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Check Your Central A/C Unit Now, Avoid a Repair Call Later

Jul 2, 2018 by

Few household maintenance routines pay off better than checking out your central air conditioning unit before the hot weather sets in. Preparing the unit for heavy duty now will not only save on energy costs, but will up your chances of staying cool all summer and avoiding an emergency service call.

Air conditioning experts suggest these routine tips for ensuring trouble-free performance:

Turn off power to the unit. Turn off the switch and unplug the unit to allow for safe handling.

Clean or replace the filter. Most likely located behind the air return grille on the wall or ceiling in a central part of the house, the air filter can accumulate dirt, dust and allergen particles over the winter months. This makes the system work harder than it needs to, and costs in terms of efficiency and utility dollars. If the filter is disposable, replace it, and keep a couple more on hand for replacement every two months during use. If the filter is reusable, clean it in a large container filled with warm water and dish soap. Then spray it with a garden hose to remove any remaining particles and let it dry before replacing it.

Clean the coils. Remove the front cover of the A/C unit outdoors. Spray some air conditioner cleaner onto the coils and allow it to work per product instructions. Then spray with a garden hose to rinse off the cleaner and use a soft rag to dry the coils.

Check the coil fins. Inspect the coils for any damage, and use a fin comb or gentle manipulation to straighten out any coils that may be bent. Be careful, because the fins are delicate and can be easily damaged if too much pressure is applied.

Replace the grille and plug in the power. Turn on the switch and get ready to enjoy a summer of trouble-free cooling.

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Where to Check for Unclaimed Money

Mar 12, 2018 by

Found money is a gift. And with the internet, it’s easier than ever to find it.

Unclaimed assets may be sitting somewhere in your name, waiting for you to find and claim them. With some simple online searches, you can look for unclaimed money in seconds and possibly find a windfall.

Unclaimed money can come from a family member who has died. They may have a life insurance policy, retirement benefit and other policies you may not know about that are legally yours as an heir. Here are some resources for finding missing, unclaimed money:

Two websites offer free, multi-state searches for unclaimed property:

Both are simple to use. You only enter your first and last name, and the state where you live—a free government search for missing money in your name is done in seconds.

Missing Money is a database of governmental unclaimed property records. They include bank accounts, safe-deposit box contents, stocks, mutual funds, unwashed checks and wages, insurance policies, CDs, utility deposits, and escrow accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has a free database to search for bank accounts or safe deposit boxes in your name or the name of a loved one who has died.

Paper Statements
Those overstuffed filing cabinets and drawers that you or a relative have been meaning to organize for years may be full of old paper statements from banks, life insurance companies and other businesses that may be holding money owed to you.

Anything that was reported to the IRS on a tax form could be an area where unclaimed money could be hiding. Also, be on the lookout for pay stubs, pension deduction and 401(k) contributions. They may show if a former employee owes a benefit.

An Old Pension Plan
If your former employee offered a pension plan but the company has gone out of business, you may have unclaimed pension benefits waiting for you.

Contact your former employer if you can find it. The company should also be looking for you. If it can’t find you, the pension money goes to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a government agency that protects retirement income.

Go to the PBGC’s unclaimed pensions database to see if you’re on its list from your former employer or as a beneficiary.

Life Insurance Policy
There isn’t a national database of life insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute has 12 ways to make finding life insurance documents for a deceased relative easier. They include searching for insurance-related documents, contacting financial advisors, contacting previous employers and contacting state insurance departments, such as through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners Life Insurance Company Location System.

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How to Check If a Debt Collector Is Legitimate

Jun 30, 2017 by

Figures from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau show that about 70 million people—more than a quarter of adults in the United States—either have a debt in collection or have been contacted about one.

Some of those people are wrongly contacted by debt collectors. Reasons include contacting the wrong person, for the wrong amount, or for debt that can’t legally be enforced, according to the CFPB.

Some calls are from debt collectors who aren’t legitimate and don’t represent an original creditor or don’t own the debt. In other words, they’re outright scams.

There are a few warning signs that a debt collector isn’t legitimate. Here are a few, according to the CFPB:

They hang up when you question them
Ask the caller for their name, company, street address and telephone number. If your state licenses debt collectors, ask for their professional license number. If they won’t give you any of that information, or they hang up when you ask for such information, then it’s probably a scam.

Don’t give personal, financial information or money to the caller until you’ve confirmed they’re legit.

Criminal charges threatened
Legitimate debt collectors shouldn’t have to claim that they’ll have you arrested.

You don’t recognize the debt
If debt collectors refuse to give you information about your debt or you don’t recognize the debt, you can request more information in writing before you pay.

Don’t discuss any debt until you get a written “validation notice,” the CFPB says. The notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor you owe, and a description of certain rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

They ask for personal information
Any caller who asks for personal information should be avoided, including fake debt collectors.

This can include a request to confirm personal financial or other sensitive information such as your bank account, credit card or Social Security number. Scam artists can use this information to commit identity theft and charge your credit cards or open new credit card or checking accounts in your name.

They won’t stop contacting you
If you don’t want a debt collector to call you anymore — whether they’re legit or a fraud—you can ask them to stop calling you. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act requires them to stop contacting you if you tell them in writing to stop.

If it’s a legitimate debt, that doesn’t mean the debt will go away. These tips will help if you are being wrongly contacted.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Contact me today for any of your real estate questions!

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Looking for Some Family-Friendly St. Paddy’s Inspiration? Check Out These 3 Ideas

Mar 14, 2017 by

Whether or not you have Irish heritage in your blood, many Americans love to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day. But a holiday often synonymous with drinking copious amounts of green beer at the local Irish pub may not feel like the most family friendly to those with young children. Below are some suggestions to help you celebrate this beloved holiday family-style.

Plan a history project. Not many people know the real history behind St. Patrick’s Day. Depending on the age of your kids, suggest a fun family discovery project. Research the day together and present your findings. Did you know that Saint Patrick was not in fact Irish?

Make your own parade. If your town doesn’t have an official St. Paddy’s Day parade, make your own. Gather your kids’ friends (and their parents!), put together some decorations, balloons and signs, and hit the sidewalks of your neighborhood. For safety’s sake, be sure to stay off the road.

Cook a meal. Spend time researching authentic Irish meals. Make a list, hit the grocery stores, and do some cooking together. Irish soda bread and stew, anyone?

Interested in housing and real estate tips? Feel free to contact me directly.

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Do a Foundation Check: 5 Things to Watch For

Feb 6, 2017 by

concrete-1600535_1280Take a closer look at the home’s foundation before buying, says Matt Stock, president of U.S. Waterproofing, based in the Chicago area.

An undisclosed structural foundation repair could leave a new buyer facing a price tag of $ 20,000 or more.

“We’ve seen foundations sink 8 inches,” says Stock. “That was a $ 150,000 repair for the homeowner.”

Stock offers the following tips on how to detect foundation issues on your own and when to call in an inspector for further investigation:

1. Does it smell like mold or mildew? A foundation leak could be the cause.

2. Look for cracks in outside foundation outside and cracks in brickwork. Do you notice a leaning or tilting chimney?

3. Investigate the driveway and garage door too as well as the concrete patios looking for cracks as well.

4. In the basement, are there signs of water damage (e.g. peeling paint; chalky deposits left after water dries)?

5. Do doors or windows stick when opening/shutting? That is a tell tale sign of foundation damage.

If you suspect any issues, be sure to have a licensed home inspector do a thorough inspection of the foundation.

“The last thing we want people to go through is a surprise $ 30,000 foundation repair charge upon moving into their dream home,” Stock says.

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