Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Check Yourself

Hiring a professional to conduct a home energy audit is a great way to determine how much energy your home consumes and what you can do to make it more efficient — but it also can be expensive. You can, however, easily conduct your own. Use the following guidelines from the U.S. Department of Energy and keep a checklist of areas you inspect and problems you find.

Air leaks. You might be able to save 5 percent to 30 percent a year on your energy bills by finding and fixing leaks. Start by checking for obvious leaks. Inspect windows and doors. If you can rattle them, chances are there’s an air leak. Caulking or weather stripping is an easy fix. Also check to see if air flows through less-obvious places such as baseboards and electrical outlets. Then head outside the house to inspect all areas where two different building materials meet: where siding and chimneys meet and where the foundation and the bottom of exterior brick or siding meet. Plug and caulk any holes you find and seal other cracks with appropriate materials.

Insulation. Check the attic hatch to see if it is as heavily insulated as the attic, is weather-stripped and closes tightly. In the attic, determine whether openings for items such as pipes, ductwork and chimneys are sealed. Seal any gaps with an expanding foam caulk or other permanent sealant. Also check to see if you have a vapor barrier under the attic insulation. If not, paint the interior ceilings with vapor barrier paint to reduce the amount of water vapor that could pass through the ceiling.

Heating and cooling equipment. Check to see if it’s more than 15 years old. If so, you might want to consider switching to a newer model. Also check your ductwork for dirt streaks; these indicate an air leak and will need to be sealed with a duct mastic.
Lighting. Check the wattage of your lightbulbs. You might be using a 100-watt bulb when you could be using a 60-watt. Consider switching to compact fluorescent lamps for lights that are on for hours at a time.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Preparing for Disaster

Recently, I reconnected with a very influential person in my life, John Griffin Jr. During my time as a seasonal firefighter in 1981/82, John was a Lieutenant at my fire station. He taught me core values in community service and involvement. "It does take a village…"

John’s Information Pack reads as follows:

“The following website’s are very good, lots of vital information. Each of us should act now!!!

Work with your neighbor’s. Learn CPR, Learn First Aid. Remember your pets. Do not forget about the sick and injured.

Learn how to use and do the following, “BEFORE” you have to use or do it in an EMERGENCY.
1) Fire Extinguisher- recommended size-3-A-10-BC, on the car and one for the home or as many as you think you might need
2) Attach a gas shut off key to your gas meter, and water meter.
3) A Pry-Bar. (Gloves, Eye Protection, Dusk Mask, Helmet, hard sole shoes, to protect your feet from glass, nails and other debris.)
4) Two way family communication radios.
5) Have a place and practice your escape plan from your home or apartment. If you live in a 2 story complex or home, may want to buy a portable Fire Escape Ladder???
6) Teach your small children how to and when to dial, 911.
7) A family first aid kit, know how to use the item’s, within it.
8) A whistle for each family member.
9) Try to maintain a full tank of fuel, in your car or truck.
10) Keep cash on hand.
11) Copies of very important paper’s (documents’).

We live in Earthquake Country. Are you prepared???
Go to this website for a lot of good info:

Some of this information, you will see repeated, it is to get you thinking about what you, your family and friends need to be working on. This is very useful information. Just a few reminders to assist your family and friends in getting your Disaster Supply Kit together. Read all of the enclosed information. Take action, now. Disaster’s, such as earthquakes, power outages, and in the winter month’s there is flooding, mudslides, and in the summer, there are wild land fires.

Keep a full tank of gas. Keep some cash on hand and a Cell phone vehicle charger. Keep an emergency supply kit in your car and office. Blankets, drinking water, you should carry a small bottle of water with you at all times, especially if you are taking medication. Non-perishable food!!! You should keep a flash light handy.

Another friendly reminder:
Be sure to check your vehicle’s head lights and tail lights, to see that they are working. If one or more are not working, the police will stop you. Also keep handy, vehicle registration, proof of auto insurance, and of course your driver’s license. Be sure you have your seat belt on, wait for the Officer to ask you for the above items, before removing your seat belt.

Actions for Emergency Preparedness

i Make a Plan.
Planning ahead is the first step to a calmer and more assured disaster response.

1) Talk. Discuss with your family the disasters that can happen where you live. Establish responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team. Designate alternates in case someone is absent.
2) Plan. Choose two places to meet after a disaster:
-right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency such as a fire
-Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate your neighborhood.
3) Learn. Each adult in your household should learn how and when to turn off utilities such ac electricity, water and gas. Ask someone at the fire department to show you how to use the fire extinguisher you store in your home.
4) Check supplies. Review your disaster supplies and replace water and food every six months.
5) Tell. Let everyone in the household know where emergency contact information is kept. Make copies for everyone to carry with them. Be sure to include an out of area contact. It may be easier to call out of the area if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Keep the information updated.
6) Practice. Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on a map in case main roads are impassable or grid locked. Practice earthquake, tornado and fire drills at home, school and work.
7) Sheltering in Place. Chemical or airborne hazards require a spherical response called sheltering in place. If local officials advise you to shelter in place:
- close and lock all windows and exterior doors.
- turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems
- close the fireplace damper
-get your disaster supplies kit out and make sure the radio is working
-go to an interior room without windows that is above ground level
-using duct tape, seal all cracks around the door and any vents in the room
-listen to your radio or television for further instructions. Local officials may call for evacuation in specific areas.

II. Get a Kit
Store enough supplies for everyone in your household for at least three days. Include any necessary items for infants, seniors and people with disabilities in your kit. Store your disaster supplies in a sturdy but easy to carry container. Keep a smaller version of the kit in your vehicle.

1) Water. Have at least one gallon, per person, per day.
2) Food. Pack non perishable, high, protein items, including energy bars, ready to eat soup, peanut butter, etc. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water.
3) Flashlight. Include extra batteries.
4) First aid kit. Pack a reference guide.
5) Medications. Don’t forget prescription and nonprescription items.
6) Battery operated radio. Include extra batteries.
7) Tools. A wrench to turn off gas if necessary, manual can opener, screwdriver, hammer, pliers, knife, duct tape, plastic sheeting and garbage bags and ties.
8) Clothing. Provide a change of clothes for everyone, including sturdy shoes and gloves.
9) Personal items. Remember eyeglasses or contact lenses and solution; copies of important papers, including identification cards, insurance policies, birth certificates, passports, etc; and comfort items such as toys and books.
10) Sanitary supplies. You’ll want toilet paper, towelettes, feminine supplies, personal hygiene items, bleach, etc.
11) Money. Have cash.
12) Contact information. Carry a current list of family phone numbers and email addresses, including someone out of the area who may be easier to reach if local phone lines are out of service or overloaded.
13) Pet supplies. Include food, water, leash, litter box or plastic bags, tags, any medications, and vaccination information.
14) Map. Consider marking an evacuation route on it from your local area.

III. Be Informed
Learning basic First Aid and CPR/AED skills can give you the confidence and ability to help anyone in your family, community and at work in the event of an emergency.
When a major disaster or local emergency occurs your life can change in an instant. Loved ones can be hurt and emergency response can be delayed. You can acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and provide basic but critical care for injuries and sudden illnesses, including the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) for victims of sudden cardiac arrest, until EMS arrive. You can do this! Three critical steps to help you act in an emergency:
-Check the scene for safety and the victim for life threatening conditions
-Call 911 or your local emergency number and request professional assistance.
-Care for the victim until emergency assistance arrives.

Actions to take when disasters occur: During and after an Earthquake DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

If you are indoors: Drop to the floor, take cover under a piece of heavy furniture, cover your head, and hold on to the furniture with your other hand
If you are outdoors: Move into the open, away from buildings, lights trees and utility wires
Following an Earthquake:
Be prepared for aftershocks
In case of a fire, take action quickly:
-Always plan two escape routes from every room
-If a fire occurs and you are behind a closed door, feel the door before you open it. If the door is hot, find another way out.
-If you must exit through smoke, drop to the floor and crawl: get out as fast as you can
-Once you are out, STAY OUT- never go back into a burning building
-If you cannot escape safely, go to a window and signal for help

Take steps to prepare for a Pandemic: Practice Healthy Hygiene
-Clean hands often- Wash with soap and water or with hand sanitizer
-Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough and wash hands afterwards
-Keep hands away from face
-If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.
Prepare at Home
Determine what supplies you will need to provide care at home
Stock up now
-Reduce your need to go out during a local flu pandemic by stocking extra food, water and supplies at home
-If you do get sick and have extra supplies on hand, you will help reduce the spread of pandemic flu by staying home
For more information on action steps to take in a disaster visit

The following are recommended and suggested things you may want to do and get. Again everyone has different needs- please keep that in mind as you look over the list.

Here is what you can do to be prepared:
1) Two-way family radios with charger
2) Portable radio with spare batteries, lantern do not forget to check the batteries periodically
3) Put away some money, consider keeping small bills, such as ones, fives, tens and twenties
4) Plan what to do with your pets. They depend upon you. Remember service animals are the only animals allowed in shelters. You should identify the hotels and motels that will allow animals, and locate animal boarding facilities, that might accept your pets
5) Make an emergency plan for yourself and your family. Meet with your neighbors too. Make sure that you have provided emergency contact information to those who will need it, choose a person that everyone will telephone in case you are separated. Consider selecting someone who lives outside the immediate area, to increase the chances that telephone calls can get through. Always try to carry the number with you. Establish a phone tree to relay important emergency information to family and friends. Local phone lines may be down, this allows an out of town relative or friend to know and relay information about the where abouts and health of your entire family.
6) Those of us that have school age children, know what your schools emergency plans are and their procedures for releasing your children, and have a designated meeting place.
7) Basic planning will save you and your family time and energy should a disaster strike. A few moments of planning today will pay off should you ever need to enact your personal emergency preparedness plan. Have a family meeting so that everyone knows the plan; this includes your children!
8) Keep the gas tank full of fuel, if you have a car. Gas stations maybe closed and you may have to drive a distance to get out of the affected area
9) Cell phone charger
10) Heavy work shoes or boots, socks, rain gear
11) Fire Extinguisher 3-A-10-BC for home and car. You should know how to use it, before you have to use it!!
12) Keep a supply of essentials ready, you should rotate supplies every six months to keep them fresh
13) Water, plan on 1 Gallon per person per day. You should store enough water to last 7 full days.
14) Nonperishable packaged foods that can be eaten cold—Do not forget the manual can opener
15) A small BBQ grill for cooking and warming—do not forget the charcoal’s and lighter fluid
16) Matches—keep them in a water tight container or plastic bag
17) Spare reading and sun glasses
19) If you are asked to evacuate, take your pocket book or wallet, car keys (You may want to put a Hide a Key), spare car key on your car
20) Avoid passing out unsubstantiated information and rumors
21) Comply quickly and calmly with instruction you may receive.
22) Games for small children
23) Blankets and sleeping bags and other items that may keep you warm—gloves, etc
24) Generator with extension cords.
25) Small microwave oven

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kitchen Heat

Stainless steel appliances. Granite countertops. Not long ago, these were the hottest kitchen features. But now they’re expected and practically come standard. What are the next major trends to keep an eye on?

According to a recent National Kitchen and Bath Association survey of more than 200 kitchen designers, cherry and maple cabinets, quartzite countertops and custom-paneled appliances are hot. Where oak cabinets were once the must-have, more than 75 percent of survey participants now report using cherry and maple, followed by paints and exotic woods. And although nearly all designers believe stainless steel is still the most popular appliance finish, 77 percent say that custom paneling on appliances is becoming more common. Granite is still the most frequently used countertop material, but 65 percent of designers report using more quartzite, another durable stone material.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the trend toward bigger, more open kitchens that accommodate more than one cook and serve as more than just a place to cook. In incorporating these bigger kitchens, the traditional “work triangle” — the path between the refrigerator, food prep area and cooking area — is being replaced with work zones. As kitchens get bigger and even more functional, it seems certain that a trend toward specialization will grow as well.

Of course to really be on top of the game, it is advisable to consult with a local Kitchen Design Specialist. Look for one who is an accredited member of the National Kitchen and Bath Design Association. In my area, my go-to designer is Susan Lund, owner of Spacial Design. She has an extensive clientele list and a photo portfolio of her designs that is simply amazing. You can see more at

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Lending Hand

Home renovations can be daunting, but financing them doesn’t need to be. Homebuyers considering a fixer-upper and homeowners thinking about doing major rehab work might want to consider an FHA 203K loan.

Often called rehab or renovation loans, 203K loans differ from traditional mortgage loans. Buyers who want to purchase a home in need of repair usually have to secure a loan to buy the property, get additional financing to complete the renovation and then get a permanent mortgage to pay off the interim loans. 203K loans, however, are made based on the after-repair value and include an escrow account, in which the money is dispersed in draws as the necessary renovations are being completed.

Renovation loans can be used in three ways: to purchase an existing home (and the land attached to it) and renovate it; to pay off existing debt on a current residence and renovate it; or to purchase an existing property and move it to a new piece of land. The types of improvements allowed on 203K loans are extensive — painting, room additions, decks, bathroom and kitchen remodels, and even going green. Luxury items and improvements are generally not eligible.

Homebuyers need to work closely with their REALTOR® as well as a contractor to get a detailed statement about the extent and general cost of the rehab work and the expected market value of the property after the completion of the work. After finding a HUD-approved lender — not all banks administer these loans — and inspections and appraisals, the work can begin. For more information, go to

Sources: Department of Housing and Urban Development,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Learning From Our Neighbors

Our economic situation seems to be all we are hearing about in the media today. It can tend to be a little over whelming. In speaking with a colleague of mine, Victoria Bosa, the other day about the situation in her country, Ukraine, she told me that:

“The current financial and political situation in Ukraine is still in decline.
More than 35% of real estate companies went bankrupt, almost no transactions on
real estate market, though some experts say the market is getting better
comparing with Autumn and Winter. It's difficult to predict what will happen in
2009 though... The only good... Read More thing is that it is good time to
buy, but there is no mortgage and people can't get their deposits back from the
banks, so no cash to buy. My opinion the real estate market will be, so to say,
"dead" until the banks start working in their normal standard way.”

People are resilient and will work through this. There are some who will come out of this in much a much better position. We as human beings have the ability to look within ourselves and make the changes needed. We will survive and persevere and some will thieve. In my studies of the Ukrainian people, I have found they have been through many atrocities and yet they always come back, stronger. Their national pride and quest for wisdom is something I admire.

We have a lot to learn from our neighbors and a lot to share with each other. During these troubling times it is good to know that we can thrive with the help and networking of good people around us. There are incredible opportunities to be found.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Internet, What's All The Buzz...

Here are my thoughts on how to easily and at no/little cost make the internet work for you.

1. Facebook- go to and set up a facebook account. Once you are in and registered then let me know and I will send you a link to mine. You can see how I have mine set up and do the same. Facebook is a wonderful social networking tool. You can create a perception of what you want fairly easily. You can also connect with potential new clients. Be careful on facebook of the weirdoes. Don’t be afraid to remove anyone as a friend if they are inappropriate or just don’t fit the profile of the consumer/friend that you want to target.
2. LinkedIn- go to and set up an account similar to your facebook one but this is more of a professional business site. I would suggest to use this one to connect with everyone else who is involved with your industry, like other sales people, suppliers, management and professional colleagues. Keep your clients on facebook and you sales partners on linkedin. This way no one can go and try to steal your clients. Once you become established on facebook, people will try all sorts of devious ways to access your friends list, ie. your client base.
3. Blog- Create a blog on Set up a account so you can create a blog for free. (Or several) You can set this up easily and post your thoughts, testimonies, etc. It is important to set up your information because it shows up on the side column of the blog. It is pretty easy to do and you can always contact me for help. Once you have your blog looking how you want it then ask everyone you know to look at it and give their helpful thoughts.
4. E-mail- You should create additional e-mail accounts to keep your correspondence separated between family, friends, business, clients, etc. We have over eight e-mail addresses.
5. Learn and utilize Microsoft Outlook as you client and contact database management software. Put all of your clients and contacts into this and categorize them appropriately. Sync this with your PDA. I strongly suggest to take a class or get some training on this. My Dell computers that came with Microsoft Office have good tutorials built in to them.
6. Time blocking- You should set up your week and time block all of the activities that you know you need to do to be successful. All of this internet stuff is great but unless you manage your time and take care of the 20% that makes you 80% of your income, you’ll go crazy.

The above are all free and will take a little time. The learning curve is pretty fast and you can always ask for help. I find it to be very time effective and it allows me to greatly increase my effectiveness with more clients. When you are ready to take it to another level then we can talk about websites. There are three types; one for name presence and recognition, one that when done properly will generate sales without you and the third (which I do not recommend) is for personal ego. Ego sites can be very costly and usually turn off the client looking for quick information.

Web addresses can be bought at for as little as 10 dollars and can be hosted at for $100-150 per year. The building of them can be expensive that is why I bought DreamWeaver software so that my Intern Assistants can build them here in my office. It is pretty easy to build a simple site like one of mine. We did them all here. Otherwise I would suggest contacting Alex Paine at WebSiteDesign. Not only does he have some template sites at reasonable prices but the company has excellent integrity and great advice. I have all of my websites hosted with Alex.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Warm Welcome

In many parts of the country, temperatures are dropping — and heating bills are rising. But there are things you can do to keep warm and lower your heating costs. Consider these tips from the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Take advantage of heat from the sun. During the day, open curtains on windows with southern exposure toallow sunlight to naturally heat your home.

  • Cover drafty windows. Use a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly.

  • Adjust the temperature. When you’re home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable; when you’re asleep or out of the house, turn your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours.

  • Find and seal leaks. Seal air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.

  • Reduce heat loss from the fireplace. Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is burning. When you use the fireplace, open dampers in the bottom of the firebox or the nearest window slightly (approximately 1 inch) and close doors leading into the room.

  • Lower water heating costs. Water heating can account for 14 percent to 25 percent of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F).


Monday, January 5, 2009

Extra Credit

You know that your credit score is one of your most precious resources — a good score can open doors and save you money. But what if your score got a little bruised amid the recent credit crunch? Don’t fret. Max out your credit rating with these tips for repairing the damage.

  • Order your credit reports from the top three credit bureaus — Equifax, Trans-Union and Experian. It’s likely that each is slightly different. Creditors aren’t required to report to all three credit bureaus, so they typically report only to the credit bureau to which they also subscribe.

  • Examine your reports carefully. Nearly every consumer has an error on at least one credit report from one of the major credit bureaus. Carefully look for everything from typing errors, outdated and incomplete information to inaccurate account histories. Make a thorough list of items you want to dispute and why.

  • Dispute. You can either complete the dispute form provided with your credit report or write a letter. Clearly identify each mistake, and state why it’s wrong. Send a photocopy of your credit report with the mistakes circled to the reporting credit bureau. Include copies of supporting documents.

  • Document, document, document. Keep copies and records of all the forms, letters and documentation you send to the credit bureaus, plus the dates you sent them. The credit bureau must investigate any relevant dispute within 30 days of receiving your letter. Any item that is not verified by a creditor is removed.