Power Outages: Be Prepared
Your electric service is generally very reliable; however, extreme weather conditions and other factors can lead to a temporary loss of power. To keep your family safe and comfortable during an outage or other emergency, it’s important to be prepared.
Here are some tips:
• Create an emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
• Maintain supplies of healthy and filling snacks that don’t require refrigeration, such as dried fruits, nuts and protein bars.
• Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
• Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
• Learn about the emergency plans established in your area by contacting your state or local emergency management agency.
• If you rely on anything that’s battery-operated or power dependent, such as a medical device, have a backup plan.
• Maintain backup generators according to manufacturers’ recommendations and store an adequate supply of fuel in a safe place.
During an outage, monitor local radio stations or online sources for reports about power restoration. Disconnect or switch off appliances and electronic equipment that were running when the power went out. Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers to save cold air and preserve food longer.
Follow these measures to ensure the safety of you and your family during and after an outage.
Generators. Operate backup generators safely by following manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t attempt to connect your generator to the electrical system; it can backfeed to outdoor utility lines and injure or kill utility service personnel. An automatic transfer switch—installed by a qualified electrician—will help to ensure safe operation.
Refrigerated foods. Discard any perishable items in your refrigerator or freezer that may not be safe to consume. A refrigerator keeps food at a safe temperature for up to four hours during a power outage if it remains closed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends discarding foods such as meat, poultry and eggs if they’ve been above 40°F for more than two hours.
For more tips and resources, see Power Outages from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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Home Contractor Warning Signs…
What are some red flags for industry professionals?
Hiring a professional to work in your home is a touchy thing. You want to get the best work for your dollar, but not all of the “professionals” out there will give you the kind of quality work you’re looking for, or even be honest about how much it will cost you in the end.
To help homeowners figure out how to tell the true professionals from the scam artists, we turned to our home industry experts to find out what the red flags are for the home expert industry. So what are some home contractor warning signs? Here’s a list of the biggest red flags…
1. Lack of a track record
Any professional worth working with will have references for you to check, so you can see the quality of their previous work. If you can’t find any information about a professional’s work online, or they’re cagey about giving you references, you should be very suspicious. Please do not be fooled by sites like Yelp or Angie’s List. Anyone can purchase their way onto these sites and invest more to highlight only their best reviews. Actually, a Jersey Shore Real Estate Agent will likely have a number of contacts they can refer you to.
2. Get it in writing
Some old-timers in the industry might advocate their word as their bond, but as a homeowner you should always get the plan in writing. A written contract can save you a lot of heart ache, and a true professional shouldn’t have a problem with it.
3. The contractor is late
Showing up late to a first meeting is a huge red flag for a contractor, just like it would be in any other situation. If they don’t respect your time or make an effort to behave professionally on your first meeting, don’t expect that to change after you’ve hired them. That goes double if they swear excessively, smoke, wear shoes into your house without slip covers, or otherwise behave unprofessionally.
4. Be suspicious of too-low prices
It’s tempting to go off lowest price offered when you’re looking for a home professional, but you should think twice before picking that one outlier company. Ask yourself: what corners are they cutting to get a price that’s so much lower than anybody else is offering?
5. They want you to get the materials
If you don’t have a lot of experience hiring home professionals, you might not know that home professionals usually include material costs in their quotes. If a professional is asking you to do the buying up front, it means that they don’t have a good relationship with supply houses and can’t get credit there. This means they aren’t on top of their finances, and you might find yourself holding the short end of the stick if you hire them.
6. A disorganized truck
If you get a chance to see the contractor’s work space and it’s disorganized or not well cared for, it’s an indication that they are not taking their work seriously or professionally. A disorganized professional will treat your space the same way they treat their truck. If you don’t want to find your house littered with tools, don’t hire someone who’s disorganized about their work.
7. Try and gauge their subject matter expertise
It might be difficult, but try and ask questions that gauge the contractor’s subject matter expertise. While an older, more seasoned contractor may not be a red flag, it’s possible they haven’t kept up on their education since entering the business. Getting the appropriate training up front is important, but the home industry changes all the time, and what was sufficient training a few years ago may not be up to snuff now. Staying up-to-date with codes is the bare minimum here.
So keep an eye out for these early signs that the contractor you’re considering isn’t a true professional.
Recently hire a home contractor or tradesman to perform work in your home? What home contractor warning signs did you spot? Did you learn anything the hard way? Sound off on our Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!
Hurricane Preparedness: A Complete Guide from the National Weather Service
Two keys to weather safety are to prepare for the risks and to act on those preparations when alerted by emergency officials. These are essential pieces to the Weather-Ready Nation.
Refer to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Ready.gov/hurricanes for comprehensive information on hurricane preparedness at home and in your community.
Some highlights on how to prepare and take action are available below:
1. Gather Information
2. Plan & Take Action
4. Additional Resources
1. Gather Information
Know if you live in an evacuation area. Assess your risks and know your home’s vulnerability to storm surge,flooding and wind. Understand National Weather Service forecast products and especially the meaning of NWSwatches and warnings.
Contact your local National Weather Service office and local government/emergency management office. Find out what type of emergencies could occur and how you should respond.
Keep a list of contact information for reference.
- Local Emergency Management Office
- County Law Enforcement
- County Public Safety Fire/Rescue
- State, County and City/Town Government
- Local Hospitals
- Local Utilities
- Local American Red Cross
- Local TV Stations
- Local Radio Stations
- Your Property Insurance Agent
Online hazard and vulnerability assessment tools are available to gather information about your risks.
- Check your hazards risks with FEMA’s Map Portal.
- Rate your flood risk with the FloodSmart.gov portal.
2. Plan & Take Action
Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected. Your friends and family may not be together when disaster strikes. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children or parents are safe? You may have to evacuate or be confined to your home. What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off?
Develop and document plans for your specific risks.
- FREE DOWNLOAD: Protect yourself and family with a Family Emergency Plan
- Be sure to plan for locations away from home
- Business owners and site locations should create Workplace Plans
- Make sure schools and daycares have School Emergency Plans
- Pet owners should have plans to care for their animals. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention offer information on animal health impacts in evacuation shelters.
- Prepare your boat and be aware of marine safety if you are on or near the water.
Health & Environment
Follow guidelines to guard your community’s health and protect the environment during and after the storm.
- Review the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) health considerations before, during, and after a storm.
- Remember to follow the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) food and water safety guidelines during disasters.
- Review the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggestions for health and environmental safety in disaster preparedness.
- Review the FEMA Evacuation Guidelines to allow for enough time to pack and inform friends and family if you need to leave your home. FOLLOW instructions issued by local officials. Leave immediately if ordered!
- Consider your protection options to decide whether to stay or evacuate your home if you are not ordered to evacuate.
When waiting out a storm be careful, the danger may not be over yet…
Be alert for:
- Tornadoes – they are often spawned by hurricanes.
- The calm “eye” of the storm – it may seem like the storm is over, but after the eye passes, the winds will change direction and quickly return to hurricane force.
- Wait until an area is declared safe before returning home.
- Remember that recovering from a disaster is usually a gradual process.
4. Additional Resources
This content originally appeared on noaa.gov
12 Ways to Save on Homeowners Insurance
The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from.
Here are some things to consider when buying homeowners insurance:
1. Shop Around
It’ll take some time, but could save you a good sum of money. Ask your friends, do some online research or contact your state insurance department. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (www.naic.org) has information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company.
Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don’t consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So in assessing service quality, use the complaint information cited above and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs.
Check the financial stability of the companies you are considering with rating companies such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and consult consumer magazines. When you’ve narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes.
2. Raise Your Deductible
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the shore, you may have a separate windstorm deductible.
3. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs
The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you will pay a higher premium than you should.
4. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies.
5. Make your home more disaster resistant
Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.
6. Improve your home security
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost and how much you’d save on premiums.
7. Seek out other discounts
Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don’t all offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. For example, since retired people stay at home more than working people they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. Retired people also have more time for maintaining their homes. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies. Some employers and professional associations administer group insurance programs that may offer a better deal than you can get elsewhere.
8. Maintain a good credit record
Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.
RELATED: Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
9. Stay with the same insurer
If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But make certain to periodically compare this price with that of other policies.
10. Review the limits in your policy and the value of your possessions at least once a year
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners policies such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers and valuable art work) and pocket the difference.
11. Look for private insurance if you are in a government plan
If you live in a high-risk area – say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms – and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative or contact your state department of insurance for the names of companies that might be interested in your business. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.
12. When you’re buying a home, consider the cost of homeowners insurance
You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional rather than a volunteer fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old. For example, if you live on the water, consider a brick home because it’s more wind resistant. Choosing wisely could cut your premiums by 5 to 15 percent.
Check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are thinking of buying. These reports contain the insurance claim history of the property and can help you judge some of the problems the house may have.
Remember that flood insurance is not covered by a standard homeowners policy. If you buy a house in a flood-prone area, you’ll have to pay for a flood insurance policy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site at FloodSmart.gov.
If you have questions about insurance for any of your possessions, be sure to ask your agent or company representative when you’re shopping around for a policy. For example, if you run a business out of your home, be sure to discuss coverage for that business. Most homeowners policies cover business equipment in the home, but only up to $2,500 and they offer no business liability insurance. Although you want to lower your homeowners insurance cost, you also want to make certain you have all the coverage you need.
Patrick Parker Realty works with a network of professionals for home buying and selling peripheral services. Contact Us today for a referral to one of our trusted partners.
Get Great First Aid & Emergency Preparedness Apps offered by The American Red Cross
First Aid App
The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official American Red Cross First Aid app offers videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid.
Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out – a must have for anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane may strike or has loved ones who do.
Shelter Finder App
The Red Cross Shelter Finder is available in the iTunes store and works on iOS devices. The Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
Stay safe, we hope you will never need these tools.
September is National Preparedness Month, and, today is World First Aid Day. It’s a great time to review your own emergency plans and to make sure family, friends and neighbors are prepared.
Whether it’s a house fire or a natural disaster, having a plan in place before an emergency hits means you’ll know where to turn in times of crisis.
So this month, take a few minutes to make an emergency game plan and prepare your emergency kit of essentials. Hopefully, the day doesn’t come when you’ll be thankful for it, but it pays to be prepared.
Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.
At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below:
- Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit. Suggested items to help meet additional needs are:
- Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc)
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Games and activities for children
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Two-way radios
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Manual can opener
Additional supplies to keep at home or in your survival kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:
- N95 or surgical masks
- Rain gear
- Work gloves
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
- Plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
- Household liquid bleach
- Entertainment items
- Blankets or sleeping bags
It is important to make sure that the entire family is prepared and informed in the event of a disaster or emergency. You may not always be together when these events take place and should have plans for making sure you are able to contact and find one another.
- Meet with your family or household members.
- Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
- Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.
- If a family member is in the military, plan how you would respond if they were deployed.
Emergency Contact Cards for All Household Members:
- Print one card for each family member
- Write the contact information for each household member, such as work, school and cell phone numbers
- Fold the card so it fits in your pocket, wallet or purse
- Carry the card with you so it is available in the event of a disaster or other emergency
- You can download an emergency contact card template here
Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency:
- Choose two places to meet…
1 – Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire
2 – Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate
- Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones.
Plan what to do if you have to evacuate:
- Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. You may choose to go to a hotel/motel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location or go to an evacuation shelter if necessary.
- Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on your map in case roads are impassable.
- Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.
Let Your Family Know You’re Safe
If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family and friends know you are safe. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register yourself and your family.
- I have an emergency preparedness kit.
Download the Red Cross Quick Reference Emergency Preparedeness Check List
- I have a family disaster plan and have practiced it.
- I know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in my community
Download the Red Cross Flood Safety Checklist
- I’ve learned how my community responds
Next week we will take a look at how to prepare each member of your family for emergencies; children, seniors, persons with disabilities and your pets.
Download Great First Aid and Emergency Preparedness Apps offered by The American Red Cross
In the meantime, stay safe, we hope you will never need this advice.
1. Attorney Review Period
This is a three day period in which buyers and sellers can have their contracts reviewed by a local real estate attorney. It is important to remember this review period is three business days from the date the last buyer or seller signs, not when the real estate attorney receives the contract.
This means the contract is contingent or dependent upon something happening first. In New Jersey, it’s customary that all real estate contracts are contingent on the buyers getting their mortgage, home inspections and a clear title.
A mortgage is a lien put on the property by a lender. There is a great difference between a buyer getting a 90% mortgage from a lender and 80% mortgage from a bank.
Learn more about the important difference between a Mortgage Broker and a Bank Loan Officer.
4. Home Inspection
When you buy a house, there are hundreds of items (often hidden) that can be wrong. Did you know that New Jersey has the oldest housing stock in America? If you buy or sell a house in the area, it might be over 50 to 100 years old! Problems with the major systems are often very expensive to fix, particularly with older frame houses.
5. “As Is”
This means you only get what’s there, nothing less and nothing more. It produces more real estate litigation than any other clause in a contract, which is why we recommend to get the help of a local real estate lawyer if you want to buy a home. A seller has to ensure that the house, the structure, and its operating systems (heat, electrical, plumbing, etc.) are in good operating condition at closing. This has now become more important than ever given the large amount of “As Is” properties available listed at rock bottom prices after damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
This can be a problematic area if not handled properly. Buyers don’t want to put thousands of dollars into a new plumbing or heating systems, and seller’s don’t want to pay for improvements they didn’t have at contract time. New Jersey law doesn’t interpret “As Is” to mean buyers get stuck if major systems don’t work. The sellers have an obligation to disclose any hidden defect they know about.
6. Closing Date
This is put on at the beginning of a contract and is only a guess at when the closing will take place. The closing date is set by the borrower’s lender and not by the seller or buyer.
Escrow assures that the lender releases the home purchase funds at or about the same time that the deed is recorded to reflect new ownership. Escrow includes depositing, with a neutral third party, funds, documents and instructions necessary to complete the transfer.
Patrick Parker Realty Agents and Brokers are here to walk you through every stage of the buying process. We will help you obtain title insurance, set closings, guide you through inspection, supervise, work closely with attorneys and coordinate with the seller’s agents.
You can continue to familiarize yourself with commonly used terms you’ll come across during your real estate transaction in our Mortgage Glossary.
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