Holiday Safety for Your Pets


Celebrate with your pets – after all, they are part of the family, too, but make sure you keep them safe this holiday season. Dogs and cats don’t know what they can and cannot eat, and if it’s shiny, they think it must be a toy. Here are some simple holiday pet safety tips so you can safely spend the holidays with your furry friends and not with your vet.

Watch what they eat. We all know that chocolate is a poison to your dog, but what else should they avoid? Grapes and raisins, onions, avocados, macadamia nuts and alcohol are all bad for Fido. Keep him safe by feeding him his food and dog treats but not people food. Even if the food isn’t poisonous to dogs, too many table treats can lead to indigestion and one ill pooch. And never give your dog the bone from your meat. These treats can cause your dog to choke or cause stomach and digestive issues.

Keep them away from candles and breakables. With all the excitement of the holidays, your dog or cat may be extra playful or a more nervous than usual. Make sure lit candles and breakables are away from their paths, so they don’t knock them off of the table and break them or start a fire.

Plants can be poisonous. Mistletoe is poisonous when eaten and can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. None of this spells joy this holiday season. And the verdict is still out on the dangers of poinsettias, but better safe than sorry.

Go garland-free if you have a cat. Anyone with a feline has seen the joy in its eyes when it sees something shiny. Tinsel and garland are begging to be eaten by a cat. At best, eating this will cause vomiting. At worst, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract. Ribbons and yarns can cause the same problems. Entertain your furry friend with safe toys and discard the rest.

Provide your pets with a safe and people-free zone. A bedroom or study with a nice bed and some fresh water gives your pet a place to go to get away from guests and chaos. Dogs and cats like their routines. Keep them relaxed and safe with a room of their own.

By following a few simple “rules,” you and your furry friends will have a much happier holiday season. 

Fed Announces Fed Funds Rate Hike

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After its September 25-26 meeting, the Fed announced an increase to the benchmark Federal Funds Rate by 0.25 percent for the third time this year. The increase, which was expected by investors, brings the new target rate range to between 2 and 2.25 percent.

If you’re wondering what this rate hike means for home loan rates, don’t panic. A rise in home loan rates shouldn’t be expected as a direct result of the Fed’s decision.

This is because the Fed hike is not to all rates but to the Fed Funds Rate, which is the short-term rate at which banks lend money to each other overnight. The Fed Funds Rate is not directly tied to long-term rates on consumer products like purchase or refinance home loans.

In its announcement, the Fed noted that the economy and labor market continue to strengthen and that inflation remains near the Fed’s target of 2 percent. If inflation can stay in check, this could be good news for home loan rates. Inflation reduces the value of fixed investments like Mortgage Bonds, and home loan rates are tied to Mortgage Bonds.

However, continued strong economic news could also benefit Stocks at the expense of Mortgage Bonds and home loan rates if investors move money into Stocks to take advantage of gains. I’ll continue to monitor all these market movements for you.

While home loan rates have ticked higher this year, they remain attractive historically. If you have any questions about whether you can benefit from current home loan rates, please reach out to Universal Lending at anytime.

Ready for Fall Cleaning? Here are Some Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Fall and Winter

Dog in window

Summer is coming to a brisk end, and fall is almost here. Yes – Fall means crisp days, long walks, the changing leaves and the best autumn vegetables. But it also means we’ll be closing up our homes and spending more time inside. Now is the time to clean your home and make it cozy for family time inside. Here are some fall chores to make your home the space you want it to be. You don’t have to do all of these. Pick a couple to get started. Check them off the list as you go, and you’ll see that getting ready for a new season is not so hard.

Wash all your windows. All you need is a bottle of glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Do this on a cloudy day so you can see any streaks.

Clean your window treatments. Dust wooden blinds and use a damp cloth or your microfiber cloth. You can vacuum canvas, cotton or fabric treatments. Use a low setting and an attachment. If your cloth treatments are really dirty, check the cleaning instructions and go from there.

Wash your walls and dust the trim along the walls and the windowsills. Dust, wash, rinse and dry painted or paneled walls. Start in the kitchen and bathroom and go from there.

Dust ceiling lights and ceiling fans. These collect a lot of dust and are often forgotten.

Dust your air vents or vacuum them with an attachment.

Clean your refrigerator coil. Click here for more refrigerator cleaning tips, if you’re really ambitious.

Vacuum and shampoo your carpets or treat yourself to a professional cleaning.

Clean out those closets. What didn’t you wear this past season? Do you need to keep it or can you donate it?

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and change the batteries.

Replace your furnace filters.

Clean the chimney or have it professionally cleaned.

This may seem like a lot to do, but you will be glad you did when winter is here and you’re cozy, warm and safe inside!

What to Expect from a Home Inspection

Hands with house and magnifying glass, search home concept
Hands with house and magnifying glass, search home concept

Even in today’s hot housing market, you don’t want to skip the home inspection. The home inspection is a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?

Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:
Lot and landscaping
Hot water supply
Chimney and fireplace(s)
Termite damage/wood damage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

Remember, no matter how anxious you are to get into your home, a home inspection is not something you want to skimp on. 

Simple Tips for Cleaning Your Refrigerator

Midnight snacks

There are some jobs that very few of us want to spend a Saturday doing. Cleaning the refrigerator is one of them. But your refrigerator can be one of the hardest working and reliable appliances you own. Here are some simple ways to clean your refrigerator and keep it clean and smelling fresh.

Clean as you go: Wipe up spills as they happen. Wipe rims of jars, salad dressing, ketchup, etc. before you put them away.

Check for spoiled food every day or two. Why wait until garbage day to throw out old food you’re not going to eat? Cleaning it out every day or two keeps odors and from growing.

Wipe the doors, handles, top of refrigerator with damp cloth once a week. Use a mild dish soap and water.

Clean door seals once a month. Wipe away crumbs and other things that have gathered, using a dry, clean cloth. Check the seals quarterly

Use toothpaste to scrub stains. It contains a gentle abrasive that makes getting rid of stains easy.

Empty the refrigerator and remove all the shelves, drawers and walls once a quarter. Put your food into a cooler to keep it fresh. If your shelves are glass let the warm to room temperature. Clean the inside, shelves and drawers with a mixture of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart hot water. This doesn’t just clean, it removes odors as well.

Vacuum the coils. Unplug the refrigerator and move it away from the wall. Use an attachment to get the dust and dirt that has collected in the coils.

Clean underneath the refrigerator. As long as you’ve pulled the refrigerator away from the wall, now is the right time to clean the floor where your refrigerator stands. To do this more often and not only when you move your refrigerator, take a yard stick covered in a pair of pantyhose and drag it under the refrigerator to catch dust and dust bunnies.

Keep a box of baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb odors.

Put a few drops of vanilla or orange extract onto a cotton ball and put them in a shallow bowl in the refrigerator for a quick fix.

Put a crumbled piece of brown paper bag in the vegetable drawers to eliminate odors. Leave the crumpled bag in for 48 hours. The bag will absorb the odor.

If you don’t keep your refrigerator full, put a gallon of water in there and leave it. It will keep the refrigerator running efficiently.

The Good and the Bad – Is New Construction Right for You?

Housing Development Under Construction

Brand new homes that have never been lived in are appealing to home buyers. In fact, according to Trulia, they are preferred 2 to 1. But like most things when you’re buying a home, there are pros and cons to new construction.

What are some of the advantages to new construction?

Updated and current floor plans may include more open space, mingling the kitchen and living areas. And a master on the main may be easier to find in new construction.

You may be able to have the paint, appliances and other features customized before you move in. That means, the colors are those you wanted; you have the kitchen that fits your needs; and the bathroom faucets are the ones you picked out.

New homes are being built with what the market demands today — bigger closets, large master bathrooms, open floor plans and more.

Energy efficiency is popular, so you may find you have lower utility bills.

A lot of homes are now wired to be technologically savvy living spaces. It may be easier to watch what’s going on in your home from a distance, and you may find you are able to turn on your lights and change the temperature in your home before you even leave the office. And since it comes pre-wired, you don’t have to rewire, which means no extra holes in the wall from old wiring.

What are some of the disadvantages?

Cost can be a factor, with new homes often being more expensive than comparable homes that have been previously lived in.

The amenities that are in the model homes are often upgrades for the home buyer. If you want the best, it’s going to cost you, and it’s going to be expensive.

You’ll miss the quaint, tree-lined neighborhoods, as your home works to become established with gardens, trees and other neighborhood “niceties.”

You may find yourself farther away from the community and driving farther and longer to get to schools, supermarkets, etc.

The lots for a lot of new homes are smaller than the lots in the older neighborhoods. If a healthy distance makes for a better relationship with your neighbor, new build may not fit your needs.

Before purchasing your home take a good look at the pros and cons of what you’re purchasing. But remember, whether it’s new construction or not, the home is still all yours! Congratulations on your home purchase.

Childproofing Your Home

child playing behind safety gates in front of stairs at home

You want your home to be a safe place for your kids whether they are crawling, toddling or walking. You may not be thinking of all of the new ways kids can find to hurt themselves, but your kids are! Here are just a few tips for childproofing your home.

For a longer checklist, be sure to read: Tips for Childproofing Your Home.

15 Quick Childproofing Tips

  1. Cover all electrical outlets with child-resistant covers.
  2. Keep chemicals out of reach and in locked cabinets.
  3. Use the safety belts that your baby’s swings and bouncy seats come with.
  4. Shorten curtain and blind cords. These present a choking hazard.
  5. Remove the plastic tips from door stops or replace the door stops with one-piece door stops.
  6. Secure unsteady furnishings.
  7. Make sure hallways and stairs are well lit at all times.
  8. Put a gate at the top and bottom of stairs to keep babies and toddlers from going up or down.
  9. Put the baby’s crib away from all drapery, electrical cords and windows.
  10. Move mobiles and other hanging toys away from the crib before your baby is able to reach them.
  11. Use hand railings for children getting their first “big kid” bed.
  12. Lock the medicine cabinets, and keep all vitamins and medicine locked away.
  13. Lower your household water temperature.
  14. Keep knives, plastic bags and cleaning supplies used in the kitchen out of children’s reach.
  15. Add protective covering to stove and oven knobs.

This is just a start on the things you can do to keep your kids safe in your home. Learn more by clicking here. You’ll see there are lots of things to do to keep your kids safe!