September 8, 2012 |
As Isaac was swamping the Gulf Coast last week, we talked about hurricane preparedness and insurance coverage. Now, it's time to talk about storm cleanup. Even when flooding is limited, say, to a basement, there are still precautions to be taken and special damage remedies to be considered. Recommended cleanup procedures have changed little over the years, although the emphasis has shifted to the effects of prolonged contact with floodwater. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency currently stresses that failure to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity can present serious long-term health risks.
September 1, 2012 |
This week's images of Hurricane Isaac's rampage along the Gulf Coast are a reminder that measures taken to prepare for big storms can reduce the damage they cause. Just a year ago, Hurricane Irene demonstrated that this region is hardly exempt from nature's wrath. (Hurricane Kirk is forming in the Atlantic now, heading northwest.) So this column is the first of two, with an emphasis on getting ready for a storm. Next week, we'll tackle cleaning up after a storm. Even so, there are too many topics to be covered.
August 18, 2012 |
It's never too early to get your house all ready for winter. You remember winter, that spell between autumn and spring we skipped on Earth's last loop around the sun. No guarantees about what lies ahead of us, though. If you jump on some cold-weather-prep projects now, it might increase your football-viewing time before the season is in full swing. But don't try to take on too much of the work yourself; limit your activities to what you can do well. Hiring professionals, in most cases, fits into the category of money well-spent.
August 11, 2012 |
Since boom turned to bust in 2006-07, the housing vacancy rate has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the Great Depression. With the rise in the number of vacant dwellings came a decline in the homeownership rate, which peaked at 69.2 percent in June 2004 and tumbled to a 15-year low of 65.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to the Census Bureau. The chief cause of both, of course, has been the record rate of foreclosures - from 500,000 filings in 2005 (considered a normal year, according to the search engine RealtyTrac)
August 4, 2012 |
It is painfully clear to many experts that a large number of Americans are, for want of a better description, having trouble handling money. Record foreclosures in the last six years are an indication that something is seriously wrong. It's not just about housing, however, said Kimberly Henry, a housing counselor at Mount Airy USA, a community-development corporation in northwest Philadelphia. But that is where the lack of "financial fitness" is most evident to her. Henry's job is to get folks ready to buy a home - the pre-purchase counseling that national and local studies have shown help keep people in their houses for the long term.
July 28, 2012 |
Rising home foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies have contributed to an increase in child abuse, a Children's Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab study suggests. The study, the subject of a July 16 article in the journal Pediatrics, used data submitted from 38 of 45 pediatric medical centers around the country. The data, which covered 2000 through 2009, show that every 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in children's hospital admissions for physical abuse and a 5 percent increase in children's hospital admissions for traumatic brain injuries suspected to be caused by child abuse.
July 21, 2012 |
What does today's home buyer want? That insight is more critical than ever, given six years of a real estate downturn that has flooded the market with foreclosures and cost homeowners billions of dollars in lost equity. The simple answer, according to the real estate search engine Home.com is this: a four-bedroom, three-bathroom "family oasis. " Of Home.com's database of 2,000 home seekers, 455 responded to the question. More than half opted for a detached, single-family house in the country, with three bathrooms and an ideal size of 2,001 to 3,000 square feet of living space.
July 14, 2012 |
How hot is it? The corollary is: How much is this hot weather costing us? To tackle the question of energy consumption, we turn to the latest residential survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The results of the survey, conducted in 2009, were made available this week. The agency's survey of more than 12,000 residences representing every geographic region and climate in the country showed that the average U.S. household had $2,024 in energy expenditures, up 11.8 percent from $1,810 in 2005.
June 23, 2012 |
Burglaries across the United States increased 0.3 percent from 2010 to 2011, the FBI said in a preliminary report earlier this month. In Philadelphia alone, the number of burglaries reported last year rose 11.7 percent over 2010 levels, even as violent crime overall (excluding murders) decreased. No matter which way the statistics trend for this year, it's still better to be safe than sorry when it comes to keeping your home secure, especially if you're planning a week or two away for vacation.
June 16, 2012 |
"What a dump!" If Bette Davis' perpetually parodied line from Beyond the Forest (1949) describes any room in your house, you know you have a problem. With clutter, of course. No matter how much storage a house has, the supply of stuff always seems to exceed demand by at least two bays of a one-car garage. We buy new without tossing old. When we do try to cull, we often find that no one wants the old stuff, except, perhaps, for the scavengers who troll the streets the night before trash collection to cart off perceived treasures.