Important Information on Chimney Fires

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: A HOME VALUED AT OVER ONE MILLION DOLLARS LOCATED IN SPOTSYLVANIA RECENTLY BURNED TO THE GROUND BECAUSE OF A CHIMNEY FIRE. THE INSURANCE COMPANY DENIED THE CLAIM BECAUSE IT WAS DETERMINED THAT THE AUGUST EARTHQUAKE CAUSED DAMAGE TO THE CHIMNEY. IF YOU HAVE A MASONRY FIREPLACE PLEASE GET IT INSPECTED BEFORE USING IT THIS WINTER. I SCHEDULED MINE AND IT’S A THREE WEEK WAIT FOR AN APPOINTMENT.

Is your chimney safe? How do you know? If your chimney was damaged in the August earthquake, you need to know whether it is safe or not before using your stove or fireplace this fall and winter. Broken or cracked chimneys can let heat, smoke and toxic gasses such as carbon monoxide into your home, and your home could even catch fire.

Some damage is obvious, and some is hidden:

•Check to see if bricks have fallen or the chimney is leaning.
•Look for shiny areas on your metal chimney pipe. This means the chimney moved during the earthquake.
•Look for cracks at joints where the chimney connects to the firebox, at the roofline and in the attic.
•Check for debris that may have fallen into the fireplace.
•Use a screwdriver to check the mortar between the bricks or stones. If it crumbles when you pick at it, the chimney may be a hazard.
•When in doubt, consult a licensed engineer or contractor. For the name of an inspector, call your insurance or mortgage company.

Carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors save lives. If it is possible that you have chimney damage, make sure you install these and inspect them regularly.

•Consider purchasing combination smoke/carbon monoxide detectors.
•Install them in sleeping areas and on every level of your home.
•Install them away from air vents.
•Interconnected smoke alarms are best because if one sounds, they all sound.
•Test smoke alarms monthly. Change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a date you already know as a reminder, such as your birthday or when you change your clocks.
•Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.

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This is the Market to Be In

The bad news.
For most regions of the U.S., home prices continue to fall. Across the 20 major U.S. housing markets, January home prices fell 1% from December 2010 and 3.1% from January 2010, as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller index. Nationally home prices are down 31.8 percent from their 2006 peak, and home prices in most metropolitan regions are comparable to prices in 2003 – when the housing boom began.

The good news.
The only major housing market where prices rose was Washington, D.C. Here in the D.C. metropolitan area homes prices increased 0.1% percent from December 2010 to January 2011. And from January 2010 to January 2011 home prices increased a solid 3.6%. Other from San Diego, the D.C. region was the only major housing market to realize an increase year-over-year (and San Diego eked out an increase by the absolute slimmest of margins – 0.1%). Not bad when considering other parts of the U.S., where recovery from the housing bust has yet to take hold: Los Angeles – prices down 1.8%; New York City – prices down 3%; Atlanta and Tampa – prices down 7%; Chicago – prices down 7.5%; and Detroit – prices down 8.1% (all comparisons are year-over-year).

Many experts believe that the market bottom won’t be reached until some substantial progress is made in reducing the backlog of distressed and foreclosure properties. In some metropolitan areas, including Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Atlanta, the problem is compounded by the glut of housing due to overbuilding during the housing boom.

But one component of the drop in housing prices is decrease in demand. There are still lax lender practices that flourished during the housing boom and continue today. The government is working to rectify many of these which, in turn, will strengthen trust in the mortgage industry and stimulate consumer confidence. Conversely the mortgage industry and government have dictated more stringent lending standards, to such an extent that the ability to secure a home loan is there pretty much reserved for those with very good to excellent credit. Many Americans just are not in the position to qualify for a loan, and this is stifling a large part of the housing market.

If you are buying or selling in the Washington, D.C. market, this IS the market to be in.

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Potomac Mills Mall Pours Salt on Commuter Parking

One of the more popular commuter lots in Prince William County is about to lose most of its parking spaces.

Potomac Mills mall will be reducing the number of commuter spaces from about 1,000 to 275 on Feb. 14 in order to provide space for commercial development. Potomac Mills – an outlet store shopping center in Woodbridge, VA – has been providing residents one of the area’s larger commuter parking lots. The reduction in parking capacity will have a significant impact on commuters using the bus system, van pooling, and slugging.

Potomac Mills Mall General Manager Mike Sullivan said the county requires Potomac Mills to provide 275 spaces. But for over 20 years the mall has provided four to five times what the county required to give the county time to build lots.

Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart said about two-thirds of the county’s workforce leaves Prince William for work. The county is looking for short-term alternatives to the reduction in commuter parking at Potomac Mills, and in the long-term hopes to expand the Horner Road commuter lot by 800 spaces.

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