It’s Time to Get to that Spring Cleaning!

Angry woman vacuuming while man is resting

It may be too early to get out and do a lot of garden prep for spring, but it’s definitely not too early to get going on some spring cleaning jobs inside your home. Here are a few things to tackle inside to get your home springtime fresh, while you wait a little longer to start on garden prep.

Clean walls and ceilings. When was the last time you did this? Use a vacuum cleaner attachment to remove dust; test a degreaser in a hidden area of the kitchen to tackle that room’s walls with a degreaser and sponge.

Dust books and bookshelves. It’s time to take books off the bookshelves and actually dust them. And before you put them back, clean the shelves, too. And while you’re at it… now may be the perfect time to donate some of those books that you’re really not going to read again (or for the first time) to a local nonprofit.

And then dust the rest of your house. Dust from top to bottom, in the hard-to-get-to places and in the obvious places. Clean the top of the fridge, the top of curtain rods, the baseboards, and behind furniture. Always work from the top of the home to the floor and don’t use sprays, which really attract and hold more dust.

And then vacuum. A quick vacuum after the dusting will let you get any of the dust that lands on the floors.

Change out the batteries. Now’s a good time to change the tired batteries in smoke detectors and CO2 monitors. You should do this a couple of times a year, so if you do it now, mark your calendar for Halloween and change them out then, too.

Clean window treatments. Some draperies and curtains may be machine washable so read your labels. Some may be dry cleanable. And blinds are always ready for a thorough dusting. These items are dirt magnets. Do it now and you won’t cringe when it’s time to open your windows.

These are a few odd jobs that will get you started on spring cleaning. Don’t try to do the whole house at once. Start with these tasks and tackle others later. When your home is springtime fresh, you’ll be glad you put this effort in!

Are You and Your Neighbors Ready for a Neighborhood Watch Program?

Garden surveillance

A lot of us pay a little extra attention to the house next door or across the street when our neighbors are gone, but taking it a step further and creating a neighborhood watch program may be the ticket to an even more crime-free home base.

Launched in 1972, the official Neighborhood Watch program was designed to count on citizens to organize themselves and work with law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. According to the National Sheriff’s Association, Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.

Over time the program has found its way into neighborhoods all over America, borrowing from the principles of the original program to create groups, often called citizen alert, community watch, block watch, or another variation.

Why start a neighborhood watch group?

  • The most obvious reason to organize a neighborhood watch program is to prevent crime. Groups that meet regularly and communicate efficiently are the most effective at reducing incidents.
  • Another reason to form a group is to create awareness and camaraderie. Alert neighbors can stop crime and keep residents, safe while making the neighborhood a more welcoming environment.
  • In addition, neighborhood watch groups can alert you to other issues, such as cars speeding through neighborhoods, challenges with children, and animal control issues. Together, you can solve more challenges that arise, while building friendships!

How do you get started forming a neighborhood watch group?

  • Recruit your neighbors to participate.
  • Contact law enforcement to receive the training and information you need.
  • Discuss concerns and create a plan – what is most important to you and your neighbors?
  • Establish your neighborhood’s method of communication.
  • Hold regular meetings and training exercises to keep engaged.
  • Don’t be a vigilante! Report suspicious activity to police immediately.

Even with all of today’s surveillance technology, you can’t beat people watching out for people. Check out Neighborhood Watch if you are ready to get started watching out for your neighbors.

Considering Purchasing in HOA?

Aerial view of a Cookie Cutter Neighborhood

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) offers some tips on things to consider if you’re purchasing in an HOA (home owners association). Some people love being part of an HOA neighborhood; others do not. Here are a few tips to consider before making your move.

Considering purchasing in an HOA?
Make sure you have the necessary documentation: HOAs have bylaws, covenants, rules and regulations, so obtain copies of these documents to know the HOA’s responsibilities as well as your rights as a new member. You will also want to get copies of the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA) and the Colorado Nonprofit Act which are the state laws governing HOAs.

Be aware of your HOA’s enforcement powers: HOAs are able to enforce their covenants, rules, regulations and bylaws through various methods such as fining, placing a lien on an owner’s property, sending an owner’s account to collections or filing a civil lawsuit in court. Knowing under what circumstances and what the processes are to take these enforcement actions are important.

Get involved: The best way to become part of the community and make a difference in your HOA is to get involved. All HOA meetings are open to homeowners except for executive sessions. Make sure to attend HOA meetings, stay up to date on what’s happening in your community, share your ideas and voice your concerns.

Resources are available: The HOA Information and Resource Center at DORA has invaluable information and resources to answer your questions, educate you on HOAs and assist you with difficult and sensitive situations. K

The Division encourages everyone to visit the Division’s website at www.dora.colorado.gov/dre to ensure that their real estate broker is properly licensed.

Make More Room in Your Kitchen

Family Life in the Kitchen

There are some ways to make even the smallest kitchen seem bigger and gain some awesome storage space you weren’t expecting. Try these tips as you start thinking about ways to make the kitchen you have the dream kitchen you want.

Before doing anything else….PURGE!

Grab a garbage bag and start throwing things away. Clean out your pantry, cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. Anything outdated including cereals, spices, canned goods and more can go. Old sponges, storage containers with no lids, expired meats, freezer burned soups and vegetables, and old leftovers all can be discarded. You’ll feel good about starting from scratch, and you will know what you have and what you need when you go to the store.

When you do go to the store, only buy what you need. If you’re a bulk shopper, store extra items in the garage or basement, but keep them out of the kitchen.

Hide your chairs. If you have an island or counter seating in your kitchen, buy a couple of low stools that you can push underneath and out of the way.

Put small appliances away. Toasters, mixers and other kitchen appliances are tools, not decorations. Put them in one of the larger cabinets until they are used again for meal prep.

Buy some cabinet shelving and dividers. You can purchase some inexpensive cabinet shelving for stackable pots and pans, serving dishes, vases and pitchers. It’s an easy fix to get some quick storage space back.

Get a smaller table. If you have a small dining nook, then you need a small table. You may even find one with folding parts so you can make it larger and smaller as needed.

Attach a sanitation rack to cabinet below the sink. These are inexpensive and easy to affix to the wall of the cabinet. Put your dish soap, sponges, and other frequently used cleaning products in it. They are easy to get to and off the sink.

Hang your plants. Get your houseplants off the counter by hanging them up or putting them on upper shelves.

A lot of families spend more time in their kitchens than any other rooms in their home. Make it a room you want to be in!

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part II

Beautiful girl at Christmas eve

With so many things to do before you leave home during the holidays – whether you’ll be gone for a few hours, a whole day or a whole week – it’s easy to forget something. Here are some simple tips for staying safe in your home and while you are away this holiday season.

Watch your plugs when you decorate. Don’t plug too many things in a single outlet and never connect multiple extension cords. Use power strips where you need them and longer extension cords to reach long distances.

Watch those candles and fireplaces. Lit candles look lovely, but make sure you keep them far away from curtains and drapes and other things that can easily catch on fire. If you have kids or pets playing around the candles, be extra careful and use the flameless kinds. If you are burning wood in the fireplace, make sure the fire is out after each use. And now may be a good time to have someone come out and clean your chimney and make sure it’s in working order.

Keep your thermostat turned on and maybe even up a little higher when it’s cold outside, especially at night or if you go out of town. A little extra warmth will prevent your pipes from freezing. Some people even keep their faucets dripping just a little in the winter when they travel.

Keep dry plants, real trees and other plant décor wet. Wreaths made of dry plants may look lovely but they present unexpected fire hazards. Keep your tree well watered and your wreaths and dry plants moist with a little mist for an extra safety step.

And speaking of tree, put breakable ornaments out of reach of small children and pets. Bells, lights and other twinkling ornaments easily attract attention of kids. Keep them safe by keeping your breakables out of reach.

Welcome your guests – whether they are expected or unexpected – with a shoveled walk way and a little salt. You may see more foot traffic at your house during the holidays. A shoveled walk with a little salt sprinkled on it, keeps friends, neighbors, family and delivery people safe from slipping.

Use your ladder. Do you have to fix a burned out bulb or jiggle a jangle to make it work right? Use a ladder. Now is not the time to stand on a chair or a crate because it’s easier. Stay safe with a sturdy ladder.

Before you leave home, clean out all the stinky spots — the garbage disposal, dishwasher, refrigerator and coffee pot can all welcome you home with unpleasant surprises if you don’t empty them and wipe them out before you leave.

Set timers on your lights to give the appearance of being home, even when you’re not. You can set timers to turn lights on when it starts to get dark and go off either at bedtime or in the morning. Always leave a couple of lights on when you’re gone to make it look like your home and to keep burglars away. It’s easier to rob a home that is dark than one that is well lit.

Do one final walk around to make sure all the windows and doors are locked and your blinds are curtains are closed.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

Protect your pets, too. Click here for pet safety tips for the holidays.

Click here to read more holiday home safety tips from Universal Lending.

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part I

Holiday_Surprise

Now is not the time to take a holiday from home safety, but a lot of us do when we light our trees and put spotlights on our homes. Here are some simple tips for keeping your home and yourself safe from burglars and others who want to take the ho ho ho out of your holidays. 

Make smart choices when you decorate. Don’t put expensive gifts in front of windows or doors where they can be seen from people outside. Gifts under a tree are begging for burglars to come on in and open the packages. Keep them hidden.

Don’t take shortcuts on locking up. ‘Tis the season to set the home alarm. Of course you want to be smart about locking doors and windows all year long, but don’t forget to this step when the holidays are in full swing.

Be anti-social on social media if you’re heading out of town. Don’t let would-be burglars know you’re going to be in Michigan for Christmas. Let them think you’re going to be at home. It’s never a good idea to post travel plans on Facebook.

Did you treat yourself to a new 70-inch, state-of-the-art television for Christmas? Take a little extra time when disposing of the boxes and packaging. Break up the box and bring pieces of it to the trash over time. If you toss a box to the curb, you are letting would-be burglars that you have a new toy that they might like.

Light up the outside and the inside of your home. Make it difficult for burglars to sneak around your windows and doors by shining a light on the outside and on the inside. A spotlight or motion sensor may be a smart investment.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

If you live in a place where snow is common, make sure you have someone on standby to shovel your driveway and walkway. A driveway with no tire tracks in it a day or two after it snows tells burglars that no one is home there.

Be smart and stay safe this holiday season and year ’round. Click here for more holiday home safety tips.  

You Budgeted to Buy a House – Now Budget as a New Homeowner

Save money for home cost

Most of us budget when we want to buy a house, but budgeting after we are homeowners, that’s another story. After you’ve signed the papers and the movers have unpacked your last box, you still need to have a budget for “what’s next.” Without this, you may find yourself with some unexpected needs and no way to pay for them. Here are a few pointers. 

Account for new regular expenses
Even as a renter, you probably had some bills you’ll continue to cover as a homeowner – electricity, water, gas, internet, etc. But when you buy a home, there are new expenses to add to this list.

  • Real estate taxes and homeowners insurance: These often are included in your monthly mortgage payment. If any of these change, even if you have a fixed-interest mortgage, your payment can fluctuate from year to year because of changes in taxes and homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Homeowners association: We see a lot of HOAs in today’s home market. These fees can be as high as several hundreds dollars a month. HOA dues may be payable monthly or annually. If you pay these annually, be sure to budget for them so you have the money to cover the costs when it’s time.
  • Home maintenance and upkeep: As a homeowner, you’ll want to stay on top of maintenance. One rule of thumb is to set aside 1% – 2% of your income to cover these costs. If your home is older, you may need to plan even a little more.
  • High cost repairs: If you have high cost or high value repairs, you’ll need to have budgeted even more. A new roof, deck replacement, or other big projects like finishing a basement or covering plumbing emergencies may cost more. Plan ahead.
  • Finally, make sure you continue to build your emergency fund. Three to six months of living expenses is what most financial planners recommend you always have in a ready-to-use savings plan. This is only for emergencies, but building it up should be part of your budgeting plan.

Being a homeowner is a great thing, and with all great things comes great responsibility! Be ready for anything, homeowner!