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The holiday season is a time for celebration and giving gifts to family and friends, but it is also a time when safety can sometimes take a back seat due to the rush and excitement of the season. People become careless and vulnerable to theft and holiday scams.

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® shares the following information to keep you, your family and your home safe and secure during the holiday season:

  • Keep the outside of your home well-lit. When you leave your home, place your inside lights on timers to make it appear occupied.
  • Make sure you always lock the front door. Also, be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts.
  • When putting up decorations make sure you use a sturdy ladder or step stool. Do not stand on a chair or other furniture.
  • Outdoor holiday lights add to the season’s festivities. Use lights that are certified for outdoor use and in good condition.
  • Do not overload wall outlets and extension cords when using outdoor or indoor lights.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, cut two inches off the trunk and mount the tree on a sturdy stand. Keep the tree well-supplied with water and away from candles or a fireplace. If you use an artificial tree, choose one that is labeled as fire resistant.
  • Never leave burning candles unattended or sleep in a room with a lit candle. Make sure candles are on stable surfaces.
  • If you plan on using the fireplace, make sure it is clean. The chimney and fireplace should be checked at least once a year.
  • Don’t place gifts under the Christmas tree where burglars can see them. Place a blanket over the presents, so they are not in full view of a window.
  • Poinsettias, holly berries and mistletoe spruce up your home during the holiday season, but remember these plants are toxic. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • After the holidays, do not advertise your gifts by leaving the boxes at the curb for garbage collection. Take the big boxes to the recycling center.
  • Many people are in a giving mood during the holidays and will donate money to charities. Do not become a victim of holiday charity scams. Do not give your personal information to strangers.
  • When shopping at malls, park in a well-lit area. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave packages visible in your car.
  • If you plan on traveling during the holidays, do not post your travel plans online. Stop your mail delivery, or have a friend or trusted neighbor pick up your mail daily and check on your house, as well.

Items that can keep your friends and family safe year-round make great gifts. Some holiday gift suggestions include smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, escape ladders, first aid kits, earthquake kit, automobile safety kit, flashlights and portable radios.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will no longer insure mortgages on homes that carry Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans.

The PACE program allows homeowners to borrow money to finance energy upgrades for their home. The loan is then repaid as a surcharge on the property tax. The loan travels with the house and is transferred to the buyer upon purchase.

Though PACE loans are a way to finance important energy upgrades, such as double-pane windows, insulation, solar panels, etc., they have some very real risks. The PACE loan takes primary position to the mortgage. If a homeowner takes out a PACE loan without finding out whether their mortgage holder allows them to do so, they could be in automatic default of their mortgage. They may also have difficulty refinancing or selling their home if the new mortgage holder does not allow for PACE loans. Under these situations, they would need to pay off the loan in full before proceeding.

Last year, HUD announced that the FHA would begin insuring mortgages that carry liens created by the PACE program. The decision was reversed last week because the FHA has become concerned about the impact of the PACE liens and potential losses to the FHA’s flagship fund, the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, due to the priority lien status given to these assessments in case of default and the lack of consumer protections associated with the origination of the PACE assessment.

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