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Tornado Preparedness: Staying Safe This Spring

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

Weather in Iowa can only be described as predictably unpredictable.  This week, for example,  we’ve had it all -- sunshine and temps in the 80s early in the week, to wind, rain, frigid temps and predicted snow late in the week.  But I’m not complaining!  Nope.  Us Iowans, we’re conditioned to roll with the punches when it comes to climate.  And if there is one thing I’ve learned with regards to the weather after living in Iowa for all these years, it is to always.be.prepared.  (Those good ol’ Boy Scouts sure know what they’re talking about!)

This preparation piece is especially crucial during the spring season, also known as, tornado season.  You see?  The problem with tornados, like many natural disasters, is that you never know exactly when or where they will strike or how severe they might be.  Therefore, your best bet is to be prepared with a plan of action.  Here are five simple steps you can take to ensure that you, your loved ones, and your home are as safe as possible should a twister touch down.

●Identify the safest place for shelter.  In your home, this is likely the basement or storm cellar.  If underground safety is unavailable, head to the centermost part of your home, like a small interior room or hallway, on the lowest level.  Your safe place should be away from windows, doors, and exterior walls. The more walls between you and the outside, the better!

●Become familiar with your community’s weather alert system and make sure all adult and teenagers in your home is aware of what to do when a tornado watch or warning is issued. (Interested in the difference between a watch and a warning?  Click here to learn more.)

●Develop a family plan.  Identify escape routes out of your home and neighborhood, on the off chance they are necessary, then assign an emergency meeting point. 

Buy or put together an emergency survival kit that consists of: several days worth of drinking water and preservable foods, first-aid supplies, a flashlight, basic tools, a portable weather radio, batteries, clothing, blankets, cash and credit cards, necessary medications, work gloves, and important documents (including insurance policies).  

●Finally, conduct periodic tornado drills so all family members are aware of what to do in the event of a twister.

Again, the only predictable thing about tornadoes is that they are, for the most part, unpredictable.  So, taking the time to prepare yourself, your family, and your home can prove highly worthwhile when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and twisters touch down.  

Easy Landscaping Ideas For Spring

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

An expert gardener/landscaper, I am not.  However, as a real estate agent, I AM a home connoisseur of sorts.  My many years in the business has afforded me the opportunity to witness plenty of dos and don’ts when it comes to landscaping and increasing curb appeal.  With spring weather {hopefully!} on the horizon soon, I thought I would share just a few easy ways to increase the aesthetic appeal of your yard.

Start with a plan. And don’t hesitate to dream big!  That’s where great ideas begin.  Think about how and who will be utilizing your yard.  Do you need a family space used for playing catch with the dog, BBQs, and watching outdoor movies?  Or a relaxing retreat that serves as your own personal sanctuary?  Be mindful of the amount of time you are willing to put into maintenance and upkeep.  Now is also the time to brainstorm bigger, long-term ideas, such as a bird bath/feeder, a garden, water features, flowers, or even a hammock, that could add function and fun to your space.

Grand plans are great, but big ideas aside, there are several smaller, simple landscaping concepts that can not only increase your curb appeal, but also serve as a cornerstone for the larger lawn dreams that you’ve been scheming.  Here are a few:

Focus On The Front (door and porch)

●Guide your guest’s eyes from the street to your front door with a manicured, shrub-lined walkway. 

●Consider placing containers of flowers near the front entry as an easy and inexpensive way to add some eye-catching color.  The brighter the color, the easier to see from the street! Porches appear especially welcoming with potted shrubs, trees, or flowers.

●Symmetry is pleasing to the eye, so use this to your advantage by placing pots on either side of the front door OR if you have a corner door, group 3 varying shaped large containers, filled with flowers or plants, along the wall near the door.

●Good landscape lighting is necessary for both convenience and safety.  Use low-voltage lights to illuminate walkways leading to the porch or door. 

Consider Container Gardens

Container gardens are one of the easiest and most popular types of landscaping. They add color and a homey feel to most any exterior -- without breaking bank.  Your local garden center carries pre-planted containers or you could create your own with an favorite flowers or plants.  An asymmetrical, staggered arrangements is almost always pleasing to the eye -- whether it be up against the house or in the corner of a concrete area. 

Lawn Maintenance

A green, well-maintained lawn, free of weeds and clutter speaks to the pride homeowners take in the presentation of their yard.  Consistency is the key when it comes to mowing and/or watering.  Fresh mulch is also an easy way to spruce up garden beds without spending much money.  The contrast between new mulch and plants makes everything pop and will draw attention to your well maintained yard.  Finally, take the time to trim overgrown trees and shrubs.  Nothing says neglect like dead branches and excessive shrubs.

Your home’s exterior is also it’s first impression.  With a little TLC and even less time, you can ensure that the pride in your home is evident AND that all passersby are overcome with that positive first impression it deserves!

Preparing Your Home For Spring, Part 2: The Exterior Edition

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

As promised, this week we are continuing our series on preparing your home for the spring season.  Our last post focused on inside-related chores to spruce up and organize your house in time for spring, while this week’s blog is going to provide you with some tips and tricks to get the outside of your home in tip-top shape.  We’ll call it The Exterior Edition

Undeniably, your home’s exterior is the primary victim of winter’s harsh elements.  And it is for this reason that we should all focus a little time and attention on the outside of our houses in preparation for spring and all the weather-related conditions that come with it!  Keep reading for some simple ideas on what you can do to prepare your pad for the warmer days ahead. 

● Begin by walking around your home to examine the caulking of windows and doors, as well as the weather stripping that surrounds those entrances. Old, dry, cracked caulking and dysfunctional weather stripping should be replaced.

● Next, (safely!) get on the roof to check flashing, caulking, and shingles in preparation for spring storms.  This might seem like a lot of work, but in the end, leak prevention and making proper roof repairs will be worth the effort!  Check specifically for broken or missing shingles, as well as, rust and mold. 

● Now while you’re already up on the roof, take the time to clean out gutters and downspouts. Go the extra mile and check for proper drainage by running a hose on the roof and watching where the water flows. If leaks are found, caulking or epoxy can be used to seal it once the area dries. 

● Spring is the ideal time to pressure wash your siding to clean it and prevent mold formation. 

● While you have that pressure washer handy, use it to clean walkways and other concrete areas after removing any debris, leaves, or tree limbs.

● Finally, begin thinking ahead to any landscaping or planting plans you might have and get prepared.  Replace old, cracked hoses and pull out any gardening tools that were stored over winter.  That way, as soon as that warm weather arrives for good, you’ll be well on your way to a perfectly manicured yard!

Your home (both inside and out!) should be a place to relax and enjoy the (soon-to-be) spring weather.  By preparing the inside of your home for spring AND following these simple steps to get the outside in shape too, you and your house will be ready to soak up that sun in no time!

Preparing Your Home For Spring, Part 1: The Interior

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

Could it be?!  Is spring really finally here?  I can’t say for sure, but whether we’re ready or not, ball games are in full-swing, the birds have reemerged, and kids are counting down the days until summer vacation.  If you’re anything like me, as the days get longer and the temperatures get warmer, you get the itch to clean and freshen up your home – both inside and out.  Today we’re going to talk a little about what kinds of things you can do to prepare your home’s interior for the change in seasons.  Then, next week we’ll follow up with ideas for freshening up your home’s exterior in time for spring.

Maintaining your home’s interior and preparing it for spring may require a bit of time, some organization, and a little work, but follow these easy steps and you’ll be ready to enjoy the sunshine in no time!

Spring Interior To-Do List:

  • HVAC maintenance.  Call on a professional now while the days aren’t yet scorching to ensure that your AC unit is functioning properly AND without using more energy than necessary.  Now is also the time to replace filters and make note on the calendar to continue to do so monthly.
  • Inspect caulking around windows and doors.  Often times these openings can separate ever so slightly from their frames in harsh winter temperatures.  A quick application of external silicone caulking or sealant can remedy this without much hassle.
  • Change the direction of your ceiling fans.  During the summer months, it is ideal to have your fans blowing cool air down to give the room a nice breeze and to feel cooler.  And the opposite is true in the winter.
  • Inspect and clean your clothes dryer vent to make sure it is clear of lint and functions properly.  A clogged vent can result it warm air being blown back into the laundry room, which in turn, eventually raises the temperature of the entire house.
  • Spring clean!  Now is the time to dust, mop, vacuum, organize, and purge your home of unwanted and unused items.  Wash linens, shower curtains, children’s toys, blankets, and pillows.  And don’t forget the windows, blinds, air vents, fans, and the fireplace from winter!

Your home goes through many changes as it ages and endures seasonal changes.  Not only is it rewarding to prepare for spring, but NECESSARY as well!  So, what are you waiting for?  Get busy!  Warmer temperatures are on the way!

FHA TO HIKE MORTGAGE INSURANCE PREMIUMS

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

I'd like to share this article from the Chicago Tribune, by Mary Ellen Podmolik

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-fha-to-hike-mortgage-insurance-premiums-20130130%2c0%2c2738461.story

Home Sales Up

by Ankeny Real Estate Service

February home sales were up 19.4 percent from last year, reports the Iowa Association of Realtors® (IAR). The strong showing made February the eighth month in a row of increased sales. The IAR’s February 2012 Housing Trends Report shows a total of 1,861 homes sold/closed in February 2012, while 1,558 homes sold/closed in February 2011. Twenty-nine of Iowa’s 44 local Realtor® boards across the state reported increases in number of sales last month. In addition, there were 2,283 pending sales in February 2012, up 19.8 percent from last year, when there were 1,905 pending sales in the month. Prices were down slightly last month. The median sale price in February was $105,000, representing a 4.5 percent decrease from last year when the median sale price was $110,000. Twenty-five local Realtor® boards reported increases in median sale price from last February. The average days on the market was 115 days, the same as last year at this time. Twenty local boards showed a decrease in the average number of days on the market.  The statewide inventory at the end of the month was 19,228 homes, down 9.3 percent from last year.  There were 4,271 new active listings in February 2012 and 3,955 new active listings in February 2011, an increase of 8 percent. “Sales continue to be strong.

There was positive movement in much of the state and there’s some real excitement out there in the market,” says Dale Gross, president of the Iowa Association of Realtors®. “I think there were more sales in January and February than what’s typical for this time of year for a few reasons. The weather was unseasonably warm, which is great for house hunting, the economy continues to show signs of recovery, and interest rates are still incredibly low. These conditions make for a good time to buy. If buyers are on the fence, I’d really encourage them to make a move now and talk to a local Realtor®,” says Gross.

The above information was published by Iowa Association of Realtors®, May 15, 2012

With the economy showing signs of improvement, interest rates still at all-time lows, and the home values are still low, it's still a great time to buy!  If you're selling, homes are moving, so it's a great time for you as well!  Contact us at Ankeny Real Estate Service today!

 

Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Steve Hidder

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall further than they have already. They are assuming that the best course of action is to wait for the bottom in the market and then buy. The problem with this approach is that you don't know where the bottom is until you see it in the rear view mirror, meaning until you've missed it!

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have gone up in the last six months, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, if home prices come down a little further but interest rates go up, it could cost you even more to service a mortgage on an identical home!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates and low home prices, rather than to hope for a further break in prices in the future.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

Displaying blog entries 191-197 of 197