Thanksgiving Safety Tips for You and Your Pets

Thanksgiving is one of the most enjoyable family holidays of the year. Sadly, it is also one of the most dangerous for both people and pets.

The chances of house fires and risks to pets’ health are high on Thanksgiving. Unattended cooking can spark a fire while sharing your feast with your pet can be dangerous.

House fire risk

First, let’s look at the risk of house fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there are more home cooking fires reported on Thanksgiving than Christmas or any other holiday. In 2015, fire departments responded to more than 1,700 home cooking fires in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day.

Here are some tips from the NFPA to keep you and your guests safe on Thanksgiving:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay in the home when cooking your turkey and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay 3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, pocketbooks or bags.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure electric cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in room with a lit candle.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.

Pet safety

Now, for our furry friends. The American Veterinary Medical Association warns pet owners to avoid the temptation to feed dogs and cats turkey and desserts.

Animals that consume turkey or turkey skin can develop a life-threatening illness, pancreatitis, due to their inability to properly digest fatty foods. Onions, raisons, and grapes can be poisonous to animals.

Chocolate and the artificial sweetener, xylitol, can be deadly to cats and dogs. Also, keep decorative plants away from your pets as many contain toxins.

Follow these safety tips for a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Home Improvement Investment Returns

Which home improvements yield the greatest return on your investment?

Surprisingly, only home insulation returns more than 100% of your cost. Other improvements return less than your amount spent. Yet, they help attract buyers and get your home sold faster.

Here are some examples of what you can expect to get back on your home improvement project.

Attic Insulation

Project cost, $1,268. Resale value $1,482. Cost recoup is 116.9%.

Entry-Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,335. Resale value $1,217. Cost recoup is 91.1%.

Garage Door Replacement

Project cost, $1,512. Resale value 1,512. Cost recoup is 91.5%.

Major Kitchen Remodel

Project cost, $59,998. Resale value $38,938. Cost recoup is 64.9%.

Minor Kitchen Remodel

Project Cost, $20,122. Resale value $16,716. Cost recoup is 83.1%.

Roof Replacement

Project cost, $20,122. Resale value $14,446. Cost recoup is 71.7%.

Siding Replacement

Project cost, $20,142. Resale value $10,857. Cost recoup is 77%.

Bathroom Remodel

Project cost, $17,908. Resale value $11,769. Cost recoup is 65.7%.

As you can see, upgrading your home adds value, and, if you’re selling it, will draw buyers.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

Protect Your Home from Water Damage

Water damage is one of a homeowner’s greatest worries since it can result in mold and expensive repairs. The following tips can help you prevent potential sources of seepage in your home.

  1. Don’t plant next to your house.

 A flower or shrub border is lovely, and some folks like thorny bushes beneath their windows as a deterrent to break-ins, but watering those plants could damage your foundation. It’s wiser to keep your flower beds a few feet away from the house or make sure they slope away from it.

  1. Gutters and downspouts

Use gutters and downspouts to divert rain runoff away from your foundation. If you notice water pooling near the foundation after a rain, that area needs gutters. Also, make sure you have sufficient gutters for your entire roof. Extend downspouts away from the house and, if possible, discharge underground with a PVC pipe to drain into the street.

  1. Check Your Roof

Check your roof regularly for loose shingles – especially after high wind or rainstorms. Inspect metal flashing for damage and make sure skylights are properly sealed. Check your attic for wet spots or any signs of mold, condensation, damage to insulation, or a rodent or insect infestation that could lead to weak areas and subsequent leaks.

Simple tips like these can create a happier, healthier and more valuable home.

This article provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty.

IRS Scuttles Tax Breaks for Pirate Victims

It’s 1715 in the Caribbean and the Golden Age of Piracy is at its peak. The War of Spanish Succession is over, and thousands of privateers are left without gainful employment. From bases hidden away in the Bahamas, buccaneers like “Calico” Jack Rackham, “Black Sam” Bellamy, and “Black Bart” Roberts gather those sailors under new commands to terrorize the seas. (Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, ties burning fuses into his hair to look more fearsome.) While there are never more than a few thousand pirates active at any given time, their legend will live on for centuries.

What do you call a pirate with two arms, two legs, and two eyes? Rookie!

Historians generally agree that the Golden Age of piracy “walked the plank” by 1730. At that point, European nations could deploy their navies to protect merchants, rather than fight each other. But pirates never fully disappeared. And our federal tax code — which some foes attack as its own form of piracy — may be making recovery even harder for the victims. (We all know auditors wear suits and skirts to the office. But don’t you think at least a few of them would rather raise revenue by donning a pirate sash, grabbing a cutlass, and swinging from the nearest yardarm?)

Does it strike you as odd that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” DVD comes with anti-piracy warnings?

Modern Day Pirates

Recently, the nonprofit group Oceans Beyond Piracy released their 2017 State of Maritime Piracy report. They found 71 pirate attacks in the Caribbean — a staggering 163% increase over 2016. 59% involved robberies on yachts, while the rest involved commercial vessels. There were 40 robberies, 17 failed attacks, 13 armed robberies, and 1 hijacking attempt.

The pirates made off with $692,000 worth of ship stores and equipment and $257,000 worth of personal effects. Sadly, the report doesn’t tell us how much of that loot wound up buried in wooden chests or identified on maps with “X” marking the spot.

Why do pirates read playboy? For the arrrticles!

Piracy and the Federal Tax Code

The tax code has always allowed itemized deductions for personal casualty losses, including shipwrecks. However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 limits those losses to casualties resulting from federally-declared disasters.

The new law doesn’t change the theft-loss rules. But it essentially doubled the standard deductions, which should cut the percentage of taxpayers who itemize from about a third to about a tenth. (Of course, taxpayers who can afford a yacht large enough to attract a pirate’s attention probably aren’t suffering from a shortage of tax breaks!)

How do pirates talk to each other? With an Aye Phone!

Here’s the good news, matey. You don’t have to settle for letting the scallywags at the IRS take more of your doubloons than the law allows. And you don’t need a man-of-war to stop them. You just need a plan!

This article was written by Paul Dion, CPA, of Milbury.


Fourth of July Safety Tips

Fireworks, the beach and family outings are the highlights of the July 4th holiday. While the day is fun-filled, it also has its share of dangers. Here are some tips from the National Safety Council to keep your Fourth of July safe.


Sparklers, firecrackers, Roman candles, cherry bombs and bottle rockets are illegal in many states, including Massachusetts. And, for good reason. The National Safety Council reports that two years ago, four people were killed and more than 11,000 injuries occurred due to amateurs using fireworks.

Also, there are more reported fires on July 4 than any other day of the year. Two of every five reported fires are due to fireworks. According to the National Fire Association, an average of 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires are attributed every year to fireworks.

Check out the dangers of these popular Fourth of July fireworks:

Sparklers – There burn at nearly 2,000 degrees, enough to melt many metals. Many children have received severe burns from what most people believe are an innocuous Fourth of July celebration staple.

Bottle Rockets – These are small rockets, attached to a stick, lit by a fuse and fired from a rocket. Children have received serious eye, head and chest injuries from these devices.

Firecrackers – Some are linked together to explode as a series. Users have sustained burns and other injuries.

M-80s (Cherry Bomb) – The explosion from these M-Class devices can rattle windows for blocks and have caused serious injuries from premature detonation.

Roman Candles – Tubes eject multiple exploding shells. They have known to jam and have caused lost fingers and serious burns.

Leave fireworks to the professionals. Go to a local fireworks show where they can be enjoyed in a safe environment.

On the Road

July 4th is one of the busiest days on the roads. It is also one of the most dangerous. The National Safety Council is estimating that more than 160 deaths and well over 18,000 injuries will occur.

If you’re hitting road:

  • Drive defensively
  • Avoid distractions
  • Be patient
  • Buckle up
  • Stay engaged with your teen drivers
  • Be well rested to avoid fatigue
  • Have a designated, sober driver

Keep Safe

Following these tips will keep you and your family safe on the Fourth of July. Enjoy! And, Happy Birthday, America!

Seven Signs Your Contractor May be Shady

Building a home or renovating your existing pad is no simple task. From budgeting to design and choosing the right contractor, there’s a myriad of details you’ll need to juggle. But when it comes to choosing the right contractor for the job, it’s important to be mindful that not every contractor is reputable. Here are seven ways you can spot a shady one.

  1. They pressure you. Whether they’re pushy with contracts or material, if they’re using pressure to sway you, be cautious.
  2. They only accept cash. This is a huge red flag. Reputable contractors will take checks and potentially even credit cards for their payments.
  3. They want it all up front. Most remodelers typically require a down payment of 25-50 percent of the contract price for small jobs and 10-33 percent for large jobs. If they demand full payment up front, be wary: they may never finish the job.
  4. They have no references. No matter what, never hire a contractor without verifying at least three separate references.
  5. They suggest a lender. If the contractor suggests that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, you could be the target of a home improvement loan scam.
  6. The contractor fails to listen. A contractor should want to meet your specific needs. If they seem unable or unwilling to listen to your wants, if they talk over you or in any way seem disrespectful, they may be unreputable at worst, or at best, difficult to work with.
  7. No right of rescission. A solid contractor will let you know that you have the right to cancel your contract within three days of signing; this “right of rescission” is required by law and allows you to change your mind without penalty if the contract was provided at a place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premise.

This article was provided by Beth Davis of Keller Williams Realty