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Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

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Home Fencing Options

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

The decision to erect a fence on your property is usually made for any number of reasons: to provide a safe space for children and pets to play, to increase privacy on your property, or to protect your possessions. There are many factors to consider when deciding on a fence:

 • Personal Taste - Take a look around your neighborhood and determine what you like - style, material etc. Also, determine what type of fence will compliment the architectural style of your home, landscaping and neighborhood.

• Safety - Do you need to keep your children and pets in? Or do you need to enclose a pool area?

• Privacy - How much privacy do you want? You can choose either the private 6-foot-tall fencing with solid board or a shorter version with more space between boards.

• Budget - Keep in mind the cheapest fence initially, may not be the cheapest fence over the life of the fence.

 Types Of Fences 

There are several different options for fencing to accommodate any budget and situation. Visit the fence project estimator to get an idea of cost and how to find a quality fence company in your area.

 Wood Fences. This type of fencing is an excellent choice for privacy fencing and cost effective. Wood fences can be made out of Western red cedar, cypress, or treated pine. When maintained properly, wood fences can endure the harshest weather and provide you with several years of serviceability. Wood fences can come in privacy, picket or rail style.  If you decide to install the fence yourself, here are some tips and suggestions to help you!

 • Vinyl (PVC) Fencing. Vinyl fences are strong and highly durable - retaining their shape, color and structural integrity. In addition to their attractive appearance, this style of fencing offers many benefits. It is fireproof, wont rust or rot, termite resistant and is virtually maintenance free. While this type of fencing is more costly than wood, you will not need to replace the fence in a few years, they are built to last a lifetime. There are many styles of vinyl fencing available to suit your needs from privacy to picket.

 Chain Link Fencing. Chain link fences are an economical way to provide years of maintenance-free security and access control. These types of fences are extremely versatile; they can be made in a variety of heights, and can handle anything from a simple boundary marker for a homeowner to perimeter security. You can also get vinyl coated chain link fences in different colors for added versatility.

• Wrought Iron Fences.. This style of fencing is extremely durable and has a classic look. They are available in different colors, patterns and heights. This style of fencing can be used for walkways, porches, and perimeter and driveway gates as well. Click here to find wrought iron fencing contractors in your area.

Whether you choose to install the fence yourself or hire a professional, it is important to remember the following:

• Determine the actual property line. Reference property deeds and legal surveys to confirm property boundaries.
• Remember to check on local building codes. You may need a permit and there may be other restrictions.
• Beware of underground utilities. Call the local power company. Utility companies in many areas of the country have free services and they will mark the power line with paint on the ground itself. So check with each of the companies that service the home and have them locate underground power, water and gas.

Home Recycling Basics

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Each year, Americans generate millions of tons of trash but according to the EPA, the national recycling rate is only 30%. Many people don’t recycle  because they feel that it is a hassle, inconveient and messy, but in reality it is very easy! There are a variety of ways to make home recycling easy, and all it takes is changing a few small habits and attitudes. Recycling as well as reducing and reusing what we consume benefits everyone and the environment.

There are different kinds of recycling. There is recycling of paper, plastic, glass, aluminum, and even car oil. Bleached paper and newsprint recycling reduces the amount of trees that are cut down. Plastic can be recycled into other plastics. Glass can be melted down and made into many different forms from drinking glasses to glass fiber. Aluminum can be recycled into other cans, foil, and even wrapping paper. Most do not realize that even car oil can be burned for energy recovery and/or recycled and re-used. Below are some tips to help you get started recycling at your home.

• Place recycling bins next to your garbage can. This will make it easier to recycle if you have all waste containers in the same area.

• Contact your home trash collection service's recycling program. Most cities offer a free curbside service that makes it convenient to recycle!

• Know what you can and can't recycle. Read up on the recycling rules for your area and make sure you don't send anything in that can't be processed. Always check with your local municipality or waste hauler to see what kind of recycling services are available in your area. Locate a recycling center near you.

• Avoid products that cannot be recycled such as aerosol cans and Styrofoam. Try to find alternatives that are more environmentaly friendly

Starting a household recycling program is easy and there are several ways you can make a difference each day by changing your habits, attitude and being more conscious. 

We can produce less waste by reducing the amount of trash discarded, reusing containers and products and buying with recycled content.

Spring Lawn and Garden Preparation

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Spring is almost here, you can smell it in the air! The official first day of spring is March 21st and now is the time to get outside and start spring-cleaning your landscape. It won’t be long and the dreary days of winter will be replaced by the vibrant colors and smells of spring. Here are a few tips to get you started on your outdoor “to do” list.

 
Lawn Care

Start with removing any accumulated debris as well as removing all the thatch  (dried dead grass and weeds) with a rake. If the thatch is left in the yard it can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the roots of your lawn. If you will be planting grass seeds, this will help them to root in the soil better.  Because the harsh conditions of Winter can take a toll on your lawn and cause dead spots in your lawn, be sure to rake any visible spots in your lawn before mowing.

Before you mow the yard for the first time of the season, it is important you change the oil, spark plug, put fresh gasoline in the tank and make sure the blade is sharpened.  When you are ready to mow, it should be short enough to remove the dead tips of the grass. This shorter mowing will encourage the roots to waken up and start growing.

Lawns can be fertilized organically by using compost  and mulching mowers.   It is also easy to  go green when looking for solutions for lawn and soil problems. There are many organic products available from fertilizers to weed control that do not contain chemicals.

Pruning

Spring is a great time to prune ornamental trees and shrubs, the best time to do so is before growth starts. This is also a great time to prune roses, by doing so you will see a much fuller and robust plant when they begin to bloom.

Proper pruning enhances the beauty of almost any landscape tree and shrub, while improper pruning can ruin or greatly reduce its landscape potential, so be sure to research the correct methods!

Planting: Annuals and Perennials

Many hardy perennials can be planted quite early in the spring, especially if they have been kept outdoors at the nursery and are well acclimated to the weather. While most annuals do not tolerate frost, and transplants will do better if planted into soil that has a bit of time to warm up after that cold winter, but you can  start now to get your plan together. Research gardening books, magazines as well as online for ideas and information on certain plants and the amount of care required.  However, some flowers that can take the often chilly temperatures of spring are: Snapdragons, Violas and Purple Cabbage. Depending on your area you should also be able to plant roses, berries, fruit trees and most deciduous plants now.

Spring lawn and landcape care is important, as early season care has a big impact for the rest of the season. With a little extra care and prevention now can make for a beautiful landscape to be enjoyed all summer long. Take advantage of the cooler temperatures to get your yard and garden ready now!

Hiring A Real Estate Attorney

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Getting involved in a real estate transaction is an exciting but sometimes confusing time. There can be complicated legal issues, confusing verbiage and terms and the process can take a lot of time and money to complete. With all this in mind, you may want someone on your side that is knowledgeable about this area of law. A real estate attorney can look out for your interests and help protect your investment. Legal advice offers you something the average person needs, and usually lacks-- that is, knowledge of real estate law. Use the below information to help decide if you should hire an attorney for your transaction.

What services do attorneys offer?

A real estate attorney can offer many different services and some may specialize in certain areas but some general services that are typically offered are:

• Reviewing and outlining the real estate transaction process
• Reviewing any listing or agency agreements
• Drafting and reviewing real estate condition reports
• Drafting and reviewing residential offers to purchase and counter offers
• Assisting buyers and sellers through the property inspection and financing contingencies
• Working with title insurance companies and reviewing title insurance commitments
• Checking the settlement statement figures with you prior to closing
• Advising you at closing

In addition, because you will likely have questions throughout the purchase process, having an attorney available to answer all of your questions that arise during the course of your sale will be an added benefit.

Are attorney fees expensive?

It can depend; the actual cost for an attorney varies by state and by amount of work required. Fee structures also vary (some lawyers charge by the hour, others by flat fee, some by both depending on the task.) but the typical range is $350-$1500. Personal attorney's fee is not part of your closing costs and must be paid for separately. However, keep in mind that when you are buying or selling a home, it is most likely your biggest investment and you want to do everything to protect it.

Locating an attorney in your area

Finding a good real estate attorney is not as difficult as you may think; ask for referrals from your local bar association, your real estate agent or your mortgage broker. Also, ask friends, colleagues and family whom they've had a good experience working with. The internet is a valuable tool you can use to research also, locate an attorney in your area.    

Real estate attorneys can make the buying and selling process easier and save time and money.  Their job is to protect your interests and resolve complex matters in an efficient manner. Throughout the process your attorney will check every detail, helping you protect your investment and your financial security. Having your real estate lawyer in your corner can bring peace of mind and relieve a lot of the stress associated with that sale.

Making An Earnest Money Deposit

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

 

TODAY'S FEATURED PROPERTIES

 

Earnest money is a good faith deposit of funds that accompanies your offer if you are buying a home, condominium or other real estate. By depositing this money it establishes that you are serious.  Earnest money is not a legal requirement but the seller may not take your offer seriously or their real estate agent or attorney will recommend against them taking the house off the market until you come up with a deposit.

How much money should be deposited?

There is no legal set requirement as to the amount of money that should be deposited. The good faith deposit is dependent upon the agreed sale price of the real estate. Deposits vary and typically can range anywhere from 1 to 3 percent of the sales price. Typically you want your deposit to be large enough that your offer is taken seriously, but you do not want it to be so large that you put significant funds at risk.

Is the deposit refundable?

This will depend upon your real estate contract , so be sure to review this document very carefully. It is advisable that you consult a real estate attorney who can help ensure that your offer is written in a manner that protects your rights to the deposit.  Even if your money is refunded, you may not receive the entire amount. Often, third party fees are paid out of earnest money deposits. For example, if an appraisal has been completed on the property then the appraisal fee is going to have to be paid before money can be released to either of the parties. Check the laws in your state as some states have laws requiring the buyer and the seller to agree on the disbursement of these funds before they are refunded, which can lead to further problems and legal action.

Who holds the money?

The earnest money deposit should be made to a reputable third party that is agreeable to both the buyer and the seller such as a well known real estate brokerage, legal firm, escrow company or title company. As a buyer, be aware that if you allow earnest money to be held and deposited directly by a seller or by a builder or developer for use in construction, you risk that they will not be able to return it to you in the event the transaction does not close for whatever reason.  To reduce the risk that the monies will be improperly used it is best to have real estate agents or attorneys hold the earnest money deposit as  they are licensed by the state and required to deposit the money in a trust or escrow account. To avoid the loss of your deposit, follow these tips.
• Never give an earnest money deposit to the seller.
• Verify that the third party will deposit the funds into a separately maintained trust account.
• Obtain a receipt.
• Do not authorize a release of your earnest money until your transaction closes.
• Ask how the money will be returned if necessary. Do they hold the check until it clears or return it?

Where does the money go before closing?

The purchase contract will indicate where earnest money will go. It should also specify the amount(s) to be paid, when the payments are to be made, where the money will be held and who is holding it. The contract will indicate as to if they money will be credited against the purchase price at closing, and what may happen to it if the transaction does not close.

Moving And Storage What Are Your Options?

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

There are many reasons why people need to store their household items for a period of time, especially during the moving process. You may be in between selling one home and moving into your new home or need a temporary place to remove excess items while showing your home. There are different options to fit your need, read more below to find one that will work best for your situation.


Self Storage Facilities

These consist of mini-storage units that come in a variety of different sizes to accommodate your storage needs; if you are not sure of what size you may need, use this estimator to help determine the best size.
This option works best for items that you are likely to retrieve, but don't have available space at home. Depending on the facility, self storage is usually convenient and accessible and reasonably priced. Find a self storage facility near you.

Container Storage

This type of storage can be used for long-term, portable storage. Many people refer to this type of storage as Pods, they are delivered to your home where you pack them and then can be stored at a storage center, and once you move to your new home, delivered at your doorstep for your convenience.  This can be a time and money saving solution because you only have to pack once, you don’t have to move your items to the storage facility and then again to your final destination.

Moving Companies That Offer Storage Facilities

If you are using a moving company, check and see if they offer storage facilities as well. Many offer this service for an additional fee. This may be a convenient option to have the same company who is handling the moving, pick up, store your items and then delivery them to your final destination.  

 Important factors to consider when making your storage decision:

Location. It is important to consider the location to your residence and the time and expense associated with frequent visits to the location. 
Convenience. You will need to ask about the accessibility of your storage facility on weekends and evenings.  Some self storage facilities are 24 hours, but check first.
Special Needs. If you are storing items such as electronics or artwork, you will need a special climate controlled unit.  While most facilities offer this, the cost may be more and there may be other restrictions, be certain you know all the specifics.
Security. Be certain you understand the security in the storage facility that you choose. How will your household goods be stored within the storage unit? What kind of security does the facility have both during regular business hours and after hours?
Insurance. Ask about what would happen to your stored items in case of fire, flood or other natural disaster. Don’t assume the storage facility will cover your items if they are damaged or stolen. Check your homeowners or renters insurance policies to see if they will cover items kept in storage.

Problems With Hard Water? There Are Solutions!

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

Hard water is more common than most people may think; in fact, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey in the U.S. about 85 percent of the homes have hard water. You may have hard water problems and not necessarily know about it. Some ways to tell you may have hard water is if you are finding it difficult to get soap to form lather, you have to use alot of soap into the water to clean your dishes or if your dishwasher is just not getting the dishes clean. Some people also complain that they can feel like the soap leaves a film on their skin after showering.


What Is Hard Water And What Causes It?  

Water that is described as "hard" is high in dissolved minerals, specifically calcium and magnesium. When water moves through the soil small amounts of minerals are broken up and are held in the solution. The minerals that hold the most are magnesium and calcium and the how hard the water is depends on how much of these minerals is in the water.

Why Is Hard Water A Problem?

While hard water is not considered to be unhealthy for people to drink, people who have it are more prone to rashes and skin problems because it changes the skin's pH and soap remains on the skin, clogging pores.
Appliances that use water, such as dishwashers or washing machines are much less efficient when you are using hard water in the operation of them. This can translate to higher energy bills. If the hard water is heated it brings about a scale of magnesium and calcium which comes in the form of limestone deposits. These deposits can lead to less efficient water using appliances and sometimes can lead to the breakdown of them as well. If you suspect you have hard water, contact a professional in your area who will do the proper testing and recommend your best treatment options.

What Are The Advantages Of Soft Water?

• You will use less soap by using soft water, both in the shower and in the kitchen.
• You'll have less unsightly spots on dishes, and glassware and your knives and forks.
• Your heating bill will also be lowered because heating hard water in the water heater, causes hardness scale which plugs plumbing pipes and vessels and builds up on the inside of water heaters.
• Your plumbing will last longer. Hard water can cause a build up of scale from mineral deposits. Over time, pipes can clog, water flow can diminish, and water pressure can be reduced. This doesn't happen with soft water. Soft water is low in mineral content and therefore doesn't leave deposits in the pipes.
• Your skin and hair will look and feel better after bathing or showering. Scum from hard water clogs skin pores and coats hair.
• Clothes are softer, cleaner, brighter, and last longer
• Your food and beverages will taste better using soft water and ice cubes will sparkle more

Hard Water Solutions

If you suspect you have hard water, call a professional  to test your water and recommend soft water solutions.   Some solutions to correct hard water is either to filter the water by distillation or reverse osmosis to remove the calcium and magnesium, or to the most common solution is to use a water softener.
The idea behind a water softener is simple. The calcium and magnesium ions in the water are replaced with sodium ions. Since sodium does not precipitate out in pipes or react badly with soap, both of the problems of hard water are resolved.    A typical household water softener costs around $1,000 to $1,500 with a monthly operating expense of around $2 to $8 if sodium is used, and $3 to $15 if potassium is used. Look for the WQA Gold Seal to find products that have been successfully tested to industry performance standards. There are also options to rent water softeners if you do not want to purchase one.

Hard water waste can cost hundreds of dollars each year as it impacts laundry operations, your  water heater, efficiency, household cleaning, and the life expectancy of water-using appliances and plumbing. While hard water is not an emergency, the costs do adds up.  Click here to read more about hard water and how it affects you.

Being Prepared For A Power Outage

by Jon Smith, CRB, CRS, GRI

A power outage is inconvenient, whether it lasts a second or an hour. Because you never know when a power outage will strike, you can minimize the problems and safety hazards of a power outage by following these simple suggestions to protect your family and home.

Be Prepared

Don’t wait for a power outage to buy emergency supplies, be prepared and have everything you need on hand. If your power goes out, it’s likely you could find the store shelves raided and empty during a power outage. It is a good idea to purchase emergency home kits and store them in a general area in your home so you won’t be searching for needed supplies in the dark in an emergency. While most power outages are short-lived, but some may last days. Here are some things to consider for a long-term outage.

Stock up on:
•  Matches and disposable lighters.
• Flashlights and extra batteries.  It is recommended you not use candles unless necessary to avoid fire risks.
Battery operated radio and extra batteries
• Canned goods and dry food mixes. Water and juices. Don’t forget the hand-operated can opener
• Special items for infants, the elderly or family members with special needs and prescription medications
• Paper plates, cups and plastic utensils.
First-aid kit
• Fire Extinguisher

What To Do During An Outage

Turn off or disconnect any appliances, equipment (like air conditioners) or electronics you were using when the power went out. When power comes back on, it may come back with momentary "surges" or "spikes" that can damage equipment such as computers and motors in appliances like the air conditioner, refrigerator, washer, or furnace.
• Make sure the oven and stove are off; this will prevent fires if the power comes back on while you’re away. Do not set dishes, towels, or paper on the stove; these may catch on fire if a burner is on when the power comes on.
• Never touch downed power lines or attempt to remove trees from power lines. Contact with power lines may result in serious injury or death.  Report any downed lines to your power company and leave the clean up and repair work to the professionals
•Leave the doors of your refrigerator and freezer closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. If you must eat food that was refrigerated or frozen, check it carefully for signs of spoilage. See the Red Cross brochure called, "Help The Power Is Out" for more information on food safety during an outage.
•Use the phone for emergencies only. Listening to a portable radio can provide the latest information. Do not call 9-1-1 for information -- only call to report a life-threatening emergency.

Specific Information For People With Disabilities

 If you use a battery-operated wheelchair, life-support system, or other power-dependent equipment,  plan ahead and call your power company before an outage. Many utility companies keep a list and map of the locations of power-dependent customers in case of an emergency. Ask them what alternatives are available in your area. Contact the customer service department of your local utility company(ies) to learn if this service is available in your community.
• If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, have an extra battery. A car battery also can be used with a wheelchair but will not last as long as a wheelchair's deep-cycle battery. If available, store a lightweight manual wheelchair for backup.
• If a loved one is blind or has a visual disability, store a talking or Braille clock or large-print timepiece with extra batteries.
• If you are Deaf or have a hearing loss, consider getting a small portable battery-operated television set. Emergency broadcasts may give information in American Sign Language (ASL) or open captioning.


Additional Preparedness Tips

Protect sensitive electronic equipment, such as computers, televisions and other devices, with surge suppressors.
• Make sure you know how to safely reset your circuit breaker or change fuses. Keep extra fuses on hand.
• If a well is your source for water, plan ahead to determine how you will get drinking water. Store containers of water for cooking and washing.
• If you have an electric garage door opener, find out where the manual release lever is located and learn how to operate it. Sometimes garage doors can be heavy, so get help to lift it. If you regularly use the garage as the primary means of entering your home upon return from work, be sure to keep a key to your house with you, in case the garage door will not open.

Power outages are one of the most common emergencies that occur. They can be caused by storms, accidents in which power lines are knocked down, circuit overloads, etc. Power failures can last for an extended period of time or for a brief moment, but no matter the length of time, they cause a disruption in everyday life. Take the time to prepare for a power outage and to gain the knowledge needed to respond safely and effectively during the emergency. A few simple preparations can greatly reduce the inconveniences caused by a power outage.

Do You Qualify for a Moving Expense Deduction?

by Jon D. Smith
Have you recently moved or relocated as a result of a new job or job transfer? If yes, you might like to know that some of the costs associated with a move of this type may be used as a moving expense deduction on your income taxes. A few of things to keep in mind that help in determining if you would qualify for a moving expense deduction include:

  • The distance between the old home and the new job must be at least 50 miles
     
  • If you move within a year of taking the job at the new location
     
  • If you work full-time for at least 39 weeks (the total is 78 weeks if you are self-employed)

Whether a homeowner or renter, you can deduct the cost of moving household goods and the direct cost of moving you and your family. You can also deduct expenses for lodging during the move but not meals.

It is important to keep detailed records of all expenses during a move and
consult a tax expert to make sure that you take all the lawful tax deductions allowed by the IRS criteria for expenses related to selling your old home or buying your new one. For additional reading regarding moving expenses, the IRS publication No. 521 entitled "Tax Information on Moving Expenses" is also a great resource.

Displaying blog entries 111-119 of 119

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Contact Information

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
515-240-2692
Fax: 515-453-6404
 

 

 

Licensed in the State of Iowa