Backyard Privacy Tips

Hello Everyone,

Your house may have a beautiful outdoor living space, perfect for quiet morning coffee or fun evening get-togethers. But if adjacent homes loom large, or your home backs up on public land, you can’t truly relax until your “al fresco” space becomes a little more private.

It’s a particular problem for homeowners in close-in suburbs, where backyards abut and you may as well invite the neighbors to everything you do outside since they’re pretty much right there with you anyway. But even spacious yards can feel exposed, with neighboring lots impinging on personal space.

There are many creative fencing and landscape options that can help create a zone of privacy.

“Think screening’ before throwing up a barrier,” says Margie Grace, a landscape designer in Santa Barbara, Calif. “One of my favorite choices is a screen made of steel-wire reinforcing mesh mounted on wood posts. Let the wire rust for a great look, and add lacy vines. You’ve got a show-stopping art piece, plus the privacy you need.”

If you do want a solid barrier, Grace suggests a plastered wall, which can be custom colored, and can look traditional or contemporary. “Add architectural details such as screen panels or an iron grill; artistic details like tile mosaic, shutters, shadow box or a mural; or a beautiful gate even if it doesn’t go anywhere,” she says. “These help make the wall welcoming.”

Fences can be softened with vines, espaliered plantings and trained ornamentals. Vary the height of plantings and allow them to break the fence’s top line.

If a neighbor’s house looms over you, Grace suggests creating an outdoor “ceiling” with canopy trees and overhead structures such as pergolas, shade sails and arbors.

With greenery, decide if you need evergreen year-round coverage; if so, avoid deciduous plants. If a crisp formal hedge isn’t your style, consider an informal screen of plants, perhaps dual-purpose ones that will also provide fruit, flowers or greens.

Julia Fogg, a landscape designer in East Sussex, England, and author of “Creating Privacy in the Garden” (Ward Lock, 1999) finds hard fence materials to be sterile. “I prefer the softer look that the Japanese do so well – interwoven bamboo and willow with tightly bound knotted twigs,” she says.

You can solve concerns about fence-height restrictions or neighbor sightlines with double screens, ornamental grasses and slim, tall trees, Fogg says. Place the deck or patio “so you have your back to the problem. Foliage also saps up and absorbs noise,” she notes.

Avoid planting greenery that requires a lot of upkeep, the experts say. Before you buy, check with your nursery about pruning, watering, disease resistance and shedding tendencies.

Doug Jimerson, garden content editor for Better Homes & Gardens magazine, likes Emerald Green arborvitae, Gray Gleam juniper and Hick’s yew as screening plants for privacy. “All are winter hardy to Zone 5,” he says.

Trumpet vines and wisteria are great perennial climbers, but, notes Jimerson, “if you need quick privacy, opt for annual vines such as morning glories that will smother a trellis in just one season. Of course, they won’t last over the winter, but this will give you time to get your shrubs in place.”

And to deter trespassers, Fogg suggests a mix of pyracantha, evergreen honeysuckle and roses – thorny alternatives to a “Keep Out” sign.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
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Home Security Is Extremely Important!

Hello Everyone,

While it’s difficult to protect your home from professional thieves, most home burglaries are done by amateurs. These thieves are more easily thwarted if you employ some of these simple security precautions:

  • Plan to “burglarize” yourself. You’ll discover any weaknesses in your security system that may have previously escaped your notice.

  • Lock up your home, even if you go out only for a short time. Many burglars just walk in through an unlocked door or window.

  • Change all the locks and tumblers when you move into a new house.

  • For the most effective alarm system, conceal all wiring. A professional burglar looks for places where he or she can disconnect the security system.

  • Your house should appear occupied at all times. Use timers to switch lights and radios on and off when you’re not at home.

  • If you have a faulty alarm that frequently goes off, get it fixed immediately and tell your neighbors that it’s been repaired. Many people ignore an alarm that goes off periodically.

  • A spring-latch lock is easy prey for burglars who are “loiding” experts. Loiding is the method of slipping a plastic credit card against the latch tongue to depress it and unlock the door. A deadbolt defies any such attack. It is only vulnerable when there is enough space between the door and its frame to allow an intruder to use power tools or a hacksaw.

  • If you lose your keys, change the locks immediately.

  • Before turning your house key over to a professional house cleaner for several hours, make sure the person is honest and reputable as well as hardworking. Check all references thoroughly. If the house cleaner is from a firm, call your local Better Business Bureau to check on the firm’s reputation.

  • Instead of keeping a spare key in a mailbox, under the doormat, or on a nail behind the garage, wrap the key in foil — or put it in a 35mm film can — and bury it where you can easily find it if you need it.

  • Don’t leave notes for service people or family members on the door. These act as a welcome mat for a burglar.

  • If the entrances to your home are dark, consider installing lighting with an infrared detector. Most thieves don’t want to be observed trying to get in a door.

  • Talk to your neighbors about any suspicious people or strange cars you notice lurking about.
  • To keep your tools from being stolen, paint the handles. Thieves avoid items that are easy to identify.

  • Trees located near windows or shrubbery that might shield a burglar from view can be major flaws in your home-protection plan. Consider your landscaping plan in light of your protection needs.

  • Ask for credentials from any sales-person who requests entry to your home. Ask that their ID be pushed under the door. Many professional burglars use this cover to check out homes. If you’re doubtful, check with the person’s office before letting him or her in.

  • Do not list your full name on your mailbox or your entry in the telephone book. Use only your initial and your last name.

  • If someone comes to your door asking to use the phone to call a mechanic or the police, keep the door locked and make the call yourself.

  • Dogs are good deterrents to burglars. Even a small, noisy dog can be effective — burglars do not like to have attention drawn to their presence. Be aware, however, that trained guard dogs do not make good pets. Obedience training and attack training are entirely different, and only the former is appropriate for a house pet.
    Dogs are good deterrants to burglars. Even a small, noisy dog can be effective.
    ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    Dogs are a good deterrent to burglars.

Securing Doors

  • To help burglar-proof your home, install 1-inch throw deadbolt locks on all exterior doors.

  • A door with too much space between the door and the frame is an invitation for the burglar to use a jimmy. Reinforce the door with a panel of 3/4-inch plywood or a piece of sheet metal.

  • If there are door hinges on the outside of your house, take down the door and reset the hinges inside. Otherwise all a thief has to do to gain entry to your home is knock out the hinge pin.

  • You can burglar-proof your glass patio doors by setting a pipe or metal bar in the middle bottom track of the door slide. The pipe should be the same length as the track.
    A pipe or metal bar can be used to burglar-proof a patio door.

    A pipe or metal bar can be used to burglar-proof a patio door.

  • It’s easy for a burglar to pry through rot. Replace rotted door frames with new, solid wood.

  • It’s simple for a thief to break glass panels and then reach in and open a doorknob from the inside. A door with glass panels should be either fortified, replaced, or secured with deadbolts that can only be opened with a key.

Securing Windows

  • Protect your windows with one or more good locks, an alarm system, burglar-resistant glass, or many small panes instead of one large area of glass.

  • When installing a window lock, drip some solder on the screw heads. It will stop a burglar from unscrewing the lock after cutting a small hole in the windowpane.

In the next section, we’ll focus on the special steps to take to keep your home secure while you’re away.

Garage Security
Garages present special challenges for security. Here are some tips for keeping your garage secure.

  • If you frost or cover your garage windows, burglars won’t be able to tell if your car is gone.

  • Keep your garage door closed and locked even when your car is not in the garage.

  • Install a peephole in the door separating the house from the garage. If you hear suspicious sounds, you can check without opening the door.

  • Are you worried about someone entering your house through your attached garage? If the garage door lifts on a track, a C-clamp can provide extra security since the door cannot be opened if you tighten the C-clamp on the track next to the roller.

Burglers always look for signs that a house is uninhabited — and the longer the house is empty, the more vulnerable it becomes. Follow these tips for keeping your house secure while you’re away:

  • If your plans to be away from home have been publicized through a funeral, wedding, or similar newspaper notice, hire a house sitter. Burglars often read the newspapers to see who’s planning to be away from home all day or for several days.

  • Ask your neighbors to use your garbage cans when you’re on vacation so your absence won’t be so evident.

  • If you’re going to be away from home for several days — or even for just one day — adjust your telephone ring to its lowest volume. An unanswered phone is a quick tip that your home is empty.

We’ve covered home security — when you’re there or when you’re away. Now you can rest easier no matter where you are.

Protecting Your Valuables

The most obvious way to protect your valuables is to store them in a safe-deposit box or in a secure home safe that is too heavy to be moved. When buying a wall safe, be sure it’s fireproof. If you don’t want to invest in a safe, other less-expensive alternatives can limit theft potential:
  • A chiseled-out space in the top of a door makes a great “safe” for small valuables.

  • Devise a hiding place in an acoustical ceiling. Remove a tile and restore it afterward with magnetic fasteners or a similar device. Be careful not to leave finger marks.
    Devise a hiding place for valuables in an acoustical ceiling.

    Devise a hiding place for valuables in an acoustical ceiling.

  • Hollow out the leg of a table or chair for hiding small objects. Drill from the bottom, then cap all the legs with rubber tips.

  • Avoid obvious places such as mattresses, drawers, inside figurines, behind pictures, and under carpets.

  • Many police departments offer a program that includes home inspection, advice on protective measures, and use of an engraving tool to mark a code number that will identify your valuables in case of theft. Call your police department to find out if they offer such a service.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com

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Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio

3 Tips to Sell Your House in the Fall

Aliaksandr Nikitsin/iStock/Thinkstock

Hello Everyone,

Although the real estate business tends to slow down in the fall, the season still can be an attractive time to put a home on the market. If you want to sell your house in the next few months, it can be done.

Potential buyers—such as empty nesters or millennials who aren’t worried about moving after the school year has started—will compete for fewer homes on the market and will likely want to seal a deal before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Here are three tips to help make your home more attractive in autumn, so you can sell your house before winter comes.

1. Clean Up

As many regions slowly shift from a sellers’ market to a moderate or buyers’ market, you’ll want to do everything you can to make your house look its best.

Pay particular attention to eliminating clutter and safety hazards that can crop up with cooler weather:

  • Make sure your yard, walkways and gutters are free of leaves and debris.
  • Mow your lawn so it looks neat.
  • Trim trees so unexpected winds don’t knock down branches that could damage your home or hurt anybody.
  • If it is rainy, be sure you have a good doormat so visitors can wipe their feet and not traipse mud and water through the house.
  • If you already have snow, be sure stairs and walkways leading to your front door are not icy.
  • Wash decks and wipe down windows so they sparkle instead of appear streaked by rain.
  • Vacuum and wash down the fireplace, especially if it hasn’t been used in months.
  • If you live in a region where it’s still warm enough to use the patio, make sure the area is inviting and arranged with the views from indoors in mind.
  • Above all, make sure your doorway and the rest of the house is clear from knick knacks, bicycles and toys that make your home appear cluttered.

2. Create Autumn Curb Appeal

If your house’s exterior looks drab, you may want to consider painting it a warm color, planting seasonal flowers, or placing pumpkins strategically along your walkup to accent your home’s appeal with instant color.

Potential buyers will make an instant judgment when they see your home, and you want to be sure it’s positive.

While you don’t want to go overboard with fall decorations that detract from the home itself, a few displays like a festive front-door wreath—and lighting so people can clearly see the path to your front door—can make your home feel fresh, even in the fall.

3. Keep the House Cozy

Entering a cold house could leave an unfavorable impression. So warm up your home with a fresh coat of paint and set the thermostat at a comfortable temperature.

Another way to warm up a home is with light, especially as days get shorter leading into winter. Be sure to open blinds and curtains so plenty of light illuminates the home’s interior.

A few embellishments like red, orange or golden yellow pillows can breathe new life into dull sofa—or a fall centerpiece can highlight a certain area of the home.

While you don’t want your home to look like the latest department store display, well-chosen embellishments that give potential buyers the impression you’ve paid attention to the fine details and taken care of any problems with the home will help you put your best face forward.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with trying to sweeten the deal with the comforting aroma of a freshly-baked, cinnamon-laced apple pie or pumpkin cupcake to leave a lasting impression of your home as the potential buyer takes a bite.

    Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com
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Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio 

Home Inspection Checklist

Hello Everyone,

The Home Inspection is a very important step in the Homebuying process. Here is a checklist to remember what is most important.

General Home Inspection Checklist Items

  • Structural Elements.
    Construction of walls, ceilings, floors, roof and foundation.
  • Exterior Evaluation.
    Wall covering, landscaping, grading, elevation, drainage, driveways, fences, sidewalks, fascia, trim, doors, windows, lights and exterior receptacles.
  • Roof and Attic.
    Framing, ventilation, type of roof construction, flashing and gutters. It does not include a guarantee of roof condition nor a roof certification.
  • Plumbing.
    Identification of pipe materials used for potable, drain, waste and vent pipes. including condition. Toilets, showers, sinks, faucets and traps. It does not include a sewer inspection.
  • Systems and Components.
    Water heaters, furnaces, air conditioning, duct work, chimney, fireplace and sprinklers.
  • Electrical.
    Main panel, circuit breakers, types of wiring, grounding, exhaust fans, receptacles, ceiling fans and light fixtures.
  • Appliances.
    Dishwasher, range and oven, built-in microwaves, garbage disposal and, yes, even smoke detectors.
  • Garage.
    Slab, walls, ceiling, vents, entry, firewall, garage door, openers, lights, receptacles, exterior, windows and roof.

Home Inspection Checklist Items Needing Service

Home inspection reports do not describe the condition of every component if it’s in excellent shape, but should note every item that is defective or needing service. The serious problems are:

  • Health and safety issues
  • Roofs with a short life expectancy
  • Furnace / A/C malfunctions
  • Foundation deficiencies
  • Moisture / drainage issues

Home Inspection Checklist Items Sellers Should Fix

If you have a choice, it might be smarter to hire your own contractors and supervise repairs. Before issuing a formal request to repair, consider the seller’s incentive to hire the cheapest contractor and to replace appliances with the least expensive brands.

Although home inspectors are reluctant to and, in some cases, refuse to disclose repair costs, call a contractor to determine the scope and expense to fix minor problems yourself. No home is perfect. Every home will have issues noted or flagged in a home inspection. Even new homes.

A repair issue that will be be a deal breaker for a first-time home buyer, causing the buyer to cancel the contract, will not faze a home buyer versed in home repair. Talk to your agent, family, friends and call a few contractors to discuss which types of defects are minor. Perhaps a simple solution is available such as replacing a $1.99 receptacle, which can resolve many outlet problems.

Pat yourself on the back, too, for getting a home inspection. Some buyers feel a home inspection is unnecessary, especially if they are buying new construction. If a light switch doesn’t work or the air conditioner blows out hot air, those are problems you can see and test. The problems that aren’t readily identifiable to you such as code violations, a furnace that leaks carbon monoxide or a failing chimney, are the types of defects a home inspector could identify in a new home. Builders’ contractors make mistakes, too.

Cordially,

Scott Myers, GRI
Broker-Owner
Century 21 Scott Myers, Realtors
11830 Wurzbach Rd. (The Elms)
San Antonio, Tx. 78230
Phone # 210-479-1222
Fax # 210-479-1981
Toll free Phone # 1-888-868-1222
Scott.Myers@Century21.com

Find us: Web Site | Facebook | Twitter | ReachFactor
Check out our Blog: Living in San Antonio