While it’s not uncommon for real estate agents to offer client incentives or reduced commission rates, there’s a point where an overabundance of promises should be considered a red flag. Tori Atwell, broker associate with Alain Pinel Realtors, gives a true life example: “I had clients who returned after spending seven months working with a ‘discount’ agent. The agent enticed them by offering to give them most of his commission. Seven months later, they weren’t any nearer to getting a home, and they missed out on numerous opportunities. Continue reading “Realty and Reputability: The Importance of Choosing a Dependable Agent” »
Posted on November 11, 2014 by James Florence
If you’re looking for an effective way to improve your home’s energy efficiency, the best place to look is up. While steps like upgrading interior lighting or installing a “smart” thermostat can lower energy usage, an even more beneficial measure is to make improvements to your attic space. By augmenting attic insulation, air sealing and other related aspects, you can make a substantial impact on comfort and energy savings in your home.
1. Maximize attic insulation. One of the most basic yet effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to bring your attic insulation up to current standards. Over the years, building code changes have called for higher grades of insulation, which means if yours hasn’t been upgraded for a few decades, it’s probably under-performing. Continue reading “Maximizing Energy Efficiency with Attic Improvements” »
Posted on November 5, 2014 by James Florence
Most Bay Area residents enjoy the year-round temperate climate, but it’s gardening enthusiasts who reap some of the greatest benefits. In addition to having an exceptionally broad horticultural palette from which to draw, local gardeners have the advantage of an extended timeline in which to grow and harvest. Even when midwinter temperatures eventually put the freeze on the bulk of gardening activities, there are numerous ways for gardeners to stay productive. Here are some helpful tips for maintaining your garden during the winter season:
Keep harvesting winter-friendly crops. While most crops go into dormancy once the cold weather settles in, there are several that continue to produce. This includes root vegetables like carrots, radishes, beets and onions; cole crops like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts; and leafy greens like lettuces, spinach and chard. Continue reading “Turn, Turn, Turn: Commencing the Winter Wind-Down in Your Bay Area Garden” »
Posted in Landscaping Tips | Tags: Bay Area garden, consumer advice, consumer tips, gardening, Landscaping, planting, winter garden, winter gardening, winter landscaping, winter plants, yard maintenance
Posted on November 4, 2014 by Chris Bjorklund
Two things I dislike are shopping for shoes and pushy salespeople. However, on my last shoe shopping trip, I found the right kind of salesperson who transformed the entire experience.
While I was looking at the shoes on sale in a store in Durango, Colorado, a salesman asked me if he could help. After I said I didn’t need any assistance, he started chatting about the beautiful day and asked me where I was from. When I told him I was from Northern California, he asked about the recent earthquake in Napa County. He was genuinely curious and engaged with me in a sincere way. When other customers came in, he found ways to connect with them, too.
When I finally started trying on shoes, he was patient and knowledgeable. If a shoe didn’t fit right and wasn’t comfortable, he would say, “You don’t want to buy a pair of shoes you don’t absolutely love.” I must have been in that store for nearly an hour (and tried on at least 10 pairs of shoes) before deciding on a pair of low-cut brown leather boots. In the meantime, I learned that John, the 23-year-old salesman, loved most outdoor sports and was majoring in social work with the hope of eventually working in prisons.
The most surprising thing of all, however, occurred at the cash register when I stepped up to pay. John was hand-polishing my new boots before sending me home with them! Has that ever happened to you in a shoe store?
As a direct result of my positive customer service experience at this particular store, my husband and I returned a week later and he bought two more pairs of shoes! Outstanding service attracts repeat customers.
Posted in Consumers, Customer Service | Tags: "customer service" "why the customer is right" "shoe sales" "sales", "shoe shopping" "shopping experience", chris bjorklund, consumer advice, consumer tips, customer service, savvy consumer
Posted on October 29, 2014 by James Florence
When planning to repaint a room, it’s easy to get preoccupied with choosing wall and trim colors. However, there’s one wall that many people neglect to address altogether: the ceiling (also known as the “fifth wall”). Even though its role in a room’s aesthetics is somewhat subtle, a ceiling’s function is nonetheless crucial; in some cases, it may constitute the difference between a good-looking room and a great-looking one. Continue reading “Painting the “Fifth Wall”: The Importance of Ceiling Color and Sheen” »
Posted on October 22, 2014 by James Florence
Plumbing has been part of human civilization for a long time—even ancient Rome had sophisticated systems to facilitate water delivery and waste disposal. And while plumbing technology has continuously advanced over the years, development has never occurred more rapidly than in recent decades. Modern innovations have brought improvements in terms of energy efficiency and water usage, which in turn have created solutions to age-old problems. We asked four Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to talk about some of these plumbing innovations and how they can benefit today’s consumers.
Sewer line backup prevention devices: Myles O’Dwyer of Pipe Spy Marin, Inc.
Due to the concealed nature of a sewer system, problems often go unnoticed until a catastrophic situation occurs, such as a line backup in the home. While backups have been an issue as long as modern sewer systems have existed, there are now devices that prevent this unwanted occurrence. Continue reading “Diamond Certified Experts: Plumbing in the New Millennium” »
Posted in Diamond Certified Experts | Tags: contra costa valve, Diamond Certified Experts, hot water recirculator, magnetic water softeners, pipes, Plumbing, plumbing tips, save water, sewer backup prevention, tankless water heater, Water Conservation
Posted on October 14, 2014 by James Florence
While Part 1 of this blog series outlined important weatherproofing measures to protect your home against water and air leaks, this segment addresses a second, equally crucial aspect of winter home preparation:
Make sure vital heating systems are performing safely and efficiently.
There are two fixtures you don’t want to break down in the middle of winter: your central heating system and your hot water heater. Losing either of these crucial home components can make for an extremely uncomfortable situation, so it’s a good idea to make sure they’re in good working order before the cold weather sets in. Continue reading “Preparing Your Home for Winter with Fall Maintenance: Part 2” »
Posted in Home Tips | Tags: carbon monoxide, chimney, cold weather, fall home maintenance, fire alarm, fire extinguisher, fire safety, fireplace, furnace, furnace inspection, heater, heating system, holidays, home heating, home safety, Home Tips, prepare for winter, smoke alarm, smoke detector, water heater, winter
Posted on October 8, 2014 by Jennifer Chan
If you’re locked out of your home or car, you might assume that googling “locksmith” or pointing to a random name in the phone book will yield a positive result. However, as it turns out, choosing a locksmith at random is a risky move. According to Gary Lekan, owner of First Lock & Security Technologies, incidents of locksmith-related fraud have increased significantly in the past 10 years, thanks in part to the rise of the Internet and mobile phone use. “These people are so unscrupulous,” he says. “They advertise heavily and emphasize their speed and ridiculously low prices. Then they send out inexperienced, untrained technicians who can’t even handle basic lockouts or repairs.” These contract workers will often break and then replace the locks on their customers’ homes or cars. In the long run, consumers end up paying hefty bills and have junky locks in lieu of quality hardware. Continue reading “Defense Against the Dark Arts: Four Expert Tips and One Simple Trick to Avoid Locksmith Fraud” »
Posted on October 8, 2014 by Jennifer Chan
I delete emails from down-and-out Nigerian royalty. Stranded hospital-bound strangers get nothing. And when Bernie Madoff made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, I said, “No way!” Or I would have, if he had…you get the drift. Consequently, it is with great humility (and some shame) that I admit this in a public forum: I got scammed by a locksmith—or more accurately, a con artist posing as a locksmith. Here’s how it happened.
One bright fall morning, I carefully locked all the doors to my house, walked my kids to the bus stop and handed my only house key to my son (who had forgotten his). Continue reading “How it Is: I Got Scammed by a Locksmith” »
Posted in Home Tips, Personal Stories, Savvy Tips | Tags: been scammed, being scammed, best con artist, con artists, fraud, getting scammed, I got scammed, Locksmith, locksmith scam, scammed by, The con artist
Posted on October 6, 2014 by James Florence
Summer has given way to autumn, and people throughout the Greater Bay Area are starting to get ready for the upcoming holiday season. However, amidst your fall decorating and holiday shopping, it’s important to remember another key seasonal measure: preparing your home for imminent winter weather. With its chilly temperatures and heavy rainfall, winter can take a toll on any home, but with proper preparation, you can fortify yours against the elements and avoid common problems.
Weatherproof your exterior
Whether to keep out water or cold air, weatherproofing your home is a vital preparatory measure during winter. Not only can weatherproofing prevent costly water intrusion issues, it can also improve home energy efficiency by keeping the heat in and lowering utility costs. Here are a few important proactive steps: Continue reading “Preparing Your Home for Winter with Fall Maintenance: Part 1” »
Posted in Home Tips | Tags: attic insulation, Bay Area, doors, drainage, fall maintenance, Gutters, home exterior, home maintenance, Insulation, leaks, prepare for winter, rain, rainfall, rainy season, residential, roofing, water intrusion, Weather, weather-stripping, weatherproof, Windows