Remember Sheridan Whiteside?

He’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner” who slipped on the Stanley’s doorstep and eventually stayed about six weeks.

Hopefully, your holiday guests did not wear out the welcome mat and have returned to their principal residences – allowing you to begin the process of getting your home in shape for 2005.

One of the best places to start on your financial housekeeping is on Dr. Jack Guttentag’s Web site, Guttentag, professor emeritus and the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, is known as The Mortgage Professor. His calculators can help to ascertain how long it will take to recover refinance fees and the affect of a lump-sum payment to your principal balance.

From a financial point of view, paying off your home sooner with a higher monthly payment tends to limit other opportunities, especially if the market changes. But if paying off your home loan would make you saner than if you had not done it, then by all means do it. It would not be worth getting a few more percentage points on your money if it were invested elsewhere.

If you are thinking about another refinancing, weigh all costs and rates carefully before deciding. Make sure you understand “no fee” programs and calculate how long it would take you to repay the refinance costs.

The first “in-house” place to start – especially for seniors – is household lights, including those near the entry where Mr. Whiteside’s accident sparked a tumultuous time. Winter’s short, dark days could use an increase in wattage in strategic places.

It’s difficult to perform any spur-of-the-moment inspections without a dependable household flashlight. Are there batteries in yours – or did you borrow them for little Johnny’s Remote Rocket Ship? Remember that batteries drain quickly, even when rarely used.

Insurance companies report that most homeowner claims are not caused by fires or storms, but by neglected maintenance that grows into a larger problem. Here are a few of the easiest things to help you get your home in shape – that do not take a lot of muscle and elbow grease.

  • Burst washing-machine hose – The rubber hoses that come with most washing machines eventually leak, and since the laundry room is usually in a low-traffic area of the house, the water damage can go undetected and be extensive. Recommendation: Replace rubber hoses every three years or replace with metal mesh hoses from any hardware or home store.

  • Electrical-cord fires – Cords under throw rugs, overloaded outlets and baseboard heaters are the most likely sources of electrical fires. Recommendation: Reroute cords around throw rugs and use certified power strips. Don’t place furniture against baseboard heaters.

  • Slow leaks around tub/shower grout and edges – Over time, cracks can develop or grout and caulking can decay, allowing water into the wall or floors. This damage is not usually covered by homeowner’s insurance. Recommendation: Check and maintain seals. Make certain you keep shower doors or curtains securely shut to prevent water from spilling.

  • Garage door opener theft – Garage door openers stolen from cars parked outside the house can give thieves easy access to a house later. Recommendation: Remove the remote garage door openers if the car is not parked in the garage.

This is also a good time to substitute some furnishings with more workable pieces. For example, Lindsay Steenblock, owner-operator of Laguna Beach, Calif.-based County Clare Interiors, suggest removing glass-top tables – especially those with square corners – and replacing them a round-cornered alternative.

“Glass surfaces are often difficult to adjust to,” Steenblock explained, “and rounded corners remove a lot of the danger when it comes suddenly turning around in a room that could have a number of other people.”

The Home Safety Council, a North Wilkesboro, N.C.-based organization focusing on home safety and education, recommends injury-proofing the home to reduce slips, falls and other common injuries that occur to seniors.

“Slips and falls remain the number one cause of unintentional injury and deaths in the home for Americans age 65 and older,” said David Oliver, president and executive director of the Home Safety Council.

Ouch! How old was Sheridan Whiteside anyway?

Tom Kelly’s new book “How a Second Home Can Be Your Best Investment” (McGraw-Hill) was written with John Tuccillo, former chief economist for the National Association of Realtors and is available in local bookstores.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription