Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday!

tips for bet ownersThe holidays are time of joy and sharing, but we need to be careful with what we share with our four legged and furry friends – some things we take for granted could actually be dangerous for them! Nothing can ruin a pleasant gathering like having to rush one of our little friends off to the pet emergency room — IF you can find one open!

Here are some great tips to help keep your pets safe during the holiday season:

No Bones About It!
Turkey bones – fish and other bird bones – can splinter and have jagged sharp edges. These types of bones can cut or puncture your pets insides. Besides that a lot of people don’t think about table scraps, but fact is human food can increase your pets chances of pancreatitis.

Sugar Free Baked Goods
While better for out waistline these foods can be dangerous for dogs! Many sugar free baked goods contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can cause dangerous drops in blood pressure and damage your pets liver. Be on the look out if your dog seems particular lethargic.

Chocolate
This delightful sweet is definitely a no go for dogs, especially dark chocolate. While it varies in every animal it’s best to simply avoid giving any to them at all – or make sure it’s beyond their reach. Chocolate overdose can lead to serious upset tummy at the very least, or even death if eaten in large quantity!

Oh oh the Mistletoe!
Despite popular belief poinsettias and Christmas cactus are fairly harmless to pets, however it ingested they can cause irritation in the mouth and stomach, especially in cats. Other traditional plants like mistletoe and holly however can be highly toxic if consumed. Most animals will naturally avoid holly, but in some cases having a new plant in the house can rouse their curiosity.

Tinsel Hung With Care
Shiny and flashy cats are the biggest ones to watch around tinsel. It’s ok to let them play with these things if you are watching them but be very careful about wrapping pets up in ribbons as it can present a choking hazard if the animal panics or play gets too rough. Make sure you’re pets aren’t let unsupervised with the shiny stuff as it can be a tempting treat to chew on; this can cause stomach obstruction.

Electrical Cords
For whatever reasons pets seem to love electrical cords – especially young cats and pups. Chewing on these cords is of course a dangerous shock hazard! Make sure you tuck away any extra cords you are using – or cover them with cloth or tape to help keep your fuzzy family members from thinking you’ve given them a great new snack!

I want your family to be safe and happy this holiday – including the littlest members of the family too! We’ve had a wonderful year and truly feel blessed to have gotten to share our joys with you; hope you will feel free to share your happy times with us as well! Hop on over to my Facebook Fan Page and tell me what you are doing to make this season special!

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Deck Your Boise Home With LIGHT!

holidaysChristmas lights are a thing of beauty, brightening our holiday with their cheerful glow; raising our spirits high…unless you are the poor guy who has to deal with actually getting those lights up (and back down!) each year. Here are just a few tips to help make this ritual of the season a little less stressful!

Safety first.
Emergency rooms are filled with well meaning lightsmiths every year who lose the battle with their ladders, or who have other light hanging related injuries every year! Never hang lights alone, make sure your ladder is secure; it wouldn’t hurt to have someone down below to hold it!

Cordage.
If you’re going to splurge on fancy lights spend that extra couple of dollars for decent heavy duty extension cords! This can help avoid circuit overloading; be sure to only link FIVE strings of lights together before connecting them to the power.

LED Lights.
Everyone knows LED’s are a greener solution, but did you know they can use up to 90% less energy and last almost 10 times longer than regular lights? You can also safely string more strands of this type of light together, the only downside is they tend to not be quite as bright as traditional lights.

Don’t Procrastinate.
If it’s Easter; and you’re lights are still up it’s likely too late! Take lights down sooner than later to avoid excess damage from sun, rain, and snow. The longer you leave lights out in the elements the sooner you’ll need to replace them.

Get Attached.
Permanent light attachments save time and trouble each year. If you generally will be hanging your lights the same way from year to year these are a great investment as you won’t have to bother with a staple or tack system.

Have a Ball.
It may sound counterproductive but many believe the best way to store your Christmas lights to it ball them up. Wrap them five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees around and repeat. Also, store your lights in a cardboard box rather than a plastic bag – cardboard will help absorb any excess moisture rather than hold it in like plastic will.

Need a place to hang your lights?! You’re in luck – I can help you find just the right winter wonderland to call your own! You can find any home in Boise or in the Southwest Idaho region right on my website. Go there to start finding homes now!

Are you buying the right home?

find homes in BoiseThere’s nothing that quite compares to the feeling of first stepping foot into a new home. The time and effort put in to finding the home, getting through the paper work and procedures have finally paid off and that big breath relief hits you. Ahhh!

But before that golden moment there are a lot of things to consider; as a lot of work goes into that warm happy memory, it’s important to make sure we’ve made all the right decisions along the way. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of it all but here are a few rational questions you’ll want to ask yourself before you rush into a commitment to buy.

Condition
Unless you are buying new or having your home built this is one of the big items to really take your time with. Will this home need a new roof or other major repairs soon? Will we be in a flood plain? Is the landscape something too lush and extravagant for me to handle on my own? Fixer-upper homes have tons of potential but you have to be ready to own those rough edges until you can smooth them out the way you envision.

Pricing
Even if your lender says the home of your dreams is within your reach you need to make sure you are actually comfortable with the monthly terms. The price of the house itself is not the only factor in the end cost either – don’t forget down payments, closing costs, and other fees (not to mention moving costs!) That new house “ahh moment” might not feel quite as fresh if you are living on ramen for the first year, so it’s always good to plan for more than is listed in the black and white details.

Size
Is the home you’re considering big enough for you or your family? Right combination of bedrooms and baths? Could the living room be a little bigger, or do you need a separate office? You’ll want to make sure the home you select is going to have enough growing room for your needs – in most cases you can expand later but that is often costly.

Creature Comforts
Does your potential dream home have central air conditioning or heat? Maybe you have fantasies about a heated garage floor. Will having a two level house make it difficult for visiting guests? Are there adequate bathrooms to accommodate your traditional summer time patio bbq fiesta? Make sure you give these things some thought even though in most cases adjustments can be made, there are too many great homes on the market to feel like you have to compromise.

Resale Potential
Statistics show that people move into a new home nearly every seven years on average. Life can throw some wild curve balls at us without warning; if you were forced to sell your home how easy would that task be? Having a home with high resale potential can help this item not be of concern. Whether it be the newness of the home, it’s location, or special features, generally most homes will have some element that lends them a little extra resale potential. Thinking about the future through home improvements is also a great way to not only protect but to also grow your home investment.

All of these things are good to keep in mind while you are in the home finding mode. Some buyers will fall in love with over the top amenities that often seem attractive in the showing stage but later turn into real headaches. There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the moon, your house should be as fabulous as you can imagine it, but it also never hurts too keep your feet on the ground while your head is in the clouds.

I love working with home buyers in Boise! Finding that perfect place is such an exciting time in people’s lives. I hope you will give me the opportunity to help you find the real estate you’ve been searching for – I specialize in some of the most exceptional homes in the Treasure Valley, including many great communities in East Boise. Visit my website today to get in touch or to see what’s available.

ASK YOUR REALTOR: Questions for Home Buyers

With the advent of modern real estate websites today’s home buyer is much more educated about the home finding and buying process than ever before. They are tuned in, plugged in, and logged on from the get go, but despite those facts there are still some real world questions to consider before selecting an agent.

In the Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers recently released by the National Association of Realtors, 81% of first-time buyers said the benefit of having an agent was that the agent helped get them educated about the buying process, and more than 50% of all home buyers said their agent pointed out features or faults of a property that they may not have noticed on their own.

Finding a qualified and experienced REALTOR® is the first big hurdle, but once you’ve found one you like there are some very good questions to ask:

1. What should I expect?
Not having unreal expectations can save you a lot of headache and heartache throughout the buying process. Talk to your prospective agent about how long the different parts of the process might take, discuss when you will have items you need to address. A well organized agent will be able to give you good general guidelines on time frames and materials to make the timing flow as it should.

2. Do you know a good mortgage broker, home inspector, painter, or other service provider?
A recent survey by the NAR showed that almost half of home buyers thought they received a list of service providers better than they one’s they could find on their own. Fact is a local agent should know a number of people in the home services industry to help you prepare and care for your future home.

3. Are you objective?
Having an agent who not only has your best interests in mind, but who also has an objective and detail oriented mind can be a real asset. A good deal of this virtue comes from simple experience; is a good reason to work with a well seasoned REALTOR® who knows not only the industry but also the area. Is it a good idea to ask for more money to cover repairs, are these repairs necessary, how much to offer — all these are the types of points that will need a skilled negotiator.

4. What did I forget to ask?
Is this one kind of like wishing for more wishes? Not at all! An agent with history will know many of the home buying pitfalls to steer you clear of to begin with, and they will also likely have a lot of information to share that you might not even realize you needed. It’s never a bad idea that once you are working with a REALTOR® that you fully make use of their knowledge – ask questions! A good agent will have answers!

In the end, even if you are working with an agent, every decision is yours to make but having a qualified real estate professional on your side can be a real life saver. Consider all these questions when looking for a REALTOR® to help you in your search for the perfect home and if you want to start finding homes in the meantime please visit my website for the best homes in Boise!

Boise Bug Blues

Summer time means a lot of things to different people. Warm afternoons shared with friends and family, swimming, fishing, barbeques… bugs. BUGS?! Yes, that’s right it’s Summer again and that means the bugs are back to pester their way into our otherwise lovely time.

From ants and wasps to the notorious mosquito, insects can be real party poopers. Here are some tips to help you control these nuisance creatures and make a more comfortable Summer!

Start from the ground up. The better you take care of your lawn, the better chance you’ll have fewer bugs. Tall grasses and unkempt flowerbeds are a haven for our pesky friends.

Collar the canines. It doesn’t have to be the traditional collar really, there are a multitude of great products that will help keep your hound flea free – making you both much more comfortable!

Standing water. Empty an standing water than you can, don’t leave empty containers out gathering the rain as shallow warm waters are a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Have bird baths or kiddie pools? Change the water out at least once a week; this will cut down on pests.

Oil change! Get natural. Bug repellent doesn’t have to be stinky or chemical based. There are a number of plant oils that bugs hate! Mix distilled water, spearmint, and orange oil then spray your arms, legs, and other exposed areas to help keep biters at bay.

Old reliable. Fly-tape. It’s not pretty at all but it will do the job to keep flies on the patio down or even to help round the up if they get in the house. It’s a last ditch suggestion but they can work!

Redneck TV. Your good ole bug zapper. This handy device is best used at night but will work all hours helping keep all kind of flying insect populations down; depending on the company you keep may very well be the most entertaining part of your next get together.

Lets not get kill crazy. Bugs can serve a real purpose in the magical circle of life…but that doesn’t mean you want them dive bombing your Aunt Tilda’s potato salad this weekend. I hope these tips will help keep the bugs from bugging you!

Got your own bug solutions? Ever tried the pennies in a zip-loc to keep flies away (does that work?!) ? Tell me about them here on this blog or visit my Facebook fan page to leave your ideas!

By the way, if you are looking for the best homes in Boise you don’t have to search very far. Visit my Integrity Group Real Estate to start finding the homes you’ve been looking for!

Hot Tips for a Cool Summer in Boise

hot in boiseSummer time has hit the Treasure Valley in a big way! With temperatures here expected to stay in the triple digits for several days in a row it may seem as though we went right from the winter chills to the summer sweats with little in between!
To help my friends and followers stay cool this summer I’ve put together some links to great articles full of ideas on how you can stay cool and even keep your pocket book happy along the way as well!

Deck Makeover for Under $300
Is your patio or deck a sweltering pool of misery come summer time? Think that adding features to your favorite outdoor spot is outside of your budget? Here are some great tips on how you can improve your deck and add value to your home for less!

Trim Your Summer Electric Bill
Sure as the sun is hot, the power bill goes up every Summer. While it is somewhat unavoidable as we must use more power to better cool our homes during extreme heat there ARE some things you can do to at least help keep the costs down.

Is Your Ceiling Fan Turning the Right Way?
Believe it or not this can make a BIG difference regarding how well your ceiling fan cools you and the room. Should it be clock-wise or counter-clockwise? How can you tell? Follow the link to find out!

courtesy of House Beautiful

Yummy Bonus Tip: Avocado Sandwich Recipe!
Perfect for the poolside palette this delicious vegetarian sandwich is sure to please! Tangy, juicy, crunchy, and tasty, this wonderful summer recipe from House Beautiful can be put together quickly and easily for patio parties!

This can save you thousands of dollars but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret…

Have you ever dared to look at the total amount of interest you’d pay if your mortgage went to a typical 30 year term?  Yikes!  Want a few simple ways to cut that interest down to size? Found this great article written by Barbara Bayer that I thought some of you might enjoy.

Send in extra money to pay down principal 

In the mid-1970s, Marc Eisenson coined the term “banker’s secret,” which promoted a cost-saving idea: Pay more than required on your monthly mortgage, and you’ll save a pile of money. Eisenson says, “It was a secret that bankers knew, but didn’t share with their customers.”

Here’s how it works. If you take out a $200,000 30-year mortgage at an interest rate of 6%, and hold it to term, you’ll pay a total of $382,537.97 for your home, including interest of $182,537.97. However, if you send in just $100 each month in additional principal, you’ll save more than $49,000 in interest over the term of the loan.

There’s another huge perk: You’ll pay off the loan five years and five months ahead of schedule. This strategy puts you in total control of the restructuring process, and there are no fees involved.

Another way to pay off your loan early is to use a bi-weekly payment plan. Banks and third-party companies can implement this plan for you, but they’ll charge hundreds or thousands of dollars in fees. We don’t recommend you pay for the service unless you lack the self-discipline to make the payments yourself.

With this strategy, you make half your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, which equals 13 payments a year instead of 12. With bi-weekly payments on a 30-year $200,000 loan, you’ll save more than $49,000 in interest over the course of the loan, and pay it off approximately five years earlier.

Other ways to easily do it yourself:

  • Make one additional mortgage payment per year at any time.
  • Divide your monthly payment by 12, and add that extra amount each month when you pay your mortgage.

Recast mortgage for lower payments

If you want to lower your monthly payment and have at least $5,000 to contribute, you can request a mortgage recast. In this scenario, you don’t change the interest rate or term of your mortgage, you change the principal balance, and the term begins anew.

Here’s how it works: After 10 years of paying your 30-year mortgage with a 6% interest rate and a monthly payment of $1,432.86, your balance is $200,000. With a mortgage recast, you contribute an additional $20,000, and have a new principal amount of $180,000, with the same remaining 20 years to pay it off at 6%. However, your new monthly payment is $1,289.58, for a savings of $143.28 per month.

There’s a small fee for this service — approximately $250. The bank gets nothing out of this except retaining your loyalty, so they don’t promote it. It’s up to the lender whether it’ll do it, so all you can do is ask. It’s also likely to be a lengthy process. You have nothing to lose, however, except a higher monthly payment.

Refinance your loan

The most common way to restructure your loan is with a mortgage refinance, where you replace your current mortgage with a new one at a lower interest rate. If you took that same $200,000 balance on your 6% mortgage and refinanced into one with a 5% interest rate, you’d reduce your monthly payment from $1,199 to $1,074, saving $125 monthly.

Refinancing may be challenging to get approved for in a tight lending environment, where you need stellar credit scores and a steady job history. You’ll also need to pay closing costs, which can run 3% to 6% of the loan amount.

These tips are appropriate if you’re current on your mortgage and have extra money. Struggling home owners should consider the government-sponsored Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) for mortgage restructuring.