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 

“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

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

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.

Inexpensive fall home maintenance projects to do this weekend

It has been said that the easiest way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time. The same holds true for home maintenance tasks. Broken down into smaller bites, the jobs don’t seem so overwhelming.

We like to categorize them by seasons. Heading into fall, and the wild weather to come in winter, there are several preparatory home maintenance tasks that you can and should get underway right now.

“A home operates with the seasons, coming to life in the spring and hunkering down for the winter,” said Ronda Kaysen, New York Times columnist and author of “Right at Home.”

The good news is that some of these chores can be tackled in one weekend.

How’s the caulking holding up?

If it’s been awhile since you checked the caulking in the home, take some time this weekend to check it out. Even if you just check the caulking around the doors and windows, you’ll be one step ahead in preparing your home for the colder weather to come.

An easy way to check for air leaks from windows is with a lit candle. Hold the candle “… close to the window seams on a breezy day,” instructs the experts at

“If the flame bends, it signals air movement pushing through the window from outdoors.”

Go outside and check the caulking on the frame. If you notice gaps or cracks it, you’ll need to replace the caulking.

Other areas of the home to check include around doors and anywhere that pipes and vents protrude to the outside wall.

You’ll find tips on caulking windows at

Inspect the roof

Real estate agents learn early in their careers to look at the ceilings when touring a home with their clients. Often, water stains on the ceiling are the first indication to homeowners that the roof is leaking, although they may also signify leaky plumbing or fixtures.

Next, go outside and take a look at the roof, checking for missing and broken shingles.

Finally, check trees that are close to the roof for overgrowth and trim it back so that it’s not in contact with the roof.

If you suspect roof damage, call a roofing contractor for a more thorough inspection.

Get rid of gutter gunk

While you’re checking out the home’s roof, take a look at the gutters. The main purpose of gutters is to ensure that water is directed away from the foundation. If they’re full of leaves and other debris, they’ll be ineffective and may cause foundation damage.

Remove the debris and ensure that the gutters are securely attached to the home.

Ensure your refrigerator doesn’t poop out

It’s one of those home-maintenance tasks most homeowners neglect. But did you know that appliance experts recommend cleaning your refrigerator’s coils every six months?

The coils help to keep warm air from intruding to the inside of the refrigerator. They tend to collect dust, pet fur and other debris that then slows the unit’s efficiency.

What ends up happening is that the refrigerator works harder and, thus, uses more energy.

The refrigerator’s coils are located either at the bottom of the front of the unit or in the back. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove the debris and, if necessary, a coil cleaning brush. These are inexpensive and can be purchased at, lowe’ and

Are you ready for the next hurricane?

While, thankfully, hurricane Ida is now in the rearview mirror and all is quiet on the weather front, emergency preparedness experts are warning us that we are only in the beginning of hurricane season.

Are you ready for the next one?

Hurricane readiness can save your home, your life and even thousands of dollars on homeowners insurance.

Is a Hurricane Headed Your Way?

Florida and Louisiana may be the most common victims of the Atlantic hurricane season, but as we have seen in the last few years, everyone from Texas to the Jersey shore needs to be prepared.

Anyone who has been through a hurricane or has had a home damaged by one will tell you that waiting to prepare until there is a hurricane on the radar isn’t wise.

Get supplies now. Make plans for what you’ll do when the next one hits.

Evacuate or Hunker Down?

If an evacuation order is mandated, then you should absolutely pack up and go. In fact, even if there is a chance a hurricane will hit your area, you ought to get out of town early if you can.

Otherwise, you face becoming trapped and vulnerable in the ensuing traffic jams. Plus, as we have seen during the worst hurricanes of the last decade, it isn’t always the wind and rain that is the worst threat to your safety – often it is the mayhem that follows.

Whether you are staying or going, you need to have your emergency kit ready and be well-stocked on essentials.
Evacuating? Before heading out, do the following:

  • Fill up the gas tank in your vehicle.
  • Turn off pilot lights and shut off your gas line
  • Turn off the water supply and master electrical breaker
  • Secure anything moveable, such as patio furniture and garden equipment, that is outdoors.
  • Board up windows or close hurricane shutters.
  • Ensure you have cash on hand.

If you plan on staying put, ensure you do the following:

  • Buy plywood, aluminum or steel panels to cover doors and windows.
  • Purchase garage door storm braces. Garage doors are the most vulnerable point in the typical home, according to the experts at the National Weather Service. Watch the how-to install video at
  • Cut back large trees that may topple onto the home.
  • Secure outdoor furniture and other items that may get tossed during the storm.

What you’ll need if you decide to hunker down:

  • Food for three to seven days (don’t forget pet, baby food and infant formula)
  • Plenty of water (at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Flashlights
  • Radio
  • Batteries
  • Cash
  • Copies of important documents including IDs for all adults and your homeowner insurance policy
  • Either a blanket or sleeping bag for each family member

Get approaching hurricane alerts and forecasts by visiting the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center online at

Time to downsize? Check out the incredible advantages

In 1973, the median U.S. home size was 1,525 square feet. Since then, builders have gradually increased the square footage of the homes they construct.

In 2007, home sizes hit their peak (2,227 square feet) and have been dropping ever since, according to the Census Bureau.

Although Americans aren’t quite ready to completely give up their McMansions, the trend appears to be toward smaller homes.

A smaller footprint has its advantages. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Money Saver

The most obvious advantage to buying a smaller home is that the monthly payment will typically be lower than it would be if you bought a large home.  Less obvious money-saving advantages include:

  • Lower utility bills – less area to heat and cool.
  • Smaller houses require less maintenance, which can cost a bundle with a large house — a smaller roof requires fewer materials to repair it, for example.
  • Small homes cost less to keep clean – you’ll spend less on cleaning supplies and whatever you estimate your time is worth.
  • Small houses cost less to furnish – the furniture that you do purchase will be smaller as well.
  • Smaller homes have smaller tax bills.

The case for downsizing to save money is even more urgent if you are nearing or in retirement. Annual property taxes and home maintenance can eat up a huge amount of your savings.

If you aren’t near retirement, think of what you can do with the money saved by downsizing – like furnishing it with high-quality furniture and appliances that will last longer; another cost-saving advantage.

No Wasted Space

Lifestyles have changed since the days when formal dining and living rooms were in vogue. Americans are awake to the fact that they have been paying for huge amounts of space that they seldom use.

Today, a country kitchen or informal dining room suffices for our smaller families and any extra space is typically devoted to a home office or larger kitchens and bathrooms.

One of the most common fears when considering a smaller home, however, is the lack of storage space. The solution? Downsize all your “stuff” too.

“We use 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the time,” according to Regina Brett at This means that 80 percent of our “stuff” just sits, taking up valuable space.

If you feel that you absolutely can’t live without these belongings, put them in storage and pull them out on the rare occasions you need to use them.

The rest can be stored creatively in a smaller home. Utilize the vertical spaces in the home, such as placing shelves above the washer and dryer or the clothing rod in the closet. Raise the beds to create storage space beneath them.

Peace of Mind

While living large is impressive, living small brings happiness, according to Stephanie Rosenbloom of the New York Times. Smaller homes require less work thus freeing up time for leisure activities and time to make memories.

Since they also cost less, the extra money can be used to create happiness. “Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness,” Rosenbloom claims.

Yes, large homes still signify status – especially if the home is of the luxury variety. If you aren’t a member of the country’s 1 percent, however, smaller may just be better.

Reach out to us for more ideas on downsizing to a smaller home.

Should I buy a home with a septic system?

When looking at homes for sale you may see in the listing description that a home isn’t on “city services.”

What this means is that the home has its own “sewer,” known as a septic system.

We frequently field questions about septic systems, so we put together this report with the basics you’ll need to know about buying and owning a home that isn’t on city services.

The anatomy of the septic system

Let’s face it: Sewage is probably the least glamorous topic to consider. But bodily fluids have to go somewhere and sewers and septic systems are our current choices.

Whatever is put down the drain, from the toilet, shower, washing machine and sink, ends up in the septic tank.

That tank is located underground and it’s watertight. This is where all the incoming “stuff” is treated. The solids are trapped on the bottom of the tank and the wastewater that’s left over is released into the leach field (sometimes called a “drain field”).

The solids, or sludge as it’s called in the septic business, are broken down by bacteria naturally found in wastewater. Not all of it is broken down and what’s not remains in the tank until the homeowner has it pumped out.

As mentioned earlier, this is a basic description. If you want to dive into the technical aspects of septic systems, you’ll find lots of information online.

Septic system maintenance

If you purchase a home with a septic system, you will be responsible for its maintenance. Defer maintenance on the system and problems will get worse.

In fact, the national average cost for septic system repair is around $2,700.

Aside from a hefty bill, if the tank isn’t maintained it may spring a leak, saturating the leach field. You may end up with sewage coming back into the home, into the bathtub or another plumbing fixture.

Allow the problem to get so bad that you need a new system and you’re looking at a cost of around $4,600 (but it can go higher).

When considering purchasing a home with a septic system you’ll want consider basic maintenance costs. This includes paying for an annual inspection and having the tank pumped every three to five years.

The cost to pump the tank varies according to the tank’s capacity. The national average, according to, is $381.

Your due diligence

Aside from the whole house inspection every smart homebuyer should have performed, we recommend that you also hire a professional septic contractor to inspect the septic system.

The inspection will include looking for leaks, ensuring that the sludge levels are below the outlet tee, checking to ensure the electrical and mechanical components are in good condition and more.

Typically, it’s the homebuyer’s responsibility to hire and pay for the contractor, but not always. In some regions, such as Central Virginia, for instance, the seller must have the septic system inspected “within 30 days of the closing date,” according to information posted at

Septic systems aren’t as scary as many homebuyers think. Yes, they aren’t as convenient as being on city services, but as long as the system is inspected each year and you keep up the maintenance, you should have no worries.

And, it beats having to pay to get the home connected to the city’s sewer system.

Fall: Time to plant those mums!

Fall mums, also known as garden mums, used to be commonly known as chrysanthemums. They are available in many colors and sizes, are easy to grow in the garden bed as well as containers and they’re sure to add a jolt of color when everything else is dying back.

The best time to plant the fall mum is in late August to mid-September.

The fall mum is planted either in late August or early September. But you can still plant until “… six weeks before the first killing frost,” according to Leanne Potts at

What you’ll need

  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Gardening fork
  • 5-10-5 fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch

Prepare the planting bed

The ideal place to plant your fall mum is one that gets a full day of sunshine. The plant will produce more and better blooms the more sun it gets.

The fall mum has a very shallow root system so you won’t need to dig up the soil too much when preparing the bed. Dig down to a depth of 4 inches, turning the soil and crushing any large clods of dirt.

Remove any rocks or old roots or other debris that you find. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting bed and, with the gardening fork, mix it in well with the existing soil, and then level the bed so that there aren’t any depressions.

Plant the mums

The distance you place between plants is going to depend a lot upon the size of the mums you are planting. Generally, you will want to space them 18 inches apart.

Remove the plant from its current pot by tipping the pot over and gently coaxing it out. Squeezing the sides of plastic planting pots helps disengage roots that are stuck to the sides.

Once it’s out of the nursery pot, loosen the mum’s outer roots with your fingers.

Dig a hole twice the width and the same depth as the pot in which the mum was growing. Place the roots of the plant into the hole and backfill, patting the soil around the roots as you go. Firm the soil around the plant and then water deeply.

Care of the newly-planted mum

Regular, deep watering is vital for the success of your fall mum garden. Give them a good soak twice a week.

They won’t require any fertilizer their first season in the garden. Next season, plan on feeding monthly with a 5-10-5 fertilizer at the rate of 1 lb. per 100 square feet of garden space.

When your mum plants have reached 6-inches in height, cut an inch of new growth from every shoot. These cut shoots will produce more branches and, when those have grown 3 inches, cut them as well. Keep doing this until July. This will encourage the mum plant to be bushier and it will provide you with more flowers.

As winter approaches, keep the plants moist. There’s no need to cut them back, as you will do this in the spring. When the soil freezes, add a 4-inch layer of mulch around them.

In the spring, rake back the mulch and cut the mum plants back to the soil. As you did last season, start trimming the new growth when the plant is 6 inches tall.

Happy Fall!

The lead based paint disclosure

Among the many forms you’ll be asked to sign when you buy a home is the Lead Based Paint disclosure. I’ve seen many clients give it just a cursory glance before signing it; rarely does anyone take the time to read it.

It’s an important disclosure, as it lets you know if there is lead-based paint on the walls, window sills and doors.

Why should you care?

Lead-based paint dust and chips can cause serious health problems, especially in kids. “Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead,” cautions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths.”

A little history

Before 1978, lead-based paint was the most commonly used in new-home construction.

The EPA estimates that 87 percent of homes built before 1940, 69 percent of those built between 1940 and 1959 and 24 percent of homes built between 1960 and 1977 contain lead-based paint.

The older the home, the better the chance that it contains hazardous levels of lead. The use of lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978.

Homeowner disclosure requirements

Although federal law requires the home seller to disclose the presence of lead-based paint if the home was built prior to 1978, most offer the disclosure even for more recently built homes.

The seller is also required to give the buyer a pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home.”

The buyer must be allowed a 10-day period to inspect the paint in the home, but this time period may be adjusted by mutual agreement.

Homebuyer duties

Despite seller disclosure duties, homebuyers are expected to exercise due diligence when purchasing a home. This means reading and understanding each form you sign during the transaction.

If the home was built before 1978 and the seller claims he or she has no knowledge of the presence of lead-based paint, you should hire a lead inspector to ensure that there is no lead present in the home.

You can search for Certified Inspection firms on the EPA’s website.

Will finding lead in the home kill the deal?

The presence of lead in the home doesn’t necessarily derail the purchase. The inspector should be able to provide you with an estimate on fixing the problem.

We can take this estimate to the seller and ask him or her to make the repairs before the close of escrow or request the amount required to remedy the situation as cash-back at the close of escrow and have the repairs performed after you move in.

Feel free to reach out to us if you need more information on this disclosure or other aspects of the home purchase or sale process.

Tips to close your pool

Summer 2020 and 2021 saw the sale of pools, and homes with pools, skyrocket. In July of this year, “… a basic vinyl in-ground pool — without the bells and whistles of heating, decking or any further customization — costs $85,000 on average, up from the $60,000 to $65,000 in 2019,” said Zachary Kussin at

As a result, a huge swath of the American public has been subjected to crash courses in subjects such as balancing the chlorine and pH levels in their pools, checking alkalinity and calcium hardness levels, keeping the pool chlorinated and more.

With winter just few months away, their next question will be “What do I do to get this thing ready for winter?”

If you’re among the curious, read on.

Open your pool early and close your pool late

It’s tempting to want to get a head start on closing your pool as summer winds down and kids head back to school. Tempting, but not wise.

“If you close your pool while the weather is still warm, the winter protection chemicals you’ve added will often not last until spring,” according to Lana Seidman with HIC of Staten Island, Inc., a non-profit trade association

She goes on to explain that “… pool chemicals are consumed much faster in hotter temperatures versus cooler temperatures.”

How hot is hot? Sixty degrees Fahrenheit appears to be the magic number. This is the temperature at which algae goes dormant, according to Seidman. Wait until the water temperature remains consistently lower than 60 degrees before closing your pool.

Give the pool a good scrub

The experts at Thatcher Pools recommend that you “… grab the pool brush and your telescoping pole and start scrubbing. Scrub everything from the walls to the floor, and get to the nooks and crannies if you can.”

Not only does this process loosen debris but also algae spores that may have settled into those nooks and crannies.

Finally, vacuum up all the loosened debris.

Get those chemicals balanced

Here’s what to aim for, according to those pros at Thatcher Pools:

  • pH: 7.2 to 7.8
  • Alkalinity: 100 to 150 parts per million (ppm)
  • Chlorine: Less than 5 parts per million.

Add an algaecide (never add this when the chloring level is high) and pool enzymes next. Consider using a Winter Pill that will work all winter long.

You’ll also want to shock the pool, regardless of how clear the water is. Find a shock product designed to be used when closing a pool that contains “… at least 65 per cent hypochlorite.”

No, the work isn’t over yet, but this gives you a good head start. You’ll find pool closing walk-through tutorials and videos online.

What questions should I ask real estate agents?

Seven in 10 real estate consumers work with the first real estate agent they interview, according to studies by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

I don’t know about you, but I find that statistic shocking. Whether buying or selling a home, you’re dealing with one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime.

Why wouldn’t you take the time to ensure that the person that assists you in this transaction is experienced, knowledgeable and equipped with the skills required to get you where you want to be both financially and personally?

Even more surprising, according to the NAR, sellers typically ask real estate agents only two questions before hiring them — they want to know how much their home is worth and how much they will have to pay in commissions. That’s it; they ask no further questions.

So, this month, we’ll take a look at some answers to the tough questions you should ask before trusting any real estate agent to represent you in the purchase or sale of real estate.

This is a job interview

When you interview agents to assist you in the sale or purchase of a home you are, in essence, conducting a job interview and you should approach it as such.

Be aware of how the agent presents herself (or himself, as the case may be) and his or her business.

Are listing presentation materials professionally formatted and presented? Remember, if any of the agents can’t or won’t market themselves effectively, how can they possibly market your home?

Ask the right questions

Ah, the internet – what would we do without it? Homebuyers, by and large, begin their home searches online and many sellers use the internet to size up the competition. The web also happens to be the ideal place to help you narrow your choices when it comes to choosing a real estate agent.

More than 70 percent of Americans seek online product reviews before making a purchase, according to researchers at Northwestern University.

While service reviews aren’t quite as prevalent, you can find agent reviews and testimonials from clients online. So, once you have your list of agents to interview, it’s your turn to seek out reviews.

Real estate consumer success stories, in their own words, are powerful proof of an agent’s effectiveness. You can typically find testimonials on agent websites, but the best are unsolicited by the agent and you’ll find those on and some of the large real estate platforms.

OK, here’s question number one to ask in agent interviews: “May I have the name and telephone numbers of some past clients?” Then, don’t be afraid to call them and probe for details about the agent’s skills, strong points and work ethic.

Additional questions you should ask each agent include:

  • Length of time in the industry – Even more important, or perhaps it goes hand-in-hand, is the number of “deals” the agent has participated in. The best agents have enough experience to where they can handle whatever a transaction throws their way.
  • Marketing – It’s a listing agent’s primary job and therefore an important question to ask is how he or she plans on marketing your home.

The agent should have a visible and robust online presence as well as access to the many online real estate marketing platforms.

Ask to see examples of past marketing campaigns. Home descriptions should be compelling and the photos should be clear.

If a virtual or 3D tour is important to you, ask for examples that the agent has created for past clients. Finally, it takes money to effectively market a home so ensure that the agent you hire has a marketing budget to back up the plan.

  • Ask the agents for their list-to-sales price ratio. This represents how close to list price the agent’s listings have sold.

Each agent should be able to tell you the average days a home remains on the market in our area so ask. Then, inquire as to how long the agent’s listings remain on the market.

Just as in any other industry, not all real estate agents are alike. To assume they are sets you up for wasted time and money.

Interview at least three agents and be prepared to ask the tough questions.