Tips from Farm Bureau Financial Services as home-buying activity heats up
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (Feb. 2, 2012) — Despite last year’s cold winter in much of the country, January was the hottest month for existing-home sales during 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors. Now, as we move into February and warmer-than-usual temperatures, home-buying activity remains brisk following news that the Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator, is near its highest level in almost two years.
Because your home often is your largest and most important investment, it's worth protecting once the papers are signed. Farm Bureau Financial Services brings you six simple ways to help you protect the value of your home while providing a safe haven for your family.
1. Regularly maintain your home. Even if you’re not an enthusiastic do-it-yourselfer, setting aside time each month for home projects keeps the responsibility of maintaining your home manageable and, often, more affordable. Now is a good time for a home maintenance audit, making a to-do list that sets your maintenance schedule for the coming months. Indoor projects can be as simple as replacing the furnace filter or repainting a room, and are easy to complete in any weather. Make a date with yourself to tackle outdoor projects, such as pruning trees and weatherproofing your deck, as spring approaches.
2. Update your home insurance. One of the best ways to enjoy the security and comfort home ownership can provide is to make sure your homeowners insurance policy is up-to-date. Ask yourself — and your agent — a few questions to ensure your coverage is adequate. Is replacement cost, guaranteed replacement cost or actual cash value coverage best for you today? Do you qualify for coverage discounts, such as for insuring a new home, updating your electrical system, or installing impact-resistant shingles? Could you benefit from coverage in case your furnace or appliances break down? Your insurance agent can help you figure out the coverage that makes the most sense for you.
3. Light up your home. This is a must for deterring crime, since poorly lit properties enable burglars to move about unseen. Outdoor motion-sensing lights can add another layer of security by startling intruders and providing a visual alert to you and your neighbors. When warmer weather arrives, the improved outdoor lighting also makes it easy and safe to enjoy your yard when the sun goes down. Also, use timers on indoor lights to give your home a lived-in look while you're away.
4. Beef up security. Another way to make your home less appealing to burglars is by installing a solid door at each point of entry, such as those made of solid wood or steel-wrapped materials. Then, add a deadbolt to the door. For doors featuring a glass inset or located near a window, use a double-cylinder lock with a key on both sides to prevent easy entry if the glass is broken. Home security systems can bring extra peace of mind and may help you qualify for a discount on your home insurance.
5. Keep pests under control. Sharing your home with unexpected pests is, at best, unpleasant. It also can lead to extensive damage and be hazardous to your family’s health. Home inspections will turn up problems with termites, rodents and other pests before you take ownership, but it’s a good idea to stay alert to new infestations to protect your home's value. Keeping potential food sources and hiding places — like stacked firewood — away from your home can help deter many common pests.
6. Check detectors and fire extinguishers. It’s easy to ignore smoke and other gases, such as carbon monoxide and radon — until the piercing sound of an alarm warns you of danger. Take a few minutes to make sure your detectors are located in the proper places and their power sources are in working order. Inspect your fire extinguishers to ensure they are properly charged, and show others in your home how to operate the extinguishers in case of emergency.
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