When a Storm May Come Your Way….

Summertime is storm time in Florida.  While the official hurricane season begins June 1, most of the actual storm activity takes place in August and September, with some tapering in October and then all gone by November 30.  While storms can, and have, occurred in every month of the year, August through October are the most dangerous months.

What is truly dangerous is to have the attitude that it can’t or won’t happen here.  This attitude leads to the failure to prepare in even the simplest ways.  But anyone who has ever been truly impacted by these types of storms and who know the amount of damage, both physical and psychological, will never fail to prepare again.



Make your Family’s plan here!

One of the best sites to go to first is the Florida Department of Emergency Management here.  You can keep up with the latest NOAA releases but more importantly, you can Get A Plan.  After you click the Get a Plan link, you are taken to a series of pages where you fill in information relative to your own family.  (They do not store this information, they just use it to create a personalized plan for your family).  It takes about 3 minutes to input, then you print out the plan which includes Checklists, supply lists, emergency management phone #s and evacuation routing relative to where you live.

Storms have to be taken seriously and if you follow the information laid out for you in your own Get A Plan, you will weather the weather a lot better than 99% of the rest of the population.

The City of Seminole establishes a Red, White and Blue Initiative.

On March 25th, 2015, the City Council of Seminole passed a resolution authorizing the “Red, White and Blue Initiative”.  This is a program to increase patriotism in the city, but the means they are using is appropriate to everyone, where ever they live.

Since many of us have established spots on our own properties on which to display a flag of the United States of America, the webpage established by the city offers a great deal of information for the proper and correct display of the flag and the colors.  You can access the webpage here.

In reading through the Code (that is the Federal code, passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States), two things may pop out for you.  First, according to paragraph 8 of the Code, “the flag represents a living country and is itself considered to be a living thing”.  How should we treat a living thing but with respect.  And second, also in paragraph 8 of the Code, the flag should never be used in advertising, especially not embroidered on cushions or printed on temporary or throw-away items like boxes, napkins and articles of clothing.

The website also has information on flag etiquette and an etiquette quiz that was very informative and interesting.  If you are at all concerned about patriotism or proper display of the flag, check out the City of Seminole’s webpage.

Pinellas County is removing the Australian Pines from Fort Desoto Park

One of the interesting trees in this area of Florida is actually a non-native tree known as the Australian Pine.  It was introduced in the United States in the early 1900’s and was widely used as a windbreak.  Between 1993 and 2005 it has nearly quadrupled in Florida.

It is considered an invasive tree now, and it is especially not wanted near the shoreline of Pinellas because it very efficiently blocks all other plants from growing, therefore contributing to beach erosion.  It’s roots are matlike but very shallow, so while they work well as a windbreak where there is hard soil, in sand they can just be pushed over in a strong wind.

The link below takes you to a YouTube video by Pinellas County, detailing the reasons and the process.


3 Tips to Cut Your Water Bill and “Save” Water

One of the best ways to get folks to participate in environmentally friendly activities is to show them how to save significant money while conserving. Here are three simple things you can do to drastically cut your water and sewer charges.

First: Stop letting water just run down the drain.  We are probably all familiar with the ads to turn off the water while brushing our teeth. What if we all stopped running water whenever we aren’t actively using it for something? Start paying attention to how often you turn it on and then do something else, like stand there and wait for it to get hot. Or just let it run while rinsing dishes in the sink. Try catching the “not hot enough” water in a pitcher and saving it to pour into your filter pitcher or for cooking or for making big ice cubes.

Second: Cut down the amount of water you use in the shower. For under $5.00 you can purchase a quick shut-off value that you install between the hose and the shower head. Then get in the shower and wet down, turn off the flow with the valve and lather up, turn the water back on and rinse off. The valve will more than pay for itself the first month, even if only one person is using it!

Third: Adjust the amount of water you use in the washer according to the size of the load. But ideally, try to limit your clothes washing to full loads only. Use your dishwasher when full and not on half loads. Believe it or not, manufacturers have said that it takes less water to load dishes, then run a “rinse only” cycle after a meal than to hand-rinse  before loading the dishes. When the washer is full, run your cycle.

By using even one of these tips you can have dollar savings, but if you use all three you should significantly cut your water usage and have significant savings in your bill. 

3 Ways to do a Property Inventory

It’s that time of year when those of us in the south are very aware of the tropics. Someplace nearby seems to always be having some property damage related to weather, usually flooding from too much rain or actual damage to homes from wind or wind-driven debris. I don’t know which is more of a hassle, cleaning up the place or dealing with the insurance appraiser. One thing that makes the latter much easier is to have an up-to-date Property Inventory.

A Property Inventory is a file that has photos of each and every item in you home (that you would want to have replaced or be compensated for) along with invoices, descriptions or appraisals or each item. There are three ways to do this. But the following procedure has to be done for all of them.

Pull out two large pieces of cloth (sheets or blankets), one in a light or white color and one dark. Use these as backgrounds so that the items are isolated for the photo. Take pictures of each item or set of items. A sofa is an item (and probably doesn’t need the background) and your silverware is a set of items. If you have a collection of artwork or collectibles, photograph each of them individually, because each item will have a different value. In the case of silverware or crystal, photograph the forks and knives separately because forks have a different value than knives. Just be sure the photo shows the number of the items.

Once you have this process down, you are ready to choose your method.

Method 1. After you photograph each item or set, print out the photos and attach them to the invoice, appraisal or written description of the item. Make a file folder of these photos and documentation and put the file in a safety deposit box.

Method 2. After you photograph each item or set, upload the photo to a photo sharing website online, such as Google Photos or Flickr. Scan copies of the invoices and appraisals or descriptions and then upload them to a file you create in Google Docs or some other cloud based program. When all the docs and invoices/appraisals/ descriptions are in, link the photo of the item or set directly to the written document. This actually costs you nothing and you will be able to access the information from anywhere in the world that you have a computer.

Method 3. Subscribe to a cloud based property file. I use HomeZada for my customers. The property inventory part of the program is free and the ease of use and peace of mind is fantastic.

The program comes with simple software that you download to your computer, and apps that each adult in the household can download to their phones. You don’t need to scan anything, just take photos of the documents and upload to the items preset in the program or that you have added yourself. Everything is sorted according to rooms, closets or garage/yard areas and you put all the photos you want, along with the receipts, appraisals and descriptions in the correct place without having to create documents yourself. If you need to make any kind of insurance report, it’s as simple as uploading to your insurance company from any computer or tablet.

HomeZada has tons of other features that are available to you with the premium package, but the home inventory portion is completely free. I do not get any compensation of any kind from this company. I just happen to think it is the best closing gift for my customers so I give a year of the premium plan to each of them following the closing.

15 Things You Need to Know Before You Sell Your House

Actually, I came up with 22 things, but I’ll combine some for you. Selling a house can be a piece of cake or a bite out of a lemon, depending. On what? On these 15 things:

1. Is the title to your house clear? It most likely was when you bought it, but have there been any liens put on it since then? These have to be cleared up.

2. How much remains on your mortgage?  What remains gets subtracted from the proceeds.

3.  How much will your closing costs be? If your property is priced less than $200,000 you should figure 2.5% of the sale price, plus the amount you are paying the buyer’s Realtor. If the price is over $200,000, figure 2%.

4.  If you (or a previous owner) did repairs or upgrades to the property, did you (or they) get required permits? Did you get final inspections and a finaled permit?  If not, those will have to be taken care of before closing, and preferably before you put the house on the market.

5.  Where will you go after the sale?  It’s not a good idea to market the property before you have made definite arrangements for your future housing.

6.  Stuff! How much stuff will you take with you and what will you give away? How and when will you eliminate the rest?

7.  Do you plan to put the property on the local Realtor Association’s Multiple Listing Service? If so, how will you accomplish this and how much are you willing to pay for the service?

8. How about getting the listing featured on the other real estate listing sites? How much will you spend to market and advertise your property?

9.  What will be your process to determine your price? How will you know whether you set the correct price?

10.  State and federal laws require that you disclose any material facts that could affect the value of the property. How do you plan to do this?

11.  What is your plan to show the property? Will you be meeting total strangers and allowing them into your home? What if the buyer wants to see the property during the day? The evening? After dark?

12.  Do you know how to determine if a buyer actually has the funds or if the buyer can actually qualify for mortgage?

13. What if the buyer makes a verbal offer? What if the offer is a low ball offer?

14. Will you be comfortable knowing the buyer has professional representation (Realtor) while you are representing yourself?

15. Have you decided which title company or attorney will handle the closing?

If you have questions about any of these things, feel free to call or email me. 813-503-6145. marylou.galea@floridamoves.com

What’s Trending in Homeownership.

In past centuries, change came but it came slowly. In this 21st century change is almost a daily occurrence. We humans weren’t actually designed to have so much change, but it’s happening, so we try to adapt.

Some of the changes that actually are taking place in homeownership include the trends toward “green” living, the trend toward minimalism and the continual advancement of technology. We’ll be exploring these trends in future posts so keep an eye out for them.