Archive for March, 2012

Tax Break for Owners Occupying A Rental Has Changed – Reprint from Inman News

The following was in today’s Inman News – written by Stephen Fishman – This is important information for those buying rental properties.

The question received was
Q. I bought a rental home three years go and have been renting it out ever since. If I move into the home now and live in it for two years and then sell it, will I qualify for the full $250,000 home-sale exclusion?

A. No. The maximum Section 121 exclusion you’ll qualify for is $100,000 (40 percent of the full $250,000 exclusion for single taxpayers).

One of the greatest boons in the tax code for the average person is the Section 121 home-sale exclusion. Homeowners who qualify for it don’t have to pay any income tax on up to $250,000 of the gain from the sale if they’re single, or up to $500,000 if they’re married filing jointly.

Qualifying for the Section 121 exclusion is simple: You just have use the home as your principal residence for at least two years of the prior five years before it’s sold.

As Section 121 was originally enacted in the 1990s, this meant that you could buy a house, rent it out for three years, live in it for two years, and then sell it and qualify for the entire Section 121 exclusion. Thus, you could avoid having to pay tax on up to $500,000 of otherwise taxable gain. And you could do this over and over again. However, those days are gone.

Section 121 was amended in 2008. For sales and exchanges after Dec. 31, 2008, gain from the sale or exchange of a principal residence allocated to periods of nonqualified use is not excluded from gross income. Nonqualified use means any period in 2009 or later where neither you nor your spouse (or your former spouse) used the property as a main home.

Example: You purchased a home on Jan. 1, 2009, and rented it out until Jan. 1, 2012, when you moved in and made it your main residence. You sell the home on Jan. 1, 2014 for a $100,000 gain. During the five years you owned the home there were three years of nonqualified use. Because three of five is 60 percent, only 40 percent of the $100,000 gain — $80,000 — can be excluded under Section 121.

However, nonqualified use does not include any portion of the five-year period in the two-out-of-five-year Section 121 exclusion that falls after the home is used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or spouse. In other words, if you live in the home and then rent it out, the periods of rental use after you lived in the home aren’t a nonqualified use and your Section 121 exclusion won’t be affected.

Stephen Fishman is a tax expert, attorney and author who has published 18 books, including “Working for Yourself: Law & Taxes for Contractors, Freelancers and Consultants,” “Deduct It,” “Working as an Independent Contractor,” and “Working with Independent Contractors.”

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Billerica Health & Wellness Fair – March 31st

Sometimes it is important to tell people what is happening in towns that they are considering purchasing their next home.

This Saturday, March 31st, the third annual Billerica Health & Wellness Fair is being hosted by the Billerica Lions, the Billerica Lodge of Elks, the Billerica Community Alliance, & the Town of Billerica (Council on Aging, Recreation, Board of Health, & the Billerica School Lunch Program)

Thanks to the support from our many sponsors including:
Premier Sponsors ($1000 +up)
Billerica Community Alliance, Billerica Lions Club, Billerica Lodge of Elks, Billerica Masons (Thomas Talbot Lodge), Billerica Minuteman/Gateway Media,, EMD Millipore/Millipore Foundation, Lifecare Center of Merrimack Valley, Republic Services/Allied Waste, Town of Billerica (COA, Board of Health, Recreation, School Lunch Program)

Platinum Sponsors ($500 +up)
Billerica Crossings Assisted Living, Burlington Medical Associates, Comcast/Infinity

Gold Sponsors ($250 +up)
Billerica Access Television, Brightview Concord River Assisted Living,
Enterprise Bank & Trust (Pinehurst & No Billerica), Neighborhood Health Plan, Nova Biomedical, Stoneham Bank, Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Lowell

Community Supporters ($100 +up)
JP O’Connor True Value Hardware

All attendees ages 18 and over may enter a FREE drawing to win:
FIRST Prize – Xbox Kinect with WiFi
SECOND Prize – $100 Gift Card to LL Bean
Additional Drawing – Ipod Shuffle by Apple
courtesy RCS Computer Solutions

The Billerica Lions will be hosting a Walk for Sight during the Health & Wellness Fair to support Lions Eye Research which uses 100% of all donated funds for research only with a goal of eradicating blindness. Register at the Lions table for the walk that is being held in the Pavilion area behind the Elks Hall ($5 minimum donation per walker suggested). Walk times are 10:30am, 11:30am, and 12:30pm.

There are over 70 vendors in over 30 categories including massage therapy, backyard chickens (Billerica’s new law to allow people to have chickens), Masons CHIPS program, pilates, travel, senior services, art therapy, hypnosis, water, dance, kung fu, bellydancing, Mary Kay, blood pressure & glucose screening, the School Lunch FAT Vest & more.

Don’t miss the 4 stage demonstratons
10:15am Chair Aerobics (Billerica COA)
11:15am Zumba (Kerri Stang’s Gotta Dance)
12:15pm Kung Fu (Michael Macaris Kung Fu
1:15pm Let’s Move (Upper Merrimack Valley
Medical Corps)

And of course, no fair would be complete without facepainting for the kids, free raffles at a number of the tables, giveaways by several vendors including the Billerica Board of Health, Billerica Water Department and others.

The event completely takes over the Elks Hall located on Webb Brook Road from 10am to 2pm filling the main hall, the smaller hall, and hallways throughout the building. Don’t miss anything. There is even a food concession being run by Sunshine Gals (a local nonprofit recently formed to provide a hot meal to those in need on a monthly basis).

Visit their facebook page and join to learn more – Billerica Health & Wellness Fair

Joan Parcewski
Chairman of the Fair
1st VP Billerica Lions Club

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Before the Stager comes the Organizer

There are a lot of steps to get your house ready for the market to get the best price. One of those steps may include an organizer. Welcome to our newest guest blogger, Karen Kenney from Organizing Works. And where did I meet Karen – at a Health Fair where helping people to destress includes getting organized!

Attention: All Real Estate Agents and Homeowners

Does your home stager scare or upset your clients? Are things prematurely tossed out, or boxed up for a better open house?

After the open house does the homeowner want to start using the some of the things that were packed away, making for another round of staging?

Do you feel pressure to clean up your home before the stager comes and starts boxing up and throwing your things out? Some of your things may be moved to different parts of your home, misplaced or broken. Trying to work with your agent to de-clutter and simplify is very overwhelming, you may have gotten rid of something you could use right now but can’t locate it.

PSST Want to know a Secret?

Hire a professional organizer, before the home stager, starts working on your home. Meet with your Real Estate Agent and your organizer to get the list of what needs to be done within the home to make it SELL.

A professional organizer can box up the things that are not needed right now, and inventory the contents so that you can find everything after the open house. Once everything is packed up and put someplace safe, the home stager can really make your home shine!

Karen Kenney of OrganizingWORKS is an experienced professional organizer, who can help get your home ready to sell. Karen can help the whole team, the homeowner, the real estate agent and the home stagers. It will be WIN-WIN for everyone, and isn’t that what selling your home is all about?

For free consultation call Karen at 781-275-8915.

For information and testimonials check out Karen’s websites – &

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It’s All About First Impressions –

A special welcome to our newest guest blogger, Janet Poulain from Perfectly Placed for You, a local staging company. On a personal note they have recently staged a new construction in Bedford for our company. What a different impression when you walk in the door.

Staging Vacant Properties Makes Perfect Sense

Imagine yourself out shopping at the mall or downtown. If the retail stores left their window displays empty would it draw you in? Do you think you would even want to shop there?

I know what you are thinking. Most people do their shopping on line. And you are actually right. Many people start their house search on line. Which is why we believe it is imperative to have your property looking its best for its debut. You’ve heard it before, but it is worth repeating. A picture is worth a thousand words.

It is our goal to have buyers feel welcomed as soon as they open the door. Being greeted by a piece of art, greenery or a floral arrangement is one option, and so much better than walking into a blank space. First impressions count.

Take a look at the before and after photos to see if you agree. (if unable to view, please cut and paste – it is worth taking a look at the difference – you will be amazed)

When a property is empty, buyers tend to focus on negative details. In addition, vacant homes can often seem confusing to buyers. Staging emphasizes the homes features and can offer solutions to challenging areas, as well as showcasing the homes layout and architectural features.” In short, a staged property will evoke warmth and comfort, giving the buyer that much needed emotional connection to make an offer.

Liz Larson & Jan Poulain
Perfectly Placed For You
Redesign & Staging Creating Inviting Spaces

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It’s Spring and Everything Comes Alive!

With the warm weather we had this past weekend, who wouldn’t be thinking spring and spring flowers and gardens and the like.  Thanks to the Billerica Garden Club and guest blogger Annette Presseau for the following:

Ahhhhhh…….March and Spring


I absolutely love this time of year and now that the snow is all gone the weather is just beautiful and the Crocuses, Daffodils and Tulips are just starting to bloom.  The Crocuses start then the Daffodils and then the Tulips it’s like a parade!  Also, the temperature is around 60 to 70 degrees which is great for working in the yard to clear up any leaves that may have accumulated and to begin cleaning your gardens and getting them ready to plant whatever you dreamed up last month.  The rule of thumb that I have always heard from in New England is that you do not plant anything in the ground until Memorial Day.  Now just so you know I planted before Memorial Day one year and low and behold we had a frost and I lost most of my flowers so now I wait until Memorial Day to plant flowers.  Don’t get me wrong you can put the pots outside but do not plant them in the ground and take them inside if you know that frost is going to happen.


Native Plants


Consider planting native plants in your area this year some native plants are really quite beautiful.  Check this website from the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a Native Plants List and look for your state.   Check out this website called Growing The Home Garden it is very interesting and they give a lot of tips on gardening:



Rain Barrels for Garden Water


Did you know that rain barrels are not good to water your plants?  Check out this blog on the “Everyday Gardener” it is a very interesting read.  The advise that the Everyday Gardener gives is not to use rain barrels to water your plants!



What about your lawn?


Check out this cool blog on organic lawn care at and it is called A Way To  Now would be a good time to aerate your lawn which will take care of any thatch buildup problem.  This is the website to look at for the steps to aerate your lawn:



How about water conservation?


Here in New England we have not had very much snow and very little rain so it might be a very dry summer so now is a great time to look at water conservation for your garden.  Check out the website on water conservation from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority:


Below are some ideas for help with water conservation:

Hand-watering plants can mean a lot of repeat trips to the garden, but you can avoid all this fuss, with low-tech, slow-delivery tools like plastic bottles, unglazed flowerpots, or Aqua Spikes. Punch holes in the bottom of plastic milk, water, or soft drink bottles, place them on or in the soil, and fill them with water from your hose as needed. You can use unglazed clay pots in a similar way, but they are very porous so you’ll need to set them down in the soil or the water will just evaporate.

Aqua spikes are a clever invention that you can attach to inverted plastic soda bottles and turn them into handy watering devices. Fill a 2-liter bottle with water, screw on the aqua spike at the cap end, then turn the bottle upside down, and poke the spike into the soil. Each of these low-cost or recycled gadgets send water directly to your plants’ root zones and are especially effective because there’s little or no waste from evaporation or runoff.

Soaker hoses are another great inexpensive way to water your plants. When you keep the water pressure down on these porous hoses, they’ll water evenly with no runoff. A soaker hose delivers water directly to plants’ root zones, so a minimum is lost in the wind or water on wetting the foliage.

Like soaker hoses, drip irrigations systems deliver water to the root zones of plants. Small-diameter tubing and emitters, which are fittings that drip water at an even rate, let you regulate where and how much water to use. You can purchase components at a modest price and assemble your own system.

Whether you use a drip system or soaker hoses to water your plants, a timer can help you to make the best use of your time and water. Timers attach inline with your hose at the spigot and automatically start your watering system during those optimal morning hours while you’re busy getting the kids ready for school or rushing off to work. Timers are available in electric, battery-powered, or manual wind-up models.


Y-connectors make it easy to extend your watering capabilities, letting you reach all your garden beds at once from one spigot, whether you use hoses, drip systems, sprinklers, or a combination. This handy little gadget attaches at the spigot so you run two hoses from the same spot.

If you would like more water saving tips check out this website:



Cutting back grasses in the garden.


Ornamental grasses are quite beautiful and lend quite a hand at making a garden a showplace and are quite beautiful to look at.  Even in the winter they add dimension to a landscape.  It is best to cut them back before they start to grow in the Spring.  Check out this website on when the best time to cut grasses are:




Other plants to consider:


What about planting cranberries?  How about Limes or Fig Trees or Ginger?  Check out this amazing website it is really interesting:  Check out Betsy Williams Blog on Herbs and Flowers: you will not be disappointed.  Consider growing Garlic this year it is not only a beautiful flower it also repels pests!   Check out this blog:



Victory Garden:


Check out the Victory Garden website:


I’ve got a feeling that this one is going to be one of my favorite websites to look at!  This is the place to watch gardening tips from the Victory Garden online.  This is really cool!


Check out this New England ‘Habitat Gardening’ Blog at very interesting blog.  You will find a lot of ideas for New England gardening there.



Backyard Garden Forums:


Any gardening questions?  Check out the Garden Forum at



I’ll leave you with a garden poem by Robert Cording at

And I’ll recite the last verse “To make a garden is to honor life and its blessings, to make a garden is to come home”.


Happy Gardening!






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Food for thought……

Welcome to our guest blogger, Annette Presseau from Reliv. She reminds us that we need to remember to stay healthy while we undertake all our daily tastks. That could include househunting

Food for thought….


Have you ever had Chicken Nuggets from a fast food place?  I have and really like them until I was watching a food show the other night called America’s Test Kitchen and they were talking about fast food Chicken Nuggets and what the ingredients are in them and I was totally shocked!  Keep in mind that the ingredients are approved by the FDA – go figure!  Check the video out on their website you will be shocked!


Do any of us know what is in the food at the fast food places?  What are we eating?


Crock Pot Anyone?


In society today we all have 10 things we are trying to do at once and looking for quick ways to prepare healthy meals.  Recently, I received a Crock Pot for Christmas and have been testing it out with a few recipes and it works wonderful!  It cooks the meat very tender and tastes great.  I’ve cooked chicken breasts and stew and every time it comes out very tasty.   Looking for a few good recipes for the Crock Pot then check out this website:  Did you know that you can cook bread in your Crock Pot?  I didn’t know so all I can say is “wow”.   Another thing for me to try out in the Crock Pot!



Do you know of someone who has Cholesterol?  Check out this blog on the truth behind 7 Cholesterol myths at  Here is another interesting article on cholesterol and what causes it:


Brain Awareness Week


It’s Brain Awareness Week.  Check out these lesser know brain boosters at  Puzzles are a great booster to brain health and any games help too.  This article on webmd talks about 7 brain boosters to prevent memory loss like exercise, fruits and vegetables, mental workouts like games, healthy sleep, red wine (I need to drink more red wine!), no more multitasking (all I can say to this is that I do it all the time), learning new things and the main thing is to try to laugh a little!



What about Soy health for women – thinking about getting enough nutrients for your body then check out on Pinterest or nutrients in general?

Where do you get the nutrients in food?  Check out this UMass website it is really cool:


Cooking lighter meals

Have you ever looked at cooking meals differently maybe healthier but would like great taste then check out this website:  Something as simple as adding mustard can give meat a great flavor.  Even just using less butter or not eating french fries.  Cutting back on the wrong foods just a little every day will help you to eat better.


National Nutrition Month

Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month?  Check out this quiz on Nutrition  What are your eating habits?  Is it time for a change?  I definitely need to change my eating habits.  Have you ever done a food diary?  It is a good thing to record what you are eating daily and most people are very surprised to see what’s on their list.  Are their 16 ways to eat healthy but keep it cheep?  Yes, there are check this website out:

Also, forget tonic that is one of the worst things you could drink in my opinion and yes it is ok to have it once and awhile but not every day try flavored water it actually tastes a lot better and is better for you.  Rule of thumb is that too much of one thing is never good for you!


Did you also know that March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month? Take one day and make it a “Dress in Blue Day” – wear any shade to show your support and get people talking about this disease. Colon cancer is often beatable when caught early! Learn more at:


Nutrition Tune-up

Ever think of giving yourself a nutrition tune-up?  What exactly is a nutrition tune-up anyway?  To find out check out this website  Good nutrition is vital to your health just like a car lasts a long time with a regular tune-up your body needs adjusting sometimes.  Consider giving yourself a regular tune-up.


Food in our schools!

Check this out it is very scary to see this in schools!!!

Pink Slime: It’s What’s for Lunch in America’s Schools  This blog is very scary do we know what our kids are eating when they are at school?


Healthy Snacks

How about 10 healthy snacks for travel?  Check out this blog:  The right snacks can make or break your day no doubt about it and it’s always when you’re running and need something quick to eat to hold you over until you can eat that you eat anything in sight – am I right?  I have done this more than once and usually I feel that the food didn’t satisfy me at all and if anything made me feel worse than if I had eaten something healthier.  One thing to note I always thought that nuts were fattening until my doctor wanted me to eat almonds and she told me that they were healthy for you in that they are good fat so now I nibble on almonds when I a hungry and I really like the taste of them.


Tips to winterize your skin

Lately, my skin has been very dry because the cold, dry months of winter can damage to your skin. And much like winterizing your house and car, you should take the same diligence with your skin below are a few ideas to help with dry skin.

1. Moisturize. Winter air tends to be less humid due to the cold temperatures. This can dry out your skin, especially on your face, hands and feet. Using a moisturizer packed with vitamins and emollients can help save your skin.

2. Humidify. When the cold hits, we all do the same thing — crank up the heater. Adding a humidifier to your home can put some moisture back in to the air and go a long way to helping your skin feel softer.

3. Protect. Just because we have stowed away the swim trunks and bikinis, doesn’t mean we should forego the sunscreen. The sun can do damage no matter what the season or temperature. Using a daily moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or more will prevent premature aging caused by UV rays.

4. Hydrate. Hydrated skin is healthy skin. Your organs work best when they are properly hydrated, and your skin is your body’s largest organ. Well-hydrated skin appears plump and dewy, with the appearance of fewer wrinkles.

Famous Quotes for today
On a different note read these famous quotes about saving money:–122#  One of the sayings is “the mint makes it first it’s up to you to make it last.”
Laugh, laugh, laugh
Last but not least don’t forget to laugh.  Laughter is the best medicine for your health!  Take the time to laugh, watch a funny movie, and laugh at yourself.  Have you ever noticed that you can’t be upset if you are laughing?  I’m going to leave you with one to laugh at:  I wish I had a blueprint for his brain; I’m trying to build an idiot.  Here you go with a laugh of the day website: which is where I found the one I just typed!

Laughter is really the best medicine!

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The Mold Story Continues –

Welcome back to our guest blogger,

Kevin Coates from Servpro.  Great opportunity for real estate agents to have their listings checked in advance in they suspect mold.  It helps the seller to ensure no surprises at inspection. 

Here we go again the mold topic is coming up. We have experienced in the last couple of months numerous home sales that are falling through due to mold found during home inspections. We believe the reason more homes are falling through is due to the abudunce of homes that are on the market. This is a realtor and sellers worse nightmare. We do not understand why Agents are not taking part of our pre inspection of homes before they are listed its free. There is an article I have just recently read written by Jill Freudenwald from a realtors perspective.

 Follow this link to read:

Kevin Coates

Servpro Billerica/Tewksbury

Cell 781-844-8068


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Incentive Payments for Short Sales?? – Reprint from Lowell Sun 3/10/12

Saturday’s Lowell Sun article ( by Attorney James Haroutunian tells us about possible changes on how the banks handle short sales and their clients.

Incentive payments becoming part of some short-sale deals


Last week I discovered the holy grail in the world of short sales: My office performed a short-sale closing where the lender paid a $20,000 incentive payment to the seller. That’s right, the seller got out from her loan and got paid for it at the same time.

Industry rumors rang in the new year, as lenders indicated 2012 would be a big year for short sales. High foreclosure volume in hard-hit states such as Florida motivate lenders to use the collaborative process as an alternative to legal action. Some lenders claimed to begin using incentive payments in 2011, though infrequently.

Last week, I bore witness to this phenomenon, as a very happy seller walked away from her mortgage with $20,000 cash. The lender further agreed to waive any deficiency obligation by the seller.

Will this become the norm with short sales? Local real-estate agents are hopeful incentive payments will continue because they will help clear housing inventory. But they remain skeptical it will actually happen.

USA Today reports the following major lenders providing certain programs:

* JPMorgan Chase went national with short-sale incentive offers last year, paying up to $35,000 in some cases.

* Bank of America is testing incentives from $5,000 to $25,000 in Florida to see if it should be expanded to more states.

* Wells Fargo’s incentive offers range from less than $3,000 to $20,000, according to a company spokesman.

James Haroutunian Law Office at 630 Boston Road, Billerica, 978-671-0711 or email at


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Mouse Problems?

The following is a reprint of an article from Popular Mechanics - “Weapons of Mouse Destruction: How to Eliminate Relentless Rodents.”  

As I read this article I was reminded of the first few times that a mouse had taken out out our kitchen stove.  Yes – and we had to replace them (twice).  So now you know that we have our pest control company come each year to be sure that doesn’t happen again.

The Mouse

The mouse: It’s a pest that has been invading  human living spaces ever since we holed up in caves. The hardy creatures require  little food and virtually no water, allowing them to thrive in modern buildings,  behind our walls and under our floors.
Although cute and squeaky in the  wild, mice are a dangerous nuisance in the home. The critters chew up insulation  and gnaw through electrical wiring, creating a fire hazard. Mice can contaminate  food with their feces. They carry fleas and diseases. Many people are allergic  to the animal’s urine. To top it off, the rodents breed prolifically; in several  weeks a few mice can become a dozen.
Mouse intrusions happen year-round,  but tend to spike in many parts of the country in the summer months and late  fall, according to Ralph H. Maestre, technical director at Magic Pest Management  based in Flushing, New York.  Exterminators have developed a full arsenal of  methods to kill, capture and control the millions of rodents, mostly mice, who  aim to set up shop in our homes and businesses, from the simple and iconic  mousetrap to far more elaborate attacks. Here’s a look at the weapons of mouse  destruction.

Kill Zones: Front-line Traps

The traditional way to fight mouse infestation is with  traps. Inquisitive mice can’t help but check them out, especially if there’s  bait. “Mice are very curious about the new things in their environment,” says  Jim Fredericks, director of technical services for the National Pest Management  Association.
Traps come in three basic varieties. First, classic snap  traps, whose invention dates back to 1894. “To this day, the original  old-fashioned snap trap is one of the most effective traps we have,” Fredericks  says. While going for the bait in these traps, the mouse steps on a trip and,  SNAP!, a spring-loaded bar slams down with backbreaking force.
A second  class, glue or sticky traps, uses strong adhesives to ensnare mice. (However,  glue traps have raised the hackles of some animal-rights proponents, as stuck  mice will sometimes chew through their limbs or rip themselves apart trying to  break free.)
A third and less gruesome option is multiple-catch or live  traps. Through mechanical means-spring-loaded doors, flippers,  teeter-totter-like levers and the like-the traps capture several mice in a  storage area. The spared vermin can then be deposited far from the dwelling to  keep them from coming back.
As for the choice of bait, skip the  traditional cheddar cheese. “Mice really like seeds, chocolate, peanut butter  and bacon,” says Greg Baumann, Orkin technical services  director.

Mousetraps 2.0: Unconventional Killing Machines

“Building a better mousetrap” isn’t just an adage.  Exterminator pros are always trying to come up with better ways to catch  rodents.
The Rat Zapper by AgriZap uses ordinary food bait to lure a  mouse or rat, just like a traditional mousetrap does. But then the device zaps  the rodent to kingdom come, courtesy of four D batteries. Victor makes various  electronic mouse traps as well, including one that can catch and fry 10 mice.
Another alternative trap is the NOOSKI, made in New Zealand. As a mouse  enters the trap, it must stick its head through a rubber ring-which instantly  contracts and suffocates the little bugger.
Perhaps the most advanced  mousetrap around is the RADAR (Rodent Activated Detection And Riddance) device  by U.K. company Rentokil Pest Control, geared for commercial use. When a mouse  scampers into RADAR’s tunnel and crosses two consecutive infrared beams, the  trap seals shut and floods the chamber with a deadly dose of carbon dioxide. As  a courtesy, RADAR notifies its owner via text message when the deed is done.

Poisons: Gobbling Down Some Sweet Death

If traps don’t take care of your mouse problem, maybe  it’s time to switch to chemical warfare. Poisonous baits sold in pellet form, or  in newer putty formulations, turn the natural tendency of mice to gnaw and  nibble against them.
So-called rodenticides come in a number of  varieties, but the most common are anticoagulants. These compounds cause  internal hemorrhaging, ending a mouse’s life in a few days. If you choose this  route to kill mice, however, keep a supply of vitamin K1 around: It’s an  antidote to the anticoagulants that you can give to cats and dogs if they eat  the poison, Fredericks says.
Other creative chemistries for dispatching  mice include metal phosphide-laced baits, he says. When zinc phosphide reacts  with the acid in a rodent’s stomach, highly toxic phosphine gas forms. Vitamin D  is another killing agent. The vitamin makes mice absorb too much calcium from  their food, while leaching the mineral from their bones. The resulting  hypercalcemia (excessive levels of calcium in the blood) damages the heart,  kidneys and other organs.
Fredericks points out that all pesticides,  including rodenticides, must be approved by the EPA and are regulated by state  agencies. In other words, custom cocktails are not available. “Pros definitely  don’t make their own secret recipe,” he says.

Tracking Tech: Seek and Destroy

Mice are frustratingly elusive, nibbling on food left  out at night and vanishing during the day. But, unbeknownst to the rodents, they  leave signs that reveal their movements. Those signs just happen to be in UV.  Mouse urine fluoresces in UV light, so shining a black light around can show  where the rodents pee. “The use of black lights is really a great inspection  tool,” Fredericks says, though it takes a trained eye to discern genuinely  glowing mouse urine from splashes of, say, floor-scrubbing detergent.
Simply leaving traps wherever you find mouse droppings might not be the best  approach, though, says Douglas Stern, managing partner at New Jersey-based Stern  Environmental Group. His company developed a fluorescent powder that could help  you track mice back to their nests. “When the mice walk on the powder, they get  it on their feet and it leaves a footprint,” Stern says. To get the powder onto  the mice, load it into a box with food or dust it onto cotton balls, which the  mice nab as nesting material. Then follow the footprints, which appear under UV,  to find where the mice have set up shop. This lets you set up traps there, or  seal off an outside entry point if mice are entering into the house from  outdoors.
The so-called Track & Trap system has yet to become  widespread, but Stern envisions the product having key niche applications. ‘I  think it’s going to be very popular in instances where you have mice running  around and no one knows where they’re coming from,‚Äù he tells PM. Meanwhile,  major manufacturer Bell Labs has also started selling rodenticide food pellets  doped with chemicals to make mouse

Fight Animals With Animals

Release the hounds! Exterminators today are taking a  cue from law enforcement and turning to dogs’ supersensitive noses for smelling  bed bugs, ants and termites. Dogs are just beginning to enter the field of mouse  control, Fredericks says, but canines could potentially sniff out rodent  headquarters.
Cats, of course, are the traditional nemesis of mice. “I  think there’s probably a lot of farmers that would swear their barn cats keep  the mice out,” Fredericks says. But the idea of a house cat attacking your mouse  problem is probably more cartoon fodder than reality. A standard domesticated  cat that lives in a house is probably not really hungry enough to be interested  in killing mice,” he says. In fact, Baumann describes a case where mice stole  cat food right out of the dish and hoarded it under the stove without the pet so  much as raising a paw.
Finally, for those homeowners who aren’t like  Indiana Jones, snakes are always a fine predatory option. Case in point: Corn  snakes, a popular, nonvenomous pet which winds around prey constrictor-style,  love dining on mice.
Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that a barrage of  traps, poisons or high-tech repellents will solve a mouse problem, especially if  mice find your home to be a sanctuary. The best approach, then, is one of the  simplest: Make your home inhospitable to rodents. “Keep in mind, mice are pretty  much like us. They need food, water and a place to live,” Baumann says.  Eliminate those resources by keeping the house clean and sealed off, and store  food in secure containers.

Repellants and Fortifications: Defense is the Best  Offense

Preventing rodents from infiltrating the home in the  first place has become big business. A number of rodent-repelling odorants are  sold at hardware and home stores, including Critter Out spray, Fresh Cab Scent  Pouches and Shake Away Rodent Repellant Granules that claim to smell like  predators, banking on fear to keep mice away. Some people swear by strong  scents, such as pine or cayenne peppers, or even dryer sheets. But experts say  the effectiveness is questionable.
On the high-tech side, several  companies offer ultrasonic repellers that supposedly keep mice at bay with sound  waves. These devices send out sound waves above 20 kilohertz, the typical human  high-end threshold for hearing, and some modulate between 32 and 64 kHz so  undesirable animals cannot adapt. But Orkin’s Baumann and others are skeptical.  “My favorite is the fact when [manufacturers] say these things will repel  insects, rodents, birds-only the bad stuff-but if you have a bird or a dog, it  won’t be affected,” Baumann says. “There might be some promise with these  products coming out in the near future, but I’ve not seen any scientific data to  suggest that they actually work.”
Simply shoring up a home might be the  best way to thwart rodent intruders. Do a residence self-inspection by checking  the foundation for holes, and spaces under doors. “If you walk around your house  and see any hole that a pencil can fit though, a mouse can fit through,” Baumann  says. Seal up those holes with caulk, weatherstripping or steel wool, which mice  can’t chew through. Follow up with regular patrols of your property.

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Do You Need a Personal Umbrella Policy?

Welcome back to our guest blogger Tony Lucacio, President of Merrimack Valley Insurance Agency (Billerica MA).  I have to tell you that I have had nothing but great experience with Tony and his staff.  On several occasions buyers needed his assistance and were very pleased with the service provided. 

This is great information from him – many of us think we don’t need this added protection when we really do. 

I’m often told by clients that they don’t need any protection beyond their home or auto policy for a variety of reasons. I have heard “I don’t own anything and you can’t get blood out of a rock”, or “I’m a good driver and not worried about it”, or most commonly, “I’ll think about it”. Let’s examine what an Umbrella Policy is and what protection it offers.

An Umbrella Policy provide coverage above and beyond the limits provided in your underlying policies, typically a Massachusetts auto insurance policy, a Massachusetts home policy, watercraft policy etc. These other types of policies are placed under the umbrella to provide greater protection, thus eliminating the need to buy higher limits on each underlying policy individually. Many umbrella policies also will fill in when coverage is not provided by your underlying policy, so long as not excluded by the umbrella.

Umbrella policies are available in incremental limits of $1,000,000. This minimum limit is the most commonly sold limit however in recent years $2,000,000 has become a very popular choice as baby boomers and others have seen the value of their assets rise due to rising home prices, retirement accounts and more. Annual premiums for this coverage begins at approximately $150. Your premium will be slightly higher if you own multiple vehicles or homes, have young drivers in your household, or own watercraft, rental property, or recreational vehicles. Incidently, there are all more of a reason one should purchase umbrella protection.

No one every believes they will be involved in a major lawsuit. The simple truth is that accidents can and do happen. A young child chases a ball into the roadway, a driver is distracted and misses a stop sign, your dog bites a child, an acccident in a swimming pool, or any one of other numberous things we do in our daily life that somehow can go wrong are all instances where an umbrella would provide valuable protection. Remember, you don’t have to be responsible to be sued. People are sued often in these circumstances and still must have a defense provided for them. This too is provided by your umbrella policy. Sometimes an auto or home insurance carrier simply write a check for the policy limit when a policyholder is responsible, leaving the policyholder without any further coverage. What would you do if you needed more defense costs or a judgement was for more than the policy limit.

In summary, answering the question “who needs an umbrella policy?” is a simple. Just about everyone. If you own a home, a condo, or rent an apartment, have assets in the bank or a retirement account, you should consider an umbrella policy. For as little as $150 annually you will have piece of mind that your assets are protected. That’s less than the price of two cups of coffee per week.

For more information on umbrella policies, phone (978)667-2541 or click here.

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