agrees, saying that “keeping the blinds or drapes closed” while on vacation is one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make.

So, open the window coverings, and turn on some lights and the TV.

Other ways to deter burglaries

The best way to deter a burglary while you’re out of town is to make the home look occupied. One of the best ways to do that is by parking a car in the driveway. If you’ll be leaving your car at the airport, ask a neighbor to use your driveway while you’re away.

Install a wireless security system. “It’s a major deterrent,” according to Durden. When he sees signs for these systems implanted in front and backyards, he feels that “There’s no point in even going there.”

In fact, homes without security systems are three times more likely to be broken into, according to SecurAmerica, LLC.

Then, put a sign advertising the system (ensure that it says “wireless” on it) in both the front and back yards. 

Hide your valuables

The most commonly stolen items from a home include:

  • Cash
  • Prescription drugs
  • Jewelry
  • Electronics (TVs, gaming consoles, computers, iPads and smartphones
  • Firearms

Don’t hide any of these items in the master bedroom while you’re on vacation because it’s the first place a thief will look. “Put jewelry in your garage, and mix it in with your tools,” Durden suggests.

“Or, put it in the ceiling or in the attic.” Burglars are in a home for such a short period of time, these are places they typically don’t get to.

“People really need to pay attention to their offices,” Durden continued.

He’s found credit cards in home offices (which he then used at Walmart to buy popular electronics that he sold on the street) and financial records, including bank account numbers with routing numbers.

Before leaving on vacation, do a tour around the home, ensuring that doors and windows are locked and that valuables are hidden away.

Then, go and have some fun!

Want maximum profit from your home sale? Hire a listing agent

Selling a home looks so easy, doesn’t it? After all, what does a real estate agent do to get homes sold that you can’t do?

Russel Baze, the winningest jockey in thoroughbred horse racing, makes his job look like a snap. If you pleasure-ride, you wouldn’t be the first to think you may have what it takes to do what he does. But, we dare you to try it.

You must not only be fit enough to remain perched atop a nervous, high-strung horse but remain still as the horse accelerates  down the track at speeds in excess of 30 miles-per-hour.

You’ll simultaneously need to fight the push-back that the acceleration causes, all the while maintaining your balance using only your heels and calves.

It’s common to lack appreciation and understanding of other peoples’ expertise – we take for granted our doctor’s skill and knowledge, the scissor wizardry of our hair stylist and, yes, the marketing chops of a good real estate listing agent.

Which leads us to the number one factor that will get your home sold.

Marketing

Unless you work in marketing as your profession, it’s safe to say you may know little about how to market a home. To do so, strategically, requires:

  • Understanding current market conditions
  • Knowing homebuyer trends
  • Determining the most likely buyer for the home
  • Knowing where to market the home
  • Knowing how to present the home for maximum impact
  • Pricing the home strategically
  • Having the money to put a robust marketing plan into action

Example of a DIY home seller disaster

A few weeks ago, while looking through the MLS listings for homes for a buying client, I came across a home that was priced so low that I naturally assume it needed major work.

I took a closer look at the listing and learned that it was being sold by owner. It had been on the market for nearly a year, in a market where the average home sells in 34 days.

Typically, a home that sits on the market for too long does so because it’s overpriced. This home, however, was priced at rock bottom and STILL no takers.

I have no idea what other marketing avenues the seller was using, aside from an MLS listing, but even with that, he or she failed miserably.

The first thing buyers look at in a listing are the photos. This listing had only four photos, the first of which was a shot of the front of the home. It was not only blurry, but it was snapped from too far away. The home has curb appeal, but you can’t see it in the photo.

The next photo was of a long, narrow, empty room. I assumed it was the living room. If it were staged, potential buyers wouldn’t be left guessing the room’s purpose.

The kitchen, the most important room to most buyers, lacked any appeal whatsoever. Or, was it that the photo was so dark and, again, blurry?

Then, the homeowners included a photo of a pool table.

No, not a room that held a pool table, but a closeup of a pool table

The final image was the bathroom (the second most popular room for homebuyers). The toilet seat was left up, the shower curtain was open, the counter was littered with toiletries and the photo had almost no lighting.

If this home seller is trying to make less for the home than it’s worth, he is doing a bang-up job.

I certainly don’t expect a homeowner to have professional photography skills any more than I hope my clients don’t expect me to have them. Which is why it’s so important to rely on a pro to snap the photos of this HUGE investment you’re trying to sell.

Crisp, sharp, well-lit, compelling photos – and lots of them – go a long way toward getting homebuyers off the internet and into your home.

Staging empty rooms is vital if you want to sell quickly and for top dollar.

Where’s the info?

Photos aside, the homeowner also suffered a DIY disaster in the remarks section of his MLS listing. There was not one word in the remarks section. Nothing.

Imagine you’re trying to sell your car on Craigslist. Will you merely post dark and blurry photos of it without a bit of text outlining the car’s details? If so, will you really expect to be inundated with inquiries about it?

A professional listing agent understands how to use the limited remarks section for all its worth. He or she knows who is in the likely-buyer pool for the home and targets these people by highlighting the features they demand.

This is knowledge that the average homeowner lacks

The final nail in this home’s coffin

I did an even deeper dive into MLS statistics for this home and the results were fascinating. As mentioned earlier, the home went on the market nearly a year ago. Two months after listing it in the MLS, however, the homeowner dropped the price $10,000.

Naturally, he or she noticed other homes flying off the market and assumed he’d priced his too high. If that were really the case, lowering the price would provide fresh exposure and a new round of buyer interest.

Two months later he again dropped the price, $10,000

Still didn’t sell. So, and this is quite curious – four months later he raised the price $10,000. This happened three months ago and the home is still on the market.

Sadly, at this point the home is stigmatized. Buyers tend to steer clear of homes that have been on the market this long, assuming there is something wrong with them.

The competition is kicking his hiney

The listing that comes up next to our homeowner’s is priced $29,000 higher and being marketed by a pro. The home has been staged, the photos are brilliant and the listing remarks top-notch. In a side-by-side comparison, the slightly-more expensive home wins, hands down.

Now, this example is of the MLS listing, just one aspect of what it takes to market a home for sale. We have no idea if the homeowner is utilizing other marketing vehicles, but we doubt it. Homes just do not sit on the market for this long when they’re marketed professionally.

This is a textbook case of how lost a DIY home seller can become

Without a professional to guide him, he will take a beating on price when and if the home finally sells.

In the hands of a capable listing agent, this homeowner would’ve priced the home competitively out of the gate. The home would’ve been completely prepared for the market, thus justifying the price.

The appropriate research mission would let the listing agent know who to target in the marketing plan and where and how to reach them.

If I knew this homeowner, I would’ve cautioned him against dropping the price until he’d fixed the home’s presentation issues, re-photographed the home for the MLS listing and added some compelling text to it.

Now, I know that what I do isn’t rocket science. Statistics show, however, that your home, in the hands of a professional, experienced listing agent, will sell for more than you’ll make if you go the DIY route.

Do these 5 things as soon as you move into your new home

In all the excitement of moving and trying to get settled in the new home, the last thing you want is a honey-do list, right? Some things, however, shouldn’t be put off but need to be taken care of now.

So, push the boxes aside for a day or two and let’s get ‘er done!

1. Change the locks

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, changing the door locks on a new home is something many homebuyers neglect doing. Hey, when you consider all the little details that need attention, such as changing over the utilities, registering the kids in new schools and ensuring everyone has your new address, something is bound to fall through the cracks.

Since you don’t know exactly how many people have keys to the home and who they are, put this one at the top of your to-do list.

Unless you’re opting for a smart lock, changing the locks on a door is a common DIY project and costs very little.

2. Locate your home’s main water shutoff valve

Scrambling to figure out how to shut off the water in your new home wastes precious time in an emergency. Scout out the location of your main water shutoff valve now and share the location with other household members.

Unfortunately, there are a number of places that it could be located. In cold-climate areas you’ll typically find the water shutoff valve somewhere indoors, such as in the basement. In warmer weather regions it may be located outdoors or in the garage. If the home is on a slab foundation, check for the valve near the water heater.

3. Secure your home purchase paperwork

Before putting away all those documents you signed at closing, make copies of them and store them in a safe place, off-site. No, you may not need to refer to this paperwork, but then again, you may, so it’s a good idea to keep everything.

While you’re in the paperwork groove, consider purchasing an accordion file and use it to hold all the paperwork you’ll accumulate as a homeowner. This includes receipts for repairs and improvements, insurance information and warranties.

When it comes time to sell the home, you’ll be glad you have all of this important information in one place.

4. Open a new savings account

Yes, you paid a whole lot of money at the closing table, but that was just the beginning of what it costs to own a home. Routine maintenance and emergency repairs need to be factored in as well.

“No new homeowner, myself included, can ever feel fully prepared for the maintenance costs and renovation costs associated with homeownership,” Pamela Capalad, a Brooklyn NY financial planner tells NerdWallet.com.

But a savings account, dedicated specifically to pay for home maintenance and repairs can go a long way toward being prepared.

Most financial experts say to set aside 1 to 2 percent of the home’s value each year for both maintenance and repairs. For example, if your home is worth $250,000, you should dedicate from $2,500 to $5,000 a year.

Make it less painful by having a monthly amount (from about $210 to $420) automatically deducted from your pay and sent to the dedicated savings account.

Deferring routine maintenance may impact your home’s future value, by the way.

5. Replace your air filters

Changing an old HVAC filter just one time is enough to convince many of us to make changing them a routine. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Many homeowners neglect this inexpensive and easy home maintenance chore and end up breathing in that brown fuzz that clings to old filters.

Not only that, but they’re setting the entire system up for failure. “A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or ‘blow-out,’ resulting in no air infiltration at all,” according to Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko for the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).

Change the filter in a busy household with kids and pets once a month, otherwise you may be able to wait three months before installing a new one. Learn how to change the filter at thefamilyhandyman.com.

What you need to know about buying a home on a septic system

Not all homes are on city services – some have their own systems to deliver water and remove waste from the property. If you’re considering putting in an offer to purchase a home that has a septic system, read on for what you need to know.

General septic system anatomy

Whatever substances go down the home’s drains ends up in the septic tank. This means everything that is flushed, swirls down the sinks’ drains, and the stuff that drains from the washing machine and shower.

This tank is built to be watertight, to trap the solids it receives and then release what’s left (wastewater) into the systems drain (or, “leach”) fields.

Yes, that’s a simplistic explanation and if you’re interested in a more detailed look at septic systems, check out homeadditionplus.com or the U.S. EPA’s “Homeowner’s Guide to Septic Systems.”

If you buy it, you’ll need to maintain it

One of the biggest benefits of homes on city services is that the homeowners typically don’t have to worry about sewer maintenance. Buy a home with a septic system, however, and those chores are all yours.

And, like all home maintenance tasks, ignore them and you may end up with a rather large repair bill.

In fact, the national average cost for septic system repair is $1,472

according to homeadvisor.com.

So, what’s involved in maintaining a septic system? Ongoing maintenance includes:

  • An annual inspection – A professional will check the system for, among other things, leaks, inspect the scum and sludge levels, check the effluent screens and inspect the mechanical and electrical components.
  • Pumping out the tank – every three to five years

The nationwide average cost of pumping or cleaning a 1,000-gallon septic tank is $378, according to homeadvisor.com.

On the flipside, you’ll save money by not having to pay the city for sewer services (and, possibly water since many homes on septic have well water)

We can ask the homeowner for a ballpark figure of how much he or she pays for septic system maintenance each year and then compare it to what comparable homeowners on city services pay.

Think you can put off taking care of the system?

You don’t really want to find out.

Left unchecked, a leaking septic tank can saturate the leach field. If the field floods, sewage may come to the surface. Most likely, however, it will come back into the house – to the bathtub or sink. Neither a pretty site nor a healthy situation.

Although you may be tempted to put off the system inspection, it’s not wise. You have no way of knowing if everything is working as it should and that the groundwater isn’t being contaminated.

Then, there’s the cost of replacing what you failed to maintain. If you need a new tank, it will cost between $600 and nearly $4,000, depending on size and material. Then, you’ll need to have it installed which will cost between $2,753 and $8,016, according to HomeAdvisor.

The cost of installing a new drain field varies, according to the problem that caused the failure. Plan on spending between $5,000 to $20,000.

Don’t let this scare you off

If you’ve fallen in love with a home that comes with a septic system, don’t let the maintenance requirements scare you away. As mentioned earlier, the annual costs may just beat what you’d pay to be on a city sewer.

We’ll order a septic inspection before you finalize the deal and bring problems found to the seller.

Then, decide that you’ll have the system inspected annually to prevent any large surprises and that you’ll have the tank pumped out every couple of years. This way, the cost of living off the city grid doesn’t have to be a huge surprise of a bill somewhere down the line.

Win hearts at your next tailgate party: Margaritas for a crowd.

Sure, beer is the official beverage of the great American tailgate party. But it’s time to step out of the rut and add a little flair to this year’s festivities.

Every tailgate crew has that one person who has a signature tailgate dish. Well, this year it’s your turn to take the spotlight.

You’ll have people waiting all year for tailgating season just to wrap their lips around the salted rim of one of your frosty margaritas.

Whether your tailgate crowd is nibblin’ on sponge cake or somebody had the good sense to bring a huge platter of nachos, you, my friend will be toting the frozen concoction of everybody’s dreams.

History of the Margarita

It’s hard to believe, but there is nobody to thank for this classic Mexican cocktail. Yes, there are plenty of people that want the credit, but nobody is quite sure which one of them is the creator.

Back in the mid-1930s a bartender named Willie, from Matamoros, Mexico, was smitten with one of the bar’s regular customers. Her name was Marguerite Hemery. Legend has it that Willie concocted the first margarita in Hemery’s honor. But, if that’s so, why don’t we drink marguerites?

Then there was Danny Negrete, a bar owner who created the margarita as a wedding gift to his future sister-in-law. Another tale is that he made it for his girlfriend, who was fond of salt in her drinks.

Bastante Gutierrez is said to have created the margarita to honor his favorite actress: Margarita Cansino, whom we know as Rita Hayworth.

Finally, we have Francisco “Pancho” Morales, to whom the Mexican press gives credit for inventing the margarita. Seems a customer ordered a drink he’d never heard of. Rather than asking the lady what was in it, he created his own concoction. She loved it and it became the margarita.

Types of Tequila

At one time only wine and scotch and, more recently beer, had snooty aficionados. Today, tequila has joined those ranks. There are two main types of tequila: 100 percent agave and Mixto, which is a blend of at least 51 percent blue agave and other stuff – which varies according to manufacturer

These two types are further broken down into:

·        Silver, also known as blanco, white and platinum. This is pure blue agave; it’s clear but not aged.

·        Gold tequila is typically a mixto type of tequila, although there are exceptions. It’s also generally less expensive than the pure forms of tequila.

·        Reposado is a lightly aged agave – usually stored for between two and 11 months. Sometimes stored in wood barrels, the tequila may take on the flavor of the type of wood

·        Añejo is agave tequila that is aged for at least a year. Before pure agave tequila can bear the Añejo label it must be aged in barrels that hold a maximum of 600 liters. Añejo is a darker colored tequila.

·        If it’s aged more than three years it can be called Extra Añejo, for “ultra aged.” Barrel capacity requirements are the same as for añejo. After aging, the tequila is quite dark in color and extremely smooth. This is definitely a sippin’ tequila.

Concoct It, My Friend

The basic margarita mix, according to the drink masters at Jose Cuervo, contains tequila, Cointreau (a high-end brand of triple sec), and fresh lime juice.

You won’t, however, be famous for your tailgating margaritas if you stick with the basics, now will you? Here are two margarita mixes to get you started:

Sin City Top Shelf Margarita

Courtesy of an ace bartender at Las Vegas’ famed XS Nightclub. This recipe is for one cocktail so you’ll need to multiply the ingredients by the amount of margaritas you want to make.

  • 3 oz. sweet & sour
  • 1 oz. añejo tequila
  • ¾ oz simple syrup
  • ½ oz Grand Marnier
  • Fresh limejuice from ½ lime

Shake all the ingredients except the limejuice in a cocktail shaker. Squeeze the lime over the top before serving.

Wastin’ Away Again Margaritas

Thanks to Portland’s Clyde Common bar manager Jeffrey Morgenthaler for this margarita mix for the masses. Although the recipe is his, the name is mine.

  • 6 cups of your favorite tequila
  • 2.5 cups triple sec
  • 2.5 cups fresh lime juice
  • 2.5 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups simple syrup

Mix ingredients together in gallon container – such as a clean one-gallon milk or water container. Keep it refrigerated until the tailgate party. Makes 20 margaritas.

By the way, Jeffrey says that you’ll need two 750 ML bottles of tequila and you’ll have a bit left over after you measure out the 6 cups. You’ll need one 750 ML bottle of the triple sec.

If you don’t happen to have simple syrup in your pantry, whip some up.

Simple Syrup

Bring 2 cups of water to a full boil.

Slowly pour in 2 cups of granulated sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is clear. Allow the syrup to cool and then pour it into a bottle.

For the designated drivers in the group

Call it a virgin Margarita if you like but we prefer the term “mockarita” for this one.

  • 2 oz. simple syrup (see recipe above)
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • Ice
  • lime wedge

Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously.

Pour into a mason jar for easy transport. Refrigerate until game day.

When serving, garnish with a lime wedge.

It’s Tick Season

When we think of ticks and the diseases they spread, we typically think of Lyme disease. But, did you know that the nasty little critters also spread ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis?

The former is more common in the southeastern and south central United States while the latter is caused by the same tick that spreads Lyme disease, in the country’s Northeast, mid-Atlantic, upper Midwest and West Coast regions.

In fact, a bite from a tick infected with both Lyme and anaplasmosis can infect a person with both diseases, according to merkmanuals.com.

What ticks are – and aren’t

Ticks are small arachnids (related to spiders and scorpions), so they aren’t insects or “bugs.” They are also parasitic, meaning they live off the blood of birds, mammals and even reptiles.

Most varieties of ticks live in grassy or wooded areas. The deer tick (which spreads Lyme disease) thrives in “shady, moist areas at ground level … no more than 18 to 24 inches off the ground, according to New York State Department of Health.

Deer ticks are also frequently found on our pets, especially in regions with high humidity, with the exception of Hawaii. Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are the five states with the highest incidence of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease – in a nutshell

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, which is carried by the deer tick. It may take from 3 to 30 days after a bite from an infected tick for symptoms to occur, according to webmd.com.

These symptoms typically (but not always) include a rash, fever, headache, chills and other flu-like symptoms.

These symptoms comprise the first of three stages of Lyme disease. The second stage is known as “early disseminate Lyme” and symptoms include weakness and/or pain in the arms and legs, heart palpitations, chest pain and even facial paralysis.

The third stage of Lyme disease may occur “weeks, months or years after the tick bite,” according to webmd.com. Symptoms of late-stage Lyme include severe fatigue, vertigo, mental confusion and arthritis.

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics and around 10 percent of patients don’t shake the symptoms even after treatment. See the Centers for Disease Control’s website for additional information on symptoms.

Preventing tick bites

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests using a repellant on your skin and clothing to ward off ticks. Use the tool on the agency’s website to choose the repellent that fits your needs.

The CDC recommends that you check your body (and your children’s and pet’s) for ticks after spending time outdoors. If you find a tick, use tweezers to remove it.

Place the tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull upward on the tick. Wash the bite area with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

Learn more about how to remove ticks on the CDC’s website. After removal, the CDC recommends monitoring your family for symptoms of Lyme disease.

Who Pays for Termite Inspections in FHA Loans?

Warning: We’re about to give you the creeps.

It’s termite swarming season – that time of year when subterranean termite populations within colonies reach the carrying capacity and they swarm out in search of new digs.

Although they may start out underground, a few strategically constructed and placed mud tubes will allow them entry into the home.

They can also gain access to the home through wood that is in contact with the soil. This includes porch steps and supports, doorframes, deck supports and more, according to the pros at Orkin.

Evidence of an infestation can throw a real estate transaction into turmoil. The homeowners may be clueless about it and it scares the daylights out of the buyer.

Termites aren’t a problem in many parts of the country, but if they are prevalent where you live, you’ll naturally want to have the home inspected by a pest control expert before purchasing. If you’re using an FHA-backed loan, get to know its policies when it comes to pest inspections.

What FHA has to say about it

While some states, such as Nevada, require pest inspections, the FHA only requires borrowers to order a pest inspection under any the following circumstances:

  • If the FHA appraiser sees evidence of an active infestation.
  • If state or local jurisdictions mandate the practice
  • If wood destroying pest inspections are customary in your area
  • If the lender requests one

So, what does the inspector look for?

 

  • The mud tubes mentioned earlier are one indication of an infestation. For several reasons (access to a food source is one), termites construct these tubes from the soil to wood. Sometimes the inspector has no trouble finding mud tubes. Sometimes, they are hidden inside walls, behind the homes baseboards, under the floors and behind walls.

Check out Orkin’s website to learn more about mud tubes and to see photos to help you identify them.

  • The inspector will also look for termite wings. Like moths, termites may cluster around light sources, so one sign of an infestation are their wings littering windowsills or stuck in cobwebs.
  • The inspector may check any wood structures on the property, such as fencing, wood mulch in the garden, firewood stacks and wooden structures.
  • Termite damage is a sure-fire sign of an infestation, so the inspector looks for evidence of such on wood surfaces, such as floors.

Who pays for the inspection?

Although FHA doesn’t care who pays for the inspection, and it is a negotiable item, whether the seller or the buyer traditionally pay for it varies by region.

Homebuyers who live in regions with a high probability of an infestation may want to make the inspection a contract contingency, requesting that the seller pay for it.

If, on the other hand, the lender demands an inspection, the buyer will typically pay for it. Again, this varies by region.

What if an infestation is found?

Termite reports are broken down into two parts, Section 1 and Section 2. The former includes a report of active infestation and damage — items that must be remedied now.

Section 2 items are those that may lead to an infestation in the future.

If you have any concerns about wood destroying pests in a home you are interested in purchasing, have the home inspected. The national average cost of the inspection is $537, according to homeadvisor.com.

The national average cost for termite treatment, however, varies according to the scope of the problem, the size of the home and other factors. Plan on paying between $1,150 and $3,300, according to costhelper.com.