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Tips for Tree Removal


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images-8If you have a troublesome tree on your property, dealing with it responsibly, economically, and safely is important. While you may own a chainsaw, tackling the project yourself can be extremely risky. Here are some questions to ask and tips for tree removal:

1. Make sure you need to remove it. Mature trees are good for property value. Before you go clear-cutting your property, be absolutely sure removing it is the right move. A certified arborist can help you make the decision between removal or sensible trimming.

2. Don’t do it yourself. What if the tree falls on your house? What if it lands on your neighbor’s car? What if you get crushed? Are you experienced enough with a chainsaw to handle it without injuring yourself? Hire a pro.

3. Hire a certified company. This means someone certified by the International Society of Arboriculture or a Tree Care Industry Association Accredited business. If the tree is near power lines, they’ll also need to be “Approved Line-Clearance” arborists.

4. Can you legally remove the tree? Be absolutely sure the tree is legally on your property before you take action. If you determine it is, find out if any permits are required to remove or trim the tree. Some communities have strict guidelines pertaining to tree removal.

5. Ask about trimming methodology. If the company handling your tree recommends “topping” the tree or uses spikes on their boots for routine tree trimming, find another company. Both can expose the tree to disease and result in serious wounds.

6. Get a detailed estimate from three companies. Nail down what they’ll do, how long it will take, and what equipment they plan to use. You need an apples-to-apples comparison to make your decision, and you might just find out one company takes greater precautions when it comes to safety.

7. Get references. Don’t rely on Yelp alone for a review of your arborist. Ask them for references you can speak to independently.

Trees are beautiful and essential to our ecosystem, but there are times when steps must be taken to deal with dead wood and other incursions. Do yourself a favor and treat your property with the respect it deserves.

Need a good referral for tree work? Get in touch: Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com 904-515-2479


How to Make Your Home Baby-Friendly


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You may not have kids right now, but chances are you may be entertaining guests one day who do. You can put your guests at ease and do your best to protect their little ones from harm by investing in some modest pre-visit baby proofing. Here are some sound strategies to make their visit low-stress and safe:

Mind the Power and Appliances
Outlets are enemy #1. Baby fingers are like magnets for electricity, so splurge on some plastic outlet covers which fit snugly into those empty sockets. If you have any multi-socket power strips around, be sure to cover those as well (or elevate them out of harm’s reach). Depending on the age of your youngest visitors, some may be able to reach knobs and buttons on appliances like your stove. Exploring hands can accidentally turn on the gas, so if you think your kitchen will be vulnerable, invest around $10 on stove knob covers.

Make Some Rooms Off-Limits
It may not be practical to baby proof every inch of your house, so make certain zones baby-free by using gates. Sturdy, simple, pressure-mounted gates will protect certain passages and prevent you from making any permanent holes in your wall. Alternately, use door knob covers to make even unlocked rooms less likely to be prone to an infant invasion.

Fight Falling Objects
Babies are all about testing gravity, and as they try to bring themselves upright, they’re liable to tug on anything within arm’s reach. This might include your entertainment center, bookshelf, floor lamps, or other furniture. Are there any precarious pieces which might tumble down and seriously injure a child? Consider pieces on top of shelves (like decorative glassware) which could be shaken down through modest force.

Curtail the Cords
Power cords and curtain (or blind) cords can cause falls, entanglement, or even strangulation. Tie these up out of the way or too high for a baby to reach from the floor.

Get Down and Look Around
A baby will put anything in its mouth. That will include choking hazards, dropped medications, or stray chemicals such as rat poison or cleaners. Shift your perspective to the floor and look for anything suspicious.

Some homes are more kid-friendly than others. If you’re looking for a great home for little ones, we can help you find one today!: Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside – 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

What is a Pocket Listing?


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soldNot every home sold gets a shiny new for sale sign out front. Some change hands quickly and quietly without any public advertising whatsoever. In the industry, these are known as “pocket listings.” Pocket listings are sometimes referred to as “coming soon” listings or “whisper” listings.

Pocket listings used to be the domain of the very famous or the very wealthy. People who liked to protect their privacy would typically work with an agent who could find a buyer among word-of-mouth networks of agents representing high-end buyers. Often this happened only in urban areas or in the luxury segment, but now in markets where inventory is tight and bidding wars are not uncommon, pocket listings are becoming somewhat more mainstream.

You might ask yourself: Why not advertise a home in a market where multiple offers are the norm? It can depend. In some cases, the seller may want a quick and painless sale, and would prefer not to go through the traditional process of cleaning, curb appeal sprucing, and open houses. When the seller’s agent happens to know the buyers directly, often a simple walk-through with prospective buyers is enough to secure one acceptable offer.

Sellers should understand that it’s possible for a pocket listing to generate a slightly lower price. While it’s not always the case, the trade-off for a quick, quiet sale may be worth it. If you’re considering a pocket listing, you’ll be asked to sign something which indicates your consent to avoid a wide-scale advertising effort. An agent has a responsibility to try and secure a seller the best possible price, and will want to make sure there’s a clear understanding.

One slight marketing advantage the pocket listing retains is the idea that buyers are getting special access to a property others will never know hit the market. For the seller, a pocket listing can also prevent the unfortunate experience of having a home’s value decrease because it sat on the market too long.

On the whole, casting the widest possible net for a buyer is the best strategy for securing the highest closing price, but if you’re more comfortable with a quick and quiet approach, you might want to talk to an agent about the prospect of a pocket listing.

Thinking of selling, but would like to have a conversation before you commit? Get in touch with our team today: The Hanley Home Team – http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com 904-515-2479 Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS

How to Plan for the Financial Security of Your Family


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Guest writer for The Hanley Home Tea Blog – Jackie Waters

As a parent, from the day your baby comes bursting into the world, you are going to want what’s best for them. As the saying goes, parenthood does not come with a manual or set of instructions. However, day in and day out, you try your best, even though your best may vary from day to day. There’s no way to predict the future, but there are certain steps you want to have in place to ensure that your child’s future is secure. Raising a child can indeed be expensive, but the rewards are far greater than the monetary costs. Here are a few contingencies to plan for in the future for you and your child.

Obtain a life insurance policy

Having a life insurance policy in effect for you and your spouse will guarantee that your child is taken care of, in the event of your demise (an estate plan wouldn’t hurt either). Having a policy will provide the extra protection and cushion your family would need, should a tragedy occur. Becoming a parent is one of life’s major milestones and it is imperative that you prepare you and your family for any seen or unforeseen circumstances. There are several life insurance coverages available, each varying in different perks as well as drawbacks.

There is term life insurance, which provides coverage for a certain period of time. If the insured should live past the term of the policy, no benefits will be made available. However if the insured should die during the term of the policy, all benefits will go to the beneficiary, be it your spouse, child or a split between the two.

Whole life insurance lasts for the entire life of the insured. It also offers the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis. As long as you, the insured, continues payment on the premium, the policy will remain in force. Making sure you chose the right policy that w\ill properly benefit your family is a vital task. If you are not sure which is best, it is advised to meet with an insurance representative to gain clarity.

Save for a home

The home you are currently living in may suit your family’s needs just fine, but you never know what circumstances could lead you to purchasing a new home. Perhaps you got a new job or your family has outgrown your current humble abode. According to studies, Americans feel that building equity, wanting a stable and safe environment, and having the freedom to choose their neighborhood are the top reasons to make the financial decision to buy a home. Regardless of what circumstances have led you to make a real estate purchase, it will take some planning. Determine how much you need to save for a down payment and set a realistic timeframe in which to do it. Allocate a percentage of your income to be placed in a savings account dedicated to buying a home, and watch as you gradually build toward your goal.

Start a college savings plan

Having a child obtain a degree is a dream most parents have, however the current amount of student loan debt is alarming. Many students are graduating from major universities and entering the real world with an unsurmountable amount of debt, with no surefire plan in motion to pay it off. Interest rates are high, leaving most college grads with a financial burden they may never be able to escape. Take action to ensure that this will not be your child’s future. Having a college savings plan in place eliminates debt for your child and grants you the peace of mind that your child will be given the opportunity to receive a great education, stress-free.

Starting early on your child’s college plan will also ensure that you won’t have to deal with the burden of paying for their education, should they not receive enough funding for their school of choice. Similar to life insurance, there are several college savings vehicles available, with the most commonly heard of being the 529 Plan. A 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by a state or educational institution designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs. Consider your options and start saving money for your child’s future expenses immediately.

Few things in life compare to the joy of starting a family. Becoming a parent will be one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling experiences you will have in your lifetime. Ensuring the security of your child’s future is one of the best gifts you can give them —along with lots of love, affirmation and guidance. Set your child up for success in life and your job as a parent will be perceived as well done.


Author: Jackie Waters



How a Love Letter Can Win You a Home!


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main-thumb-t-1800-200-lOn8kKfhqfcTcKdt2GwaLfGnC0jEjHmVHave you had a hard time landing your dream home in a hot market? If you’ve been through the bidding wars and have come up short, here’s a tool that might give you an edge in the next round of offers.

If you’ve ever experienced the disappointment of losing out on a home in a seller’s market, you want to do everything possible to keep it from happening again. One tactic many buyers overlook is the “love letter” written to sellers about their home.

Rationally, you might expect the highest offer will always win the home, but there are a host of other factors involved. Some are emotional. Some sellers want to see their home go to a buyer they not only trust to close the deal, but they also like personally.

Want to give yourself an edge? Craft a short “love letter” to go with your offer. Here are the basics you’ll want to cover in your letter:

1. Explain how much you like their home. Don’t go overboard, but prove to them you know the home and you truly appreciate their taste and the unique characteristics of the house. This might touch on improvements they’ve made or other aesthetic details.

2. Spare them all the things you might want to change. What you say is as important as what you don’t say. Don’t tell them you’re going to gut the place as soon as you close, add a second story, or rip out their garden for a pool.

3. Demonstrate you’re qualified to close. Make them feel confident in your qualifications as a buyer. Show them you’re pre-qualified for a loan, are buying cash, or have other reasons why you’ll be a hassle-free buyer.

4. Be humble and positive. Don’t give them a sob story about the four other homes you’ve lost out on. Praise the neighborhood and make them feel as though you would be positively honored to be chosen as the next owner of their home.

5. Check the letter for typos. Read it out loud. Listen for clunky sentences or awkward repetition. Have someone proof it for mistakes. Their confidence in your attention to detail is important.

A good agent should be able to tell you if the letter sounds like an honest appeal. Have it included with your offer as a cover letter.

Need help finding a home worth a love letter? Get in touch today: Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com The Hanley Home Team at Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside

BBQ Facts and Recipes


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Whether you’re a die-hard charcoal fan, or more of a Hank Hill “taste the meat not the heat” propane griller, I hope you enjoy these tips and recipes. One of the great joys of owning your own home is making a space for a little outdoor cooking. It can be hard to grill on an apartment balcony!

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (http://www.hpba.org/) recently shared these interesting facts for National Barbecue Month. You can see why grilling is so popular!

81% of Americans report that at least one aspect of grilling outside is easier than cooking indoors. The most convenient parts are cited as cleanup (49%) followed by the cooking process itself (40%).

The majority of adults (58%) agree that cooking out is more fun and relaxing than dining out and beneficial for avoiding travel (58%), dress codes (57%) and crowds (56%).

70% of Americans say cooking out gets them in a healthier routine, specifically by encouraging time spent outdoors instead of cooped up in the house. Outdoor cooking also encourages adults to make smarter food choices such as eating fresh rather than frozen foods (54% agreed) and cooking healthier food on the grill overall (40% agreed).

(Source: http://www.hpba.org/consumers/barbecue/national-barbecue-month-2011-summertime-and-the-grilln-is-easy)

Get your tongs, spatulas, brushes, rubs, marinades, and skewers ready. Grilling doesn’t always have to be about meat. If it grows, you can grill it, and adding garden variety fruits and veggies can transform a BBQ experience. Check out 15 amazing recipes, recently featured on the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market website:
Quick and Easy BBQ & Grilling Recipes

Also: Don’t neglect to “set the stage” for grilling when selling your home. Dressing the patio for cookouts can get your buyers thinking of the fun summer afternoons ahead.

Invite the neighbors over and get grilling!

Looking for a patio you can call your own? Time to upgrade from no back yard to a grill-worthy lot? Get in touch with us today! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com – 904-515-2479 Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside – The Hanley Home Team

Affording a Home


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20120705160210440496000000-oHome shopping can be tough when you’re not sure how much you can afford. If you’ve wanted to live the dream of owning your own home, but haven’t been sure where to start, we’ve put together a few tips that can make it easier to get a handle on where to start.

1. Tax benefits usually mean you can afford more than your rent. Interest deductions on taxes typically translate into significant savings. Many people find they can afford about 33% more than their current rent. To get an idea of what this might be for you, multiply your current rent by 1.33.

2. A home price two-to-three times your gross income is usually a reasonable place to begin. For example, if your household made $75,000 last year, you could begin looking in the $150,000 – $225,000 range to start.

3. Know how much you can put down. Ideally, you’d want to have 20% of the home’s price set aside for a down payment. On a $200,000 home, this would be roughly $40,000. While people qualify with less, it can result in higher interest rates (which translate to higher monthly payments).

4. Determine your “debt factor.” Lenders will often cite the 28/41 rule when it comes to your debt. This means that your mortgage (plus taxes and insurance) shouldn’t exceed 28% of your gross monthly income. Your total payments (credit card, car loan, etc.) plus your mortgage shouldn’t come to more than 41% of your gross monthly income.

We often work with first-time buyers and renters to get themselves lined up for home ownership. If you’d like to learn more, or have questions, we’re happy to help.  Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS, The Hanley Home Team – http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com 904-515-2479

Buying a Flip


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images-7Have you recently fallen in love with a “flipped” home? Does the idea of moving into a cleanly renovated space excite you? To see an old home tuned up with brand new appliances, gleaming marble countertops, and fresh wood floors can make other homes seem shabby by comparison, but be careful before you make the leap. There are some precautions you want to take before you close.

“Flipped” or “rehabbed” homes are homes which real estate investors buy in order to renovate them and sell them for a profit. Sometimes these homes have been secured after short sales, foreclosures, surviving relatives, or even at auction. For real estate investors, part of the profit depends on how fast and affordably they can renovate the property. In seller’s markets, there’s even more pressure to make sure a home is ready to sell, fast.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a flipped house, you will want to make sure you know a bit about the home’s history. Naturally, you’ll want to do all the due diligence you’d normally do when buying a home, but it can be useful to dig a little deeper. Here are some questions to ask:

1. What shape was the home in before it was renovated? Was it just outdated? Vacant? Trashed by squatters? Find out the state of the home when the flipper purchased it.

2. What deficiencies, damage, or other defects did the home have when the flipper bought it? Ask for a list of issues, if possible.

3. Who did the work on the house during the renovation? Contractors? Handymen? Did the flipper do the work personally? Are there invoices which detail the work completed and the money spent on the repairs? Were the appropriate permits secured?

4. Was anything left “as is”? What sort of issues were deemed too small or not vital to the renovation?

5. What was the legal history of the transfer of ownership? Short sales and foreclosures might have legal obligations on the flipper or other liens.

You shouldn’t shy away from a flipped home you love, but don’t go into the situation blind. We have experience working with buyers who have purchased flipped homes, and We’re be happy to help you navigate the questions. Let’s talk!

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS – The Hanley Home Team – Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Making Good Neighbors


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teamphoto-houseLiving next door to someone doesn’t make you a neighbor. It makes you the stranger next door! One of the great opportunities we have in our communities is the chance to build real, meaningful relationships with the people who live closest to us.

While I understand the desire for privacy, I think it’s important we realize that regular, helpful communication with our neighbors makes us both safer and paves a smooth road for difficult conversations we might face with our neighbors in the future.

It doesn’t take much to start off the right way. Consider leaving a nice note in their mailbox, a small “thank you” gift for looking out for the neighborhood, or some other “olive branch” act that will build rapport.

Small gestures such as a nice note about landscaping, an invitation to a potluck, or an “all hands on deck” community improvement project allow us to get to know our neighbors. This is vital when you consider the people around you are the most likely to spot smoke in a fire, clue you in to suspicious activity, and have the opportunity to share vital local information.

What’s more, if you build a positive base with your neighbors, when the time comes to have a difficult conversation (such as a nuisance dog, kids running amok, or intrusive lighting issues), you’ll have a buffer of mutual respect and goodwill to draw on.

If your opening conversation with a neighbor is a complaint, you’re setting yourself up for a long, antagonistic relationship. Who wants to live next to that?

We think a civil community depends upon our connection to our neighbors. We all benefit when we depend on and trust one another!  Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479