20 Years of Greeting

Today is the 20th anniversary of Welcome Home’s first in-home visit. This is absolutely astounding to me. Other than being a wife and mother, and these are commitments that are rather difficult to get out of, I’ve never done anything this long. As of today, I have welcomed 5,949 new residents to Batavia and North Aurora.

I started Welcome Home with two goals in mind.  The first goal is to help the wonderful businesses I represent grow. I am discriminating.  I only work with people I know, like, and trust, and therefore can introduce them to newcomers with confidence. My second goal is to introduce newcomers to reputable businesses and connect them to this great area that is their new home.

But still…20 years! How can I do it? Because every single day is different. I never know who is behind the next door.

I’ve met doctors, nurses, ministers, teachers, and authors. I’ve met factory workers and office workers. I’ve met pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers. I’ve met policemen, firefighters, 911 dispatchers, and FBI agents. The list is ongoing. They all have a story to share and I love hearing them.

The top reasons for moving here are for the schools, to be closer to either work or family, more house for the money, and the reason that always makes me laugh – lower taxes. Everything is relative.

I am so appreciative of all the businesses I represent. Thank you for believing in what I do and sharing my vision. There are six businesses that have been with me since day one: Brian Bicknell, DDS, Deluxe Cleaners, Foltos Tonsorial Parlor, Fox Valley Christian Church, Geneva Eye Clinic and John Koechley, DDS.  Over the next several days I’m going to introduce these six , who understand the importance of making people feel welcome, to you.

My most sincere thanks to all 5,949 of you who welcomed me into your homes. I hope I made your transition a little easier and was able to share my love of Batavia and North Aurora with you.

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The Air You Breathe

Charlotte Meier of HomeSafetyHub.org has written an excellent article with suggestions on how to maintain good air quality in your home. Whether your house is new construction or older, the potential problems are real. Here are five tips to help identify and correct risks that could cause long-term respiratory illness.

The Air You Breathe: Tips for Maintaining Safe Indoor Air Quality


It’s ironic that you can make it though cold and flu season without getting either, but still feel sick because of your living environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans are far more exposed to air pollution indoors than outdoors. That’s because there are many factors – many of them easily overlooked – that negatively impact indoor air quality, from mold, mildew and volatile organic compounds to poor HVAC maintenance. Many Americans risk long-term respiratory problems by failing to identify and act on risks that undermine the breathing air they take for granted every day.
As a new homeowner, it’s particularly important to do your research before you move in or shortly afterward. Whether you’re purchasing a brand new home or an older one, there are five main areas of concern.


HVAC
Forms of microbial growth can be present in many parts of your house, from the basement to the upstairs shower. However, the worst source of danger may be your HVAC system. If, like many Americans, your air conditioning runs almost non-stop from May to September, it leaves considerable water residue in your air ducts and returns, which become fertile breeding space for bacteria and molds. When the blower comes on, those microscopic pests are distributed throughout the house, causing headaches, wheezing and coughing and exacerbating asthma and allergies.

For new homes: Have your air ducts cleaned professionally every year to minimize the risk to your indoor air, and your heating mechanism should be serviced regularly as well. Don’t forget to have your air conditioner’s drain line serviced.

For older homes: You can ask previous owners when the last time these tasks were completed, but you should still schedule an air duct and drain line inspection. If they need cleaning, schedule it before you move.

Bathroom
Have you ever belonged to a health club or gym and wondered how they stayed open with such filthy bathroom facilities, where mold and mildew could flourish? The same concept applies in your home bathroom; if mold is allowed to grow in the shower and/or bathtub, you and your family are at risk for infection and a variety of allergic reactions.
You can counteract the problem by regularly laundering your bath mat, hand towels and bath towels, sodden places where mites, bacteria and mold can grow. Try drying off in the tub or shower so you don’t drip quite as much on the bath mat. Also avoid using environmentally-harmful cleaning substances that contain bleach, instead using natural substances like baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice-and-water solutions.
For new homes: Minimize humidity by running your bathroom fan during and after you bathe. You should also squeegee your shower walls to reduce moisture by as much as 75 percent.

For older homes: In addition to the tactics above, you should fix all leaks before you move in, and ensure the existing fan works well for the room size. Replace or repair missing or broken seals wherever necessary.

Leaky pipes
Leaks can happen just about anywhere – under your sinks, inside your bathroom walls, or in subflooring. Undetected, leaks can lead to the spread of mold, which poses a real threat to people with breathing problems, such as asthma and respiratory allergies. Watch your walls and floors for water spots and check any exposed pipes for leaks. Be sure to dry and clean any leak spots with an eco-friendly solution containing vinegar, lemon juice and water.
For new and older homes: Your pre-purchase inspection should reveal any existing leaks or plumbing problems. Otherwise, consider reducing water pressure and using a water softener to lessen the strain on your pipes and prevent leaks.


Kitchen
You can be diligent about keeping the inside of your fridge clean and free of rotting fruit and vegetables, but still face an ongoing threat because of what happens on the outside of your refrigerator. Frost-inhibiting fridges melt frost build-up every few hours using an electric coil apparatus. The water melt runs off into a pan where it’s evaporated by warm air that’s automatically blown out by the refrigerator. In the process, any dust or mold build-up in your pan is spread to other parts of your home.
For new and older homes: The best solution is to clean the coils behind your fridge and the pan underneath on a regular basis, but take care to turn off and unplug the unit before cleaning.
Asthma
Airborne pollutants constitute a dire threat to children with asthma, so it’s important to constantly clean and check your HVAC filter and prevent the build up of mold and bacteria and the accumulation of pet dander. An air purifier that uses a HEPA filter can be effective at controlling the spread of indoor air pollutants. Avoid using spray aerosols or plug-in air fresheners, many of which contain potentially-harmful compounds.
For new and older homes: Have the air quality in your home tested prior to move-in day. If you’re in an area of the country where industrial mining or other commercial industrial activity takes place, you should also check for contaminants like mercury, radon, and lead.
Poor indoor air quality is a serious problem in a great many American homes. A dangerous assumption that the usual methods we use to clean our homes will take care of any threats to our breathing air contributes to the problem. Knowing where mold and bacteria can build up is the first step in creating a home that’s safe for the entire family.

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Part 2 – Before You Go Outside Organize Inside

Last week I posted suggestions from Carolyn Burnham, owner of Healthy Home & Business LLC, for organizing a new (or perhaps not so new) home. Carolyn helps people take control of their environment through her services as a professional organizer. She works in the western suburbs of Chicago, and can be reached at 630-441-3403 or www.healthyhomeandbusiness.com.

In the previous blog Carolyn discussed buying furniture, shelving and recycling things you don’t need in your new home. Here are some more suggestions:

Print

Invest in a Closet System If your closets only came equipped with only a closet bar and a shelf it might be a good idea to invest in more appropriate storage for your clothing.  Like before, don’t rush into it.  Go through a season or two and see how you are using your closet and make efforts to purge items you longer wear.  Measure the amount of hanging space you need, count up the shoes you need to store, add up the amount items you need to fit on shelves and baskets before you get started.

  • ClosetMaid sells nice DIY closet systems at both Lowes and Home Depot.
  • Local company ClosetWorks and Closets by Design will come into your home and design a system for you.
  • Make an appointment at the Container Store and they will design an elfa closet for you.  Elfa usually goes on sale in January and August.

Setup a Command Center:  This is the area where you enter the home where the mail and your car keys naturally land.  Include in this area a pocket or slot for mail for each member of the family, a calendar for family events, and a corkboard or magnetic dry erase board place to put notes to your family and enough surface area to sort the mail.  Fill a small desk organizer with some basic office supplies such as pens, paper, sticky notes, envelopes, stamps, scissors and tape. If you have school-aged children consider adding a place to put school related paperwork.  Locate a recycle bin or garbage can nearby for quick sorting out of the mail you don’t need to keep each day.  Good Housekeeping has some nice pictures of ideas for Command Centers.

Get your Emergency Information together and post it in your Command Center in your home.  This should include contact information for doctors, dentist, police, fire, alarm company, gas and electric companies, schools, 24 hours clinics or hospital, poison control, neighbors and friends.  If you have kids at home include the parents’ cell phone and work numbers on the list.  What is your family emergency plan in case of a fire or other event.  Write it down here.

Setup a filing system for your new home:  In a box or in your existing filing system create files for home related items.  This would include but not limited to receipts and warranty information, repair and home maintenance files, home improvement projects and idea files.

Use Evernote or Pinterest to help keep track of ideas for your new house.  Since many people do most of their research online both of these are great applications that can be used on mobile devices and your computer to keep track of all the projects that you want to do in your new home.  Out shopping? You can take a picture of furniture pieces and can save to your Evernote “Living Room Decorating” notebook and look at them when you get home.

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Before You Go Outside Organize Inside

Hooray – it’s supposed to get downright balmy in northern Illinois during the next couple of days.  We are longing to get outside to play and begin working in our yards. Before winter’s grip is totally broken it may be a good time for people who have moved recently (or those of us who have allowed things to slip) to get organized inside. Carolyn Burnham, a professional organizer, and owner of Healthy Home & Business LLC has some useful advise for all of us. (more…)

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Moving & Tax Deductions

time-481450_1280It’s tax time, and if you moved in 2014 for work purposes, you may be eligible to deduct moving expenses on your federal tax return. Before you read these guidelines be aware I am not an accountant. The purpose of this blog is to help people who have moved recently be mindful of deductions that may be available to them.
To qualify for moving expense deductions, you must meet three requirements:
1. You must move close to the start date of your job. Generally, within one year of reporting to work at a new location is acceptable.
2. You must pass the distance test.
a. Your new job must be at least 50 miles further from your old home than your old job location was.
i. For example, if you drove 8 miles to work, your new job has to be at least 58 miles from your old home to pass the test.
3. You must pass the time test.
a. If you are an employee you must work full-time at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months immediately following your relocation.
b. If you are self-employed, you must work full-time at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months, and a total of at least 78 weeks during the first 24 months after your arrival.
c. If your tax return is due before you’ve met this requirement you may still take the allowable deductions if you expect to meet the requirement.
d. Some of the exceptions to this requirement are involuntary separation, death or disability.
Now that you’ve met the three requirements, you may deduct the cost of packing and transporting your household and personal goods.
If you drove your car, and saved all receipts for gas and oil, you may deduct that amount. Otherwise you can take the standard deduction of 23.5 cents per mile driven. Be sure to include tolls and parking fees.
You may deduct the cost of storing goods within any 30 consecutive days after moving out of your old home and before moving into the new one.
A few more deductions – lodging (meals cannot be included), any cost associated with connecting and disconnecting utilities, shipping your car, and shipping pets.
I am not an accountant and strongly suggest you do further research if you are filing your tax return yourself. If you need help, contact an accountant. An accounting firm Welcome Home works with is:
Ciaccio Accounting
232 S. Batavia Ave., Suite B
Batavia, IL 60510
630-240-6826
Steve.CiaccioAccounting.com (more…)

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Unexpected Expenses

one-163442_1280I just heard a commercial that talked about the unintended consequences of moving. It was for a window treatment company, and they used the example of waking up at the crack of dawn the first morning in your new home, and realizing you need curtains.
Unintended consequences isn’t a term I would use. I think I would call them unexpected expenses. Invariably, with every move, there will be unexpected expenses.
My husband and I have moved often. He was looking out the front door of one of our new homes and commented that he had never noticed that little mound in the front yard before. He decided to check it out. As soon as he stepped on it, he was standing in water up to his ankles. The water main had broken. Talk about an unexpected expense!
The purpose of greeting services, like Welcome Home, is to help recent movers navigate through the unexpected expenses. We can recommend people to help with broken pipes, furnaces, cars, bones, teeth, and eyeglasses. We can recommend people to help with the things you thought you could live with, but now that you’re in the house, have decided otherwise. Your furniture looks shabby in your new house; that paint color has to go; you do need window treatments and to remodel. We can help with finding hair dressers, dry cleaners, dance classes and dog groomers.
Greeting services are here to help with the unexpected expenses of moving and to help you feel at home as quickly as possible.

 

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Reflections on 15 Years of Greeting

file5361246659300Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Welcome Home’s first in-home visit. During that time 4,543 new households and businesses have been welcomed to Batavia & North Aurora.

Things have changed a lot in fifteen years, and sometimes I wonder if greeting services are relevant in today’s society. Our lifestyles have become very hectic and it is more difficult to find people in their homes. Thanks to the internet, newcomers can find almost any information they need at their fingertips.

Is what I do relevant to them? Is it worth my time to seek out and meet with newcomers?

I have met some fascinating people and animals – a Medieval Times knight and a bomb sniffing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms dog come to mind. I’ve met nurses, teachers, psychologists, 911 dispatchers, chiefs, waitresses, authors, office and factory workers, firefighters, police officers, moms, dads and people with big dreams.

I’ve heard horror stories about home sales and closings gone wrong, and amazing stories of how everything aligned so perfectly it was clear to me God wanted these people to move here for some reason.

I’ve laughed and cried with newcomers. Fortunately there have been many more joyful moments than tearful ones.

Do I love what I do? Absolutely! Do the newcomers love what I do? Absolutely! I am thanked over and over again for delivering gifts and information from the wonderful businesses that sponsor Welcome Home. People are overwhelmed by the generosity of the business community.

We may live in a world of busyness and perhaps we’re becoming more isolated, but as long as we need human interaction there is nothing that will ever replace the one-on-one personal touch of feeling welcomed to the community.

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15th Anniversary Press Release

Welcome Service Reflects on Housing Market over the Past 15 Years
Welcome Home Batavia and North Aurora Celebrates its Anniversary in March


Batavia, IL – March 11, 2014
– With 15 years of experience personally greeting newcomers, Jennifer Zack has not only met a lot of people, she has firsthand knowledge of trends in the local housing market.
 
As president of Welcome Home Batavia and North Aurora, Zack says she has personally presented welcome packages in 4,546 homes since beginning her business in March 1999. Calling herself a “moving van chaser,” Zack acknowledges that there have been fewer vans to chase in recent years, but has seen an increase in homes changing hands.
 
“There are very few company transfers now,” reports Zack. “People moving from out of state are usually here because they took a new job.”
 
Other reflections about the local housing market:
·         People moving to Batavia and North Aurora from Chicago and suburbs to the east generally come for the lower cost of housing and/or the school districts.
·         During the housing boom there were more single women buying houses than now.
·         Older couples who retired to warmer climates many times move back to be closer to family.
 
Known by many as the “Welcome Lady,” Zack’s business has changed over time. She originally worked for Welcome Wagon beginning in 1996. When that business switched their business focus to direct mail several years later, Zack decided it left a large void in the community, and she chose to fill it.
 
Zack credits her involvement with Welcome Services International with changes in her own business. She has added a business to new business greeting service and for a time, she offered a “Welcome Home Baby” service. Zack served as the president and vice president of Welcome Services International and currently serves on the board as a member at large.

She acknowledges that many people can, and do, research their new hometown online. She, too, has grown her presence online with a website, welcomehomebatavia.com and a Facebook page, facebook.com/WelcomeHomeBatavia. People can request a visit at either of these sites.

 
During a visit, she presents small gifts and coupons from the 50 -60 businesses who advertise through her service. Additionally, she always includes a civic packet, which is delivered at no cost to the information supplier. Typically, it includes maps, a letter from the mayor, library information, volunteer opportunities and information about local clubs.

“I can answer many questions that they would normally need to research to find the answer,” says Zack. “It might be about garbage pickup, voter registration, school registration, driver’s license information and more.”
 
Generally, the recipient is pleased with the visit, acknowledging that the face-to-face interaction from Welcome Home may be unusual in the digital age, but serves as a good introduction to their community. Zack says that several people who also own their own businesses enjoyed the welcome visit so much that they signed up for her service immediately. 
 
For new Batavia and North Aurora residents looking for a smile and a bag full of information and gifts, contact Jennifer Zack of Welcome Home Batavia and North Aurora at 630-229-2001. Or email her at jzack@welcomehomebatavia.com. Businesses that would like to see their information walked through the door of a receptive newcomer are also welcome to contact Jennifer Zack.

About Welcome Home Batavia and North Aurora:
Welcome Home Batavia and North Aurora has been connecting newcomers to their new community and its businesses since March 1999. A business-to-business greeting service began in 2013. For more information, visit www.welcomehomebatavia.com. Contact Jennifer Zack at 630-229-2001 or email her at jzack@welcomehomebatavia.com,

 

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The Giving Season

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It’s The Giving Season

 

15th Anniversary Special

Welcome Home celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and we would like you to join us.

Our gift to you is to help bring new customers to your business.
We would like to give you, as a Welcome Home sponsor, a fantastic offer: try Welcome Home for 4 months and receive a  5th month of welcome visits FREE!

We offer several different programs to market to both homeowners and businesses. There is sure to be one that meets your needs.

One Free Month of Welcome Visits!
This offer is good through February 2014. Summer is when people move; sign up now to get the biggest bang for your buck.

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