Save Money and Energy This WinterThe warm summer days are behind us.  Western North Carolina in the fall is absoutely breath-taking.  Soon, however, the leaves will fall from the trees and the cold reality of winter will set in.  With the price of natural gas and propane going up, it is important to cut costs as well as energy loss wherever you can.  Since not everyone can afford to go completely green (ie solar or wind powered), we have to find other ways to cope.  If you want to save money and energy this winter, I’ve got a few suggestions for you.

Shop around.  There may be more than one company available in your area to provide natural gas, propane or even electricity to your Hendersonville home.  Ask each company for their rates and compare them to what you are paying now.  Also, check with your current provider to see if they have programs available that you may qualify for.  It never hurts to ask and you may be surprised at the savings you can find.

Insulation.  This can be a relatively inexpensive way to keep you warm during the cold winter weather.  Check the insulation in your attic and walls, especially if you are in an older Hendersonville home.  You may need to add or replace what is currently there to get the most bang for your buck.  Look into purchasing insulated curtains for your windows as well.  These can help keep cold air out and warm air in.

Look for Leaks.  Windows and exterior doors are notorious places for cold air to creep in.  Sometimes, simple caulking or weatherstripping can do the trick.  However, if your windows are especially worn and in need of replacement, buy energy-efficient replacements.  You may even be eligible for a tax credit by doing so.  Storm windows and doors are also great forces against the elements.

Additional ways to stay warm during cold Hendersonville winter months are to use extra blankets and wear warm clothing while indoors.  Add an extra blanket at night or put on a wool sweater instead of turning up the thermostat to help keep your costs down.  Follow these tips to save money and energy this winter.

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Active Rain blog here: http://activerain.com/blogsview/2532533/save-money-and-energy-this-winter.

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Loving the Arts in Asheville

September 15, 2011

Loving the arts in AshevilleHere in Western North Carolina, we love nature, we love apples (the North Carolina Apple Festival was just a few days ago, in fact) and we love art of all kinds.  So, I’m happy to let you know that you’ll have the opportunity to start loving the arts in Asheville over the next couple of weekends with the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Heritage Weekend, Art in Autumn street festival, Heritage Craft Weekend at the NC Arboretum and the Pisgah Mountain Craft Show.

Heritage Weekend – September 17-18, 2011
Folk Art Center (Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway), 11am to 5pm.  Cost: FREE.  In addition to the many heritage craft demonstrations, there will be live traditional mountain music and dancing, including clogging.  Local experts will be on hand to teach you how to whittle, create pottery, beekeeping techniques, basket weaving, wood carving, quilting, blacksmithing and much more.  There are plenty of nice grassy areas to have a beautiful family picnic.  You definitely don’t want to miss the World Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle Competition being held on Saturday from 2pm to 3pm.  The Gee Haw Whimmy Diddle is an Appalachian stick toy.  Parking is free, too.  For more information, please call 828-298-7928.

Art in Autumn – September 17, 2011
Main Street, Downtown Weaverville, 10am to 5pm.  Cost: FREE.  For the fifth year in a row, downtown Weaverville plays host to more than 100 local artisans showing off their talents.  But that’s not all!  There will be live bluegrass music (traditional to the great Smoky Mountains) as well as fantastic food to enjoy.  For more info on this event, please email artinautumn@visitweaverville.com.

Heritage Craft Weekend – September 24, 2011
North Carolina Arboretum (100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way), 11am to 4pm.  Arts and crafts created from a wide variety of mediums will be available to view, including those made from local, natural materials as well as recycled materials.  Learn the art of basket making, spinning and weaving as well as enjoy live music.

Pisgah Mountain Craft Show – September 24-25, 2011
Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 410), Pisgah Inn, 10am to 6pm.  Cost: FREE.  Live glassblowing demos, painting and jewelry are just some of what you can expect from 70 of the area’s best and brightest artists and crafts people. 

So, if you enjoy the beautiful Smoky Mountains and all they have to offer, learn more about what inspires local artists and even become one yourself by attending one of these fun arts and crafts events.  Pretty soon, you’ll be loving the arts in Asheville, too!

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my Active Rain blog here: http://activerain.com/blogsview/2507480/loving-the-arts-in-asheville.

City of Hendersonville Shred DayAs you may be aware of, the threat of identity theft can be a big and expensive problem.  If you throw out your old bank and credit card statements without ripping them to unrecognizable shreds, it’s like throwing out an invitation for identity thieves to steal your information.  Make sure your documents are shredded in a secure manner by attending the City of Hendersonville‘s Shred Day on Wednesday, September 21st

Every Hendersonville citizen is allowed to bring up to two boxes (50 lbs total) of old checks, credit card and bank statements, payroll stubs, old tax returns, medical forms and any other financial statements to the Grey Hosiery Mill Building (301 4th Ave E) from 10am to 12pm for shredding.  The American Security Shredding truck will set up shop in the Grey Hosiery Mill Building’s parking lot.  You can simply drop your documents off or stay and watch them get properly and securely shredded.

You need to protect your credit wherever you can, especially if you are considering making a major purchase like a home in Hendersonville or anywhere else.  The best offense on identity theft is a good defense.  To protect yourself from possible identity theft in the future, follow these general rules:

1. Put your trash out on the curb the day of trash pickup.  Once it is on the street, your trash is public domain.  Anyone can come by to go through it. 

2. Always shred financial papers, credit card receipts, cancelled checks, etc, before throwing them away.  A diamond paper shredder will reduce your financial documents into unrecognizable and, more importantly, unusable confetti.  You may be surprised how enterprising and creative identity thieves can be.  It’s not beyond them to take the time to tape torn statements together to get the information they need.  A diamond paper shredder will make this virtually impossible.

3. Pay for all online purchases with a credit card.  Credit card companies are required by federal law to fight any unlawful purchases made with your credit card.  Debit cards and online payment services don’t necessarily offer such protection.

4. Go through your bank and credit card statements thoroughly every month.  If you recognize any purchases on your credit or debit cards that were not made by you (no matter how small the purchase), report it immediately.  Some thieves will make a few small purchases to check that the information they stole is valid before they start to really tear into your credit.

5. Check your credit report from all three agencies: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian).  Legally, you are entitled to one free report from each agency every 12 months.  It’s a good idea to ask for a different credit report every four months so that there isn’t such a big lapse in time between checking.  Not all credit purchases made are reported to all three agencies.  That’s why you need to go through all three.

If you believe that you may have had your credit information hijacked by an identity thief, contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.  It can be a lengthy process to straighten out your credit after someone steals your identity.  So, be patient.

Safely get rid of your old financial documents at the City of Hendersonville‘s Shred Day on Wednesday, September 21, 2011.  And follow the tips above to protect yourself from the prying eyes of identity thieves.  Protecting your credit is especially necessary when you want to buy a Hendersonville home. 

Rich Cooke, your Western North Carolina real estate specialist

Originally posted on my blog here: http://activerain.com/blogsview/2485168/city-of-hendersonville-shred-day.