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How To Improve the Value & Safety Of Your Home

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Whether a new homeowner or existing one, improving the value and safety of your home should always be top of mind. Who doesn't want the peace of mind that comes with knowing your home is taken care of? Well-maintained? And, as a result, worth more? Can you even put a price tag on a well-maintained home that keeps loved ones safe and sound?

This article takes a closer look at the benefits of home maintenance and safety, how to avoid insurance claims and ways to improve your home. We will cover some new, innovative tips, as well as some tried and tested ways to improve your home.

The Importance and Value of Home Maintenance and Safety
Regular home maintenance and staying on top of home safety can help reduce risks of hazards in the home and, even, save lives. Do you know that 3 out of 5 home fires occur in homes without smoke alarms or working smoke detectors? Prevent costly problems before they occur with routine home maintenance check-ups. You can also save money on repairs and insurance. Improve energy efficiency and save on utility bills. Ultimately, selling a home that was well-maintained with a history free any major issues or incidents is always worth more. Plus, when you consider that 3.7 million of us work from home at least half the time, our home isn't just where we eat and sleep; it's our workplace now too!

Reduce Home Insurance Claims
The number and magnitude of home insurance claims in the U.S. is staggering, as are the number of serious accidents and even deaths. In 2016, one in every 19 homes (5.3%) had a homeowner insurance claim. Said another way, every homeowner living in a neighborhood, will likely have a neighbor on their block or on their street that will have an insurance event this year. We hear about headline events such as severe weather (hurricanes, floods, wildfires, blizzards, etc.), but many insurance claims arise from "non-weather" related events. Regular home maintenance can play a major role in minimizing these claims.

Fire & Water: Major Threats to Your Home
The most common cause of loss for a homeowner is water damage. Water damage can have many different causes. The top reasons are:
• A leaking or damaged roof
• Cracked pipes
• Broken washing machine intake hoses
• Hot water heater failure
Hot water heater failure can cause tremendous damage. A government center in Pennsylvania suffered $100,000 in damage over 12,000 square feet after a leak in a water heater that is smaller than most of the ones found in our homes! Imagine what a water heater leak could do to your basement?

The second major cause of homeowners insurance claims? Fire damage. Fire damage is also one of the most expensive. Home safety and maintenance play a crucial role in home fire prevention.

Other homeowner issues reported through insurance claims include theft, property damage, vandalism and accidents in the home or on the property. These also can present serious problems for homeowners and can put valuable belongings at risk. Taking the right measures and staying on top of home maintenance can help you prevent these types of problems occurring at your home.

Home Improvement Tips to Reduce Risk of Water Damage
Yet, there's a few easy ways to fight water damage and save on your insurance, yet most people don't even know they exist! The first is to install an automatic water shut-off valve. This controls your home's water supply at the source and when triggered, can shut off the water supply to your home instantly. This is vital for situations when there are signs of a major leak or flood.

Another great tip for preventing water damage is to make sure your washing machine has a braided metal hose – which lasts much longer and holds up better than a rubber hose.

Lastly, another simple solution for preventing water heater failure and extending the life of your water heater is the anode rod. It is an unsung hero in the home that most people have never heard of! The anode rod is inside water heaters to help protect the tank from rust, corrosion and failure. As long as you check it every 2 years and replace it periodically, you can keep your water heater in good working order and help it be as efficient as possible.

Home Fire Safety & Prevention Tips
According to U.S. fire departments, there is a house fire every 86 seconds. These fires can injure thousands of people and cause upwards of $1 billion in damage each year. On average, 7 people die every day in a home fire. 

Here are some quick tips to bear in mind to help make your home safer from fires.
• Fire extinguishers should be placed in all required and recommended areas.
• Make sure extinguishers are checked and charge-tested regularly. They can stop working if they are old and unused.
• Smoke detectors are critical in all areas of the home, including all sleeping areas, each hallway, and every floor in the home.
• Smoke detector batteries need to be tested regularly and replaced at least 1-2 times per year.
• Smoke detectors are smarter than ever, you can even control them from your smart phone these days. They can help you silence a false alarm or even indicate the source of a fire in the home.
• Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers come with expiration dates and do not last forever. Check the manual and make sure to replace them before it is too late.
• Hard-wired, inter-connected fire alarm systems perform better than battery-operated units based on a study by the NFPATM.
• Sleep with doors closed. In case of a fire, this helps cut down on the spread of flames and smoke.
• Learn more about fire prevention HERE at the National Fire Protection Association.

Tips for Making Your Home & Property Safer
The idea of someone breaking into your home can be terrifying and, even if you are not home, it can result in the loss of valuable belongings. According to the FBI, 74% of all reported burglaries are reported to have taken place at a home. According to analysis of home insurance claims, 6% are due to theft. This is why many homeowners insurance companies are willing to offer a credit if you install a home security system. It is important, however, to make sure you use it and it is in good working order. Other proactive measures you can take to protect your home from theft include making sure all windows and doors are locked, avoid leaving garage doors open and install motion sensors on your property. An innovative new way to protect your home is with smart locks and video doorbells. Monitor who is at the door as well as prevent entry into a home with a high-tech key-less lock. Also, it is a great tip to have a home inventory list. This can really expedite matters if you do get robbed and need to make an insurance claim.

You should also make sure that any hand railings are secure, as well as properly maintaining walkways and stairs. Follow proper safety and maintenance guidelines if you own a pool. Monitor your property, especially trees. If you have a tree on your property, you need to check for falling limbs or weakness at the base. You need to determine if it poses a threat to others or their property such as their car or garage. In this instance, it is your responsibility to have the tree trimmed or removed. If you don't, you can be held liable.

Use a Digital Home Management System
As with so many aspects of our daily life, new technology and smart solutions fueled by the Internet are popping up everywhere. Now, you can even find them offering new ways to help us manage and maintain our homes.

One innovation for making your home smarter and safer, is what is called a "hub." This acts like a central command center for all your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-enabled devices in the home. This can include smart, Wi-Fi enabled smoke detectors or Bluetooth-enabled sensory systems for pipe leaks or freezing. Having a "hub" will also help you stay on top of maintenance and manage all these devices' safety benefits. Some "hubs' work with voice controls, others use touch screen technology. These are often found to be helpful for people with disabilities or the elderly that need reminders or assistance in dealing with their home during an emergency.

Another innovative solution is a new, digital and interactive platform for home management and maintenance called vipHomeLink. This is like a FitBit for your home, developed to educate homeowners & put them in control of improving their home's value and safety. Operating like an online "lockbox", all homeowner information is secure, yet available anywhere and anytime that users log in. For just $7 per month, members gain access to home maintenance reminders, expert advice for home improvements, safety tips and organizational tools. 

Some of the cutting-edge features offered at vipHomeLink.com include:
• A digital filing cabinet for your home. Scan and upload important, valuable home documents. No more worrying about losing them or having them destroyed.
• Home inventory tool. Log and track the contents of your home with pictures and descriptions to make filing insurance claims easier than ever.
• Helpful reminders to conduct routine home maintenance on appliances, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, plumbing and more.
• Recommendations for ways to improve their home to make it safer, save money or increase its value.
• Better organization. Know where documents are and find important home information at the touch of a button. Search their vipTIPS for the answers to your questions or to locate maintenance checklists.
• Exclusive member offers on valuable home products and services
• Rewards for conducting home maintenance and improving your home's "fitness"

Like a FitBit, vipHomeLink's founders wanted to build a platform to help homeowners improve their "home health & fitness." Plus, they admit, no one is rushing out on a Saturday morning to conduct home maintenance. They believed that if they could make home maintenance easier and more efficient, while helping people save money, we as homeowners wouldn't have any more excuses. There would be no reason not to do it. One of the most interesting features of vipHomeLink is the Home Fitness Indicator (HFI). The HFI is compiled from data in the form of a number to help member homeowners understand the level of "fitness" specific to their home. The HFI of a home built in the 1960's will look very different to one built in the last five years. The HFI is one way that vipHomeLink provides tailored recommendations to their members, so they know what to focus on to improve the fitness of their home. It also helps them assess how their home "fitness" stacks up against others using the platform. Ultimately, the HFI can provide a useful digital history of the home to share with realtors or future home buyers. Imagine being able to show them how "fit" and well-maintained your home has been! This could convert to a better home valuation and higher asking price during a sale. Learn more about vipHomeLink.com HERE.

We hope that we've shed some light on the risks and threats to your home as well as the benefits of proper, routine home maintenance. There is no doubt, with all the tips and innovations outlined above, you should be ready to hit the ground running and get your home in tip top shape today.

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