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10 Tips from your La Quinta Realtor

Living in the desert valley we get to enjoy amazing natural vistas, a typically dry climate, and lots of sunny days. However, we also endure extreme heat, gusty winds, and soaring electricity bills which can provide some unique challenges for homeowners. We put together a list of 10 common tips, and considerations for our fellow desert dwellers. 

10 tips for desert home owners from La Quinta Realtors, PuglisiWoodard

1 – Solar panels: 

In the desert, you’ve got plenty of sun. Who wouldn’t enjoy reducing power bills with free electricity from a renewable resource? However, home solar systems can take awhile to pay for themselves, so you might consider the following before you buy:

Check online reviews at websites like solarreviews.com or diamondcertified.org to find out if your service provider has a great reputation.

If you plan to buy, understand and compare warranty details because maintenance or repairs can reduce your savings.

Get up to date information on the tax rebates, credits, and other incentives offered to home owners who install solar panels by visiting DSIRE.org.

You may also have the option to lease a home solar power system with no money down, and this gives you a way to enjoy a positive return on your investment quickly. Also, you get to let the solar power company worry about maintenance and repairs.

2 – Landscaping: 

With another unprecedented year of drought in the valley, water conservation should be an important consideration when you landscape your yard and garden. By choosing to incorporate desert landscaping features, you can reduce water consumption and your water bill. In fact, you may even benefit from the generous rebates that local water companies offer to homeowners who covert their lawns to native landscaping. The good news is that native landscaping choices can reduce your water consumption by 75 percent and maintenance bill by half.

3 – Air seal your home: 

Not only can sealing up air leaks make your house more comfortable, it can also help reduce your cooling and heating bill. Typical culprits are windows and doors. Sealing up drafts is a great do-it-yourself project that you can probably complete in a few hours with the help of this guide: Department of Energy guide to caulking and weather stripping.

4 – Earthquake preparedness: 

Most residents of this part of the country realize that it is only a matter of time before an earthquake strikes. Secure bookshelves, large appliances, fragile valuables, and big furniture with earthquake straps or other fasteners. If you already know that you have purchased a home on a fault line, you should be prepared.

5 – Don’t be afraid to DIY: 

Ninety percent of what most folks need for a successful DIY project is having the guts to get started. Worst case—you mess up and then bring in the professional. Best case—you save money, learn something new and feel a great sense of accomplishment.

6 – Know the difference between a DIY job and when to call in a professional: 

Installing shelves in the closet is a DIY project. Relocating a water heater, now that sounds like a job for a professional. If you try to make some complex repairs without the right skills, you may end up with a pretty big mess. Save time and money by knowing when to get professional assistance with home repairs and projects.

7 – Keep a home journal: 

Do you know when you changed your air conditioning filters or the batteries in your fire alarms? Keep a simple journal that reminds you of repairs, purchases, maintenance etc. You can refer back to it when needed and it will come in handy when selling the house if you can give the new owners detailed information.

8 – Have your AC cleaned and serviced every spring: 

Few routine chores will pay off more handsomely, both in comfort and in dollars saved, than a simple air-conditioner cleaning. The payoff: Summertime comfort and lower cooling bills. You’ll also prolong the life of your air conditioner, and the technician may catch small problems before they turn into large and expensive problems.

9 – Get flood and earthquake insurance: 

Why do you need flood insurance in the desert? Just ask one of the many families in La Quinta whose homes were completely flooded during recent summer storms. Flooding issues are apparent all over the valley due to the lack of proper drainage systems. Don’t even ask why you need earthquake insurance when you live on a fault line. It is unlikely that land movement or flood insurance are included in a typical homeowners policy, but you can call your agent to check.

10 – Craigslist, Utility Scams and Angie’s List: Your La Quinta Realtor says Be wary and do your research.

Craigslist: You have some furniture for sell, so you list it on Craigslist and allow strangers to contact you or even come to your home to look at the items you are selling. The problem is that homeowners are being robbed and targeted by predators that they invited into their homes with online ads and unsafe practices. List your items online, but don’t invite strangers to your residence. If possible, try to meet in a public place, If the item is too large to bring with you, consider selling the item via consignment or using an eBay listing store where they list the sell the item for you online.

Utility scams: You get a call from somebody who says he is a representative for “Southern CA Edison” stating you have until the end of day to pay your power bill or your electricity will be turned off. The person sounds legitimate and has your basic information. You are told the bill has to be paid via money wire, and you are given instructions on how to do so. The only problem is the caller is not from SCE and has no authority to turn off your power.

Homeowners are being scammed out of hundreds of dollars from these bogus calls. Utility companies do not make live calls about utility bills to demand payment via bank wires. Please be aware and report suspicious calls to the proper authorities. The FTC has more information and a place to report phone scams.

Angie’s List: Angie’s List provides a resource where you can find out what other community members like or dislike about a variety of service professionals. The next time you need to hire a good plumber, carpet cleaner, garage door repairman, or pool guy, you could sign up for Angie’s List to find reviews and recommendations. Here’s a final tip from your La Quinta Realtor, a membership for Angie’s list is only $9.99 for the entire year. Use coupon code FALL30 for 30% off which brings the fee to $6.99. That is a great deal and trust me well worth the peace of mind knowing you are using verified service providers. 

Challenges aside!

In spite of a few challenges, we enjoy the amazing natural beauty of the valley and the many health benefits of living in a desert climate. If you are thinking about buying or selling a home in La Quinta or the surrounding area be sure to call on Sal Puglisi your La Quinta Realtor. Thank you for reading 10 Tips from your La Quinta Realtor.

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Sal’s tips to keep your Vacation Home safe!

Among the fastest ways to kill a post-vacation buzz is returning home and discovering your house is in shambles. Maybe a water pipe broke and now you’re trudging through ankle-deep sludge. Perhaps a burglar slipped inside, ransacked the place and gallivanted away with your most valued possessions. Or it could be that you forgot to clean out the fridge before leaving, and now mold has infested every nook and cranny. Just like it’s important to shop for an excellent vacation deal, it’s crucial to make sure returning from that well-earned trip isn’t a headache or disaster. Here are six easily-skipped steps to keep in mind while you’re planning that enticing itinerary.

Of Course Somebody is Home

Hiring a house or pet sitter is the best – albeit costly – method to ensure your home stays just like you left it. House sitters can vary from a trusted friend or family member, to somebody who is a professional. Typically a house sitter will take care of any pets you’re leaving behind, water plants, collect the mail and sometimes other small tasks. It’s challenging to trust somebody enough to be in your home for days on end, but their presence ensures burglars avoid your place and that your appliances and utilities don’t decide to take a vacation of their own.

Celebrate on Social Media After the Trip

Booking a vacation is exciting. It’s a break from the daily grind, and that’s often something we want to share with our friends, family and acquaintances via social media. But you should probably hold off on announcing to the whole Internet that your home is vacant and ripe for the picking. Websites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for complete strangers to gather your personal information and then find out where you live with a quick online search.

If you can’t help yourself from announcing the trip and posting photos, then do yourself a favor and greatly restrict who can see and share the information. The same plan of action holds true for automatic email responses and voicemail systems. The rule of thumb is that if you’re not comfortable with somebody being in your house when you’re not there, then don’t tell them – even indirectly – that you’re heading off on some sweet adventure. Scoundrels might seize that announcement as an open house invitation, and you might return to an open front door.

Burning the Midnight Oil

Casing a house is a common tactic for many home invaders. They spend days – sometimes even weeks – monitoring when you’re home, what rooms you’re in, what you’re doing and who you’re with. They’ll know your daily habits better than you do. The best way to thwart these folks is to make sure it genuinely looks like somebody is home. Set up an app-controlled light timer. You can even set up a timer-controlled power supply to stereos or TVs. But don’t keep the same timer settings day by day. Vary when lights come on, which rooms they pop on and for how long everything is running. Also be sure to use compact florescent light bulbs to save electricity and your energy bill.

Lock it Down, Regardless of Where You Live

It’s oddly common that in small, homely towns where “everybody knows each other” folks leave their homes and cars unlocked. If you’re involved with this mindset, then you may very well leave your door unlocked during an extended absence. And unlocked doors are the biggest “burglarize me” signals out there. More than 30 percent of home burglaries happen from an unlocked entrance. Don’t be the person who forgot to close and lock the windows or sliding glass door. Put a dowel rod behind any type of sliding entrance, and be sure to lock the deadbolt. It’s easy to prevent an easy crime.

This Needs Power, This Doesn’t

Imagine how devastating it feels to show up back home after your trip and discover a charred pile of rubble where your home once stood. Let that feeling sink in for a few moments, and then take a look around at what electronics and appliances you currently have plugged into the wall throughout your home. A power outage or surge could trip these devices and cause a fire if the device isn’t plugged into a surge protector or turned off. Now since you’re leaving certain electronics on timers to discourage home invasions, make sure what you do leave plugged in is plugged into a surge protector. You can group electronics and appliances close together to limit the number of protectors you’ll need to buy.

Otherwise, think about how much energy appliances like your refrigerator, water heater or climate control require and consume. If you don’t have plants, animals or open food, then you can pretty much turn off your climate control depending on what the outside weather is like. Set your water heater to vacation mode to reserve energy consumption. And last, either remove perishables from the fridge, turn it off and open the door to prevent mildew, or make sure the appliance is completely full of non-perishable items. If you have empty space then fill jugs of water there to insulate your fridge and lower energy consumption.

Finally, if you’re off on an adventure during the winter, ask a trusted neighbor, friend or family member to come by and run the facet for about 5 minutes every day or two. If your pipes are properly insulated, this should help prevent them from freezing over or breaking.

A Tidy Home is a Lived in Home

The final step that is extremely easy to skip on longer or seasonal trips is how your home looks. Sure, you have lights popping on and off at random times, but is your yard unkempt? Are mail flyers, newspapers and packages creating the next great pyramid on your doorstep? These are signals to anybody paying attention that you’re not home. Either stop packages, the newspaper and your mail from being deposited, or get somebody you trust to pick everything up for you. Plus if you’re leaving in the winter and it snows, make sure they shovel your driveway or sidewalk.

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Sal Puglisi’s Guide to Buying a Retirement Home

With your days of staff meetings, traffic-packed commutes and parent teacher conferences behind you, retirement is full of possibility and promises for days of relaxing by the pool and working on your golf game.  Now it’s time to find a home to fulfill those retirement dreams in. The market is crowded with homes at every price point, so how do you know which one is right for you?  But before you start searching property listing and dreaming of gourmet kitchens, you need a plan.

Set your budget for buying a retirement home

Your working years may have held the possibility of bonuses and overtime. However, many retired people need to live within a finite amount of money already in their retirement plans and savings. Setting and sticking to a monthly budget for your retirement home is critical, especially if you plan to finance. The price in the listing for your dream home might not give you sticker shock, but there are always other costs of homeownership to consider, including maintenance, insurance, home owner association fees, repairs and eventually upgrades.

Choose your community

When you bought the home you raised your family in, you probably considered its proximity to schools and the commute to work.  Location is no less important when it comes to buying a retirement home, but the qualifications are a little different.

Whether you are buying your retirement home at 55 or 75, you are probably hoping to spend the rest of your years there, happy and healthy. However, there may come a day when proximity to hospitals and doctors becomes very important. When looking at communities, carefully consider what health care facilities are nearby.

After long years working late at the office and chasing after children, retirement is the time to indulge in the hobbies and activities you enjoy most. Retirement communities are much more than collections of houses; each one offers a unique set of amenities and recreation opportunities. You’ve traded in your daily commute to work, so forget driving too far to play a round of golf or get to the fitness center. There are plenty of communities that offer all that and more. Popular facilities include tennis courts, fitness centers, clubhouses with social activities and dining, pools, hiking trails and golf courses. However you hope to fill your days, be sure to choose community that has it onsite. But, keep in mind that some communities come with additional price tags, such as golf and club memberships, so be sure to build those into the budget it they are important to you.

Consider the location within the community

Don’t assume that just because you love the community you will love every location within it. Every neighborhood, no matter the amenities offered, will have some home sites that are more suited to you and your lifestyle than others.

Our area boasts plenty of golf communities, which can make perfect retirement locales, whether you like to hit a few balls on the weekend or are serious about your game. Homes situated along the course offer beautiful views of the fairways. For some, it is living among that landscape that calls them to golf community. However, sitting on your patio, sipping your morning coffee and enjoying the view might be nice, until a stray ball plops into your latte. Not all golfers make par, so homes next to the course often have balls launched into their lawns. That makes a difference to some people, while others don’t mind.

The other downside to a home that rests along a golf course is limited privacy. With golfers playing through all day and whizzing by on carts, some homeowners become uncomfortable using their yards as they would otherwise. While some people feel right at home along the course, if you like to leave the blinds open all day and walk the dog in your PJs, it’s something to consider.

Select the size

Many people assume that, with the kids grown and it their own homes, retirement is the time to downsize. That may or may not hold true for you. While the number of bedrooms may have been a primary factor in considering previous homes, many retired people opt for more flexible spaces. It all comes down to lifestyle, so if you like to cook gourmet meals, tinker in the garage, work on hobbies or entertain and host parties, look for a home with space for the things that make you happy.

Remember, larger homes are not only more expensive upfront, they are also more costly to maintain, so look for options that are realistic on your budget.

Get started

Planning for the purchase of any home comes with plenty of questions. With home values and prices ranging widely, even between different communities in the same area, the process of finding the right fit can feel confusing. Knowledge is power and there are plenty of online tools to help you browse properties to get a feel for what is available in your price range.  A realtor, who is an expert in the local area, will be your most valuable tool in finding your perfect retirement home.