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:: February 2020 ::

Homes with spruced-up outsides
sell at premium

Properties can fetch as much as 14% more
in buyer’s markets

Inner beauty is something we all strive for. But when it comes to selling homes, that may not be enough.

Keeping lawns freshly cut and outdoor spaces in tip-top shape could result in greater rewards for sellers. A new analysis of Google Street View and data from nearly 90,000 home sales found that, on average, a property with strong curb appeal sells at a 7 percent premium to a comparable home in the same neighborhood with less curb game. In buyer’s markets, that premium shot up as high as 14 percent.

The findings from the study conducted by University of Texas at Arlington professor Sriram Villupuram and the University of Alabama’s Erik Johnson and Alan Tidwell were published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics and reported by the Wall Street Journal. The study gauged curb appeal by factors such as lawns and landscaping, and used machine learning to assign values to the dataset of homes in the greater Denver area.

Current appraisals generally bake in factors such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and any home improvements. Villupuram told the Journal that the findings could help large-scale real estate investors and lenders make better estimates about property values.


:: January 2020 ::


Some homeowners are viewing the fireplace as more of a liability than an asset—and they’re opting to remove it. After all, there are an average of 22,300 fireplace, chimney, or chimney connector fires each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some owners are removing them because of those potential dangers, but others’ reasoning is more design-oriented—they don’t want a fireplace because it’s taking up too much space in their home or even dating their home’s look.

Fireplaces can be conducive to open floor plans. “Recently, I had two clients remove their fireplaces because they were used as dividers between rooms,” a real estate broker at Heidel Realty in Las Vegas, told®. They were able to open up the space by removing the fireplace.

Home builders have reported that they’re adding fewer fireplaces into new homes they build.

But losing a fireplace can affect a home’s appeal and possibly even its resale value, real estate pros say. A fireplace can particularly be viewed as a valuable amenity in colder climates, and removing one could even reduce the number of buyers drawn to a property, some agents say.

Fireplaces can add warmth and cozy vibes to listings. “Imagine sitting around the fireplace on a cold night to warm up or marking s’mores with your kids,” says a real estate pro with Compass in New York. It can be a sought-after amenity among buyers.

That’s why removing it seems absurd to some real estate pros. "You don't want your home to be labeled 'the house without a fireplace,' especially in cold climates," a real estate professional with the Mission Real Estate Group in San Antonio, Texas, told®.

Removing a fireplace isn’t easy, either. “The removal would not only be expensive but could compromise the home’s stability,” associate broker at Real Living Capital City Realty in Atlanta told®. The masonry base and chimney tend to be a big part of a home’s structure.

For owners who feel like their fireplace looks dated, it could be cheaper to renovate it, even with just a new coat of paint. Paint it white or replace the mantel, agents suggest.


:: December 2019 ::

4 Things Not To Do
When You Put Your House on the Market

Don't over-improve.
As you ready your home for sale, you may realize you will get a great return on your investment if you make a couple of changes. Updating the appliances or replacing that cracked cabinet in the bathroom are all great ideas. However, it's important not to over-improve, or make improvements that are hyper-specific to your tastes.

Don't over-decorate.
Over-decorating is just as bad as over-improving. You may love the look of lace and lavender, but your potential buyer may enter your home and cringe. When prepping for sale, neutralize your decorating scheme so it's more universally palatable.

Don't hang around.
Your agent calls to let you know they will be bringing buyers by this afternoon. Great! Buyers want to imagine themselves in your space, not be confronted by you in your space.

Don't take things personally.
Real estate is a business, but buying and selling homes is very, very emotional. However, when selling your homes, try your very best not to take things personally. When a buyer lowballs you or says they will need to replace your prized 1970s vintage shag carpet with something “more modern,” try not to raise your hackles.


:: February 2018 ::

LA will keep adding new housing but prices will continue to rise: report

Multi-family construction expected to account for the increase in next 2 years

By Natalie Hoberman | February 22, 2018 11:00AM from
Los Angeles (Credit: Pixabay, Pexels)

Los Angeles can expect slightly more new housing construction in the future, but residents should also expect higher prices.

The number of residential permits issued in Los Angeles County is expected to grow to 23,061 this year, up from 22,010 last year. That’s according to a new economic forecast from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Next year should see another slight uptick in home construction to 23,143.

But the 4.7 percent expected increase in new L.A. County homes from last year to this year is still below the forecasted 5.5 percent increase in home values. Median home prices are expected to clock in at $592,094 in 2018, up from $560,858 last year. In 2019, the median home price is forecasted to rise to $624,901.

Single-family permits continued their declines in 2017, falling to just 25 percent of overall new home construction. Multi-family construction is expected continue to dominate in 2018 and 2019, taking advantage of the high demand for new housing countywide.

Nationwide, new housing construction will follow a similar pattern. The number of residential permits issued is only expected to increase nominally, with most of that stemming from apartment complexes and condominiums.

Employment in the county clocked in a 4.6 percent in 2017, the lowest unemployment rate since 2000. It’s expected to drop down in the next few years to 4.3 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.

Personal income is also rising, the study found. Real per capita income is expected to rise to $52,080 in 2019, up from $50,650 in 2017.


:: January 2018 ::

The California fires got too close to home for comfort. Seeing the devastation and loss is heartbreaking. I know of one person personally who lost their home and that is one person too many.
So I want to be pro-active and suggest you take the time to read and then complete these simple tasks to prepare just in case you are affected by a tragedy of this nature.

Home Inventory
Tracking 'stuff' that you have will help you recover payment from your insurance company. You can take a video or simply document with a camera by doing a walk-through of your property to list your items electronically.
Don't forget cars and other outdoor items.
Inventory your exterior property, including landscaping, swimming pool, trees, and fences that all add value to the land.

Documents to Protect
Most people are surprised when they make a list of all the important documents they have and take for granted.
You can scan documents onto a computer or take them to a copy center.

Make paper copies or printouts of the documents and keep in a sealed, waterproof pouch in your emergency kit so they are with you even if your home is destroyed.
• Home Inventory
• Insurance Policies - house, life, car, property, ... Check that your policy covers you for disasters and that the limits are adequate.
• Wills - make sure you review and update your will occasionally
• Property Deeds - to prove you own the house and land
• Titles to vehicles
• Tax Returns - first 2 pages of state and federal returns from the past 3 years
• Contracts - business you are doing or having done
• Stocks and Bonds
• Bank Account Numbers
• Credit Card Numbers and company phone numbers
• Driver's Licenses
• Social Security card
• Health Insurance Cards
• Prescriptions - medicines and eyeglasses
• Immunization records
• Phone Numbers - relatives, employer, insurance agent, doctor, pastor, financial advisor, repair contractor
• Birth certificates
• Marriage certificates
• Passports
• Family Photos
• Cash - keep $100 or more in your emergency kit

Top 10 Items
Make a list of the few items that you would take if you had the time to get them. Your family should work together to come up with a list of irreplaceable things that are meaningful.


:: November 2015 ::

Tasks to Prepare for El Niño
1. Fix your leaks before it rains: The recent dry heat may have caused wood structures to shrink and to open up expansion joints, possibly creating leak points. Call your roofer to check for trouble spots and repair any old leaks. Most roof leaks occur at metal flashing connection points, so make sure the flashing is free of debris. Use your hose to make sure the flashing is directing water off the roof and into the gutters.
2. Clean out your gutters and downspouts - and then clean them again: Don Vandervort, founder of, an online home improvement information and instruction site, clears the debris from his gutters and downspouts before a potentially rainy season - and then does it again after the first rain. Also look for any breaks and make sure the gutters are tight against the roofline. While you're at it, seal up any holes from cables and other wires that penetrate exterior walls. For more information go to
Clean out your gutters and downspouts, and then clean them again. Don Vandervort, founder of, an online home improvement information and instruction site, clears the debris from his gutters and downspouts before a potential rainy season and then does it again after the first rain. Also look for any breaks and make sure the gutters are tight against the roofline. While you're at it, seal up any holes from cables and other wires that penetrate exterior walls. (Mitch Aunger / Getty Images)
3. Invest in a generator: If you are in a neighborhood susceptible to power outages, consider buying a portable generator or even a permanent standby generator that immediately kicks in if the power goes out.
4. Install a sump pump: With enough rain, groundwater can invade below-grade spaces such as basements and garages even with good drainage systems in place. If you already have a sump pump, have your plumber service it.
5. Paint the exterior wood trim of your home: Cracks in paint can carry water directly into the wood and promote dry rot and termite invasion.
6. Examine your window glazing compound: The persistent hot, dry weather may have caused the glazing compound to shrink and pull away from the glass panes. Loosened panes can allow rain penetration. Check and recaulk as needed.
7. Check balcony and deck slopes: Make sure water flows away from the walls and into the drainage system.
8. Do a preemptive strike on any potential ant invasion: If wet weather in the past has sent ants or other bugs scurrying into your house, now is the time to bring in an exterminator.
9. Store emergency repair materials (sandbags, heavy plastic sheeting) in a safe dry place.
10. Is it time for new tires? To maintain contact with the road in wet weather, tires "should have at least 50% of tread life left," notes Dave Skaien, manager of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Approved Auto Repair Program. "Otherwise, they can't displace water through their grooves," and contact may be lost. They should also be correctly inflated. Underinflated tires "won't sit properly on the ground, and you reduce traction," he adds. "A quarter- to a half-inch of water can easily make you go into full hydroplaning mode at not very great speed." For more information, go to
11. Pop for new wipers: A rainstorm is not the time to realize they cannot effectively clear your windshield of water.
12. Check your car lights.
13. How old is your car's battery? At three years, have it checked by a trusted mechanic. At five years, "there's a lot of merit in just replacing it before it fails," Skaien says.
14. Get to know your braking system: Brakes should be checked and worn brake pads replaced, no matter the weather. Know that "cold, wet brakes do not work as well as warm, dry brakes," Skaien says.
15. Make sure your yard drains properly. If you've substituted impervious hard-scape, rock and decomposed granite for lawn in the last few years, the drainage pattern in your yard may have changed. Water that used to percolate through spongy grass will now flow. Landscape architect and USC adjunct professor Bob Perry advises placing 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in beds and areas where water will drain or collect.
If ponding becomes a problem, consider increasing the percentage of your yard that can absorb rainwater. Changes to the landscape may also have changed your property's grading. Consulting an irrigation and drainage specialist can short-circuit any serious problems a heavy storm might cause.
16. Turn off your automatic watering system: It's possible you won't need it until spring.
17. Consider installing rain barrels at downspouts: Rain barrels are a relatively inexpensive way - and an easy DIY project - to capture water coming off your roof for later use. Make sure you direct any overflow from the barrels away from the house.
18. Plant winter vegetables in raised beds or elevated rows: Too much water can cause vegetables to rot.
19. Loosen compacted soil: Ground that has been allowed to dry out will repel water initially. Tilling in compost and covering with mulch will enable the ground to better absorb rain.
Painting exterior wood trim before heavy rains hit can protect it from getting wet and rotting. It can also seal it against termites. (Getty Images)
20. Have your trees checked: With the drought taking a toll on all trees, now is the time to bring in a certified arborist - not a simple tree cutter - to do a health check and risk assessment. "Trees weigh less now because they have less moisture in them, but they are weaker as well," says Nick Araya, an arborist risk specialist at TreeCareLA. "A sudden onset of moisture may be too much weight for some branches to bear." For more information, go to
21. Secure your yard: Reinforce your fencing if needed. Store or tie down anything that might blow and cause damage in high wind. Store outdoor furniture or, if it cannot be moved, place wood planks under the legs to lift them off the pavement. Cover glass-top tables with plywood secured with cord. Place potted plants in a sheltered area.
22. Have materials on hand to divert water: Sandbags, concrete edgers and straw-waddle tubing can effectively channel water away from structures to drainage areas.
23. Talk to your neighbors: If your house lies below another house, you'll want to find out where their property drains. If they've changed the natural flow path, they may be liable for damage caused by storm runoff from their property onto yours.
24. Consider flood insurance even if you're not in a high-risk area: "Twenty percent of people who file claims come from non-high-risk areas," says Mary Simms, spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Region IX, which includes California. Flood insurance is not generally covered by regular homeowner policies. By congressional mandate, FEMA, through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and along with industry partners, makes flood insurance available. For more information, to go FEMA's site. It takes 30 days for any flood policy to become effective.
25. Secure important documents in the cloud or on a thumb drive.
Imagine: Rain, rain, stored away
26. Put together preparedness and disaster supply kits for your home and car. FEMA, the California Department of Water Resources and the Auto Club are just three of many organizations that list important things to have on hand. For more information, go to (California Department of Water Resources), (Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety "Homeowners Guide for Flood, Debris Flow and Erosion Control"), (National Weather Service) and (Automobile Club of Southern California).
27. Prepare now: Experts agree that the toughest time to find solutions to rain-related issues is during a rainstorm.


:: October 2015 ::

Simple Safety Tips for Pumpkin Carving

The combination of slippery pumpkins and sharp knives can be dangerous. Follow these tips to help keep everyone safe when carving your Halloween pumpkin this year.
Set an Age Limit
Consumer Reports recommends that children younger than 14 years old should not do the actual pumpkin carving. But younger kids can still get in on the fun:
Have them draw the patterns for their pumpkins.
Allow them to decorate their pumpkins with markers, paint or non-carving decoration kits.
Let them clean out the seeds and pulp from inside the pumpkins.
If you decide to let your teens carve pumpkins, closely supervise in case anything goes wrong.
Use the Right Tools
Big kitchen knives aren't the best fit for this job. According to Consumer Reports, a pumpkin carving kit is a safer option. The tools in these kits are:
Designed to easily pierce pumpkins
Not as sharp as average kitchen knives
Smaller and easier to control
Follow Proper Technique
Avoid finger and hand injuries:
Work slowly and steadily - don't rush the project.
Cut away from your body with the carving tool.
Use small, controlled motions when carving.
Keep your free hand out of the way to avoid mishaps.
Set Up for Safety
Before you start carving, prepare your pumpkin carving area and tools:
Make sure the carving area is dry, well lit and on a stable surface.
Wash and dry all of your tools before carving.
Keep your hands clean and dry to avoid slipping.
Safe pumpkin carving is just one key to a happy Halloween.
- See more at: State Farm Insurance


:: October 2015 ::


If you are like millions of animal owners nationwide, your pet is an important member of your household. Unfortunately, animals are also affected by disaster.

The likelihood that you and your animals will survive an emergency such as a fire or flood, tornado or terrorist attack depends largely on emergency planning done today. Some of the things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, such as assembling an animal emergency supply kit and developing a pet care buddy system, are the same for any emergency. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to make plans in advance for your pets. Keep in mind that what's best for you is typically what's best for your animals.

If you evacuate your home, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND! Pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

If you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside. Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Make a back-up emergency plan in case you can't care for your animals yourself. Develop a buddy system with neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be prepared to improvise and use what you have on hand to make it on your own for at least three days, maybe longer.

Use the Pet Owners Brochure and the Pet Instructional Video to help you create an emergency plan and kit for your pet.

For additional information, please contact the Humane Society of the United States.


:: August 2015 ::

4 Tips for a No-Stress Move

Moving can lead to new, exciting possibilities, but it also means leaving behind the people and places you love. While some sentimental items can be taken to your new place, many memories just aren't transportable. To ensure your treasured belongings arrive safely to your new home, be prepared with these no-stress tips.

1. Make Room for New Memories

Taking every item of sentimental value with you to your new home is not always possible. Moving is the perfect opportunity to organize and purge items you don't need or won't use in your new home. To lessen the load on moving day, hold a garage sale or donate unwanted items to a local charity. If you're trying to sell your current home, the less clutter the better.

Once you've determined which objects will make the move, decide where they'll go in your new place. Make the unpacking process simpler by creating a plan for your new space in advance and pack according to where things will go, not by where they've been.

2. Organize, Don't Agonize

Starting the process early can help avoid nerve-wracking, last-minute packing, and give you time to be a bit nostalgic. Before you begin boxing things up, take videos and photos of each room to preserve your memories of that space. Don't forget to include outdoor areas like a backyard tree house or handprints in the patio cement.

Then, make a checklist of everything you need to accomplish before moving-packing, cleaning, cancelling and restarting utilities, registering the kids for school-and set a timeline for completing each step. Once you're ready to start packing, work room by room to make the task seem more manageable. Start with decorative pieces that you can go without for a month or so, keeping items you use daily for last.

3. Protect Delicate Possessions

To ensure your belongings arrive safely, it's essential to pack possessions with extra care. Safeguard breakables with wrapping materials designed to protect fragile goods, such as bubble wrap cushioning, for the best protection.

Next, pack items in clean, sturdy containers in a variety of sizes. Use large boxes for bulky, yet lighter furnishings, such as pillows and blankets, and place heavier objects in smaller boxes to avoid unnecessary strain. Seal boxes securely with a durable packaging tape.

Be sure to label boxes clearly, marking them on the sides of the boxes, not the top. This step makes it obvious what's inside, even if they're stacked. You also can use different colored or printed packaging tapes to color code each room-red for the bedroom, blue for the kitchen, and so on.

4. Have Help on Hand

If you're moving to a location close to your old home, recruit friends and family to help with packing and unloading on moving day. You'll love showing off your new place, and it'll help with the transition to see that loved ones aren't too far away to make the trip.

Put together an "open me first" box with the gear you'll need immediately, such as tools to assemble furniture, cleaning supplies and shelf liner for drawers, closets and kitchen cabinets.

Copyright© 2015 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News.


:: July 2015 ::

3 Simple Steps to Give Your Home Curb Appeal

Whether you are selling or staying put, here's how to make the outside of your house sparkle.
By Pat Mertz Esswein,

Step 1
Spruce up the exterior. The quickest and most efficient way to make your home sparkle is to pressure wash it. A pro will charge between $1,000 and $2,000 to pressure wash 2,500 square feet, according to Or you can rent a pressure washer from Home Depot or Lowe's for less than $80 per day. Before you do it yourself, watch how-to videos on YouTube. Pressure washing is also good preparation for a paint job, which may be needed if the old paint is peeling, fading or chalky.

Step 2
Tame the landscaping. An unkempt yard irritates the neighbors and scares off potential buyers. Rake last fall's detritus out of flower beds and re-edge them. Add mulch, which will look good, help control weeds and retain moisture. Trim shrubs, and remove any dead wood. Reseed or resod thin or bare spots in the lawn, and keep it mowed. If you're not up for the job, you could hire a professional landscaper for a seasonal cleanup, which could run several hundred dollars or more, depending on the size of your yard. Or you could go cheaper with a neighborhood kid.

Step 3
Add color. Paint the front door and trim in an accent color that complements your home's overall look. Try out colors using online tools, such as Benjamin Moore's Personal Color Viewer, that let you upload and "paint" a photo of your home. Plant annual flowers in the landscape beds, window boxes or containers on the porch. Add a seasonal wreath or decorative flag, a new doormat, or pillows or a patio rug designed for outdoor use.

The Payoff
Your home will turn heads-whether or not you're selling it.

All Contents ©2015 The Kiplinger Washington


:: July 2015 ::

3 Simple Steps to Give Your Home Curb Appeal

Whether you are selling or staying put, here's how to make the outside of your house sparkle.
By Pat Mertz Esswein,

Step 1
Spruce up the exterior. The quickest and most efficient way to make your home sparkle is to pressure wash it. A pro will charge between $1,000 and $2,000 to pressure wash 2,500 square feet, according to Or you can rent a pressure washer from Home Depot or Lowe's for less than $80 per day. Before you do it yourself, watch how-to videos on YouTube. Pressure washing is also good preparation for a paint job, which may be needed if the old paint is peeling, fading or chalky.

Step 2
Tame the landscaping. An unkempt yard irritates the neighbors and scares off potential buyers. Rake last fall's detritus out of flower beds and re-edge them. Add mulch, which will look good, help control weeds and retain moisture. Trim shrubs, and remove any dead wood. Reseed or resod thin or bare spots in the lawn, and keep it mowed. If you're not up for the job, you could hire a professional landscaper for a seasonal cleanup, which could run several hundred dollars or more, depending on the size of your yard. Or you could go cheaper with a neighborhood kid.

Step 3
Add color. Paint the front door and trim in an accent color that complements your home's overall look. Try out colors using online tools, such as Benjamin Moore's Personal Color Viewer, that let you upload and "paint" a photo of your home. Plant annual flowers in the landscape beds, window boxes or containers on the porch. Add a seasonal wreath or decorative flag, a new doormat, or pillows or a patio rug designed for outdoor use.

The Payoff
Your home will turn heads-whether or not you're selling it.

All Contents ©2015 The Kiplinger Washington


:: June 2015 ::


Water conservation has become an essential practice in all regions, even in areas where water seems abundant.

In addition to saving money on your utility bill, water conservation helps prevent water pollution in nearby lakes, rivers and local watersheds.

Conserving water can also extend the life of your septic system by reducing soil saturation, and reducing any pollution due to leaks. Overloading municipal sewer systems can also cause untreated sewage to flow to lakes and rivers. The smaller the amount of water flowing through these systems, the lower the likelihood of pollution. In some communities, costly sewage system expansion has been avoided by communitywide household water conservation.

Water conservation in the home...

1. Check faucets and pipes for leaks
A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.

2. Don't use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket
Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue or other small bit of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted.

3. Check your toilets for leaks
Put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately. Most replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to install.

4. Use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks
Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.

5. Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators
Inexpensive water-saving low-flow shower heads or restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Also, long, hot showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. Limit your showers to the time it takes to soap up, wash down and rinse off. "Low-flow" means it uses less than 2.5 gallons per minute.
You can easily install a ShowerStart showerhead, or add a ShowerStart converter to existing showerheads, which automatically pauses a running shower once it gets warm.
Also, all household faucets should be fit with aerators. This single best home water conservation method is also the cheapest!

6. Put plastic bottles or float booster in your toilet tank
To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day.

Be sure at least 3 gallons of water remain in the tank so it will flush properly. If there is not enough water to get a proper flush, users will hold the lever down too long or do multiple flushes to get rid of waste. Two flushings at 1.4 gallons is worse than a single 2.0 gallon flush. A better suggestion would be to buy an adjustable toilet flapper that allow for adjustment of their per flush use. Then the user can adjust the flush rate to the minimum per flush setting that achieves a single good flush each time.

For new installations, consider buying "low flush" toilets, which use 1 to 2 gallons per flush instead of the usual 3 to 5 gallons.

Replacing an 18 liter per flush toilet with an ultra-low volume (ULV) 6 liter flush model represents a 70% savings in water flushed and will cut indoor water use by about 30%.

7. Insulate your water pipes.
It's easy and inexpensive to insulate your water pipes with pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You'll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.

8. Take shorter showers.
One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.

9. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush
There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.

10. Rinse your razor in the sink
Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. This will rinse your razor just as well as running water, with far less waste of water.

11. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads
Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Most makers of dishwashing soap recomend not pre-rinsing dishes which is a big water savings.
With clothes washers, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 20 liters (5 gallons) for the extra rinse. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Replace old clothes washers. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 - 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. If you're in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a water-saving frontload washer.

12. Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units
In-sink 'garburators' require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a
compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste.

13. When washing dishes by hand, don't leave the water running for rinsing
If your have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a panful of hot water.
Dual-swivel aerators are available to make this easier. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.

14. Don't let the faucet run while you clean vegetables
Just rinse them in a stoppered sink or a pan of clean water. Use a dual-setting aerator.

15. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge.
Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a safe drinking bottle. If you are filling water bottles to bring along on outdoor hikes, consider buying a LifeStraw personal water filter which enables users to drink water safely from rivers or lakes or any available body of water.

Water conservation in the yard and garden...

16. Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants
If you are planting a new lawn, or overseeding an existing lawn, use drought-resistant grasses such as the new "Eco-Lawn".
Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard.
Plant slopes with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff.
Group plants according to their watering needs.

17. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants
Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 - 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimize water runoff.
For information about different mulch materials and their best use, click here.

18. Don't water the gutter
Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Also, avoid watering on windy days.

19. Water your lawn only when it needs it
A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn't need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3") will also promote water retention in the soil.
Most lawns only need about 1" of water each week. During dry spells, you can stop watering altogether and the lawn will go brown and dormant. Once cooler weather arrives, the morning dew and rainfall will bring the lawn back to its usual vigor. This may result in a brown summer lawn, but it saves a lot of water.

20. Deep-soak your lawn
When watering the lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good. A light sprinkling can evaporate quickly and tends to encourage shallow root systems. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn - when it's full, you've watered about the right amount. Visit our natural lawn care page for more information.

21. Water during the early parts of the day; avoid watering when it's windy
Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defence against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it's windy - wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation.

22. Add organic matter and use efficient watering systems for shrubs, flower beds and lawns
Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas which are already planted can be 'top dressed' with compost or organic matter.
You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns by:
- the strategic placement of soaker hoses
- installing a rain barrel water catchment system
- installing a simple drip-irrigation system
Avoid over-watering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves.
When hand watering, use a variable spray nozzle for targeted watering.

23. Don't run the hose while washing your car
Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing - this simple practice can save as much as 150 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a waterless car washing system; there are several brands, such as EcoTouch, which are now on the market.

24. Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks

25. Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings
Leaks outside the house may not seem as bad since they're not as visible. But they can be just as wasteful as leaks indoors. Check frequently to keep them drip-free. Use hose washers at spigots and hose connections to eliminate leaks.

Water conservation comes naturally when everyone in the family is aware of its importance, and parents take the time to teach children some of the simple water-saving methods around the home which can make a big difference.

Water Conservation Summary

In 1990, 30 states in the US reported 'water-stress' conditions. In 2000, the number of states reporting water-stress rose to 40. In 2009, the number rose to 45. There is a worsening trend in water supply nationwide. Taking measures at home to conserve water not only saves you money, it also is of benefit to the greater community.

Saving water at home does not require any significant cost outlay. Although there are water-saving appliances and water conservation systems such as rain barrels, drip irrigation and on-demand water heaters which are more expensive, the bulk of water saving methods can be achieved at little cost. For example, 75% of water used indoors is in the bathroom, and 25% of this is for the toilet. The average toilet uses 4 gallons per flush (gpf). You can invest in a ULF (ultra-low flush) toilet which will use only 2 gpf. But you can also install a simple tank bank, costing about $2, which will save .8 gpf. This saves 40% of what you would save with the ULF toilet. Using simple methods like tank banks, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators you can retrofit your home for under$50.

By using water-saving features you can reduce your in-home water use by 35%. This means the average household, which uses 130,000 gallons per year, coulod save 44,00 gallons of water per year. On a daily basis, the average household, using 350 gallons per day, could save 125 gallons of water per day. The average individual, currently using 70 gallons per day, could save 25 gallons of water per day.

When buying low-flow aerators, be sure to read the label for the actual 'gpm' (gallons per minute) rating. Often, the big box retailers promote "low-flow" which are rated at 2.5 gpm, which is at the top of the low-flow spectrum. This may be needed for the kitchen sink, but we find that a 1.5 gpm aerator works fine for the bathroom sink and most water outlets, delivering the same spray force in a comfortable, soft stream. Eartheasy's online store carries a full range of low-flow aerators and showerheads.

Finally, it should be noted that installing low-flow aerators, showerheads, tank banks and other water-saving devices usually is a very simple operation which can be done by the homeowner and does not even require the use of tools. Water conservation at home is one of the easiest measures to put in place, and saving water should become part of everday family practice.

Reprinted from earth


:: January 2015 ::

Laundry Room Safety

Are you aware of the risks lurking in your laundry room? According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires are reported each year. And in 2013, more than 10,000 children were exposed to dangerous detergent, reports the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

Clean, check and store to maintain a safe laundry room.

What to Clean
Spills - Wipe them up as soon as they happen. Soapy detergent can cause falls, and clear bleach could be mistaken for water.
Lint Traps - Empty it after every load, and clean it with a nylon brush every six months.
Dryer Ducts and Vents - Hire professionals to clean your ducts and vent if you notice a decrease in dryer performance. If­­ you have pets or a large family, this could be necessary as often as twice a year.
What To Check
Dryer Ducts - Plastic dryer ducts are a fire hazard. Replace them with straight or flexible metal ducts.
Dryer Manual - This should tell you the space a dryer needs for proper airflow. Keep your dryer cool by keeping the area around it clutter free.
Dryer Vent - Check the vent's exterior output for blockages, such as leaves or bird nests.
Washing Machine Base - Make sure to place the machine in a pan connected to a drain to collect leaks before they cause major damage. This is especially important if your washer is located on an upper floor in your home.
Hoses - Replace washing machine supply lines every 3 to 5 years as part of a proactive maintenance plan.
What to Store
Detergents - Store detergents, bleach and fabric softeners out of reach of children and pets. Also talk to your kids about what's safe to touch and what's not.
Fire Extinguisher - Thousands of fires start in laundry rooms each year; therefore, it's smart to keep an extinguisher close.
Important Numbers - Keep your local poison center's number posted in the laundry room in case of an emergency.
Article from Stae Farm Insurance
Find more tips for washing machine safety on the Learning Center.


:: June 2014 ::


The LAPD suggests the following crime prevention techniques to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft:

1. To minimize the amount of information an identity thief can steal, do not carry extra credit cards, a social security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed.

2. To reduce the amount of personal information that is in circulation consider the following:

*Remove your name from the marketing lists of the three major credit reporting bureaus, i.e., Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW) and Trans Union. This will limit the number of pre-approved offers of credit that you receive. These offers, if thrown away in the trash, are potential targets of identity thieves who will use them to order credit cards using your identity.

*Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service. By doing this, your name is added to computerized name deletion lists used by nationwide marketers.

*Have your name and address removed from telephone books and reverse directories.

3. Install a locked mailbox at your residence or business to reduce mail theft or use a post office box.

4. When you order new checks, do not have them sent to your home address. Have them sent to a post office box or arrange to pick them up at your bank.

5. When you pay bills, do not place the envelopes containing your checks in your home mailbox for the letter carrier to pick up. If stolen, your checks can be altered and cashed by identity thieves. It is best to mail your checks and other sensitive mail at the post office rather than your home or neighborhood mailbox. Write checks with a fine-point permanent marker.

6. Pay bills with an electronic bill payment service.

7. Reduce the number of credit cards you actively use to a bare minimum. Carry only one or two credit cards in your wallet. Cancel all unused credit card accounts. Even though you do not use these accounts, account numbers are recorded in your credit report along with other data that can be used by identity thieves.

8. Keep a list and/or photocopy of all your credit cards, account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers of the customer service and fraud departments in a secure place (not your wallet or purse) so you can quickly contact your creditors in case your credit cards are stolen. Do the same with your bank accounts.

9. Never give out your credit card number or other personal information over the telephone, unless you have a trusted business relationship with the person or company and you have initiated the telephone call. Identity thieves have been known to call their victims with a fake story that goes something like this, "Today is your lucky day! You have been chosen by the "Jane and John Doe Sweepstakes Committee" to receive a free trip to Europe. All we need is your credit card number and expiration date to verify you as the lucky winner."

10. Order your credit report once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus to check for inaccuracies and fraudulent use of your accounts. Make sure that you recognize every line of information established in your file.

11. Always take credit card receipts with you. Never throw them in a public trash container.

12. Watch the mail when you expect a new or reissued credit card to arrive. Contact the issuer if the card does not arrive.

13. When creating a password or Personal Identification Number (PIN), do not use the last four digits of your social security number, date of birth, middle name, the name of your family pet, consecutive numbers of anything else that could easily be discovered by identity thieves.

14. Ask your financial institution to add extra security protection to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional code (a number or word) when assessing your account. Do not use your mother's maiden name, as that is all too easily obtained by identity thieves.

15. Memorize all your passwords. Do not record them on anything in your wallet or purse.

16. Protect your social security number. Release it only when absolutely necessary (tax forms, employment records, most banking, stock and property transactions). The social security number is the key to your credit and bank accounts and is a prime target of identity thieves.

17. Do not have your social security number printed on your checks. Do not let merchants write your social security number on your checks because of the risk of fraud.

18. Order your Social Security Earnings and Benefits Statement once a year to check for fraud.

19. Carefully review your credit card statements for unauthorized use.

20. Do not throw pre-approved credit offers in the trash or in a recycling container without first shredding them. The discarded credit offers can be used by identity thieves to order credit cards in your name and to have the credit cards mailed to their address.

21. Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card receipts. Home shredders can be purchased at many office supply stores.

22. Demand financial institutions to adequately safeguard your data. Request a special password that only you would know. Memorize all passwords. Discourage your bank from using the last four digits of the social security number as the PIN they assign to customers.

23. When you fill out loan applications, find out how the company disposes of them. If you are not convinced that they store them in locked files and/or shred them, take your business elsewhere. Some car dealerships, department stores, car rental agencies, and video stores have been known to be careless with customer applications. When you pay by credit card, ask the business how it stores and disposes of the transaction slip. Avoid paying by credit card if you think the business does not use adequate safeguards.

24. Store your cancelled checks in a safe place. In the wrong hands, they can reveal a lot of information about you. Never permit your credit card number to be written on your checks. It is a violation of California law (California Civil Code 1725) and places you at risk of fraud.

25. Any entity involved in handling personal information should train all its employees, from the top to the bottom, on responsible information-handling practices. Persuade the companies, government agencies and nonprofit agencies with which you are associated to adopt privacy policies and conduct privacy training. Employees should be trained to check picture identification cards when accepting credit cards.

From LAPD Van Nuys


:: September 2013 ::


Sources: Convicted burglars in California, North Carolina, Oregon, and Kentucky. Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job: Street life and Residential Break-ins 1996.

*The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

*Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

*Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

*A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a timer.

*Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

*Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

*If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

*If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

*You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

*Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

*I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

*To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

*I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

*I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

*I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

*A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

*I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

*I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
For full details, view this message on the web.
From LAPD Van Nuys


:: August 2013 ::


The hot summer months can pose a real threat to pets. Please keep in mind that dogs simply cannot tolerate extreme temperatures. As a responsible pet owner, you need to make sure that your pet is safe during hot weather. Here are some pointers:

Never leave your dog in a car. All pet owners should know the dangers of leaving Fido in a hot car, even if it is just for a few minutes. Many dogs love riding in the car and it is very tempting to let him ride to the grocery store with you. However, even with the windows open, a parked car can reach sweltering temperatures in a matter of minutes-even when parked in the shade. Pets left in hot cars can die within minutes or can suffer from severe dehydration. The best idea is the leave your dog at home during the hot weather.

The bed of a pick-up truck is dangerous. Allowing your dog to ride in the back of an open pick-up truck could be very dangerous for a dog at any time of the year. In hot weather, the beating sun can be lethal, but at any time just one jolt can send your dog flying out of the bed of the truck, resulting in injury or worse. Even leaving your dog unsupervised in the bed of a truck in a public parking lot can be a recipe for disaster. Just don't do it!

Walk your dog early or late. In places where the temperatures soar during the day, it is a good idea to walk your dog either in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are lower. Not only will you and your dog become hot and dehydrated, the hot concrete can burn your dog's sensitive paws. When you do walk during hot weather, take along water for your dog and stop frequently to let your dog drink. If you prefer to walk your dog at night, try a lighted dog collar for extra safety.

Proper grooming. It is always a good idea to keep your pet properly groomed, but it is especially important during hot weather. If your dog has very long fur, it could feel like you would if you were wearing a fur coat in 95-degree weather! Long haired dogs can quickly overheat in the high temperatures. With long haired dogs, regular brushing also helps remove their winter undercoat and can help your dog better regulate body temperatures during hot weather. Also keep in mind that you do not want too much fur trimmed off. Poodles and other breeds with short cuts can get sunburned. Sunscreen does not protect dogs the way it will humans.

Watch for Insects. Hot weather can mean more insects, which can mean trouble for your pet, especially if your dog seems to enjoy chasing bees and wasps! Keep a dog first aid kit on hand in case of an insect sting. Spring and summer are when fleas and ticks are at their worse, so make sure your dog is getting his monthly flea and tick preventative. Mosquitoes are also a problem in many areas, so stay current on heartworm prevention because mosquito bites can cause heartworms.

You can never be too careful when it comes to your beloved furry family members! They depend on you to keep them safe at all times, especially during hot weather when they can become as uncomfortable as you do when the temperatures soar.


:: July 2013 ::

July is the peak month for grill fires.

There's nothing like outdoor grilling. It's one of the most popular ways to cook food. But, a grill placed too close to anything that can burn is a fire hazard. They can be very hot, causing burn injuries. Follow these simple tips and you will be on the way to safe grilling.

Safety tips

*Propane and charcoal BBQ grills should only be used outdoors.
*The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
*Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
*Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
*Never leave your grill unattended.

Charcoal grills

*There are several ways to get the charcoal ready to use. Charcoal chimney starters allow you to start the charcoal using newspaper as a fuel.
*If you use a starter fluid, use only charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.
*Keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from heat sources.
*There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. Be sure to use an extension cord for outdoor use.
*When you are finished grilling, let the coals completely cool before disposing in a metal container.

Propane grills

Check the gas tank hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose. A propane leak will release bubbles. If your grill has a gas leak, by smell or the soapy bubble test, and there is no flame, turn off the gas tank and grill. If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again. If the leak does not stop, call the fire department. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

From LAPD Van Nuys


:: April 2013 ::

Exterior Replacement Projects Provide Biggest Return on Investment for Homeowners

Homeowners looking for the most return on their investment when it comes to remodeling should consider exterior replacement projects. According to the 2013 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, REALTORS rated exterior projects among the most valuable home improvement projects.

"REALTORS know that curb appeal projects offer great bang for your buck, because a home's exterior is the first thing potential buyers see," says National Association of REALTORS President Gary Thomas. "Projects such as siding, window and door replacements can recoup more than 70 percent of their cost at resale. REALTORS know what home features are important to buyers in your area and can provide helpful insights when considering remodeling projects."

A majority of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects; all of these are estimated to recoup more than 71 percent of costs.

According to the report, two interior remodeling projects in particular can recoup substantial value at resale. A minor kitchen remodel is ranked fifth and is expected to return 75.4 percent of costs. Nationally, the average cost for the project is just under $19,000.

The second interior remodeling project in the top 10 is the attic bedroom, which landed at number eight. With an average national cost of just under $48,000, the attic project adds a bedroom and bathroom within a home's existing footprint.

"A REALTOR is the best resource for helping homeowners decide what improvement projects will provide the most upon resale in their market," says Thomas. "Each neighborhood is different, and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies depending on where you live. When making a home remodeling decision, resale value is just one factor that homeowners should take into consideration. Consult a REALTOR to make sure you are making the best decision."

For more information, visit
Article printed from RISMedia:


:: March 2013 ::

Getting Rid of Hazardous Wastes

No matter how much we reduce, reuse and recycle, sometimes the dumpster is our only choice.

Most garbage can be tossed out normally, but hazardous materials require special treatment, and bulky items like furniture usually are collected by appointment. Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW) offers assistance, but hazardous materials still end up in landfills.

"The number one reason people dispose of hazardous waste improperly is because they don't know they are hazardous." said Natalie Jimenez, Household Hazardous Waste program manager. "The main thing we want people to do is look at the label."

According to the department website, "any product labeled toxic, poison, corrosive, flammable, combustible or irritant" is hazardous. There's also electronic waste, or "e-waste," which includes everything from computers to hair dryers, and "Universal wastes," like batteries and fluorescent tubes, which contain corrosive chemicals and mercury. Home medical wastes including "sharps" and unused or expired medications are also considered hazardous.

These wastes cause serious problems when tossed in the trash or poured down drains. They injure sanitation workers, contaminate groundwater and disrupt biological processes used to treat wastewater before it goes to the ocean.

Of course, the hazardous materials themselves also end up in oceans and waterways, contributing to unsafe beaches and polluted ecosystems. Fines for improper disposal can be as high as $10,000.

If you need to dispose of hazardous wastes, use permanent disposal facilities in Los Angeles City or take advantage of the mobile collection events organized by the county. Public Works recommends listing unwanted but working electronic items on the Los Angeles County Materials Exchange, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff offers convenient drop-off locations for sharps and expired medication.

Of course, the best way to ease impacts of hazardous waste is to reduce how much of it you discard.

Large household items-furniture, fridges and other appliances-are not accepted by hazardous waste collections and must be disposed as "bulky items" by contacting your local trash collection agency.

As always, before trashing items, see if someone else can use them. Charitable organizations and thrift stores take large items on a donation basis. Your trash could be someone else's treasure, and you'll lessen the load on landfills in the process.

reprinted in part from Zev Yaroslovsky's blog


:: January 2012 ::

Trouble-Proof Your Roof

You can prolong your roof's functional life by spotting potential problems before they become costly catastrophes. Check out our tips that will help you keep your roof in tip-top condition.

Vent it out

What to notice: Over time, exposure to moisture in the attic space may cause the roof structure to rot. Moisture buildup can also speed mold growth, reduce the efficacy of insulation and cause structural deterioration.
What to do: Proper roof ventilation may help extend the life of the roof covering and help prevent ice dams from forming in the winter. The ventilation system should include both intake and exhaust vents that allow fresh air to flow through the attic space. Also, make sure your bathroom ventilation is not directed into your attic space. Use ductwork to push problem-causing moisture to the exterior of your attic.

Be an eagle eye

What to notice: Check the rubber flashings around roof penetrations like fans or plumbing vents for splits or cracks, which can lead to leaks. Inspect metal flashing areas, such as those found around chimneys, to see if they're present and in good condition. Also look for raised shingles: They're a sign your roof isn't properly venting hot temperatures. Never inspect your roof alone, when you're tired or when you're in a rush. If you don't feel comfortable walking on the roof, hire a qualified professional to do regular inspections.
What to do: Little problems don't fix themselves, and they have a way of causing bigger troubles. If you're seeing one or more of these problems, call a roof specialist. Have the professional inspect your roof thoroughly and make necessary repairs.

Call for help

The solution to roofing problems isn't to just slap more roofing tar on the area. Tar doesn't expand and contract with temperature changes the way a roof is supposed to, so it can actually make the problem worse-and harder to properly correct later on. For most roof repairs, calling a professional is your best bet.
To find a roofing contractor or get answers to your roofing questions, contact the National Roofing Contractors Association.

reprinted from State Farm Newsletter


:: November 2011 ::

Don't let identity thieves ruin your holiday.

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner, and while holiday shoppers are out and about, so are identity thieves. That's why it's important to be observant, and take steps to help protect yourself against identity theft.

Here is a list of top tips to help you protect yourself against identity theft this holiday season:

Be aware of shoulder surfers-Protect credit cards, driver's licenses, and checks from wandering eyes.

Be aware of skimmers-Skimming occurs when a clerk slides your credit card through a second machine to download its information onto a counterfeit card; remember to keep your eyes on your cards at all times.

Be aware of your surroundings-Pay extra attention in crowded malls as pickpocketing numbers noticeably increase during the holidays.

Minimize purse/wallet contents-Carry only the cards you know you will use.

Secure your cards-Never leave your purse/backpack/bag unzipped, and keep a hand on it when in crowded stores.

Use your online shopping smarts-Keep printouts of information detailing your Web purchases; use a credit card instead of a debit card if possible, and make sure the company's website is on a secure server.

Visit trusted websites-Shopping on trusted websites or those recommended via secure comparison shopping sites can be a good way to reduce online shopping risks.

Be careful with personal items when shopping-Don't leave your laptop, purse, or any item with credit cards, checks, driver's license or Social Security Numbers visible in your car.

reprinted from AAA


:: July 2011 ::

July 1 marked the start of a number of new state and local laws, many of which are aimed at improving safety.

Plastic bag ban
Large supermarkets and pharmacies in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County may no longer offer plastic bags for carryout, except for fruit, vegetables and raw meat. Paper bags will cost 10 cents each.

Restaurant employee tests
Current restaurant employees must pass a food-handling course. Those hired after July 1 have 30 days to take the course, available online or in a classroom.

Carbon monoxide detectors
Residents who have a gas stove, fireplace or attached garage must install a carbon monoxide detector.

No carpool lane for hybrid drivers
Solo drivers of hybrid vehicles with yellow Clean Air decals can no longer use carpool lanes. Plug-in hybrids and vehicles with hydrogen internal combustion engines will be issued a green Clean Air decal effective next year. Zero-emission vehicles with a white Clean Air sticker may continue to use the carpool lane until Jan. 1, 2015.

Insurance information for homeowners
Insurance companies must make their disclosure notices for homeowners short and concise. The statements must make it easier for homeowners to determine the adequacy of their coverage in the event of a loss or a major catastrophe.

Classrooms locks
Construction projects submitted to the state must provide plans for rooms in schools to be locked from the inside. Violent campus incidents prompted the law, which seeks a more effective way to conduct lockdowns.

Push-to-talk cellphones
Drivers who use push-to-talk cellphones are no longer exempt from the hands-free law that took effect in 2008.

Whooping cough vaccination required
Students entering grades seven through 12 must provide proof that they have received a
whooping cough shot, known as Tdap, before the fall 2011 school year.

Donor registry
Drivers license application forms will force Californians to decide if they want to be an organ donor.

Source: Times staff writer Corina Knoll


:: January 2011 ::

Emergency Preparedness
Important Documents
Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. If it is a safety deposit box away from your property, simply grab the key. Otherwise, gather the following documents in one place before you need them:

Insurance policies (life, auto, homeowners, renters, etc.)
Copies of health insurance information (insurance card, doctor's name and number, prescriptions, allergies and immunizations)
Personal records (birth certificate, marriage certificate, military records)
Drivers license or personal identification
Automobile papers (bill of sale, registration, etc.)
Social Security cards
Recent tax returns (you may want to include home improvement records/receipts)
Employment information (including recent pay stubs and employee benefits information)
Wills, deeds and power of attorney, medical DNR, donor info.
Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
Traveler's checks or other forms of currency
Housing documents (mortgage, property deeds)
Personal property inventory (item description, serial number, receipt, warranties and photographs or videos)
List of emergency contacts, (family, friends, lawyer, financial advisors, etc.)
Backup disks of critical computerized information
Negatives of irreplaceable personal photographs (with protective plastic sleeves)

You will need to update these documents once a year.


:: July 2010 ::

Most of you know I am a huge pet fan. I have 2 rescue dogs of my own and one foster dog at the moment. They constantly make me smile.

Even with all my years of experiences as a dog owner, I found new information in the attached article. Our pets depend on us for food, exercise, and most of all, safety. Here is an article from Andrea Arden, pet expert at the Today Show that reminds us how we can best protect the furry members of our family:

Summer is a time for the whole family, including our pets, to enjoy the great outdoors. However, just as there are safety precautions to ensure warm-weather safety for humans, there are precautions to make sure pets stay safe and happy.

Warm-weather precautions
Many of the safety concerns we have for ourselves during the hottest months of the year also apply to our pets. Hot weather makes us all a little uncomfortable. But when it's hot for you, it is probably even hotter for your pet - especially if it has a dark coat, a short muzzle (brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs and pugs), is in its elder years, or has a tendency to overexert itself. Dogs aren't as efficient at cooling down as we are, since they release most of their body heat through panting and the pads of their feet.

Decrease the risks of letting your pet enjoy the outdoors in summer with these tips:

Adjust their exercise routine by taking them out for playtime in the early morning and evening hours. This is especially important if your dog is your jogging partner. While you can alter the type of clothing you wear, your dog can't. Many dogs will keep running to stay with you, even if they are suffering due to the heat.

Be cautious when walking your dog on pavement (which can get very hot and may burn your pet's paws) and at the beach. Running on sand is strenuous and can cause injury to a pet that is out of shape. Start with slower, shorter walks and gradually increase according to your pet's ability and health.

Provide your pet with plenty of water.

Try a simple keep-cool tactic such as soaking a bandanna in water and putting it in the freezer before you put it on your dog to wear on a walk.

Make sure your pet has plenty of access to a shady area to rest when outdoors. During supervised playtime in the yard your pet might enjoy access to a child's wading pool to cool off in.

Perhaps most important, be sure never to leave your pet unsupervised in a car. Not only are they are susceptible to being stolen, but even on a mild day a car can heat up quickly and your pet could suffer heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke
Some of the signs of heatstroke include (but are not limited to): excessive panting; rapid breathing; excessive drooling; dark or bright red tongue or gums; staggering; body temperature of 104-110 F degrees and bloody diarrhea or vomiting. If heatstroke is suspected, contact your veterinarian immediately. Offer your pet ice cubes to lick, Pedialyte to restore electrolytes and apply rubbing alcohol to its paws. If you apply water, be sure it is cool and not very cold, which could cause shock.

Sun protection
Most of us are aware that we need to use sunscreen everyday in order to avoid sun damage. The same may hold true for your pet, especially if it has short hair, white fur or pink skin. Limit your dog's sun exposure during the day and talk to your vet about choosing a sunscreen for your pet, which is especially important on the ears and nose.

Also, shaving a pet during summer may seem like a good idea, but this can actually make it more susceptible to sunburn. If you and your vet decide shaving your pet is best, try to do it at the beginning of the summer so the hair has time to grown in a bit by the time the hottest days are here.

Water safety
Be sure not to leave your pet unsupervised around water. Even a good swimmer can drown due to exhaustion if it can't figure out how to get out of a pool. Teach your pet where the pool steps are and consider placing a cone or a stick with a little flag on it by the pool steps so it has a highly visible marker of the exit. You can also teach dogs to climb out using a pet ramp such as the Skamper Ramp As an extra precaution, they can wear a doggie life vest.

Garden and garage safety
Be careful to restrict your pet's access to lawns or gardens that have been recently sprayed with fertilizers or insecticides, as these can be poisonous to animals, too. Also, car antifreeze is a year-round hazard. During the warmer months your car may leak antifreeze whose sweet taste may be inviting, but is also highly toxic to pets. Consider using propylene glycol, which is a safer alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Parasite prevention
In summer, mosquitoes (which can carry heartworm disease), fleas, ticks and other parasites are out in full force. Be sure to talk to your vet about preventives such as Frontline and Heartgard to protect your pet and your family from parasites carried into your home by your pet. Keeping your pet well groomed is especially important during the summer months so you can quickly and easily find any potential parasites.

High-rise syndrome
When the weather warms up, people tend to open their windows. This can be an enticing spot for your pet to sit and enjoy the fresh air and watch the world go by. Whether you live in a house or in a high-rise apartment, be sure to put in screens to prevent your from pet escaping or from slipping and injuring itself in a fall.

2010 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints


:: January 2010 ::

The Fire Dept. gives FREE training in Disaster Preparedness. I am taking the course and it is fascinating. We cover basic information that any homeowner or family would find beneficial. These are the headings for the classes:
Disaster Preparedness
Disaster Fire Suppression
Disaster Triage
Disaster Patient Assessment
Search and Rescue
Incident Command System
Disaster Psychology
To find schedules and sign up for classes go to

The courses are taught many times during the year. You can take them in or out of order. You can complete them at your own pace. So if you have a difficult schedule, and most of us do, don't let that get in your way.


:: January 2010 ::

The Fire Department offers wonderful advice in the booklet "Los Angeles Fire Department Emergency Preparedness." This can be downloaded and printed so you all have a copy in your home. Please go to

It offers suggestions in case of earthquake, fire and other emergencies that may arise. It is worth taking the time to prepare now for what may happen later.


:: April 2009 ::

Dear Friends,

Have you ever considered being an organ donor? There is more to it than just the pink dot on your license.

Prior to 2004, no Registry had existed for those who wished to give consent to be an organ and/or tissue donor. Historically, while signing a donor card and placing the pink dot on your license served as an important symbol of your intent, it did not place you on any list or Registry.

Officially formed in 2004 after being authorized by the state, California's four federally designated nonprofit organ procurement organizations (facilitating the donation process across California), are committed to giving every person waiting for a transplant a second chance at life.

Right now over 21,000 Californians wait for an organ transplant. That's 21 percent of the more than 100,000 people waiting across our country. Tragically, one third of them will die waiting.
Now, Donate Life California allows you to express your commitment to becoming an organ, eye and tissue donor. The Registry guarantees your plans will be carried out when you die.

My cousins life was extended by 9 years after a heart and lung transplant. She was a nurse who used those years to train others who continue her work in caring for patients and training other nurses. She was able to make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many others with this extra time she was given.

You have the power to donate lifesign up today to become an organ and tissue donor. Your generosity can save up to eight lives through organ donation and enhance another 50 through tissue donation.

From the website Donate Life California. For more information:

I appreciate all the real estate referrals and take them as the ultimate compliment to my work.

Thanks and have a great summer.


:: September 2008 ::

Dear Friends,

September is National Preparedness Month and with the recent earthquake as a reminder of Southern California living, it seemed like a good time to recheck, restock or assemble our emergency kits. This list is taken in part from
Recommended Items to Include in a Basic Emergency Supply Kit:
Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
Flashlight and extra batteries
First aid kit
Whistle to signal for help
Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
Prescription medications and glasses
Pet food and extra water for your pet
Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
Cash or traveler\'s checks and change
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.
Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
Fire Extinguisher
Matches in a waterproof container
Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
Paper and pencil
Wishing you safety and happiness-



:: June 2008 ::

Dear Neighbors,
William Temple said Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it. Health is the greatest treasure of life, one that must be tended and appreciated for the wonderful gift it is.
Just as its important to have a roof over your head, its also important to eat right and exercise to maintain your health. In tending to your health, it is wise to keep a personal health record checklist to be ready for any challenges. You can build this file gradually, but here is a list of important information you will want at your fingertips:
Personal Identification, including name and contact information, birth date, and Social Security number.
Emergency contacts, including phone numbers.
Physician contacts, including specialists and dentist.
Health Insurance information.
Living will, advance directive or power of attorney.
Organ-donor authorization, if any.
Current medications and dosages.
Significant illnesses and surgeries, with dates.
Immunizations and their dates.
Allergies and other sensitivities.
Results from most recent physical.
Test results and eye and dental records.
Family Health history.
Opinions of specialists.
Correspondence with providers.*
*AARP (2008)
For yourself and for the ones who love you, keep this valuable information in a safe place that is easily available. You may also want to set some personal goals, such as hiking in Italy or visiting the Grand Canyon, to keep you focused on your health. Having tangible goals helps keep us motivated and excited about maintaining the best health possible.
I hope you find this information useful.
As always, I thank you for your continuing support in my real estate business. If you know of anyone interested in buying or selling a home, a referral is the highest praise I can receive.
Wishing you good health and a great summer-
Amy Pell


:: April 2008 ::

Tax Exemption. You or someone you know may be eligible for a big tax exemption when they sell their home under PROPOSITION 60.

This proposition helps homeowners with tax relief by preventing property reassessment when a person 55 or older sells his or her existing residence and purchases or constructs a replacement residence worth the same or less than the original. For married couples, only one spouse must be 55 or older.

This means that if you meet all the requirements, you can take your property tax base (which may be significantly lower) with you when you purchase a new home. Im not a tax specialist, so make sure you check with your accountant before you claim this exemption.

You will need to buy your replacement home within two years of selling your original property in order to qualify. A claim for relief must be filed within 3 years of the date a replacement dwelling is purchased or new construction of that replacement dwelling is completed. Both properties must qualify for a homeowners exemption, which requires that a property be the owners principal place of residence.

You can only apply for this exemption once, unless you become disabled after receiving the property tax relief. In that case you may transfer the base year value a second time because of the disability. This requires a separate form.

It is also important to note that if you sold the original property to your parent, child, or grandchild and that person filed a claim for the parent-child or grandparent-grandchild change in ownership exclusion, then you may not transfer your base year value.

PLEASE NOTE: Transfers between counties are allowed only if the county in which the replacement dwelling is located has passed an authorizing ordinance. The acquisition of the replacement dwelling must occur on or after the date specified in the county ordinance. This information is easily obtained at your county tax assessors office.

I am happy to explain further and help you with any transfer you may be considering. Contact me for the paperwork for easy filing. I am always available to help you with your real estate needs.


:: January 2008 ::

Happy New Year.

During the fires of 2007, I thought of the many unfortunate people who were forced to decide very quickly what they should bring with them in case of an evacuation. Im sure many were prepared, but many more were not. I decided to gather my most important papers long before any emergency presents itself to me. After researching, this is a list I came up with that you could use as a guide for essential documents.

Important Documents
Keep important documents in a safe place that you can access easily. If it is a safety deposit box away from your property, simply grab the key. Otherwise, gather the following documents in one place before you need them:
 Insurance policies (life, auto, homeowners, renters, etc.)
 Copies of health insurance information (insurance card, doctors name and number, prescriptions, allergies and immunizations)
 Personal records (birth certificate, marriage certificate, military records)
 Passports
 Drivers license or personal identification
 Automobile papers (bill of sale, registration, etc.)
 Social Security cards
 Recent tax returns (you may want to include home improvement records/receipts)
 Employment information (including recent pay stubs and employee benefits information)
 Wills, deeds and power of attorney, medical DNR, donor info.
 Stocks, bonds and other negotiable certificates
 Bank, savings and retirement account numbers
 Traveler\'s checks or other forms of currency
 Housing documents (mortgage, property deeds)
 Personal property inventory (item description, serial number, receipt, warranties and photographs or videos)
 List of emergency contacts, (family, friends, lawyer, financial advisors, etc.)
 Backup disks of critical computerized information
 Negatives of irreplaceable personal photographs (with protective plastic sleeves)
You will need to update these documents once a year. And if you own a home, consider opening a home equity line of credit so emergency funds will be available when you need them.

Hope this is helpful and that you never have to use it.

Be safe and well in the New Year,



:: October 2007 ::

Dear Friends,

This is a reminder that Daylight Saving Time is ending one week later than in the past. It will change at 2:00 AM on Sunday, November 4, 2007.

Change in Daylight Saving Time:

Previously ended:
Last Sunday in October
With the new law, will end:
First Sunday in November

Would have been: October 28, 2007
Will now be: November 4, 2007

All the best-



:: September 2007 ::

Dear Friends,

We are all interested in doing our part to save energy. Not only does it help our environment but it can also save us money. But where do you begin? Sometimes its best to start small and slowly add energy-saving habits a little at a time. Here are some helpful suggestions to get you started.

1. Automate your energy use: Programmable thermostats can lower heating and A.C. bills. Installing motion detectors and light timers can save on juice by only turning on lights when needed.

2. Pull the plug: Most TVs, stereos and other electronic devices are used only a few hours a day, but because of their displays and memory chips, they consume energy around the clock. In fact, inactive electronics account for a whopping 5% of our nations energy use. When you are gone for more than a week, make it a habit to unplug these devices.

3. Slow the flow: Even though showering is more energy efficient than a bath, they still account for 40% of hot water energy costs. By installing low-flow showerheads and aerators on kitchen and bathroom faucets, you can reduce your hot water usage as much as 50%.

4. Dust off the fridge: When dust accumulates on the coils at the bottom or back of the refrigerator, it forms a barrier that makes it more difficult for the fridge to dispel heat and keep food cold. Vacuum these coils every 3 months (more often if you have pets) to boost your fridges efficiency by up to 30%.

5. Stop being the dishwasher: A fully loaded dishwasher can use 40% less hot water than hand washing the same number of dishes. And it saves you time.

6. Stay pumped: Under inflated tires reduce your cars fuel efficiency by as much as two miles for each gallon of gas. Also, check your cars air filter regularly. Replacing a dirty filter can translate into a 10% increase in mileage.

Simple and small changes in our energy habits can lead to large savings, both for us personally and for generations to come.

I hope you found this information helpful. As always, I thank you for your continuing support in my real estate business. If you know of anyone interested in buying or selling a home, a referral is the highest praise I can receive.


P.S. Some of these tips were suggested in AARP Magazine, 2007.


:: June 2007 ::

Dear Friends,

Summer in Southern California is a delightful combination of visits to the beach, trips to the mountains, and lots of outdoor time at home. Barbeques, pool parties, just lounging around with friends or a good page-turnerwe know how to relax here in the privacy of our own space.

When adding up all the good points, potential good points, and challenges of a new home purchase, be sure to put the outdoor space in the plus column. I always consider outdoor space as a bonus room, even though it is not counted in your homes square footage, because of the wonderful possibilities you have to extend a homes usable space beyond its walls.

Whether a balcony, an expansive green lawn, a cozy deck or a tree-filled yard, Southern California homes offer many opportunities for enjoying the outdoors, and there are several ways to extend the use of your open space.

Kitchens may be the heart of a home, but now they can be the heart of your yard, too. You can enjoy a simple outdoor grill or pair it with other equipment to fashion a full-fledged outdoor cooking station, keep things cool in an outdoor refrigerator, crank up the sounds with a stereo system hooked up to satellite radio, and catch up on the soaps on an all-weather television.
Portable fire pits or stone fireplaces are another way to add to your outdoor space and extend your enjoyment of the yard into cooler months.
Landscaping adds a layer of beauty, and can transform a suburban back yard into a peaceful sanctuary of green lawns, beautiful rock gardens, and tranquil ponds. You can discover that the great outdoors is a natural place to connect with your inner self. Meditation areas can be separated from the other zones such as cooking, dining, and sitting. Sling-back chairs, big pillows, and fountains can also add to a tranquil, outdoor ambiance.
Landscape designers and home owners are discovering that masses of colorful perennials can create a bold, colorful look that doesnt require a lot of upkeep. Include the wise purchase of a rain sensor that adjusts water schedules based on precipitation.
Take advantage of all that your home has to offer as a vacation getaway: no airport hassles, no long, hot drives and expensive gas bills - just rest and relaxation with all the comforts of home.

Have a great summer!! And visit my website at


:: March 2007 ::

Dear Friends,

Like most of you, I am concerned with the growing threat of identity theft. In this era of sophisticated technology, thousands of names, addresses, and social security numbers are stolen in major breaches of data security every day. Monitoring your personal information is absolutely essential, especially when you are about to embark on a major decision like purchasing a home.

Here are a few proactive steps you can take to make it difficult for a thief to steal your identity:

Check credit reports at least semi-annually. (You can go to and choose from 3 different bureaus)
Check spouses, parents, and even childrens credit reports
Shred all documents rather than just toss in the trash
Make certain that all legal documents, account numbers, tax documents, and cancelled checks are secure
Destroy all pre-approved credit card offers
Place mail in secure, outgoing mailboxes or at the Post Office
Call the Post Office if you go more than 4 days without mail
Pay attention to delivery dates of all bills
Pay attention to bank and credit card statements
Reconcile bills and statements diligently and in a timely manner
Pay attention to the expiration date of credit cards and look for arrival of new cards
Sign all new cards immediately
Avoid using your Social Security Number for accounts or other public information whenever possible
Have bank-ordered checks delivered to the bank and not your home

Dont think it cant happen to you. Even with diligent attention it is important to understand that we all are vulnerable to having our identity compromised. As long as you are shredding old documents, checking your credit, and developing an awareness of your personal information, you will have a much better chance of stopping an identity thief from ruining your credit.

Thank you for your continuing support in my real estate business. Your referrals are the greatest praise I can receive.




:: December 2006 ::

Dear Friends,

I am very pleased to announce my new website at As you can see, I am now sending my newsletters via email. Please visit the website to see any newsletters you may have missed.

The end of the year is a time for celebration. Thanksgiving and the Holidays allow us all a time for reflection and enjoying friends and families. I wish you all a wonderful year ahead full of joy and adventure.

As the end of the year approaches, it is also time to prepare for tax season. Here is some helpful information about possible tax deductions for your home:

1-Home acquisition mortgage loan fees: If you bought your primary or secondary residence in 2006, you probably obtained a mortgage to finance the purchase. The mortgage is called an acquisition mortgage because it enabled a purchase of the residence. If you paid a loan fee to obtain that acquisition mortgage, usually called points, that loan fee qualifies as an itemized deduction. Each point paid equals 1 percent of the amount borrowed.

2-Home improvement loan fees: If you paid a loan fee to obtain a home improvement loan, that loan fee is fully deductible in the tax year it was paid.

3-Loan fees paid to refinance a home loan or borrow against other real estate: If you refinanced your existing home loan in 2006, or borrowed against other real estate, such as an apartment building, any loan fee you paid must be amortized and deducted over the life of the mortgage, i.e., if you paid a $1000 loan fee to refinance with a new 33-year home mortgage, you can deduct $33.33 for each of the next 30 years.

4-When refinancing, deduct any undeducted loan fees: Due to mortgage interest rates, many home owners refinanced again in 2006 after previously refinancing a year or two earlier. These home owners should remember to deduct on the 2006 income tax returns, any undeducted loan fees from a prior mortgage refinance.

5-If you bought or sold property in 2006, remember to deduct prorated real estate taxes: A major tax deduction many real estate buyers and sellers overlook is the prorated property tax they paid at the close of escrow. Even if the other party remitted the payment to the tax collector, but you were charged a prorated portion of the tax bill, be sure to deduct your share on your 2006 return.

6-Deduct prorated mortgage interest in the year of property purchase or sale: Similarly, if you bought a residence (or other real estate) and took over an existing mortgage, do not forget to deduct your prorated interest share for the month of the sale (even if the seller made the payment to the lender). Your closing settlement statement shows your prorated share of mortgage interest.

7-Mortgage payment penalty: If you paid off an existing mortgage early and were charged a prepayment penalty by the lender, that prepayment penalty qualified as an itemized deduction.

8-When land rent payments qualify as interest deductions: Millions of homes are located on leased land and Internal Revenue Code 1630 allows land rent to be deducted like interest when the lease: (a) is for at least 15 years, including renewal periods; (b) is freely assignable; (c) contains a present or future option to buy the land; and (d) is like a security interest, such as a mortgage. Of course, payments to buy land are not deductible, nor are ground payments deductible if you do not have the option to buy the land, such as in a mobile home park.

9-Home construction loans: If you built a new home in 2006 or are building one now, do not forget to deduct the construction loan interest paid. It is deductible if the construction period does not exceed 24 months before occupancy of the principal residence.

10-Deduct prepaid property taxes and mortgage interest: If you prepaid your 2007 real estate taxes in 2006, as home owners do to increase their tax deductions, or if you paid your January 2007 mortgage payment in December 2006, do not forget to deduct these extra mortgage interest and property tax payment on your 2006 income tax returns.

I thank you, as always, for your ongoing support and referrals.

Wishing all a healthy and happy 2007.




:: August 2006 ::

Dear Friends,

During the heat of the summer, have you ever considered a vacation home? In the next 5 to 15 years the vacation home market will expand tremendously. Housing forecasters expect Americans to purchase more than 4 million second homes over the next 10 years, in part because of some 76 million retiring baby boomers will be moving into smaller homes and new neighborhoods.

Some areas pegged for strong appreciation are Hilton Head, South Carolina; Park City, Utah; and Sun River, Oregon. There are thousands of locations to look for a vacation home. Beach, river, lake, and mountain locations are good choices. Important points to consider when gathering information are migration trends, the inventory of homes, and the potential of home growth.

For financing, you might choose to withdraw equity from your present property to invest, or trade down by selling your primary residence and moving to a smaller home, then applying the remaining capital to the purchase of a vacation home.

If you are interested, I can help you search for homes across the country and refer you to a specialist in the area.

The greatest compliment I can ever receive from a satisfied client is a personal referral. So when you have conversations with friends, family and business associates who are considering buying or selling a home, please feel free to refer my name.

Stay cool,
Amy Pell


:: April 2006 ::

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Albert Einstein said "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."

As the cold chill of winter gives way to warmer days of spring, consider these tips for home maintenance and safety:

* Replace your furnace and air conditioning filters
* Clean the kitchen exhaust fan and air filter
* Always have a fully-charged multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible
* Make sure the light bulbs in your fixtures are the correct wattage
* Review your fire escape and earthquake plans with your family
* Have your roof inspected for potential leaks every few years
* Protect your home from sewer or drain back-ups
* Check all fascia and trim for deterioration
* Clean clothes dryer exhaust duct, damper and space under the dryer
* Replace all extension cords that have become brittle, worn, or damaged
* Inspect and clean dust from smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
* Check recreational equipment
* Check your outdoor decks and patio for possible deterioration
* Check exterior siding

We all have the periodic surprises to deal with so it is important to stay ahead of home issues wherever possible. The best line of defense is to prepare against avoidable problems.

Wishing you a warm and wonderful spring. As always, thank you for the referrals.

Amy Pell


:: November 2005 ::

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

With all the recent natural disasters in this country and abroad, many questions have arisen regarding what perils are generally covered by a basic standard homeowners\' policy. Most policies include coverage for perils such as fire, lightning, explosion, wind, hail, falling objects, and water damage as a result of a busted pipe or leaky roof.

Damage from mudslides and landslides are not covered by typical homeowners\' insurance plans. If damage is caused by rising water and actual flooding from outside, it is not covered unless there is a separate flood policy in place. However, storm damage from wind and rain seeping through roofs and windows are generally covered by basic homeowners\' policies.

Flood insurance is required by lenders in some areas that have a high risk of flooding, such as those adjacent to waterways, flood plane, or property below sea level. Flood insurance is available but typically takes 30 days to activate.

As far as landslide insurance goes, the majority of insurance companies in California do not offer this. It is very difficult to obtain, as there are only a few companies that specialize in this field or even offer it and the premiums are often unaffordable.

Earthquake insurance is also an additional policy and can be very costly. Depending on the amount of the deductible, it can cover damaged goods within the home as well as replacement of the entire dwelling. It may also cover additional living expenses for loss of use of home.

It is best to speak with your personal insurance agent to determine what suits your needs. The first line of defense is to understand what your policy is, what type of coverage you have, and what you may need.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season. As always, thank you for the referrals.

Amy Pell


:: April 2005 ::

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The market remains strong. Interest rates have inched up a bit but due to continued low rates and a limited inventory, home values continue to rise. Investment in real estate is consistent as a strategic money maker. Compared with the volatile stock market and poor interest rates in savings and loans, real estate consistently proves to be the best investment over time.

Every L.A. neighborhood seems to be under some construction. Pride of ownership has reached an all-time high as the value of our property soars. One of my favorite activities in this business is helping my clients invest wisely in remodeling and tuning-up their homes to ensure favorable yields on their investments when it is time to sell. A little extra effort on my part in consulting with you can make a substantial difference in your homes market appeal. Please call me if youre planning to invest in your home and wondering how improvements will enhance the value.

There is also a practice referred to as Staging Your Home for Sale. I realize that most of you understand the value of preparing your home when it comes time to sell. For years, sellers have been getting their homes ready for sale by planting, patching, and clearing out clutter. But recently, this process has been taken to a higher, more sophisticated, and deliberate level called staging. Staging heightens your homes market appeal by setting up each room with appropriate accessories, furniture, flowers, and plants to help buyers perceive the space as home. It can make a huge difference in how quickly you sell your property and how much you get.

Be sure you plan at least a few weeks of staging into the beginning of your schedule when it comes time to sell. I can walk you through all the steps in person when youre thinking about selling.

It should be a glorious spring due to the recent rains. Enjoy the wonderful mountains and landscapes of Los Angeles. As always, thank you for the referrals.

Amy Pell


:: January 2005 ::

To Whom it May Concern:

Buying your first home can be a daunting and discouraging process, but Amy was very supportive and always made us feel important. With Amys impeccable grace and guidance we were able to successfully purchase our first home. From our first meeting up to the present, Amy has always been willing to give her advice and sound guidance. We began our process with little hope for a house but because of Amys knowledge of the San Fernando Valley and diligent searches, she was able to match us with a house that fits our needs and our price range.

She was very patient with us and never made us feel rushed, pushed, or unimportant. In fact, she very clearly pointed out the pluses and minuses of every house we looked at. At no time did Amy ever force us to look at a property. Moreover, she even told us when she thought a property was not a good fit for our needs. Amy is very well versed in the San Fernando Valley real estate market. Amy searched thoroughly for us. We felt that there was not a property in the locations, price or within our needs that we did not look at. Amys focus is matching people with the properties that will make them happy and satisfied.

Once we decided to make an offer on the property we actually purchased, Amy carefully explained the entire process to us. We felt very safe that she would take care of all of the issues that arise in the escrow process. She successfully negotiated a fair charge-off for us and made sure that escrow closed on time and correctly.

Even after we had purchased and moved into our home, Amy offered her support with recommendations for gardeners and housekeepers to help with dealing with neighbors. We know if we ever had any problems arise with our home we could call Amy and she would gladly help us with advice and support.

When we ever have a need for a real estate agent in the future, without question we would go with Amy Pell. We would recommend her to anyone who wants an honest, positive and hard-working agent for any real estate transaction.

Debra Slabo and Eric McAvoy


:: January 2005 ::

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

2004 was an incredible year and real estate market for 2005 continues to be robust. However, it is clear that prices have peaked, inventory has increased, and sales are slowing. What does this mean? Larger inventory and fewer buyers increase the average days on the market. Property that 3 or 4 months ago would have sold in the first week now may remain on the market for weeks or months. Buyers are starting to resist the steep increases over comparable properties.

What does that mean to you? If you are considering buying or selling a home at this pivotal time, it is important to these trends. As long-term interest rates move up, we expect the demand for homes to continue to slow. Pricing your property correctly has never been so important. Aggressive marketing -- including a full-page Los Angeles Times advertisement, which we will create and place for you -- is a must.

I am here daily to match people with their first or dream home, to make selling their home an easy and enjoyable experience, or to find the right income property in an appropriate neighborhood. Referrals are the key to the real estate business and I want you to feel confident about referring me. Not only am I working with a team of experts headed by Peter J. Maurice, but our group is the top producing team in our Beverly Hills Office and we are ranked among the top 20 Coldwell Banker agent teams in all of Southern California. I have enclosed an excerpt from a client letter to let you understand how I do business.

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to call me if you have questions.
Remember, when youre ready to move I can make it happen.

All the best,
Amy Pell