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Posts from — March 2012

Care for Your Castle — and It Will Care for You

Your Smith Mountain Lake home represents an investment, as well as being a protective haven for your family and possessions. Have you the foresight to protect it? If you have been through an emergency or disaster, you know the importance of this question. If you have only experienced a disaster through the news, you can only begin to imagine. But like many homeowners, you may be asking how you begin to tackle the task of being prepared for emergencies? Begin by looking at the structure and systems in your home.

Roof, Doors, Windows, Walls, and Vents

Designed to keep water, wind, and other elements out while keeping the heat in and allowing venting for health reasons, you must know the basic state of each element. Roofs that are leaking or have branches overhanging them can lead to extensive repairs down the road. In hurricane-prone areas, roofs should be secured with ties so that the trusses are attached firmly to the walls. In cold climates, heat loss through windows and poorly sealed doors can be significant. Storm season in certain climates can spell disaster if you cannot secure large windows. Materials for covering large windows can be hard to find during an emergency, so those in storm-prone areas should consider installing storm shutters or having sheets of plywood on hand. During power outages, remember that a poorly placed generator near a vent can bring carbon monoxide into your home, which could lead to death. Get to know the structure and condition of your home for your own safety.

Foundation

In areas prone to earthquakes or tornadoes, there are special tie-downs that connect homes to their foundations, ensuring that the framework of your home will not slip from its foundation. It can be easily determined if your home is secured to its foundation with tie-downs, or if it is an item to consider doing. Understand the condition of your basement and/or crawlspaces and any hazards that might be faced there. Excessive moisture around your foundation can lead to mold and mildew growth that impose health issues, so ensure that there is proper drainage around your home.

Water

In the event of an emergency, knowing how to turn off water to your home could be key to preventing substantial damage if your plumbing becomes compromised. Additionally, understanding where your water comes from and the nature of various types of failures of the system will aid you in determining if you need to treat the water during emergency times. Public water systems can be compromised in times of large-scale emergency, so don’t assume your water automatically is safe for drinking and maintain an emergency supply of drinking water. However, if you live in a fire-prone area, you should consider if there enough water to support fire suppression efforts. On the other hand, if you are in a flood zone, do you have a basement that is likely to flood and do you have an escape route to higher ground?

Electric

Are your power lines buried or exposed? If your power lines are exposed, are there large trees nearby that could threaten your power supply in the event of wind or ice storms? If so, you may consider preventative tree trimming. Inside the house, do you know where your breaker box is? Do you know the health of your wiring and how much can be plugged into each outlet? Do you have GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) plugs to protect people from electrical shock? Is the house grounded? If you elect to purchase a generator for use during power outages, is it stored in a secure place and maintained well? Do you know how to operate it and do you have fuel for it? Is it wired into the main panel? Do you know the load it can handle?

Heat and Cooling Systems

How much do you know about the condition of your heating/cooling system(s)? Have you had your furnace and/or air-conditioner maintained recently? What powers your system and what would you do if it were out for an extended period? If your system is powered by natural gas, knowing how to turn off the gas to your home could prevent a potential explosion in the event of a leak.

Sewer/Septic

A topic that many homeowners would like to avoid, it is critical to understand how your sewer and septic might be affected by an emergency. Flooding or long periods without power might require additional tasks to ensure the long-term functioning of your waste water system. If you are without power, often alarms that would otherwise alert people of system overload are not operational so extra monitoring may be required until alarms are functioning properly.

Terrain and Access

Do you live at the top or bottom of a long or steep street and/or driveway that could cause a problem in icy or flood conditions? Is there brush nearby that could fuel a fire and endanger your home or other structures? Consider any trees that could fall. Could that large tree you love so much threaten your house, or trap you in or deny emergency crews access to you? In a large-scale emergency, if you are in a place of difficult access, you may be isolated for a longer period of time. Ensure that you also have an access plan in place. If your home has more than one story, stairs, an elevator, or other factors that can affect your family when getting help plan for the worst. Having emergency rope ladders in upper story bedrooms could save a life.

Communications Systems

While often not directly a part of your home, this system deserves consideration. Summoning help to you in an emergency could be one of your biggest concerns. Your home’s phone and internet may not be available in an emergency, and even cell-phone service may be down. Knowing about your cable or DSL system could help you in getting much-needed information. In power outages, many of these systems need to be reset or rebooted to operate, so ensure you know how to do that. Hand-held radios with batteries are often a useful way of getting basic information. Weather/emergency radios provide up-to-the-minute forecasts and information specific to your area. Additionally, having a communication plan or agreement with a neighbor to check on you in an emergency situation could ensure that someone knows what is happening in isolated areas.

Attics, Basements, Garages and Storage Areas

Knowing what you have where and how it is stored enables you to have what you need, in working order, when you need it. Avoiding these issues could contribute to the emergency. Gasoline that is improperly stored could result in fire or explosion, while in times of need having it on hand could be critical. Ensure that storage areas are well-maintained and free of hazards. Storing essentials poorly or in the wrong place could render them useless. Over-stuffed areas can create access issues, which could prove deadly in emergency situations.

Other Issues

If you live in a heavily wooded area, a low-lying area, an exposed area, a waterfront home or other place where terrain could constitute a specific threat — do you have a plan for the worst? Is extreme weather, fire, tornado, earthquake, flooding, mudslides, storms or other natural disaster something that you have considered? Lack of resources and community support for solving problems might turn your dream home into a real nightmare. Forethought and understanding, however, can make your home a beacon of hope for you and others if you understand the issues and minimize risks.

An Ounce of Prevention

Don’t assume anything, and go over your insurance policy with your agent when you renew annually. Understanding your coverage with regard to disasters like fire, flood, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or other natural occurrences can mean the difference of thousands of dollars in the event disaster strikes. Often special coverage is required and include limitations — make sure you ask about such things. Having an inventory of your home and possessions, in the form of a written list, photos or videos will aid you in the event that you have to file a claim – but be sure to keep a duplicate copy in a secure place off site.

March 29, 2012   No Comments

A Souped-up Laundry Room Can Make a Difference for Smith Mountain Lake Home Sellers, Buyers

One of the most dreaded chores around the house is laundry. Maybe that’s why when selling a house, the laundry room is one of the most forgotten areas to get in shape. The machines are often dusty, with detergent dripping down the sides and lint and old socks on the floor.

Yet it’s an area that doesn’t take too much time to clean and can really make a difference when showing your house to prospective buyers.

The easiest way to make a statement with a laundry room is by adding more energy-efficient washing machines and dryers. Recent statistics by the U.S. Department of Energy show that installing machines with the ENERGY STAR label will decrease water costs by up to 50 percent. There are also machines that automatically adjust the water temperature and the amount of water used for each load to prevent excess and waste.

Many new models are available with designer colors, pedestals and sleek designs, which can make a bold statement. When purchasing a new washer, you’re also going to need to choose between a front- or top-loading machine. While a top-loading machine requires enough water to cover all the clothes in its drum, a front-loading washer needs only a third of that amount because its drum is set horizontally in the machine. It requires less water and allows for larger loads, and it looks great.

On the downside, a front-loading washer is more expensive and can develop mold because it doesn’t empty dirty water as efficiently as a top-loading machine.

When it comes to dryers, new sensor technology is the rage. Dryers with moisture sensors recognize when laundry is dry more quickly than traditional machines and shut down sooner. This saves energy, cash and wear and tear on your clothing.

The use of steam washers and dryers for greater energy and water efficiency is also a growing trend. Steam machines offer enhanced clothing-care options such as short, steam-only cycles that help to reduce wrinkles and remove odors from clothing without using water and detergent.

Laundry rooms used to be relegated to the basement, but today, people are finding space for washers and dryers in more convenient areas of the house like the kitchen or upstairs, near bedrooms. Housing experts agree that installing a laundry nook will raise the value of a home, and make it more convenient as hauling baskets of clothing up and down flights of stairs become a thing of the past.

March 28, 2012   No Comments

Franklin County 4th Annual E-Cycling Day Set For April 21st

Goodwill®, Prudential Waterfront Properties, Earth Environmental and Civil, and Franklin Community Bank, in cooperation with Franklin County, will host the 4th Annual Franklin County E-Cycling Day on Saturday, April 21st from 8:30 a.m. – Noon at three locations.

This year’s locations include:

  • Rocky Mount Goodwill store, 1045 North Main Street;
  • Prudential Waterfront Properties, 13247 Booker T. Washington (corner of Intersection Rt. 122 and Rt. 616);
  • Franklin Community Bank, 400 Old Franklin Turnpike, Rocky Mount.

Once again the E-Cycling Day will focus on the recycling of computers, computer equipment, small appliances, and electronics.  In addition, confidential on-site document destruction will be offered at the Franklin Community Bank location.

“In the past three years this event has been a very successful,” states Larry Moore, Assistant County Administrator for Franklin County. “By collecting and recycling computers, computer equipment, small appliances, and electronics, we have kept 15 tons of materials out of area landfills.  This year we expect another large turnout and hope to collect record amounts of items.”

The Franklin County E-Cycling Day is an extension of a Goodwill partnership with Dell Computers and an effort to increase awareness of recycling and green initiatives throughout the Franklin County area.  Since October 2008, through the Dell RECONNECTTM partnership, computers and computer related hardware have been responsibly recycled by Dell with proceeds benefiting Goodwill job training and employment programs.

Acceptable items for the E-Cycling event include, but are not limited to:

  • Computers and Computer Equipment of any brand in any condition: monitors, keyboards, CPUs, printers, scanners, fax machines, printer cartridges, computer cords, and any related computer equipment.  It is recommended that donors remove all data from hard drives and other storage media before donating.
  • Small Appliances: toasters, microwaves, blenders, coffee makers, mixers, vacuums, food processors.
  • Electronics: Clocks, radios, cell phones, PDAs.
  • Paper: Shredding is available at the bank location only.
  • Gently Used Clothing and Household Items: Clothing for the entire family and other items such as dishes, artwork, collectibles, etc.

In 2011, Goodwill kept over 14.3 million pounds of material out of local landfills throughout the 31 county, 14 city territory in Virginia.  Through successful salvage efforts, the organization works diligently to see that the community’s castoffs do not come back to harm the environment. The revenues generated through salvage and recycling operations support Goodwill programs, which train individuals and help place them in competitive, community employment.

Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, a United Way partner organization headquartered in Roanoke, serves 31 counties and 14 cities in the New River, Roanoke, and Shenandoah Valleys.  Its mission is to help people and families in our community achieve a better life through work and independence.  In 2011 Goodwill assisted 75,734 individuals and in this difficult employment market placed 2,111 people into jobs in the community.

For over 25 years, Prudential Waterfront Properties markets real estate throughout Smith Mountain Lake and the surrounding areas. As members of the Multiple Listing Service, Prudential Waterfront Properties REALTORS® are able to assist buyers and sellers with all listed properties in a variety of price ranges and locations throughout the lake and surrounding areas. Prudential Waterfront Properties REALTORS® are consistent leaders in sales as well as customer and client service.

Franklin Community Bank, N.A. opened its doors for business in September 2002. Part of its mission is to support through active participation the communities we serve along with providing the highest level of service to help our clients achieve financial prosperity. We invite you to visit with us at one of our 3 locations in Franklin County and you will see why “your bank is here.”

Earth Environmental and Civil, Inc. has been providing environmental and civil engineering service throughout the region for 22 years. With large company capabilities and small company accessibility, our Engineers, Geologist, Scientists, and Planners keep our clients satisfaction as their top priority. At EEC, our emphasis lies in our ability to consistently provide quality service while effectively meeting budgets and schedules. Our experience ranges from project conceptualization through initiation to implementation and finally, the satisfaction of project completion.

March 26, 2012   No Comments

College East Super Regional Bass Tournament Coming to Smith Mountain Lake

Mercury College B.A.S.S., the premier college circuit of tournament anglers, announces its schedule and locations for the 2012 season. The College East Super Regional Bass Tournament is scheduled for April 13 & 14.

North to south, east to west, the circuit will cover regions that allow every style of angler to showcase his or her skills on the water.

Over 100 to 125 College teams from Texas to New York come to SML to compete for a chance to go to the Bassmaster Classic at Bridgewater Plaza, Moneta. Va. Tech alone has over 10 teams and bass fishing currently is the only nationally ranked sport that VA Tech has. Televised on ESPN U. “As a part of the team that helps bring tournaments to Smith Mountain Lake, Franklin County is extremely excited about the opportunity of hosting this tour. Fishing is big in southwest Virginia, but support of our college and university teams is even bigger. This tournament will be a tremendous plus to our community!” said Debra H. Weir, tourism/special events manager for Franklin County Commerce & Leisure Services.

For more information, visit http://www.bassmaster.com/news/2012-mercury-college-bass-schedule

March 23, 2012   No Comments

Real Estate Poll: Americans Increasingly Optimistic About Homeownership

Prudential Real Estate, a Brookfield Residential Property Services company, today released a new national survey showing that Americans are significantly more optimistic about homeownership than they were a year ago. According to the second-annual Prudential Real Estate Outlook Survey, a full 60 percent of Americans have favorable views toward the real estate market. That’s up 8 points since last year.

The survey shows that signs of increasing optimism are widespread:

  • With interest rates at historically low levels, 96 percent agree or somewhat agree that now is a good time to buy.
  • A full 70 percent of respondents have some degree of confidence that property values will improve over the next two years; with an 8 point increase in those very confident or confident compared to last year.
  • 63 percent believe that real estate is a good investment despite the recent market volatility; that’s up 11 points from last year.

The survey confirms that despite the recession, homeownership remains a central part of the American Dream. Eight in 10 respondents said homeownership is very important to them; only 15 percent said the economic downturn made homeownership less important.

“Respondents told us what our sales professionals see every day that, despite recent market volatility, homeownership remains integral to the dreams of most Americans and that consumers’ confidence in the housing market is returning,” said Earl Lee, president, Prudential Real Estate. “This is good news for home buyers and sellers, communities and our economy as a whole. As more people look to take advantage of historic interest rates and prices, we believe the foundation for a sustainable recovery is in sight.”

The survey also highlighted strong ties between homeownership and the community: 77 percent agree that homeownership strengthens a sense of community with 87 percent agreeing or somewhat agreeing that neighborhood comprised of homeowners have a stronger sense of community than neighborhoods made up mainly of renters. This is critical in an environment where two in three respondents believe community feelings in America are declining.

Among the generations, 94 percent of respondents believe that finding the right home and community are crucial to helping their family be happy.   Only a small minority of older Americans said the recent housing crisis made homeownership less important to them. Nearly half Gen Y respondents said it made homeownship more important. Gen Y’ers are particularly optimistic about the road ahead with 72%  expressing favorable views about the residential real estate market.

“Characteristically, many of these consumers, particularly Gen Y, share a firm sense of family and community,” Lee said. “It’s not surprising now that they’re embracing homeownership to build on that sense.”

The survey also highlighted consumer caution in a recovering real estate market: 93 percent of respondents said that the housing crisis reminds them that they must be more careful about buying and selling property. More than 90 percent of respondents said a good real estate sales professional can help them make the right choices about homes and communities; and 71 percent believe good agent representation is more important than ever, up 4% from last year’s survey.

Methodology: Interviews with 1,251 Americans who are “in the market” to buy or sell a home were conducted online by Palisades Media Ventures and Penn Schoen Berland, between Feb. 10 and 20, 2012. Respondents are aged 25-64 with a household income of at least $50,000, and either recently bought/sold a home or are considering buying/selling a home. The margin of error is ± 2.8% for all respondents and higher for subgroups.

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Prudential Real Estate is a Brookfield Residential Property Services real estate brokerage franchise company. Prudential Real Estate franchises are independently owned and operated. Companies are selected based upon outstanding performance records and high levels of customer service.

Prudential Real Estate provides franchises with business strategies using Operation Reviews as well as numerous benefits, including access to Prudential Real Estate’s Online Seller Advantage® program, designed to provide real-time information to sellers with the touch of a keystroke, and Online Buyer Advantage®, which enables consumers to easily search for property in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Prudential Real Estate is one of the largest real estate brokerage franchise networks in North America, with more than 1,500 franchise offices and 50,000 sales professionals as of December 31, 2011.

Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities and are used under license, with no other affiliation with Prudential.

March 16, 2012   No Comments

Be Mindful of your Safety and Property During your Smith Mountain Lake Homeselling Process

If you’re selling your Smith Mountain Lake home, you have enough to think about without worrying that your home isn’t safe, or that your things may be stolen.

Yet, whether from open houses or scheduled showings, strangers are coming and going in your house all the time. By taking a few safeguards, you can ensure that you don’t need to worry about such things and better protect your belongings in the long run.

Of course, the easiest solution is to remove valuable jewelry, fine art or collectables beforehand, storing them with a friend or family member. If that’s not an option, then find a place to hide valuables in the home or keep them with you in a suitcase and take the suitcase with you in the car every time you leave yourself.

This should also be done for personal information and file cabinets that may contain papers with your account numbers and/or social security information. And don’t forget the medicine cabinets, as this is often an area that people steal from.

You should always keep your doors and windows locked and when returning to the home following a showing, double-check that they remain secure. Often, prospective buyers will open windows or doors to make sure they work or to see another part of the home. Although it may seem far-fetched, there have been incidents where people unlock doors when looking at a home and go back later to steal things.

One tactic involves people coming to the house multiple times and bringing a new person with them, who explores rooms when the agent is being distracted.

“While one person has your attention, the other raids jewelry boxes and medicine cabinets for narcotics,” said Robert Siciliano, an ADT.com security consultant who offers real estate advice on his blog. “In high crime areas, consider hiring an off-duty police officer to watch the property during a showing. You can’t possibly watch everyone during an open house.”

It may seem like a silly time to install an alarm system since you will be moving soon, but adding a security system will not only deter burglars but can also be a strong selling point of the house. People like safety features in the home.

If you are selling a Smith Mountain Lake home in which you’re not currently living, consider installing motion sensors that will automatically turn on lights when it’s dark. You can also put a few lamps on a timer so it appears someone is home when you’re out.

Reach out to your neighbors as well and ask them to keep an eye on your place. It’s always a good idea to introduce neighbors to your Prudential Waterfront Properties REALTOR® so they know things are OK when the agent is on the premises.

By taking a few extra precautions, you can feel safe and secure during a home sale.

March 6, 2012   No Comments