The vipHome Podcast
About this podcast
Have a homeowner horror story? You're not alone! Tune in to the vipHome Podcast, where homeowners like you share their stories and we talk to professionals to help you prevent these issues from occurring in your house. Join Hosts Jeff, Caroline, and Jacqueline every week for insights and tips about homeownership.
About this podcast
Have a homeowner horror story? You're not alone! Tune in to the vipHome Podcast, where homeowners like you share their stories and we talk to professionals to help you prevent these issues from occurring in your house. Join Hosts Jeff, Caroline, and Jacqueline every week for insights and tips about homeownership.
The vipHome Podcast
We Get Sparky with the NFPA
Home fires happen, and a startling number of them can be prevented. We know what you’re thinking – “It won’t happen to me” – but it happens to approximately 354,400 homes every year. Andrea Vastis, Senior Director of Public Education at the National Fire Protection Association, stops by the vipHome Podcast to share with us some fast home fire facts and important safety tips to prevent a home fire from happening to you. Listen now!
A Talk with RightSure Agency Group and O’Connor Insurance
Speaker 1: Welcome to the vipHome Podcast, where we talk about all the things homeowners need to know. Caroline Brenneis: Today, we are speaking with two insurance experts from different parts of the country. We have Michelle O'Connor from Michelle O'Connor Insurance in Charlotte, North Carolina. And Jeff Arnold from RightSure based in Arizona. So, welcome both. And thank you so much for joining us today. Jeff Arnold: Thank you. Happy to be here, and a pleasure to meet Michelle on camera, in-person. Michelle O'Connor: Thank you so much for having me. I look forward to our discussion today. Caroline Brenneis: Michelle, why don't you kick us off a little bit? Tell us a little about you and your company. And then, Jeff, when she wraps up, share a little bit about RightSure. Michelle O'Connor: Sure. So, I have been in the insurance business for a long time. I started off as a district sales manager with Erie Insurance Group. And was lucky enough to get transferred to beautiful North Carolina, where I was able to expand their footprint by putting independent agents on in North Carolina. In 2000, my husband and I started O'Connor Insurance together. So, we've been in business for 20 years in January. Paul Chadowski: Congratulations. And just for that, Michelle and I, we met. We would serve on ... Because I was the former agency owner, and we had task forces at Erie Insurance. And Michelle was the chair of the IT task force when I was chair of the personal lines task force. And that's where we just got to meet initially. And what an outreach. That's why it's just great to connect after all these years. Because it has been probably at least 10 years since we have connected. So, we're very welcome to have you. Michelle O'Connor: Very true. Thanks Paul. And it's a pleasure to reconnect with you as well. Paul Chadowski: And as I get to Jeff, Jeff and I have been able to chat a little bit earlier. And I don't want to take away some of your thunder, but I just love that you describe yourself as a human, a dad, a author, and a thinker. And I also wanted to pass on congratulations to your agency, RightSure, which is listed from the Insurance Business to America, 2020 Top Insurance Workplace. So, congratulations to that, Jeff. I didn't want to take away some of your thunder, but I did want to put that out. And just the quality of agencies that we have here with both Michelle and Jeff. So, with that, Jeff, please take over the introduction of [inaudible 00:02:21]. Jeff Arnold: Yeah, thanks, Paul. First of all, glad you brought that up, but the credit isn't here. There are five senior people at RightSure that deserve all the credit, right? So, they're the ones doing all the hard work behind the scenes to get us lifted to that point. But indeed it was an honor, right? It's a great accolade to have to be able to hang on our wall Insurance Industry Workplace of the Year. So, happy and excited. Like Michelle, I've been in this industry for a little bit, 31 years. I know I don't look that old, it's okay. Jeff Arnold: Every day is fun, right? I wish this industry on everyone because it truly is a place to make any dreams come true. Not just lip service. It's been wonderful for my family and fed everything that I need as a person, just wonderful. Agency is rideshare. We're four different entities in one. We're part tech because everyone wants to be an Insurtech tech space. We have our own proprietary technology in play. And then we're part aggregator. We acquire a lot of firms over the years, about 16 different firms over the years. Part independent agent place where people just hang their shingle with us, and then part a mom and pop. Old-fashioned, mainstream, retail location. So, that's the summary of what RightSure is, but happy to be on the show. Paul Chadowski: Right. And Jeff, what is your outreach? Can you tell me how many states you're in, where you do Right? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Thanks for asking. We conduct business in 42 states, but we generate decent or significant revenue in 16, mostly the Southwest, where I live in Arizona, and then the middle America as they call it. Paul Chadowski: Great. Okay. Thank you so much for those introductions. And it only confirms why we have the quality of agents on here. So, thank you. We'd like to start off this podcast kicking off what we call homeowner horror stories. And these are stories about things that could go wrong in the home that you just wouldn't believe. And do either of you, I'd like to start with maybe Michelle, do you have some horror stories that you can share with us? Michelle O'Connor: I do. So, I shared this one with Carol before. So, I'll actually share two short ones with you all. But we had a homeowner who had a toilet overflow that was above a finished basement. And so, the water was running down into the finished basement, and the ceiling fan was going. So, it literally hit the fan and went all over the finished basement. It was a nightmare of a claim. A lot of cleanup for our poor homeowners. It was ugly. It was very ugly stuff. And then we've also had some scary ones as well. We had a fish tank that was on a surge catch on fire. The surge strip actually caught on fire. Michelle O'Connor: And luckily, someone was home at the time, but the fire was going up the family room wall when they caught it, and were able to put it out. So, luckily, the damage was contained to that room, but those surge protectors can be troublesome as well as protecting us sometimes. So, it was a good reminder to make sure that they don't get wet, and that they are new as well. Caroline Brenneis: Michelle hearing that first story for the second time, I cringe just as much. That is still such a crazy story. Michelle O'Connor: It was definitely an ugly claim. There's no doubt about it. I felt so sorry for those folks. Caroline Brenneis: I could really only imagine. What about you, Jeff? Jeff Arnold: Oh yeah, similar horror stories of that. Michelle and I can trade stories for quite some time. Two that come to mind really quick is one that you'll just shake your head out and wonder why. But so one of our policyholders is part of our private client division, so, it's a large home, decided to eradicate all the desert behind his house, about three by 10 foot swath, right? Because it was really just attracting rattlesnakes, and pack rats, and all kinds of nefarious animals. Right? So, as he was replanting his yard, he had [inaudible 00:06:10] back hole, a pretty good space outside the back of his yard. I think it was under 10 foot on the other side. Turns out unbeknownst to him that these were special cactus, special dead cactus that he was removing, right? Jeff Arnold: And the person who owned the property, which wasn't him sued our homeowner, our policy owner ... This is the kicker ... $70,000 worth of special dead cactus, and rattlesnakes, and what have you. And so, luckily, company paid for it, paid for the defense cost, and paid for it too. And part of the settlement was he had agreed that after replanting it all, irrigate it off for two to three years or something too at his own expense. So, just a claims horror story, right? Stop at your property line. Don't try to help your neighbor out by clearing out dead cactus. It's not worth it. Paul Chadowski: Did he have to replace the rattlesnakes too? Jeff Arnold: [inaudible 00:07:00] on their own. I'm sure. But yeah, just crazy. And then, another one similar to Michelle's, water. Claims follow water. That's just proof. But this one was just the homeowner lived above a homeowner [inaudible 00:07:15] them on a hill. And their irrigation system had been dripping for some time unbeknownst to them. And the neighbor below put in a brand new concrete driveway while this was dripping. And it just destroyed the concrete driveway overnight. Because it was more than a drip, I guess, it was a pretty good water stream. Policy owner didn't know about it until he was served in a lawsuit. Jeff Arnold: It literally took them a month to file the claim and serve him to replace it. But the neighbor didn't even come up to tell him, right? He waited four and a half weeks later to serve him, to sue them. So, yeah, just all kinds of horror stories. Buyer beware, caveat emptor, right? Know what's in your home insurance policy, what's covered. So ... Paul Chadowski: And you bring up a good point that I think a lot of homeowners don't know. They think of property, and theft and fire, and vandalism. They don't understand that there's things called legal costs that are involved and covered in the home policy. We don't always talk about that, but I knew when I was an agent, sometimes we have to spend money legally just to pay nothing because it may not have been that person's fault, but there was that. So, it's interesting that both your stories, and you bring that up. But I think that's a really good point for homeowners to have a takeaway that they don't realize that not only do they have legal fees, but they have attorneys for them. They don't have to search them out. Jeff Arnold: Sure. Good point. Caroline Brenneis: Well, both very horrific horror stories I have to say. So, thank you so much for sharing. Let's dive a little bit into the nitty gritty of insurance. Can you both share ... I guess, we'll keep going with Michelle first and then Jeff, but can you both share a little bit about the catastrophic claims that you see in each of your regions, like wildfires, or flooding, or, specifically ... I know Jeff you're sparing a large space, and Michelle, I know you're a little bit closer to North Carolina. But I think having you both on and seeing more specific to your region would be so helpful for listeners. Michelle O'Connor: Sure, absolutely. So, we live in an interesting place where there's a hurricane that threatens us just about every other week in North Carolina. Typically, it's just our coastal areas, but we're a little bit inland. But inland, we also have a lot of flooding risks. So, unbeknownst to a lot of our policy holders, flood, even if they're not in a flood plain is a big risk for them. But of course, the wind and the hail are probably some of our biggest claims, especially, in the spring. And then, in the fall, when we get into hurricane season. Rarely enough, we actually had an earthquake on August 9th in North Carolina. It was above five on the Richter scale. I was camping in far Western North Carolina and did not feel it, but my husband said he did. So, I guess, I wasn't in the right spot to feel it that day. But so that's interesting. We've not really had that as a threat to our area. And so, it's definitely something we're having conversations with our clients about now. Paul Chadowski: I'm sorry, are you on a fault line, Michelle? Or is that earthquake, is there any explanation for it, or can you give us a little more the detail? Because we all think about it. And we get to Jeff, about the West and the Californias. Michelle O'Connor: So, my understanding is we are not on a fault line. I tried to do some research on it, and to go back into history. And really there have been only, I believe, like 20-ish since the 1700s in North Carolina. So, it is still very unusual for it to have happened. And I believe that it was a specific ... And I don't know enough about earthquakes to give you all the details, but there was a specific reason this one happened that was unusual. With that being said, though, the homeowners that were in the immediate area still did suffer damage. And typically, it's foundation damage. And so, it's expensive, and makes the home unlivable until it's repaired. And so, that's scary to me just to think about that, and try to figure out whether or not that's something that our clients need to take more seriously. Caroline Brenneis: So, just to piggyback off of that a little bit, I know you had mentioned that earthquakes aren't common in North Carolina. So, is this something that falls within a standard policy, or would this be something that a policy holder would have had to add on or however the real terms are [crosstalk 00:11:17]? Michelle O'Connor: That's a great question. And we put a blog out about it because we've had so many questions about it. It is not covered on our standard policy, home policy in North Carolina. So, it is an endorsement that you have to add on to your policy. But we have had a lot of folks that have gone ahead and added it because they felt like for the amount of premium that it was worth it. It's a low exposure, but again, if it happens to you, the damage would be a lot. So ... Paul Chadowski: So, you don't need to get a separate policy, you get an endorsement. And if I recall from back there, it's a different deductible. And does it apply to the house and the content separately? I mean, how does that earthquake coverage work? Michelle O'Connor: So, in North Carolina, I believe it's going to work much differently than it will when Jeff starts to talk because it is a low risk in our area. And every company is doing it a little bit differently. So, I don't have a broad stroke answer. Matter of fact, one of our home carriers is actually adding it to their policy at no additional charge. Most of ours are not though. So, it's a conversation that we'd like to have with every person individually, so, we can guide them for their particular insurance company that they're insured with. But for most of ours, the deductible is being chosen to be the same as the home. But again, it's different for every insurance company. Paul Chadowski: Jeff, I'd like to get some of yours, and some of what you see out in your part of the country. Some of the specific types catastrophic claims [inaudible 00:12:45]. Jeff Arnold: Sure. Yeah. So, when you think about the West, you think in terms of this just wide open space. And so, wildfires is the first, right? And so, wildfires, yes, like such as Michelle, earthquakes, right? Especially, in California and then over the San Andreas Fault. And then flooding like in all areas of the country, flooding. But wildfires being one of the biggest. They spread rapidly, and quickly destroying wide swaths of land in a rapid fashion. Oddly enough, after the fires beat everything down and gone through, suddenly, the rain will come in. And that is equally as bad because there's nothing to catch the rain anymore. So, you have massive mudslides, massive amounts of flooding. Jeff Arnold: And as Michelle alluded to earlier, many things aren't covered in a normal policy. The buzzword that she used, our industry word is endorsed, right? You have to add that on, endorse it onto a home insurance policy. Not every carrier will add a earthquake as an endorsement. Some it's a separate policy. Most use a write your own or federal program for the flood insurance. That's separate too. So, depends on the exposure: wildfire, flood, or earthquake. If it can be added to policy or bought separate. Paul Chadowski: That's really helpful with that. We have people that have told us, "I don't need flood insurance. I have this endorsement called sewer and drain backup." And so, you have these sump pumps, whatever. I mean, do they have a false sense of security, Michelle, with this? If they have a sewer and drain backup, and flood, are they different types of ... They address different things? Michelle O'Connor: They sure do. Yes. And I do think sometimes homeowners feel like that they do have everything that they need without having that extra conversation. But definitely, sewer and drain just addresses things that overflow into your home basically. So, that toilet that overflowed was covered under the sewer and drain coverage, that it's not going to address flood. And I always simplify the flood definition, and it's rising or standing water. So, mudslide as well as Jeff said. But I always simplify it so that people get that illusion that when it rains too much, as Jeff said, and that the water can't soak into the ground, which we've had happen a lot in the Southeast lately, that's not covered either if it comes into your house from the outside. Paul Chadowski: And Jeff, if you can comment, some people have said, "Boy, my house got flooded and it was covered. But then we use the word flood and it's not covered." I mean, do we simplify the words? Are there types of floods that are covered when we use that word? And then explaining it then the other type of flood that you would have to get a separate policy for? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. It's confusing for many people who don't understand the legal contracts that we sell called insurance policies. Right? And so, making terms to simplify it because people don't want to remember the words indoors or sewage and water back up a lot of times. Tiles of moving pools of water, right? If it's moving, do you know when you think of it in terms of a flood, it's moving because rains come down, a large water's moving down the street, or moving through your yard or whatever, that's going to be subject to flood insurance. That's going to need flood insurance. As she was alluding to the sewage and water backup, they may call that a flood. Oh, it flooded my bathroom. Yeah. That part is covered. And so, it's really how the word flood is interchanged there. It's semantics, but that's our business. Right? Paul Chadowski: Exactly. I've also read, getting back to wildfires, that some carriers may consider treating that as a separate type of risk and not under fire because of how much the fires are and wildfires are different than fires. Can you comment on any of that with the wildfires, or any of your carriers saying, "We're thinking about giving a separate deductible, purchasing a separate coverage for wildfires versus just standard fires." Have you seen anything like that? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. I think what you're alluding to is the word peril in our industry, right? What's a covered peril? And so, there is talk, discussion about it in the industry as they suffer more and more losses to maybe offer a hybrid policy that might, A, require additional coverage for that or limit the coverage that they would pay. And there isn't one in Arizona, Colorado, or California that I'm aware of that excludes that, but there's certainly talk of that. So, it'd be tough in those states. Remember there's still a little bit of John Wayne in everybody in the West. They still [inaudible 00:17:04] as a cowboy. So, even if they live in the city. So, be tough to push that through. Caroline Brenneis: Michelle, I know we touched on hurricanes a little bit, but can you share a little bit about how ... Because in North Carolina, I feel like, as you said, they're very, very common. So, where that fits in a typical policy, or if it's an add-on, or explain a little bit of that process for us. Michelle O'Connor: Sure. So, that one's going to really be dependent on where you live. Where we live in Charlotte, it's inland. And so, wind and hail is covered as part of our standard homeowners policy. But on the coastal areas of both North Carolina and South Carolina, you have to add on wind and hail to your policy. And typically, it does have a separate deductible. It's the bulk of the cost for most of the policy to add those coverages on. And your proximity to the coast is going to depend on just how much you're going to pay for that extra coverage, which you desperately need if you live in either one of those areas. Caroline Brenneis: Funny, if I was on like Million ... One of those like game shows, I would have really thought it was the exact opposite that it would be definitely included if you were closer to the shore, like an add-on, if you were. Is there any particular reason or just because it's so just more common, it's a way to make more money? Michelle O'Connor: Absolutely. It's the risk factor, right? So, how likely is it to happen to the house on the coast? It's very likely. How likely is it to happen to my house in the more interior parts of North Carolina? Not as likely. So, the things that are not as likely are typically going to be things the insurance companies are going to be willing to cover at no additional costs. Caroline Brenneis: Oh, see, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you. See, now I know. I'll get that question wrong if I'm ever on a game show. Michelle O'Connor: Glad to help out. Jeff Arnold: That's the value of an agent right there. Right? That's the dollar, the bang you get for your buck when you use an agent who has that knowledge to transfer it. So good stuff. Michelle O'Connor: Yeah. My husband and I, we're currently in an apartment, but we're looking for houses, trying to find the right town, yada, yada, yada. And when I was working with Michelle now, a few months ago, I was like, "Can you help me out?" And she's like, "No, I don't work in New Jersey." And I was like, "That's just devastating." But yeah. I mean, I think after working in this world for a little over a year now, I think I'd be so silly not to work with an agent. So, thank you all. Paul Chadowski: When we have these storms, you talk about this, here comes the hurricane. And okay, the winds blowing [inaudible 00:19:28]. And this is where sometimes we say, "Okay, is it hurricane? Or is it flood?" Just going back to that. And just can you walk us through some of what the insurance companies how they look at it, and wind-driven rain, or what this is, and just address that. Just how that can be. Is it more clear cut, or is there some question? Michelle O'Connor: There's definitely some questions. And I've definitely heard some stories on the East Coast. We had a number of flooding issues right in a row with several different, big name storms over a couple of years, which is unusual to have that many in a short span. And there was a lot of issues that it comes down to trying to determine where the water came from. Especially, because it takes some times to get those claims settled that usually there's a time lapse as well. So, it makes it more difficult. Again, in the interior areas it's going to be a little bit easier, because if the roof blew off in it, that's how the water got in. Michelle O'Connor: It's going to be pretty clear cut versus rising, standing water is not as common where we're at as it would be in some of those other areas. So, there was a lot of issues with that though. It's not clear cut. It's definitely difficult to figure out. And the adjusters had their work cut out for them when they go in there to make sure that they've got those determinations. Thankfully, a lot of the policy holders have both policies. And so, it's really just a matter of figuring out which one's going to cover it at that point. Jeff Arnold: Couldn't put it more eloquently than that, so, nothing to add there. One thing that came to mind is what you'll see, if you watch the news, you scratch your head at why this would happen. But sometimes in large flood areas, you see all these fires pop up, and you're like, "What in the world? No gas leaks fires. Well, guess what? There is fraud involved. Consumers know, "I don't have flood insurance. I have fire insurance." And so, fires start popping up. Right? All kinds of fraud in these places. And so, "My house burned down in the middle of the flood, that's covered, right?" Yeah. Okay. That's covered. Jeff Arnold: But what Michelle ... I was reading between the lines there too, what she was saying is, yeah, the adjuster has to be part investigator, right? To say, "Okay, what happened?" Especially, in times of flood when there's fire. Is this a gas leak that sparked this, or did this person not have flood insurance and decided torching it may be the only alternative? So, it's an ugly side of the business, but worth having dialogue about. Caroline Brenneis: Wait, Jeff, how do you know that they're lying? Committing fraud. That's crazy. I can't believe that my brain would literally never even go there. Like I- Jeff Arnold: I don't think any of our brains would but years and years of exposure to it. And this is why insurance companies hire these arson investigators, and ex-fire chiefs to study this stuff. So, unfortunately it exists, but part of the industry. Caroline Brenneis: My mind is blown by that statement. I really did not know that was a real thing. Paul Chadowski: All the more reason why you say. And I'm sure each of you have rapports with your adjusters. It is. And the adjusters that settle these claims, if you can comment to that with homeowners, that they really do want to help you. Sometimes you hear, "Hey, you're going to find ways to deny the claim." But I would think in most cases you really are trying to work with that. I don't know where that stigma is but, Jeff, if you can comment on that. Just what you're saying that there's a lot more that are covered than denied, and how that process works. Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Thanks. Agreed. I would submit to you and our listeners that our goal in the insurance companies that we represent is not to deny a claim, it's to pay it as quick as possible, right? To make that policyholder whole, and get them back on with their lives. But during the term of their investigation, or while they're looking at the loss, if they find something that just doesn't seem right, then they got to start pulling all these fraud levers, and validating it. Right? So, that's why some might submit back to say, "Well, my flame wasn't covered." Or, "The insurance company is trying to deny me." That's not normal, it's abnormal. And certainly the cures that we have in our mix don't participate in that behavior, is a primary function of getting the claim paid. Caroline Brenneis: Wonderful. Thank you. So, I know we talked a little bit about flooding in the beginning. But just, I guess, want to make it a little bit more clear for the listeners. So, flooding is covered in most insurance policies if it comes from inside the house, but if it's external it's not covered, or am I wrong? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Michelle O'Connor: No, you got it exactly right. The clarification I would make is that I wouldn't use the term flood in the house. From our agencies, we're going to use the terms sewer and drain in the house. And that is when the sewers and/or drains backup and come back into the house. The resulting water, again, Jeff said it was semantics. It is. But I won't call it flood inside. Outside is the flooding. And that's the rising standing. And I really like Jeff's explanation, the moving water as well. We don't typically think of it that way because of our topography where we're at. But that's a great explanation as to really separating the differences. Do you have anything else you can add to that, Jeff? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Thank you so much. Caroline, what I would add is now your user would take away, "Oh, if it's inside the house to have sewage and water is fine." That's also an endorsement. Not every homeowner's policy includes sewage and water backup. So, that is something that, if you're just trying to save money, an agent might not add on. Or certainly if you buy it online, you didn't check the box you want it. Because my sewage would never back up. I'm on public or I'm on septic. So, you don't check it. And the only way you find out it's not covered is when you're standing in your own backup, for lack of a better word. But yes, inside too you want to back up, if you have the endorsements covered. External moving water, flood. Paul Chadowski: Is flood insurance required in some places, and other places it's optional? So, can everyone get it if they want insurance, or are there restrictions? Are there times you have to get flood insurance? Michelle O'Connor: So, yeah, that's an excellent question. If you're by a body of water, typically, flood insurance is going to be required. There's flood plains that have been established that allow the mortgage companies to know that you're at higher risk, your home's at higher risk. And so, if they're going to lend you money, which most folks do have a mortgage, then they're going to require the flood insurance be added onto it. But with that being said, if you don't have a mortgage, if you're in a flood plain, you're still at higher risk. So, it's still something that you want to consider adding, or having that additional policy be put onto it. Michelle O'Connor: But there's lots of folks that are not in flood Plains that are at risk of flooding. And so, that's been a hot topic in North Carolina because, again, of the additional rain that we've had in recent years, and the lack of flood policies, and some of the middle of the state, and some of the mountainous areas as well. Where they can still flood and in a hour or two's time span have torrential rains that create that. Jeff Arnold: What I would just add onto what Michelle said is ... Everything exactly perfect the way she stated, but these maps are five, 10, 15, 20, 50, 100-year flood plains. So, we have an idea of when a flood is going to happen, right? Looking at history, and projecting forward. And that topography map that she referred to is laid out over places that are built or where people live. And then that helps drive the pricing, but also the proximity or projected of when another flood might occur. Paul Chadowski: That's really helpful on all that too, because again, I am sure there's going to be more questions with this too. And that's why you need an independent agent to talk it through, and have these discussions. But you mentioned topography, which is a nice word. And I'd like to pivot to that, Jeff. And then I'll get to Michelle on the same thing. What are some of the challenges or issues with home insurance based on the climate that you ride out there out West, the topography, how things are built. What are some of the things that you see that you need to talk about that homeowners need to be aware of? Jeff Arnold: So, in the desert Southwest, where I live, it's just heat, right? It was 118 for three days in a row here. Stuff just stopped working, right? Air conditioners stop working. Our water heaters get overheated because in some places they're exposed to the elements. And so, the number one thing is a lot of times equipment breakdown. And just, if you have a wood roof, it deteriorates much quicker in 115, 118, 120 degree weather than it would maybe at 70, 80, 90 degrees. So, roofs take a beating. And then equipment break down is a very prevalent thing in our area. But you have to add on indoors to your home insurance policy. Paul Chadowski: Michelle, can you [inaudible 00:28:06] about what's some of the same issues? Michelle O'Connor: I don't know that we have the topography issues that Jeff has. We have heat, certainly. It's not been 118. Thank heavens. We have a lot of humidity. Certainly, air conditioning units break down, but most of our carriers aren't offering that endorsement yet. There's a lot of talk about it, but it hasn't rolled out, at least in North Carolina. We're a unique state. So, it's rolled out in other states around us, but just not in ours. I don't know that we have quite those topography issues. I mean, we are fortunate not to suffer hard winters. We rarely have cold temperatures. So, we're in a sweet spot. So, if you're looking for a great place to live, definitely, Charlotte. Caroline Brenneis: [crosstalk 00:28:46] so much to move out of New Jersey. I hear like the 4:00 PM like nighttime is coming, and it's brutal. And it's like negative two degrees. Michelle O'Connor: Well, come on down. January and February are fabulous months in the Carolina. Caroline Brenneis: I'll be there. Speaker 1: Also, between the two places, and if you can each talk about this. Jeff, I don't know if a lot of the houses out West they have basements. In the East, where I'm at too, we do have basements. And just what type of exposure or what homeowners should be aware of that if you can just maybe comment on the types of homes, and just some of the considerations people have to look at. Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Great. So, not a lot of basements, very few. I'm thinking of a few old missile silos that people have turned into homes. But yeah, not a lot of basements in the area. But in our area, it's a flat roof. And so, if you're not used to flat roofs, you're like, "Why would a roof be flat?" Right? It's a pitched or very flat roof. And so, those can collect a lot of dust. We have these haboobs, if you've ever seen them on TV. Massive dust storms. They can collect a lot of dust, and just a lot of debris gets stuck up there. So, you have to be aware of what's on your roof, right? And clean it a little more than maybe in other parts of the country where you have to clean out your gutter, occasionally, from leaves and limbs, right? You have to be on your roof, quarterly, which your app can remind people to do, right? If you're in the Southwest, get up there and clean off your roof. So ... Paul Chadowski: I don't know if you have ... I believe basements are a little more common out in North Carolina, that particular area. And what type of different exposure does that open up a homeowner to having basements? Michelle O'Connor: Sure. So, actually, where I'm at in Charlotte, they're not very common. We have red clay. And it's very difficult to dig in. So, if you have a basement, it's typically a walkout because that's the only one to dig so many ... And so, you also have an elevated lot to go along with that because it has to be a walkout. So, it's a unique situation. There's not a ton of different things except for making sure that an agent knows that you actually do have a basement because of the increase in the home value. And it does add quite a bit of value because of how expensive it is to dig those basements out. So, that's unique. Other than that, folks are either on a slab or a crawlspace. And there is some maintenance that goes along with those as well. Michelle O'Connor: Similar to the roofs, on the slab probably the hardest thing is just the temperature changes. If we do have a cold snap and it goes into freezing temperatures, there's sometimes some exposed piping that has burst. We've had that happen to clients, and even some of our own staff because of where it was located. And then the crawlspaces can gather water. So, keeping those dry is definitely a maintenance issue in North Carolina. Just making sure that it's sealed off properly so that it doesn't mold. Michelle O'Connor: And that you know what's going on down there, because if you have plumbing, which most folks do down there that leaks, and you don't know it, because of where it's located, giving those a check every now and then is not a popular thing to do because of the things that might live under there. But necessary. Paul Chadowski: Definitely what I'm hearing, oh, is of course, why you need to talk to your agent about a lot of things, because some people feel if it happens to the house, my homeowners covers it. And I know, Jeff, you alluded to equipment breakdown. They go, "Hey, my furnace just went, or air conditioning just went. Why isn't it there?" Or, "Hey, I have ants in the house, vermin or whatever." If it happens in the home, it's got to be home insurance. And just some of those discussions. And just how you look to address some of that, that we're finding that there are things that can't be addressed. You just need to talk to your agent about that. But I just didn't know if you have clients that have come up and say, "Well, gosh, if it happened to my home, that's what I have home insurance for. Why is it not covered?" Jeff Arnold: There is a blurred line and a confusion surrounding is it warranty? Is it home insurance? Is it under my deductible? Right? What part does coverage come in? Right? And so many times, so often, people are so strapped. They just want it to be covered under insurance, or warranty, or something. If it's not under either is where anger enters in or frustration enters into the process. But typically, try to counsel homeowners to think of this as large losses only. Don't think of your homeowners as a maintenance policy, or a maintenance product. You're only going to make yourself uninsurable in the future if you keep filing these very small claims or treat it like a warranty, you're pricing yourself out of coverage is what you're doing. Paul Chadowski: So, do you use the same rationale to come up with deductibles too? I mean, what can someone take so that they're not, and how do you maybe address that? I don't want to get too far off track, but to your point, I think you probably find out what their risk tolerance is also in that discussion. Jeff Arnold: Yeah, absolutely. For high net worth clients, it's going to start at a $10,000 to 15 to $20,000 deductible. Eat all the rest under that to keep your premium low. And for most home policies, 1,500, 2,500, 3000. Got to be comfortable with that. Some lenders have issues. Those are getting few and far between now. A lot of them don't care. But you have that conversation, reduce the premium by increasing deductible. Which means you're on the hook for these smaller items, which is good. Caroline Brenneis: Wonderful. While we're on preventative maintenance, a little bit, vipHomeLink, part of one of our features in the app is really keeping up-to-date with your maintenance, and then the app sends you tailored reminders based off the maintenance updates that you input in your app. Excuse me. So, can we just talk a little bit about the importance of maintaining your home in terms of insurance policies and how that affects what insurance a policy holder would buy? Michelle O'Connor: I think Jeff alluded to this already, but the maintenance of your home, if you think about the home policy as being for catastrophic things, the other issues are things that you should be taking care of on a regular basis. So, that includes being able to budget for those items, and scheduling those items, which the app does a beautiful job of reminding you of, because life is so busy. It's hectic to remember that your AC unit needs to be serviced or, "Oh, it's fall coming. So, we need to have the heat serviced." Those types of things. Or our roof's 15 years old. There's a good probability that we need to start thinking about replacing the roof. Michelle O'Connor: So, I think that those are all important maintenance issues that customers need to think of. But there's also lots of little things too, even things like ... We're big with changing the batteries on our smoke detectors in October, and really pushing that message out. And even though that's not a home maintenance issue, it's certainly an insurance issue from folks dying in house fires. So, that's something that we push out to our clients at that time too. Caroline Brenneis: Well, we should definitely partner in October because that's when we do a big check your smoke detector batteries too. So, I feel like we can do something there. Michelle O'Connor: That would be great because we pushed so much social media out that month. And typically, we get to do a lot of fun things in our community during that time too. And of course, this year we're doing nothing. So ... Caroline Brenneis: What a weird time this year. Truly has been. So, again, vipHomeLink is an app that helps simplify home ownership as well through the use of technology. Can you share a little bit of how technology has changed both of your businesses? Michelle O'Connor: I'm sure you'll echo these sentiments, but technology has been such a welcome thing in, especially, the last six months, knowing that our agency was already prepared for something like this to happen. And by that, I mean that we've been electronic forever. And so, we've already been able to sign applications electronically. We are able to video chat with our clients. We have voiceover IP phones. So, during hurricane season, we push out to our clients all the ways that we're prepared for the unexpected to happen. Little did I know that the disaster preparation was going to prepare us for COVID as well, because it was seamless to use the same plan, and same operation. The good news is we had power, which I never anticipate in a hurricane. So, that's always a good thing. Michelle O'Connor: And there's a few less details that way. But technology has really changed our business because it makes things so much easier. You don't have to drive to my office to make a payment nor to sign anything. And we're still able to have the personal connection with things like video chats, which we've used a lot with our clients in the last six months. Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Great. All of those, agree completely, right? To be able to remote your entire workforce of 70 plus people came easy to us because we had a disaster preparedness plan, right? The time you spend now working on those things pays big dividends in the future. And it paid off for us all big or bigly, as the kids would say, during this COVID experience. And then, one other, in addition to [inaudible 00:37:31] webinars that everyone is really adopted to, the big pivot for us, which I was slow to adopt that just blew up for us during this is texting. Jeff Arnold: I mean, we went from very little to three different text platforms just for endorsements, for payments, for communication. And I'm not talking about web chat, I mean, just flat texting. There's a certain segment of the population just prefers to text. And so, that's been a real game changer for us. How to manage the avalanche of it coming in. And how to prioritize, and how to get it attached to the client file. But it has made easier for the consumer because that's how they want to do business. And so, just a simple sign off on that is I can't believe how much texting has accelerated just during COVID for us. Caroline Brenneis: Definitely. Yeah. I mean, I feel like even with us, we were virtually ... No offense ... Other than Paul, all in the office. And I think we honestly have worked so well together with Zoom, and Skype, and email, all of that. But it's really been oddly enough like something that I think we as a team have really excelled at. And I could only imagine that that too works with you to your clients, especially, in a time of panic, and stress, and all of that. So, Paul, do you want to take the last question? It has your name written all over it. Paul Chadowski: Before I get to that though, the other part is it's great to have all those plans. And I think I heard it from you, your teams embraced it too. Because so often you can have the best laid plans, but it sounds like everyone embraced the technology, and there may have been some adjustments for them. But can you briefly comment on that before I get to the last question? Just has it been an adjustment for everybody or has it been pretty smooth from that standpoint? Michelle O'Connor: Well, I have a much smaller team, so Jeff probably has a lot more to share. My little team of six did pretty well. Ironically enough, there were two girls on my team that did not do as well at home. And one asked me to go back to the office. The other one was our receptionist, and we never really intended it for her to be at home because of her job functions. Still having to deal with some logistical things like mail, and checks, and things like that. But our office is set up so that it was very easy to put them back in there with social distancing, and they're good to go. And they're actually quite happy that way. Michelle O'Connor: So, I think we could still pivot back, and put everybody remote if need be. But right now we don't need to do that. So, we're operating that way. Now, we have kept all the rest of us separate. And that was mainly because of how small we are, we can't afford to share anything with each other either. So, it's just given us that flexibility. But Jeff, I'm sure you have a lot to share since you had a lot more folks that had to embrace it. Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Well, it's so similar though, right? No matter the size, my experience is that people really react to change in one of three ways. Right? And so, in our organization, your organization, there's going to be those that are early adopters, and just with great enthusiasm, and excitement go, "Yes, I'm for this. Let's do it." There's those that just want to cross their arms, dig their heels in, and say, "All right, let me find out what's going to go. And then I'm going to be on the sidelines and figure out which side I'm joining. Am I joining the eager, enthusiastic side, or am I joining the side over here that's saying it won't work. It'll never work. We can never serve these customers. We can't do that. I have to get checks. I have to do this." Jeff Arnold: And so, organizations large and small deal with one of these three scenarios. And the tough part is to convince everyone that this is the right thing. Change scares all of us. Right? Change scares my wife. She doesn't want to be working with me 18 hours a day in the next room, right? [inaudible 00:41:03] but she's used to the house all on her own. And so, that's changed. Yeah. It's really just being aware that changing affects everyone differently, listening and working through that. Paul Chadowski: If you could tell your policy owners one thing, what would it be other than use vipHomeLink? Which we'd love you to say. But other than that, what'd you want to tell your policyholders? Michelle O'Connor: So, the one thing I want to tell my policyholders is not to be afraid to call us. That there's lots of things that happen that if they would just give us a call first, we could talk through with them. Everything from maybe a potential claim they're not really sure. Don't be afraid to call us. We don't have to turn it into the insurance company to have a conversation, and decide what the best course for them personally is. And there's also lots of things that happen to their home as well. They're putting an addition on, maybe they've decided to hire a nanny. Go ahead and give us a call on the front end of that, so, we can talk it through, and talk about all your options. We may think of something that you hadn't and be able to share that with you in advance that can change the course of your decision. Paul Chadowski: And Jeff? Jeff Arnold: Yeah. Thank you so much. Three different messages if I can tie them together. One is buyer beware, right? You heard all these conversations here about endorsements, and different coverages. Know this, in our industry you get exactly what you pay for, right? And so, if you just buy a policy yourself online, good for you, but understand what you're buying. Our best counsel, because this is what we do is to find an independent agent near you or online, then get that advice and counsel. It's not any more expensive. It doesn't cost anymore. These people are passionate about what they do. Jeff Arnold: And so, then I would pivot from that to say, you get what you pay for, use an agent. And then what companies are spending billions of dollars today to get you to do is bundle. So, absolutely bundle, right? Bundle, bundle, bundle works because it saves you that. And the other jingle discount double-check. Yes, go ahead and do that. And then, if you can complement a great insurance program with a home maintenance piece like vipHomeLink, right? Jeff Arnold: To make sure that you understand the way insurance is used, to use it the way it's supposed to be used as a catastrophic loss piece, not as a maintenance plan. Maintenance on you. And if a maintenance problem use your warranty. But combine those three. Combine a good agent with vipHomeLink, and a quality carrier that allows you bundle, then you will beat the insurance companies. And so, my last message is that's my last book is How to Beat Your Insurance Company. You don't beat your insurance company by filing claims, you beat it by doing all the things I just said before. So, thanks. Caroline Brenneis: Wonderful. Well, thank you both so much for joining us. I just wanted to give you each a few seconds to share where people, our listeners can find you. Social, or agen ... I know we talked about it, but agency name. Whatever you would love our listeners to hear. So, Michelle, why don't you kick us off? Michelle O'Connor: Sure. So, I'm Michelle O'Connor. I own O'Connor Insurance in Charlotte, North Carolina. And we are a boutique insurance agency that likes to have a consultative approach. And so, we are going to ask you lots of questions that you had never heard before to make sure that we can tailor an insurance policy and program to match your needs. So, you can find us on the web at oianc.com, and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Jeff Arnold: Perfect. So, again, my name's Jeff Arnold with RightSure. RightSure Insurance Group out of Tucson. We do business in 42 states. We fancy ourselves as a technology company, right? Integrating technology in everything we do. The website is RightSure.com, R-I-G-H-T-S-U-R-E. And then for my personal website, because I write and speak on Insurtech, and this wonderful industry that's been so wonderfully blessing to my family. That's at jeffarnold.com, J-E-F-F-A-R-N-O-L-D.com. Also, have to plug my books, and my publications are on those as well. So, thanks so much. Caroline Brenneis: Wonderful. Well, both thank you so much for joining us. And we hope to have another session soon, and we could discuss other fun insurance items. Michelle O'Connor: That sounds great. It was so nice to see both of you, and to meet you, Jeff. Jeff Arnold: It's a pleasure meeting you, Michelle. Thank you so much. I'm going to find you on LinkedIn. Michelle O'Connor: That sounds great. Caroline Brenneis: Have a lovely night guys. Thank you both. Michelle O'Connor: Thank you. Jeff Arnold: Caroline, Paul, thank you. Paul Chadowski: Take care. Speaker 1: Get more answers to your homeowner questions by subscribing to the vipHome Podcast, available anywhere podcasts are found.
We Talk Design with Teggy French
Caroline: Thank you so much for joining us. That wallpaper behind you is absolutely beautiful. Teggy: It's Dorothy Draper, who like did all of the interior design for The Greenbrier Hotel and The Beverly Hills Hotel. Caroline: Nice. Teggy: Yeah. You can still buy her wallpapers, which is fun. Caroline: Amazing. They're beautiful. I love stripes, all stripes. Jacqueline: I'm Jacqueline. I'm going to be co-hosting today with Caroline Morris. I did want to do a shout out to the vipHomeLink app, which is our sponsor, our main sponsor for this podcast, and also where me and Caroline work vigorously to help homeowners prevent any issues in the home and make living in their homes better. Jacqueline: Today we have with us Teggy French, fashion blogger and designer, who's going to be talking about all things home inspiration, home decor, home design, and how to make living beautiful easy on a budget. Welcome, Teggy. How are you? Teggy: Hi, I'm great. So nice to be here, thank you for having me. Jacqueline: Why don't you give us a little bit of introduction about yourself? Teggy: I am Teggy. I also go by the name of Alex, but Teggy was a nickname given to me in college, it's a play off of my maiden name, which was Tegenborg, and French is my middle name. I decided when I started my blog that I wanted a name that would translate into a business, should I decide to go that way. That's where Teggy French came from. I reside in New Vernon, New Jersey. I currently co-own a jewelry company called French and Ford, with my partner out of Dallas, and I'm getting ready to launch Teggy French, the clothing brand, on October 15. I'm still doing influencing, but now I'm starting to go into more of the design field, which is super exciting. Caroline: That's an inspiration to all. Could you share a little bit about how you got into the design space and what your inspiration is? We see the wallpaper and the fabrics behind you, it's so beautiful, but not necessarily every day. Could you share a little bit about your inspiration and how you got into the field? Teggy: I grew up with parents that spent every weekend going to auction houses or antiquing, and they loved to decorate. I mean, I probably changed my bedroom growing up like every six months. It was great having parents that nurtured that. My background in school was in acting and that didn't pan out the way I had hoped to, but with that, I still longed to have that creativity in my life. One day, someone was just like, "You should start a fashion blog," and I was like, "I should start a fashion blog." I came home and I did a lot of research and I literally launched the blog like 24 hours later. Teggy: I've always had an affinity for the 1960s, as you can probably tell. I think it was a time where people really took pride in the way that they dress. There obviously wasn't as many options, so wardrobes were much smaller, which I think is hopefully something we're now getting back into with sustainability of buying things that are going to be classic and take you through being able to wear it from the beach. Teggy: Through the blog, I just started to realize that people really responded to the 1960's style that I'm showing. There's not a lot of caftans on the market right now, so that's where I was like, "Well, maybe this is something that people would respond to." Instead of throwing on your workout clothes to go to the post office, why not throw on a caftan? Then my jewelry company started with a pair of bow earrings that I found at an antique store in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. I reached out to a woman I knew and I was like, "Do you think we can get these made?" and she was like, "Let me try it." Teggy: The bottom line of my story is just give it a whirl. If you're passionate about something and you have an idea, there's a way to get it done. I'm definitely living proof of that. I never thought that I would have two companies and be living my dream life five years after starting a blog. It's been a blessing, for sure. Jacqueline: I love the story about how you ... I was actually just down the shore. I was in Lavallette, which is near Point Pleasant, a little bit, not too far. But I love how you were in an antique store and you found these earrings and now you're creating this brand. Can you talk about antiquing in terms of creating a home space and finds that you've had or advice for people who want to start to bring antique and vintage home decor items into their space? Teggy: The biggest thing to just get over any hurdle of when it comes to home decor is be open to shopping anywhere and everywhere. I think a lot of times people think they need to go to one place and decorate their home in one color. It works and it looks pretty, but get a little creative, especially if you're on a budget. In Morristown, for example, which is near where we all live, there's the Market Street Mission. The stuff that they get is absolutely incredible. You can go every day and it's the thrill of the hunt. I have these beautiful chinoiserie pieces of art in my bedroom and they were $40 range. Then if you were to walk into a store, they would probably cost you about $2,000. Teggy: It's going antiquing, going to TJ Maxx, putting it all together. Then you invest in certain pieces, like maybe a sofa or something like that. But I spout that if you just manifest what it is you're looking for that the shopping gods will answer. You just have to be open to going to all different places. Caroline: I love decorating. This is my third apartment to decorate. My husband is very neutral, but the next, we're looking to buy a house and I was like, "I get my pinks and my blues and I don't care what you say. I get in an apartment it's a couple of rooms, but in a house, I was like, "I've given you three apartments of neutral, we can expand from here." Teggy: I bet you once you do it, he will actually like it. It's just getting out of the comfort zone. Caroline: I totally agree. Honestly, he wears colors. His suits are neutral, but his dress shirts, his ties, everything's so colorful. I was like, "Here we go to our bland apartment. Whoopideedoo." Teggy: [inaudible 00:06:47] stand out as the art, which is also quite [inaudible 00:06:49]. But it creates a space that you love, that's what I found. You would look behind me and be like, "Oh, she must be in Florida or California," and I'm in the suburbs of New Jersey. Some people might be like, "That doesn't go here," but there are no rules when it comes to fashion or decor. It comes from with it, you have to do what makes you happy. I'm like, "Well, Palm Beach and Palm Springs make me happy," so I'm going to create that world so when I'm in my home I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be. I am where I'm supposed to be, which is New Jersey, but you can have a little fun with creating an atmosphere to match maybe where you'd rather be. Caroline: Now, does your husband love it? Teggy: Well, it's funny. I painted the front hallway pink, and that was the first time he was like, "I don't want to live in an all pink house." Okay, I respect that, so I had it painted back to white. It does have to be a compromise. If you walk to the other end of my house, it's definitely more masculine. The living room and the sunroom are kind of Teggy World and then the other rooms are definitely more dark and a bit more Ralph Lauren-esque. Caroline: Okay. Yeah, my parents' house, I honestly tried to get up there to film today, but they're both home so it really didn't make that much sense, their bedroom is pink, the dining room is this jungle bright green, the ceiling is like a felt, not felt, like a velvet. It's so interesting. Teggy: Wow. Caroline: Then the library is this dark navy, like Ralph Lauren too. Teggy: Yes. Caroline: I guess it's all about compromise. Teggy: I need to see their house because that sounds fabulous. Caroline: My mom's similar to you, decorates the whole entire house like every couple of months. When we were growing up and she was just home with my brother and I, and my dad just, I think, gave her jobs and was just like, "Oh, you want to redo the bedroom again? Sure, whatever makes you happy." I had a bedroom change every couple of years too. It's just- Teggy: Gotta keep it moving. Caroline: Exactly. In your style that you wear in your style and your home, how do you draw those parallels to still be you? Jacqueline: What is your process for [crosstalk 00:09:13] a space? It's like you have the aesthetic that you love, you have a bit of a vision for a room, but how do you really bring that into action? Teggy: It all starts with color for me. I'll see colors that really speak to me. For my living room, for example, I walked into a store and they had this turquoise and this deep kind of marigold color. I never would have thought to put those together, but it really spoke to me. It was a bench that they had, and my living room at this point was all white velvet and yellows, and I brought the bench home and then it just turned into redecorating the entire room with that one piece. Teggy: My process definitely starts with color, and then from there, kind of laying out how the room is going to look. I'm a very visual person, so what I will do is if I find pictures online, I have this app called PicMonkey, where you can actually create a collage and I'll place all of the pieces of furniture and see how it feels. I do that a lot with outfits as well. It just makes things much easier with the way that my mind works. Teggy: Then once the furniture and everything is in there, that's where the fun really begins. Take your time with accessorizing and with artwork. I can live with a blank wall for like three years because I would rather happen upon the perfect piece of artwork as opposed to settle for something. I found this giant foo dog at HomeGoods on clearance for like $50. Caroline: It's so cute. Teggy: It's so cute. Also, I highly recommend having an SUV or a pickup truck. So the next lease you get or your next car you buy, definitely got a big car because you have to be prepared at all times. I mean, my dad and I will literally be driving down the road and we'll pull a U-ey and somebody's put something out by the garbage and we're like, "That's fabulous. We're going to take that and make it super cool." Jacqueline: You start with the color, then you create the space in terms of the flow with the furniture, and then the accessorizing is really that last part. Teggy: 100%, yep. Jacqueline: That's helpful. That also makes me feel better because I moved into my new apartment back in April, and you can't see the wall that's in front of me, but I have a little dining area, it's kind of like a living room, dining room space and then I have an eat-in kitchen. I want to put artwork on these walls, but I don't want just any artwork so I've been holding off, holding off, so it's blank. I'm like, "I want something there, but I don't want it to be just anything." Jacqueline: The same thing I got rid of some of the artwork in my bedroom. I had just had it for four years, I wanted something fresh. I wanted more color, actually. I'm a neutral girl. Teggy: Okay. Jacqueline: [crosstalk 00:12:05], grays. I like the gold accents, but whites and grays with some gold. I'm trying to bring in more color, like I brought in some blue curtains. But my bedroom, I want to bring color in there too so I kind of got rid of my gray, but I don't have anything there yet. Knowing that it's okay to wait, that you endorse it, for the right piece makes me feel better, because I'm like I just don't want to put just anything in there because if I don't like it or if it's just trying to force itself in there, I'm not going to feel good in this space. Teggy: No, and now more than any other time, I think we're realizing our homes are our sanctuaries right now. We have to create an environment that we really love and that makes us zen. We're spending every waking moment in our homes, it should be a place that you've created that you really love. It's a good time to redecorate, that's for sure. Teggy: Don't be afraid of buying things and trying them out, and if they don't work, bring them back. I think a lot of people are afraid of that, like "Is it going to work? Is it not going to work?" but just throw it in your car, see if it works. Jacqueline: Yeah, I need to see it in the space. I'm really visual that way, I have to see it in the space or I don't know. I'm not as good at visualizing, I need to see how it really works. Teggy: Absolutely. Caroline: It's interesting. My sister-in-law and my grandmother-in-law, whatever they're called, both are artists. So we're not allowed to have blank spaces or they'll just bring a million pieces of art to us. It's beautiful, I don't want to ... It's like nice and everything, but I'm sort of like, "Oh my God, just let me have a blank wall for 10 minutes. My God, I don't need this." Teggy: That when you politely accept it, you hang it when they come over. Caroline: Exactly. Teggy: Because newsflash, nobody gets to tell you what to do with your own space. That has taken me 37 years to learn, to tell people, "No, this is going to be what I want." Caroline: Good to know. I'm going to take that with me. I'm going to tell them, "Teggy says." Teggy: Yeah. Sorry, are you living here? Hopefully not. I believe the answer's no, so thank you and let's move on. Caroline: That might be the best advice of this whole podcast. Caroline: I know you touched on this a little bit about the Market Street Mission and TJ Maxx and all those sorts of places, but can you share a little bit more on feeling fabulous on a budget? I mean, I think a lot of our listeners definitely like that space and splurge here but don't want to splurge on everything. How can you create your unique space without spending all this money? Teggy: Regardless of where you are, buying at the local thrift stores. Go on Facebook Marketplace. Also, don't be afraid, most thrift stores will give you at least 10% off of whatever the prices are marked, never feel nervous about negotiating prices. Teggy: It depends what your aesthetic is. If you don't have a big budget to decorate, go through books of time eras that maybe speak to you, for me, mid-century modern. Then you go on Facebook Marketplace, you do a search, and you'd be so surprised at the prices you can get. Sometimes people are even giving them away for free. You can go, and Benjamin Moore has the best color paints, there's like Fine Paints of Europe that is this beautiful, high-gloss lacquered paint. You just throw some paint on it and all of a sudden it looks like you've spent a fortune. Teggy: Then, again, TJ Maxx. I literally went into TJ Maxx and found Missoni pillows on clearance for its $13. Velvet, beautiful Missoni pillows. You just have to be open to shopping anywhere and everywhere. Listen, Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel, places like that are great, but they're expensive. Your living space should be a place that just makes you super happy, and I've found that I'm never happy if I've put myself into debt to have something nice. Teggy: But I remember, when I lived in New York City, I lived in this really teeny, tiny apartment. I had no money and the world's smallest bedroom, but I had a lot of clothes. So I went to Ikea, I got a plain white bed that had drawers underneath it to store everything and then I got their armoires and that's where I hung all my clothes. Then they painted the room a really fabulous color. That's another key, paint the room a super fun color and then you could just throw ... TJ Maxx has the best priced mirrors. A sunburst mirror that's gold on a navy blue wall looks amazing. Then I just got one giant piece of artwork. My little apartment was so cute and I did the whole thing for under a thousand dollars. Caroline: Wow. Teggy: Yeah. I mean, I don't believe that you have to have a lot of money to look like you have a lot of money. Caroline: That's fair. Teggy: Don't put yourself into debt because you think that you need to spend to create a certain life. It's not true. Some of the best items in clothing that I own are from Salvation Army, that cost ... I got a Pucci dress once for like $3. I know. Market Street Mission, I found a vintage Pucci dress for $7. Jacqueline: That's incredible. Caroline: I have to go there. Jacqueline: Yeah, we're not far. Caroline: Yeah, seriously. Jacqueline: We could go there. Caroline: Jacqueline, let's go one of these days. Jacqueline: I actually used to live like two blocks from there. Teggy: [crosstalk 00:18:04]. Let's say I'm carrying a designer bag and somebody is like, "I like your bag," and it's a Chanel bag or something, I'm like, "Thanks," and I get so uncomfortable. But if somebody's like, "I like your shirt," and I found it at TJ Maxx on clearance for $13, I'm so proud to tell that because it's way more exciting. I'm more proud that I found something for $13 and more embarrassed that I'm carrying something that I probably should not have bought. Teggy: That's what I really tried to do through Teggy French. Once a week, I'll do my under $100 picks because I think it's just important. Even if you can afford the expensive stuff, what's the point? It's all about creativity for me, that's where I get the most excitement. Jacqueline: I got a lot of things in my home on Facebook Marketplace. I love the thrill of negotiation. Right now, I'm at this IKEA table, it's like a tulip table. I spray painted the base of it gold and, I haven't done it yet, but I have some marble contact paper on the top. Because the one I love from West Elm is thousands, so I'm like, "How could I make this myself?" I got these cheap velvet chairs that look like the West Elm ones on Amazon for ... I think I got four chairs for like 150. I'm like, "I'm really proud of myself." Caroline: That's so funny because I've been debating whether or not I should get that table and chairs from West Elm. Jacqueline: Yeah, I love it. You'd be surprised, sometimes you can negotiate. I went to World Market, and in my living room area, I have these two little marble gold tables. I was able to negotiate the floor model as opposed to one in the back. They were originally, I think it was 600 for the two tables, they nest, and I took them all for 250 because he gave me the floor model. Teggy: See? Jacqueline: I have advice, I didn't even know it. But I was so proud of that. I wanted to be sustainable in my purchases. This is a rental, I'm not living here, so it's like I don't want to spend a lot of money because I'm moving in with my boyfriend down the road. It's going to change, we're going to have to turn things over. Jacqueline: Facebook Marketplace, I love it. I have a wine rack, I just stained the wood on there. I'm becoming such a DIY-er, it's incredible. Teggy: We have such a unique time in our life right now where we really can be creative, we have time to do that. Jacqueline: Yeah. I do love garage sales, but they're not happening as often I don't think right now with COVID. My dad never found a garage sale he didn't like, he'd always bring home something from a garage sale. I think I got that from him. Caroline: My mom is the bigg estate gal, estate sale gal. She always finds some great finds. Teggy: The vintage clothes you can find at those places are amazing. Also, become friends with realtors because a lot of times the realtors will know prior to these homes going on the market that they're going to be having an estate sale and they can get you in there. Caroline: See, that's what I need. Teggy: People at your favorite stores, because when it does come time to buying investment pieces, my shoe guy at Neiman Marcus, I'm going to be one of the first people he texts, "These are going to be going on sale," because we have a good relationship. It's always good to be friends with people. Caroline: Speaking of investment pieces, I know you're talking Neiman's and not furniture, but if you had a few things that you would say investment pieces for your home, what would you say that the splurge items would be? Teggy: The splurge items in my home have been my rugs. I go to J&S in Morristown and they have the best selection and they can work with your price point. I love Oriental rugs, and so that's been a great investment. I also invested in a Missoni runner for my hallway, which actually should have been twice the price, but they were able to do it somehow that they sewed it together to make it less expensive for me. So rugs for sure. Teggy: Then I always had this thing growing up, my parents were very into decor, but they did not have any comfortable couches. When we first bought our house, I was like, "I need to get the world's biggest L-shaped, comfortable couch." That was our first big investment piece. I do not recommend getting velvet if you're planning on having children that probably wasn't the smartest investment, but I look at it and it makes me really happy. Teggy: Then artwork. If there's an artist that you love, save up and buy one of their pieces because it's going to be something that's really special for you. If you study it, a lot of times they're going to go up in value. I have a painting that my parents bought in 1979, it was the first painting that they ever bought together. The value of it is crazy compared to what they bought it for. It's nice to be able to pass those things down. Teggy: Besides that, I'm looking at my lamps, I got those down the shore too. If you're looking to go antiquing, Arnold Avenue in Point Pleasant has great places, as well as Asbury Park. Caroline: Amazing. Teggy: But I got these for like a hundred dollars for two of them. Then I found them online and they were over a thousand dollars. Caroline: They're so cute. Teggy: It's mixing old with new, but you don't have to really invest in a lot. It's all about how you put things together. You can make things look like a million dollars, and secretly it was like $5. Caroline: You remind me a lot of my mom in her thought process as well. Teggy: Well, it's so sad because the auction houses have all really closed. Talk about exhilarating, with bidding on things. You know who has good stuff actually, which I was unaware of until recently? Walmart. Is it annoying if I get up and walk to show you guys stuff? Caroline: No, that's super cool. Jacqueline: No. Teggy: Actually, mostly online. I went to Walmart yesterday, oddly enough, and I got so many cute long T-shirts in the men's department. Okay, I needed two end tables for this space here. If you go on Jonathan Adler, these cost a fortune. I found them on Walmart for like a quarter of the price and they were delivered within two days. I remember I posted them on Like To Know It and they sold out immediately because people could not believe what I paid for them. Teggy: What else did I get there? Oh, these I got from HomeGoods, these ghost chairs. Jacqueline: That's awesome. Teggy: Then I just had them reupholstered. I get so many compliments. These were a hundred dollars each and then- Caroline: Your house is phenomenal. Jacqueline: I know. Teggy: Well, thank you. Caroline: I mean, I'm not surprised, but it's really ... Wow. Teggy: Thank you. I love it. I wake up every day and I'm just so grateful, that bar cart is from Walmart. It was a hundred dollars. Jacqueline: That's adorable. Caroline: Who even knew Walmart had furniture. Jacqueline: I think they're trying to step up their game. Caroline: Okay. Teggy: They've upped their game, big time. Go on Walmart and anything that you can find on Amazon you can find on Walmart. They outsource a lot from different people, but they're shipping super fast. Teggy: Then with bar carts, fill it up with all of the vintage glasses. Go to Market Street Mission and they have the ... Or if you need china, I got Fitz and Floyd stuff there yesterday, they had Royal Doulton. Caroline: Wow. Teggy: Amazing china for $150 for the whole set. But you just fill it up, I have my vintage poodles. These are all from TJ Maxx. That's another thing, if you see something at TJ Maxx that you love and they only have one of it, keep going to different ones throughout the state, because chances are that you'll find more. The Missoni pillows, I found in three different places on clearance. Caroline: Speaking of poodles, this is off script, but I remember a few weeks ago you were maybe doing a shout out for doodles. Teggy: Yes. Caroline: Did you ever find a breeder? Teggy: Oh my gosh. I have like a million breeders that people sent me, but no, I have not committed to one. Why do you have one? Caroline: Yeah, we got ours, she's a mini labradoodle and she's that apricot color. Teggy: Oh, that's my favorite. Caroline: She's so fabulous. Jacqueline's met her. I think we'd agree that she's pretty cute. She's right in Blairstown, New Jersey. Teggy: I went to Blair Academy. Caroline: Really? Okay, so yeah, you drive literally like two miles past the school and it's this little farm on your left. Teggy: Oh, I love that. Caroline: [crosstalk 00:26:56]. Teggy: I love that information. I'm thinking of doing that for Christmas for our son. Caroline: Oh my God, you're going to be so in love. They're such a perfect size. I think she's maybe 17 pounds. Teggy: Oh, that's amazing. Yeah, because I have a Maltipoo now who's also apricot. That's my favorite color. Caroline: Aw, how cute. Teggy: He's 13 pounds, but he's eight years old and he's been very sick so I almost feel like it might be good for him to have a little friend around. Caroline: Yeah, definitely. I can send over the information. Teggy: Okay. That'd be great, thank you. Caroline: Yeah. All right, back to normal scheduled programming. Jacqueline: Dogs are important, they're part of home life. I think it's related. Caroline: Perfect. Teggy: That's true. Jacqueline: I was going to add, before we move on, when I was looking for things for my new apartment, a girlfriend of mine, she's really good at if you have an idea she'll put together a vision board and then she'll go out and find the pieces online. She's just really great at that. I'll tell her I like this thing, I'm inspired by this, and within an hour she has an Amazon cart for me of all the items that are [inaudible 00:28:02] versions of it or something like that. She's great. Teggy: She should start a business. Jacqueline: But looking through Walmart ... I know, she should do that, she's amazing. I guess they're doing a new collaboration with Drew Barrymore so they have a lot of really cute, mid-century items, home decor, and I was loving it. The prices are great. Teggy: The prices are great and the quality is really good. I have some of the Drew Barrymore stuff in my son's nursery because she did a little kids collaboration with them. It's all really well-made. You get it, girl. You guys have taught me a lot on this call, thank you. It's amazing. Teggy: But also, looking out at my pool right now, I have to get everything on a budget and I got these cement urns on Facebook Marketplace, two for $100. Jacqueline: That's a great price. Teggy: Then I got the vintage table and chairs on Facebook Marketplace for $500, which was a splurge. Again, if you looked on eBay or something like that, they would be more expensive. You've got to shop around, that's the case in point, you know? Get creative. Jacqueline: Let's talk about Splendor in, September. Can you talk about what it is for our listeners and your involvement? Teggy: Splendor in September is normally known as Mansion in May. It happens every other year. The Women's Association here find a mansion and they create a showhouse that designers come into. They have to apply with their vision and then they're selected to decorate a space within the mansion. The money goes to Morristown Hospital, which is such a great hospital here. We're so lucky to have it. Teggy: Yeah, people pay to go in and tour the house. Obviously, with COVID, Mansion in May was canceled, but the women from the Women's Association, they're rock stars and they managed to get everything in place so that it can happen. I got involved in it, I actually did just the designer sales space, which is where people go if they want to buy anything in any of the rooms. That's a great place too to get inspiration, is seeing what these designers did. A lot of times the stuff in the rooms are for sale. Teggy: I am not an interior designer by any means, but Mrs. [inaudible 00:00:30:23], from F. Gerald New, who I'm absolutely obsessed with and talk about inspiration and style, you guys should stop in and see her because she has the perfect bouffant, she's always dressed immaculately and she has the most incredible personal style as well as interior style. She recommended to them that maybe it would be fun for me to do a space because I have Teggy French. There was this 1950's wallpaper that was equestrian themed and I could not bear to part with it, so my space was all based around that specific wallpaper. Then everything in the room was a bargain. I got to go to all the vintage shops and you can buy all of that. Teggy: But the house is spectacular, so I highly recommend to anybody listening, either go and visit or do the virtual tour because it goes towards a great cause. It's definitely inspiring if you're looking to redecorate a space in your home. The mansion is open for tours starting on the 8th. Caroline: That's so exciting, I can't wait to see it. Jacqueline: [crosstalk 00:31:22], checking it out. Teggy: Yeah, it is really exciting. The house is for sale, it's on Van Beuren Road. It's listed with Weichert Realtors, with Mary Horn, and so if you love the house, it can be yours. It's a phenomenal, phenomenal home. Literally, you drive up and you just feel like you're stepping back in time. There's actually a picture of the couple that lived there in the 1960s that I put into my design space. She's wearing a fur and he's dressed in his riding clothes. Again, like all of that 1960s, you just look at it and it's just like, "Ah," people were so chic. Caroline: Yes, I love that era. I think it's pretty phenomenal. Teggy: Me too. Maybe we lived in the 1960s, who knows? Caroline: Yeah, like a past life version of ourselves. Teggy: Exactly. Jacqueline: I was a big Mad Men fan. Teggy: Was that not everything, the fashion in that show? Jacqueline: It was incredible. My grandmother worked at an advertising agency in the '60s. Teggy: She [crosstalk 00:32:25]. Jacqueline: So we watched it together. She really liked Don Draper, as did I. Complicated as he was and all, I mean. Teggy: He is a spectacular specimen, that Don Draper. Jacqueline: Yeah, but the clothes and the decor are fabulous, and juxtaposing Betty with Megan and their different aesthetics, super cool, super fun. Teggy: That's another great example, is watch old shows and old movies and get out those books. That's what it's about. Anything that speaks to you, tear pages out, Pinterest it, whatever it is. I really do believe in the power of manifestation, if there's something you're looking for, write it down in a journal and think about it and it just might come to you. Jacqueline: I actually recently went to Graceland, which is just like a time capsule. I don't have a lot of color, but if I show ... I'm trying to bring color in a little bit more. Teggy: Oh, it's fabulous. Jacqueline: I'm starting to play with it, but I walked through Graceland and his front seating area has beautiful blue peacock stained glass and then these white couches with these dark blue accents. I'm like inspired by it, so [crosstalk 00:33:44]. Caroline: Get some plants, Jacqueline. Teggy: Yes, you've got to bring Graceland to New Jersey. Jacqueline: It is a time capsule. It is so cool, I was in awe. Teggy: Isn't it? Jacqueline: Except for the carpeting in the kitchen. I don't know if I can get down with that. Teggy: No, that's like shag carpeting in bathrooms. It's like, "Mmm." Jacqueline: Yeah, no. Yeah. Caroline: It's not great. Jacqueline: I was phenomenal. This was so much fun. Thank you so much for coming on and speaking with us. Teggy: Oh my gosh, anytime. It was so much fun. Caroline: Well, thank you, Teggy, so much for joining us. We can't wait for listeners to hear this. Jacqueline: If they want to follow you on Instagram, check out your blog, where should they go? Caroline: [crosstalk 00:34:21]. Teggy: @TeggyFrench is my Instagram and that's where I do most of my stuff, as well as TeggyFrench.com is my blog, and then French and Ford is the earring line. Yeah, we'll be launching our first real, legit line of Teggy French caftans October 15. It's going to be a Very Teggy Christmas, is the theme. Caroline: I love that. Teggy: Yeah. Caroline: I can't wait to buy something. Teggy: Oh, good. Yes, I want to see you both in caftans next week. Jacqueline: You got it.
Pool Maintenance with America's Swimming Pool Co.
Simplify homeownership with the vipHomeLink app, which helps you manage, organize, and improve your home. Visit our website: https://viphomelink.com/ Like vipHomeLink on Facebook: facebook.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Instagram: instagram.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Twitter: twitter.com/vipHomeLink Listen to our podcast: viphomelink.com/podcast Read the vipBlog (The Best Blog on the Block): viphomelink.com/blog Download the app today: iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/viphomelink/id1453366752 Android devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vipHomeLink&hl=en_US
How to Stop Pests from Becoming Unwanted Guests in Your Home with Orkin
Welcome to the vipHome Podcast where we talk about all the things homeowners need to know. Glenn: Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. I always love to talk about bugs and pest control, and it's not something that a lot of people love to talk about. So I'm happy to be able to share my love of bugs and pest control with your viewers. Glenn: I got into this uniquely as a lot of people do in our industry. It's not necessarily the industry that people say, "I want to be the bug killer when I grow up," or "I want to play with bugs when I grow up." But actually, when I was very little, I did have a pet, scorpion. We found it in the garage. My mom was hesitant at first. It was just a little scorpion. We put it in a fish bowl and it turned out to be the best pet we ever had- Jacqueline: No way. Glenn: ... because it didn't need to be walked, you didn't need to take it... Bathroom breaks weren't a problem, vacations weren't a problem, all of that. I went on to college. I was going to be a pediatrician. Lost the thought about having anything to do with bugs and got to college and I had to take an elective class for my degree. I took an entomology class and had this realization that I can play with bugs for the rest of my life as a job. Glenn: Went down, changed my major. Again, my mom wasn't thrilled, but she's happy now. I'm gainfully employed. She was a little worried at one time. I went through college, I ended up taking some time in between. I got a bachelor's and a master's in entomology, but I took some time in between and I worked in a virology lab for a while, making vaccine components and stuff, and came back to the entomology. Glenn: And did the master's degree and fell into the industry doing structural pest control type stuff. Then I worked at a regional company in the Atlanta, Georgia area, and times past, some things happened at that company. They got acquired by a larger company. I decided it was time to step up to the big leagues and come to the biggest. So I'm happy to be where I am today. Caroline: Can you share a little bit about what entomology is? I know it's the study of bugs maybe. Glenn: Yeah, so I can elaborate. Entomology actually lumps in a lot of different things because we seem to be the catchall for things that other people don't want. Entomology by definition is the study of insects, and insects are six legged, three body segments, stuff like that. Spiders don't technically fall into entomology by definition, but we lump them in because they're the closest thing to the study of in that aspect. Glenn: In the pest control world, entomologists get lumped into rodent control, other wildlife, snakes, just the full gambit of things that come that... I see Caroline's shaking. Yeah, it's the stuff people don't want. Caroline: Yeah. I don't really mind bugs so much and spiders are fine, but you introduce the snake to the crowd and whoa. Glenn: I'm not a snake person myself- Caroline: Oh, good. Glenn: ... but I will happily take a tarantula and put it on my face. So I'm still weird. Caroline: Okay. Glenn: There's entomologists, and then there's normal people, and I fall into the entomologist category. Jacqueline: What's a day in your life look like for you? Glenn: We get a lot of specimens sent in that either our operations have trouble figuring out what it is. We get a lot of Facebook requests for pest IDs, customers, random fans of Orkin that follow us on social media platforms. We'll post a picture and say, "Hey, what is this? Hey Orkin man." We're the behind the scenes Orkin men and women for that matter. We have a nice team of Orkin women that are employed here. Glenn: So that is one big aspect that we do is pest identification. It's really critical to the pest control process to know what you're trying to control. The second thing that we do is we problem solve. If there's unique situation going on in the field that an operation is having trouble with, or maybe it's a pharmaceutical plant that has something going on, that it's just highly sensitive. Glenn: We can go out, we can assess the situation, we can provide recommendations for solving those type problems. The last thing that we do is really assist our field operations in writing protocols so that they have the best... We evaluate equipment, we evaluate products and we write the protocols to help them have the best tools, and the best knowledge, and the best process to solve these problems the easiest way for them and the best for our customers. Caroline: Can you share a little bit as we go into the late summer, early fall, what pests really become problems? I know you said that you're solution-oriented, but before calling Orkin or before calling a pest service, how can you prevent some of these pests from doing harm? Glenn: And harm is what we're trying to prevent. I think the harm isn't necessarily... There's obvious harm that they could do to people, some pests, but there's harm to homes. And that's the target that we're thinking about today is as weather cools off, we get into these cooler months, shorter days, these pests try and find someplace to go. They're trying to escape the cold weather. They're trying to find someplace to bed down just like we do during the winter months, we want to stay warm and cozy. Glenn: So there's really two major categories of things that we could be facing. Rodents are a huge one. Rodents try and migrate into homes, businesses, whatever, during the fall months so that they can survive the winter months and breed at the same time. The second category, and we'll get into what can we do about it in just second. The second category is what we call occasional invaders. And these are things that don't typically feed or breed in homes, but try and escape things like the cold, the hot. Glenn: They're looking for water, they're looking for some kind of food resource, and they just happen into the home by accident. So call them occasional invaders. Some of the occasional invaders that we might think of would be boxelder bugs. Boxelder bugs, I get hundreds of friends asking what these red and black looking bugs are that come in mass to the side of their house or whatever. Glenn: They're predominantly black, they have some red markings on them. When they're young, they're almost exclusively red with some very little light black marks, black legs and stuff like that. So they're just really bright and striking in color and people just see hundreds of them all the sudden on the side of their house or whatever. And it's just a common occurrence. A lot of things will kill them, they'll go away, but you want to try and keep them from coming inside. Glenn: Stink bugs or predominant. Caroline: We get a lot of them. Glenn: Yeah, Caroline mentioned she was from the New England States. That is a huge area for the brown marmorated stink bug. It's an invasive species. If you think of what home plate looks, a home plate shape, pentagon shaped, but that's more of what it's like. They call them marmorated, that means speckled or patterned in color. And they're this brownish pattern on their body. They call them stink bugs because if you touch them, they release this chemical that stinks and it's a repellent to other insects and other predators. Caroline: I have a question on stink bugs. Glenn: Yeah, [crosstalk 00:08:01]. Caroline: ... if it's a myth or a rumor, but I heard that if you kill them, that that stink actually attracts their friends, so you get more. Glenn: While we find it offensive, that smell can be an aphrodisiac to other stink bugs. It has some pheromones in it, so they will use it to aggregate, they will use it to find each other. It also has some antibacterial qualities. So I'm not saying that we should take stink bugs and clean our hands [crosstalk 00:08:38] from COVID-19 or anything, but it does help them protect themselves from other microorganisms that might cause them illness. Glenn: One thing that I don't want your viewers to do is suck them up in their vacuum cleaner. If you suck them up in the vacuum cleaner, that smell, that stink can get in the vacuum cleaner and it is really hard to get it out. So it's better to trap them, throw them outside, get them with a cup and a piece of paper and take them out, or just grab them with a Kleenex or something like that. Glenn: The Kleenex will keep the oil from getting on your hands. You can wash your hands afterwards, but they don't bite or anything. So it's something that you can just grab and get rid of and not ruin your vacuum cleaner. Jacqueline: Would you say that there are insects that you would recommend or would be okay with using a vacuum to clean up, if you will? Glenn: Yeah. Another occasional invader that we think about as ladybugs. Ladybugs, I highly recommend sucking up in the vacuum cleaner because- Jacqueline: Okay. Glenn: ... if you smash a ladybug like on your wall or on your curtains or whatever, they'll release this orange stain. It's similar to the stuff that a stink bug would release. It's a chemical that they exude to try and ward off predators or whatever, but it will stay in wallpaper. It'll stay in paint, it'll stay in fabrics. So by sucking them up with the vacuum cleaner, it doesn't let them scotch that out and stain the surface. Jacqueline: All right. Glenn: Most bugs, it's not a problem to suck up in the vacuum cleaner. It's really the ones that we think about like stink bugs that have this pungent odor associated with them that we don't want to do that. Jacqueline: That makes sense. Caroline: I always remember as a kid, when I found a ladybug, I was so excited and my mom was like, "Oh no, you don't want ladybugs. That means something's wrong or an infestation of sorts." So- Glenn: Ladybugs are actually very beneficial. To have them in your garden is amazing. They eat aphids, which are pests of plants. They suck the plant juices, ladybugs actually eat those. So they're really good to have around. Yeah, you don't want them inside. They will die inside. Other parts of the country, in like the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, those areas, they actually get really, really, really bad infestations of ladybugs. Glenn: So like the stink bugs that we were talking about, or boxelder bugs that we get in mass in these areas, in your area, my area, Atlanta, Georgia, Southeast, they get mass infestations of ladybugs. And those lady bugs can die in the attic, in the wall voids, in places where you can't get to them as easy. And those bug carcasses for lack of better term can attract other pests. There's other pests that feed on dead bugs, so you can get secondary pest infestations from having dead bugs in your house. Jacqueline: That's good to know. Caroline: Yeah. Maybe my mum was right in [crosstalk 00:11:46]. Glenn: It's never good to have bugs in your home unless they're pets. The first thing that I would say to tell homeowners to do is walk around your house. Not just walk around and say, "Oh, the bushes look pretty," or "The roses are nice." That's wonderful to do, but look for things that don't look right. Scratch marks, bent gutters, top shingles. Those types of things are things that are indicative of another problem, something's happened to make that happen. Glenn: And those are oftentimes things that we're looking for when we go out and do an inspection. We have a little more trained eye, so we see things that a homeowner may not see. But fixing those type things or looking for a soffit vent or an eave that has scratch marks on it may indicate that there's been a squirrel trying to get in, a raccoon trying to get in. Some other type of rodent trying to get into the attic space. And that's that first side that a homeowner might see. Glenn: For occasional invader type stuff, sealing cracks and crevices, putting up screens on windows, making sure the screens are tight. Caulking around plumbing lines, your cable line comes into your house somewhere, making sure that caulking that's around it is good and tight. In your air conditioning, HVAC lines, making sure those are sealed around them. Any kind of penetration from the outside to the inside of your home should be sealed up really well. Jacqueline: About two years ago, I had squirrels in my walls. I lived on the top floor. I was on the third floor of a three story apartment complex. And I guess, I don't know how they got in through the roof. Somehow there was some kind of opening and it was my bedroom wall and they were living in. And yeah, there was just some opening and I guess they had sealed it and they had gotten rid of the... They were squirrels, and then the squirrels tore it open again and came back in. Jacqueline: And it was just something they were in the trees and they crawled into the house as it got colder in late September, October, and- Glenn: Any branches that are overhanging, touching, bushes touching the home, any of that, the more that can be cut away from the home helps pests from being able to jump or just walk right onto the house. If your bushes are 12 to 18 inches away from the foundation of your home, like cutaway on the backside from the street, you can't tell. It still looks beautiful, but it keeps ants from being able to walk from the bush onto the house and get in or something like that. Glenn: Same with the trees overhanging keeps squirrels from dropping on. There's cockroaches that nest into trees that drop onto the house and will come in through the soffit vents and that type stuff. So all of that that you can keep cutaway is a really good preventive tip as well. Caroline: I feel like we need all the preventative tips that we can get. Caroline: How often do you think or would you recommend like Orkin services or pest control services over the course of a year? Is it seasonally, or twice, or- Glenn: If you're going to employ the services of a pest control company, I would have them come... Typically, they're going to come monthly, bimonthly or quarterly. Caroline: Okay. Glenn: And a lot of that is dependent on what region of the country you're in. If you're in a really cold climate, you may not need it as often, so they may come quarterly. But it is important that somebody is looking year-round because there's different pests that will come in the fall, then the spring, then the summer, then the winter, whatever. So your home is really under constant attack from stuff trying to get in, from keeping mosquitoes away, or keeping the rodents out in the fall, or protecting from the spring emergence of a lot of different pests. Glenn: That's their big... It starts getting warmer, they start growing their population sizes, they start moving around more because it's warmer outside. So it really is important that somebody is looking on a regular basis. Depending on what you want to have them look for or how you want to do that, companies are more than willing to come out on a onetime basis or come out on a regular basis. Caroline: Do mosquitoes count as under your control? Glenn: Mosquitoes are actual insects, so yes. Caroline: I get horrific mosquito bites. No matter where I am, just a million of them. Glenn: My wife is the same way. It bites her and she immediately gets like a big red welt that shows up. I fed mosquitoes in college [crosstalk 00:16:28]. I don't react the same way, and- Caroline: Okay. Glenn: ... that's an important thing to remember when people... I'm not going to knock on the doctors because I wanted to be one, but you cannot diagnose what kind of insect, or bug, or spider, or whatever bit somebody by the skin reaction. Jacqueline: Oh. Glenn: It's absolutely impossible. Everybody reacts differently. We use bedbugs as an example, some people react to bedbug bites, some people don't. Some people react to mosquito bites, some people don't. So the red mark that you get on your skin, the swollen red mark is an immune response to the saliva, to the histamines, whatever that the bug bites you and injects, and everybody's body reacts differently to those. Glenn: We hear all the time, "Oh, well, that's a spider bite. My doctor told me it was a spider bite." Your doctor can't tell you. Your doctor's seeing an immune response to something. It could have been a bedbug, it could have been a mosquito, something else, a tick. It could have been a lot of things and produce that same reaction. It's important that you pay attention. If something does bite you, try and get a picture of it. Glenn: Try and throw some tape onto it, something, catch it because that helps people in determining what to do about that particular bite. Caroline: My horror story for the day was going to be, I was at the sleepaway camp in a tent, sleeping in a tent and I had this huge, huge welt in the crease of my arm. And it ended up being a spider laid an egg or some eggs in my arm. Jacqueline: No. No. Glenn: I would put potentially disagree. Caroline: I think that was more of the story, but it was like a huge- Jacqueline: Oh. Caroline: ... thing. Glenn: Glenn: Where was the camp? Caroline: West New Jersey. Glenn: West New Jersey. I do not know of any spider that lays its eggs underneath the skin of a human. There are other things that will not necessarily lay their eggs in your skin. There's like almost nothing that does that. But there are things that when they bite you, you'll get like an abscess type underneath the skin from the reaction that your body has to it. And sometimes the easiest thing to do is pull that like pocket out surgically. Caroline: Yeah, that's what they did. Glenn: Awesome. Caroline: And it's funny because I think I was like seven at the time. So I think what seven-year old knows the word abscess? You know what I mean? I think it became a story. I tell that back to my mom, she's like, "You have eggs in your arm, come on." So that's a story though. Glenn: My mom told me that if I eat watermelon seeds, I'd grow a watermelon in my belly. Caroline: I know that one too. Glenn: That's not true either. Jacqueline: I had something, I was... This is a little bit unrelated to honing homes, but I guess it was a summer home. My stepfather's from Sweden. We moved to the States and was living here for a while, but he maintained this little cottage he kept in the Swedish countryside. So in the summers, we would go over and visit his family and then we'd stay at the house for a few days. So I don't know if you have experienced Scandinavian bugs, specifically ticks. Jacqueline: But I was playing outside and I had... I guess a tick landed on me and it burrowed into my skin. And I had to have my stepdad take tweezers and pull the tick because it was not just on my skin, but i- Glenn: Buried. Jacqueline: ... that. The craziest... I can't. I remember it clear as day because we don't have ticks like that in America to my knowledge. Maybe we do, but I'm not entomologist so I don't know. But I remember having to lay down, men pull the tick out from inside of my... It was inside. Oh my gosh. Glenn: Yes, all ticks feed that way. So all the ticks- Jacqueline: They go inside of you? Glenn: Yeah. They burrow into your skin and that's how they feed. Ticks actually make... Part of their salivary enzymes, the proteins in their saliva make almost like a tube in your skin and it helps the flow of stuff into their mouth. Jacqueline: [inaudible 00:21:17]. Glenn: Yeah. Their head actually does bury into your skin though. There's also a fly, we don't have them in the United States. They might have them in South Texas or something. It's called a botfly. The botfly will lay an egg under your skin and it lives there. Caroline: Maybe that's what I had. Glenn: I'm trying to say this in a nice way. It lives there until it hatches out. Then it just falls out of your leg or something. Jacqueline: Oh my gosh. I don't ever want to go where those are. Caroline: Oh wait. While we're on this rare bug, spider, tick, our content managers, Susie, the one who brought these glorious questions for us wanted to know or to quote, she said, "The CDC has seen a rise in tick-borne diseases. So the best way to avoid a tick to make sure your home and lawn have as few ticks as possible. Do you have any..." I guess I read that better, but anyway, ticks, and homes, and ways to prevent them is the gist. Glenn: Uniquely, I moved into my house like five years ago now. I moved down a little bit closer to work and everything and diagonally across the street from me is another entomologist. We're like 0.0001% of the United States is entomologists and there's two on a street of like 15 houses or something. Caroline: Are you guys best friends. Glenn: We do talk a lot, yeah. Not many other people will talk to us, so we talk a lot. He is actually a tick specialist at CDC. Jacqueline: Wow. Caroline: Well, do you want [inaudible 00:23:08] our podcast? Glenn: Right. I'll talk to him. There is definite evidence of new ticks getting introduced into the United States, more and more tick-borne disease that people are being exposed to. So it is extremely important when homeowners go outside their house to wear repellents. The CDC website is a great resource for that. They have recommendations, they update their recommendations based on their research on tick biology and behavior to the best repellents. Glenn: There is also additional guidance there for kids, women who are expecting, all of this that we don't have time for this broadcast, but your viewers could go read if they're in one of those special categories or want the latest recommendation on repellents. The biggies that people need to think about for making their home less hospitable for ticks, cut their grass. Tall grass is notorious for ticks climbing up them. Glenn: They do what's called like flagging and they'll stick out their front legs like this as they... Their back legs will hold onto the top of the grass stick. They'll stick out their legs like this, and as you walk by and your pants leg, or your dog, or whatever, they'll grab onto it and go with you. It's important that you keep grass cut short so they can't do that. So tall grass is a no, no. Glenn: The other is creating what we call ecotones in the yard. So if you have a wooded section of your yard and then there's grass that goes right up to it, put like a gravel barrier in between. That harsher break between the wooded area and the grass is a huge deterrent to ticks being able to cross. So it keeps your lawn better protected from anything that might be coming through the woods. Deer will transport them, so getting deer attractive plants out of your yard, things that they might be feeding on. Glenn: If you have a garden in your yard that is attracting animals in, putting netting up around that to keep the deer, the bunnies or whatever from coming in will benefit not having ticks deposited into your yard that are looking for some kind of host. The point Jacqueline made about taking it out, it is important that you remove a tick properly. You don't want to touch them with... People will put lotion on them, put oil on them, put... Glenn: There's all these things about, well, when they can't breathe, they'll let go. They'll touch them with a burning match or something like that. All of those are horrible recommendations. Caroline: To your skin? A burning match to your skin? Glenn: To the tick because they think it will make the tick let go. The tick actually, their mouth part's scissor or saw down in as they're burying in. They put in a numbing agent, so you don't feel them burrowing in. But it's not like they're holding on like a dog to a tennis ball. They can't just let go. So if you touch them with something or you stop their ability to breathe, what they typically will do is spit. Glenn: They push fluids from their body in as they're letting go, and it takes them a while to work their way back out. But the saliva that they would inject into you is what potentially has the pathogens in it. The Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the Lyme disease, Powassan virus, all of those different things that they transmit are salivary transmitted. So if you smother them, if you burn them, if you do all of these different things, it could actually increase your chances of getting infected by whatever they might have. Jacqueline: Oh my God. Glenn: The best thing is exactly what they did to you Jacqueline, grab it with tweezers as close as you can to the skin, pull straight out. It will remove it. They make tick removal devices and stuff that do that same kind of motion. You can get them at retail stores, online retailers, huge ones, whatever, we'll have those types of devices. Regular tweezers will work just as well. Caroline: How big is a tick? Glenn: About size of an apple seed? They're not very big. Caroline: Oh. Yeah. Glenn: If I do this, it's really big. If I do this, it's really small, but about size of an apple seed. Somewhere in that neighborhood is what you're going to look for for the adult size. The young, what we call instars, the larval stages of them, the babies can be really, really small. You may have heard the term seed ticks. Those are baby ticks that haven't grown up yet. They can be as small as like a period on a piece of paper or something and white or clear Caroline: Oh. Glenn: Really hard to see. They're less likely to be transmitting any disease at that point because they haven't gotten to where they fed on infected things, deer or boxes, or whatever that are carrying these different viruses. It's really just the irritation that you get at that point. The other tidbit I would say on the removal is when you remove it, make sure you got the whole thing. Glenn: If you've broken the head off in your skin because you pulled it an angle or didn't pull straight out, you can get some secondary infection type stuff going on. If that happens, go see your doctor. You're not going to die from that, but you could think that I have Lyme disease because I've gotten this further red, circular infection type thing. And it's really that you just didn't get the tick out completely. Caroline: Oh dear. Jacqueline: We'll let Susie know. Caroline: You had mentioned earlier that you had a scorpion as a pet. Good for you. Glad you didn't have to walk it. Can you share how common, if you didn't want them as a pet, the commonness of them in your home and what you do if one is in your home? Glenn: If you get a scorpion in your home, you- Caroline: Run? Glenn: No. Actually the majority of the scorpions that we have in the United States that would get into a home are not that venomous. I will mention that difference- Caroline: Well, a little. Glenn: We do have some in the Southwest that are fairly venomous. I wouldn't necessarily push them to deadly, but it would be bad. We have some bad yellowjackets, we have some bad wasps. It's not that it's completely uncommon for us to have things that can make us sick when they sting us. I do want to mention the difference between poison and venom. Glenn: Poisonous means that if you eat it, like a poisonous plant, you get sick from it. Venom is injected and you get sick from it. So insects, I can't think of a poisonous insect. People eat insects around the world as a source of protein. They eat spiders, they eat scorpions, they eat all kinds of things. Venom them injected snakes, scorpions, yellowjackets, all of that is what we're talking about. Glenn: When we say something is venomous, it means that it's going to sting you, bite you, whatever, and make you sick. Caroline: Got it Glenn: What you should do around your house, scorpions are notorious for getting into rock piles, gravel, woodpiles that you might have around your house. So elimination of those things, if at all possible. Or if you have gravel around your house, we often recommend you put gravel around your house as a barrier. A lot of insects don't want to cross that barrier, so it's a good barrier for other things. Glenn: Scorpions like it though and they'll nest in them and hide in them. So it's a little bit different. We talked about sealing your home up really well, caulking, sealing gaps and cracks. Door sweeps can be really good to keep scorpions out. So making sure that if you're inside your home, look towards your front door, or your back door, your basement door during the middle of the day, the bright sunny time of the day. Glenn: And if you see light coming around your door, something can get in it, some kind of pest. Scorpion can smash really flat and get in, so making sure that that door sweep, the brush, the rubber, whatever touches, the doorframe, it doesn't have to scrape your floor all up. That's too far down. But when the door is sealed, closed, that you don't see light coming around it. Extremely important. Glenn: If they do get inside, I don't recommend people like, "Oh, I'm going to throw it outside. I'm just going to grab it by the tail." Trained professionals do that, other people don't. Okay? They can sting you. Most of the ones that we have that people would run into, it would be like a bee sting, but nobody enjoys being stung by a bee either. So scoop it up with something. Scoop it up in the dust pan and just throw it out the front door. Glenn: Or if you really don't want to let it live, flush it down the toilet. It'll be fine. It's not going to clog your pipes up and it's not going to come back later and haunt you in the middle of the night or anything like that. It's just going to [inaudible 00:32:42]. Hairspray is another good knockdown for a lot of pests. If you spray stuff with hairspray, it clogs up their breathing holes and they don't last very long. Caroline: That's a little sad. I don't [inaudible 00:32:58], but that seems a little sad. Glenn: It's just something that people tend to have on hand that will work. Caroline: Okay. Glenn: I don't recommend... This is not pest control for, you're going to quarterly go around your house and spray with hairspray. It's if you get a wasp in the house that you're worried about, hairspray can knock it down and get it. Jacqueline: I have wasp that likes to come visit, so that's helpful. Normally I just ask him to leave and who does leave. He's actually pretty nice. And he comes back and I'm like, "Can you go?" And I open the door and then he leaves. But then every once in a while, sometimes he comes back and then I just ask him to leave and he leaves again. So I guess, I don't have to do that to him, but if he gets aggressive, then I have [crosstalk 00:33:44]- Glenn: You should name him. Jacqueline: I should name... He's growing on me because he's respectful. Glenn: Another tidbit for your homeowners to think about is if you get like ants in the house- Jacqueline: I have a lot of ants. Glenn: Yeah. Jacqueline: I can't [crosstalk 00:33:59]- Glenn: Obviously, they're coming in for some kind of source. They're coming in for something sweet, they're coming in looking for water or something like that. Using something like Windex, some kind of glass cleaner, it will help to break down the trail pheromone that they have and can help stem them from continuing to come into that same place. Jacqueline: That is great news. Right before this call, I don't know why... I moved to a garden level, ground level apartment from a third floor, so I had the squirrel problem last time. Now I have ant problem and I just sprayed with Windex before this call because I'm like, "Maybe this will do." So that's great news. Glenn: Yeah, it'll kill the scouts and it'll help to remove that trail pheromone, but it is not necessarily a solution. Look where they're going, try and find what they're going to, follow the little trail. Jacqueline: [crosstalk 00:34:52] my kitchen. Maybe water. Glenn: Honestly, I feel for you. As a renter, you have a little less freedom than a homeowner does to do things. Like you mentioned the screen on the front door that needs fixing. I would even say that your homeowners might be in a similar situation right now. A lot of people are out of work right now because of the pandemic. A lot of people may be out of work for a period of time after the pandemic. Glenn: They don't necessarily have the funds to fix the screen right now or something. They're paying their bills, they're buying food, they're trying to survive during this. So doing little things can help. If you can take a piece of thread and try and pull it together, something to get it closer together. Put some saran wrap over it, suppressant seal on both sides and squeeze it together. Glenn: It's not going to be as attractive, but it might keep Mr. Wasp friend from coming in as easy in those situations. When something gets better financially or in your home, or if the landlord comes around eventually, then potentially call us out to say, "We can help you out in this way." We get it. We've seen the struggles that people have had during this with continuing service and we're working with them to keep themselves pest free while this is all going on. Glenn: So it's a good point that you make that renters may be in a situation that they can't do the structural modifications that a homeowner can. So the little tips and tricks like Windex, like hairspray, those may tide you over until you can get some professional help. Jacqueline: Yeah, That's all really helpful. Caroline: One of our common segments that we do with a lot of our guests is homeowner horror stories. Maybe you could share a story. Glenn: The homeowner horror story that I would bring up, luckily is not my home and it involves bedbugs. Bedbugs really need to be managed professionally. I never recommend a homeowner try and control bedbugs themselves, and this homeowner had. It had gotten way out of hand. They had tried their own home remedies. Glenn: It was to the point that when you walked in, there were bedbugs on the ceiling and they were dropping on your head as you walk through the room because they could sense the carbon dioxide that you're breathing out and everything and they were trying to find a food source. The biggie that I would say is, don't try and do that. The other thing that I will say drives me bonkers, but it doesn't drive me bonkers. Glenn: It just upsets me, when people just randomly use some kind of a product in their house that they don't really understand, that they don't apply correctly. There's a huge move to use diatomaceous earth. It's a naturally occurring product that will kill bugs. It's slow to act on bugs, but people way over apply it. Glenn: True application of diatomaceous earth or DE as it might be mentioned in places is so light that you don't see it on the surface. It's like dust that you might wipe off your TV or your entertainment center. What I've seen is that people will put it out in like piles. They're sitting amongst this dust that becomes then a respiratory hazard for them, and that's exactly what had happened in this situation. Glenn: It looked like they had taken powder, it was DE, but just everywhere. Their couch was covered in it, their carpet was covered in it, their bed was covered in it and it could not have been good for their health. Not that the bedbugs were, but their treatment was actually detrimental to them as well. That's my homeowner horror story. If you get bed bugs, sooner than later, try and get some professional help. Caroline: Would you see a bedbugs or would you had bedbugs? Glenn: They're about the size of an apple seed as well. Caroline: Okay. Glenn: And what you're probably going to notice first, if you don't react to the bite is things that look like black spots on your sheets, like ink blots type things. And that's actually their fecal material. It's blood that has gone through their body and it's concentrated so much that it dries black. So that's what you would see is these little black spots. Sometimes their shed skins because they shed their skin as they grow. Glenn: But the first indication is going to be that blood spotting, fecal spotting on your sheets and stuff. Jacqueline: And what causes them? Glenn: People pick them up from travel, from going to camp, going to the sleepaway camp and coming back. Going to a soccer camp, going to college, going to... Anywhere that you travel. Hotels might have them, airports, wherever. You might pick some up and then bring them home and they get into your house. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It's not that your home is dirty. It's not that you have done anything wrong. Glenn: And that's why it's important to let people know, let the professionals know as soon as possible so that we can come out and remedy it. The longer it goes, the more expensive it's going to be, and the harder it's going to be. So quick and easy at the beginning. Jacqueline: Wow. Caroline: I'm literally going to leave this call, go check my dog for ticks and go change my sheets. It's a wake up call. Glenn: If I do have one or two last minutes that I can- Caroline: Definitely, definitely. Glenn: ... mention something. If you do go and seek the help of a company to help you out, seek out somebody that uses integrated pest management. Integrated pest management is a system where it's a process. It's an ongoing repetitive process where you assess the situation, you implement some kind of control measure, and then you monitor the situation for any new activity. And any new activity is then assessed, implemented, and monitored. Glenn: It's a way to solve problems in a proactive measure, so implementing these things like ceiling cracks and crevices and adding doors sweeps are things that are implemented to add length of time to not having pest problems. You're solving the problem before you get it. And it is something that we do at Orkin. Glenn: It's something that is very common in our industry, but there are some people out there that just come in and spray stuff. That isn't necessarily the best way to have a proactive pest program in your home. Caroline: Good to know. Anything else? Any last minute tips or tricks? Glenn: Get somebody to come take a look. Most companies, we do... Most other companies as well do free inspections. So call us out, let us do a comprehensive inspection. We might see something that you haven't noticed yet. Maybe it's the squirrel in your wall or that we may make a recommendation that we could really help you out with some mosquito control and knock down your potential for getting some mosquito-borne virus, exposing your children, or your family, or something. Glenn: So some are quick tips and tricks that we might give you in person, but it's harder for us to do that without seeing your home and your situation in person. Jacqueline: Really enjoyed this. Caroline: Good. Jacqueline: I learned so much. Caroline: [inaudible 00:42:20] bugs. Jacqueline: Yeah, I didn't know how I'd have so much fun talking about bugs. Caroline: Okay. Glenn: That's what happens to people. You'll be a pest control person soon. I'm bringing you in. Jacqueline: Oh good. Oh good. Caroline: It would be great to have you on again. This was great. And I think our viewers and our listeners will be just as impressed by all the bugs knowledge that we were. So, Glenn, thank you so much and we'll chat with you soon. Speaker 1: Get more answers to your homeowner questions by subscribing to the vipHome Podcast available anywhere podcasts are found.
Insurance Questions Answered with O'Connor Insurance
When it comes to homeowners insurance, you probably have a lot of questions. How much do you need? What should your deductible be, and even if you’re not near a lake or river, do you still need flood insurance? (You might.) Michelle O’Connor of O’Connor Insurance Associates Inc. stops by the show to explain the complexities of homeowners insurance and what you need to know, whether you’re buying your first home or renovating your current one. Listen now!
Interior Design Tips with Laurie Smith of Trading Spaces
Jacqueline: Well, thank you for speaking with us all, we're very excited to have you on. Laurie: Thank you. Jacqueline: You may not be familiar with our podcast, but this is a vipHome Podcast. And our mission is to help equip homeowners with everything they need to know when it comes to safety and optimizing their living space and just to live comfortably in their homes. So we started beginning of the year and we're just starting to get some momentum. So it's really exciting to have you on and talk about your experience and your great career, helping homeowners make the most out of their spaces. I don't know if you've met Caroline before. Caroline: Hi, I'm Caroline. Laurie: Hi Caroline. Caroline: I work on our partnerships team here at vipHomeLink and we're so excited to have you, and I think we're going to have a great conversation. Laurie: Thank you. It's great to be here. Jacqueline: Why don't you take us through a little bit about your career, what they'll know about Trading Spaces, but how you got into design and your time in Trading Spaces and what you've been up to recently? Laurie: Design was a mid '20s choice for me. I have a degree in journalism, broadcast oddly from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and immediately went to work out of school for CNN in Atlanta. And my very best friend was an interior designer. And the only way sometimes to see her on the weekends and designers will understand this or to see her on the weekends was to trail behind her, helping her work because she was always loaded down, being low man on the totem pole with trying to go get fabrics, textiles, find things for clients. And so I would just kind of trail along behind her. And I was an art history minor. I had studied abroad. I loved architecture. I moved a lot as a child and my mom always had a beautiful aesthetic that I just kind of took for granted, but I appreciate beauty and love beauty. And she would send me off to like, "Hey Laurie, see this swatch. Can you just go try to pull some things?" I'm like, "I don't know what I'm very," she's like, "Just do it, just do it." Laurie: And I'd come back and she'd be like, "Wow, I wouldn't have put that together, but I like it." And so this was like 1996. So I'm like, "Okay, well." So I started speaking to some professionals in the field that I was in Atlanta, Georgia, and they all said, "Are you tied to Atlanta?" I said, "No." Are you tied to anything? "No, I'm single." And they said, "We suggest you go to graduate school, go to school, go to school. Don't just come to work for us. If you are free and can do that, go." So I applied to several schools and my dream school became the New York School of Interior Design. Every side it really was a classical training and it catered to a lot of people. The median age was more mid '20s. People coming out of investment banking or whatever career they were in really making that shift. Laurie: And it just seemed like the perfect fit. So I was New York bound and I graduated from there, working for an architecture firm. Life takes interesting turns, I end up back in the South in Mississippi and oddly the same best friend who I would trail around behind gave me a call one day and said, "I just got the strangest phone call." And I said, "What?" She's like, "There is a production company in Knoxville, Tennessee who has bought the rights to a British show called Changing Rooms." And I said, "I know that show." Because one of my best friends in New York was from London and her mom would send over the sea every week, a VHS tape of Changing Rooms and I became completely addicted to it. So here I was with this kind of, I hate to say how important advantage of knowing the rules of the show two days, two sets of homeowners, a $1000, get it done. Laurie: And I said, "Heather, did you say you're going to audition?" Because they were literally looking up designers in the yellow pages. There was no internet. I mean, remember this is like 1998. There was no searching, no Google search. They called her in the yellow pages. She was like, "Laurie, I hate to have my photo taken, I'm not going to do a television show, but I've giving them your name." Because she knows I broadcast journalism. I had done theater classes in New York, she's like "I told them, I knew this. I have a friend whose background is so interesting." And they're like, "Wow, we haven't spoken to any designers who had a television broadcast background." So long, long story long. I ended up there three weeks later auditioning. I will never forget it walking into this sea of people from all over the country. Laurie: And yeah, this was the beginning of 1999. And it was very edgy to wear a little black framed glasses, whether you needed them or not. And I just couldn't look more different than everyone in that room. I had big red hair and I was probably wearing bright green and the Southern accent was back. I was like, "Oh, my." But I remember looking across the room and thinking, "Well, things could be worse. I could be that guy." And it was Frank violet. Who's our older castmate who I love and adore and who we recently lost. I don't know if you've heard that Frank passed away a few weeks ago, but what a dear man, but oddly enough, it was the odd couple that was chosen for the very first episode. So we shot The Pilot in 1999 and the show would be nominated for a Primetime Emmy three years later. Laurie: Our one claim to fame is that we beat Oprah Winfrey in ratings one for a little pocket of time, four o'clock it's just like this little engine they could, and it was just a phenomenon and none of us saw it coming. So when we would have the ability to reboot a couple years ago and come back, I think it's just overwhelming the entire past came back because every single one of us has eternal gratitude for that show and how it propelled our careers. And some people have remained in television. Pennington who remains a huge superstar with extreme home makeover. A lot of our castmates stayed in television. I stayed home to raise kids. That was my personal choice. Laurie: At the time that Trading Spaces ended, my son was four and my daughter was two and it was just getting to be too much. I traveled for four years with nannies and behind the scenes doing all that craze, I had an infant and I was pregnant on the show twice, just a whole lot of juggling. But that's the story in a nutshell, it really is. I'll never not consider it a miracle in my life. Because I know the odds, I know that industry and I never took it for granted. That's for sure. Caroline: That's such an exciting story. I feel like when I graduated from school, I had no idea what to do, but also never no one ever directed me. I kind of ended up here just by some false turns along the way. But interior design is amazing. And the fact that you got to show from a friend like, "Jacqueline, come on, hook me up more with different things." Laurie: I know, and then that led to, I was able to write a book called Discovering Home. I had a lighting line. I had a textile line. I mean a lot of doors opened with that. So I'm yes, I am eternally grateful. And currently I'm doing some consulting. I've recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee. So I'm kind of a newbie here finding my way, but I'm working for an Italian tile company, writing a blog on design @atlasconcordusa.com. If you all want to log on, I do a monthly blog. It's just a lot of beautiful imagery and hopefully good information. So more about beautifying home although who knows, maybe we'll talk more about eco-friendly here, there are a million topics we could cover. Caroline: Could talk a little bit about beautifying homes and what you sort of think if you're talking to maybe a first-time home buyer or somebody who's buying a home again, but has in many years, what you would suggest is sort of the first places to start in terms of beautifying your home. And also what you think the most standout points are? I think for our readers, our viewers, I feel like everyone's sort of in a different stage and just hearing tips on what to you would make something beautiful, but also if you're selling, what would make something also a little bit more beautiful to the gamut than just yourself? Laurie: Right. Well, everyone when you're looking for a home, what are the three things? Location, I realize you want to account for that. For me, things that I know I personally, when I was just searching for this home that we're in here in Nashville, ceiling height is always nice because of natural light. So I'm always looking for as much window light, natural light coming in, things to look for, which also become very eco-friendly is natural light. Hardwood floors are always a nice thing to look for, tile as opposed to synthetic rugs and carpets that may have the VOCs, things that are going to emit toxicities in the long run in your home. I just hate to say good bones, but it kind of is. What are your visual access? I think so many people don't look at the whole picture when you're standing in the entry. What are you looking? Are you looking through the home? Do you look at a blank wall? Is there a window with a pretty view of the backyard? What are you seeing through that view? Is it straight up a staircase? What interests can you bring at each visual axis? How do the rooms flow from one to the next? Are they symmetrical? Are they asymmetrical? Is that going to be a challenge? Are there architectural elements that maybe weren't great choices that you may need to rearrange or pull out, depending on your budget, some people can come in and say, "Oh, I'm just going to blow through it." "And great. I wish I could," but and I have plenty of clients that do, but through looking for something in the mid-range and really know that your budget is more conducive to repainting, maybe putting in some architectural elements like bookshelves, enlarging some windows. Laurie: It is amazing what taking a window from mid-height to see it, ceiling to floor will do. I mean, absolutely transform a space. So lighting, lighting, lighting over and over again, lighting. I mean, as you know, you are designer, you can have the most beautiful art, the most beautiful textiles and this beautiful rug, but if you're just constantly in the dark it's tough. Jacqueline: What are some lighting elements that people could add into their space? So say they don't have the budget to expand their windows. Are there ways that they can bring in light or enhance natural light other ways? Laurie: Absolutely. If you can bring in and have some incandescent or recess lighting put in, although I'm very mindful to say, please, please, please don't make your ceilings Swiss cheese. I've gone into so many homes where it's just and it's just crazy. There was no rhyme or reason people just started poking cans in the ceiling. I'm not talking about that. The best places for that kind of lighting are in task. Because they're more task lights. They're going to be a more harsh light, but in the kitchen down a hallway an entry if it needs a little spot, in addition to a ceiling fixture, but in living spaces, I really, really love to look for hanging fixtures and it doesn't have to be something crazy expensive. I can't tell you one of my favorite fixtures has come out of a flea market, just cleaned up spray, painted a whimsical color and put in a living room ceiling and it's fantastic. So I mean, you can find those pieces on a budget and again, I cannot express enough the importance of a dimmer switches. Laurie: These are very simple things to add to your home. I think a dimmer switch costs 899 at Home Depot. And while you have an electrician over, if you are installing just a few incandescent or cam lights, or ceiling fixture, it is very simple to have them, put it in. I have a dimmer in every room in my house because I can either bump it way up in the day. And then at night I don't come into a fishbowl. You just dim it down. And that just sets a mood just to complete, immediately it's like I can exhale "Huh, okay." Yeah, this is my nurturing space not an abrasive light. I still love lamplight I'm a stickler for incandescent, sorry all the people with their LED but I just love a good old fashioned bulb. Laurie: It's warm and I became so paranoid and I know it's so energy efficient, forgive me, forgive me. And I went and I bought boxes and boxes of light bulbs when everyone said, "They're going away forever." I was like, "No." But the the incandescent, the LED has changed significantly in the last five years. And it is not a cold light anymore. It's on a blue light. It is a warmer light. So it really has become much better bulb and it is important for energy efficiency. But I had a darker corner in a rental house that we ran a couple of years ago. Because we just had a couple of years in Memphis and we knew we weren't going to be there long. And I couldn't, it was a rental. Laurie: I wasn't going to do anything to it, but lamplight even going and getting one of those cans that sits on the floor and pivots, I stuck one behind a pretty standing plant and it just put a glow in the room that was nice and subtle. And I could just switch it on and off with a light switch because the outlet was attached to the light switch. I put it on a dimmer as well. I did have some dimmers installed, because it was an inexpensive fix and it makes all the difference. Jacqueline: I'm going to do that, because I'm really particular about my lighting, but I haven't found a way to manipulate it. Laurie: Yeah, I am telling you and then also if you have a great pair, Lance, and you're just kind of tired of on whatever, it's amazing what a new lampshade will do, to completely change the face of a lamp. There are so many specialty stores now and lampshades were so difficult to find 10 years ago and now you can go in and just buy them at so many home stores in boutique stores and looking for a paper parchment as opposed to a silk shade and the light that, that gives off, parchment is going to give this nice warm glow and it's very crisp, clean more modern, fresh look. I love the juxtaposition of a parchment shade on an old ceramic kind of boss like lamp. So there are ways to play and manipulate even with the fixture itself. Caroline: That's great. How do you think, so we just talked a little bit about lamps and lighting. So when you think about lamps and lighting, I feel like I also think about like colors of walls or wallpaper. How do you think all that sort of ties together and what do you think the best colors are or maybe for selling or buying a home? What would you love? Laurie: Well, I think if it's your longtime home, I really, really dislike the word trend because home is a reflection of you. So your favorite color may not be my favorite color, what soothes and comforts you, may not soothe and comfort me or the next person or whatever, but that home at the end of the day is your nurturing place. And so if a certain color, if you love yellow then I say, you should have a yellow room and make your home gloss. It will be gorgeous. So I know color intimidates so many people and it can be intimidating and I myself have even, looked different at four o'clock than it does it 9:00 AM the swatch I just painted on the wall. But again, my biggest recommendations for paint and it is an amazing way to make immediate impact. Let's not deny it. I happen to love my green dining room I'm sitting in, but because that is comforting to me, but it's like a celery color and I went through five different colors to find this color. One was too bright, too dark, you have to, and I know it's more work, but do a two-by-two swatch, two coats, line them up, look at it at different times of the day, that is just or do your poster boards, whatever you need to do. But that is the way to do it. Key things to look for low to no-VOC. Now they have this green sealed certified. It is so much more accessible to find these nontoxic paints for your home and the colors are rich and beautiful. Laurie: And also if you fell in love with a textile often I will start with a piece of inspiration. Let's say you have a gorgeous thermos with multi-colors in it. And that's kind of your reference point that you're beginning when you notice that the one unifying color with your textiles in your rug and this vase and or lamps or whatever you're putting in the space, what is the one color that is going to just easily serve as a backdrop? Maybe the slight vein of celadon or whatever. You can take that and have it color match exactly with technology. So, I mean, it's now more so than ever, color is less and less intimidating to research and find wall coverings are big time back. I love that wallpaper's back. Laurie: I love the adhesive wallpaper that you can peel and stick yourself. If you're in a rental property, it does no damage to the wall. I mean, you can have a graphic, accent wall and do it yourself. I mean, that's so amazing, so these they're great ways to make impact. And if you're reselling just don't paint the whole house beige, try to find just a more, yes. I mean, neutral does sell more because people walk in and see a deep red dining room, they may think, "Oh, I don't want to deal with that." Whatever it's paint, but yes. Caroline: My parent's house looks like just from the snippet, I can see of yours looks exactly like this. They have a mint green dining room and a yellow living room. So it's looking like at my parents. Laurie: Oh, I love it. Yeah. I'm a color girl, but more pale colors. I have a lot of art that I've been fortunate enough to collect and love. And so I tend to go for more toned down, unless it just is a piece that requires a super vibrant deep wall but yeah. Jacqueline: You mentioned the technology matching color is easier than ever before. Are there other ways that technology has influenced design or you as a designer or how you approach designing a space? Laurie: Absolutely. I mean, when I was in design school, I'm still dating myself everything was hand drafted and drawn. I mean, CAD was maybe just coming onto the scene, but it was not used by anyone at that point in design other than just strictly architects and usually commercial space. But there's so there's so much software now. I mean, I know that there are apps that you can get on and take a picture of your wall and see the color, choose a color whether it's Benjamin Moore or I think Sherwin-Williams, I know has an app where you can literally choose from their fan book, press it. And it'll superimpose that color on your wall. Laurie: And I know that's not the same as what we said with the poster boards and seeing it in a certain light is certain time, but at least it gives a visual of, "You know what? I thought I liked that color, but now it's feeling a little overwhelming seeing it visually on all the walls." I mean there are programs that you can get on and take dimensions of your room and furniture dimensions, and it'll put it into floor plan for you. I mean, I know that there are wonderful resources out there, so yes, I think that's entirely different. And on top of that, just retail alone in the last five to 10 years, I mean, I can remember first shopping for the show and I don't know if target even had a home division. I mean, it's just so much is accessible to us. I honestly, I found it challenging more challenging coming back to Trading Spaces 10 years later, because there was something almost less overwhelming buying in that particular $1,000 budget. Laurie: I would go into a flea market and find some unique piece or whatever, and trying to plan it from a distance and not having the time to shop it because we have to do this in less than 48 hours. And it was kind of a double-edged sword because it's like, there were so much online that I'm like, "Oh, I'm a little overwhelmed because what if it doesn't ship in time?" Everything I did I was like, "We're just the good old fashioned flea market. It used to be or the rummage sales." And so almost like there's so much in retail now that you've gotten rid of, but there are less and less of those places where you can really find unique objects and character filled objects. But I mean, but retail has so many beautiful things now and any kind of genre and look I just think it's completely changed. I've watched the industry completely change. Caroline: What would you consider a big design dome? I feel like, I mean, again, I know it's preference and you would say like, "Oh, you really like color and maybe suggest not neutrals," but what are something big that you'd be like, absolutely not, never and no matter what? Laurie: Well, just from a logistics and it's a mistake I've seen, I've made it, other friends have made it, just not having correct dimensions, really making sure that the pieces you're ordering, if you're ordering are going to land correctly on in the space and not be too large, really understanding scale and proportion is just an absolute must. Another big, no, no, I can't tell you how many times, speaking of scale and proportion that I would get a piece and think, "Oh, it's going to be perfect and I'm working this time crunch and then it wouldn't fit through the front door." Like we were in an odd shaped, complex and the door was too narrow and I'm like, "Oh, my word I should have checked that." I can't tell you my very first job working for a designer. I made this huge mistake working for a very high-end client. Laurie: And I went over there and I was working on her kitchen and her living room. And I looked in it first she had said they were going to make their bar counter height. But in the last minute I heard bar height, there were still because they were in for construction and I didn't verify and went off old measurements and ordered these crazy expensive that were on back order counter stools. And they were supposed to be bar stools, totally varying height. My bad, these are big design no-nos. I don't know if that's the kind of thing you're asking, but the scale dimension, because you confine on this beautiful sofa on the planet, but is a nine foot sofa going to be too overwhelming for your space. Laurie: Really get in there with a tape measure, if you have graph paper and you're doing it yourself, cut out little pieces of furniture, lay it out. Do you have at least three feet of wall clearance, around pieces, you don't want to close off the living room. For instance, you may have a sofa floating in front of a fireplace, but have you just totally blocked the entrance to the room? You want a seating arrangement to be inviting. You want it to be accessible. You want to pay attention to traffic, traffic patterns I like to call them because you want the house to flow. Yeah. Caroline: That's so funny that you bring up your bar stool or counter stool. Sorry we tried to do with all of our guests a segment on homeowner horror stories. I feel like that one might count for ours. Laurie: Well, in the grand scheme of life and in the climate we're in now, you must feel silly saying that, but if someone's paying you to order the correct thing. You need to make sure you have your measurements correct. Jacqueline: So talking about scale and because I'm not great with depth perception, for whatever reason. You talked about graph paper in the space, what are other things you could do to kind of get a sense of the fit and the shape? Because I feel like for me, I often underestimate or underestimate how much space, what are other steps that someone could take in that design process to really help them understand or feel the scale that has to be? Laurie: I mean, the good old fashioned ways to spend a Saturday, rearranging your furniture. Push yourself, take a chair from your bedroom that you think is great. It may be great, fireside, whatever, I don't know. Just if you can bring some friends over, don't try to do it yourself and just spend an afternoon kind of just playing that's great. If you don't have the ability to do that, I'm telling you I'm so old school, but I still get graph paper, one squares of foot. I get my tape measure out. I know exactly my living room is 15 feet wide by 20 feet long. And then I know my sofa is a seven foot sofa, four feet deep, whatever. And I cut out and I place and if I play, I know that a coffee table should be at least 14 to 16 inches from the edge of the sofa to be able to get by carefully. Laurie: So I measure that out on the graph paper, playing all the putting together design is a puzzle it really is. It's puzzle it's problem solving and it's making it work for you and your family. And so sometimes every it's kind of like the pros and cons. I mean, technology is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. But also that might be intimidating to some people, I don't know how to work a CAD system, how am I supposed to do that? So just good old fashioned scissors and tape measure and going one squares a foot, it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. Jacqueline: Yeah, now that's really helpful. That's great. Laurie: Good. Caroline: What would you say is some of the most challenging parts of doing design work for a client? I mean, I could tell you exactly what I want in a home and so how does that relationship work and what do you see some challenges are? Laurie: Well, I think the most challenging things probably begin as a less established designer. Maybe people aren't familiar with your aesthetic, maybe you're trying to figure out your aesthetic as a designer and so maybe someone comes to you and they have a certain style that maybe is tough for you to for instance, they're super traditional and you're more of a mid-century girl. So it's really a reach, to get to their aesthetic. But the more you mature as a designer, the more your portfolio expands. I really highly recommend interviewing your client on the front end or them interviewing you and having a thick skin. There are going to be people who say, "That's just not my look." And not to say that a designer can't step out and do something totally different. I hope they can't. And then what they're always used to. Laurie: But when it's a good pairing, maybe they've come to you because they've seen something of yours that really spoke to them, that helps get you on equal setting from the beginning, at least, now that's not always the case. I have said this on the show for years, and I still say it all day long. I always have a client bring me inspiration pieces. So for instance, maybe they saw a room I did, and they loved it. Maybe that's what, "I like this room. Can you do something similar?" "Okay. Yes. We're not going to replicate it but let's make it yours." Laurie: So bringing me something that speaks to you, I've had a client bring me, a Verano, sorry, Murano glass, old ashtray from the 1940s. That was their grandmother's, but he was gorgeous kind of amber coating with gold fleck, rich, kind of creamy tones and glossy. So a little bit of glamor and it wasn't like we're going to make a room look exactly like this object, but I wanted to hear from them. What feeds you? I knew then we were going to put some gold accents in the room. We were going to get some gold leafing. Laurie: She loved mid-century, but maybe a little bit more 1940s with just a little bit more glamor in it. So I exposed her to some French pieces and what was going on in the States at the time and she loved a very modular, low slung sofa that we gathered from that even though the piece was very curvaceous. So, I mean, just having them bring in, it can be photos, it can be torn out magazine pages. I don't care. It can be downloaded from Instagram, but I'd just like to see something that spoke to this client, because ultimately I'm creating a home that is a reflection of them, not Laurie, but them. So listening is terribly important. And if you find yourself going off path with the client, you start to feel like you're not connected. Bringing back that inspiration piece becomes a great touchdown to say, "Okay, what were we trying to achieve? Let's back up." Caroline: Wonderful. That's so helpful. This has been great Jacqueline: So do you find that, when you work with clients room to room, you start to see their aesthetic come to life, or do you find that it can really change for a client? Or what does that look based on your experience? Laurie: Well, depending on what they've, I've gone into homes where the people have lived there for 15 years and they're just trying to freshen up. So yes, I can get a much better snapshot about what makes them comfortable, what colors they're drawn to. And we have all these discussions too, because there are some clients that have lived in a home 10 years and say, "We're just sick of it. We never really liked it to begin with. Now we have the budget to address it. So let's start from scratch." Laurie: So I don't know if I'm answering your question, but I do think people change, they may love traditional, but to me there's a new traditional now. It's more vibrant and it's more eclectic in it, or transitional. It brings in modern art but yet may still have a floral textile on a club chair under a very modern piece. It's kind of like this freedom of so much goes now than it's like, "Okay, fine. I went to design school, I understand the rules of symmetry and proportion, but then now I kind of want to break them up a bit," because that's going to bring healthy tension. Laurie: I love to call it healthy tension into a space. I think the head of design school instructors said every room needs a touch of black. Even if it's just one little piece, it's just anchoring there's a thing called well, it's a triangulation rule in design where if you are working with an accent color, that's maybe even subtle, it should appear three times the space. Odd numbers are incredibly important in design. You may hear when you're accessorizing you should have groups of threes, it's more balancing. But triangulation, there may be a bold cerulean blue, that's splashed through an abstract painting over the mantle, and then you maybe pick it up in a pair of lamps across the space. Laurie: And then for that really bold blue to really take shape as an accent, maybe it throws or you've discovered in a lumbar pillow, on a slipper chair across the room. It's just something scientific about this triangular formation that roots an accent wall or accent. It can be an accent wall and accent color into a space. So those are just little tips. How did I even get on that? I don't even know what you asked me. Sorry about that. How did I get to the triangulation? What was the question? Jacqueline: Finding a motif throughout a space through a home but I guess creating a motif within a room, with that- Laurie: Why don't you have a room that's adjacent to another one for instance, y'all all comment and you can see just a sliver of my living room through them, and sitting in the dining room, the soft green. I don't know if you can see, but there's, I have a slipper chair where I'm pointing to it way back there that green appears nowhere else in that living room, but I chose it because visually it connected this space, which is so open to that space. It connected the two spaces. So they're not disjointed. Does that make sense? Jacqueline: Yeah. Absolutely. Laurie: Yeah. So just one for paying attention to that visual access and flow, and I don't want one room next to another room that they don't make any sense together. Let's do something to make that imaginary thread kind of go through the entire house, what's that one thing that's kind of in it's better if it's subtle. It doesn't have to be over. It doesn't mean you have to paint every room in your house white and stick there. Because it's just so anyway, if that makes sense. Jacqueline: Great. Well, I think I'm wrapped for questions. Caroline, do you have anything else you want to ask? Caroline: Yeah. And maybe we sort of, we probably went through this kind of throughout the whole thing, but what in your humble opinion, would you say are some things that would increase a home's value? If you can come up with three sort of quick tips or tricks on that I think would be, and then I too, I'm out of questions. Laurie: Absolutely. I think things that increase the home's value is addressing the flooring. I mean, when you have a newly refinished, floors that are in great shape that a homeowner didn't have to come in and completely readdress all the flooring that can get overwhelming. So if you have hardwood I mean, of course it's difficult but you may say once you've moved, you'll have them refinished or whatever, anything you can do to motivate a buyer. I think kitchens are just big pluses, but then there are a lot of kitchens that aren't done correctly. And then you think, "Oh, I've just having to pay so much for this house. Because they just redid their kitchen and I don't like of it." Laurie: So that's why in kitchens, I try to make sure I guess just things that I personally do in a house when I move in, I don't care for soffit space. So those cabinets open space. If I can have cabinetry that goes clean the ceiling, I think that's a great change you can make to a kitchen. Again, great task lighting countertops, marble quartz is so wonderful, kind of newer on the market in the last 10 years, I'd say, but less porous than marble and other granites, clean countertops, fresh countertops. Bathrooms, kitchens tend to be just, if you can get those redone, that takes a lot of burden off people, a potential buyer. So flooring. Caroline: So flooring bathrooms, kitchens. Laurie: Yes. Caroline: I'm actually in the market for buying a home and I have to say those are the three things that I actually was maybe not so much flooring, but my fiance and I don't have the time to redo a kitchen. Laurie: To get a kitchen. Right. Caroline: It sounds like impossible task. I don't know how people do it. So I think I would agree with those as well. Laurie: Yeah. I hope I don't have to move any time soon, but the two things, I mean, I addressed paint throughout the house because it was dated. I had the floors refinished because I thought if I ever move, there'll be in great condition for resale. And I went into the kitchen and I extended the cabinetry to the ceiling because, and it made all the difference, all the difference. And I think just visually, if this house has to go in the market, those two things that I updated a bathroom upstairs. Caroline: Wonderful. Well thank you. You're such an amazing guest. Thank you for your time. Laurie: Thank you. Well, this is a treat. Call me back. We'll talk more. Jacqueline: I can talk to you for hours. I was just going to have you tell everybody where can get in contact with you. I know that you talk about your blog, where they can find your blog if you're active on social media, how can we continue to follow you after this podcast? Laurie: Thank you. Okay. Hold on. Let me think of everything. Okay. Well, I'm writing a design blog for atlasconcordusa.com. I really hope that people will log on to that and enjoy it. I'm having so much fun doing it and I have a website. If you're trying to reach me personally, you can email me through that. It's LaurieHsmith.com. And then of course I love Instagram. Come follow me, Laurie Smith official on Instagram so thank you so much.
Powerful Tips to Increase Energy Efficiency at Home
Jeff: Welcome to the VIP Home podcast where we talk about all things homeowners need to know. Today we're speaking with Pete and Megan from Powerhouse, which is a TV show produced with Alliant Energy. Welcome to you both. Caroline: Tell us a little bit about Powerhouse and how it started back in 1996. How did you guys get started? Pete: Well, thank you, Caroline and Jeff. It's great for Megan and myself to be with you guys today to talk about this. We're going to be coming up on 25 years for Powerhouse and Alliant Energy started this back in 1996, because it wanted really to educate its utility customers about the importance of energy conservation and safety, but also to help us save energy dollars. They started the Powerhouse program looking at energy efficiency. It's a 30 minute program that airs in six markets across the Alliant Energy service territory in the upper Midwest on Saturdays and Sundays. Megan and I are very fortunate to be hosting it for the past 24 years. Megan: I have a theater background. Pete is in broadcasting, so we kind of have different background experiences. The cool thing is, is that Pete and I have known each other almost all our lives. We grew up across the street from each other. Caroline: Wow. That is so awesome. No wonder why you guys work so well together. Pete: The number one question we get asked, because again, we know each other so well and play off of each other. They do think we're married. We're married, but not to each other. We're learning and that's the great thing about Powerhouse is that we're sharing the insight that we see in terms of helping customers be comfortable in their homes, be knowledgeable and save dollars and save energy and be more efficient when it comes to energy in the home. Megan: The interesting angle that Alliant has chosen to take it is that Pete and I are kind of speaking for the consumer. We're speaking for the customer. We ask the questions that our audience would want to hear. We don't present as though we know everything. We've learned a lot over the years through this process. Caroline: At VIP HomeLink, our goal is to make the homeowner's lives easier. Although we're homeowners, we don't know everything. That's why [inaudible 00:02:05] wonderful guests like yourselves is so wonderful for us and our bran and to just share knowledge of home ownership with everyone. We like to look into homeowner horror stories, sort of those stories that no one really wants to talk about, but maybe a few years down the road, you get a good laugh out of it or you're frightened to even think of that it might happen again. Do you guys have a story like that, that you could share with us? Pete: One of our first years here at the house that I live in, one of our segments was blowing in insulation up in the attic. Oftentimes, Megan and I, we have the do it yourself projects, and I was helping with our expert to blow in insulation up in my attic. I'm maybe not the most agile or gifted in terms of home projects and I stepped off one of the joists in the attic and put my foot through the ceiling in my house as I was blowing in insulation. I did get the insulation and my attic is much better insulated, but I had to repair the ceiling in one of the bedrooms because I was a goof and slipped off the joists and put my foot through the ceiling. Jeff: You pulled the Chevy Chase from Christmas vacation where he's up there [crosstalk 00:03:10] himself and he just.... Pete: Absolutely. Yeah. I did that. That's a bit of my own horror story that I did on one of our shoots. Megan: The crew and I have gotten a lot of mileage out of that through the years. There's a, sometimes they put together a blooper reel and that's kind of fun. Maybe this is just a horror story to me, but they were trying to kind of figure out what the show was going to be and looking back, Pete and I did some things that I can't believe we did. Pete was in the shower for one episode. I was in a hot tub in a bathing suit for one episode. Jeff: Got to get those ratings. I mean, it's [crosstalk 00:03:50]. Megan: Oh my gosh. To me, that's a horror story. Then there was another shoot that I remember where they shipped us off to Wisconsin for a catalog shoot. We had all these products that were for sale in helping you be more energy efficient. One section was all about grilling. Well, they do these things so far in advance. I think it was February in Wisconsin and Pete and I are wearing shorts and T-shirts and trying not to breathe so you couldn't see our breath. We were freezing. That was a horror story too. Caroline: I used to intern at a magazine. We did the reverse as well so we were doing Christmas in July and everyone was in [inaudible 00:04:30]. I remember all the models being like, "This is horrible." That is a horror story in my opinion because I [inaudible 00:04:37] serve chilli. No. No. Too much. Jeff: I actually do have a horror story. We bought a condo in Hoboken, fourth floor walkup. I decided, hey, I'm just going to replace the switch. How hard can that be? I watched YouTube videos. I thought I can do this. How hard can electrical work be really watch the video. I did it. I brought my wife in for the big reveal and I turned it on and then you just see like go up the wall and just like burn all the way up. I was like, "Oh my God." Yeah. From that point on, I was not allowed to do any DIY, especially electrical work. We had to do another chandelier in the dining room. I got my very smart, downstairs neighbor who had an engineering degree. He came in and he wired it all. I was just like, "Oh God." Horror stories abound when it comes to electrical work, I can only imagine. Caroline: I feel like that was such a good segue to start talking about how somebody could start their home energy efficiency journey. Pete: We talk about insulation and over the many years of Powerhouse, doing a home energy assessment, we've had professionals that come in and do it. You can also go around your own house and do an assessment. The whole thing about is, is keeping in the wintertime, keeping the warm air in your house and in the summertime, keeping the cool air in your house. Again, not allowing vice versa. Insulation is certainly a great place to start. Attic insulation is a great way to check and make sure you do have enough insulation above you because the warm air rises. If you don't have enough insulation in your attic, that's the first place. We always say, when you do that assessment, start there. Then your walls, making sure that you have enough insulation in the walls, which may be a little bit more difficult. Pete: Again, on Powerhouse, we have a the do it yourself projects, but we also, we'll bring in the experts and the true professionals. We are not the experts. We're sharing the insight and the knowledge. That's the fun part for us. I've learned so much about taking care of our home, being comfortable, energy efficiency. It's the insulation in the walls, making sure that you have enough there even around gaskets, your plugins, making sure that those, it really starts with the insulation in your attic, your walls and in the floors. Jeff: Installation, that sounds like a professional job. What about DIY? Are there simpler things that I can do that are just easy? I run to the hardware store and do myself. Pete: Yeah. You can spend maybe 50 to 75 to a hundred dollars caulking, weatherstripping, going around and checking windows because windows obviously are the biggest source where if you've got gaps in the framing, get a caulking tube and a caulking gun and seal around the windows, weather stripping on the floors. During the wintertime, keep the warm air in from getting outside. Those are very easy things that you can do yourself. We talk about that on Powerhouse. It seems like that's one of those shows every year that we get into, as we get into the winter season. Megan: Led light bulbs. That's newer technology, and those can make such a difference. We always encourage homeowners. It's a little bit more of an investment, but it really pays itself off. What you want to do is you want to take those few lights that you use most frequently, or that are hard to reach, those pain in the neck lights and replace those because they do last much, much longer. Jeff: The technology has gotten a lot better over the past decade I'd say. The one thing about led lights in the beginning was just the look of them. They had this like hospital quality to them, very I'm in an office and it starts flicking of that florescent. Nowadays, I mean, I replaced a lot of our lights, not all of them, but a lot of them with the Phillips hue so it's all smart connected. You can adjust the very, my wife has a very specific setting that she likes the kitchen on and it's called Mrs. White or whatever. It's very customizable and the quality of the light I feel has just completely changed over the years. Pete: The LEDs, the upfront costs are much more than the old incandescent bulbs, but LEDs and the thing that we, Megan and I, have stress on Powerhouse is again, how much longer they last in terms of years for a bulb. We often talk about putting LED bulbs, just start replacing the ones that you have to replace more often that are easy access. As you said, the design has gotten much more friendlier. The lighting's much better. LED bulbs, 95% of the energy goes into the lighting with LED bulbs, which is certainly much different than the old incandescent. Only 5% of a LED is going to energy usage. That's the big thing. It's longer lasting and much, much more energy efficient with LED bulbs. Jeff: We moved into the house and we had all ... all the ceilings were kind of the cheaper ... I don't know if they were LEDs, but they were a certain type of white that, like I said, it was like a hospital flicking on all the lights. I don't know if I'm light sensitive, but it was just like, they had to go. We put them all in a box and gave it back to the builder who redid the house and then made the investment in the smart LED bulbs. Because not only is it customizable, but you can put them on timers, you can reduce your energy consumption that way and make sure at the end of the day, they turn off all the lights and all the lights are off. You don't leave the one in the basement on by accident. I thought that was a really a plus, but downside, they are expensive. Caroline: Do lights on dimmers count, like if you dim your light, does that count as energy efficient? I mean, my fiance definitely has some bulbs that are the LED, but not all, but we have every one on a dimmer. Megan: My guess would be that it would be using less energy. Pete: I would think. The one thing that you do have to make sure that when you buy LEDs, that they do allow for dimming. I mean, you go to your hardware store, you do have to make sure that they are built for dimmers. Caroline: Can we touch a little bit on appliances and energy efficient appliances and how that affects your overall efficiency? Megan: When it comes to your appliances, there are a handful that you really need to maintain well and use appropriately because they use the bulk of your energy. That would be your refrigerator, your dishwasher, and your washer and dryer. Of course, maintenance is important on all three of those things. With your refrigerator, you want to keep the temperature at 40 degrees and the freezer at zero, that's going to be an energy efficient path and still get the job done. Also, I'm going to sound like your mother for a second, but you don't want to leave the doors open. Know what you want out of the refrigerator before you go in there. It takes a lot more energy then to re cool the unit if you stand there with the doors open. Don't forget about the vent and the coils down below the refrigerator. Every year, check that out and clean that out with your vacuum cleaner. Megan: Or if you have a pet, you'll want to do it more than once a year. Check that because that keeps the flow running efficiently. You also don't want to overcrowd your refrigerator. They're designed to basically be full, not jam packed because then the circulation doesn't work. When it comes to the dishwasher, there are a couple of things you can do. You can use the eco settings that are built right into the dishwashers that we buy today and only run it when it's full. Some people are in the habit of doing it every night, whether there are four cups in there or it's loaded and do wait until it's full because you're going to use not only less energy, but you're going to use less water. Another tip is to put it on the air-dry setting. That's going to save you energy too and rinse your dishes off. Megan: Even though the new dishwashers can sense how dirty your dishes are, but do yourself a favor and rinse them off because you're going to get a cleaner wash and it's going to require less energy to do that. To the point that I made about the dishwasher, you also want to take into account when it comes to your washer and dryer. Do full loads. Doing a couple shirts at a time is not going to save you any energy at all. Wait until you have an appropriate load and also use cold water. It'll get your clothes just as clean. Make sure that you clean out not only your lint catch, but also your dryer vent too. That can cause big problems. If you have anyone who is ill in your house, of course, you want to make sure that you put it on this sterilize setting. Pete: In normal times, we talk about washing with cold water, but if you do know that you've got some sick people in your home, in that instance, we do recommend washing with hot water during that time. Megan mentioned cleaning that lint filter in your dryer, but also the duct coming out of it. One of our viewers reached out to us after one of the shows we did and said that he got out his vac and cleaned up the vent coming out of his dryer. It was like a new dryer he said, because it actually dried the clothes much more efficiently. One of the common things that we talk about with your furnaces is changing that filter vent once a month. Most people don't. It's about making sure your furnace is running efficiently and if you've got a dirty filter, it's not going to run efficiently and you're going to use more energy and you're going to use more dollars to run that furnace. Pete: That's one of those things that I always stress. Keep track on your phone, hey it's time the first of the month to change my furnace filter. The other thing that we also recommend is having a service plan. Have your heating and cooling system checked once a year. That's a well worth it 50 to a hundred dollars service call, but to make sure that your furnace, that your air conditioner is running efficiently, again, we'll save over the years, save energy dollars for you and your home. Jeff: It's interesting you say that. VIP HomeLink is an app, and it's basically for people who they have a home, they want to stay on top of these things, but we all know it's easier said than done. You say, "Oh, I'm going to do this." Then life gets in the way. The app is there to actually send you reminders. You put the information in on exactly what your HVAC system is. You can log in your what filter you need, and it'll send you notifications every time you need to change the filter, every time you need it serviced. It'll actually keep you on point there, because like I said, it's one thing to say, "I'm going to do this." It's another thing to actually do it. Megan: A lot of times we tell our viewers, mark a day or think of a day on your calendar and do that monthly. Now, your app sounds luxurious, and I'll certainly look into that, but in a simple way, if you just think the first of the month, I'm going to check my filter. Pete: Probably the one thing that we've done over the years on Powerhouse is if people haven't, it's a programmable thermostat. I know on some of your other podcasts, you've had a smart home, the programmable thermostat. Maybe it's a Nest that you can control off your phone, which is so nice that you can set back at night, turn down that thermostat and save, turn it down 10 degrees. Over a year time and 10 hours, I think you can save something like 10% on your heating bill. There's really savings and again, that's what, here on Powerhouse, we're about. Saving energy, but also helping our customers and our consumers save energy dollars. Megan and I have put in more programmable thermostats over the years. That's another small investment. They can be as simple as maybe a 25 to a $50 investment. Again, you can go up and get Nest and have everything programmed off your iPhone, which is wonderful. That's significant savings in energy and energy dollars. Caroline: I know Ruth is a very smart home tech kind of guy. Jeff: I like the gadgets. When we moved in, that was the first thing I did was let's get the Nest thermostats. Let's get all the security stuff. Let's get all hooked up and you put eco mode on. It kind of just keeps it at a comfortable ... It's not blowing air on you, but Nest will remind me even when to change my HVAC filter, which I didn't know when I bought it. I mean, it's an amazing device. Pete: It really is. Again, I think that's one of the other things here on Powerhouse that Megan and I are very fortunate is to learn about the new technology all around our house. We've done shows on things in terms of reminders with a smart home, to change the filter, to setback your water heater. Some people might be away for a while and they can set back that. It is amazing the technology, the changes that we've seen over the past 24 years of Powerhouse. It all comes back again to helping that homeowner be more comfortable saving energy and saving energy dollars. Megan: Right now it's, we're approaching summer and here in the Midwest, it's really, really hot. That's another thing. If you can program that with your phone, program your air conditioning. You don't have to have it run all day with a programmable thermostat. You can set that to kick in before you get home from work, before you get back from vacation. One of the things that you can do to maintain your air conditioner is to clean it off. We had an episode where I got to do that, and I had no idea that I could do that myself. Of course, I had a professional walk me through it. You just go outside and you have your air conditioner, make sure that it's turned off at the electrical panel. Megan: Then you take your garden hose and you spray it all the debris off the outside and inside the compressor, spray the fins on the inside carefully, starting at the top down so you don't force any debris in there. That's something that you can do that's really, really simple. Another thing is to make sure that you've got airflow around your air conditioning compressor. A lot of people have landscaping and things like that because they want to hide it. Well make sure you keep it trimmed away so you have about a foot, at least a foot around there for circulation. Jeff: I thought I read that it's not a good idea to put a cover on an air conditioner because it can create mold problems or mildew or something like that. Dumb air conditioners, you can go and you can cover it with like an air conditioner cover, which they sell. I assume there's a need and a reason for that, but then I also read you don't want to cover it. Pete: You just got to make sure again, debris and everything's clear. To me that would be the benefit of having it covered, but then you also have to check to see if there's anything that may have crawled up or may have gotten on the fans. Just be aware of that. Jeff: Some resident chipmunks in there. Pete: Sure. Jeff: I did have a dryer vent [inaudible 00:18:54]. I think somebody moved the dryer and it popped out of the wall, but it's so big that we couldn't see behind it. You don't want to scratch the floors and all that. We only knew something was wrong because we'd run the dryer and then it would get really humid and the hallway started fogging up and it turned out that somebody must've moved it and it popped out off the wall. All the wet steam was basically not going where it should. It's just going into the room and we have a small room. That was an issue. We called the professional. Jeff: They came over and charged me four or five hundred bucks to really ... I mean, I was like, "Oh my God, is that really necessary? Can I not do this myself?" He had a whole thing, it goes all the way up to the roof, I guess. He had to put this thing together and clean the whole thing because I guess dryer vents are a big source of fires. There's something like 15,000 fires a year, the NFPA says are caused by dryer vents. It's a real problem. You got to stay up on top of it or else you can put your family at risk. Pete: I think that's a good point. Megan was mentioning cleaning the coils on your refrigerator. I mean, you don't need to do that, but once a year, but again, making sure that that vent is connected properly. That it is again, blowing that hot air and getting it out of your home. Making sure that the vent is clear there and then go on outside where that vent actually vents to the outside, making sure that's clean out there. I just last weekend went and checked mine. I wanted to make sure that I didn't have any issue, but you're right. A dryer vent fires, I hate to say, can be more common than you think, but a little bit of maintenance can help save from a fire. Also, just the overall, again, the efficiency of your dryer operating. Megan: Speaking of vents, I'm going to reverse the season, but if you have a gas fireplace, they vent outside. I know it's important to make sure that they are covered and that when you're not using it, the six months that you're not utilizing it, things can get in there. Animals can get in there. Debris, all of that kind of stuff so in reverse, that's something that you want to make sure that you check out and have a professional look at. Always. We always recommend a seasonal tune up on those appliances, on your air conditioner, as well as your fireplaces and your furnace. That's another vent issue, right? Jeff: I have a gas fireplace. That is definitely now on the top of my list because you know what? I was outside and I was trying to find the dryer vent exhaust, and the guy said it was on the roof. Then there's another vent. I was like, "What is this?" It's the gas fireplace vent. Now I know. Caroline: My parents had a horror story. They were using, I guess their fireplace once. I don't know. [inaudible 00:21:45] not really sure. Then one day there was this squirrel in the bedroom because I guess the fireplace vent wasn't closed all the way. It was just start of fall into winter. There was just a squirrel in the house. If that doesn't count as a horror story, I don't know what does. Jeff: A squirrel in the house counts as a horror story. I've had that in that apartment that I told you about in Hoboken. I had a squirrel. I was home and I walked into one room and my dogs are there and they just start going bananas. I go in the other room and the squirrel had come in the bathroom and walked into the bedroom and the dogs discovered that. It was just going around in a circle, just like on the ceiling. I literally just closed the door and then freaked out. Then I was like, "Okay, I got to do this. I'm not going to trap an animal right now at this point in time." I just opened the window and left. Then I came back like four hours later, just hoping it was gone. Thank God, it was gone, but not after peeing all over my head. Megan: I think I'd rather have a squirrel than bats. Pete: On Powerhouse, again, we've had episodes again, where chimney sweeps, the importance of making sure your chimney is clean and again, having a professional come out and clean your chimney. We've had episodes where they talked about the chimney sweep, talked about different animals that have been found and maybe have been dead there. That also takes me over to cleaning your ducts, your duct work in your house, occasionally is a good thing to do. If you have a lot of pets, it is worthwhile, but again, make sure your duct work is cleaned. It's about efficiency and making sure again, your appliances are operating efficiently. Just like we know with your car, you have an oil change and a checkup with your car. You need to have a checkup of your house system to making sure that it's operating properly and efficiently. Cleaning your ducts, D-U-C-T-S, and making sure that again, that it's functioning efficiently. Caroline: These are amazing tips. We were talking about outside home efficiency so can we just touch a little bit more kind of beyond the AC unit or whatever the real term is for that, and just kind of touch base on some other outdoor efficiencies that would help along your journey? Megan: Well, I think with landscaping, this goes back to the air conditioner, energy.gov says that you can save up to 50% of your energy if you shelter your air conditioner. Shade it with a bush, a tree, of course, distanced. If you think about it, we run more efficiently when we've got a little bit of shade when the heat is pouring down on us. Your air conditioner is no different. Call a professional, make sure that everything is operating smoothly and I will just reiterate what Pete said. The system of your house is designed to be efficient and all your appliances are designed to work well, but we have to do our part and take care of them as well. Pete: Plant that tree to shade your house, your overall house can make a difference. Just a little bit of shade on your house can cool the house so that the sun isn't beating down on it. That's another opportunity. Again, we've done that numerous times on Powerhouse. Come out and plant a tree and again, obviously again, think safety when you're going to plant a tree. Call to make sure you're not digging into a power line. Look up and make sure you're now also not going up into power lines above that might be up there. We always stress safety on any, do it yourself projects on Powerhouse. Caroline: People like Jeff Ruth here might take things into their own hands when they should be calling a pro. Jeff: Felled enough trees in my day that I know to call a pro. Megan: One thing that can make a real difference in your energy usage is how you plug in all of the things around your house. You think about all of the cell phone chargers that we have on the small end, but then we also have our home office. We have all kinds of little appliances, toasters, things like that, that we don't use all the time, but they are always drawing power. We call that phantom power. That phantom energy can really add up, up to 10% of your utility bill. That's huge. I have a prop for you. This is a smart strip. What this has is different plugs here that will remain on if necessary, like say your wifi router. You don't want that to go off. There's a designated place for those items, but for the things, video game systems, things like that, that you don't use all of the time, your DVD player, things like that you can put in here. Then it actually will sense when you're not using it and shut those things off. Caroline: That is an amazing product. Jeff: Yeah. We're going to definitely recommend because I need one. I'm going to find one, we're going to recommend it to the listeners and give some links out there so you can find the right one for you. Pete: With your ceiling fans during the summer, they are pushing the cool air down. You want to make sure it's spinning the right way to push down. In the winter months you want to pull the warmer air up. Remember when you're out of a room, I remind my family to turn off ceiling fans if you're not in the room. Jeff: Is that because money doesn't grow on trees? Caroline: You mentioned the right way. There's clearly a wrong way. Is the right way for cool air counterclockwise or clockwise or [crosstalk 00:27:25]? Pete: Well, again, making sure you can feel it when you turn it on. Is it pushing down? I mean, you can feel it pushing down. Make sure it's spinning that way. I'll let the listeners check themselves, okay? Caroline: Perfect. Perfect. Your website, discusses home energy assessments. What would that entail and how does a homeowner know that they're ready for such an assessment? Megan: On the Alliant Energy website, we offer an energy assessment and you enter all of your specific information in there, and it's really basically a checkup for your home. It offers recommendations of ways that you can improve and it's something that once you make those improvements, you can then watch your utility bill and see how things change after you do that. I would say every five years, you can revisit it too. If you've done any other home improvements, you can plug those in. It just kind of keeps things up to date. It's not unlike your app actually. You can keep all of that in one place as well. Jeff: We have a lot of things in common. I'm definitely excited to check out more about the Alliant Energy assessment. Can you tell us a little more about where to find that and how to, is it for just people in the service area or can anybody go and get tips there? Pete: Most utilities, again, I think around the country are offering that. I would always say to your listeners to check with your utilities for what kind of services they provide in terms of a home energy assessment. I think most energy companies today are trying to be good citizens of our Earth and are looking at ways to make sure your home is energy efficient and offering that. I would say check that. One of the things that we stress on Powerhouse is energy star rated appliances. When you're going out to look for new appliances, make sure they have that energy star on the product. Pete: Maybe you've got that second old sort of a beverage refrigerator or beer refrigerator that maybe is 20 years old, but it sure keeps those beverages cold. That's not always the best use of that old refrigerator because they really burn through energy. A fridge that's about 15, 18 years old, it might be time to look at a new refrigerator because they are so much more energy efficient here today than just 15, 20 years ago. You can save again, a lot of energy dollars that you're paying to keep those beverages cold. Megan: Another service that Alliant energy offers is a refrigerator recycling program. To Pete's point, you want to check with your utility company and see what services they offer, because you might be surprised. Caroline: Thank you for all these tips. I mean, I'm so enlightened. Knowledge is power they say. Megan: People are sheltering in place and their home a lot more. Their utility bills are creeping up because of that. With the use of the home office, kids playing video games, all kinds of things, homeschooling, using your computer more than you might have before. People are cooking a lot more. There are ways that you can use your kitchen a little bit more efficiently, and that is to scale down your appliances, especially as we're approaching summer. Grill outside. It's a common sense thing. Use your crock pot, a slow cooker, toaster oven, they use so much less energy than torquing up your oven. Megan: Also, you can scale down how you use your stove top as well. You want to make sure that you use your cookware appropriately by using the right pan size so you're not wasting energy by extra heat coming up. Also, put lids on things. That's going to speed up your cooking and it's going to use less energy too. Caroline: I know my fiance doesn't quite get the toaster oven versus the oven. I'm really trying to help him out there. It also got so warm that the toaster oven is, it seems a bit quicker, but it also doesn't make the whole place like it is outside. Jeff: I think one of the best wedding gifts that I ever got was the Breville toaster oven. It's like- Caroline: I just said that, for our wedding. Jeff: It's great. I mean, I use it every day. Megan: It's fast, quick, easy. You can watch it happen and it doesn't heat up the kitchen. Pete: Brilliant. Again, appreciate being able to, Caroline and Jeff, to talk with you guys and share tips with your listeners. As we like to say, always as we finish an episode of Powerhouse, with these tips and ideas and saving energy, we can make your house a power house. Megan: A powerhouse. Visit our website, Powerhousetv.com. There are loads of tips on there. Caroline: Thank you so much, Megan and Pete. It was so lovely to have you both. We hope that we can partner again soon. Our missions really align in that we really have a lot in common. We'd love to have you guys back on the show one day. Pete: Thank you. Megan: We would love it. Thank you. Jeff: Thanks guys. Have a good one. Caroline: Have a great day. Megan: Thanks. You too. Jeff: Bye.
Realtor Spotlight: Rebecca Donatelli
Caroline: Hi, Rebecca. Thank you so much for joining us today at the vipHome Podcast. We're going to talk about realty, a little bit of your entrepreneurial side, and just learn a little bit more about you and how you've been so successful in the industry. So thank you so much for joining us. Rebecca: Awesome. Thanks for having me, I'm excited to be here. Caroline: So I guess we should start with a little bit about you, how you got started in the industry and where you've seen the most success to date. Rebecca: Yeah, so I just celebrated my five year anniversary in real estate, which it doesn't feel like five years. It feels like maybe three. Caroline: That's so exciting though, what an accomplishment. Rebecca: Yeah, and I'm excited about it. It's been a crazy five years. I never had any intention of getting into real estate. I went to college to be a high school math teacher, and I love math to this day. I'm such a math nerd. I love calculus and the whole thing. And then I just realized that teaching math, high school math wasn't for me. So after I got out of college, I worked, I was a store manager for a while. And then I worked at an insurance company as an account manager for a couple of months. And that was not me at all. I took a couple months off and my mom actually suggested I get into real estate. Rebecca: I had lunch with her one day and she was like, I think you might want to consider it. And I'm like, the commission is kind of freaking me out a little bit. And, I had watched my fair share of HGTV, which is about the extent of my knowledge about real estate. But, I got in touch with my broker who I've been with since day one with McDowell homes, which is an independent company here in Cleveland. And I heard about her business and the real estate world. And I just took a leap of faith. I jumped right in and that was kind of it. So I don't have any really fun stories about how I got started. I don't have any family in the business. I didn't have any agent friends that I knew. I kind of just had to figure it out, but it's worked out. It's been really fun. I can't see myself doing anything else, so. Caroline: That's so cool. I started in finance as well. I was a finance major and went into analyst work and all of that. And here I am in partnerships. So I feel when you think something's right and then you're like, maybe it's not. So, that's wonderful. So here at vipHomeLink, we are really focusing... I mean, our app as a whole is about home management, making home ownership easier. But with that, we're also looking from, our consumers and our customers to make sure that they're always sort of the forefront of what we're working towards in our goals. Can you share a little bit about how your clients, I mean, obviously selling homes, you need clients, but what that relationship is like and how you kind of keep that relationship over the course of time? Rebecca: Yeah. With my team, it's really important that we essentially just treat our clients as our friends and, they become our friends to where we spend a lot of time with them. We chat with them. So keeping that relationship alive, and that's from day one. We might meet a client from day one and we treat them as a friend. And so, that relationship is really important with my team. It's five star service from start to finish, and chatting with them, and we continuously spend time with them. We do pop buys, social media is really huge in keeping in touch with them, once things are over. Rebecca: And providing some sort of value to them from day one, even after the transaction, whether it's real estate related value, whether it's just, anything. Anything that they need, we want to be a resource and we want to be a friend. And so I really make sure that I'm doing that and my agents are doing that too. And so that's why they feel comfortable referring us other business or doing a second or third transaction with us, because we're able to provide that value and we treat them more as friends. It's not just about real estate, especially with this whole pandemic, we've reached out and said, how can we help you? It's not about real estate needs. It's just about how can we help you, whatever it is. So we're really- Caroline: Yeah. I feel like when we just hopped on the phone a few weeks ago at this point, I was like, wow, she is so nice. I would want to work with you. So, I mean, I definitely see the friendly side to you and to your success. My fiance and I are actually looking to buy a house, we're trying to figure out what town to go in and anything like that. Do have any, I mean, I know Cleveland is different than New Jersey, but do you have like tips for first time home buyers or suggestions that you kind of share with them to make their home buying experience a little bit easier? Rebecca: Yeah. Obviously as a new home buyer, it's very intimidating. You're making a very large purchase, sometimes the biggest purchase you'll ever make, right? And so, it's really intimidating, you kind of sign away everything, all your very personal information you're giving and taking that leap of faith into home ownership. Rebecca: And so we really try to navigate each step of the transaction from the preapproval process to the home searching process. We hold your hand every step of the way, as far as all of our clients, whether they're a first time buyer or maybe they've been around the block when purchasing homes, or maybe they haven't purchased a house in 10 years and they aren't familiar with the process right now. We navigate everything from start to finish with them so that they don't feel like they are left in the dark. Rebecca: Any questions, we're always available. We have our phone all the time. And I think that's really important because if you don't have that open communication, your client is going to feel alone. And it's very scary at times, and so, really navigating every step of the transaction, even just if they're panicked a little bit and just talking to them as a friend, like I said, even just, it's going to be okay, let's talk about it, let's go grab a coffee and, whatever. Just to kind of ease their mind a little bit is... And, I didn't realize what it was like until I bought my first house. And I was like, oh my gosh. And so it's really helpful to kind of go through that personally, just to be able to understand what they're going through and really be able to hold their hand. Caroline: Yeah. I think that's so helpful. We put two offers in on a house, or two separate houses and they both went into bidding wars, and we ended up not getting either of them, which is fine. I mean, whatever, a little sad, but our realtor was such a support during that, because they were like, you don't have kids, you're not trying to get your kids into a school system before September. And I have to say, it was such a confidence booster for me, knowing that it wasn't me who lost the house. It was just the nature of the industry. So I give you guys so much credit because, I mean, I'm personable, but I don't think I could be as supportive as somebody whose like, oh, you lost this house, but, we will find you a new one. Caroline: I think that would be, so it's definitely a talent that you have. So, I found you on social media and we sort of got to talking that way. Can you share a little bit about how social has encouraged your business and kind of made you stand out a little bit? I'm sure in Cleveland, if people search you, you have a huge Instagram following, and can you share a little bit about how, A, that has changed, I guess five years, maybe it hasn't changed that much, but how you see that maybe growing in the future? Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. So, basically how I got started, my first year in the business, I had a pretty solid first year. I was rookie of the year at my company. I had a decent amount of sales, but I was still obviously trying to navigate, figure it out. I was going to listing appointments, buyer consultations up against agents that have been around for 15 plus years. They were a lot older than I was. I got my license at 24, I'm 29 now. And I really realized pretty quickly that, even though I was connecting with the clients and, getting the sales, I still needed to figure out something longterm that was going to work for me, that was going to make me stand out. Rebecca: And so when I started the Instagram, it was a hobby. I had really no intention of making it what it's become today. I love real estate obviously, and I love photography on the side. So it was kind of the perfect place for me to share my love for both of those. And so while I didn't have any intention of making it any real sort of impact for my business, I realized as I was growing the Instagram and spending time on it, that that was the Avenue I was kind of looking for, right? To stand out amongst these agents that were going up, they had big book of business behind them, and I really didn't. So as I realized, that was the platform I was looking for. I know social media, I was able to share things, and things about my business, things about my personal life. Rebecca: I started utilizing that more and more. And so now majority, almost all of my business comes from there. A lot of the speaking activities and things like that, I own a speaking consulting business that I launched last year. So, a lot of that stuff comes from the Instagram to referral business from other agents, not agents on my team. I met them from Instagram, builders, developers, I have relationships with are from Instagram too. So, I do spend more time on that because it really is a majority of my business. Caroline: That's really cool. Can you tell us a little bit about, you said you had a speaking engagement service. I think I got it wrong, but can you share a little bit about that too, and how that kind of, it keeps you on top of your game for a realtor and, maybe it's a passion, but can you share a little bit more about that? Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. So I launched my own speaking consulting business last year at the beginning of the year, it's [inaudible 00:09:46] Seminars and Consulting. So, I really never, ever thought I would have a... Own a business where I am publicly speaking in front of large crowds. I took a public speaking course in college as a core class. I don't even know how I passed it, because I got in front of those people and just was freaking out. I didn't know what to say. So it was really unintentional. I started getting asked to speak at conferences and things about Instagram for your real estate business. The first one I ever, I traveled to New York and I got, it was a paid speaking engagement. I did two Instagram classes while was there, and I felt like I had to take this opportunity. They were paying for me to go, they were paying for my travel. Rebecca: They were giving me a fee too, and it was a great opportunity to get in front of a ton of agents, and kind of share my knowledge about Instagram and building a business through social media. So I had a really successful first trip, and then when I shared that online, I got asked to go to another trip and then another trip. And it was more and more to where it just made sense for me to launch a business. And so now I travel, I mean, not right now, obviously with everything kind of going on, but last year I did a lot of traveling. I went to LA to speak, Key West Florida, I was in Oklahoma. I mean, I was in a lot of different places to speak about utilizing social media for your real estate business. And some other things mixed in there too. Rebecca: That's not the only thing that I speak about. And then this year, I had a lot of trips planned, I've done all of them virtually thus far, but I love that side of it. It's fun. I love teaching agents. This is just, it's a tough business. There's an 80% failure rate for first year agents. And it is, yeah, it is a hard business to get into. And if you don't bust your butt and hustle, it's really hard. And so I love being able to teach other people how they can take their businesses to the next level. And then the consulting side of it is just a one on one with a client. If a realtor comes to me and they say, I want one on one help from you, to help build my social profile or whatnot, then I work with them one on one to help their businesses grow. Caroline: You are a woman of many talents, that is so impressive. How do you think... Sorry, how do you think social media and the pictures that you post kind of influences people to engage with you? I mean, there's so many accounts out there nowadays and people, and not every house is so Instagram ready, but you can't necessarily just post your good listings versus you're not as good listings. So how do you think the power of a photo really changes from photo to photo? Rebecca: Yeah, that's a great question. So this was something I realized kind of earlier... Well, I guess it took me a little bit to realize this, but when I first started the account, I was just posting house, house, listing, sale, inspection, just straight up houses, basically what you kind of expect from a realtor. And then when I started sprinkling in a little more personal, or not necessarily personal, but other things in there, I started realizing that my engagement levels were higher on those types of posts. People know that I'm a realtor, they expect me to be selling houses, but they want to know the other aspects of my life and my business. And especially through social media, that is a place for you to show who you really are and connect with people personally, because my goal on there is for people to get to know me and my personality so that they trust me enough to reach out to me, to want help with real estate. Rebecca: And so now I share, I really never share my sales. I might share a couple of them on my Instagram story per se. I'll sprinkle my listings in here or there, but it's not about that. I now share stuff that's more personal to me. My followers, I know love my travels and that's something that's really important to me and I love doing, so I share a lot of that. I share a lot of behind the scenes stuff for people to get to know me, anyone that knows me knows that I am a big coffee drinker. I love my coffee. And people know that from following me on social media. In fact, one of the conferences I went to at the end of last year, I was back in New York speaking. And I had two sessions, and in between the sessions, three different realtors, who'd been falling in Instagram, brought me coffee. Rebecca: And I had one really dark one, here's one with a lot of creamer in it, because they knew without even getting to talk to me in person, they knew from my social that I love coffee. And so it's a really great place for you to share more about you personally. I think some agents kind of drop the ball with that when they're just sharing houses or they're just sharing home inspiration or things like that, because you don't really get to show your true personality and who you are. But it is important to share a mix of different things on there, so you can connect with different types of people. Caroline: Yeah, definitely. I feel like I've done a similar reach out that we, how we got connected, similarly with other agents and a lot of them are so focused, which is great. I mean, it's their job on selling homes and making sure that what they're selling is out there, but you definitely see sort of a staleness in that sort of relationship with them because that's their only focus. And I feel like it's such a common question in a job interview, be like, what do you do outside of work? I think that sort of carries over to when you're posting on Instagram as well. So I mean, nowadays with COVID and sort of this pandemic, things are more virtual. Can you share a little bit about how that's affected your business and how you've kind of transitioned into that sort of house selling mode? Rebecca: Yeah. To be honest, when we all were needed to be quarantined at home and things really kind of started to changing, my business and my team's business didn't really shift where it was necessarily coming from, because the majority of that was already coming from social media anyways. In fact, when things shifted, our business that actually got busier because more people are online, right? They're sitting at home, they might not be working, they're scrolling their phone, they're scrolling Instagram, they're scrolling Facebook. And so there were more people. And so we shifted obviously how we were doing things, virtual presentations, all electronic signing versus maybe before it was, some electronic signing. Rebecca: So, the way that we interacted with the client was obviously shifted, but where the business actually came from did not shift for me and my team just because that's where it was kind of already coming from. So that was really nice for us, that we didn't feel like, okay, now we have to panic and figure out where our business is going to come from, because a lot of it was already through social. It was more so just adjusting how we were doing buyer presentations, listing presentations, phone calls, electronic signing, like I said, all of the mechanics per se, is really, more so, what changed for us. Caroline: Got it. Well, that's good for business. So I mean, that you're all of a sudden not changing, but with that, virtual, you said e-signing and stuff like that, how are home inspections done and the different sort of, before you say yes, I want this house to put an offer in. And then to them actually signing on the dotted line, did that process change at all? Or were inspectors allowed in the houses, or how did that sort of work? Rebecca: Yeah. So in the state of Ohio, real estate was deemed essential pretty early on. So that being said, we were able to do showings. We obviously had to follow CDC guidelines, wear the masks, sanitize, a lot of the sellers were leaving the lights on and doors open before we got there. So limited, the touching and things like that. Rebecca: Inspectors were allowed in the home, photographers were allowed in the home. We just have to make sure that we're obviously social distanced if they're there. We had some sellers who asked that only the inspector come to the inspection and not me and not the client. As long as we had that in writing from the seller, we were able to do that and just send an inspector there. But otherwise, we were deemed essential. So we were still allowed to show. Now, I did have quite a few clients that really didn't want to meet in person. So, there were a lot of FaceTimes, there were a lot of virtual showings, a lot of virtual open houses. I still haven't done an in person open house, and so a lot of that is virtual. But we were really able to navigate to where it worked out for everyone while we were still being safe. Rebecca: And luckily for us in the state of Ohio, we did fight for it to be deemed essential, which included the inspectors. Some of the appraisers were not wanting to go in the houses. So they were either doing, you could send them photos or they might even do a drive by. So, that changed a little bit, but luckily for us here, we were still able to keep the businesses going, title companies as well, to where the transactions and the showings didn't have to necessarily stop. Caroline: That's so lucky. I feel like here we're, I think most of the real estate that I've looked at is all virtual and then anything sort of beyond that is as well. Whether it's you going in and FaceTiming, but so that's great. Kind of while we're on the topic, can you share a little bit about Cleveland real estate and how you sort of see that differ across the country? I mean, you do a lot of engagements in different parts of the country with different realtors. So can you just, do think there's a difference, or can you share a little bit about how you may be when you're speaking to somebody in New York versus Oklahoma, you would maybe change your engagement pitch? Rebecca: Yeah. Great question. So anytime that I've done a virtual presentation right now with kind of with everything going on, I really try to just keep it very general to how you can keep your business alive through social media. So that if one state's essential and one's not, I'm making sure that it's... You can do it for anyone, basically. Because a lot of the presentations I do, sometimes they open them up to realtors anywhere, and obviously every state's different, everyone's doing things differently and some realtors weren't comfortable, even if they were deemed essential, they weren't necessarily comfortable going into those houses, which is okay. You have to make that decision for yourself and everyone has to do it the way that they're most comfortable with. Rebecca: So, when I share how to kind of keep their businesses going during this pandemic, it's really stuff anybody anywhere can do. It's all on social media, it's video and different things like that. And there are also things that you can do after things kind of go back to more of a somewhat normal. There are things you can do for your business forever, moving forward. So, that's kind of what I did, and then I would chat with agents per state. I recently did one for Colorado and they just recently kind of started opening back more. Whereas in Ohio we've been essential for a while and things like that. So I really just try to keep it general for everybody so that everybody can use what I'm saying, no matter where they're at. Caroline: That's so helpful. I feel like I would love to, not that I'm a realtor, but I feel like you could just really captivate the room. So one of our segments in our podcast is homeowner horror stories. So maybe you can share a few or one that may be from the realtor side that you're like, oh my God, this is crazy. So do you have a few stories or a story that you could share, sort of that was horrific? Rebecca: Yeah. So my first year in the business, I was showing a couple a house and it had an alarm and I did not get to the alarm in time. I'm scrambling to get the alarm code, and I just didn't turn up, which happens. You might not know where it is or you might be trying to pull it up on your phone. Your wifi is not going as fast as you need, you didn't write it down. So the cops showed up at the house, because the alarm went off, right? So, I'm like, great, I gave them my ID. I gave them my business card, fine. Well, it turns out that there was a warrant out for my buyers. Rebecca: So, that was one of the crazier ones that I have ever had happen to me. So ever since then, if there's an alarm in the house, it is written down, I confirm where the alarm system is so that I can get right in there to turn it off. But yeah, that's probably the craziest thing that's ever happened to me. I have a lot of crazy stories and weird finds that I've seen in houses, but that one definitely takes the cake. Caroline: Did they arrest the buyer? Rebecca: They did take the buyers, so I did not get the sale. That was not a sale I got. Yeah. Caroline: I was going to be like, oh, there was a squirrel in the house or something. Oh my God, that's so crazy. Rebecca: It was crazy. So I haven't had anything quite as crazy happen since then, but yeah, that's up there. Caroline: That's crazy for a long time, in my opinion. That would... Wow. Okay. Okay. So, kind of pivoting from horror stories, do you have some wisdom and advice for homeowners? I know we started touched on this in the beginning, but just some quick tidbits that you would be like, this is what you need to know, and this is what somebody did. And I have suggested a temporary one moving forward, I think. We've spoken to realtors, but everyone has different thoughts and opinions. So, if you just had a few quick pieces of advice and some wisdom, that would be great. Rebecca: Yeah. Especially if you're buying for the first time, there are certain things that you might not realize with home ownership. And we kind of talked about this before, which is why this app is so awesome to me, but making sure that you know with your mechanicals, how often they should be checked. We see a lot of times when we go to the list, that maybe they had a furnace or AC that might've been a little bit older, but they never bothered to get it serviced. And so now it might have some issues, or might need replaced. And so we kind of put them in contact with the right people that they can call to get it serviced, different things like that. A lot of them like to be updated on their market just to see what things are going for in their neighborhood and stuff. Rebecca: And they'll call us about that. So we'll keep them updated on that. We provide basically any type of contact anyone would need. A roofer, a contractor, it's always really nice to have a list of people that you can give a call, because you never know what could happen. I mean, you can move into a brand new construction house and a couple of months later, something could bust, and it happens. So we want to really be a resource for that and just keeping those things in mind. Rebecca: And then also during, this is more so during the buying process, not necessarily after they've already bought, but it's important to realize that you don't necessarily need to spend what you necessarily have been pre approved for. Especially if you're a first time buyer. Sometimes you see you're pre approved for 300,000 and then, oh, well, this looks great, and look at this house. And, it's important to realize, you do want to make sure that you're prepared if something were to break or, for saving purposes. And so we, we try to make sure that our clients are comfortable with what they're spending and know that, we might be able to find them just as nice of a house that they're looking for, not at the absolute max of their budget, so. Caroline: That's super helpful. I feel like going through it myself currently, where we are, because we're outside of Manhattan, the prices are just insane. Especially for a first time price. I look at them and I'm like... And my parents always are like, put 20% down, blah, blah, blah, such a parent thing to say. And that's kind of what we're looking for, but anything that is in our price range is either top of the price range, but it needs no works on the outside or is lower on the price range, but needs a lot of updates. So we're currently in the struggle of, do you pay a little bit more to do a little bit less or vice versa? Rebecca: Right. Caroline: So I think that's great advice because, for me, I would not want to do that much work, but it also, I don't need to spend every dime just to get, that picture perfect house either, so. Rebecca: Right. Caroline: I guess we'll see what happens, but, can we touch a little bit about the preapproval process? I know it's a pretty easy process, but can you just share a little bit of insight on that and sort of how that helps moving forward, before they actually put an offer onto a house? Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. So we really make sure that our clients, before we even start the home search process, that they get a preapproval. Number one, we want to make sure that they are able to buy obviously, and they want to know, we don't want to waste their time and the seller's time leaving the house and everything. So, we get them in touch with a lender, we see what finance programs are best for them and what their price might look like. And that might differ per area that they're looking at. Rebecca: We have some areas here that have really high taxes and so, their price point might fluctuate. So we put them in touch with a lender that we have, that can get them pre approved fairly quickly. And we aren't able to submit offers without that preapproval in hand, and especially right now, things are moving fast. There's all kinds of multiple offers situations, I'm sure you've seen that as a buyer yourself. Things are moving very quickly, a lot of multiple offer situations, and they won't even consider, even if you're not in a multiple offer situation, sellers usually won't consider an offer without a preapproval because they don't want to take their home off of the market for someone that they don't know is qualified to buy a home. Rebecca: The other thing that's really important is making sure they know what they're pre approved for, because what we don't want to happen is they think they might be pre approved at a certain price point, we show them that price point, and then maybe they're only pre-approved a little bit less than that. And now their expectations are too high and it's harder to get them to know what it is that they can buy. So it's really important that we make sure of that, and some people get a little bit freaked out with the preapproval process. It's scary, you're giving a lot of personal information to somebody that you don't know, right? You're giving your credit score, you're giving your taxes and your earnings and everything to a complete stranger over the phone, and it's very scary. And so we really try to hold their hand and let them know the importance of it. And, let them know that they're not going to be able to buy a home unless they're able to get pre approved, and willing to do that. Rebecca: And we make sure we put them in touch with a trusted lender, someone that we've had good experience with before, we have in house lenders that are fantastic. So it's really, really important if you are a buyer, that you take that first step and get pre approved before you've even stepped foot in a house. Caroline: Yeah. When we were just looking and we had a person to do the preapproval, we just weren't a hundred percent sure. And then all of a sudden, we were like, okay, we're going to do a preapproval, then we'll put an offer in on the house, then we were so excited. And, before we blinked the house was already gone and I was like, oh, so do it in reverse order next time. Rebecca: Yeah. Caroline: How long does a preapproval last? Are you doing it for every house that you're putting on offer on, or are you doing it for a period of time, or does that differ by state as well? Rebecca: Yeah, we don't do one per house. Now, we will have the amount changed on the preapproval per what it is that they're offering, but usually they last 90 days. And then, if you haven't found a house by then, you'll want to get back in touch with a lender. They'll just run everything again really quickly. You don't need a fresh one per house that you put an offer in on. If the first house happens to not work out, you just want to make sure if there's a difference in price that the buyer is still able to buy depending on the different price point. But yeah, I mean, once you get the preapproval, my lender usually gets it done pretty quickly on the phone. He emails me the copy of the preapproval, it has the type of financing. If they need it to sell their home, it has the home sale contingency on it, has the amount on it. And that way, everything's ready to go when they're ready to put an offer in. Caroline: Wonderful. That's cool. I mean, yeah, I'm going through it now. So it's always nice to just hear a difference in the, not even opinion, just from somebody else. We don't have one realtor, we've been pretty steady with one, but we've been looking into different areas of New Jersey. So the realtors are sort of staying, I guess, in their location. So we're getting sort of dual advice from two different people. So it's been a time, that's for sure. So, I'm kind of just about at the end of my questions, but I know we really like to ask our guests who have used our app, vipHomeLink, kind of what they like about it and what they would sort of recommend to their clientele. We think it's super helpful, it keeps everything on track, whether you're just putting in some information or you're really using it to track your maintenance and management updates. But can you share a little bit about, if you've used it and what you liked about it and why you would recommend it? Rebecca: Yeah, absolutely. So, as I told you when we first chatted, I was super fascinated about this, because we see so many buyers who purchase a home and then these certain things they forget about, and it really, it's more money out of their pocket at the end of the day, if they forget to get a furnace service, just because they feel like it's in good working condition, or maybe it's newer. And then, if they're not getting it serviced regularly, they might have to replace it a lot sooner than they thought or it might buy, so I think it's really great. And everybody has a smartphone these days. So, why wouldn't you have the app? Rebecca: It's just such a great place to put everything, reminders. If you have a great paint color and you want to keep track of the paint color, and then, you get new furniture two years later and it nicks your wall, and you're like, oh my gosh, what paint color? It's all right in there for you. So you don't have to... Because otherwise, what I would have done is chipped the paint off my wall, take it to the Lowe's, have them match the paint. And now I have a big nick in my wall. And so this way it's really nice, it's really super great. And it's great for realtors too, because it's really a cool gift that you can offer to your clients. So if you do closing gifts, we do closing gifts for all of our clients, just giving them the app for a year or something is a really great gift idea and it will take so much off of their plates. Rebecca: And then as far as the homeowners that are watching this, I think everyone should have one. And I actually had a conversation with my mom the other day, I sold my brother and his wife a condo, maybe two years ago. And my mom was having a conversation with them and asked him if he'd ever had the furnace serviced since he bought it. And he was like, no, it works fine. And I was like, listen, he needs to get this app because he's going to pay for that. And he's going to be mad that he didn't go ahead and do something. So, it's really a great thing to have. I think everyone needs to have it, and for the realtors that are watching, it's a really great gift that you can offer your clients. Caroline: Ah, thank you so much. We really do appreciate that and we agree, everyone should have it. So, yay. But that's kind of wraps up a lot of my questions. Did I miss anything? Did you want to add anything? I want to make sure that we got it all. Rebecca: Yeah, no. I mean, hopefully this was helpful for the buyers that are watching out there. I know a lot of the markets right now are crazy. It's not just Cleveland, it's everywhere. So, make sure that you are chatting with your realtor upfront, just to kind of know what you have to look forward to, the transaction, everything. And for the realtors that are following, make sure you're having those conversations with the clients, because I think sometimes they're thrown if they put an offer in and miss out and, we're seeing a lot of that. So, but hopefully this was helpful for everybody. Caroline: Yeah. It was wonderful. Do you mind just sharing where people can find you on Instagram and a little bit more about you and then we could wrap up? Rebecca: Yeah. So, I'm mainly on Instagram, as we've kind of talked about, my Instagram handle is Rebecca.Itali.realtor. So you can go ahead and just follow me on there, and then my contact information is on my profile. So if you just click contact, it'll email me directly. It'll call, if you want to text me or anything directly, I'm not quite as active on Facebook. So, I'll just give my Instagram stuff, because that's usually where you can find me, so. Caroline: Perfect. Thank you so much. Well, Rebecca, this has been wonderful. We'll chat soon, and thank you again for your time. Rebecca: All right. Thanks for having me, take care.
We Talk with Home Perspective LLC to Get Organized!
Home organization should always be a priority. From where you keep your deed to where you keep your forks, it’s a very personal thing that takes a concerted effort. And that’s where a professional organizer can help. As owner of Home Perspective LLC, Ashley Ingraham helps clients to organize their home, downsize before a move, and even donate some of their items to charity. Hosts Caroline and Jacqueline recently welcomed Ashley to the show to discuss the pain points of home organization, tips for surviving a quarantine, and FAQs about packing for a move. Plus - why should you always be nice to your movers, and what’s the last things you should pack and the first things you should unpack? It’s all in the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast. Watch now! Simplify homeownership with the vipHomeLink app, which helps you manage, organize, and improve your home. Visit our website: https://viphomelink.com/ Like vipHomeLink on Facebook: facebook.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Instagram: instagram.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Twitter: twitter.com/vipHomeLink Listen to our podcast: viphomelink.com/podcast Read the vipBlog (The Best Blog on the Block): viphomelink.com/blog Download the app today: iOS: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/viphomelink/id1453366752 Android devices: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vipHomeLink&hl=en_US
Everything You Need to Know About Home Inspections
Jacqueline: Welcome to the vipHome Podcast. It's good to have you today. Could you give a general overview of what a home inspection is and what it entails? Alan: What we are looking for is how your structure, how your mechanicals, your furnace, your air conditioning, et cetera. Your electrical, plumbing system, are they proper and functioning correctly? And of course we also throw in the safety point. Is there anything that could cause a safety issue for the homeowner? Jacqueline: When should a home be inspected? Alan: Most of the time it's done when you're getting ready to purchase a home. Because it's new to you, you need that third eye on the inspection. You're no longer objective. So you want to become objective and that comes to a third party. That third party is the inspector, and he is to guide you through the important parts that could come back and basically haunt you if you purchase incorrectly. Jacqueline: When you're going through a home inspection. Will there be times where you will encourage someone else to come out and inspect something further? Alan: A good home inspector is trained to see signs of issues. If I see a water stain or something on a wall, we can put a moisture meter on there and if it's wet, I'm going to advise you to have somebody come out not only to check for the leak, which would probably be a plumber contractor, and I'm also going to probably tell you that once he opens that you may have to have a mold inspection because if it's behind the wall there may be some mold involved as well. We're going to recommend when we see issues or concerns that indicate that there may be further problems that we can't see. Jacqueline: How long does it take to schedule a home inspection? Alan: Listen to your realtor. If you're in the height of the season, plan on at least four or five days out. Normally, we can book within two or three days. Jacqueline: What is the usual turnaround time for the inspection report? Alan: Our turnaround time is same day or within 12 hours. Some guys do it on site and I have no problem with that. Our company is a little bit particular in how we present things, so our guys will do the report on site and we will actually review it with the client right there on site. When you leave that home, you know exactly what's going on with it. But we require the inspectors to bring it back, review it, make sure there's no mistakes, so that when the realtor has it and they present it to the seller, then there's not a bunch of mistakes that have to be negotiated back and forth. It can be from on site all the way up to 24 hours. It's very rare that you see four or five days now, but it's allowable. Just not very often. Jacqueline: Are there other things that someone should ask when they're vetting a home inspector? Alan: The most common question, the one you see in all the articles on it is, "How much experience do you have?" The cliché is that practice makes perfect. No. Because if you're practicing it wrong, it's still wrong. So perfect practice makes perfect." So the experience question, I can be in business for 20 years. Look at the reviews. If you look at the reviews, you have a good idea of the customer experience. Alan: I also recommend that they look for a designation by the two major home inspection organizations that are in the States. And that's The American Society of Home Inspectors and it's The International Association of Home Inspectors. I'm an overachiever so I belong to both. My guys are all required to be certified professional home inspectors. That's through The International Association of Home Inspectors. You want to know that they're trained well. Alan: Also, there's certain states, Maryland included, you're licensed. You can go on the website and type in your name and they'll tell you whether his license is valid or not. If you get an inspection in Maryland by a non-licensed home inspector, that's an invalid inspection. It's not good for a real estate contract. So you respect the state, make sure they have a license, check their ratings, their reviews, and then talk to them. I actually recommend that you talk to your inspector, if possible, beforehand. How long does it take to get my report? Can I be at the inspection? Once I get that inspection report will you be available to answer questions for me? Are there steps I have to go through? These are all very important questions. Alan: We recommend that clients be at the inspection. We want to educate them. We want them to see what we're talking about so that when they get back to that report, especially your first time home buyers. They have to understand the inspector there is to give an objective view of the concerns or defects in a home. So therefore, the report is basically negative. We're telling you what's wrong with the house. And therefore, what you need to get fixed or what you can live with. Do you care if you have an old type light switch? Probably not. It's all up to the individual. So talk to the inspector, and they have to be objective. Jacqueline: Would you recommend anyone else be present during the home inspection? Alan: It's kind of mixed. And again, I'm going to speak from the state that I'm in. In Maryland, the buying realtor can accompany. We have had clients bring, say, a contractor or something to the home at the same time. I highly don't recommend that. Not that I care if the contractor's there. If they come, I prefer them to come at the end of the inspection. I want your attention. I want to walk you through the home. I want you to see what I'm seeing and teach you about what I'm seeing. Jacqueline: Yeah. Alan: Right now, Maryland just came out of the COVID shutdown. And we did virtual inspections. Literally nobody was in that home except the inspector and then the inspector led them through the inspection process and the concerns of the home virtually on the phone. Gave them the same information. It was live. They could ask questions. They just weren't there physically. We're a large enough company that we can adapt to technology pretty quick, so we were one of the first that actually, in our area anyway, that did this. And it worked out well. It worked out so well, we've been requested to keep it. Alan: Maryland has opened up somewhat, so we are now allowing the client and the realtor to be there with safety precautions of course, the COVID safety precautions. But they can be there now. And we encourage it. And we're in an area where there's a lot of military, a lot of government workers. Sometimes they can't be here for the home inspection. So the realtors are loving the fact that they can show the client the home inspection without them flying from California, New York, wherever, to be there to go through a three and a half hour home inspection. What comes about a crisis? Well this is one of the things that came about a crisis that will probably stay because it's beneficial. It's beneficial for the client and that's what we're looking for. Jacqueline: Are virtual home inspections, they weren't available pre-COVID? Alan: They may have been. We never even thought about it. We love teaching the clients. And to teach, it's nice to have you there. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: But, I will tell you the virtual inspection has worked out extremely well. The only complaint we get is by the inspectors because they miss their clients. Jacqueline: Yeah. Alan: They want their clients to be there. But other than that, it worked out very well. Jacqueline: We were speaking with some realtors about two weeks ago and they're dealing with the same thing. Virtual home tours. And we had one real estate agent we spoke to, she completed a whole transaction, sold a home that the buyer never stepped foot in. Which is- Alan: In the house. Jacqueline: Crazy. I can't even imagine. I'm used to going to open houses and walking through homes. So it's interesting how this has changed. But I think it does make sense, especially in your area, for relocation. When you don't have a lot of time or you're not going to be there, to have the virtual experience is better than not having it at all. So you might have some. For the most part though, the industry has become pretty standardized. Alan: Yeah. Is it ideal? No. I don't think it's ideal. You don't get the smell, the touch, the feel. But you get good information. And let's face it, those things can be... if you got a odor in the house, you can have it deodorized. It's not... Again, we won't go into that. Jacqueline: Yeah. In a home inspection report, is it standardized or does a report vary from inspector to inspector? Alan: They vary in presentation. There is a division of licensed states versus unlicensed states. ASHI, The American Society of Home Inspectors, has been in operation since 1976. A And when they did, they set up guidance rules as to what is to be inspected and what is not to be inspected. And most states have used that as a guideline as well. There is different styles. There is checklist styles. There is handwritten reports. But what we like to see and what we try to present in our reports is, one, what is the concern? Two, why is it a concern? Three, what do we need to do about it? Alan: We're not going to prescribe. A home inspector is not here to solve the issues they find in the home. We can't do that. Think of a home inspector as a general practitioner. The first doctor you go to see is going to be a GP. He's the one that has your history. He's looked all over everything. He knows what's going on. Okay, oops, you got a tick in your heart. Well is he going to diagnose that? No, he's not qualified to diagnose that. He sends you to a heart specialist. Home inspector does the same thing. We can say, "Hey, your furnace is not operating the way it's supposed to." Or, "It is really deteriorated. This needs to be looked at or replaced by a professional." Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: Therefore, you need to have one of those come in. And this is where it becomes part of the part of the negotiating process. Some people think that everything that we find in a home inspection has to be fixed. And that's not true. Our job is to point out the concerns of the homes and things that may need to be repaired. Now a repair item is a furnace , the electric - whatever - it is is not functioning as it was intended to function. Therefore, it is a problem and it needs to repair. A maintenance item might be, "Hey, you got a little bit of chipping paint on your house. Sooner or later that's going to have to be fixed or it's going to hurt your home." Then we have the safety problems. "Hey, you got a gas leak." Anything that extreme we're not only going to be on the report, we're going to be calling the gas company. But anything that, "Hey, you have a loose stair rail. You realize that if a child fell against this, they'd go over the edge." That's a safety concern and we're going to write it up as a safety concern so that it can be repaired prior to you taking occupancy of the home. Jacqueline: Once a home inspection report is completed, who is going to receive a copy of that report? Alan: That report belongs to the person that I get the inspection for and who paid for it. And then they give me permission to send it to whoever. Now the process in a real estate deal is simple. We do the inspection. The client will get the report. Their buying agent will usually get the report. They talk about what they want to get fixed. And then the selling agent gets that report. Jacqueline: Okay. Alan: There is one issue that we run into, not frequently, but every once in a while, is we'll get the selling agent that wants to reuse the report on the next buyer. No, no, no, no. Jacqueline: No. Okay. Alan: That's not... Number one, some inspectors actually copyright their reports, so it's a violation of copyright law. Second part of it is, an inspection is a visual inspection at the time of the inspection. If I have a negotiation with a selling agent and it takes me six weeks to say, "Okay, fine. We're done. We're out of here," there is a lot of things could happen to that home and to its systems in six weeks. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: Especially if it's occupied. So relying on a previous home inspection is not a good idea. You should always have your own inspection done. Jacqueline: Wow. Okay. Alan: I will tell you the trend in the industry... You asked me when to get a home inspection. The trend in the industry is if you're getting ready to sell a home, have an inspection. Why? You want to fix that stuff. You want to shorten the negotiation time. And if there's things that can be fixed simply that you can get three bids on and save some money, that's great. Some people will say, "Home's been inspected. Here's the report. Use that." I do the pre-listing inspections as they call them, or the seller's inspection and we do it for them to inform themselves and to inform their clients what they got going on. I would never recommend to one of my clients that they use even my inspection as their final inspection if you're the buyer. Have your own inspection done. Simple. Inspectors are all different. Some see things that others don't. Or maybe something is broken in the time between that inspector gets in there than the previous inspector is in there. Always do your own inspection. Jacqueline: That's really good feedback. When preparing for an inspection, how much can either a home buyer or even someone preparing to sell expect to pay for a home inspection? Alan: There's usually two different formulas that inspectors will use for setting their prices. One is a percentage basis. Now, this is not used that often, but it is used. It usually comes into play in larger metropolitan areas where you have a small building but you have a lot of time and traffic and so forth and so on. So they'll use the percentage method. In most states is done by square footage. And then there might be some add-ons such as, okay you have a apartment over a garage. Okay. So they'll count that in the square footage. They have to. Square footage is basically time based. If I take a thousand square foot home, I'm going to set a price for how much time I got to spend there. If I do a 5,000 square foot home, I'm going to set a price based on the time that I have to be there. For the most part, the latest that I've seen, the average across the country is about $358. That includes your southern states, which the homes are less expensive, service are less experienced. When you go northern states, and particularly in metropolitan areas, that's going to increase substantially. Not a huge jump, but there is a jump. And then of course that's going to go up on the square footage. Alan: And it's like any other professional. People sometimes forget that inspectors are professionals. We're just like the electrician, the plumber, and so forth. We have to have training. We are licensed. We have to have ongoing CEs. We're professionals, so we have to charge a professional fee. Jacqueline: Now that we've kind of covered the basics, is there anything else that someone should be aware of when it comes to home inspections? Is there anything that we haven't covered yet? Alan: A home inspection, like I said, it's covering your basic structure, your mechanicals, your electrical system, your plumbing system, and so forth. But there's a lot of other things to prevent or may alter your decision to move into a home. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: Environmental is one of them. There is a lot of environmental. Now please keep in mind, a lot of home inspectors do pest inspections as well. But pest inspections are actually two different inspections, okay. Jacqueline: Okay. Alan: Home inspection does not include pests. Home inspection does not include environmental inspections. So it doesn't include wells. It doesn't include those things. It is simply what's in the home. We are a full-service inspection company, so a lot of this stuff we do in-house. We're located in a high radon area. If you're considering buying a home, there is actual maps the EPA puts out that kind of shows you radon zones. I will tell you in our area, we recommend a radon test 100 percent of the time. Radon is an invisible gas. It comes from uranium. You can't see it. You're not smelling it, okay. You're not going to feel it. But it's there and it's deadly. It's actually the second leading cause of lung cancer right behind cigarettes. And it's actually attributed to more deaths per year than drunk driving. Jacqueline: Wow. Alan: To the tune of about 20,000. Jacqueline: Oh my goodness. Alan: So that is one that we highly recommend. Radon is funky. You could have a house next to you that has a radon mitigation system and your house could be completely clear. The only way we're going to know, though, is to run a test. That's the only way we know how radon is there. One of the other environmentals that we get requested for a lot is mold inspection. There's several reasons to have that. One, we visually see it in a house. Some inspectors do that kind of stuff. Some people don't. So I don't want to be all-encompassing just because we do it. We have inspectors that are actually trained to do mold. A home inspection is a visual inspection. We can't see in your drain line or under concrete. We can't see in them. Alan: So one of the things is getting relatively possible because of the expense of repairing it is to do a source scope to see if there's any problem with the source scope. That's particularly advisable in older home. But it doesn't necessarily mean you don't do it in a home that's brand new. Because we have actually done new construction inspections where somebody accidentally ran over the pipe with a excavator and crushed the pipe. Don't want to see it happen, but it's possible. Just because a house has been gently used before and you're going to buy a new house doesn't mean you're out of the woods. We do new home inspection, which is phase inspection, anywhere from when they put the drywall to the finished product. And I have done inspections personally where I've turned on the bathroom upstairs and I have a water fountain through the kitchen ceiling and it's brand new construction. So don't just say, "Well, it's brand new. I'm under warranty. No problem." It doesn't happen that way. Jacqueline: That's really location based is what you're saying. So if I were looking to purchase a home, I should be looking on these government maps with radon and then I would know if to consider a radon inspection. Or would my home inspector make that recommendation? Would they know about the geography? Alan: We actually just ask, "Are you getting a radon inspection?" The government's doing a lot to promote it now, but it's been kind of a hidden thing for the longest time. We have a full service company here, so when they call in we can schedule everything for them. It's a one call does everything. And we'll say, "Okay, here's your home inspection. Here's what it's... By the way, are you getting a radon inspection or do you want a radon inspection?" And they're like, "What's that?" I'm old school. We're not a sales company. We kind of say, "Hey, here's some information that you might want to look up. If you want to add it, tell them inspector. He can add it for you." In our area, if you ask me personally, "Alan, this is my brother. Would you recommend a radon inspection?" Oh heck yes. I don't even care if you have a radon system in the house, okay. Radon systems, depending on how old they are or how they're installed could be not functioning correctly. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: So I'm going to spend that few bucks that I have to spend to get a radon test and I'm going sure that my family is not exposed to that. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: But again, that's me. I'm a little bit extreme when I do things. Jacqueline: But it makes sense. I didn't even realize those statistics about radon. That's pretty amazing. I'm in New Jersey and what I understand, we have quite a bit of a radon presence here that I wasn't aware of. So I think it would be relevant for our listeners all over. Alan: Yeah. I actually do CE classes for realtors. And that's an hour and a half class alone, just about radon. Jacqueline: Really. Okay. Alan: Where it comes from, how it gets into the house, what effects it has on you. Yeah, that's a long class. Jacqueline: Could you get into side effects? If someone were to know... If they were to suspect radon being an issue with their health, would it be a lung issue? Are there telltale signs? Alan: Radon is going to be basically radioactive gases coming up through the ground. There is possibility that there's radon in water. Radon in water is very unproven if it hurts anything. There's a lot of studies on it but not much has come out. Jacqueline: Okay. Alan: But as far as the lung goes, it has been documented that it is a real problem. I've actually had an older lady, I'm doing the home inspection, she was the homeowner. And we just got into a conversation and she says... I asked her, "Why are you selling the house?" She said, "Well, my husband passed away. I don't really need this big a house so I'm going to be moving in with my kids." And I said, "Okay, well we're going to do the home inspection today and then we're going to do a radon test." So she said, "Oh, radon shmadon. There ain't no radon in this house. We had one of those tests done years ago. It's fine." Well, the client wants it so we're going to set it up. Okay, whatever. So we get the radon test back. In EPA standards, anything over what they call four picocuries per liter, which is the measurement, but once you get to that point, the EPA says you really should consider mitigating. In other words, putting the system in to remove this gas, okay. Hers came back in at 20. I've had homes higher than 100. Jacqueline: Oh my gosh. Alan: 100 picocuries is like your family, not just you, your whole family smoking 200 cigarettes a day. The sad part about this conversation was, when we were talking, "Oh your husband passed away. How did he pass?" "Lung cancer." "Did he smoke?" "No." Now I didn't... To this day I have never said, "You have radon of 20." Is it because of that? I can't tell you that. I don't know. Jacqueline: Right. Alan: All I know is, if he didn't smoke and radon causes a problem and he's got 20. It's a possibility that that could've helped. Jacqueline: That's good to know. Alan: A home inspection, like I said, has certain things it's going to cover. But there's things it's not covering. Like the radon, the mold, and so forth. If you have a well, it has to be done by a separate inspection. So you got to understand what's in the home and don't be all-encompassing with the home inspection. It's not 100 percent complete. You should always understand about your home. When you can attend, do so. It's a great time to learn about your home. But if you possibly can... stay at the inspection with us, We're going to say, "Okay, we're done in the basement now and we've reviewed your furnace, your water heater, et cetera. Let's go down. I want to explain to you what we found." And then we'll go down. We'll show them where the water cutoff is. We'll show them where the main electric shutoff. You have a chance to learn about your home. Interview the inspector. Understand that, hey, what do they do, what they don't do, can I do this, can I not do this. Again, I can't give you an all-inclusive list because it's personal. It's what you want to do. Look at that and use that as your guideline. Realtors can give you plenty of referrals. Check things out. Don't go to cheap Charlie." Because cheap Charlie is probably cheap for a reason. The only way he can get an inspection is because he's not busy. And it does get aggravating. A good inspector, not necessarily a company, but a good inspector, they get booked out quick. So they got to get them while they can. But sometimes it's better to wait two or three days than to take somebody who's inexperienced or goes through a home. Alan: An average home inspection will take about two and a half to three hours. That's for a small home. There is no time limits on a home. I've actually seen inspectors do a house that took us two and a half to three hours on, and they done it in an hour. Can they do it? Yeah. Because legally it says you have to... If I'm checking your windows in your house, okay, the rules say that I can go into this room and I can open the window, check the locks, and there's one window in there or three windows and I open the one, I'm done. If I got six in there, I might want to do two. There's no rule that I have to open every window. Jacqueline: Really? Alan: But you want an inspector to do it. I have walked through a room many a time and the last window I had fell out in my hands. You want to make sure they check the electrical. Again, by the rules, if I walk into a room and I've got six outlets, I can just check one. Maybe two if I'm feeling generous. They're okay. I'm done. No. That's not the way it's done. You want somebody who's thorough. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: The other part of it is accessibility. An inspector is not to move your personal belongings, simply for liability reasons. If I'm in a home, I'm not moving your couch to get to the electrical panel. Why? Because I could break it and then I got to pay for it. Or I could hurt myself. So we don't want to do that. One of the things they want to pay attention to is access. As an inspector, I need to get access to the attic. Alan: If I'm on an inspection and I'm looking at the roof, in older homes we can usually walk the roof. Really, we can walk on it, we can kind of see what's going on. New construction, the contractors will not allow us on the roof. They're afraid of damage. Even in a newer home, say a home that's only five, six years old, I don't want to walk... I can't walk on all those roofs because what they call the pitch, which is the angle of the roof, is too steep. So I'm going to maybe get up through a ladder so I can feel it, to try to get an age somewhere, how old it is. And I'm going to look at it with binoculars or maybe a drone or something like that. Alan: So getting into the attic is critical. Because one, there's a lot of systems up there. Sometimes there's heating systems up there. Sometimes there's heating systems up there. The insulation is there. I got to know if it's been done correctly. The pop lights are up there. I got to make sure that they're safe. Because a lot of times they are retrofitted. They're retrofitted by subcontractors. Are they correct? I don't know. But it's a safety issue. I want to make sure I can see that. So you need to make sure that we can get to the attic spaces. That means if you're in a closet, which a lot of them are, cover your clothes, move your clothes. We can cover them, we're not moving them. And if we don't do that, then you're going to come back to us and say, "Hey, you got to clean all my closet." All right. 400 dollars fee and I got to clean a closet full of clothes, I haven't made much money that way. Alan: The other one is the electrical panel, which is... We want to see that electrical panel. We find a lot of issues in that electrical panel. So we want to be able to open that electrical panel up, okay, and look at it. Unfortunately, too many people don't want to see the electrical panel in the basement so they hide it. They'll hide it behind a picture. They'll hide it behind a door. If you're going to do that and you've done that, you need to put a label out for the inspector so he can find that panel. Because guess what, if I can't find that panel I'm going to say, "Uninspected." As a client, you should say, "Uh uh. I want that inspected." Jacqueline: Right. Alan: So now, the homeowner has to say, "Well it's right there behind the picture." Fine. Take the picture down and the inspector will come back and check it. Oh and by the way, he's a professional. He gets paid to visit your home. So you may get charged for that. My big problems that I have also is washing machines and so forth in front of electrical panels. They are not going to be opened. Or they shouldn't be. Let me put it that way. And that is because,I'm dealing with a charged electrical panel. I'm taking the cover off. I need to see the wiring inside there. So when I go into that wiring and I'm leaning across the washing machine, it's metal and it might be wet. I take it off, everything looks good, I go back to put it on and I slip and that metal goes into the wiring, I'm going to get either shocked or killed. So make sure that's accessible. Those are the kind of things that we usually find. Alan: Clients have to remember that home inspector does not activate the power system or the water system. If the water is out in the home, and I'm talking about all the water. When that's shut off, it has to be turned on by the homeowner or somebody who's approved to do it. Now yeah, we're opening the faucets. We're flushing the toilets. We're turning on that water. But we're not activating, okay. Because if there is an issue and it was turned off for an issue that we don't know about, we have a problem. If I have a breaker in an electrical panel and it's off, I'm not turning it on. Alan: Now people say, "Oh, that's just stupid. Why not?" Well here's a little story. I did an inspection for an investor one time. We looked at the electrical panel. There is three breakers turned off. I'm like, "Okay, I've got three breakers turned off. We'll have to have the electrician check this out to see." But he was going to remodel the house, so it wasn't a big deal. And he said, "Oh, no, no, no, no, no. I need to see where this is going." And he went into the panel himself and turned them on. All I heard was this pop. I looked behind me, and I had a receptacle smoking like crazy. So now I have to spend 40 minutes basically turning off all the power, opening up the wall to make sure there's not a fire. And it's not as simple as some people think about. There's rules, and there's rules for a reason. Alan: When we do pre-listing inspections, one of the first things we tell them is, "Look, make sure at least you have all your switch covers and receptacle covers on." People say, "Why? That's just 29 cents." Well, it's 29 cents to you, but it's a safety hazard. And no, it's not a safety hazard because somebody's going to go over and stick their finger in it. It is a safety hazard because if there's for some reason an arc in that receptacle, then it can actually create a fire. It has been proven that if there is a receptacle or switch cover on there, it might suppress the oxygen level enough that that fire won't start. Basically when we have a power source and the power source is trying to jump toward a grounded source- It's called an arc. It's an electrical flash. And arc has been proven and measured that it is a greater temperature than the surface of the sun. Jacqueline: Wow. Alan: So if you had that little tiny arc jump across there, is there a possibility that it could have caused a fire if it has enough time and oxygen? Yeah. That little switch could deprive it of time and oxygen enough to let it suppress itself out. Jacqueline: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Alan: So yes, it's important to have those switches on. Jacqueline: So thank you so much. Before we wrap up, could you just tell our listeners the best way to get in contact with 4U Home Inspections? Alan: We have a website. The number 4, the letter U, home.com. We want to enlighten our clients. We want to not frighten them. We want to teach them. We don't want to scare them. And that's the way we go about our inspections. We have a in-house call center so when you call, you're going to get a person that works for us. And you can order online. We have an app that you can order online. You can order online on the computer. We are very well trained. Our reports come electronically. We were talking about the virtual inspection. You're a busy guy, you're in the military, we literally can recap the inspection for you virtually online because it's electronic. You can see it anytime and any place in the world. As far as reaching out to us, you can go to the website or you can just simply call us and that's at 4-4-3-5-3-9-8-7-1-0. Our service area goes from Washington, DC all the way up the the Pennsylvania line. So we cover a large area. Jacqueline: Well thank you again. This was terrific. I really enjoyed speaking with you. We'll definitely have to touch base again. I'd love to do that radon podcast. Alan: Okay. We could definitely do that for you. Jacqueline: Yeah. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed your time. Alan: All right. Jacqueline: And be in touch soon.
During these unprecedented times, the real estate industry has evolved. Virtual open houses, digital closings, and appointment-only town hall visits have impacted the market during its usual high time. vipHomeLink Founder and CEO Alfred Bentley and VP of Marketing Jacqueline Joyner welcomed a panel of real estate agents to discuss the industry’s biggest challenges and its emerging solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet our panelists: Debra Bednarski specializes in residential real estate in Morris and Somerset counties with The Bednarski Group at Weichert Realtors, Bernardsville, New Jersey. Stuart DeVault specializes in residential real estate for Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties with The DeVault Team, Carolina One Real Estate, in North Charleston, South Carolina. Eric Godoy specializes in residential real estate in Somerset and Morris counties with RE/MAX Premiere in Warren, New Jersey. Kevin Moran specializes in vacation houses in Manchester, Dorset and the ski towns of Bromley, Stratton and Magic Mountains with Four Seasons Sotheby's The Vermont Sales Group in Stratton and Manchester, Vermont. Subscribe to our channel to learn how to manage your home with expert advice and tips from our guests and the Home Crew. Like vipHomeLink on Facebook: facebook.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Instagram: instagram.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Twitter: twitter.com/vipHomeLink Listen to our podcast: viphomelink.com/podcast Read the vipBlog (The Best Blog on the Block): viphomelink.com/blog Download the app today: viphomelink.com/
Spotlight on Smart Water Tech: Streamlabs
In this episode, the Home Crew talks to Paul Bentivegna of StreamLabs about the Control, a smart water device that calculates water usage to alert the homeowner to any issues. (If your nine year old leaves the water on before heading to school – you’ll know with the Control.)
How to Stay Organized with the NEAT Method!
Is your closet like Monica’s in Friends? Has social distancing forced you to take a long look at your organizational system? Hosts Caroline and Jeff welcome Personal Organizer Betsy Marsala of NEAT Method Chicago to help you simplify your home and your life. Betsy has the secrets to organizing your home (labels, labels, labels), and just when is it time to hire a personal organizer? (Spoiler alert: Following life events, such as a wedding or a move.) Plus - Caroline and Jeff share their own home organization struggles, including a daybed that hordes laundry and a closet not built for two. Listen now! Share your homeowner horror stories at email@example.com, and you just might find your story on our next podcast! Simplify homeownership with the vipHomeLink app, which helps you manage, organize, and improve your home. Download it today on Google Play and the App Store. Is your closet like Monica’s in Friends? Has social distancing forced you to take a long look at your organizational system? Hosts Caroline and Jeff welcome Personal Organizer Betsy Marsala of NEAT Method Chicago to help you simplify your home and your life. Betsy has the secrets to organizing your home (labels, labels, labels), and just when is it time to hire a personal organizer? (Spoiler alert: Following life events, such as a wedding or a move.) Plus - Caroline and Jeff share their own home organization struggles, including a daybed that hordes laundry and a closet not built for two. Listen now! Share your homeowner horror stories at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you just might find your story on our next podcast! Simplify homeownership with the vipHomeLink app, which helps you manage, organize, and improve your home. Download it today on Google Play and the App Store. Like vipHomeLink on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vipHomeLink Read the vipBlog (The Best Blog on the Block): https://viphomelink.com/blog Download the app today: https://viphomelink.com/
An Interview with Jack Shoptaw of Century21
Welcome to the vipHome Podcast, where our Home Crew talks to home professionals and experts to learn about, tackle, and prevent homeowner horror stories. In this episode, the Home Crew talks to Jack Shoptaw of Century21 New Millennium. Have you downloaded the vipHomeLink app yet? Simplify homeownership with the vipHomeLink app, which helps you to manage, organize, and improve your home. Give your home a home with vipHomeLink. Download the app today: Get it on Google Play and the App Store. Like vipHomeLink on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/viphomelink/ Follow vipHomeLink on Twitter: https://twitter.com/vipHomeLink Read the vipBlog (The Best Blog on the Block): https://viphomelink.com/blog Visit vipHomeLink online: https://viphomelink.com/ Download the app today: vipHomeLink App