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Home Inspections – Specialists You May Want to Check Out

While most folks settle for a home inspection, pest (termite) inspection and possibly a roof inspection, there are a myriad of specialists you can hire to investigate just about anything home-related when you are purchasing a home. The California Association of Realtors put together this short list of the most popular, but some common inspections we see  also include:

Pool & Spa – If the home has a pool and spa, its a must to get it inspected. This is often an overlooked item and failing pool pumps and heaters can be very expensive.

Arborist – Does the home have a huge tree in the front yard? Is one of the trees looking overgrown? Sometimes, it makes sense to call an arborist to make sure the trees on the property are healthy and not in danger of falling limbs or needing to be uprooted (all of which can be rather costly).

Contractors – Are you considering doing some renovating to a home after purchase? Its smart to have a contractor walk the home before you purchase to ensure you can do all the items you want. Sometimes structural modifications might not work or will be very expensive due to the placement of load-bearing walls and foundations so its something you might want to know up front if you are planning on adding on to a home or re-arranging.

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Winter is Coming! Top 10 Winter Energy Saving Tips

Whether you’re able to make a big investment into cutting your energy costs or just looking for a few free and simple ways to save money, here are 10 helpful tips for keeping your energy bills down this winter. 

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1. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. Your heating system will operate less and use less energy. By turning it down an additional five degrees at night, you could save up to $70 on energy costs each year.

2. Set your water heater to 120 degrees. Your water heater won’t have to work as hard if it’s set to a lower temperature. In fact, each time you lower it 10 degrees, you’ll save 3-5% on water heating costs.

3. Open window coverings on south-facing windows. This will help warm your house during the day. At night, cover all windows to help keep the heat in. 4. Use cold water when washing clothes. Washing clothes in cold water could save you around $40 a year with an electric water heater and $30 with a gas water heater.

Some Cost

5. Replace your furnace filter regularly. Dirty filters reduce air flow, making your equipment work harder. Replace your furnace filter monthly (unless it is a high efficiency filter) during the heating season to reduce heating costs by up to 5% or $35 a year.

6. Install water-efficient showerheads and faucets. 1.8 gallon-a-minute showerheads can reduce your hot water consumption by as much as 10% and save $20 a year. 7. Switch to compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs. They cost a little more but you’ll save about $40 over the life of just one bulb.

8. Weatherize your home. You’ll save up to 10% on heating and cooling costs! Seal holes to the outside by

Larger Investment

9. Insulate your home. By adding insulation to the attic, unfinished basement walls and crawlspaces, you could save 20% on heating and cooling costs. You may need to consult a contractor before taking on this project and I’d be happy to provide you with a referral.

10. Purchase energy efficient appliances. Remember, items like refrigerators, washers, dryers, furnaces, TVs and computers have two price tags – purchase price and lifetime energy costs. Energy efficient appliances can save you up to $75 a year while helping save the environment.

It’s shaping up to be a chilly winter this year. I hope you find these tips helpful in keeping your home warm, while keeping your energy bills low. Feel free to contact me with any questions you have about buying or selling a home this winter.

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Local Christmas Tree Farms 2017

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Our family has a wonderful tradition of heading out to a local Christmas tree farm with friends and family and cutting down our own tree. Although its left us rainy and muddy some years, we love the experience of it and it really puts us in the holiday mood! The photo above is of our favorite local spot in the Los Gatos mountains — Lone Star Tree Farm.

If you are and your family are looking to try something new this year, consider cutting down your own tree! We’ve compiled a list of local tree farms to make things easy (but maybe not less muddy!)

Crest Ranch Choose and Cut Trees 

12200 Empire Grade

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

 

Summit Christmas Tree Farm 

23868 Summit Road

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Patchen California Christmas Tree Farm

22217 Old Santa Cruz Highway

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Lone Star Tree Farm 

20514 Gist Road

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Black Road Christmas Tree Farm

20259 Black Road

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Four Winds Christmas Tree Farm 

19679 Skyline Blvd.

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Hester Creek Christmas Trees 

25507 San Jose-Sequel Road

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Peacock Tree Farm 

17950 Mountain Charlie Road

Los Gatos, CA 95033

 

Skyline Farms 

20514 Gist Road

Los Gatos 95033

 

Tips to Winterize Your Home this Year

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Preparing your home for winter now will save you money later. Some jobs are simple maintenance, while others may require professional repairmen. Follow these tips to help protect your home from the winter chill.

Heating System Checks. Before cold weather arrives, have a heating professional do a routine check on your heating system. Replace your air filters and keep them clean during the heating season. Taking these steps will ensure that your furnace is running efficiently and safely.

Chimney and Fireplace. Check to be sure the chimney is free of any leaves, nests, birds or squirrels. Installing a screen or cap over the top will keep debris from getting inside. The flu damper should open and close easily. To make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke, check the draft. To test this, roll up some newspaper and light it in the fireplace. The smoke should rise, if it doesn’t you have an obstruction and should call a professional to clean the chimney.

Windows. Install storm windows. Caulk and weatherstrip your windows to avoid any air leaks. Caulk should be applied in weather that is at least 45 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid swelling with moisture and to make certain it sets properly.

Yard and Garden. Begin by draining all hoses and sprinklers so they won’t freeze or break. Protect your plants by cutting back, almost to the ground, any perennials whose foliage have become lifeless. Remove dead or dying tree limbs to avoid snow or ice build up which may cause branches to fall and damage your home.

Burglary Prevention Tips

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One of the crimes most frequently reported to the police during the holidays is residential burglary
It’s also the most preventable. It doesn’t take much or cost much to out-smart most burglars. They’re usually not professionals, but rather people taking advantage of an easy target. Burglars may do more than steal things. If they’re surprised by someone coming home or if they choose a home that’s occupied, someone may get hurt.

Tips on Safeguarding Your Home

  • Make sure all exterior doors have good locks-at least dead-bolt locks with a 1″ throw.
  • Always lock up when you go out, even if only for a few minutes.
  • Secure sliding glass doors with bars or locks, or put a broom handle in the door track.
  • Make sure your windows have good locks, especially those at ground level.
  • Make sure all porches, entrances, and outside areas are well lit.
  • Trim any bushes or trees that hide doors or windows.
  • Maintain your yard and keep ladders and tools inside when you’re not using them.
  • Don’t hide your keys under the doormat or in a flowerpot. That’s the first place burglars look! It’s much better to give an extra key to a trusted neighbor.
  • Mark your valuable property like TVs, VCRs, computers, cameras and stereos with your driver’s license number.
  • Keep a record of your property in a safe place.
  • Install an alarm system for summoning emergency help.
  • If you park your car outside, never leave a garage door opener in the car.
  • Install a monitoring device such as a Ring Video Doorbell or Chime Doorbell. Easy to spot cameras are also a good choice.

When you go away

  • Ask a neighbor to collect your mail and newspapers, and offer to return the favor.
  • Put an automatic timer on at least two lights and a radio. Consider photoelectric sensors to turn outside lights on and off automatically.
  • Tell a trusted neighbor when you’re leaving and when you’ll return. Include an itinerary and phone numbers where you can be reached in an emergency.

Will the Bay Area Housing “bubble” burst?

Will the Bay Area housing bubble burst? Head of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), Lawrence Yun doesn’t seem to think so as long as the area keeps creating jobs fueled by a shortage of housing supply and high buyer demand.

He did forecast interest rates to rise 3-5 😮 times over the next few years. Time to save for your first or next home purchase. It can be a big step so if you need help figuring out where to start, give us a call today! Click on the link below for more information on this article from the Mercury News.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/19/housing-economist-poses-the-big-question-will-the-bay-area-bubble-burst/

5 Tips for Establishing Credit

If you dream of one-day owning your own home, you’ll most likely need to finance its purchase. Mortgage lenders will want to review your credit history to evaluate whether or not you’re a worthy borrower. So how do you get started establishing a credit history? Here are four ideas for you to get you started:

Open a bank account
Open a bank account and use it responsibly. This is the first step in establishing a financial history.

Get a co-signer
A good way to establish credit is to piggy-back on someone who already has good credit history established and is willing to co-sign, but be aware that any default of credit on your part affects the credit of the co-signer.

Secured Credit Card
Apply for a credit card. Shop around and only apply for a card if you can meet the lender’s requirements. Responsible use will help you build a good credit history. Pay all your bills by their respective due dates and always pay over the minimum amount due.

Use Your Credit Cards
Your credit score is highly based upon the ratio of debt to you incur to your total credit line and your ability to pay that debt on time so using your credit cards will establish examples of this. Try to keep the ratios low by paying your debt down every month. And NEVER EVER close a credit card, even if you don’t use it. It will count towards your total credit line.

Department store and gasoline credit cards
Since gasoline credit cards are not revolving (cannot carry a balance forward month-to-month), often they are easier to obtain than regular credit cards. Similarly, some department stores offer revolving credit for a specific purchase and this is easier to obtain. It is also a good way to establish credit.

If you’d like to chat more about steps you can take now that will help make your dream of homeownership a reality, I’d be happy to offer my expert advice. Just give me a call.