‘Tis the Season

Before we plunge into the holiday season we want to send a gentle reminder out to all our Edmond and Greater Oklahoma City friends and family:  ’Tis the season to replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.  While you’re out on Black Friday why not pick up a couple extra packs of nine volt batteries to swap out with the tired old used ones that have done their job well over the last year?  So here’s the first of our holiday wishes:  That while the turkey is baking you go ahead and walk your home, count the number of smoke detectors you have combined on all levels, add replacement back-up batteries to your Black Friday’s shopping list, and have a happy and safe holiday season!

Identifying Mortgage Fraud

Mortgage fraud was often a hot topic in the news during the last five to six years, admittedly less so today than when the housing bubble originally burst.  But that doesn’t mean the companies scamming consumers are no longer in business.  Although fraud may no longer be as prevalent a headline you still need to keep your guard up, especially if you’re one of our Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City friends or neighbors considering one of the foreclosure rescue or loan modification programs to save your home.  Following are some tips direct from Freddie Mac on how to spot potential mortgage fraud.

  • A company/person asks for a fee in advance to work with your lender to modify, refinance or reinstate your mortgage.
  • A company/person guarantees they can stop a foreclosure or get your loan modified.
  • A company/person advises you to stop paying your mortgage company and pay them instead.
  • A company pressures you to sign over the deed to your home or sign any paperwork that you haven’t had a chance to read, and you don’t fully understand.
  • A company other than your lender claims to offer “government-approved” or “official government” loan modifications.
  • A company/person you don’t know asks you to release personal financial information online or over the phone.

Protect yourself and protect your home.  If you suspect mortgage fraud you can report it here.

Front Porch Safety for Halloween

Before all the princesses, goblins, pirates, and lady bugs come trick-or-treating this Halloween here are some easy precautions you can to take to keep your costumed tricksters safe while they visit your Edmond or Greater Oklahoma City home for treats.

  1. Eliminate open flames.  Candles go hand-in-hand with jack-o’-lanterns on Halloween night, but when a mob of children crowd your front door all at once, busy feet can topple pumpkins amidst extravagant and lengthy costumes.  Why not try LED lights?
  2. If you decide to stick with candles inside your jack-o’-lanterns then minimize potential fuel surrounding those fires.  Halloween decorations like straw, crepe paper, etc. tend to be flammable.  Keep other decorations away from flames and hot decorative light bulbs.
  3. Make sure the path to your front door is clear of tripping and slipping hazards.  Trick or treating in the dark is part of the holiday, and many love to decorate the exterior of their homes to add to the evening’s mood.  Keep decorations out of the path of little feet, sweep away fallen leaves, and put away yard tools and anything else that might tempt little hands.
  4. Make sure your front porch light is functioning properly, and leave it on as long as there are ghosts and ghouls running about.

Colorado Floods

Anytime our country suffers from a natural disaster there is an accompanying risk to life and property.  The Colorado floods last week were no different, and many Coloradoans now find themselves homeless in the aftermath of the devastation, their pursuit of the American dream seemingly on hold.

As Real Estate professionals we make it our business helping people find their dream homes.  Now we have the opportunity by reaching out to those we have helped realize their dreams in the past – our Edmond, Oklahoma clients, neighbors, friends and family – to contribute to the relief effort in Colorado.

So take a moment and visit the Red Cross website.  Every contribution, big or small helps Colorado families get back on track and pursuing their dream home dreams again.

Home Safety for Older Children

We’ve talked about safety measures you can take even before you bring your newborn home from the hospital.  We covered child proofing your Greater Oklahoma City home before your baby can crawl, and before he/she can walk.  Now maybe it’s a good time to cover some safety measures in and outside the home as we look forward to our toddlers becoming elementary schoolers, tweens, and beyond.

  1. Playgrounds.  Be sure to locate a neighborhood playground that has equipment appropriate for your child’s age, and that has a separate area for older children to minimize the chances of an innocent accident like an older and larger child colliding with your son or daughter.
  2. Automobile traffic.  Start early teaching your child how to cross streets, and to always hold an adult’s hand before crossing.  This goes for walking through parking lots too.
  3. Guns.  It never hurts to remind folks of safety concerns that should be common sense to everyone.  Lock UNLOADED guns in a gun cabinet, and hide the keys to the cabinet and any ammunition boxes where curious youngsters will never find them.  Lock ammunition in cabinets separate from guns for additional security, and use trigger locks on all weapons.  And whether you keep guns in your home or not, speak to your children about the dangers of guns, and that they are not toys.
  4. Stranger danger.  Children are very trusting little souls.  But they need to understand something’s wrong when an adult offers candy to a six year old from a parked car, wants to show them their brand new puppy up close, or asks for directions, etc.  Have the stranger danger talk with them, and consult these guidelines if you’re having difficulty starting the conversation.
  5. Design, discuss, and practice your fire escape plan.  Your children need to know what to do if they wake up in the middle of the night during a home fire.  Draw out your plan on a sheet of paper, then review and discuss it with the entire family.  Finally practice every step of what you’re preaching, from slipping out from under the covers of their beds all the way to meeting in the neighbors driveway.

Baby Proofing for Toddlers

Crawling on hands and knees is one thing.  Learning how to stand, get around upright on two feet, coupled with an all new access to everything within a toddler’s reach is something else entirely.  For toddlers you still want to start from the ground and work your way up – and that’s the key right there.  Look up, because that’s just what your toddler is thinking, how to get up, over, and on top of…Here we go.

  1. Tub time.  Although your toddler is still discovering their new found vertical talents, it’s not a time to let your diligence during tub time wane.  As with infants and newborns, never leave a toddler unattended in the tub, and really it’s not a good idea to leave them unattended anywhere in the bathroom while the tub is filling.  Secure toilet lids too.
  2. Kitchen safety.  Install a safety latch on the oven door, and keep pot and pan handles turned away from the front of the range top.  Also, it’s a good idea NOT to carry your child and hot food or beverages at the same time.  It takes only a millisecond for your little one to reach out to get a closer look at your steaming cup of coffee, accidentally scalding both of you.
  3. Install door stops to protect little fingers from getting crunched.
  4. Use safety gates to keep toddlers from going up AND down stairs.  Safety gates are great at limiting toddler movement around the house, and they’re a must for keeping little ones out of “off limit” areas and off stairs.
  5. Fire hazards.  Make it a standard practice to have a grill in front of the fireplace, especially while you have a fire going, and secure any matches or lighters in a cabinet with a child lock.

For a more complete list of toddler proofing tips for our Greater Oklahoma City neighbors check out this great article.

Baby Proofing Before Baby Learns to Crawl

Last time we spoke about safety measures to take before you bring your newborn back to your Greater Oklahoma City home from the hospital.  Now that baby’s home and soon to be moving about (albeit at just a crawl) it’s time to consider the next phase in baby proofing your home.  That means it’s time to talk about perspective; it’s time to take a look at your home from the perspective of your soon to be mobile infant.  So get down on the floor, crawl around on your belly, see what you can find under the couch, and let’s get busy:

  1. Childproof locks keep babies away from chemicals under the sink, out of the knife drawer in the kitchen (once they are toddlers), and generally away from all kinds of potential mess making and dangerous situations.  Once you have locks on all the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms take it a step further.  Go around and check to make sure everything hazardous in the house is kept stored inside one of those locked cabinets or drawers.
  2. Furniture, with hard or sharp edges.  Minimize hard and sharp edges in rooms the baby will frequent like their bedroom and the family room.  Any sharp corners you are unable to eliminate by moving furniture to other rooms need to be dulled by adding padding or bumpers.
  3. Shorten/tie up window blind cords.  Baby may not be able to reach window blind cords just yet, but that time is not too far in the future.  Blind cords pose a strangling hazard for all children, not just infants and toddlers.  Tie up blind cords well out of reach of all children.
  4. Outlet covers.  Babies want to touch everything they can get their hands on (or fingers in).  Put covers on all electric outlets.
  5. Perspective.  This is the get down and roll around on the floor part of the experiment.  Right after a baby finds something new on the floor the very next impulse is to put that object in his or her mouth.  So, are there lost Cheetos under the couch?  What about coins or other choking hazards?  Clean out underneath all your furniture.  Get in under cushions.  Vacuum.

Here’s a comprehensive list of baby proofing tips for your soon to be crawling bundle of joy.

Baby Proofing Before the Birthday

You’ve already painted your Greater Oklahoma City nursery walls pink or baby blue (or green, or turquois).  The crib is assembled, and the changing table is fully stocked with diapers, ointments, wipes, and multiple changes of clothes.  It’s an exciting time.  Your very first little bundle of joy’s arrival is still a little ways away, and the anticipation has been building daily.  Why not pass some of the waiting time baby-proofing your home before your new arrival brings along with him (or her) more frequent family visits, sleepless nights, midnight feedings and any of a million other responsibilities and pleasant distractions that could keep you from putting some safety measures in place before baby comes home from the hospital.

  1. Carbon monoxide and fire/smoke detectors.  These are an often overlooked safety measure prior to the arrival of a new addition.  Test all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, make sure you have enough detectors (and all properly located) for the size of your home, and install fresh backup batteries for each unit.
  2. Baby first aid kit.  First aid for babies can be difficult just because of the little one’s inability to tell you exactly what’s wrong.  Still, there are some must haves in a first aid kit for every family.  Check out this link for a comprehensive shopping list for a kit for the family with a newborn.
  3. Car Seat.  Car seats should be installed facing backward, according to the manufacturer’s directions, for the safety of your baby.  Practice installing and removing the car seat so you are a pro by the time baby arrives, and consider installing a sun shade on the window beside the car seat.
  4. No slip rugs.  These are to help you keep from slipping and falling while you’re carrying your infant.
  5. Set your water heater to 120 degrees.  Avoid accidentally scalding anyone in the house including the baby.
  6. Changing tables should have safety straps to keep babies secure and from taking a nasty tumble.  Supplies need to be within easy reach at the changing table so you don’t inadvertently leave your baby unattended in a precarious position.

For a more comprehensive list of safety measures you can implement before baby comes home check out this article on Babycenter.com.

The House Sitter

Summer’s almost here and you’ve been planning this year’s family vacation since last year’s trip.  But a lot has changed over twelve months, namely some new additions to the family.  After years of begging and pressure from your spouse you finally relented and decided to let your children get a puppy.  The problem is when you came home from the breeder somehow you brought two fur balls home instead of one, one puppy for each child.  Boarding can be expensive, and you know the dogs would be happier in your Greater Oklahoma City home, so you wonder if a house sitter is the way to go this year.  To that end, here are some useful guidelines when hiring your first house sitter.

Important numbers.  Provide the house sitter with a list of locations where you will be staying over the course of your vacation along with their phone numbers, and include both yours and your spouse’s cell phone numbers.  It’s appropriate to list the number for your veterinarian if you have pets, and if you’re house sitter is younger or inexperienced you might also provide the number for one of your close neighbors as an emergency back up.

List daily responsibilities.  Do your growing puppies eat once a day?  Twice?  Are there any medications your pets will need administered in your absence?  Can the dogs just be let out in the back yard or will they need to be walked?  Are there plants that will need attention?  Where are they located, and how often do they need to be watered?  Don’t forget bringing in the mail and newspapers, and taking out the garbage on garbage day.

Rules of the house.  You may want to prohibit your house sitter from using a particular room, or the computer system, or maybe even the candles above the mantle.  Will you allow smoking, visiting pets, house sitter’s guests?  Be sure to discuss the items and areas that are off limits while you’re away, and any other house rules you expect to be followed so there’s no misunderstanding upon your return.

Discuss and agree upon payment arrangements before you leave for your trip.  You may pay now, upon your return, or a combination of both.  You may also decide to leave some money with your sitter for unforeseen expenses.

Fire Evacuation Plan

Every Greater Oklahoma City home needs not only a fire evacuation plan, but a plan that you have practiced with the whole family.  Here’s how it works:

Plan.  First, you need to know you house.  Every room has to have at least two exits for escape.  Every bedroom has a door leading to the interior of the house, so there’s one.  Does each bedroom also have a window or other secondary egress?  Are bedrooms on the first floor, second floor, in the basement?  And where are the other members of the family located in relation to you during the middle of the night?  Draw an evacuation floor plan.  Choose a meeting place outside the home where all family members will convene during an evacuation, like a neighbor’s house across the street.  Go speak to your neighbor and let them know they are your emergency “go to” location.

Discuss your plan with all family members.  Gather everyone together.  Go over the plan thoroughly, taking time to tell children specifically what to do in an emergency.  Explain how smoke/fire alarms work, and hit the “test” button so everyone has a chance to hear what one sounds like.  Point out the location of fire extinguishers in the home.

Practice your plan.  Go through every phase of the plan from children starting under the covers in bed, sounding the alarm, and quickly exiting the house to rallying at your meeting point.  Give your children a time-limit goal to beat.  Remind everyone never to go back into a burning building.  After everyone is accounted for safe outside the home then you can count your blessings and call 911 from your neighbor’s house.