The way that we build our homes, with synthetic materials, furniture, and cheaper construction is making our homes more flammable – House fires spread 600% faster today than 40 years ago, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. This means that every second counts.
And while most us have some warning system: smoke detectors, and maybe even fire suppression systems built into our homes, there is a very easy way to help slow the spread of fire in your home: closing your door.
Research by the UL Fire Safety Research Institute concluded that closed doors do a number of things including:
- A closed door can help keep back heat and prevent rooms reaching dangerous temperatures.
- A closed door keeps more oxygen away from the fire so it allows you to breathe better.
- Closing the bedroom door at night gives you more time to react to a smoke alarm.
- Closed doors keep dangerous smoke away from you – smoke and toxic gasses can incapacitate you and keep you from escaping the fire.
- Closing door cuts fire off from a fuel source and can better contain the fire.
And of course, where there is an opportunity, our internet of things has a solution.
In case you don’t automatically shut your doors (perhaps you’re a free spirit, a Gemini? Who knows?) There is a gadget for that. Lifedoor is a gadget that integrates with existing smoke detectors and does three things: it closes the door of the room, illuminates the room to help the occupant make a better decisions, and sounds a secondary alarm that can help wake your more heavier sleepers.
The product easily installs onto the hinge of a door and then attaches to the door with screws or even double sided tape. It activates when it hears the tone of the triggered smoke alarm (which is standardized at 85 decibels, #FunFacts).
For those of you who may fear the worst – this does not render the door unopenable and the battery should last 18-24 months depending on use.
One particular note about this new product is that its support has largely come from firefighters – and those guys know their stuff.
Hopefully, you won’t have to experience a housefire. But even if you don’t invest in LifeDoor – remember that closing your own door can keep you safe by giving you more time. And nothing is more important than being prepared: make sure you follow the best home fire practices you can – learn more from the American Red Cross.
Historic Mansion is demolished, pointing out flaws in protections
(HOMEOWNERSHIP) West Mansion in Houston almost makes it 90 years before being demolished; this points out some issues in historical preservation protections.
“No money will be spared to make this one of the showplaces of the country,” declared Joseph Finger, architect of the West Mansion. Constructed in Clear Lake in 1930, West Mansion’s had a unique 89 years – housing everything from the Lunar Science Institute to the luxurious Dr34m display – but that came to a close with its recent demolition.
The mansion was in good structural condition, was listed as a Historic Landmark and had even been ranked on Preservation Texas’s “most endangered” list in 2007.
So, why did it get demolished?
First, it’s worth understanding that West Mansion has been on the chopping block before. The original owner, James M. West Sr., initially built the mansion as a centerpiece of his sprawling ranch. Still, he sold the mansion, along with the ranch, a mere 8 years after it had been constructed.
The mansion remained unused for over 20 years.
From 1961 – 1992, West Mansion became the Lunar Science Institute (later renamed Lunar Planetary Institute), at which point it was sold with the restriction that it had to be preserved for twenty years. Although many groups tried to fight for it to be preserved longer, none could raise the money necessary for extensive preservation.
West Mansion was once again at risk of demolition in 2012, but the current owner (Rockets player Hakeem Olajuwan) instead opted to renovate the home and use it as a place to showcase his luxury clothing line, Dr34m.
Although groups like Preservation Houston continued to work towards keeping this historic landmark, Olajuwan was able to schedule and demolish in under a month.
This move came abruptly. Pasadena, the city where West Mansion resided, has no preservation ordinances for historic structures. Although outside organizations have offered incentives for owners of historical structures, there was nothing stopping owner Olajuwan from tearing it down without any public notice.
Worse, according to David Bush of the Greater Houston Preservation Alliance, there was no attempt made to salvage any of the material, much of which was expensive and easily recyclable.
West Mansion, which had grown to become more than simply a landmark of Texas wealth, will certainly be missed. There is also a lesson in the West Mansion demolition: while non-profits can work hard to preserve historical structures, it also comes down to residents working to ensure there are local protections in place.
As Boomers downsize, heirlooms are being rejected
(HOMEOWNERSHIP) As baby boomers downsize and capitalize on senior management, heirlooms and antiques are falling to the wayside (they just don’t spark joy).
There’s nothing quite like moving to make you realize how much stuff you have. When every single item in your household has to be boxed up and carted elsewhere, it’s easy to be startled by the sheer volume of material possessions you own.
Often, when we move, we end up taking an opportunity to purge our belongings. Bags and boxes are donated to thrift stores. Hand-me-down clothes are passed to the neighbors. Keepsakes are re-gifted to friends.
This can be a painstaking process at any age, but a particularly emotional one for aging retirees.
The numbers show that, between the ages of 18 and 54, we tend to move into ever bigger houses. It makes sense – you start out with an affordable one bedroom place. You get married, have kids, and need to move into something bigger.
Retirees are on the opposite tip.
Their grown children have moved out, they are getting older and would like to lighten their load of housework and maintenance. After age 55, people typically move from larger dwellings into smaller ones.
A growing “senior move management” industry has arisen to fulfill the particular needs of the older set. The trade group, the National Association of Senior Move Managers boasts 950 member companies.
These companies handle everything from hiring the moving trucks to changing your address to renegotiating your cable contract for your new home.
Industry insiders say that one of the trickier aspects of their job is managing those precious items that won’t fit in the new home, but that the mover would like to keep “in the family.” Parents and grandparents often hope that their children and grandchildren will adopt their treasured heirlooms and collections. But the younger set isn’t having it.
The adult Millennial children of the Baby Boomer generation have their own style and taste that may not match their parents’. Many are living in small dwellings themselves with minimalistic aesthetics. An antique oak hutch simply isn’t going to mesh with a twenty-something’s Ikea-inspired bachelor pad.
The younger set also doesn’t entertain in the same formal style as the older generation, making silver flatware and fancy china obsolete. It’s not about being ungrateful, it’s about wildly different styles between generations.
What it boils down to is: just because mom thought it was precious, doesn’t mean that daughter gives a damn.
Says Kate Grondin of the senior move management company Home Transition Resource, “We can help soften the blow if the kids don’t want anything but are afraid to tell their parents.” Sometimes the kids flatly refuse to inherit items like furniture, art, or dishware that their parents have held onto for decades, or even generations.
Other times, in order to avoid hard feelings, the kids might take items, only to turn around and throw or give them away.
When moving elders ask senior move manager Anne Lucas of Ducks in a Row, “‘What do I do with my crystal and china?’” she tells them “‘Drink your OJ out of it. Who cares if the gold comes off? The kids don’t want it.’”
How to fight scams that continue to victimize homebuyers
(HOMEOWNERSHIP) Real estate scams continue to victimize people, but Realtors are in a position to better protect homebuyers.
Despite warning after warning and news story after news story, homebuyers keep getting their money stolen in real estate wire transfer schemes. Some blame the mortgage and real estate industries for not doing enough to educate and protect their clients. Others say the people committing these crimes are getting more and more sophisticated. No matter who’s to blame, there’s no arguing that this crime is on the rise.
What exactly do these real estate scams look like? These criminals usually hack into a business’s emails, often a title company, and get all the pertinent information they need. They then steal and copy that company’s letterhead, and the email addresses, signature blocks and any other relevant information they will need to fool the homebuyer. The homebuyer then gets an email that appears to be from the title company, asking them to wire money, often tens or sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So, you’re probably wondering right now: What can I do? You want to know how to warn and protect your clients and keep your reputation intact (and avoid costly lawsuits). The following safeguarding tips can help keep cash out of cyberthieves’ hands:
1. Pick up the phone. If you’re closing on a home and receive an email with instructions on how to transfer money to your closing company or lender, take a few minutes to call your agent or broker to make sure it’s legit. Yes, this might be a bit annoying, but not as annoying as losing thousands of dollars in an email scam.
2. Be aware. These scammers usually send emails that look like the real thing. If you’re a homebuyer, look for weirdly timed emails (sent in the middle of the night) or spelling and punctuation errors. Is there a sense of urgency to the email?
3. Educate your clients. If you’re a real estate professional, make sure your clients know about this scheme. Not everyone is aware they could be a target (which is why it keeps happening). Set up a specific passcode for each client.
4. Consider using BuyerDocs and asking your title company to use this technology for all of their transactions.. What’s BuyerDocs, you ask? This tech startup provides secure document delivery for closing companies and homebuyers. The company says it has protected more than $5 billion in wire transfers in 2018 and works with big and small businesses across the country.
Scams will never be eradicated, but it is part of your job to know the current scams and how to protect transactions against shady folks.
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