Advice for Consumers

Welcome to the Advice for Consumers blog, where you'll find tips about buying, selling, and leasing property, and so much more.
  • While kitchen countertops, flooring, and bathroom fixtures might be top of mind during your home tour, you should also consider the foundation. Foundation problems can be costly, and difficult to address. Here are four signs that could indicate foundation trouble: Cracks in a home’s walls—especially around doors, windows, or corners—can indicate foundation damage. Doors and windows that don’t properly align can indicate foundation damage that has become more severe. If there are indications that water is moving under or toward a home’s foundation, there may be ongoing damage occurring. A chimney separating from the home might be a problem with the chimney itself or could indicate foundation issues. Even if you don't see any of these signs on your tour, it's always wise to have a professional home inspection to identify potential problems with a property. Learn more about these tips at

  • When you put your home on the market, you’ll clean and de-clutter, and you’ll probably stage it with newer furniture and on-trend décor. But have you considered including a home warranty? It’s not always at the top of every seller’s list, but it can be a huge benefit to you. Here’s why: It reassures your buyer A home warranty gives buyers comfort—if something goes wrong with the systems and appliances of the home, they’re protected. It gives you peace of mind Having your air conditioning break while your home is on the market is one of the many unpleasant scenarios that can happen. Many home warranty companies include sellers’ coverage when a home warranty is included as part of the sale. Sellers’ or listing coverage is usually free, and will help you repair or replace systems or appliances that break down while the home is on the market. Such coverage is less comprehensive than a regular plan, so check what’s covered and what isn’t. Your home may sell faster A study done by the Service Contract Industry Council in 2014 found that homes with a home warranty as part of the sale spent 11 fewer days on the market than homes without a home warranty. If you want to sell your home fast, a home warranty can help. Your home could bring a higher price That same study found that listings with a home warranty sold for $2,300 more on average than homes without a warranty. Getting more money for the sale of your home is excellent, but it’s even more alluring when you look at the return on investment. It provides a higher return on investment than many repairs Most home warranties cost less than $600. Even if your sales price increase by only half the $2,300 average seen by properties with home warranties, you’re still way ahead. Compare that to the return seen by sellers who replace their front doors, buy a new garage door, or make similar upgrades and you’ll see that a home warranty usually brings a good return on investment. What benefits have you seen from including a home warranty with the sale of a home? Whitney Bennett is the SEO specialist for Landmark Home Warranty, which provides affordable and comprehensive home warranties in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.

  • In 1989, ten years after I studied Cold War policy and politics in East and West Europe while living in Germany, citizens on both sides of the Berlin Wall used hammers and small chisels to destroy this symbol of communist oppression that had stood for 28 long and heartbreaking years. I snapped this photo from my dorm room in 1979 using a Kodak Instamatic—a far cry from today's digital cameras. The wall didn’t just physically divide a city—it was a chasm of political philosophies, where personal freedoms like free elections, religious choice, and basic human rights were oppressed. The wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Germans still pause on this day each year to celebrate the democratic freedoms all of them now enjoy. This week, while Germany was honoring the anniversary of the Berlin Wall destruction, the United States of America was practicing democracy in another way—the American election. Candidates engaged in races at all levels of government across the country, from school boards and city councils to state houses. Then, in the early hours of November 9, winners were announced. Now that votes are tallied, we’re seeing people express their attitudes and opinions about the outcomes in uniquely American post-election celebrations and protests. After personally witnessing a city physically divided and then reunited, I have grown to believe this free expression of ideals is actually the cornerstone of democracy. Even though we may be divided by political perspectives, the world watched as defeated candidates conceded their races and newly-elected officeholders almost immediately shrugged off the slings and arrows of difficult campaigns and began to unite behind what is best for their constituencies.  This magnanimous transfer of power is the envy of the world. While our campaigns have become too negative, personal, expensive, and lengthy, the final analysis is something to celebrate. After her defeat in the race for the highest elected office in America, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained this perspective best in a gracious concession speech. She told her supporters, “I count my blessings every single day that I am an American, and I still believe as deeply as I ever have that if we stand together and work together with respect for our differences, strength in our convictions, and love for this nation, our best days are still ahead of us. Because, you know, I believe we are stronger together, and we will go forward together. And you should never, ever regret fighting for that.” If your candidate of choice didn’t win on November 8, use this opportunity to stay engaged in the political process. And join me in being thankful that the only dividing line we have to face is philosophical. Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

  • There were 153,054 burglaries in Texas last year, and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, most of them took place in broad daylight with the perpetrators entering a front or back door. While movies and TV shows might not always have the firmest grounding in reality, security lessons can be learned from the criminals depicted on screen. Reinforce doors and locks. The Discovery Channel’s "It Takes a Thief" follows two former burglars as they break into the homes of willing victims. They go through the process of a robbery while simultaneously teaching viewers what they can do to protect their homes from thieves. One lesson they often stress is to reinforce your doors with metal plates and install extra locks. This extra protection will encourage a potential thief to move on rather than take the extra time needed to break in. Install high-definition security cameras. In numerous episodes of the TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” the team’s audio-video analyst turns to surveillance footage for leads on the cases. Like this analyst, you'll get a high resolution image of someone who breaks into your house by installing a security system with 2K or 4K technologies. In addition to crisper images, there might be other improved features such as a better-quality digital zoom, night vision, wide-angle lenses, intelligent compression, and the capability to handle severe weather. Outsmart the bad guys. The holiday season is a lucrative time for crooks, who like to target empty homes while owners are on vacation. The movie “Home Alone” teaches several valuable lessons in home security in a fun way: Put your interior and exterior lighting on a schedule. Leave your TV on. You might just be on an all-day, all-night Netflix binge. Strengthen first-floor windows with locks, sensors, and double-pane glass. Get a motion detector. (Kevin uses a blowtorch in the movie.) Conceal and protect your valuables in a safe. Be informed of what’s happening in your area. Know your neighbors and rely on them to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. Don’t leave windows or doors unlocked. In the movie "Ocean’s Twelve," Danny Ocean’s accomplices attempt to heist the very first printed stock certificate from a well-protected mansion in Europe. To access the home, they sent a security system decoder on a cable through an open window. The lesson here is to always shut and lock your windows and doors when not home. Even if you are home, be sure you don’t leave them open in plain view. Burglars can live right in your neighborhood. Know your security measures. Everyone in the house should know how to work the security measures you have in place, including the kids. During a scene in the movie "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," a dinosaur is attempting to get through a door that can only be locked via the park's computer system. While the parents are holding the door shut, the daughter is able to activate the security system and lock the doors, thus keeping the dinosaur on the opposite side of the door. Look at your home through the eyes of a burglar, and take notice of areas where security may have been overlooked. Anne-Marie Pritchett is a freelance writer, storyteller and idea girl who has lived in six states and two countries.

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