8 Easy Ways to Start A Neighborhood Crime Watch Program

Courtesy of Realtor.com | Adapted from an article by Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Everyone wants to live in a safe community and a great way to foster safety is to start a neighborhood watch program.

“Neighborhood watch programs are one of the most effective crime-prevention programs in the country,” says Justin Lavelle, a safety expert for BeenVerified, an online background check platform.

With that in mind, here are some tips for starting your own neighborhood watch.

1.  Get to know your neighbors

Next door and down the block, it’s good to become acquainted with your neighbors. Get outdoors and walk through your neighborhood.  Be friendly and greet others you meet.


Welcome new neighbors and organize an annual or semi-annual block party—it’s a great way to interact with and get to know your neighbors and build a solid community.

2.  Compile a neighborhood list

“We hold a party twice a year where we have an opt-in neighborhood list with email addresses and phone numbers,” says Andy Weisser of Woodland Hills, CA. “There are about 70 families, and people can post things like lost dogs, LAPD neighborhood watch summaries, and road resurfacing details.” Having an email chain is a great way to spread the word of any news that affects the neighborhood as a whole.

3.  Create a neighborhood safe-watch Facebook page

“Choose a social media–savvy neighbor to serve as the Facebook page moderator and ask residents to post any criminal incidences (such as home or car break-ins),” says Lavelle. Make the group private so personal information isn’t visible to those outside the neighborhood.

Once you create your official neighborhood watch Facebook page, it’s time to get the word out. “Canvass your neighborhood door to door, and invite everyone to follow the page to stay up to date on meetings and events,” says Lavelle. A simple postcard or flyer will help let everyone know your intentions for the program.

4.  Be on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary occurrences

“Members of a community are in the best position to notice variances in the environment,” says psychologist Thomas Boyce, founder of the Center for Behavioral Safety in San Carlos, CA. “That is, neighbors typically know neighbors, and other people or things that look out of place can be addressed before they become problems.”

5.  Hold regular neighborhood watch meetings

Getting all of your neighbors together can be tricky due to scheduling, but it’s also one of the best ways to keep communication open.

“Plan meetings well in advance (e.g., monthly or quarterly) at a neighbor’s home or the local library, and offer a baby sitter—it will boost attendance,” suggests Lavelle. “These gatherings will keep everyone in the loop on current problems, plan strategies to combat criminal activities, and help residents get to know each other.

6.  Establish ‘safe homes’

Designate a handful of safe homes that children playing or walking home in your neighborhood can come to in case of an emergency.

It is ideal if the safe house belongs to someone who is retired or works from home. Make stickers for the front door or window, and make sure the kids in your neighborhood know which homes are safe zones.

7.  Limit door-to-door solicitation

Discourage door-to-door salespeople and other strangers from soliciting in your neighborhood. Lavelle notes that many burglars will use this method to case properties. This could be a good topic to bring up at a neighborhood meeting. Ask residents to put a small sign on their door that says “No Solicitation” to make it crystal-clear.

8.  Distribute a safety reminder sheet

People get busy and sometimes forget basic home safety practices. It’s a good idea to create and distribute a flyer with safety reminders like turning on exterior lights at night (a well-lit neighborhood makes crime less likely), locking cars that are parked on the street, and systematically checking that all your doors and windows are locked. And don’t forget to lock your garage doors at night.

I love to share important information for homeowners, and neighborhood safety is a top priority.  If you’re considering buying or selling a home, give me a call.  I have all the information you need on neighborhoods and values within these neighborhoods.


Got Pets? Tips for Selling Your Home for Pet Owners

Adapted from RE/MAX Blog

Lingering animal smells and fur can be a turn-off for potential buyers. Be sure to remove all signs of your furry friends before showings. Here are some tips:

  1. Holey backyard

Does your dog bury bones in the backyard?  Search the yard to find your pup’s landscaping efforts and fill them in.

  1. Scoop the poop

One misstep can ruin a buyer’s impression of your yard (and possibly home). Make sure your property is clear of any pet-related landmines.

  1. Mend fences

Check your fencing, deck, porch and exterior doors for any marks from scratching or chewing. Most can be erased with elbow grease and a bit of sandpaper, stain and paint.

  1. Stash the evidence

Collect your pet’s toys, bowls, beds and litter boxes and keep them out of sight.

  1. De-scents-itize

Ask your Realtor to sniff out any animal scents you may have become accustomed to. Light candles, use room fragrance plug-ins and hire a professional carpet cleaning crew to deodorize your home.

  1. Need a buffer?

If claws have scratched up your lovely hardwood floors, professional resurfacing is a good idea.

  1. Don’t leave pets home during showings

Not only is there a chance they may bolt through an open door when strangers stroll around, there’s also a liability issue. Find a neighbor who will petsit for an hour or so, or take your pet for a car ride to the ice cream shop!

If you’re looking for a home with a bigger yard for Fido, call me at 682.551.0336.  I can help you find homes with the features all members of your family will love.

Inexpensive Landscaping Ideas

adapted from Realtor.com, author Daniel Bortz

A home with a gorgeous yard is not only a source of pride and enjoyment to the homeowner, but will help your home sell for more if you decide to put it on the market.  A beautiful lawn and plantings will create an awesome first impression to a prospective buyer.  Using a professional landscaper to get your yard in top-notch condition can be expensive, but here are several inexpensive ideas for DIY landscaping

  1. Show your lawn a little TLC

    While overgrown plants and weeds can make a home look run-down, a well-manicured lawn signals to prospective buyers that the house is maintained well inside. So start by cutting the grass, trimming shrubs, and pruning hedges. Finish off by applying a weed killer for both the lawn and planting beds.

  2. Install drought-tolerant plants

    One of the hottest trends in residential landscaping, and so practical for north Texas yards, is sustainable design (i.e., one that requires low maintenance and less water).

    Since we live in an area with hot summers and little rain, check out the internet for suggestions on plants that thrive in hot, dry conditions. You’ll be surprised at how many there are!  By using drought-resistant plants, you’ll enjoy less maintenance of your yard and create a nice selling point to buyers.

  3. Use mulch

    Laying down fresh mulch in a flowerbed and around the base of trees can make a yard instantly more appealing. Not only does this layer of bark and compost enrich the soil and retain moisture, it also looks nice. It’s a relatively small investment for a big impact in the appearance of your yard.

    Some cities offer free mulch to residents, so check with your municipal office to see if there is a program available in your area.

  4. Buy plants in bulk

    You don’t need a wide array of foliage to make your landscaping shine.  Instead, select just a few varieties and buy in bulk to save money.

  5. Brighten up outdoor lighting

    Be mindful of how your home’s exterior appears at night. You don’t need an elaborate exterior lighting display, but a few strategically-placed foundation and bedding lights can do wonders. Your home will welcome you when you return at night, and exterior lighting is also a great deterrent to burglars.

  6. Hire a landscaper … for free

    For DIY landscaping, you don’t need to consult with a landscape architect. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as many local garden centers, provide landscaping consultations for free or for a small fee if you buy plants from them. You may not need to pay a penny to get expert landscaping advice from a professional.

  7. And finally…

    Working together in the yard is a hot and dirty job, but oh-so-gratifying at the end of the day. It may even bring out your playful side!

If you have some DIY landscaping tips of your own, please Comment!


Dallas Morning News Reports the DFW Housing Market is “Blazing Hot”!

Adapted from Dallas Morning News, author Steve Brown Real Estate Editor


Spring has just sprung but it’s already blazing hot in Dallas’ housing market.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area once again is on the list of Realtor.com’s hottest U.S. home markets where the most people are shopping for homes.


“Calendars might say spring is only a week old, but we’re already in the thick of the most frenzied spring home buying season on record,” Realtor.com research manager Javier Vivas said in the marketing website’s March report. “The median days on market for homes on Realtor.com in March saw the biggest drop since the end of the recession, and half of homes are now selling in less than 69 days nationally.

In Dallas-Fort Worth during March, it took only 38 days on average to sell a house listed for sale with property agents.

Realtor.com said the usually strong spring housing surge around the country is coming about a month earlier than usual.

In March, the nationwide median home list prices rose above $250,000 for the first time to $260,000 — 8 percent higher than a year earlier.

North Texas median home sales prices during the first two months of the year shot up 14% compared with the same period in 2016 and are at an all-time high.

I know EXACTLY what’s happening in the Arlington area housing market, and I’m poised to put my knowledge to work for you!  If you’re thinking about a new home this year, the time to make that move is NOW!


 

Sellers Discuss Their Mistakes & Regrets

Adapted from an article authored by Jennifer O’Neill , Realtor.com

Homeowners who’ve successfully sold their home often look back and wish they’d done certain things differently.

Author Ms O’Neill recently interviewed some real-life sellers to tell their stories so you can learn from their mistakes! Read this rueful list of home sellers’ biggest regrets, and remember them when you decide to place your own home on the market.

Take the time to put your home in top-notch condition

Regret No. 1: Not fully preparing your home for marketing

Serious about selling your home? Three phrases apply: Fix it up!  Freshen it up! And Clean, Clean, Clean it up!

One seller reports: “I didn’t spend enough time prepping our house for sale—purging, staging, or doing small repair projects. And I regret not planning ahead or getting real about what had to be done, and it ended up costing me precious time and money.”

Regret No. 2: Skipping the staging

It’s easy to see how staging impresses a buyer!

“I really regret not paying the money to stage my home right off the bat,” confesses a Chicago seller.

“The money that it cost us owning the home longer was far more than the price it eventually cost to stage it.” That jibes with the stats on staging–professionally staged properties spend 73% less time on the market.

Regret No. 3: Jumping at the first offer

Antsy to exit her condominium, another couple acted with their hearts rather than their heads. More than a year later, she regrets it.

“We were so anxious to move, we accepted the first offer before it even went on the market,” she confesses. “We went for it because we thought it was quick and easy, but I’m we would have gotten much more if we’d just taken a breath and let the market find our house.”

Regret No. 4: Caving to a buyer’s whims

Sellers often learn the hard way that it doesn’t pay to bend over backward for a demanding buyer.

“Our buyer was really difficult and wanted us to give on so many items,” another seller reports. “We also agreed to give the buyer money toward updating the roof so we were very frustrated on the day of closing when he wanted even more.”

That seller stood firm, and after a few hitches, the sale continued–thanks to an agreement between the two participating Realtors to appease the buyer by reducing their commission. This was a last-ditch effort to save the entire transaction from falling apart, but it is seldom done.

Regret No. 5: Expecting your new buyer to love your house

If your hope is that your buyer will maintain and lovingly care for your old house as you did, you may be in for a huge disappointment. You have an emotional attachment to your old home and may feel a twinge of resentment if you find that the new owners don’t love the house as you did.

If you encounter this situation, your best approach is to concentrate on your NEW home. You moved for a reason!  Rejoice in that new home!  Resist the urge to drive by your old house—relegate it to your fondest memories, but recognize it was in the past.  Although you have an emotional pull, remember that the sale of your home was a business decision with a successful ending.

Regret No. 6: Trying to sell without an agent

This sign is an open invitation to strangers to get inside your home. Do NOT take the risk.

You may be tempted to sell your home by yourself. There are many valid reasons this is not the correct approach.  To maximize your profit and get your home sold in a timely manner, while keeping the transaction legal and your rights protected, you need to work with an experienced agent.  Laura has addressed this topic on her website, and she invites you to read her article “Why Do I Need an Agent to Sell My House?

If you are planning to sell your home and buy a new one that better fits your lifestyle, please contact me, Laura Van Meter. I will guide you through all these steps and create a smooth and successful transaction.  I’ll save you time, reduce stress, and maximize your profits!

 

 

3 Reasons Why Some Homes Don’t Sell

Across the nation, and certainly in Arlington, homeowners are enjoying a Seller’s Market. You’ve heard the stories—houses selling quickly for top dollar after receiving multiple offers.  So what’s up with those houses that sit on the market for weeks—or months—and why aren’t they selling?

There are many reasons why a home doesn’t sell quickly. For starters, buyers are part of the HGTV generation and they don’t want to purchase a “before” house at a fair price.  They don’t want to deal with the mess or time-intensive and costly remodeling of a home they just purchased.  Today’s buyers are picky and they’re willing to pay top dollar for a home in good condition that’s priced right.

Even in a seller’s market, homeowners still need to impress prospective buyers in order to get those good offers. Here are three important things sellers need to address if they expect their house to sell in a timely manner:

Staging

This single item is so important because a third-party stager will make your home appealing to buyers. Hiring a stager is one of best investments you can make to insure a timely sale and the best sales price.

These photos clearly illustrate the dramatic difference staging can make:

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Staging + professional photography = A winning combination:

living-room3-before-after_fotor

If you’ve already moved out of your listed home, consider renting furniture for some of the rooms to show it to its best advantage.  Your stager can arrange for furniture rental.

before-and-after-terry-haas-home-staging
Don’t forget to stage your exterior!  Strive for attractive curb appeal and dress up your outdoor living space.  No matter how big or small, you can make it look inviting!

Professional Photography

Buyers are going to decide to look at your home based upon your online photos in the MLS. If your photos aren’t good, they’re likely going to pass on looking at your home.  Professional photos will show your home at is best.  You’ll get more showings, and more showings equal more offers.  If you need to pay for professional photography, DO IT.  Your investment will pay off with more showings and higher priced offers.

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With appropriate staging and professional photography, this den/bonus room could be made into an attractive room–sure to bring “Ohs” and “Aws” from prospective buyers.  Don’t skimp on costs of staging and photography!

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This is a very modest kitchen, but with staging and professional quality photography, it looks fabulous!

Price It Right

Overpricing your home is never good, for a variety of reasons. Agents that are active in your neighborhood know when a house is overpriced, and they’ll be reluctant to steer their clients into it for a showing.  No showings = no offers. Even if you get and accept an inflated-price offer, your house has to pass the appraisal.  If it doesn’t appraise, you’ll have to re-negotiate the terms with the buyer, which usually means lowering the price to the appraised value or losing the deal altogether.

So don’t “test the market” by listing your home at an inflated price. Doing so is like shooting yourself in the foot—and who needs that!  Price it right, and the offers will come.

Visit my website for more tips and information on listing and selling your home.

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Don’t Let Your Home Be a Target for Thieves

Adapted from FashionBean, authored by Mary Pimmel-Freeman

Coming home to find your house has been broken into is a nightmare no one wants to experience.

A recent study conducted interviews with several convicted burglars and their answers reveal what makes a home an easy target for burglaries. If any of these apply to you, try to make some safety improvements as soon as you can!

  1. Your house is empty during the day.

empty-during-day
Thieves prefer robbing a home during the day when no one is home. Some will watch a neighborhood for a few days to observe when and if homes are vacant during the day.  Others may just casually knock on the door to confirm no one is home.

2. You leave your windows and doors unlocked.

One thief stated that he often went into an unlocked back door. Another said he concentrated on college student’s dorm rooms, taking game systems, laptops and bikes, because students were notoriously careless about locking their doors.

While locked doors and windows don’t guarantee your safety, it will help deter any thieves that are looking for an easy target.

3. Home Security

wood-doors-replace-with-steel-door
Thieves can still kick a door in, but a thief looking for an easy target won’t want to attract attention by doing this. Installing a steel door is the ultimate way to keep your front entrance safe.

4. You let your mail pile up while you’re on vacation.

This is an open invitation for a burglar looking for an easy break in.

If you’re trying to show that your house is occupied while on vacation, be careful that you don’t overdo it. One burglar said he knew a house was unoccupied when the homeowner left every light and TV on 24/7.  It’s best to leave just one light and one TV on when you leave.

5. You have an easily accessible backyard.

backyeard-offers-easily-accessible-entry
Thieves want unseen easy in and out, and will choose the most convenient way to enter your home. Going in through a back window offers the best privacy, so a fenced backyard will make it difficult to gain access to the back of your house.  They don’t like scaling 6 or 8 ft fences.  The more you can do to slow down a thief, the more likely he is to pass by your house and keep looking for one with easy access.

6. You have a thief in your midst.

It may surprise you to know that most homes are not burglarized by strangers. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that 66% of burglaries are committed by someone who knows the victim.

One person described this phenomenon: “Sketchy son-in-law. Jealous neighbor. Drug addict daughter. These are the people most likely to burglarize your house, so be cautious about letting others know about upcoming travel plans. Try to hide information about your whereabouts from them. Don’t post your upcoming trip to Belize on Facebook where they can see it.”

7. You make it obvious that you have valuables.

The same article from the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing said that thieves are looking for the greatest potential rewards. You need to limit the visibility of your valuables and make it hard for them to be seen from outside.

So, keep your expensive stuff out of sight. Your 70″ flat screen TV should not be visible from the street. Your MacBook Pro shouldn’t be kept right in front of your first floor office window. It also helps to keep less obvious valuables in a safe place. Thieves admit to checking the master bedroom first for jewelry, cash, and other valuables. Consider putting your prized items in safer locations and in a safe that’s bolted to the floor.

Remember, burglars do not like being in a home long. These simple precautionary steps can slow thieves down and potentially prevent more things from being taken.

8. Your home is in a convenient location.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at the University of Albany also said that burglars pick homes that are convenient hits. They might look for a home with an easy getaway to a major thoroughfare, but they also like homes on the outskirts of neighborhoods where they have less chance of being seen by neighbors.

Thieves may also prioritize a home that has an entrance within easy access of an alley or street. Lack of visibility is another key factor burglars look for. Thieves are going to pick houses that have obscured entrances.

Corner houses with neighbors on only one side and houses that are concealed or covered by trees or architectural designs are more likely to be robbed. Houses that are hidden from the neighbors are easy targets—nobody’s there to catch them. Having poor lighting on and around your home can also make you less safe.

9. You forget to close and lock your garage door.

This falls into the same category as forgetting to lock your front and back doors. People may forget to close their garage door after they go inside or while they’re in the backyard mowing the lawn. Another individual noted that “thieves like to drive around nice neighborhoods, looking for people who left their garage open. They love a situation where someone might be mowing their backyard. They’ll quickly hop out of the car, run into the garage, grab as many tools, bicycles, etc as they can, and run.”

10. You don’t have an alarm system.

Alarm systems may be expensive, but they are a great way to keep thieves at bay. Most burglars agree that hearing an actual alarm would be enough for them to leave a home immediately.

11. You don’t have a dog.

Some serious thieves said if they had already cased a house, they wouldn’t let a dog keep them from breaking in, but others said that dogs would definitely keep them from breaking in when they want a quick, easy hit.

One burglar said, “People think a large dog would be a good deterrent, but I generally avoided those annoying small yapping dogs that never shut up. Get a dog that doesn’t like strangers. I don’t care if it’s big or small or threatening or friendly. As soon as one dog barks, the whole neighborhood starts barking and announcing a burglar’s presence.”

But be responsible. Don’t let security be the only reason you would consider getting a dog.  You are making a lifetime commitment to provide affection, care and a happy forever home to a new dog.  If you’re not able or willing to take on this kind of responsibility, then don’t get a dog.

12. And finally, get rid of that hidden key under the welcome mat!

I love to provide my clients and friends with helpful information regarding home ownership.  If you follow the tips on this list, you will be well on your way to having a safer home. Call me if you’re thinking of buying or selling a house this year.  The months of February and March are great for listing your home.  You’ll beat the active spring rush, and buyers who are looking at the market now are motivated.  They want to beat the competition of the spring selling season too!

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