Month: September 2013

Where to hide a spare house key


Have you ever locked yourself out of the house with no spare to get you back in? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. It’s a fairly common occurrence.

By hiding a key somewhere on or near your property, you’ll be able to get back in quickly without spending a ton of money. At least not as much as it costs to get a locksmith out to open the door.

Where NOT to hide a spare key

Because it’s so common to hide a key in these spots, don’t do it. Anyone who wants to break in will look here:

  • Under the doormat
  • Above the door jamb
  • In the mailbox
  • In a fake rock

Where you should hide a key

At a neighbor’s

Aaaahhh… the tried and true. If you know your neighbor and can trust them, by all means, do this.

In a crevice in a brick or rock wall

Because house keys are usually flat, they fit into small places easily. Make sure it’s inside far enough that you can’t see it unless you’re really looking for it.

Between landscaping railroad ties or rock

Again, make sure it’s inside far enough that you can’t see it unless you’re really looking for it AND so that pets bumping against it or heavy wind or rain can’t knock it out.

Buried in the flower bed

This is a great place to hide a spare key. To protect it from the weather, put it in a small plastic bag or a metal box before you bury it. And don’t forget to mark it!

In the doghouse

If you have an unfriendly dog tied up outside to help protect your home, use his/her personality to protect your spare house key as well.

There are some good products available at your local home improvement store that are perfect for hiding a spare key. You might even consider a REALTOR’s lock. It’s a small box with a combination on the outside. Put the key in it and hide it somewhere in the back yard.

By planning and spending a few bucks, you’ll save yourself some money on an emergency visit from a locksmith.

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Making your home more secure without spending a lot


The easiest way to keep from getting robbed is to make it more difficult for burglars to get in, or to make them think that it will be difficult to get in. Improving your home’s security doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Check your locks

It seems simple, but a lot of people don’t. Burglars will look for the easiest way in and if they don’t have to break anything in order to break in, it’s better for them. Make sure all the windows have locks. Buy high-quality deadbolts for the front and back doors. If you have a sliding patio door, make sure that there is a locking system installed that prevents it from being opened or lifted off its track.

Be careful what you post

Social media offers you the opportunity to let your friends and family know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, it also offers others the opportunity to know what you’re doing and when. Refrain from posting about your vacation until you’re back.

Let there be light

Burglars prefer to work without being seen. A motion detector light is an easy security improvement that you can make yourself. You can pick one up for about $20 at any home improvement or hardware store.

Put a stop to it

Vacation offers a great opportunity for a burglar because they would prefer that you’re not there when they’re working. Nothing screams “Vacation” like a mailbox overflowing or a pile of newspapers. When you’re planning your trip, make sure to make arrangements for a neighbor to pick up your mail and papers or stop delivery while you’re gone.

Here’s your sign

Look, burglars aren’t rocket scientists. Sometimes they can be deterred by something as simple as a sign. Seriously! You can buy a sign for a fake security company at home improvement and hardware stores that says “Protected by CQRT Home Services” and they’ll buy it. Put a sticker that says “Beware of Dog” on the door. Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it works.

With just a few, low-cost home improvement projects, and by being cognizant of what thieves are looking for, your home and everything in it will be safer. Best of all, it won’t cost a lot.

Four reasons to lose your rake this fall


Labor Day signified the beginning of fall. With the change of season, if you’ve got great shade trees as part of the landscape, it means you’ll have to rid your yard of all those leaves in a few weeks.

Put the rake away, though. There are three advantages to mulching those leaves rather than raking and bagging them.

Mulching feeds your lawn

One of the secrets to creating a lawn that will be the envy of every other homeowner in the neighborhood is to make sure to give it the nutrients it needs to turn lush and green. To do so, you have to feed it twice a year; once in the spring to kick-start it and once in the fall to sustain it through the winter.

In the spring, the weed and feed you find at the home improvement store or nursery is great. But in the fall, nature will provide all the nutrients your lawn needs in the form of clippings and leaves.

Mulching saves you time

Think back to last fall. Did you end up raking and bagging multiple times? It seems like trees drop their leaves a couple of different times in the fall. That might be the case, but if you have two or three different species of trees, it could definitely be the case. Depending on where you live in the country, when your trees start to drop leaves, your grass is not yet dormant, so you’ll be mowing anyway.

Mulching saves you money

When you rake your leaves, it costs you. Whether your local taxes pay for trucks to sweep up your leaves or you pay a compost company to pick them up, it costs money.

Mulching is more environmentally friendly

If the city picks them up, they often end up in landfills. Mulching those leaves recycles a natural resource, giving you richer soil at no cost. If you burn the leaves, it throws carbon into the air.

So leave the rake in the garage or shed and mulch those leaves this fall. You’ll save time, money and the environment while making your lawn and landscape beautiful.

Create a home inventory checklist in the event of an insurance claim


Homeowner’s insurance is required by law in most states. And for good reason. In the event of a disaster, most insurance companies will go out of their way to help you replace your possessions after a fire, flood, tornado or theft.

You can help them by creating an inventory of your home’s contents. This not only will help you prove ownership, it can speed up the process and ensure that you are able to get back on your feet again quickly after something happens.

Doing a home inventory is fairly easy. Once established, it’s quick and painless to update it. You should update your inventory checklist once a year. During the winter months is a good time to do it.

Creating a home inventory checklist

Using a spreadsheet or word processing program, make a page for each room in the home. You’ll want to be as detailed as possible, so make sure to include manufacturer, model, serial number, purchase date, and purchase price.

If you are a collector – be it memorabilia, baseball cards, Pez dispensers, CDs, comic books, anything – make sure to do a separate page and be as detailed as possible on the checklist. Most insurance companies have limits as to what they will cover in some certain categories. Make sure to ask what the limit is. If it will not cover the value of your collection, talk to your agent about increasing the amount.

In addition to a checklist, take photos or video of everything. Photos are particularly helpful with artwork and collectibles.

Always save receipts for big ticket items such as appliances, electronics and furniture. Store them in a fireproof safe or at a remote safety deposit box.

Where to save your checklist

Once your home inventory checklist is complete, you need to take a couple of steps to make sure it’s in a few safe places.

  • Email it to yourself and move it to a folder that you will not inadvertently discard
  • Email it to a friend or relative
  • Save the checklist and photos to a remote storage such as SkyDrive or Dropbox
  • Print a copy and file one with your insurance agent
  • Put a hard copy in your safe deposit box

Don’t wait till disaster strikes

The time you don’t want to be doing a home inventory is after something happens. Chances are good that you won’t be able to remember the contents of every room after a fire or tornado. You can avoid hassle at a time when all you want to do is return to normal.

Talk to your insurance agent or check your insurance company’s website. Chances are good that they have a template to get you started.