Real Estate Information Archive


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Preparing Your Home For Fall

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The beginning of this week marked the offical day of fall. Early fall is the time of year to prepare your house for the cooler weather just around the corner. Below are some tips on some things you'll need to do to make sure your home is prepared for winter, which will be here sooner than you think!

1. Call out the heating professionals. While you may think it is not necessary to have your unit serviced because your heating system is working well, it is very important to have it inspected by a professional every year.  By taking this preventative measure and making minor fixes now, you can avoid expensive repair jobs in the future.

2. Seal the cracks. You don't want to increase your heating bill by letting in cold air so it is a good idea to do an  inspection of all windows and doors to check for problem areas. Use weather stipping or caulk to repair any damage and and seal up any gaps.

3. Clean The Dreaded Gutters. While most people dread cleaning the cutters, it is very important to do so. Make sure they are free of leaves and debris and repair any broken gutters and downspouts. In addition remove or trim dead or overgrown tree limbs hanging over your house. All it takes is one storm to bring weak branches down and damage your roof.

4. Protect your plumbing. Even if your pipes have never frozen in the past it is important to protect them. Check the lines that run through the exterior walls. Wrap with pipe jackets, fiberglass insulation or electric tape.

5. Don't forget the lawn. Fertilize the lawn  to promote root growth and make your lawn greener next year.

As cold weather approaches you should begin to take action early to prepare and protect your home for the season. With careful planning and preparation you can help to  ensure your utilities will run efficiently during the winter, and in the end save you time and money, 


Protecting Children In The Home

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Children are naturally curious and can get into danger very easily and quickly, espcially in the home. To raise awareness to the importance of protecting children and ensuring their safety in the home, September is National Child Safety Month. Some startling statistics are according to government figures 2-1/2 million children are injured or killed by hazards in the home each year.  Injury in the home is the leading cause of death in children and young adults. According to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 2,800 children, ages one to 14 years, that died from an unintentional injury. These are sobering facts, so what can you do to try and keep your child safe?

 Childproofing your home is a major way to keep your small child safe.  Every room and area of your home should be evaluated for dangers.  The following is a list of items that can be used to help in your childproofing efforts:

  •  Corner and Edge Bumpers.To help prevent injuries from falls against sharp edges of furniture and fireplaces adding these rubberized or plastic items can really help. Corner and edge bumpers can be used with furniture and fireplace hearths to help prevent injuries from falls or to soften falls against sharp or rough edges. Be sure to look for bumpers that stay securely on furniture or hearth edges. Typical cost of a corner and edge bumper: $1 and up.
  • Safety Gates help prevent falls down stairs and to keep children away from dangerous areas by installing Safety gates keeping children away from stairs or rooms that have hazards in them. Look for safety gates that children cannot dislodge easily, but that adults can open and close without difficulty. For the top of stairs, gates that screw to the wall are more secure than "pressure gates."   A gate may run from $ 9 - $40. Gates should meet safety standards and display a certification seal from the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association  If you have an older safety gate, be sure it doesn't have "V" shapes that are large enough for a  child's head and neck to fit into.
  • Door Knob Covers and Door Locks. These prevent children from entering rooms and other areas with possible dangers. Door knob covers and door locks can help keep children away from places with hazards, including swimming pools. Make sure that this be opened quickly by an adult in an emergency.  By restricting access to potentially hazardous rooms in the home, door knob covers could help prevent many kinds of injuries. Door locks should be placed high out of reach of young children.  Sliding glass doors, with locks that must be re-secured after each use, are often not an effective barrier to pools.   Typical cost of a door knob cover: $1 and door lock: $5 and up.
  • Window Guards and Safety Netting In order to help prevent falls from windows, balconies, decks, and landings window guards and safety netting for balconies and decks can help.   There should be no more than four inches between the bars of the window guard. If you have window guards, be sure at least one window in each room can be easily used for escape in a fire. Window screens are not effective for preventing children from falling out of windows. Typical cost of a window guard or safety netting: $8 to $16.
  • Outlet Covers and Outlet Plates. To help prevent electrocution of children adding outlet covers and outlet plates is a simple thing. Be sure the outlet protectors cannot be easily removed by children.  Typical cost for a box of outlet covers is less than $2.

Anyone who has children or has ever had children in their home know that children can get into  many household hazards in a matter of seconds. Even with all these safety devices, nothing can replace proper supervision but these items can help prevent injures and offer a little extra piece of mind. 

Should I Lock My Mortgage Rate?

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Your mortgage rate is on the list as one of the most important factors to consider when buying a home. Obviously the lower your rate the less you have to pay back.  Locking in a low mortgage rate in a market that is fluctuating up to a full point over the first half of 2008 will be critical.

What does it mean to 'lock' in a rate?

Locking your interest rate down means that the broker or banker will give you a commitment for a loan at today's current rate (typically for 30-60 days). While locking in your rate before you are ready to close puts you on a time table, it  lets you know upfront the points and terms that you will be buying under.  Some rates can be locked for 15 days and some for up to three months.  You still need to buy before that rates terms expire.  Otherwise you will be back to negotiating a rate and everything else.

A few things you need to do before locking things in:
• Shop around:  your rates and terms may vary wildly from lender to lender and rate locks can be a serious cost.  Don’t be afraid to shop before you lock that rate.
• Make sure you allow for loan processing time in your lock period and be sure to be ready to put in that loan application before the terms will expire.  This includes checking credit reports and even a pre-approval can help.

As with everything it is important to get it in writing.   The contract has to lock the interest rate, the points, terms and other costs.  It must include the names the mortgage will be in, the cost of the lock the terms as well as the effective date and its expiration date and time.  If you have any post-lock options make sure they are included in the contract.

Keep in mind that even a half a percent fluctuation can cost you thousands of dollars.  If you lock in your rate you can be better prepared for what the bottom line of your mortgage will be.  With an uncertain market, this can only help!

The Best Time To Buy A Home

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The real estate market is full of ups and downs.  When buying a home sometimes you need every advantage.  So what days of the year are the best days to buy a home?  There are at least two days that can give buyers the edge, Christmas and Easter. 

The reasoning that these two days are the best days to purchase a house are that if a house is on the market over Christmas it implies that the owner definitely wants to sell and is motivated.  Moods over these holidays tend to be a little more cheerful and leaning towards good will.  However, sales are normally at a low in December.

Normally, however, most home purchases occur in late spring to late summer.  This is often because families want to move over the summer so that the children, might be able to settle in before school starts.  So, during this time period many home owners will have more showings and may not be as willing to negotiate.

Autumn is also a great time to buy, as the leaves fall , sales begin to also fall away. The need to sell before the home sits empty over the winter becomes more important to the owner.  Many home owners are more motivated to sell before the late fall holidays or the holiday season are upon them.  Open houses and home showings may be hard to come by over the holidays. 

Still, if you can get an agent who is tactful and persistent enough to be able to schedule a viewing over Christmas or Easter those particular days seem to give you an advantage.   You may have an advantage to having a lower offer accepted over those holidays. 

Always, remember that markets vary and seller motivation may not be predictable.  There are lots of reasons a seller might be motivated to accept a slightly lower offer.  These motivations may include divorce, job transfer and retirement. This is a buyers market so if you are in the market for a new home, now is the time to buy!

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Photo of Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR Real Estate
Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, SRES, SFR
Iowa Realty
3521 Beaver Ave.
Des Moines IA 50310
Fax: 515-453-6404



Licensed in the State of Iowa