Summer home safeguards

summer home safeguards
Summer home safeguards (infographic from crime prevention pamphlet

Did you know that the AAA estimates that there will be about 100 million Americans who will take a family vacation this year (  If you’re one of those millions planning a trip this summer, you’re likely stressing over your plans.  Some of that stress is certainly vacation planning, but some may be about leaving your home vacant for several or more days.  Besides planning your vacation, you should also plan to “summerize” your home by taking some summer home safeguards.

Just like winterizing a vacant home before winter, summerizing is safeguarding your home while your away on vacation.  And just like winterizing a home, summerizing is implementing a preventative plan to secure your home and possibly save a few dollars. Here are a few common knowledge ideas for summer home safeguards.

To save a few dollars, many homeowners adjust the HVAC thermostat while vacationing.  Some even turn off the HVAC system.  However, if you have a basement or cellar, consider adjusting the thermostat to a reasonable temperature (and/or use a dehumidifier) to prevent mold growth in a dark and potentially humid area of the home.

If your home will be vacant for an extended period, consider unplugging “zombie” appliances.  Zombie appliances are appliances that consume electricity even when they are not in use.  Many small appliances and internet connected appliances (such as your TV and other entertainment devices) are included in this category. 

One of the biggest concerns while away is the potential of returning to a waterlogged home.  A faulty valve or supply line can leak at any time.  If you’re away, you obviously can’t immediately respond to this scenario.  Although some home owners turn off the water at the main valve, this can interfere with a sprinkler system.  Most shut off specific valves to appliances and fixtures.  Some vacationing home owners also shut off outside water hose bibs to prevent others from using water at their expense.

Securing your home can deter burglars and pests.  Although it’s tempting to brag to your friends about your vacation, refrain from posting about your plans on social media.  Store your valuables in a safe, inconspicuous place.  If you don’t have a security system, consider installing a camera and lighting system that can alert you of unexpected activity.  An exterior camera and lighting system can be a major deterrent.  However, interior cameras can also alert you of a determined intruder so you can take appropriate action. 

To deter mice and other rodents from ransacking your home while you’re away, ensure that the home’s doors and windows are shut and secure.  Also, make sure the exterior dryer vent cover is closed.  Find and seal any holes where rodents can gain access your home. 

You may also want to employ some common some summer home safeguards strategies that make it appear as if you never went on vacation.  Connect a few lights to a timer to give the impression that someone is turning on lights at night.  Ask your neighbor or a friend to park in your driveway (or reserved space).  Although stopping the paper and mail while on vacation may seem clever, some home owners have a friend or neighbor pick up the daily paper and mail. 

One of the most common aspects of some summer home safeguards is having a trusted neighbor and/or friend occasionally check on the home.  They can ensure the home is secure, pick up any packages left at the door, and deal with any necessary maintenance (such as adjusting the thermostat).  Spreading this responsibility among multiple “guardians” can make it less of a burden and increase the frequency of “check-ins.”

Many local police departments offer a home security survey. Consider going through the survey to help with your planning.

Original located at

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector

Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Winter ready home

Winter Ready Home
Be Winter Ready (infographic from

After several years of brutal winter weather, we were given a reprieve of mild weather last year.  The warm weather trend has moved into the fall with some balmy days.  But you shouldn’t become complacent thinking that winter weather is a long way off.  Yes, it’s the time of year to take stock in your home and prepare for winter.  Is your home winter ready?

Of course, at the center of your winter ready home is the comfort your heating system delivers.  Regardless of the type of heating system you have, have a licensed a licensed professional inspect your home’s furnace.  The inspection can identify any issues that can cause your furnace to be inefficient and/or fail.  The inspection can also root out potential safety issues, such as carbon monoxide buildup.  If the system does not need to be repaired or replaced, the HVAC professional will tune the furnace to optimize the its performance.

Another thought for being winter ready is the fireplace.  Unfortunately, many homeowners overlook fireplace and chimney maintenance.  However, putting off fireplace and chimney maintenance can become a safety issue.  Wood burning fireplaces should be cleaned, inspected, and repaired if necessary.  Gas fireplaces require a licensed technician to inspect the pilot and electronics in the firebox.  Both wood and gas fireplaces require flue and chimney maintenance.  Creosote buildup can combust and cause a chimney fire.  Birds and other animals or debris can lodge in the chimney and prevent proper venting.  Defective fireplaces or improperly vented fireplaces can produce excess carbon monoxide in your home, which can be deadly.

You’re not winter ready unless you’re prepared for emergencies.  Test the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, replace them if necessary.  If your heating system and/or fireplace burns liquid, solid, or gas fuel, then you need to have carbon monoxide detectors installed.  Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless and prolonged exposure can result in brain damage and death.  Experts recommend installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout the home, primarily near bedrooms.

Hose bibs are often ignored because many people don’t use them, or are not aware of how to maintain them.  However, hose bibs that are not winter ready are probably the number one source of winter pipe leaks.  If not winterized properly, the pipes leading to the hose bibs can freeze and expand.  This expansion can cause the pipe to burst, creating an unwanted winter leak.  If you’ve never winterized the hose bibs, or are not sure how, contact a licensed plumber.  Attempting to operate pipe valves that have been idle or not operated in a while can create or exacerbate an undetected leak.

Make sure your home’s roof system is winter ready.  Have a licensed professional inspect your home’s roof.  If shingles are not secure, melting and freezing snow can create ice dams.  Ice dams can lift and dislodge shingles allowing water to penetrate your home.  Water penetration from ice dams can cause damage to your home’s interior.  Besides damaging ceilings, water penetration can also damage walls and windows.

While your roof is being checked out, inspect the roof flashing, gutters and downspouts.  Roof flashing is often ignored, however is as important as shingles.  Roof flashing is used to transition from shingles (or other roofing) to other materials (such as brick, metal or PVC).  The flashing prevents water to leak between the roof and chimney or vent pipes.

Clean and repair clogged gutters and blocked downspouts.  Poorly maintained gutters and downspouts won’t allow for proper drainage of water from snow and rain.  Improper drainage can allow water to penetrate the foundation, creating structural and mold issues.

Preparing for winter will reduce the probability of having surprises.  Being winter ready will allow you to enjoy the winter months in your own winter wonderland.

Copyright© Dan Krell

If you like this post, do not copy; instead please:
link to the article,
like it on facebook
or re-tweet.

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

What are the risks of owning a home?

cloud over home
Accepting the Risks of Home Ownership
by Dan Krell © 2009

For many, owning a home is part of their long term financial and personal plan. Unfortunately for some, the responsibilities and risks of home ownership are not well thought out; many first time home owners are unprepared. The benefits of home ownership are often presented to first time home buyers, how about the risks?

During the recent real estate market boon, it seemed as if there were no risks to home ownership. Homeowners, who felt that their home was too much of a financial burden, were able to sell their home quickly and sometimes made a profit. However, when home values began to depreciate, it become all too clear that there are inherent risks to being a home owner, which include decreasing property values, increasing home related expenses, and poor home maintenance.

The real estate market, like other financial markets, is cyclical. There have been escalating market cycles, like the recent “seller’s” market; and there have been depreciating market cycles, some down cycles being much like what we are currently experiencing. Many first time home buyers, who bought homes as a commodity often analyzing their purchases as if it were a mutual fund, are now finding that (unlike mutual funds) selling a home may not be as easy as previously thought. Selling a home in a down market has many considerations, such as an increased marketing time and the possibility of owing more on a mortgage than the value of the home.

During an escalating market, it is easy for people to talk about home value appreciation as one of the benefits of home ownership. Unfortunately, in the recent boon market, many home buyers were caught up in the exuberance of rapid appreciation such that they believed that home value appreciation is guaranteed- no matter the type or condition of the home. Some home buyers are now lamenting their purchases because they bought homes they did not much care to live in but rather for the perceived “investment” value.

Many first time home buyers are also not prepared for increasing monthly housing expenses. Keep in mind that a first time home buyer’s monthly mortgage payment is already more than their monthly rent. Because of rising property tax and increasing utility costs, home buyers need to consider that the associated cost of home ownership will most likely increase over time. Although some of the initial increase may be offset by an interest tax deduction, the increases often add more to monthly expenses than the savings of the deduction.

Maintenance is an ongoing expense that is often overlooked by home buyers; all homes, including new homes need regular maintenance. Lack of home maintenance becomes a threat to anyone’s home leaving the home’s systems, walls, and foundation vulnerable to the elements, which can erode the home’s value.

Be prepared to take on the risks of home ownership. Take into account the reasons for owning a home as well as the financial responsibility you place upon yourself. Although long term home ownership has proved to be a good investment for many, value appreciation is not guaranteed. Additionally, the cost of home ownership along with future increases should be anticipated. You can get more information about the benefits and risks of home ownership by visiting HUD (, Fannie Mae ( and Freddie Mac (

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 15, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell.

Pet Friendly Real Estate

Pet Friendly Real Estate

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

A press release from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (; February 20, 2009) estimates that 63 percent of the homes at risk of foreclosure have a pet. Losing your home can be devastating enough, but losing your pet because of financial challenges can add to your family’s emotional trauma.

Attention has recently been given to the plight of the families and their pets that are experiencing foreclosure. The ASPCA offers this information on preparing for foreclosure with your pets: check with family and friends for a temporary foster care for your pet (agree to a specific time frame and check in with your pet regularly); when moving to a rental, make sure that your management company allows pets; and/or plan in advance with a shelter as animal shelters usually have limited space.

Locally, families and their pets are being helped by “The Pet Friendly Realtor,” Jill Barsky (who is a Realtor with Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc.). Ms. Barsky runs the nonprofit organization, Tailed Treasures of Maryland, Inc, which seeks to assist families and their pets in times of need- including a foreclosure transition. Ms. Barsky started the non-profit about five years ago, when she realized that she could combine her real estate skills with her love for animals. Although she has been rescuing animals for over fifteen years, she stated that her company is not to be confused with the traditional animal rescue (which permanently removes pets to find suitable homes). Instead, Ms. Barsky acts like a “pet social worker” assisting families to take care of their pets as best as possible by offering housing assistance as well as food and other pet necessities to those who are in need.

The goal of her services is to have the pet stay with its family. Ms. Barsky uses her real estate expertise to help families find rental housing that will allow pets; she stated, “Sometimes it’s a matter of negotiating with the landlord”. If a pet-friendly rental is not possible, she tries to find a temporary foster care placement.

Every situation differs, but Ms. Barsky has found that most families want to keep their pets during financial challenges. The best case scenario is when the family can keep their pet during a transition from a foreclosure; or be reunited with their pet when the family becomes financially stable.

Although most families will attempt to get help, some do not because they are embarrassed. The worst case scenario is when the pets are neglected and left to fend for themselves. Ms. Barsky has received many calls from other Realtors who spot abandoned pets or other trapped animals that are in vacant bank-owned homes.

Ms. Barsky has helped many families keep their pets, including many who serve in the armed forces. Pets are sometimes placed in temporary foster care during deployments where pets are not allowed, such as overseas operations.

If you would like to become part of Ms. Barsky’s pet foster care network, make a donation, or just get more information, you can visit the Tailed Treasures of Maryland, Inc.’s website at Ms. Barsky stated that donations don’t have to be cash; donations can also be in the form of pet food, supplies, or pet store gift certificates.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of April 13, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

Foundation problems don’t have to be a nightmare

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

Conducting a home inspection by a competent and experienced home inspector can spot signs of foundation problems. However, many foundation problems develop over time and may not have been noticeable when you purchased your home. Regular maintenance can identify foundation problems; early intervention can prevent more serious and costly issues. Don’t let your home’s foundation become your source of sleepless nights

Warning signs of foundation problems include hairline cracks in walls, windows and doors that stick or do not open and close smoothly, uneven floors, bowing walls, and stair-step cracks in brick mortar. Additional signs of a failing foundation that may be attributed to other problems include damp floors, puddles of water, and flooding basements. Foundation repair experts recommend that you have a repair specialist and structural engineer inspect your home as soon as you suspect there is a foundation problem; the longer you wait the worse the problem becomes, and the more expensive the repair.

Common causes of a faltering foundation are due to soil conditions around and under your home. Some foundation problems are due to soil settlement, however some problems are due to improper soil compaction during construction; the soil may shift and compact over time due to the weight of your home and other conditions. Some foundation problems can also be due to changes to the soil’s moisture content that is caused by poor drainage, undetected plumbing leaks, an extreme weather changes. Soil properties can change due to over saturation and/or drought, which can make the soil supporting your home’s foundation settle and shift.

Regular home maintenance can prevent most foundation problems caused by excessive moisture and extreme weather conditions. Much of the maintenance is to ensure proper drainage in and around your home. Besides checking and repairing any plumbing leaks, experts recommend the inspection and maintenance of gutters, downspouts and grading to ensure that excess water is taken away from your home. If the soil around your home is determined to be excessively dry, a foundation expert can instruct you on proper hydration techniques.

If your home has a failing foundation, don’t despair! Many foundation problems can be repaired; some say that an expertly repaired foundation can be more structurally stabile than the original foundation. The cost of repairing your home’s foundation will depend on the type of repair that’s required.

Besides leveling your home to its original position, foundation repair may include a piering and/or an anchoring system. Piering systems drive long steel shafts into the ground to stabilize the home’s foundation. Anchoring systems stabilize walls (usually basement) by attaching steel rods to walls by anchors.

A common misconception is that a new home is covered by a builder’s warranty or builder’s insurance policy for ten years. Many home builders offer warranties, however Montgomery County requires a new home builder to offer a minimum structural warranty of five years (and there may be limitations and exclusions). If you have structural and foundation problems on a new home, you should consult an attorney as warranties and coverage vary.

As many foundation problems worsen with time, early detection and repair is recommended. More information on warning signs and repairs can be obtained from a local licensed contractor or the National Association of Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractors (

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of March 30, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell.