Posted by Sharon Lanen Coskren on 2/23/2018

Whether you've just moved into a new neighborhood or have lived there for decades, there are many advantages to maintaining friendly relations with neighbors.

If, on the other hand, you adopt more of an isolated lifestyle, then the experience of home ownership may be a lot less fulfilling.

Taking the time to have a friendly chat with your neighbors, once in a while, can produce both immediate and long-term advantages. While not everyone has a gregarious, outgoing personality, making the occasional effort to say hello can open the door to a variety of benefits.

Home Security: The best neighborhoods are those in which everyone looks out for one another. When you know your neighbors on a first-name basis, they'll be a lot more likely to keep an eye on your house and let you (or the police) know when they observe any suspicious activity. It's also nice to feel comfortable enough to be able to ask your neighbors to watch your property while you're away -- either for the weekend or when you're on vacation. Even in low-crime areas, burglaries and vandalism has been known to happen, so it's in everyone's best interest to know their neighbors and be ready to help. Although Neighborhood Watch groups are not active everywhere, there's no reason why people still can't be alert and responsive to loitering, trespassing, or other questionable activity.

Networking Benefits: You may not need a plumber, electrician, or a reasonably priced HVAC technician, right now, but sooner or later, you will -- guaranteed! There may also come a time when you need emergency child care or fast help jump-starting your vehicle. You're probably not going to approach your neighbors for help if you don't know them, but there's a good chance you will if you do have a rapport. By sharing information, resources, and recommendations with neighbors, you'll be paving the way for a mutually beneficial relationship. While you may or may not become best friends, it's nice to know that there's someone nearby you can count on for support and help.

Feeling of community: Although some neighborhoods have a more friendly, close-knit feeling than others, it's often easy to break the ice with neighbors when you're outside -- either doing yard work, walking your dog, or going for a stroll. By taking the initiative to welcome new people into the neighborhood, you'll not only have a positive impact on their lives, but you might even forge a new, long-term friendship. You can also make social connections by chatting with people at yard sales, block parties, or by joining and being active in neighborhood Facebook or Nextdoor groups. While it may feel easier to just keep to yourself and avoid venturing outside of your comfort zone, becoming part of a larger community in your neighborhood (and beyond) is often much more rewarding!





Posted by Sharon Lanen Coskren on 5/26/2017

There are certain home disasters most of us would prefer not to think about. A house fire, a flood, or even a break-in are all some of a homeowner's worst fears. But being prepared for the worst is always the best choice in the long run. One of the most important things people lose in home disasters are their vital documents. If your documents are lost in a fire it will take a lot of time and money to replace them all. There are two main ways to insure the security of your documents: physically and electronically. However, neither method is 100% secured. Just as some safes can be broken, so can some electronic storage systems. In this article, we'll cover the documents you should secure and the latest and best ways to secure them.

What to secure

There are few things that are irreplaceable. Since most agencies you'll deal with in your life have your information backed up on their computer systems you probably can rest assured that your information is safe there. But for your own convenience and wallet, it's a good idea to secure the following documents and files:
  • Social security cards
  • Passports
  • Birth certificates
  • Insurance papers
  • Copies of wills
  • Legal papers
  • Vehicle titles
  • Hard drive with family photos, home movies
  • Medical information (doctors, prescriptions, etc.)

Buying a safe

Even if you tend to back up all of your documents in a secure place online, it's still a good idea to own a safe. Servers can crash and files can be hacked. Plus there are certain items that you can't back up online. Spare keys to your home, vehicles, and safety deposit boxes are all important items for your safe that won't take up much room. Similarly, family jewelry or heirlooms are also priceless additions that should fit nicely. When buying a home safe there are a few things to consider. Safes can range from under a hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars depending on factors like their size and security capabilities. You should look for a safe within your budget that is both fire and water resistant, but is also a practical size. If you're only protecting some documents and keys, you won't need a huge safe that will be difficult to move if need be. A benefit of a large, heavy safe is that it becomes difficult to steal from your home to break open elsewhere.

Protecting your data digitally

There are two ways of digitally security your items. One option is to use a flash drive and then keep that flash drive in a safe place (why not in the new safe you just purchased?). The benefit of a flash drive is that they are small and can hold huge amounts of data--multiple years of tax papers, for example. For an added layer of security on your flash drive, buy one with encryption capability. What's encryption?  Encryption is a method of securing data by making the information unreadable to those without the key. There are several types of encryption and many ways of encrypting your data online. Another, simpler option for securing your data online is to use cloud storage. Google Drive, iCloud, and Dropbox are all common cloud storage systems that incorporate encryption. However, not all cloud storage systems are created equally. Some are better for security, others are designed to be convenient and user-friendly. Whichever storage service you decide to use, it's important to be smart with your passwords. Make them complex, unique, and change them frequently to ensure the safety of your data.