Top DIY Tips to Protect from Ticks and Mosquitoes

outdoorWelcome to the unofficial start of summer with outdoor parties, barbeques, parades and celebrations under the stars. However, a perfect storm of weather conditions over the past months have made conditions ripe for what is being predicted to be a powerful crop of mosquito and tick populations to wreak havoc on outdoor plans.

Reported cases of Lyme disease continue to rise with more than 280,000 Americans being diagnosed since 2002, with an additional 30,000 diagnoses just last year. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An illness that can have lifelong debilitating effects such as arthritis, fatigue and even neurological deficits, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged or deer ticks.

In addition to performing a daily tick check, there are specific actions a homeowner can take to reduce the tick and mosquito population in their yards, thus reducing exposure for themselves, guests and pets:

The 6 Cs to Tick-Proof Your Yard

1. Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don’t position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
2. Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
3. Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
4. Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
5. Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
6. Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as “tick tubes.” Strategically placed, “tick tubes” prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.

When outdoors away from home, the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved, long-legged, light-colored clothing. Tuck pant legs into socks to refuse ticks an entry point. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a product containing 20 percent DEET. Clothing and other gear, but not skin, can be treated with Permethrin, which will kills ticks and mosquitoes on contact and should last through several washings. Check carefully for ticks after being outdoors.

5 Ts to Control Mosquitoes
1. Tip. Reduce standing water to eliminate mosquito threats, including those in children’s sandboxes, wagons or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts, in plant saucers and dog bowls. Other hot spots include tarps, gutters, and flat roofs.
2. Toss. Remove excess grass, leaves, firewood and clippings from yards.
3. Turn. Turn over larger yard items that could hold water like children’s portable sandboxes or plastic toys.
4. Remove tarps. If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment and grills aren’t taut, they’re holding water.
5. Treat. Utilize a mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on the body. Mosquito Squad’s treatments eliminate up to 90 percent of the mosquitoes and ticks on a property.

Five Home Improvements for the Love of Spring

Improved value, curb appeal and livability are the benchmarks for any smart home improvement. But some upgrades you do for the sheer joy of it. The best home improvements deliver all those smart qualities and speak to your heart at the same time.

With spring home improvement season almost gone, here are five home improvements that you can do for the love of spring time – and the love of your biggest investment:

Add or replace a skylight
skylightAbundant natural light and fresh air are among the joys of spring, and replacing an old, energy-inefficient skylight, or adding one where none existed before, is a great way to welcome sunlight and spring breezes into your home. Sunlight’s positive effect on mood is well-documented, and adding a fresh-air skylight, which comes with a screen, offers other health benefits as well. Opt for an energy saving solar powered fresh-air skylight and you can enjoy the benefits of passive ventilation to reduce humidity and stale air in your home along with more natural light.

From a practical standpoint, installing an Energy Star-qualified skylight like those made by VELUX America can help you control heating, cooling and lighting costs in your home. Replacing an older, less efficient skylight with a new solar-powered, fresh-air skylight with a rain sensor, can also ensure your home stays protected from spring showers. You can also choose solar powered blinds for even more energy efficiency, and both are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To learn more about energy-efficient skylights, visit or

Add or improve a deck
deskThe trend toward outdoor living spaces continues, with decks being one of the most sought-after amenities among home buyers. In fact, adding a wooden deck can recoup more than 77 percent of the deck’s cost when you sell your home, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

If you don’t already have a deck, adding one – whether wood or composite – not only enhances your home value, it will be a great place to celebrate the arrival of spring. If you already have a deck, consider value-enhancing upgrades like new balusters, lighted post caps, built-in seating and even planters.

Install a kitchen backsplash
backsplashSpring brings a bright, colorful feel to the world and you can easily incorporate that sentiment into your kitchen by adding a backsplash. A project easily within the capabilities of most do-it-yourselfers, backsplashes are both functional and decorative. Granite, ceramic or glass tile protects the wall behind the range or cook top from splatters of food or grease while brightening valuable workspace and serving as a visual focal point for the room.

Great kitchens sell homes, and the is one of the most-used areas in any home. Upgrading your kitchen is almost always a good investment, one that improves resale value and your enjoyment of your home.

Upgrade bathroom floors
BathroomFloorBathroom renovations are also popular and a minor bathroom remodel can return more than 65 percent of the cost at the time of resale, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. While replacing countertops and fixtures are common remodeling tasks in a bathroom, don’t overlook the biggest surface in the room – the floor.

Many modern builders install vinyl floors in bathrooms because they are durable and cheap. Switching out this common material for stone or ceramic tile is a great way to brighten the room and give your bath a whole new look.

Improve your entryway
entryYour front door and entryway are the first impression visitors have of your home’s decor. A welcoming entry invites guests in and gives you a mood boost every time you walk through it.

This year, celebrate spring by replacing an old worn wooden door with a sturdy, decorative steel door – an improvement that recoups nearly 85 percent of its cost when you sell, according to Remodeling Magazine. To really celebrate spring, add a screen door. You’ll be able to let in fresh air and spring breezes while keeping insects out. Plus, a screen door is essential Americana, creating a welcoming openness that epitomizes the joy of spring.

Why do Short Sales Take so Long to Close?

Definition of a Short Sale

ShortSaleA short sale is a sale of real estate in which the proceeds from selling the property will fall short of the balance of debts secured by liens against the property, and the property owner cannot afford to repay the liens’ full amounts, and whereby the lien holders agree to release their lien on the real estate and accept less than the amount owed on the debt.[1] Any unpaid balance owed to the creditors is known as a deficiency.

Real estate professionals know that a short sale transaction can take months for it to be approved and closed. The reality is that short sales usually take three to four times as much as a regular sale to finally get to the closing. From the time the Realtor actually gets the property under contract to the time the lender approves, it could take anywhere from 30 days to six months, depending on how fast the borrower provides critical information for lender and investor approval.

Also, lenders generally will only agree to a short sale if the seller is many payments behind and has received a default notice.

Even then, you still have one more variable to account for which is the buyer waiting for all this time to get the contract approved by the lender. For this, setting the expectations is a key factor in any short-sale transaction.

buyesellersBuyers Expectations

 Buyers who make an offer on a short-sale property need to know that lenders have to “reverse underwrite” a short-sale and make sure that they are allowing the sale to happen close to market value. I say “reverse underwrite” because instead of determining affordability, they will look for “un-affordability.”

They will check the seller’s financials to verify that they can’t afford the house anymore and consequently, they will order a price opinion from a broker or certified appraiser, commonly known as BPO (Broker’s Price Opinion) to make sure the house is being sold close to market value. If the offer is too low compared to what is owed, it will make more financial sense to the Lender to just foreclose the property and re-sell it as an REO (Bank-Owned Property). All this will happen while the buyer is still waiting for a response so it is very important to set the expectations correctly from the beginning to avoid losing the buyer close to the end of the process.

Seller’s Expectations

On the other hand, it is important to also educate the Seller and set the expectations with them from the beginning. They need to understand that the Lender takes its time responding, but when they do, they usually give a 72-hour timeframe to respond or provide the missing documentation. If the documentation is not provided within the specified timeframe, it usually ends up in a closed file and countless work-hours lost. Another common situation that is happening very often is borrowers being served with foreclosure paperwork from either the lender or homeowner’s association while the short-sale is being processed. It is crucial to let them know that this might happen so that they are prepared for it and receive the documents knowing that they are in the best hands. Foreclosure and short-sale are parallel processes and one does not cancel the other. Sometimes a short-sale might delay a final sale date, but it will definitely not stop the Lender from starting the foreclosure proceedings.

shortsale1Closing the Short Sale

 Short sale success comes from educating not only the seller but also the buyer and everybody else involved in the transaction. Setting the right expectations is the most crucial part of a short sale. There are many hours involved in processing a short sale and the last thing you want is a seller or buyer walking away because the expectations were not set correctly.