9 Affordable Ways to Prep Your Home for Hurricane Season

With hurricane season already underway, it’s past time to make sure your home is ready for a major storm event.

With hurricane season underway, it’s time to make sure your home is ready for a major storm. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute. Here are nine affordable ways to start prepping your home for a major storm.

1. Install Surge Protection

Power surges can occur instantly during a storm and can damage your appliances and electronics. You can add a power surge protector to your electrical panel and use power strips with built-in surge protectors to help protect your property. Your heating and air conditioning system may also need special protection.

“A power surge could result in immediate destruction to your unit, or … a slow and steady breakdown from repeated abuse,” said Christy Moore of Aire Serv in Brunswick County, North Carolina. “Adding surge protection to your home and heating and air conditioning system can decrease the risk of surge damage.”

2. Cover Your Air Conditioner

You may also want to protect your outdoor air conditioning unit against airborne debris and projectiles, which can lodge in your unit and cause damage. Moore recommends a manufacturer-approved protective cover and warns against using a do-it-yourself solution such as a tarp or garbage bag, which could void your warranty and trap moisture inside.

3. Stock Up on Plywood

Plywood is an affordable solution to protect windows without shutters from airborne projectiles. You can stock up on plywood to prepare for the next storm.

“Always make sure the plywood you purchase complies with any state inspection standards,” said Frank Klavon, president of Glass Doctor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Once you have the plywood in hand, you’re ready to start boarding up your windows on the exterior side of your house … during hurricane season, plywood supplies go fast, so be sure not to wait.”

4. Seal Windows & Doors

Leaky windows and doors can let in water, so make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed. This can also make your home more energy efficient.

5. Remove Area Debris

While you can’t clear your entire neighborhood of potential missiles, you should remove or secure anything surrounding your home that could become an airborne projectile. That includes lawn furniture, toys and low-hanging branches or limbs.

“Cutting low-hanging branches, unstable bushes or trees can prevent larger and more expensive accidents from happening. Proper tree pruning also increases the chances that your trees can make it through a storm,” said Klavon.

6. Clean Out Your Gutters & Drains

It’s always a good idea to keep your gutters and downspouts clear, as they prevent water from collecting around your home. In the case of a severe storm, clear gutters can prevent instant flooding of your attic or basement.

“Conduct a visual inspection of your gutters and downspouts to be sure nothing blocks the flow of water from your roof and away from your home,” said Don Glovan of Mr. Rooter Plumbing in Fletcher, North Carolina. “Also, all drains in your house should be kept clear to prevent basement or crawl space flooding.”

7. Check Your Sump Pump

The sump pump in your basement works to keep your basement or crawl space from flooding. Before any major storms, you should make sure it’s operating correctly. Any debris should be cleared from the pump to prevent clogging.

“Clean any debris from around the intake/suction area of the pump. Debris can decrease the amount of water the pump can remove or clog the pump, causing damage or a burn out,” said Glovan. “You should also consider a battery backup system in case a power outage occurs.”

8. Check for Foundation Cracks

“Cracks in the foundation of a home are not always visible, but could be the root cause of potential flooding or plumbing issues,” said Glovan. “Walk along the perimeter of your home and check for signs of stress in the concrete at the bottom, then patch any visible blemishes.”

9. Review or Procure Insurance

You should review your existing insurance policy and make sure your most valuable items are covered for damage or loss. You’ll also want to make sure your policy includes flood insurance, as any home in an area vulnerable to storms can benefit from coverage. (Side note: Your credit score can affect your homeowners insurance policy. You can see where your credit score stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

Image: CHRISsadowski

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How a Coat of Paint Can Determine Your Home’s Sale Price

An inexpensive can of paint holds a lot more power than you think.

From the time of year to the neighborhood, a lot of factors come into play when you’re selling a home. But here’s one variable you might not have considered — color.

During open houses and online searches, the colors of your home are constantly working for or against you. That’s according to Zillow, a real estate and rental marketplace, which examined over 32,000 photos from sold homes around the country to see how certain paint colors impacted their average sale price compared to homes of similar value with white walls. Here’s what they found.

A Change of Trends

The colors that added value to your home just a year ago can now be hurting its sale price. In 2016, painting your kitchen a shade of yellow could help your home sell for $1,100 to $1,300 more. However, this year, a yellow kitchen could lower your home’s value by an estimated $820, according to Zillow.

Some color preferences remained consistent, with terracotta walls still devaluing a home. Just last year, homes with terracotta walls sold for $793 less than Zillow’s predicted selling price. This year, that number more than doubled, with homes with terracotta walls selling for $2,031 less.

The takeaway: If you’re looking to sell your home, you may want to avoid a terracotta shade. Also be cautious in general when choosing dark and bold colors.

Keep it Light

“Painting walls in fresh, natural-looking colors, particularly in shades of blue and pale gray, not only make a home feel larger but also are neutral enough to help future buyers envision themselves living in the space,” said Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist, in a statement.

In fact, homes with blue bathrooms, including lighter shades of blue or periwinkle, sold for $5,440 more than expected, Zillow found. Kitchens with light blue-gray walls sold for $1,809 more than expected, and walls with cool, natural tones like soft oatmeal and pale gray also had top-performing listings.

Light, simple walls performed best among sellers, however, walls with no color had the most negative impact on sales price. Homes with white bathrooms or no paint color, for instance, sold for an average of $4,035 less than similar homes, Zillow noted.

Head Outside

As if it isn’t stressful enough worrying about your rooms’ colors, your home’s exterior color can also impact its sale price.

To that end, buyers typically enjoyed a pop of color, with homes featuring dark navy blue or slate gray front doors selling for $1,514 more. Buyers also responded positively to trendy mixes of light gray and beige, or “greige,” exteriors versus basic tan stucco and medium-brown shades.

If you’re trying to sell your home, a can of paint can be a wise investment — so long as you choose the right color. Keep these findings in mind before you head to the paint store. Likewise, just as color impacts sale price, know that selling your home can impact your credit. Don’t forget to check your credit report card before you start picking out paint chips.

Image: andresr

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5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Buying a House

Purchase agreement for house

My husband and I have been on the hunt for a house to call our own for about five months now (what can I say, the Denver market is crazy), and while there were a lot of questions that we newbies had about the entire process once we started looking, there were also a lot of questions that we asked ourselves before even deciding to start the search for a house in the first place.

Here are a few of the questions that I think really helped us determine that we were ready to purchase a house. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, they might be able to help you, as well.

Question 1: Am I as financially secure as I could be?

Why it helped: Of course life isn’t a sure thing, and there’s no way to know for certain when someone might lose a job or come up against a large expense, but when you’re considering buying a home, you want to at least be as sure as you can that all your financial ducks are in a row. Do you have a steady job that’s been steady for at least a year (preferably two)? Do you have enough saved for a substantial down payment (preferably 20% of the overall cost of the house), as well as additional money for emergency savings and/or any immediate costs that may come up once you’re in the house (hey, it happens)? Will you be able to handle the monthly mortgage payments, as well as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, any HOA fees and additional utilities? While some of this might be hard to figure out ahead of time (like what your new electric bill will be, for example), other things like your mortgage payments, property taxes, HOA fees, should come to your directly from your mortgage broker and/or realtor.

Question 2: How long do I plan to live here?

Why it helped: Financial experts say that five years is generally the break-even point where you can expect to make your money back on a house should you decide to sell it (of course there are many factors that go into this number, but it’s a good overall rule-of-thumb). If you’re not sure where you see yourself in five years, or if you consider yourself more of a rambling rose, then perhaps buying a home right now isn’t the right scenario for you.

Question 3: Have I (really) done my research?

Why it helped: If you do plan to live in your first home for a while, then it’s important to picture your future self and consider whether the home (or area) you’re interested in buying will fit your future needs. For example, if you plan to have kids there, how is the school district? Is it near a decent playground or outdoor play area? Is it close to public transportation if you won’t be working in your hometown? Have you looked up any crime statistics? Falling in love with a specific house is one thing — and that’s certainly important — but it’s equally as important to love the general area where you’ll be living, as well.

Question 4: Am I ready to be my own landlord?

Why it helped: If you currently live in an apartment you’ve probably noticed the trade-offs by now. Noisy neighbors may frustrate you, but when your bathroom ceiling leaks and it’s not up to you to fix it, that can be pretty nice (assuming you have a decent, timely landlord). When you own your own home, it’s entirely up to you to maintain the house and everything in it, which includes finding professionals to fix anything that breaks, and paying for those fixes, as well.

Question 5: Am I ready to be stagnant with my finances for the next few months?

Why it helped: When you’re applying for a mortgage you might be shocked with how much information you’re forced to hand over to your broker (or multiple brokers, if you’re shopping around). Your credit score is immensely important during this time, as it will help determine what types of loans you qualify for, what your interest rate will be and how much house you can buy. In other words, it’s very important. That means that during the entire house hunting process — from pre-qualification down to signing on the dotted line at closing day — you should be prepared to go on a temporary credit hiatus. Of course you’ll continue living your day-to-day life, but big expenses — like that girlfriends’ getaway, a new car or furniture for your fancy new abode — are purchases that are frowned upon during this time. You shouldn’t even open a new credit card at all until you’re all moved in and free and clear.

If you’ve asked yourself all these questions and all signs point to yes, you’re ready, then consider checking out this piece about what to know before getting pre-approved for a mortgage, this one about what mortgage loan officers worry about most, and this one about the one tool that’ll help you find the best mortgage rates.

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Could These Sites Kill Craigslist?


When my father-in-law asked me to help him offload his old furniture, I immediately thought of Craigslist. But after digging around, I realized there were plenty of other sites out there that were an option. There was Move Loot, a San Francisco-based startup that connects used-furniture sellers with buyers, and Chairish, a design-centric curated marketplace for used furniture and decor. There were plenty of others. But I kept coming back to Move Loot and Chairish because both seemed to offer something wholly refreshing: a viable way to kill Craigslist.

Buying and selling on Craigslist can be risky. As a buyer, it’s very hard to tell if the listing is accurate — or that the seller isn’t trying to scam you or worse. As a seller, the logistics are tedious. Skip delivery, and you’re opening your home to a stranger. Pay for delivery, and, well, you’re spending money you’d rather use on something else. The used-furniture startups are trying to change this. They know you don’t want to deal with delivery or some random person showing up at your door. And they realize you’re probably lazy — you’re not going to research that dresser, are you? But for all of these perks — nicer websites among them — do they have what it takes to beat Craigslist? Here’s a look at their strategies to corner the used-furniture market and how they differ from Craigslist. (Craigslist did not immediately respond to request for comment to this article.)

A Stylish Solution

No one ever said Craigslist’s website was sexy. Functional, yes, but not sexy. Perhaps that’s why Chairish, founded in 2013 by a husband and wife who wanted to offload their high-end furnishings, is all about making things easy on the eyes. It certainly makes shopping more-streamlined. And way more fun. “Instead of going through pages and pages, we want to take that work off the buyer, and frankly off the seller as well,” Eric Grosse, a co-founder and chief executive of Chairish, said. “We just want to have quality items that we know are going to sell.” Curation is the best way to do this, even if it means weeding out popular but not fancy items from Ikea.

Whereas on Craigslist you’re basically on your own, said Grosse, Chairish acts as sort of a guide with sections pertaining to style and sometimes even era. The photos are cleaner than those found on Craigslist, and the “What we’re digging …” banner helps users discover new looks. “If you happen to have a thing for Shaker furniture, you’re going to find some items here,” Grosse said. And since the site does its homework, making sure every listing is accurate, buyers can rest easy. “There’s a scrubbing that we do to make sure we have a very high-quality experience that’s again different from Craigslist,” he said of the vetting process.

Positioning itself as the stylish, smarter alternative to Craigslist seems to be working. With 70,000 unique listings and counting, Chairish has already been named a best shopping app by Architectural Digest and the design nerd blog Design Sponge. Grosse also said that Chairish, which has taken $13 million in funding, draws 400,000 unique visitors per month and has seen rapid growth across a number of metrics. (It’s free to list items, but Chairish takes a 20% commission on each sale.) But despite features like “Local Pickup,” which lets buyers skip delivery costs altogether by picking up an item themselves, I have to wonder whether the average Joe is savvy enough to seek out the site. Could it be that there’s more to used-furniture shopping than scoring a pair of Victorian armchairs?

Logistics Made Simple

Move Loot bills itself as the easiest way to buy and sell furniture, but it might consider playing up the fact that it does all the hard work for you. I’m not talking about wiping furniture for photos. I’m talking about delivering and installing all the items you’ve purchased, or, in a seller’s case, handling everything to get the furniture out of your home. No one wants to deal with these headaches, and the logistics part is Move Loot’s “best chance of beating the competition,” to quote Bloomberg. “From a seller’s perspective, we handle all of the heavy lifting from both sides,” co-founder and CMO Jenny Morrill said. “We’ll go and pick up pieces in the home, assemble everything, bring it back and store items until they sell, and deliver it to the end buyer. You have a trusted professional coming into your home instead of dealing with someone you haven’t met before.”

No one would argue with that, but for those outside major hubs like Los Angeles, New York or the Bay Area, where Move Loot is based, how will they get their design fix? I also wonder how the startup can scale if it’s not passing on the cost of handling furniture to customers. Do people really buy that much furniture?

The need for Move Loot and Chairish may be “restricted to urban areas,” said Quentin Fleming, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business. “I don’t see this taking off in the middle of Oklahoma or a big demand for certain pieces of furniture.” In order to succeed, he said, these sites need to target their audience and not waste resources trying to appeal to people who wouldn’t possibly use them. “This is more of a niche business,” Fleming said of used-furniture shopping, “so they may have to go high-end, like in the New York City area and wealthy suburbs where there’s a demand for that type of stuff.”

To list on Move Loot, sellers agree to pay a pre-outlined consignment fee from a curator when they get their offer. If the item does not sell quickly, the price may be lowered up to 40% and if it doesn’t sell after 60 days, you’ll have to pay a $65 fee to have it delivered back to you (you can also opt donate it or list it in a flash sale.)

Fleming was also quick to point out that sell-it-all sites like eBay and Amazon present a big challenge. While they don’t offer the sleek, curated experience that Chairish does, or take care of logistics like Move Loot, their variety alone is what helps them scale. Still, I have faith that these sites can find a small audience. With more people in their mid-20s and 30s starting families and buying homes, there’s a real need for affordable and chic decor as anyone can see from the boom in design and DIY blogs. (You can see how any high credit card balances related to furniture shopping are affecting your credit score by viewing your free credit report summary each month on Credit.com.) Then there are people like my father-in-law, who just want to downsize. They may no longer love their rickety dresser, but there’s someone out there who might. If sites like Chairish and Move Loot can connect them, it may be enough to rival the best of Craigslist.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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