Thursday, February 24, 2011

Uninvited Visitors in Your Martha’s Vineyard Home, A Sign of Our Times

Home break-ins and burglaries are happening more often and it seems as if not a week goes by that there isn’t news of another burglary or home invasion. Because there are so many people out of work and facing increasing financial hardship I guess their desperation is leading them to extremes. Martha’s Vineyard is not immune to these violations in one form or another. There are many Martha’s Vineyard vacation homes empty for a good part of the year and located in remote isolated areas, which makes this Island a perfect hunting ground for thieves. Recently I learned of about three break-ins in the area near where I live in just the last month. Burglars can be very clever and calculating so it is a fact of life today that we all need to be more vigilant and “THINK’.

Here is a list of tricks of the trade that a burglar won’t tell you about:

1. He was the same person who cleaned your carpets, painted your shutters, cut your lawn, delivered your new refrigerator or repaired your TV service. Did you check references or his identification? Did you make a copy of his credentials or take his picture with your iPhone?

2. He was one of the landscape crew cleaning up your yard and he asked to use the bathroom. While he was there, he unlatched the back window to make his return a little easier.

3. Manicured opulent landscaping or fresh cut flowers around the house signal that you have good taste and money. You probably have a lot of nice expensive things in your home. All those big toys in the backyard and that huge outdoor play set says your children probably have expensive gaming equipment and electronic toys in their rooms.

4. Newspapers are piling up on the driveway or the mailbox is bulging with mail. That’s a clear indicator that no one is home. Make sure you tell your postmaster to stop delivery of your mail, even if you are only going to be away a short time. Your burglar might even leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get your caretaker or a good neighbor to create car tracks around the property and footprints up to the front door of the house.

6. If your entrance doorway has translucent or clear glass sidelights, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where your burglar can see if it's been set.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom which is where your burglar will first look for expensive jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too. More homeowners today are installing Security Camera Systems and they are not that expensive. Q-See makes a popular inexpensive system that is currently available at stores like Costco. Even if you don’t have an alarm system, if you can get a large security display sign from a local alarm system dealer, it will deter many would-be burglars.

8. Your burglar is not deterred by bad weather and like the mailman; neither rain, sleet nor snow will keep him from his task – robbing your home. So make sure you always lock your doors and windows.

9. Your burglar will always knock first and if you answer the door, he may ask you for directions to somewhere else or say he is looking for odd jobs. Don’t let him into the house and don’t hire him.

10. Once in your house, your burglar will check places like all your dresser drawers, the top of your closet, your night table or the medicine cabinet, so don’t hide your valuables in a sock roll or in one of those Aquanet Hair Spray Can Hidden Safes.

11. Your burglar will rarely enter into or rifle through your kids' rooms except to steal their gaming equipment.

12. If you have a safe for your valuables your burglar will not have time to break into it, BUT if it's not bolted down, if he can move it, he will take it with him and break it open later on.

13. Staggered lighting on timers in several rooms or a TV or loud radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at )

Here is a list I found of secrets confessed during interviews with convicted burglars in various parts of the country.
In the burglars' own words:

1. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

2. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

3. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If a neighbor hears one loud sound, they'll stop what they're doing and wait to hear it again. If they don't hear it again, they'll just go back to what they were doing. It's human nature.

4. I'm not complaining, but why would anyone pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave their house without turning it on?

5. I love looking in the windows. I'm looking for signs that no one is home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through the neighborhood at night to pick my targets.

6. Avoid announcing vacation plans on Facebook. It's easier than you think to look up a home address.

7. To a home owner, leaving a window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation to come in.

8. If there is no answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Finally, here is one more neat security tip I had never thought about, and it is so obvious. Many security systems have panic buttons that are located in a primary bedroom at the bedside or in rooms most frequented by the home’s inhabitants like the kitchen or even in the garage. These security systems also may have a warning light beacon mounted in a conspicuous location on the house and/or a high decibel klaxon. A setup like this is a good idea even without a whole house security system. But did you know you may already have a security system setup similar to this? It’s your automobile.

If your car has an alarm system with a remote key fob, keep that remote by your bedside or on your person and in an emergency you can press the alarm panic button and if your car is within range your alarm system will be triggered, the lights will flash and your alarm will sound an alert. If you have a neighborhood watch group, make sure your neighbors or anyone close by that you trust is aware that your car alarm sounding may be a signal and a call for help. Times have changed and sadly we all must become more vigilant and aware. We no longer live in Mayberry, but Martha’s Vineyard is still a gentle and safe place to live. It’s just a fact of life that we all have to be more mindful and ‘THINK’.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Speak Softly And Carry A Big Bag of Cash

The National Association of REALTORS® revealed in a recent study that 28% of home sales were all-cash transactions in 2010, compared with 14% in a study done in October 2008.

Economists pointed out the obvious, the more depressed a housing market was, the more cash deals were transacted. Cash buyers are at a greater advantage and can actually save between 5 – 10% because cash deals close more quickly and there is no threat of a lender changing their mind in the eleventh hour.

Yes, that happens and that is why I tell my clients who require financing, after the Purchase and Sale Agreement is executed --- don’t even think about buying furniture, an automobile or anything that could alter your financial picture until after the Closing.

According to a WSJ article, “The jump in real-estate purchases made with cash is another sign of the revival of animal spirits in the U.S. economy.” Wouldn’t that be nice? A return to a more quiet jungle.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The House That Built Me

“The World is Too Much with Us” Has that thought ever come into your mind when the pressures of your everyday world started getting to you? It was during those times I would recall days gone by when I was a young boy growing up in the country sharing dog biscuits with my pet collie in the front yard and catching fireflies in a jar just before bedtime.  Back then we thought nothing of walking three miles to pick up the mail at the post office located at the railway station, and I remember the school bus frequently stopping to let a herd of dairy cows meander across the road going from one pasture to another.

Life was so simple then, and I felt so safe and secure in my family home – a little pink farm house on about ten acres of land with a red two-stall barn, sprawling fields and a spring-fed pool hidden in the woods at the end of a long path. I loved my childhood home.

I have childhood memories here too, but those memories are of my own children. I remember how pleased my youngest son was, now 30, when he could climb a little stepladder and reach a limb on an old scraggly oak tree in the backyard. I refuse to cut that limb, because I see him there every time I pass by that old scraggly oak tree.

I was reading an article about an interview with songwriter, Tom Douglas. He wrote a wonderfully haunting song titled “The House That Built Me”. It was voted Country Music Association’s song of the year in November 2010 and was performed by Miranda Lambert.

When Douglas remarked that he was aware of how fractured people’s lives have become today, and even with all our modern technology we are becoming increasingly isolated it made me think. What is the purpose of a home? Is it just 'a thing' and nothing more than four walls? Do we look at it strictly as an investment? A financial advisor I was speaking with recently said real estate is not just an investment; it is an ‘investment commodity’ because we use it. And hopefully, if we use it, it is a place where family and friends come together and memories are made.

Think about where you live and what you have. Then think about what you want and why you want to become a part of the lifestyle on Martha’s Vineyard. This tiny Island is still a place where dreams can come true, a touchstone where you can come, regroup, recharge; a place where you can put away all your technology and become whole again as a person and connected as a family. You can take part in all the simplicity in life that exists all around you here, on the hiking and biking trails, ponds great and small – perfect for kayaking and canoeing, fishing from dozens of fabulous beach locations or just kicking back with a stack of light summer reading. You probably won’t have to stop your car today for a herd of dairy cows crossing the road, but be on the lookout because most likely you will encounter a rafter of wild turkeys casually sauntering across the road.

Owning a home on Martha’s Vineyard can be so very simple and keeping it simple is what you really want. Don't you? After all if you think about it, that is your dream -- a simpler way of life.

Don’t lose sight of the house you loved when you were growing up and how that house built you. It’s not too late to build more great memories or create those memories you always dreamed about, but life never presented the opportunity. The opportunity is here for you now.

The World Is Too Much With Us
by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreath├Ęd horn.