Month: October 2012

Is Your House Haunted?

And What You Should Do About It

What WAS that?

Are doors open that you swear you closed? Lights on that you turned off? Sounds coming from places no sound should be coming from? Keep a journal and write down when and where you hear, see or smell something strange. Create some mnemonic routines for turning off lights, closing doors, shutting windows, etc. (If there are three light switches you need to turn off — turn them off and then confirm them in your head with a little ditty like “one, two, three — no lights do I see.”)

Who goes there?

Experts will tell you the first thing you should do if you think your house might be haunted is to research the history of the house, the land and the neighborhood. There may not only be other reports of strange occurrences — but an explanation. Go online, ask at your local library and if you have a neighbor who’s been around for a while, bring over a coffee cake and see what you can learn.

Remember Occam’s Razor

“The simplest answer is usually the best answer” — while not a wholly accurate summation of the 19th century “law of parsimony,” it is nonetheless generally true. When you hear banging in the walls of your home in the middle of the night, it is possible that the ghosts of home-owners past are making merry, it is more likely that your pipes are complaining of the cold, the heat or their age.

In other words, check out more ordinary (or “rational”) explanations with experts like plumbers, home builders and roofers for unexplained phenomena in your home before calling on the Ghost Busters to cleanse your home. 

For more on Occam’s Razor, check out this Wikipedia page

For more on how to tell if your home is haunted and what you can do about it, check out these pages:

3 Ways To Save On Your Homeowners Insurance

Part 2: Get the Most From Your Insurance While Still Keeping Your Home Protected


1. Consider Your Deductible

If your policy includes a low deductible, consider raising it — a higher deductible will almost always mean a reduction in your monthly premiums. While many insurance companies recommend a $500 deductible, raising your deductible to $1,000 can reduce your annual premium payments by as much as 25%. 

Whatever your deductible is, try to make sure that you have set aside that amount in an emergency savings fund to cover any out-of-pocket expenses in the event of disaster or accident.

2. Research Discounts

Many insurance companies offer discounts to its customers — call your agent to see if you qualify for any, such as

  • loyalty— maintaining an active policy with the same insurer for multiple years can result in discounts from 5 to 10 percent
  • claim-free— if something occurs that is small (less than or just a bit more than your deductible), consider not filing a claim as many insurers offer discounts to customers for every year they have been claim-free
  • policy bundles — many insurers offer discounts anywhere from 5 to 15 percent off your total combined premium if you purchase two or more (e.g., auto and home) policies from them
  • nonsmoking — some insurers offer a discount to households with no smokers

3. Improve Your Home

The more robust and secure your home, the less risk it presents to the insurer — when you’re considering a home improvement project, don’t forget to call your agent and find out if the project will have any impact on your premiums (and if you’ve received all the discounts your home qualifies for):

  • security— sturdy locks, a monitored alarm system, fire extinguishers in your home and smoke detectors can all result in lower premiums
  • weatherize — in heavy weather areas, home insurance can run 25% more than the average in the rest of the country; if you live in areas known for hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes, installing earthquake bracing, hurricane shutters and/or hurricane straps can result in a significant reduction in your premium
  • update — if you’re considering upgrading the infrastructure of your home, such as replacing an older electrical system, you may qualify for a reduced premium

Resources for Money-Saving Tips on Your Home Insurance

How You Can Get The Most From Your Homeowners

Part 1: Be Prepared Not Surprised When Disaster (or Damage) Strikes

1. Review Your Policy Every Year

Life changes and market changes can impact your home insurance policy — everything from having a baby to declining property values may mean the insurance policy you have in place should be adjusted.

Kiplinger’s 10 Reasons Your Insurance May Need A Checkup goes through items including

  1. Have you gotten married or divorced?
  2. Have you acquired any new valuables such as jewelry, electronic equipment, fine art, antiques?
  3. Did your teenager get a driver’s license?

New or changed circumstances can mean you should make changes to your policy — reviewing your policy at least once a year will help prevent unpleasant surprises.

2. Understand When You’re Covered and When You’re Not

As The Nest puts it “Insurance pays for sudden, accidental events, not for gradual decline and aging.” If a tree falls on your roof, repairing or replacing the roof should be covered by your policy. If, however, your roof starts leaking after 10 years due to age or general wear and tear, standard home insurance policies won’t cover the cost.

Keep in mind, too, that “wear and tear” vs “natural causes/disasters” can be differently addressed by different insurers and in different parts of the country. Policies in hurricane prone areas such as Texas and Florida generally do not cover roof damage that is caused during a storm.

If you live in a flood prone area (either living near the coast or large body of water or in a hurricane zone), be aware that homeowners insurance doesn’t extend to property damage caused by floods. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that only about 12 percent of homes in flood prone areas have flood coverage. You can obtain flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Progam. Earthquake damage also requires a separate policy.

3. Make Sure Your Policy Matches Your Needs

Your homeowners insurance policy should be tailored to your life and your home — if you’re not concerned with finding a temporary place to live while repairs are underway, make sure you’re not paying for “displacement coverage,” which provides reimbursement for living costs while you are out of your home.

Confirm whether your policy covers “replacement costs” or “actual cash value.” If you are covered for the “cash value” of an item, its value will be based on the value the item would have had — that is, if your ten year old stereo system is stolen, you will be reimbursed the amount that old stereo would cost. If you’re covered with “replacement cost,” however, your policy should pay to replace that stereo with a comparable brand new one. It’s a good idea to make and maintain a household inventory of the contents of your home (with receipts if you have them), including your clothes and jewelry.

There are online tools that will help you determine replacement costs for your home for less than $10:

  • AccuCoverage walks you through a detailed questionnaire to prepare a fairly specific report outlining the costs of replacing your home
  • HomeSmartReports offers a quick review and then provides high and low estimates for replacing your home, but doesn’t allow for custom features

Homeowners insurance resources

Next Week, Part 2: Saving Money While Keeping Your Home Protected

Why Indoor Plants Are More Than Just A Pretty Face

How To Improve The Smell and Quality of The Air In Your Home

 Indoor plants offer more than just visual appeal — they can make your home more fragrant, improve air quality and reduce indoor air pollution.

Plants make your home smell nice

There are a variety of low-maintenance indoor plants that will bring the scents of the fresh outdoors and Mother Nature inside your four walls.


(photo from Studio and Garden)

 Geraniums are a hardy plant with a subtle fragrance, geraniums can tolerate hot and cold temperatures, total dryness and are very resistant to pests. The main requirement for healthy geraniums is sunlight — about 8 hours a day — although many garden experts say that fluorescent light can be used to supplement natural sunlight.

For more information on geraniums, check out these resources:

·       How to Take Care of Geraniums in the House from Garden Guides

·       Outdoor-Indoor Geranium Culture from University of Minnesota Extension

·       Geranium Care for the Consumer (PDF) from Milmont Greenhouses

(photo from Houzz)

 Lavender is another fragrant plant that does well indoors with relatively little maintenance — and a lot of sun.

For more information on lavender, check out these resources:

·       Keep Lavender Indoors from The Herb Gardener

·       How to Care for a Lavender Plant Indoors from Garden Guides

Plants clean the air in your home

Indoor air can be 12 times more polluted than outdoor air — a result of pollutants given off by clothing, paint, furniture, cleaning supplies, adhesives and other common materials. In 1989, NASA conducted a study to research ways to clean the atmosphere in future space stations and discovered a variety of indoor plants that help fight pollution inside. More recently, more research has shown that certain indoor plants can remove VOCs and reduce ozone levels inside your home.


(photo of golden pothos from Just Pretty Deep)

 The snake plant, spider plant and golden pothos were selected for the ozone depletion rate study as they tend to be low-cost, low-maintenance and high-foliage plants — all three were shown to reduce ozone levels, equally effectively.

(photo of Asparagus fern from Better Homes and Gardens)

 In the VOC study, 28 different plants were studied and four proved to have the highest removal rates for VOCs — the purple waffle plant, English ivy, variegated wax plant and the Asparagus fern.

 For more information on plants and indoor quality, check these resources:

·       Breath of Fresh Air on Just Pretty Deep

·       Asparagus fern on Better Homes and Gardens

·       Houseplants Cut Indoor Ozone and Common Plants Can Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants on Science Daily

·       Houseplants Help Clean Indoor Air on University of Minnesota Extension


For the Birds

Well, the weather outside seems to be cooling down, and animals are preparing for colder winter months. You can help them with these great homemade bird and squirrel feeders. Hang a few of them in your trees and around your yard, and you’ll be sure to have entertainment all winter as you watch your new feathered friends eat from these feeders.

Stock Photo: pine cone bird feeder

Pinecone Bird Feeder:

Step 1: Hot glue a piece of string to the top of a old pinecone.

Step 2: Spread peanut butter on the pinecone (which will be your glue to attach other tasty goodies).

Step 3: Roll your pinecone in corn meal, dried cranberries, raisins, or peanuts.

Step 4: Roll your pinecone in mixed bird seed.

Step 5: Hang your pinecone feeder on a branch with the string.

If you don’t have a pinecone, use a bagel.

Slinky® Bird Feeder:

Step 1: Take a wire hanger and stretch the bottom out so it’s in the shape of an O.

Step 2: Take a pair of pliers and bend each end of a Slinky into a U-shape.

Step 3: Attach one end of the Slinky around the hook part of the hanger. (See photo for reference.)

Step 4: Now spin the Slinky around the hanger until the hanger is in the middle of the Slinky. Take the other side of the Slinky and loop it around the hook part of your wired hanger.

Step 5: Fill your hanger with peanuts, and hang it on a tree branch.