Category Archives: Home

How To Help Senior Parents Downsize

Helping a Senior parent, or parents, downsize and move on to their next home can be stressful but it can also be a joy. The joy comes from spending the time with them to find out about what they have and why, where it came from and who they were with when it was acquired. There are more memories and stories in that old vase on the book shelf then you might realize.

FAMILY STORIES

I was recently visiting my in-laws and sat with my 80+ year-old mother-in-law for a while. She is filled with stories but the thing that got her really going at that moment was her address book. By the end of the conversation neither of us could remember why she pulled it out but we were both glad she did.

You see, every page had a story on it. There were friends from her childhood and from her first neighborhood after she married. There were family members, dead and alive written in and some scratched out and rewritten several times because they moved. She had doctors and housekeepers, car repair specialists and her hairdresser in that book. There were friends from churches she attended in both her home up north and the one in Florida.

And she told me all about these people and some events that they shared. I learned how nice most were, how comical some could be, and generous they all were.  I also learned about their children, who was in college and who was married.

My mother-in-law had a wonderful time conjuring up the memories to tell me and it brought her alive and happy. She normally is quite happy, but it was great to see her even more elevated.  She has had a great life so far and I’m glad to have been in that room with her at the moment she pulled out her address book.

 

RECORDING MEMORIES

There are things you shouldn’t get rid of … memories. And, I believe the address book is the story book of our memories. When going through your senior parent’s things, get a joyful mindset, do it with them, ask questions and make notes. We all have cellphones these days so why not take a photograph of some items with your parents holding them for your memories? Make some notes using your voice recorder or, better yet, record them telling you about special items. If you have a writer, like the Samsung Note phones (my phone of choice and so handy), write out your notes. When the entire process of going through their items to downsize and move on it complete, you have great photographs that you can us to make a photo book. Companies like Snapfish, MyPublisher, your local big-box drug store, and several apps on your phone can help you make a great memory book. Just be sure to add photos of your notes, too, so you have the whole story. Retain an SD card with the photos and downloads from the voice recorder, in case you need to make more copies at some point in the future. Then you have a great collection to pass on to your kids; a family history.

SENIORS VS. MILLENNIALS

Seniors are more likely to want to keep things than Millennials. In other words, Baby Boomers helping aging parents downsize and move, need to understand that what your parents have is not likely to be passed down. However, the memories would be great to hold, and can be stored digitally, too. The old sofa, china set, art display will most likely not be embraced by the Senior parent’s family members so help your aging relatives understand that they don’t need to save it all. Downsizing and getting rid of things can be good for the parent and a relief for the children.

I recently explained this to my 80+ year-old mom. She still has her parent’s old couch and several other items displayed in her house. She was once a contestant on The Price is Right, in the 1950s, and still has her furniture and accessories that she won. She’s hoping to pass them on to me and my brothers. She also has 3 large, plastic tubs in an extra bedroom upstairs with smaller items she wants each of us to have.  Do we want them? Only time will tell.

While you are working through the “memories” items, decide what to get rid of and how. The “HOW” includes, appraising and selling, holding an estate sale, giving some things now to family members. Then, with the “what’s left” pile of items, these either go to your parents new home and stay with them, get donated or consigned, or thrown away.  If you aren’t doing any of the heavy lifting or appraising/consigning immediately, make sure you schedule a time to have this done, so the process doesn’t get drawn out. There is also the chance that if you wait too long, you’ll run out of time before the big moving day and get stuck moving unnecessary things or having them go to storage … or your garage. Tackle this project head on with a sense of urgency, but enjoy your time with your parents as you work along side each other.

SENIOR RESOURCES

Need some help? I am a Seniors Real Estate Specialist and member of the Seniors Real Estate Specialists Council and can provide assistance as you go through this process with your aging  parents. There are great resources for you on the SRES Council webpage and you can find local assistance if you or your parents live outside of the Oxford Mississippi area, where I am located.

If I can offer one piece of unsolicited advise to you as you help your parents: help them with joy in your heart.

Eileen Saunders, SRES REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors  2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655  662-404-0816 / 662-234-5344 Equal Housing

Deadline for Filing Homestead Exemption Approaching

In Lafayette County Mississippi, homeowners who purchased a house can file for Homestead Exemption between Jan-Apr 1 of the following year. So if you live in and around Oxford and bought your house last year and currently live in it, you can file and should file for this tax exemption benefit. But don’t delay; if you miss the April 1 deadline you  must wait until next January to file.img_1015

Non-exempt taxes are higher taxes. You may have city and county taxes and it makes sense to file for the exemption.

Here are the rules and what you need to file for exemption, below. Click here for a printable version. When you are ready, head to the big white building in the center of the Oxford Square and on the first floor you will find the Tax Office for filing homestead exemption.

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION

Homestead must be filed between January 1 and April 1 to take effect. The home owner must occupy the property as a primary residence for the exemption to apply.

Filing a New Homestead

When filing a new homestead, you must have the following information:

  1. Copy of your recorded warranty deed
  2. Social security numbers of both husband & wife
  3. Purchase price of your house & land
  4. Tag numbers of all vehicles in your possession

Special Exemption

If you became 65 or were declared 100% disabled on or before January 1, you need to file for the special exemption.

  • 65 or Older
    • Know your date of birth
    • Tag numbers on all vehicles in your possession
  • 100% Disability
    • Social security awards letter stating your disability & the date you were declared disable or
    • Two detailed letters from two different doctors stating your disability and the date.
    • Tag numbers of all vehicles in your possession

Eileen Saunders, SRES, REALTOR,  Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Rd, Oxford MS 38655  662-404-0816 | 662-234-5344  eileen@tmhomes.com  Equal Housing

Home Safety: Lock Your Car Doors

What does locking your car doors have to do with home safety?

A ton.

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I live in a house with a two-car garage. I have to drive toward my house on the driveway and turn a sharp left into the garage. But I don’t use the garage. It’s our storage room and so our three cars are parked on the driveway, lined up across the front of my house. It works out; none of us have to park on the street and no one has to move their car to let one out of the garage.

I park closest to the garage door so it’s easiest to enter the garage with groceries and stuff. I can easily plop the frozen food into the freezer and go inside of the house. But one day I left the car unlocked so my son could bring in the rest of the groceries. With that done, I did not lock the car immediately.

Our dining room window looks out at my car. That night we closed the blinds and ate dinner. Then I remembered the car was unlocked and clicked my remote only to hear the car horn twice.  It only does that when a door is open, so I looked outside and the interior lights were on.  My son and I went out of the garage door to check on the car and found it had been rummaged through; my coin tray emptied and left on my front seat. All else was in tact.

But what I went for first was to see if my garage door opener was still in its “secret” compartment.  I was relieved and grateful it was still there.

Back in the late 1990s, a neighbor in S.C. had left her garage door opener in her car and left the car unlocked.  Her garage was on the opposite side of the house from any of the bedrooms. One night thieves went through our upscale subdivision and found her garage door opener, opened the garage and emptied it out. Golf clubs, tools, and more were missing the next morning. Heartbreaking yes but there is a lesson here.

If you have a garage door opener, carry it in your purse, briefcase or hide it somewhere in your car. Most thieves, I’m told by police officers, don’t spend too much time going through cars. They know where the important spots are and take the other stuff they see. But a garage door opener is a key to your house and if that is available to them they will use it now or take it and come back later, even if your car is stolen or broken into when it is parked somewhere else.  If  your car registration info is in the glove box, you’ve just told the thief where you live and they have a key.

Be leery of cars with built-in garage door openers, too, that you can program to your house. It can’t be stolen but if you’re on vacation, and the car left at home has the garage door opener in it, be aware of the consequences.

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So here are some tips to keeping your house safe:

  1. keep your garage door opener with you and not in your car
  2. if you keep it in your car, hide it but not in a high profile spot like the center console or glove box
  3. when you go away or if you don’t need to use your garage door often, keep it locked. There is a lock button on the garage-door wall panel in your garage
  4. lock your car immediately when you get out of it
  5. keep the door between the garage and the house locked, just in case you happen to forget tip #1 and #4
  6. if you leave a key to the house in the garage for the kids or pet sitter, hide it. Don’t put it on a hook next to the door or under the mat…to easy to find.

Unfortunately, every neighborhood, even an upscale neighborhood, is a target for thieves. Keep yours less of a target by keeping your house safe.

Lock your car, keep your house safe. Keep your family safe.

Tips to Winterize Your House Now: Exterior

It’s August 1st in Oxford, MS.

You know what that means?  Football season is almost here.

You know what else that means?  You will probably not want to do any weekend chores around the house once football season starts.football

I know that winter seems so far away but it will creep up on you. So, why not work these next few weeks and get the house in shape for winter. Then you can relax in your recliner or stadium seats

Here’s how to winterize the exterior of your house **  …

  1. Look at the exterior of your house and take note of the following:
    1. Are the windows and doors caulked sufficiently?
    2. Is the weather-stripping on your doors and windows in need of updating?
    3. Are there any exposed water pipes?
    4. How many exterior faucets are there?
    5. Do you have an irrigation system?
    6. Is the roof old or are there some areas of shingles that should be inspected?
    7. Do you have a pool?
    8. Is any part of the wood trim on your house soft, cracked or rotted?
    9. Are your wood shutters soft, cracked or rotted?
    10. Are the rain gutters full and overflowing when it rains?
    11. What about the outdoor kitchen?
  2. Once you have answered these questions, decide what you can do and what you will need to call a contractor to do for you.
    1. Purchase supplies for the items you are going to work on.
    2. Call your contractor, painter, roofer, irrigation and pool specialist now to get on their schedule list.
  3. Make of list of the items you are going to do and write next to each item the date you plan to tackle that task.
  4. Mark your calendar for the dates your contractors have scheduled appointments.
  5. Once your tasks have been completed, enjoy the football season.

CAULKING

If you plan to caulk your own windows and have never attempted this before, consider a class at the local building supply store. Home Depot in Oxford and Lowe’s in Batesville usually hold these type classes for their customers. *

WEATHER STRIPPING

Close your exterior doors and feel for drafts. Shine a strong flashlight around the door and, with another person on the other side of the door, decide if any light shines through. Examine the current weather stripping and make note of its condition.

If you can feel a draft, see a light or observe damage, now is the time to make repairs. Waiting until you actually feel the cold air coming through your house will only cause more cold air to enter your home since repairs will be made with the doors or windows open.

EXPOSED WATER PIPES

Insulate them now to avoid freezing and bursting later. Pipes under your house should be insulated as well as any exposed garden faucets. Exposed pipes in your attic are at risk so don’t overlook these.

EXTERIOR FAUCETS

Before they sell out, purchase insulated faucet covers now so you’ll be ready when the cold sets in.

IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Your irrigation system needs winterizing to avoid broken underground pipes. Call your irrigation specialist or garden/landscaper today to make sure you get on their schedule list when they winterize. All businesses operate differently but according to my irrigation specialist, the equipment they use is only available to them for a scheduled time. Also, after a point in the season it is difficult to do the winterization of irrigation pipes, as I understand, so you really should not wait too long to get this scheduled and taken care of.

ROOF

Typically, Oxford gets a lot of rain in the winter. Take a good look at your roof now. Address any issues, such as broken or missing tiles/shingles. Get this taken care of now before the real rainy season starts. It will be easier and less costly to make repairs now then after a leak is detected inside the house. And if a leak occurs, be sure to paint the ceiling in the room that leaked, once the ceiling dries.  Over time, that once-damp area will show a water mark that will leave questions when you try to sell the house later on. If you do sell your house, remember to disclose that there was a leak but it was repaired.

POOL

Unless you drain it annually, now is the time to call your pool service company to schedule winterizing. It is never a bad idea to have a professional inspect it, too, for cracks including pipes.

WOOD TRIM AND WOOD SHUTTERS

The damp air and rain in Oxford causes damage to wood trim and shutters. Schedule your painter now to take care of any issues you see. He or she will probably want to wait for the weather to cool down because weather affects paint quality, to some degree, so now is the time to talk about the work you need done.

RAIN GUTTERS/DOWNSPOUTS

Are your gutters still clogged from seeds and pollen that collected during the spring? Trees will start shedding leaves before you know it, including pines.  Make sure your gutters can accept rain from your roof so clean them out now. Maybe this year, install gutter covers so you won’t have to do this every year.

OUTDOOR KITCHEN

Include shutting off the outdoor sink along with your irrigation winterization so the pipes are empty and not at risk. Insulate any exposed pipes associated with the sink. Depending on what else you have in your outdoor kitchen, take note and make arrangements to have it ready for the cold weather.  You may not have to do anything, but consider now the things you will have to do.

Eileen Saunders, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816/662-234-5344 Equal Housing

** Always consult a professional if you are not sure what to do. These items listed in this article are only suggestions and any winterizing activities you choose to do on and around your home is strictly your decision.  I cannot be held accountable for the cost or any unsatisfactory work that was performed.

*Neither Home Depot not Lowe’s have any affiliation with this blog or the writer. Photo copyright (C) 2016 eileensaunders. All rights reserved.

Squatters in Vacant Homes

You may have recently heard the story of the family in Idaho who had a renter move into their home they were selling and wasn’t renting from them.  The renter saw an ad for the house, signed a lease and paid some guy to rent it. But it doesn’t belong to that guy, they never authorized a renter and now the owners can’t evict her.

Apparently this has been happening to other homeowners around the country, too. They’ve moved and left their home vacant waiting for a buyer or waiting for the closing date on a pending contract.  Each state has laws pertaining to squatter’s rights and acquiring ownership of property through a process called “adverse possession” which all homeowners should know about. Be sure to read about these.

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Not to scare you, but sellers…you need to be aware of this. FSBO sellers usually don’t have anyone watching their house when they leave and move into their new home.  There are several houses, that I know of, which are FBSO homes and they are vacant.  I hear crazy stories of how they let people in to view it, hoping these are qualified buyers.  Maybe the FSBO has neighbors watching, maybe not.  Not all neighbors will take on the “watchdog” role for liability reasons.  They don’t want to be liable for not reporting a problem.  But please be aware that your vacant house needs to be watched or you could get a squatter.

Having a real estate agent for your vacant home doesn’t necessarily mean your house is protected from squatters, vandals or bursting pipes either. However, a house on the MLS is more likely to have regular showings. If you have to move away and leave your house vacant, list it with an agent arrange with him or her to make regular trips to the house to keep an eye on it.

A squatter could let themselves in. Watching the vacant house regularly and finding there is little-to-no activity there, a would-be squatter could pose as a qualified buyer to see the house with an agent and unlock a window to get back in. Land owners could be the victim of property taken over by hunters, claiming rights because the land was vacated.

The other issue with vacant homes is insurance.  A vacant house is a liability. Most insurance companies will charge homeowners a vacant-house premium after 30 or 60 days. If you have a contract on the house and move before closing, most insurance companies won’t bother with this premium because the house will soon be occupied.  However, a long-term vacancy means the house is unwatched. Vandals, fires, storm damage, water leaks left unchecked can happen more often when a property is not occupied.

Just because your house is vacant doesn’t mean you can’t make it look occupied. Utilities should be left on for showings. So, leave your blinds closed and use programmable light bulbs or light switches in various rooms to go on both in the evenings and on cloudy days. Install a doorbell that notifies you on your cellphone when someone rings it. Make sure your real estate agent goes by regularly, and not at a regular time, to rid both the driveway of newspapers and your door of marketing door hangers.

These incidents of squatters is unfortunate but real.  Take precautions to make sure you don’t become a victim.

Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate of or have a relationship with any types of products mentioned in this article. I am a REALTOR which means I am a member of the National Association of REALTORS.

Eileen Saunders, REALTOR with Tommy Morgan Realtors, 2092 Old Taylor Road, Oxford MS 38655 662-404-0816/662-234-5344. Equal Housing.

Gas Leaks

I was recently at a house that had a gas leak. There was not a “loud” smell of rotten eggs but rather an intermittent soft smell. You could have missed it. But it was a rotten egg smell and was near the gas meter so the gas company was called.

It turned out to be a leak and the technician got to work quickly to replace the faulty parts of the meter.

The meter was on the side of the house not regularly visited which gives me pause for thought: What if this leak continued for several months without notice and became bigger and bigger?  But then I thought, doesn’t the gas meter get read?

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Natural gas is used thought the United States for residential and commercial properties. Over half of all homes have natural gas as either a heating choice or for cooking.  How often do these homeowners really think about their gas connections?

I doubt it is often and most homeowners in their 50’s and older grew up in a time when the meter was read at the meter. If the gas company employee went to the meter and there was a leak, he or she would notice it and take care of the situation.  It is not done that way anymore in most places. Gas meters are read remotely and rarely do meter readers actually go to the meter. Gas meters can be read from a device as the meter reader drives past each house. This information gets uploaded to the billing department and gets passed off to the consumer for payment.

Unfortunately the device does  not pick up smells. As a homeowner, or even a renter, of a house with natural gas you need to be proactive with your gas meter.

Make a note on your calendar to walk the exterior of your house on a monthly basis. Stop by the meter for several minutes, hang out and try to detect a scent.  Sniff several times and if you have any doubt, call the gas company.

The gas meter is good for about 20 years and, I was told, the gas company keeps tabs on checking and replacing older meters.  The regulator can last about 10 years and a bad regulator can cause a small leak.  But, a leak is a leak and needs attention regardless.

If you suspect a leak, call your gas company immediately. They will send an inspector out quickly.

Be proactive. Make sure you add “check the gas meter” to your home maintenance checklist.