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Tips for avoiding wire fraud

by Thomas Makinney

It can happen to the best and brightest people. You receive an email or phone call asking you to transfer money or make a payment. Often, the request seems legitimate — maybe it comes from a company you do business with or a charity you support or even someone you know.

We see this happen all the time. Before you send money or give out personal information in response to an email or phone call, STOP. Electronic communication is neither secure nor confidential, and scammers have gotten very sophisticated at hiding their true identity. You need to verify the person or institution before you respond to an unsolicited request.

To verify an identity, do some due diligence.

  • Call the company using a phone number that you look up, not a phone contained in an email or given over the phone.
  • Look at the email address of the sender.  Reputable companies will have a professional address with their company name embedded, and it will not end in gmail.com or yahoo.com or other server names.
  • Don’t believe caller ID. If you recognize the company or person making the call, ask to call them back before you give them any information.
  • If the request comes from a company you do business with, go into your online account and verify that the request is there as well.

Any time you receive an electronic communication with wire instructions for the transfer of funds, even if that communication appears to be from @properties, your real estate agent or your attorney, do not initiate a wire transfer unless you have verified the source.

Making sure that your assets and funds are secure and in the right hands is important to us. We want to help you reach your goals. If you have any questions about wire fraud, or about how @properties will communicate financial transactions, please call us at (630) 441-5570 or contact us through our website, www.gmregroup.com    

Is Your Home Ready for the Rain?

by Thomas Makinney

With the recent rainy weather that is not uncommon for this time of year, it is important to be proactive about water damage. Since water damage is the biggest threat to your home’s foundation, keeping the structural integrity of your home is worth the very minimal effort and low cost steps that any homeowner can take.

Here are some helpful tips for keeping your home free from flooding and water damage:

Sump Pump Testing
Don’t be the friend who only comes around when you need something, show your sump pump some attention and it will come through when you really need it. Take a few minutes to fill the sump pump pit with water, wait for the rise, and make sure the pump kicks on the water level falls, not unlike a flushing toilet.
If you have a back-up sump pump, this can be tested the same way.

Testing your sump pump is free, and the cost of failing to test it could mean basement flooding and all the damage associated with it.

When a storm hits, you will be glad you did not neglect this feature of your home.

Proper Drainage

Ensure adequate drainage with routine gutter cleaning, making sure your yard has a 6-in yard slope over a 10-ft span from your foundation, and keeping soil moisture levels from getting too dry.

These easy and low cost check-ups could save you from your foundation settling, cracks, and destabilization, which can result in huge repair costs.


Fix Water Leaks
Check for leaks and repair them as soon as they are detected to avoid rot, mildew and mold, or even termites.  Beyond noticeable drips, leaks can be detected by dark spots, toilets that rock, and stains on ceilings or under pipes.  A good roof check like we walked you through in a previous post will also stop potentially developing leaks.

If you’re a new homeowner looking for more easy maintenance tips, or if you’re looking to buy a home in Elmhurst, contact us at 630.441.5570 or visit us on the web at www.gmregroup.com!

Moving in Elmhurst

by Thomas Makinney

MovingThe Elmhurst real estate market is on the up. People are buying and selling, and with that comes the daunting task of moving. At the Gracik Makinney Group, we see new homeowners preparing to move all the time. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the years.

The best way to tackle a move is to be organized. Prepare yourself as best you can. Pack well in advance; starting with items you don’t need on a daily basis. For instance, if you are moving in the summer, pack up winter clothes first. If you plan on using a moving company or renting a truck, call and make a reservation as soon as you have a moving day. Reserving in advance often saves you money, as well as guarantees your booking at the time of your preference without having to work around other people’s schedules.

As you pack, you may put things into boxes going room by room. This will come in handy later when it comes time to unpack in your new home. Color coding boxes can further simplify this process. By assigning kitchen items a blue tag, you can then place all blue boxes into the kitchen. Color coding can be easier than writing “kitchen” because you won’t have to stop and read each box individually.

In Elmhurst, we have our share of rain and snow. It may be a good idea to waterproof some boxes by lining them with plastic bags. If a cardboard box containing sheets and pillows stays on the wet ground for too long, it’s a safe bet your things won’t be dry when you unpack. Having towels ready to wipe down furniture and other wet items will prevent your new home and possessions from becoming muddy or wet.

Even if it’s not raining, you or the movers will more than likely track in dirt or grass clippings. There will be many trips into and out of the house; all this foot traffic guarantees that the floors will take a beating. If you’re able to, clear a path for people to move boxes in or out. Move flowerpots if they’re still about. Have children and pets steer clear to avoid accidents. This goes for both moving out of the old house, and into the new house.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, accidents do occur. Whether it be dropping a vase or a surprise sun shower with your entire living room furnishings on the lawn, things can always go wrong. This is where moving insurance comes in. If you use a moving company, make sure they have insurance, liability, and are bonded. If you move on your own, look into your homeowners insurance for further information on what is covered.

At the Gracik Makinney Group, we have the pleasure of giving real estate and moving tips to our community every day. If you’re looking to buy or sell in Elmhurst, feel free to give us a call at 630-441-5570 or drop by our office at 190 North York Road right here in Elmhurst.

Vacation Safety in Elmhurst

by Thomas Makinney

Maria and TomIn Elmhurst, the countdown to summer vacation has begun. Vacations equal new memories, adventure, relaxation, and leaving our homes empty. No matter how safe our area is, it’s normal to worry about your property being secure in your absence.

The best tip is to make sure strangers would never guess the homeowners are away. Invest in timers for your lights. Have the lights go on at dusk and off in the evening when you would be going to bed. If you’re leaving your car at home, keep it in the driveway so it’s visible from the street. If you’re taking your car, see if a neighbor you trust will park a car in your driveway for the week. This will make it appear as if someone is home. It’s also a good idea to put a hold on mail and newspapers. A pile of newspapers and mail is a telltale sign that the owners are away.

In today’s technological world, it’s important to watch what you put on the internet regarding upcoming vacations. Many of us will post updates on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Google +. Be sure to make all settings private, or filter to be only your closest friends. For instance, a countdown to your vacation or a checkin at an airport would be posts/tweets you want to keep private. Checkins are a giveaway that you’re away from home, as are pictures of your adventures abroad. Computer savvy criminals can search for these posts, enabling them to target homes.

Technology has its benefits of course. With apps available on numerous smart phones and tablets, it’s easy to set up a security camera with your mobile device. The device needs to be capable of taking a picture, connecting to the internet, and running the motion detector app. There’s a variety to choose from; simply search for motion detector camera in your device’s application store. Many are free, as well.

To set up the phone or tablet, you must change the setting of the Auto-Lock feature. The device cannot lock (go to sleep mode), otherwise the camera won’t turn on as it should. Since you turn off auto-lock, make sure the devices are plugged in so that it doesn’t run out of battery. Next, point the camera in the direction you want it to focus on – a doorway or area you want to have photographed if someone were to come in.

The motion detector camera is great because most apps will email or text you if a picture is taken, so you’ll know right away if someone has entered your home. It also gives you photographic evidence of any crook or crime.

If you want people checking in the house every so often when you’re away, there’s an app for that too. Doorknobs are manufactured to be used with an app, so that the owner can virtually lock or unlock the door. This can allow for you to let your neighbors in to water the plants, feed the goldfish, etc – all without having to give them a key.

At the Gracik Makinney Group, we hope these tips are helpful to you in preparing for your summer vacations. We care about each and every home we sell.  If you’re looking to buy or sell in the Elmhurst area, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Contact us today at 190 North York Road in Elmhurst, or call us at (630) 567-5902.

Fall Fix Ups for Your Elmhurst Home

by Thomas Makinney

Autumn is a wonderful time here in Elmhurst. Cool, crisp nights make the leaves take on new colors, and the warm, sunshine-filled days are perfect for catching up with the last of our summer activities. Taking advantage of this time to make a few home fix ups could help make your winter days a bit warmer, and your wallet a bit fatter.

If you have an unfinished attic, Mike Rogers of GreenHomes America suggests topping up your insulation to R-49 or even R-60 by adding rolls, batts or blown-in insulation. Also, seal any gaps in the floor and framing to keep your warm air in, and the cold air out. These steps may save you up to 10% on winter utility bills.

Any uninsulated space adjacent to your heated spaces can rob heat from your home. Adding weather stripping to the tops and sides of interior doors leading to the basement or garage will help keep heated air where it needs to be. Also, installing a door sweep along the bottom will not only help with winterizing, it will help keep out insects during the warmer months too.

Exhaust vents, such as a clothes dryer vent or whole-house fan, help keep your home fresh and dry by eliminating moist air, but they can also let in cold air when not in use. Low cost dryer vent seals are essentially an elbow pipe topped with a plastic cap and shuttle. When your dryer or fan is running, the exhaust floats the shuttle upwards allowing air to escape but drops down to seal tight when not in use.

Shorter days and longer nights mean you’ll use your outdoor lights for longer periods. Replacing incandescent bulbs in these fixtures with screw in LEDs can save you up to 75% in electricity use. These bulbs are pricier than traditional bulbs, but they may last up to 20 years or more meaning you won’t be climbing the ladder to replace them for a very long time.

Take full advantage of autumn in Elmhurst. With continuing low mortgage interest rates and wonderful neighborhoods from which to choose, Elmhurst is a great place to call home this fall. With community knowledge, industry experience, and personal dedication, the Gracik Makinney Real Estate Group is the best place to start on the road to your home ownership dreams. Contact us today at 540 South York St. in Elmhurst, or at (630) 567-5902.

Keep Your Elmhurst Open House Safe and Secure

by Thomas Makinney

When potential buyers come to view your Elmhurst home at an open house, you want them to be safe. You also need to ensure, however, that your personal things are protected as well. Here are some tips for each situation.

To start, these three actions can help you avoid liability from someone getting hurt while viewing your Elmhurst property.

  • Check your outside areas. Fix loose or cracked steps leading to the house; if they’re at all slippery, put down rubber mats. Block off any potentially dangerous yard areas and be sure you have childproofed decks and pools.
  • Inside, cover any exposed wires and replace any fixture or wiring that’s unsafe. Move long electrical cords or phone cords out of walking areas, take up slippery throw rugs, and fix or replace any wall-to-wall carpet that’s loose. Handrails should be in place for those visitors who need to use them, and, of course pick up clutter for safety as well as looks.
  • Children often come to an open house, so be sure to lock up medicines, cleaning supplies, and household chemicals. Pets should be contained or removed so they can’t jump up on visitors.

The flip side is ensuring that you and your possessions are also safe during the open house. Sadly, there are unscrupulous people who will come to your Elmhurst open house to steal things. Or they will scope out the house so they can break in and steal from you later. Here's how to reduce your risk.

  • Keep valuables out of sight, preferably in a locked box.
  • Lock up credit cards, checkbooks and money.
  • Keep all expensive medications locked in a cabinet.
  • Remove high-priced clothing from closets.
  • Asking all your guests to sign a register might make a thief think twice about robbing you.
  • Never discuss your personal habits or schedule with visitors.
  • Walk the potential buyers around or at least keep them in sight at all times.
  • Have friends or relatives be on site during the open house, or consider hiring a private security service.

Following these suggestions will make your property safe for prospective buyers as well as for you and your belongings while you're in the process of selling.

If you’re looking to buy or sell Elmhurst real estate or properties in the surrounding area, contact the Gracik Makinney Group, or call (630) 567-5902.

Easy Ways to Keep Your Elmhurst Home Safe

by Thomas Makinney

We all believe we’re safe in our Elmhurst homes, and for the most part that’s true. There are, however, some things that can potentially cause damage if not checked every so often. 

Most folks know about smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and chimney cleaning, but here are a few other areas where a little vigilance can pay off.

Washing Machine Hoses – While it doesn’t happen often, a broken hose can cause water damage to your floors and appliances. Braided steel hoses are sturdier than rubber versions, although they still need to be checked now and then for leaks or loose connections.

Dryer Cabinet – It’s always good to clean the lint filter and the dryer hose, but lint can also build up in the dryer cabinet where the heating element is located and start a fire. To prevent an issue, this area should be cleaned by a service professional every few months.

Grill Location – A grill that’s too close to your Elmhurst property can potentially set your home on fire. Grills should be at least ten feet away from the home with nothing overhead that might ignite.

Attic Insulation – Make sure you have enough of this to keep heat from seeping up to your roof in winter.  A warm roof causes snow to melt which then re-freezes at the gutter line and creates an ice dam. These large sections of ice push water under the roof shingles and can cause water damage inside your home.

Sump Pump Battery – Have a battery back-up system for your sump pump, and check often that the battery is working. This will prevent the surprise of a basement full of water.

Clean Gutters – Water overflowing from a clogged gutter will build up at your foundation and leak into your basement.

Modern Wiring – Do your lights flicker or do you see sparks when you turn on a wall switch? You likely need to replace your home’s wiring. Consider using new arc-fault circuit interrupters that automatically cut power if there’s an issue. And any wiring over 40 years old should be fully replaced.

No one ever plans on having a home disaster, but it can happen. Being a vigilant Elmhurst homeowner with a good dose of common sense can help reduce the risks for you, your family, and your property.

Using the right agent for your real estate needs can also keep issues at bay. If you’re looking to buy or sell Elmhurst real estate or properties in the surrounding area, contact the Gracik Makinney Group, or call (630) 567-5902.

Displaying blog entries 1-7 of 7

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