What you need to know about home generators

“Power outages likely if there is an extreme weather event this winter,” warn meteorologists at kens5.com.

“Report warns Texas to take certain steps to avoid future winter power outages,” blasts a recent headline at mysanantonio.com.

“Longer, more frequent outages afflict the U.S. power grid …,” according to a story in the Washington Post.

From coast to coast, Americans can expect at least one power outage in the coming years. In fact, according to Garrett Herring at spglobal.com, “US power outages jumped 73% in 2020,” resulting in 1.33 billion outage hours.

Short-term power outages are typically easy to handle. But, when the lights go out for an extended period of time, life becomes exceedingly more challenging.

Even if you haven’t yet experienced a prolonged blackout, the chances are good that one day you will. This is when a generator will come in handy.

Standby or portable generator?

Standby generators (also known as whole-home generators) are connected to your gas or propane source, permanently.

It is hooked into the home’s electricity so that when the unit senses that your power is out, it will switch itself on and shoot power to the circuits and appliances that you’ve previously selected.

Portable generators, on the other hand, don’t typically power the whole house. They also don’t turn themselves on and they need frequent refills of fuel (gasoline, propane, diesel, etc.).

Finally, portable generators must be located outdoors.

Cost, naturally, will play a big part in which generator you’ll choose.

“Whole-house generator cost averages $15,000 nationally,” according to Meghan Wentland at bobvilla.com. She goes on to state that the cost ranges from $10,000 to $20,000.

A portable generator, according to Wentland, will run you between $500 and $2,000.

If the cost doesn’t matter, your next decision will be exactly what you want to have powered during an outage.

If it’s just an appliance or two and a few lights, a portable generator may serve your purposes.

If you want to power the entire home, consider going with the standby generator.

Safety considerations

“Running a generator improperly can kill you in as little as 5 minutes if the concentration of carbon monoxide is high enough,” according to Haniya Rae at consumerreports.com.

Sadly, it happens to between 60 and 70 people each year.

“No matter what, resist the urge to move a portable generator inside the house or the garage,” cautions Don Huber, Consumer Report’s director of product safety.

Locate the portable generator at least 20 feet from the home and ensure that it exhausts in the opposite direction of the home.

For more generator safety information visit energy.gov.

7 ways to protect your privacy while your home is on the market

It’s been said that knowledge is power. And, while poking around in a home seller’s personal papers for knowledge isn’t what the average buyer does, there is always a chance that a bad actor will tour the home.

Even if what is noticed isn’t nefarious, if it gives the buyer knowledge of why you’re selling, or your financial picture, you may lose a bit of negotiating power.

Following is a list of ways to guard your privacy while your home is on the market.

1. See those stacks of mail on the counter?

They need to be put away. Overdue bills, and letters from divorce lawyers can all be a dead giveaway as to why you are selling your home.

Even your mortgage statements contain information that the buyer shouldn’t be privy to.

If you have a safe, lock them up. Otherwise, consider bagging them up and stowing them in the trunk of your car.

2. Clear the walls

It’s no-one’s business that you just graduated from college (and therefore have a lot of debt) or hold an advanced degree (a sign of deep pockets).

Get the diplomas and degrees off the wall and into storage.

Also consider removing anything else that includes family member’s names or achievements.

3. Clean out the closets

Yes, potential buyers open closets. All that mail and those diplomas you removed from the counters and walls?  Don’t put them in the closet.

Do a check of closets to ensure no personal papers are left out.

4. Check the drawers

I hope you didn’t put the stacks of mail in a kitchen drawer. Yes, potential buyers open drawers as well. Box up and remove anything of a personal nature prior to showing your home.

5. What kind of reading material is lying around?

Trade journals and magazines can be a clue to how you make a living. If Single Parent magazine is sitting on the living room coffee table, a buyer may assume you’re in the process of getting a divorce.

The bottom line is: don’t give potential buyers personal information that could put them in a more powerful bargaining position.

6. And don’t give identity thieves the keys to your private life

This is just a short list of items to remove from view and, preferably, from the home:

  • Bank statements
  • Checkbooks and deposit slips
  • Credit card and loan statements
  • Anything that includes your driver’s license and/or social security number
  • Insurance policies
  • Anything to do with your mortgage
  • Legal documents
  • Anything having to do with taxes
  • Anything that lists your passwords and pin

7. How is your Wi-Fi network security?

If you’re unsure how to secure your network plan on disconnecting your Wi-Fi and disabling smart devices during showings and open houses.


“… without the proper security, someone could easily hop onto your wireless network,” according to Nathan Chandler & Wesley Fenlon at electronics.howstuffworks.com.

This someone could be a savvy identity thief.

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of home showings and open houses go off without a hitch. But it pays to be prepared for that rare occasion when someone wants your private information.

Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions.


3 plants that will bloom indoors for you in fall and winter

Sure, that foil-wrapped holiday poinsettia you bought at the supermarket may still be quite decorative, but consider bringing home something a bit unexpected to help brighten up the interior of the home and chase away cabin fever.


“Cheerful” is the perfect word to describe the scallop-edged leaves and clusters of brightly- colored flowers of the kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana). Best of all, this gorgeous, colorful display occurs in winter, in shades of orange, pink, red, yellow and white.

This beauty performs best with lots of light so place it near a south-facing window. Overwatering will kill it, so allow the soil to dry-out between waterings. Learn more about this plant’s requirements at the New York Botanical Gardens website (scroll down the page).

Note: Parts of the Kalanchoe, especially the flowers, are poisonous to pets and children. If you suspect that your child has ingested the plant, call your medical professional or the American Association of Poison Control Centers, available 24 hours a day, at 800-222-1222.

If your pet ingests the plant, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Bonus: It’s easy to get your kalanchoe to rebloom – follow the walk-through provided by Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

Peace Lily

The shorter days of winter bring with them lower levels of sunlight streaming through the home’s windows. Choosing a plant that tolerates dusky conditions is an important factor.

The peace lily (Spathiphyllum group) loves shade, and winter just happens to provides its preferred light level.

Treat it right and this glossy-leaved stunner will not only brighten up a dark corner but do so with a bloom or two as well.

Learn more about the peace lily and its care requirements online at North Carolina State University Extension.

Note: The peace lily isn’t a true lily. The plant’s leaves contain calcium oxalate crystals which, if eaten in large quantities, can cause mouth and throat irritation, vomiting and trouble swallowing. Keep out of the reach of small children and pets.

Bonus: The peace lily will wilt to let you know when it’s time to water.

African Violet

We decided to include the African violet (Saintpaulia spp.) in our list of ways to add spring to the winter because they are so easy to grow and they easily tolerate warm indoor air in the winter.

In fact, you can help your African violet thrive by keeping indoor temperatures between 65 degrees to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overwatering will kill it, so allow the soil to dry-out between waterings.

If the leaves begin to yellow, the plant may need more sunlight, so move it to a “window with western or southern exposure,” and filtered sunlight, recommend the experts at Optimara/Holtkamp Greenhouses, Inc.

Note: Never place the African violet in direct sun as it may burn the foliage.

Bonus: Create new African violets from the leaves of your current plant. Learn how online at Penn State University Extension’s website.

Yes, flower gardening season is over in much of the country. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t have gorgeous flowers growing indoors to brighten up an otherwise dreary time of year.


Don’t let cosmetics keep you from the home of your dreams

Most real estate agents who’ve been in the business for any amount of time will tell you that it is far too easy to fall in love with a home. It’s not wise but sometimes it can’t be helped and once it snags you, it’s over – you’re going to buy it.

The flipside are homebuyers who fall in hate with a home. The minute they step through the door something disagreeable hits their senses and they can’t get out of the home fast enough.

Every day we watch clients get turned off by ugly furniture or icky paint colors or they get hooked by clever home staging, throwing their common sense to the wind and either buying or turning down a home for all the wrong reasons.

Read on to become forewarned so you can shop smart for your next home.

Wall color

There are books written about the psychology of color – that’s how important it is in marketing anything for sale. Smart home stagers understand this concept and choose wall colors that will appeal to the emotions of the masses.

It’s a challenge to look beyond this tactic, whether the colors are amazing or downright ugly. I’ve actually sold homes that had nothing that the buyer claims he or she wanted, but the wall colors were appealing.

Whether you love the color or despise it, keep in mind that it’s just paint and for less than $1,000 you can repaint a 1,000 square foot home.

Look beyond the color to what is truly important- is there enough square footage, is the flow right, does the community offer the amenities you require?


Stagers are the masters of deception, which is why staging a home is such a smart idea. For buyers, however, it may feel like a trap. If you’ve ever purchased a newly constructed home or rented an apartment you no doubt visited the models first, right?

Many a buyer or tenant has been lured into renting or buying based solely on the model. It’s a combination of all three items we address in this post but the furnishings are usually the clincher.

Then, when it comes time to move into your new home, reality hits: your furniture doesn’t at all make your home look like the model.

The little things

Among a home stagers’ tools is a warehouse full of mirrors, pillows, throws, rugs and more. These are the little things – the accessories ― that make the interior design really pop.

Again, whether you love them or hate them, they may speak to you. As we said earlier, it is important to look beyond these enticements to the true “bones” of the home.

In an overheated housing market, homes are moving very quickly. It’s easy to get carried away in the frenzy. Remind yourself to take a deep breath and view the home with a critical eye.

All the furniture and accessories will be gone when you move in. What you’ll be left with is a home that either works for you or doesn’t.

If you keep your heart and emotions in check, you’ll find one that is perfect for you.

It’s the perfect time to weatherproof those windows

If you haven’t yet prepared your home for winter, you aren’t alone. Americans have had a rough and tumble 2021, with the pandemic, the economy heading south and the attending chaos of both.

Whatever the reason for putting off weatherproofing the windows in your home, it’s never too late in the season to get it done

Weatherproofing requires more than plastic sheets

When you’re ready to keep the cold air out and the warm air in, you can tackle the first step of the weatherproofing without too much hassle.

Begin by cleaning your windows, both inside and out. Not a fun job, but it’s part of the process.

While you’re cleaning them, check every window to ensure the caulking is in good condition. If not, remove the old and apply new caulking.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers handy advice on how to do this. You’ll find it online at energy.gov. Scroll down the page and click on “Caulking.”

Wooden frames or broken panes that require replacing may need to wait until spring as this can be a bigger job.

Gather your supplies 

Once the windows in your home are clean, it’s time to take them to the next, energy-efficient level with weather stripping and window insulation film.

If you don’t have these items on hand, you’ll find them at the large home improvement stores and at hardware stores.

Look for self-adhesive weather stripping as this will save a lot of time and energy. Follow the package instructions and check out the brilliant weather-stripping guide at lowes.com. It includes information about how to choose the right type of weather stripping for your windows and walk-throughs of how to apply it to different types of windows.

Once all your windows have this protection, it’s time to apply window insulation film. This is applied directly to windows. Again, check your local hardware or home improvement store to purchase.

The selection may be dizzying, so check out the recommendations at bobvila.com and the product reviews at amazon.com.

You’ll find an application tutorial at energystar.gov.

Although it sounds like weatherproofing your windows will take the better part of a weekend, it’s actually a quick job that you can be done in an hour or two, depending on the number of windows in your home.

The best news is that once you’re finished, you can expect your home to remain warm and snug for the rest of the winter.

Use your VA benefits to purchase a home

Although lenders talk a good game in their marketing, true zero-down mortgages are a rarity. Two credit unions offer them to their members – Navy Federal Credit Union and NASA Federal Credit Union.

The only two government-backed no-down-payment mortgages come from USDA’s Rural Development program and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If you are active-duty military a veteran or a surviving spouse, the VA-backed home loan is one worth taking a look at.

Aside from waiving the down payment requirement of conventional loans, the VA mortgage has no mortgage insurance requirement and rates are typically lower, making the loan less expensive every month.

Since we celebrate Veteran’s Day this month we thought we’d remind about just one of the many benefits you’ve earned for serving our country.


Some of the eligibility criteria may be confusing, but let’s take a look at the basics:

  • The borrower must have sufficient income to pay his bills and the mortgage every month.
  • Although the lender will eventually determine your credit-worthiness, the VA states that the borrower must have what it considers “suitable credit.”
  • The veteran or service member must plan on occupying the home.
  • The applicant must obtain a valid Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Many VA-approved lenders are able to access the Automated Certificate of Eligibility system (ACE) and retrieve the applicant’s COE online. If your lender can’t, she’ll tell you how to go about getting your COE.

 The Lender’s Role

The VA doesn’t lend money; it merely offers a guarantee (up to 25 percent of each VA loan). Applicants need to see a private lender that participates in the VA loan program. In addition to meeting the VA’s requirements, the borrower must also meet lender requirements.

The Purchase Process with a VA Loan

The actual home purchase process for the veteran is very much like that of a conventional buyer with the exception of the initial steps. Let’s take a look at the steps that you need to follow to get into a new home:

  • Find a lender that participates in the VA loan program. Ask for a pre-approval letter outlining how much you can spend on a home.
  • Obtain your COE.
  • Hire a real estate agent to assist you in finding a home.
  • Submit an offer on the home of your choice, reminding your real estate agent to insert a “VA Option Clause” and an escape clause, allowing you to cancel the purchase agreement without penalty if you aren’t approved for the VA loan.
  • Apply for the loan. The quicker you gather the required documents for the lender, the quicker the rest of the purchase process can move.

If at any time during the process you have questions that the lender can’t answer, contact a representative at your regional loan center. You can find the contact information on the VA website.

Happy Veteran’s Day and thank you for your service.

2 Surprising Things That Boost Home Values

What if we told you that you should fear not the big-box retailer that is rumored to be eyeing that vacant parcel near your neighborhood as a new location?

Sure, it might bring a lot more traffic to the area and, if you live right across the street, you may be kept up at night with the additional noise from the delivery trucks, but would it be worth it if that retailer helped boost your property value?

I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the things that boost home values that might surprise you.

The Big-Box Effect

ABC News actually calls this one “The Walmart Effect.” Critics of Walmart have been trying for years to prove that when the retail giant moves into a neighborhood, property values plummet.

Guess what? It’s just the opposite.

A study from the University of Chicago and Brigham Young University finds that the when Walmart moves into a neighborhood, home values actually increased as much as 3 percent for homes within 0.5 miles of the huge retailer and up to 2 percent for those located 1 mile from the store.

Then, there’s the “Whole Foods Effect.” While it may not directly cause values to rise it does set in motion a whole slew of events that eventually gentrifies the run-down neighborhoods in which they choose to build.


Several reasons, but chief among them is that “… proximity to a store like Whole Foods, often thought of as more high-end than other grocery stores, adds an air of prestige to a neighborhood,” according to Dana Schulz at 6sqft.com.

She goes on to cite an example from Detroit, Michigan.

On 2013, Whole Foods opened a store in downtown Detroit. “In 2009, the median home sale price here was $19,000. By 2015 [just two years after Whole Foods opened the store], it had skyrocketed to $80,000. And during this same time period, the median home price throughout the entire city quadrupled.”

Naturally, it’s not an overnight occurrence, Schulz cautions. But if you’re planning on being in the home for the long haul, don’t let news of a big-box store opening nearby dissuade you from buying that house.

I See Dead People

This one always throws folks for a loop. “Homes less than 50 feet from a cemetery sell for more money per square foot than homes farther away,” say the findings of a study commissioned by a national real estate chain.

The downside is that these homes sit on the market longer, but when they eventually do sell, they tend to bring in a higher price than homes located further from the cemetery.

In fact, the study broke down the prices of homes according to their proximity to graveyards. Those within 50 feet brought in the highest prices and prices went down until the 1,000 foot mark where they shot back up to be equal to the first category.

So, if you can’t buy within 50 feet of a cemetery, make sure the home you do buy is at least 1,000 feet away.

While these location-related value boosters may be surprising, something like a new garage door or roof may have a bigger impact on the value of a home.

Yes, you can love it AND leave it

Most of us are familiar with buyer’s remorse. It’s that sinking feeling that, for any number of reasons, we shouldn’t have made a recent purchase. We become filled with regret, second-guessing our decision to buy.

Buyer’s remorse is so prevalent that the Federal Trade Commission created the “Cooling-Off Rule,” which gives the buyer “… three days to cancel certain sales … but not all sales are covered,” including real estate, says an unknown writer on the FTC’s website.

Seller’s remorse is the flip side of buyer’s remorse and doesn’t get nearly the attention that the latter does. This is because we typically don’t sell something that we don’t want to get rid of. When we do sell something that we don’t want to, remorse may set in.

Selling a home is often a tough decision. You may have scores of rational reasons but when push comes to shove, the memories you’ve built in the home may cause a gut-wrenching reluctance to leave.

If you’re emotionally attached to the home, it’s time to separate those emotions from the business aspect of what you are about to undertake. After all, selling a home is, at its core, a financial and business transaction.

Let’s take a look at a few tips to help you overcome some common emotional pitfalls in the process.

Turn a blind eye (and ear) to criticism (real and perceived)

Following your agent’s advice about preparing the home properly for the market is critical. Not only will it help the home sell for the amount you hope, but it may sell quicker.

Another bonus is that a well-prepared home should give you confidence in how it  presents to potential buyers. Hold on to that confidence because you’ll need it in the face of any criticism that might come your way.

I think that most of us have read at least a couple of reviews of products and services online. Regardless of the number of consumers who give rave, 5-star reviews, there is always a handful of them that find fault with it. A 100% 5 stars rate seems an impossibility.

Keep that in mind while your home is on the market. You may receive negative feedback from a buyer’s agent. You may receive a lowball offer that borders on insulting. You may be asked to rip out your “ugly wallpaper.”

Should this occur, remember that the criticism or insult isn’t meant to be taken personally. This, as I mentioned earlier, is a financial/business transaction. Try to brush it off as such and keep your emotions in check.


You wouldn’t be the first home seller to feel that their home has become the “Grand Central Station” of the local real estate market. Especially in our current market; buyers are clamoring for homes.

On the flipside, sellers still have lives to lead, jobs to go to, kids in school and participating in athletics, etc. Then, there is the family time at home that many busy families treasure.

Despite this, you’ll need to remain flexible for showings. Naturally, we’ll help you find a balance between your life and home showings. It’s up to you, however, to understand that the home is now akin to a product and, if you want to sell it, you will try your hardest to accommodate those who want to view it.

A few coping mechanisms to help you let go

“Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it,” said author David Foster Wallace. If you can relate to that, especially when you think about selling your home, read on.

From the time you sign the listing agreement until the ink is dry on the closing papers is dangerous territory for those who are prone to seller’s remorse.

It seems, however, to get worse the closer we get to closing. Panic sets in and remorse and regret are typically not far behind.

One suggestion we often provide to our clients is to focus on the future. Think about the new home, how you’ll furnish it, landscape it or whatever else may be planned for the future that keeps you optimistic.

Take photos of the current home, inside and out. Plan on taking a favorite plant to the new home (dig it up before the home goes on the market). Plan a goodbye-party and invite neighbors you’ve grown especially fond of.

Then, focus on why you planned on selling it to begin with. Think about the current home’s short-comings, such as how cramped the kids are in their bedrooms or how far the commute is.

Turn your attention to items that the new home offers that excite you. Concentrate on those. “It will be so nice to have a bigger pantry,” or “The new backyard is perfect for the dog.”

Finally, work closely with your real estate agent. Ensure the agent you hire understands how your connection to the home is deeply emotional and how that is impacting you. Ensure as well that the agent is a positive person, able to handle the ups and downs you may throw his or her way.

Yes, selling a home is stressful, even if you aren’t that fond of it. But when you focus on what the future holds instead of what you’re giving up, the entire process will be much smoother.


Creepy Movies to get you in the Halloween Mood

Halloween is upon us and that means trips with the kids to corn mazes and haunted houses, shopping for pumpkins and buying treats.

In other words, if you have young children, Halloween means family time.

What better way to celebrate our haunted month than will some creepy movies? Pop up some corn instead of wandering through a field of it and sit back with the family while you all get into the Halloween spirit.

We also have suggestions for those with older children, or none at all!

“Super Monsters Save Halloween”

If you have tiny ones in the house (age 3+), this is the movie to rent (at Netflix). It’s especially suited for the ones who may feel a bit nervous about Halloween. The Super Monsters “… help a friend see there is nothing to be afraid of,” according to the Netflix description. Rated TV-Y.

“Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest”

Although it’s recommended for pre-schoolers (but not rated), if your child scares easily, you may want to opt for another movie. “Cute but my 4 1/2 year old son was scared by the no noggin [headless scarecrow] and brought it up twice at bedtime,” according to one parent reviewer with several others saying the same. Read more reviews at commonsensemedia.org. 

“Nightmare Before Christmas”

Suitable for kids age 7 and up, the “Nightmare Before Christmas” brings us the King of Halloween, Jack Skellington and his trip through the door to Christmas Town. There, he decides to give up his annual Halloween festivities and try his hand at December’s holiday. Kids love this one. Rated PG.

“The Lady Vanishes”

Love  classic spooky tales? Here’s an Alfred Hitchcock 1938 release that centers around the disappearance of a young woman’s traveling companion, the denial of the other passengers that her companion ever existed and her search to figure out what happened. No rating.

“Rosemary’s Baby”

A young, waifish mom-to-be thinks there is something not quite right about the child she is carrying. When she and her husband move to a new apartment, in a building with a haunted reputation and oddball occupants, all heck breaks loose. The truth of it all is revealed when Rosemary gives birth. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star in this 1968 classic. Rated R.


Released in 1931, this is the Dracula that forever cemented the dastardly blood sucker in America’s psyche. The midnight ride through the fog is worth the price of admission. No rating.


Wes Craven’s classic, released in 1996, stars Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell and Drew Barrymore. The movie follows a California high school student who becomes the target of Ghostface, a mysterious killer. Considered a “slasher movie,” this one’s not suited for kids. Besides, it’s rated R.

Silence of the Lambs”

It was scary back in 1991 and it’s still scary today, with Academy Award winning performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The latter plays Hannibal Lecter, lover of fava beans, Chianti and human flesh while messing with the mind of Foster’s Clarissa Starling, FBI agent. Rated R.


Don’t believe these 2 common mortgage myths

The biggest myth about mortgages (aka “home loans”) is that they’re hard to get. From how to qualify to acceptable credit scores to down payments, mortgage myths abound.

Today, we’ll debunk those that may be keeping you from confidently walking into a lender’s office and asking for a loan.

My credit score is too low

While a homebuyer’s credit score is scrutinized, and a lot is riding on it, it’s common for a borrower to be granted a home loan even with a less-than-perfect credit score.

FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) scores range from 300 to 850. Keep in mind that “Only about 1.6% of the U.S. population with a credit score has a perfect 850,” according to Elizabeth Gravier, citing recent FICO statistics at cnbc.com.

Since that pool of Americans represents such a tiny fraction of the homebuying pool, obviously a perfect credit score isn’t required to get a home loan.

In fact, the “ideal” credit score is 760, according to experts that Gravier consulted.

“Reaching a credit score of 760 will likely get you all the same benefits — and the best deals — on everything from mortgages and car loans to credit card rewards,” she said.

On the flipside, a credit score below 500 will probably keep you from your dreams of owning a home.

500??? I can get a mortgage with a 500 FICO score?

“If you can make a 10% down payment, your credit score can be in the 500 – 579 range,” to obtain an FHA-backed mortgage, according to Victoria Araj at rocketmortgage.com.

Naturally, approval of a loan for a borrower with a 500 FICO score depends on more than just your credit score such as other items in your credit reports, your debt-to-income ratio and more.

If all else looks good, however, you may just score yourself a mortgage with a good down payment.

No, you don’t need to have a 20% down payment

When you take out a mortgage, you’ll need to come up with a down payment and closing costs. The former is a source of confusion among many homebuyers.

While financial experts recommend a large down payment on a home loan, it is often not a hard and fast requirement. Depending on your income, your debt and your credit history, you may qualify for a far lower down payment than 20%.

These are just two of the many mortgage myths swirling around today. Suffice it to say, you may qualify for a mortgage without having to save for the down payment for the rest of your life.

Feel free to reach out to us with any questions.