January 2015

The Blend Real Estate Ten Point Vacant House Checklist – San Diego

Vacant House San DiegoWe’ve always said and strongly believe that a vacant, clean home sells faster than anything else. We take A LOT of vacant listings and created a ten-point checklist for our sellers to show them what we do with the home after it’s on the market. This list shows what we complete for all vacant listings no matter where they are located in San Diego County. The list is completed for every house once each 24-48 hours. Sellers love it.

Drive to property.

  1. Check the sign.
  2. Fill the flyer stand outside, replace any insider flyers or sell sheets.
  3. Pick up any trash that has blown into the front or back yard.
  4. Roll trash and recycling cans to the street and retrieve them the next day after trash/recycling is picked up.
  5. Run all faucets and flush all toilets.
  6. Rotate the lights, leaving one on at all times.
  7. Observe the neighbors, see what’s going on around the neighborhood if anything.
  8. Triple check all windows and doors to make sure they are closed and locked. Adjust all the blinds so they are closed.
  9. Once a week: run all faucets long enough to test the hot water. Test heat and air conditioning.
  10. Check the mailbox. Remove anything left at the front door.

 

We are always prepared to take on a new vacant listing, so all out-of-area owners can be assured that not only will we sell your home quickly for a top-dollar neighborhood price, we’ll treat the property like it’s our own. No you know why we’re always in our cars!

And we’ll always be the last one in your home hours before we close escrow for one last check of the property and our final round of “closing” photos.

Thanks for trusting us with your property!

Call to list today: (858) 452-2599 or email info@blendrealestate.com to review the listing contract that we send out to all of our sellers.

-Kimberly

 

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Fire Safety Prevention at Home: Being Prepared for a House Fire

MatchAs a daily print subscriber to the New York Times, that single decision alone has really changed my life. Constantly I am reading and sharing stories that make sense and are interesting. Mostly I share these stories on Twitter. Today, I am sharing one with you called Learn, Baby, Learn. It’s about the aftermath of a home fire and where you go to start over.

A reminder to all our readers: Blend Real Estate will videotape and photograph all of your possessions FOR FREE if we work together.  The flash drive of the video and CD of the photos are turned over to you in case of a future fire. And all your real estate documents from our transaction are also delivered on CD. Your CDs and flash drive should be stored in a fire-proof box {which happens to be mentioned in the article}. We want your possessions documented…insurance adjusters can get you paid faster and hopefully closer to what things are worth. Let’s prevent all fires!

This is from the January 7, 2015, New York Times, which is copied and pasted below. And it’s linked here.

Learn, Baby, Learn

by Steven Kurutz

Being Prepared for House Fires

Last July, Jeremy Slutskin and his neighbors in a four-story condo building in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, experienced a reverse miracle: A fire broke out in a top-floor apartment due to — wait for it — spontaneous combustion of chemicals.

“As a cause for fire, it’s up there with St. Elmo’s fire and lightning,” Mr. Slutskin said.

His wife was home at the time, and he quickly left his office and returned to find a chaotic scene. The streets were blocked off and fire crews were dousing his building. The Red Cross was there. Big men in polo shirts brandishing clipboards appeared, offering to board up windows. More men in suits followed, promoting their services as adjusters. And someone claiming to be a fire marshal kept calling Mr. Slutskin’s cellphone and vouching for one of the polo-shirt guys.

“This is all happening during the fire — flames going,” he said. “It’s just nuts.”

The owner of a television production company who considers himself highly capable under normal circumstances, Mr. Slutskin, 43, had no idea what to do after the blaze was contained and the fire crew left. Neither did his newly homeless neighbors, or anyone they knew.

“Everyone reached out and said, ‘Who else has had a fire?’ No one seems to be any wiser than us,” Mr. Slutskin said. The period that followed, he added, has been “a large leap of faith.”

As traumatic as it is to have your possessions incinerated, many people who experience a house fire say the most difficult part comes afterward. What follows is often a long and stressful ordeal involving a search for temporary housing, dealings with insurance companies, bureaucratic agencies and contractors and financial strain.

Jim Bertini, senior vice president at ServPro of Central Manhattan, a national franchise that handles fire and water cleanup, said overwhelmed homeowners often look to him for guidance.

“The biggest devastating piece, other than losing your domicile, is trying to put everything back together,” Mr. Bertini said.

And navigating that process can be more complicated in New York, where many people live in multiunit buildings, he added: “In multifamilies, you may have 14 different units that are affected. It makes it more of a complex claim.”

Stephen J. Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and a New York firefighter for more than two decades, said it goes against human nature to plan for a devastating event like a fire. Virtually everyone is caught off guard.

“Nobody ever thinks there’s going to be a fire in their apartment or house,” Mr. Cassidy said. “Even the ones that are prepared — who have insurance and family in the area — the property damage can be severe. Now what do you do?”

Many people will face that question in the coming months, Mr. Cassidy said, because the colder it gets, the more likely it is there will be house fires.

“Some of it is related to space heaters,” he said. “A lot of it is related to electrical cords. People have four, five things going off an electrical outlet. As a fireman, you know you’re going to go to more fires in the winter than any other season.”

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It was in February, three years ago, that Jennifer Maroney’s Cape Cod home on City Island in the Bronx caught fire. Ms. Maroney and her husband and three sons were at the Bronx Zoo when a neighbor called. The cause was never determined, though she suspects it was related to a recently installed dishwasher.

“When we got there the whole interior was charred and black,” Ms. Maroney said. “Basically, all of our belongings were destroyed. The only thing that was still working was my old MacBook Pro. The light was breathing in and out.”

Like Mr. Slutskin, Ms. Maroney, 41, was hounded by opportunistic adjusters and at a loss for what to do next. In the short term, she and her family were able to stay first with a neighbor and then with her mother, and they found their insurance company to be responsive. But they soon ran into problems and made rookie mistakes.

The adjuster they hired suggested they have their smoke-stained clothes professionally dry cleaned, Ms. Maroney said, which cost thousands of dollars. And with the insurance company sending them chunks of money to cover living expenses until their home was rebuilt, Ms. Maroney repeatedly ran to stores to buy replacement items.

“Looking back, I would’ve budgeted better,” she said. “Let’s buy cheaper clothes for the kids. Let’s go to a church and get dishes, instead of Bed Bath & Beyond. With things like the dry cleaning, do you really need it?”

Mr. Slutskin, too, found himself struggling with financial concerns as well as the immediate problem of finding affordable temporary housing while covering his mortgage. His policy awarded him $40,000 for living expenses, and the insurance company called to say they had found him an apartment three and a half miles away.

But although the amount “sounds like a ton,” he said, “we’re going to be out of our home six months to a year.” And the temporary apartment was in the suburbs.

“Three and a half miles away doesn’t mean the same in New York as it does if you live in Dallas,” Mr. Slutskin said, adding that he and his wife couch-surfed, stayed in a hotel and rented an apartment for one month before finding a longer-term sublet in Brooklyn.

Jeff Schneider, president of the Gotham Brokerage Company in Manhattan, said many people take out only basic coverage to comply with their co-op or condo board’s requirements. They also underestimate the costs incurred in a house fire or don’t read their policies carefully. For instance, most policies have separate buckets of coverage for living expenses, structural repairs and personal property, with different corresponding amounts.

“It may be worth it to spend a little more on insurance, so if something nasty happens it doesn’t mess you up financially,” Mr. Schneider said. “Especially if your apartment is an investment. It’s always more expensive and more time-consuming than you think it’s going to be.”

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Ms. Maroney and her family didn’t return to their house for a year and a half, in an odyssey that saw them living in a rental with mold problems and defending themselves against their insurer’s complaints that the process was taking too long. They might have rebuilt sooner, Ms. Maroney said, but she waited until she received a substantial remittance before hiring the architect. By then, Hurricane Sandy had hit, she said, and “all the construction companies jacked up their prices.”

The rebuilding process was further complicated by the limitations of her policy, which covered only putting the house back to the way it was before the fire. It turns out that the family hadn’t much liked the way it was. “We had a cute old Cape, but it was cut up in a weird way,” Ms. Maroney said. “It was very outdated. We wanted to do it better.”

A number of expenses, from installing large windows that overlook the Long Island Sound and a third bedroom to part of the contractors’ fees, they paid themselves. “When we get a new home and insurance, I’ll get a plan that goes above and beyond being able to put it back the way it was,” Ms. Maroney said. “But you don’t think of these things.”

As for Mr. Slutskin, his rebuilding efforts involved not only his apartment but the other 11 units in the building, and the building itself, which dates to the 1890s. Rebuilding each affected unit in a cost-effective, code-appropriate and timely fashion, he said, is like assembling a “giant million-dollar jigsaw puzzle.”

In a cruel irony, he and his wife had just completed a gut renovation of their master bedroom and bathroom a week before the fire. Much of that upgrade wasn’t sufficiently covered by their insurance policy; to return the home to the way it was is impossible. For starters, Mr. Slutskin’s kitchen cabinets aren’t produced anymore. And all of the original prewar details were lost.

“For us, there are small changes,” Mr. Slutskin said. “Like the entire living room is gone, so why don’t we move that closet?”

He hopes to be back home this spring. Until then, he said, he is still navigating what he called the “sprawling, intimidating, overwhelming” process that grew from a spark.

Balm After The Blaze

A house fire always comes as a painful shock and rebuilding is never easy. But there are a few things you can do to make the process smoother and save time and money.

Basic coverage can be obtained from about $250 a year in New York City, with broader coverage and higher limits starting at about $450 to $500 a year, said Jeff Schneider, president of the Gotham Brokerage Company in Manhattan. Renters’ insurance, which covers fire damage, is also widely available for $100 to $150 a year for a basic policy.

Be sure to set up the coverage buckets in ways that best fit your needs. Is $150,000 for personal possessions necessary, or is a higher amount better suited to structural and living expenses, otherwise known as loss of use?

Buy a Fireproof Box

When his fire was contained, Jeremy Slutskin had 20 minutes to go through his apartment and take whatever he needed. “You come out with a ball of yarn, a corkscrew and one shoe,” he said. “You just choke.” In retrospect, he said, he wishes he had been the kind of overprepared person who sets aside a metal box containing his deed and $500 in cash in case of fire.

Hire Help

Make sure you hire a reputable insurance adjuster and remediation company. They can help guide you through the complicated post-fire process. To do it all yourself is like taking on another job, said Jennifer Maroney, whose Bronx home caught fire three years ago. “My husband and I both work and we have three kids,” she said. “Those adjusters are like project managers: They are experienced in dealing with insurance companies and third parties, and can push back.”

Document Your Belongings

Don’t worry if it seems silly to walk around your house and take photos of what’s inside. It will come in handy after a fire. “When stuff is really destroyed, we find it’s very useful to have 20 or 30 digital photos stored online,” Mr. Schneider said. “If you can establish ownership, it expedites the claims process.”

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Furnace and A/C Control — Why I love my NEST Thermostat and CO Detector

Nest ThermostatEarlier in 2014, I installed a new gas furnace and central air conditioning system in my San Diego home. Believe me, it was mostly for the air conditioning. That alone, that treat of all treats, has been well worth this rather pricey investment. At the time, I went for the gold and had the installers put in a new NEST thermostat and a new NEST smoke detector/carbon monoxide detector in one bedroom. The other rooms have what you’d call “regular” smoke and CO detectors.

So the summer went by and enjoying my A/C was all I thought about. Until the winter and last night (New Year’s Eve, 2014) it dropped to 32 degrees in coastal San Diego. Brrrr!

These last few winter weeks have had me enjoying my investment in a whole new way. You see, previously I was completely content with my 1976 gas furnace, original to construction. I didn’t want to be bothered with anything new or be talked into an upgrade – it worked great.

Then my Lennox furnace began to get used in late 2014. It’s dreamy, WAY quieter, and always supremely controlled by my NEST thermostat. The experience of controlling the heat or cold from the gorgeous glass mechanism in the hall is one thing, but I can control all temps from my phone or any computer in the world.

I recently did just that while I was traveling — checking in with my NEST account online periodically to control the heat in the house for my cat at home. Indulgent? No. Free and part of the system.

The bedroom smoke and CO detector is beautiful. Every night when the lights go out to go to sleep, the NEST spins a beautiful color green once around the detector to let me know that it’s OK to go to sleep — it’s ready to keep working all night. I love this light trick and feel safe.

They’re not the cheapest products but they are truly the best.

Today I share with you a video to glimpse the world of NEST. Go ahead, splurge on yourself in 2015. This is an enthusiastic, non-paid endorsement!

P.S. If you’re thinking of selling, I may recommend that you install these prior to listing. Great wow factor. You’ll get every penny back. -Kimberly (858) 452-2599 or info@blendrealestate.com

 

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