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The Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate

7 Tips For Dealing With Mice

Posted by on 3:19 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 7 Tips For Dealing With Mice

While some mice are kind of cute, few people want them in their homes. Mice can quickly breed and infest your home, becoming a big problem in a short time. In fact, a single female mouse can have as many as 150 babies in a year. The key to handling a potential mice situation is to prevent them from getting inside in the first place, as well as knowing how to deal with them once they’re inside. Here are seven great tips for dealing with mice: Seal Off Your Home If you don’t want mice, you need to seal off their possible entrances. Make sure your window and door screens don’t have tears and replace them as needed. Also check for gaps underneath doors and old, worn-out weather stripping around doors and window frames. If you have kids, teach them to shut the door behind them immediately when they come inside instead of leaving it open. Don’t forget to walk around the perimeter of your home looking for gaps or holes in the foundation that may need to be filled in. Take Away Their Food Sources If you can identify potential mice food sources in your home and take them away, you will remove most of their motivation for coming inside. Common food sources for mice include cat and dog food that are left out all day instead of just at meal times, and boxes of pasta, cereal, etc. that mice can get into. Investing in tightly sealing canisters for these items will go a long way toward a mice-free home. In addition, make sure you have a trash can with a solid, well-fitted lid instead of one that is open. Take out the trash frequently instead of letting it pile up. Declutter Your Home Mice see clutter as attractive places to make dens, sleep, hide out of sight, or even breed. This means the less clutter you have the less appealing your house will be to mice. Declutter on a regular basis and store your excess belongings in carefully sealed storage bins. Keep Things Spic and Span The cleaner your house is, the less crumbs and other potential food there will be for mice. In particular, wipe down counters after meals, do dishes right away instead of letting them stack up, and keep your floors swept and mopped consistently. Consider Getting a Cat Obviously, mice prevention shouldn’t be the only reason you adopt a cat, but if you are already considering doing so it can certainly be added to the list of benefits. Cats are excellent mice hunters, both inside and out. Just be prepared to have to deal with the dead carcasses that your cats bring to you as trophies. Plant Mice Deterrents Mice happen to naturally hate mint, which is something you can use to your advantage. Planting mint around the entrances to your home, or even keeping some mint plants inside can help discourage mice from hanging around. As an added bonus, your new mint plants will smell fantastic and be great to use in cooking. Hire Professionals If you already have mice inside, it’s time to call in pros, such as Cavanaugh’s Professional Termite & Pest Services. Setting traps yourself can be inefficient and lead to safety issues, especially if you have small children...

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4 New Home Buying Mistakes To Watch Out For

Posted by on 7:57 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 4 New Home Buying Mistakes To Watch Out For

Perhaps the only thing more exciting than buying a home that’s new to you is buying a home that’s new to everyone. A brand-new home is a blank slate, inviting you to make it your own — but it’s also a huge investment that could go drastically wrong if you let it. Here are four surprisingly common mistakes to avoid when shopping for a new home. 1. Not Working With a Realty Service If you’re staring at new home sales listings with the intention of doing your own homework, negotiations and closing, you’re making one of the worst mistakes any new home buyer can make. Realty services not only make the entire process infinitely easier for buyers, but they also help the buyers sidestep expensive errors all along the way. Real estate services make such important contributions as: Helping you prepare a complete, sensible list of “must-haves” Educating you on property values and new home sales prices in various neighborhoods Helping you choose a home in a good school zone Warning you about potential pitfalls and things to watch out for while shopping Negotiating with an air of knowledge and experience to help you get the most home for your money 2. Not Getting Pre-Approved Becoming enamored with the new home of your dreams is a heady experience, but it might buy you nothing but disappointment in the long run. It’s one thing to know exactly what kind of home you want, and quite another to know exactly how much home you can comfortably afford. New home sales are major purchases that typically impact their owners’ finances for decades. Buying beyond your comfortable means could make your life miserable as you struggle to scrape the mortgage payments together. Additionally, there’s no point in falling in love with a home that’s completely out of your reach. Getting pre-approved for a loan at your financial institution is a must if you want to avoid this kind of heartbreak. While the amount is hardly set in stone, it at least gives you an idea of which new home sales are likely to suit your budget. Realty services use these numbers to narrow down the list of properties for their clients to investigate, saving time, money and effort. 3. Not Hiring an Inspector Too many buyers of new homes assume that “new” automatically means “flawless.” But structural, electrical, plumbing and other problems don’t always take years to develop; in many cases they’re present in the home right from the beginning. You can’t know for sure what state your prospective dwelling is in unless you hire a home inspector to give it a thorough once-over. If you fail to take this critical step, you could easily find yourself living in a gorgeous money pit. If your home inspector comes up with more than a handful of issues that require correction, you need to compile these points onto something called a punch list. A punch list is a “to do” list that your contractor needs to honor before he’s entitled to final payment for his work. This condition should be written into the contract drawn up between yourself and the contractor. 4. Underestimating the Responsibilities of Home Ownership If you’re buying your first home after years of living in apartments, you may be so focused...

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Selling Your House? 2 Ways To Boost The Sales Price

Posted by on 12:46 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When you decide to sell your house, you might be tempted to list it as quickly as possible. After all, the longer it sits on the market, the more people might come across your listing, right? Unfortunately, skipping a few important steps might damage the final sales price of your property—which could put you in a bind when it comes to paying for a new place. Fortunately, you might be able to boost the sales price of your home by doing these two simple things: 1: Hire a Professional Photographer These days, potential buyers have access to thousands of online real estate listings from the comfort of their own homes. While they lounge in their bathrobes on a Sunday morning, they can glance through photos of your place and then compare it to the house down the street. Unfortunately, if the photos of your house don’t look pristine, they might not make your place stand out in a competitive market. Here are a few reasons you should always hire a professional photographer: Wide Angle Lenses: Is that cramped living room killing your listing? A professional photographer might be able to use a wide-angle lens to shoot the space, making the entire area feel open and airy.  Better Lighting: Because photographers typically take light readings of the space before they start taking pictures, your house will look lighter and brighter in those photos—giving your place a warm feeling. In addition to giving buyers a positive impression of your home, professional photography can drive up the sales price. In fact, one study found that homes listed between $200,000 and $1,000,000 sold for between $3,400 and $11,200 more than their list price—when they were photographed with a professional camera. If you want to improve your chances of selling your home quickly for a great price, find a professional photographer in your area that specializes in real estate. 2: Stage Your Place Wouldn’t it be a shame if a buyer were to fall in love with your online listing, only to be disappointed when they tour your home in real life? When buyers walk through a new home, they tend to imagine themselves in the space, which is why setting the stage with beautiful home furnishings and neutral décor is so important. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on brand new furniture to enjoy the benefits of a better-looking place. By hiring a professional home staging company, you can sit back and relax while someone else beautifies your entire house. Although home staging might seem expensive, typically costing between $200 and $5,000, you might be able to enjoy these benefits by calling in a team of decorating experts: Less Time On the Market: Do you need to sell your place in a hurry? If you do, home staging is money well spent. On average, staged homes spend 73% less time on the market. To put that number into perspective, if your home would have sat untouched for 6 months without home staging, sprucing the place up might make your home sell in a little over a month and a half. More Money In Your Pocket: In addition to being able to unload your old place and move on with your life, staging can also put more money in your pocket....

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Property Management Tips – How To Handle Security Deposits

Posted by on 12:21 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

If you have recently been appointed the property manager for an apartment building, then it is your job to take care of the day to day operations within the complex. You also must make sure that tenant needs are taken care of. One of your most important jobs will revolve around money handling. You will need to collect rent monthly, and you also will need to collect security deposits when the initial rental agreement is signed. Security deposits must be handled properly, so read through the tips below to figure out exactly what you need to do. Ask For the Right Amount A security deposit is a set amount of money that you collect from tenants before they rent an apartment. This deposit protects the property owner in case damage occurs inside the apartment. The security deposit can also weed out individuals who may not be able to pay rent on time. The money also can be used towards the last month of rent if a tenant decides to break their lease.  In some states, you can ask for the equivalent of one, two, or even three months of rent as a security deposit. It is illegal to ask for excessive amounts of money though. Also, when you set the security deposit amount, you need to ask for the same type of deposit from all tenants. You cannot ask for extra fees if you feel that a renter is a financial risk. This is considered discrimination and it is a much better option to consider whether a tenant is a risk or not before an apartment is offered.   Generally, a full month of rent is sufficient enough to protect the property owner. You do have options though, so consider them and set the security deposit amount before any rental agreements are signed. Put the Deposit in the Bank Once you receive security deposits from new tenants, you may consider investing this money in the apartment building. Deposits generally do not need to be returned to individuals for 12 or more months, and this allows you to improve the facility in the meantime. Also, apartment buildings generate revenue consistently, and the property owner will have the funds to repay the deposit on time. Unfortunately, security deposits are not considered revenue. The deposit is a set amount of money that you hold on to for a period of time. In fact, many area laws state that this money needs to be placed in a separate bank account. Interest calculated on the account must be paid to the tenant once a year. You should place deposits in separate accounts, regardless of state laws. Also, provide dated receipts and give the tenant the location and name of the bank where the money has been deposited. This will protect you from any disputes that occur down the road. Provide Detailed Records As a property manager, you will likely need to keep a security deposit on occasion to make repairs to apartments after a tenant moves out. Unfortunately, disputes over security deposits are handled quite regularly by small claims courts. Not only is this a nuisance, but a legal case may make you look bad in the eyes of the property owner. To make sure that disputes are minimized, create a video of the apartment before the tenant...

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Growing Pest-Free Cabbage Naturally: Effective Cabbage Looper Control

Posted by on 2:21 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

If you’ve given up growing cabbage in your garden because it always gets infested with cabbage loopers (Trichoplusia ni), you aren’t alone. Many home gardeners get discouraged and think their only solution to combat these garden pests is to stop growing cabbage. There are several natural options for keeping these pests from devouring your plants.  Cabbage Looper Life Cycle Understanding the life cycle of the cabbage looper helps you break the breeding cycle and banish them from your garden. The first sign that they have invaded your area is generally the appearance of little white moths that flutter in your garden. These are the adults looking for host plants to lay their eggs. They typically appear in early to mid-summer, depending on your location. Once the adults find a suitable host, like your cabbage plants, they lay green, dome-shaped eggs on the foliage of your cabbage. These tiny eggs hatch within 3 to 4 days, and then emerge as larvae. The larvae looks like a tiny, green inchworm with a white stripe down the sides of the body. These larvae begin feeding by boring into the head of your cabbage, where they spend the next two to three weeks feeding. They eventually emerge and pupate in a webbed cocoon on the underside of leaves. New adults emerge in about 10 days and the cycle begins all over again.  Physical Barriers Floating row cover suspended over your cabbage plants creates a physical barrier that prevents the adults from laying new eggs on your cabbage plants, but to be effective it must be installed before the first eggs are laid. This spun polyester fabric allows light and water to reach your plants, while preventing the cabbage looper moth from getting close enough to do any damage. Because cabbage do not rely on flying insects for pollination, they will thrive and grow to maturity under the cover of a floating row cover. However, the row cover must be complete with no open spaces for the moth to access your plants. There are three easy ways to do that. Build a box frame with lightweight wood that fits over your garden row and cover it with row cover. Set it over the plants. Place a vegetable cage over the cabbage plant and cover it with row cover. This works well if you’re growing just a few plants. Make a hooped row cover and cover it with floating row cover. Set it over the row before the first cabbage worm moths appear. Companion Plants Many gardeners take advantage of companion planting to repel garden pests, including cabbage loopers. This technique involves interplanting your cabbage with plants known to repel insects or planting a row of companion plants beside your cabbage. Although it is not known how these plants work, many believe the scent of the companion plants confuses the insect pests by masking the scent of your cabbage. Marigolds: These pungent little flowers are thought to repel a host of harmful insects in the garden. According to Hobby Farms, this includes the cabbage looper. Thyme: This herb serves double-duty in the cabbage patch, as it repels the cabbage looper and provides you with a versatile herb for cooking. For a change of pace, try lemon thyme and use it to season your coleslaw, too....

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3 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Short Sale Home

Posted by on 10:26 am in Uncategorized | 0 comments

When you’re searching for a home on a budget, a short sale can look like a dream come true. In a short sale, the seller is selling the home for less than what’s owed on their mortgage, usually because they are looking at a foreclosure if they don’t. The seller doesn’t make any money on the deal, and the bank has to accept less money than they were originally owed by the seller, so no one is profiting on the deal except for you, because you’re getting a home for far less than what it’s really worth. Sound too good to be true? That’s because a short sale is not without its drawbacks. Take a look at a few things that you need to be aware of before you agree to buy a short sale home. It Can Be Tough to Tell Exactly What You’re Getting In many states, banks are not required to provide the disclosure statements that most sellers are required to pay. That means that if the roof has been leaking for five years, the bank isn’t going to let you know about it. The seller will still be required to fill out a disclosure form, but remember that the seller is motivated to sell, avoid the hit to their credit that would come from a foreclosure, and start repairing their credit. All of that may result in a seller that is less than forthcoming about the problems that the house may have. The answer lies in getting a thorough inspection before you buy. An inspection should be a part of every home buying process, but it’s especially important for a short sale. Don’t simply rely on reading an inspector’s report for this – go along on the day of the inspection and ask lots of questions. Ask the inspector to give you a ballpark estimate of what any repairs will cost, or research the needed repairs yourself before you agree to buy. Underestimating the cost of repairs and upgrades can leave you holding a rather large bill when it’s too late to negotiate on the price of the house. Short Sales Don’t Happen Quickly Keep in mind that the “short” in short sale refers to money, not time. If you need to close quickly, you may be better off looking for a home that’s not in short sale. Not only do short sales not happen any faster than a regular sale, they may actually take a lot longer. There are a few reasons why short sales are slow. For one thing, there is a lot of back and forth between the seller and the bank while they try to negotiate a short sale agreement. Some short sale homes have two mortgages instead of one, which can make things take even longer. The bank or banks will have to approve the purchase agreement that you make with the seller before you can proceed with the sale. Some lenders may work with you to start getting your own mortgage approved before the bank’s approval of the purchase agreement goes through, but in many cases you’ll have to wait. Some Short Sales Aren’t Really Short Sales A seller has to meet certain criteria to be allowed to short sell their home, and not all sellers qualify. Usually, the...

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Facing Eviction? No Heat? What Services Are Available To Help?

Posted by on 12:49 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Suppose you’ve fallen behind on your rent payments, and may be scrambling to find a way to get quick cash to stave off your landlord. You don’t know if you can make it, but you certainly can’t afford the costs of eviction or moving. What should you do? Or perhaps you’ve just entered one of the coldest winters on record, and your furnace breaks. Your phone calls to your landlord remain unanswered, and your lease prohibits you from contracting any repairs yourself or using a portable heater. What should you do? Although these situations are very different, in both cases there may be a local resource that can provide you with assistance in resolving your problem. Read on to learn more about tenant service organizations and what you should do if you find yourself in need of outside assistance while renting. What tenant services are available? Most cities and even some small towns have a government-funded tenant services organization. Although the exact services offered can vary depending on local funding and need, these organizations usually deal in the following areas: Emergency rent assistance Legal assistance if facing discrimination or unlawful activity while renting Utility assistance Advice and assistance if you have a dispute with your landlord So whether your problem deals with a personal financial situation or outside activities of your landlord (or even neighbors), you may be able to find assistance until you can get back on your feet. What are some scenarios in which you should seek the assistance of a tenant services organization? These scenarios generally fall into two categories — personal and external. Personal Tenant services organizations may offer financial assistance when you’ve fallen behind on rent or are in danger of having your utilities cut off. The federal government has established a utility assistance program that can provide certain low-income homeowners with funds to pay utility bills as these funds are made available. Because this assistance is on a first-come, first-served basis, you won’t need to pay this money back. In other situations, and particularly with rent assistance, this money may be made as part of a loan, and collection proceedings can begin if you don’t pay back the funds according to the loan terms. However, you’re usually given a bit more leeway in these types of loans than you would be with a loan made through a bank. Because of this, if you’re facing a situation in which your financial problems are unable to be quickly resolved (for example, you were laid off and your employment prospects aren’t good, or you suffered a death in the family that has cut your income) you may want to consider downsizing or moving in with roommates rather than digging deeper into debt. However, if you believe your situation is temporary, obtaining a loan or grant from a tenant services organization can provide a much better interest rate and repayment term than a personal loan at a bank or a cash advance or credit card. External In other cases, the tenant services organization is able to assist you in fighting for your rights. Whether you’re dealing with a landlord who won’t make timely repairs and renders your apartment uninhabitable, or are facing discrimination while trying to rent, you can receive legal advice and assistance. You may be...

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5 Humane Ways To Prevent Squirrels From Taking Over Your Bird Feeders

Posted by on 2:52 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Having a bird feeder that attracts the local bird population can give you hours of pleasure. The only problem is that birds aren’t the only thing that are attracted by the bird seed. Along with finches and bluebirds come squirrels. These pesky, over sized rodents will steal all the seed they can, and can do serious harm to your feeder, if measures aren’t taken to deter them. Below are five humane ways to discourage squirrels from using your bird feeder as their personal dinner tray. Feed Them Away From the Bird Feeder Since attempting to keep squirrels away from the bird feeder is easier said than done, the easiest and most effective way to keep the squirrels away from your bird seed is to give them food of their own. Some of squirrel’s favorite foods are walnuts, pecans, and sunflower seeds. If you set up a platform feeder, giving them plenty of room to sit, and fill it with raw pecans, walnuts, some sunflower seeds and a little bit of corn, it won’t be too long before the squirrels mark that territory and protect it as their own, forgetting about your bird feeders all together.  Place Your Bird Feeder Out of Reach Getting a bird feeder out of reach of squirrels is easier said than done. These furry friends can jump up quite far, both vertically and horizontally. They are also clever and will jump from things you might have no realized they could use. By placing the bird feeder at least ten feet from any available surface, squirrels won’t have a starting point to jump from. This means all surfaces, including shrubs and posts. Having ten feet of air around the bird feeder should eventually discourage the squirrels and they will eventually leave the bird feeder alone.  Use a Squirrel Baffle Since having a ten foot area of air around the bird feeder may not be possible, an effective way to keep squirrels away from the feeder is by using a squirrel baffle. A baffle is a dome structure that sits over top of the bird feeder. When the squirrel jumps towards the bird feeder the baffle, which is made of either a smooth metal or plexiglass, prevents the squirrel from reaching the feeder. The squirrel has nothing to grab onto and slides gently to the ground. Additives to the Feed Squirrels are fond of certain seeds, and safflower seeds are not one of them. Changing the seed in your bird feeder out to safflower may deter the squirrels, but doesn’t do anything to deter the birds. Adding small amounts of hot pepper or cayenne to your bird seed will also discourage the squirrels without hurting the birds. One tablespoon of cayenne or hot pepper mixed into a ten pound bag of bird seed is enough to discourage squirrels from attempting to eat from the bird feeder. Use Noise Using a frightening or obnoxious noise that a squirrel will eventually relate to eating from the bird feeder will keep them away. It may take several days, but as soon as they realize that the noise isn’t worth the seeds they will avoid the bird feeder. Watch for the squirrels for several days and use a loud noise, such as a bell or a whistle, to scare them away....

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2 Simple Tips for Keeping Your House & Family Safe from Theft

Posted by on 9:04 am in Uncategorized | 0 comments

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, over 2 million burglaries occurred throughout the United States in 2012. If you’re a homeowner, the safety of your property and family are a top priority, which is why you’ve taken several measures to keep them both safe. In addition to installing a security system, fences and gates, there are a number of other simple and inexpensive upgrades and safety-savvy changes you can make to make your property even more secure. Light Up Your Home—Inside and Out When it comes to keeping your home safe throughout the day and night, there is one simple, inexpensive way to trick burglars into thinking you’re home: lighting. However, before you start installing new fixtures everywhere on your property, or installing a single timer to turn all those new lights on at once, there are more realistic ways to illuminate and protect your property: Motion Detectors—Burglars are becoming more savvy and unfortunately, a bright porch light simply isn’t an effective deterrent. Instead, invest in a motion detecting or infrared-controlled light system. These systems are available at a reasonable price, easy to install and will catch a potential burglar off-guard. Invest in Modern Timer System—A timer that simply turns all the lights in your home on and off at once isn’t very convincing. Luckily, there are modern timer systems that will not only control the lights in your home, but will also turn a radio or your television on and off. Once again, these systems are inexpensive, relatively easy to install and mimic your actual presence more effectively. Vacation Smarter Planning a vacation can be an exhausting process, and the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of your home and valuables while trying to relax with your family. Luckily, there are a number of simple things you can do to ensure your property is protected, including how you interact with friends on social media: Tell a Neighbor—Let a neighbor you know and trust know that you’ll be away on vacation. Ask them to keep an eye out on your home, pick-up the mail or retrieve the morning newspaper. There’s nothing like a huge stack of bills and water-soaked newspapers to signal potential burglars that you’re away from home. An elderly person on the block that likes to neighborhood watch can also keep an eye out for anything suspicious while you’re away. Share Your Vacation Plans After You’re Home—Social media has made it easy for anyone to post all aspects of their life, including their vacation plans. Unfortunately, potential thieves as well as your friends and family are able to access any and all information you post online. Don’t let everyone on the internet know you’re not home to protect your stuff and instead, share your photos and stories once you’re safely at home. Give the Impression You’re Home—Finally, one of the simplest ways to deter burglars is to give the impression you’re home. For example, leave your car in the driveway, keep your bedroom television on a timer or ask a friend or family member to very noticeably enter and exit your home periodically while you’re away. If you’re planning an extended vacation, let local law enforcement know you’ll be away. Ask if a squad car can periodically drive past your house to...

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3 Ways To Improve School Security With Locks

Posted by on 1:01 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Are you concerned about security at your child’s school? A lot of parents feel the same way you do. With all of the terrible things that have happened on public school campuses lately, it is a legitimate concern, and one that governments at all levels are trying to address. Most schools have at least one police officer on duty at all times now, and security protocols for who gets to come on campus have increased. This isn’t always enough, though. It is important to the safety of the children who attend these schools and the teachers who work there that schools are secure during the learning day and after everyone has gone home. One of the best ways to improve school security is with locks from places like Suburban Lock. Here are three ways schools can use new lock technologies to keep everyone there as safe as possible at all times. 1. Self-Locking Doors One measure some schools are adopting is the use of self-locking doors. These are doors that automatically lock from the outside when the teacher or a student closes them. Once the door is closed, no one can get into the classroom unless someone from the inside opens the door (which remains unlocked on that side) and lets them in. The only ones who have the necessary keys (usually electronic IDs) to unlock a self-locking door from the outside are usually the principal, the maintenance supervisor, and the teacher who uses that classroom. With self-locking doors, anyone who wants to enter a classroom or other school room, such as an office, must identify themselves first. Even children who leave the classroom to go to the bathroom must knock and be let back inside when they return to the room. This type of lock really reduces the risk of someone undesirable gaining entrance to any room in a school. 2. Entry Buzer Locks Other schools are experimenting with entry buzzer locks. Schools that use this type of lock usually have an electronic system that automatically shuts and locks all of the doors in the school as soon as the bell rings to start the school day. After this, anyone who wants to gain entry to school grounds (including students who arrive late) must approach the main entrance to the school and press a buzzer. The buzzer is connected to an intercom that goes to the office. There is also usually a security camera pointed at the person doing the buzzing, so office personnel can identify them. This camera often also feeds to the school resource officer’s desk. Once the person has been identified and approved for entry, the office staff can buzz them in. If it is a student, the office can alert the teacher in their classroom that they are coming, and they can be buzzed into the class in a similar manner to how they gained entry to the school. 3. Electronic Locks While they are not in large usage in schools yet, many schools can benefit from the use of electronic locks. According to The Construction Specifier, these are locks that operate without keys, usually with access cards. Schools usually elect to give only principals, maintenance personnel, and teachers authorization to use the access cards. The beauty of the electronic lock is that only...

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