Date Archives: May 2016

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May
31

Our utility bills seem to rise along with the thermometer come summer. Certain steps and upgrades can help cut down on cooling costs and other seasonal home expenses. nest One minor task that has major impact is cleaning the HVAC filter, says Ameeta Jain, co-founder of Homeselfe. Regardless of the unit you own, cleaning the filter on a regular basis is important. When the filter is dirty, the system consumes more energy. With a clean filter, the system can cool your home more efficiently. Another task to consider is mulching your garden, Jain says. Mulch lessens the amount of watering needed for plants, reducing expense and consumption. Mulch works to prevent evaporation so plants have more time to absorb water. Jain recommends using a rain barrel to collect water, as well. Harvested rainwater can be recycled in the garden, saving even more money on water bills. Energy-smart upgrades are also a consideration, Jain says. Apply window film to your windows to block heat from entering the home (while preserving the view!), resulting in less use of the A/C. The best part? Window films on the market these days are easy to DIY-apply. Consider installing a programmable thermostat, too, says Jain. Newer models allow you to set different temperatures for various times throughout the day. You may, for example, want to set your thermostat to turn off while you're at work and then cool down right around the time you're on your way home. Though these tips are seasonally-related, they can be applied year-round, Jain adds: "It's always a good time to reduce your energy consumption and save on utility bills!" Source: Homeselfe Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
26

'Tis the season for eating out—doors, that is! If you're hosting a backyard soirée this summer, make food safety a priority when planning the meal. Seasonal temperatures can accelerate the growth of foodborne bacteria, compromising the safety of you and your guests, cautions the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "From picnics to cookouts, eating outside is a fun and tasty way to enjoy the warmer weather," says Torey Armul, a registered dietitian and nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy. "Be sure to follow proper food safety practices every step of the way to keep unwanted bacteria from crashing your party." These practices include: • Washing Your Hands – Wash your hands before and after handling any foods. "Bring along hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol in case water is not available," Armul says. "Remember to regularly clean your cooler, picnic basket and tote bags, because these items can be a breeding ground for bacteria." • Separating Raw from Ready-to-Eat – If you plan to cook food on-site, separate raw meats, poultry and seafood from other ready-to-eat foods. "Use one cooler for raw meats and another one for ready-to-eat foods, such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and desserts," says Armul. "Bring two sets of plates and utensils: one for handling raw meats and one for serving cooked foods." • Using a Thermometer – Have a food thermometer on hand when cooking—all food must be cooked to a safe internal temperature, and a food thermometer is the only way to ensure it has reached this temperature. Download the Is My Food Safe? mobile app, found at eatrightstore.org, for a complete list of cooking temperatures. • Keeping Perishables Cold – Keep perishables in a cooler packed with frozen water bottles and juice boxes. Stow the cooler in the shade and with the lid closed. "Pack a thermometer in the cooler to ensure it remains at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below," Armul adds. • Tossing After Two Hours – At the end of your gathering, throw out all perishable food that has been unrefrigerated for more than two hours (or only one hour, if the outdoor temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit). The clock starts as soon as your food is served. These tips come courtesy of the Home Food Safety program, a ConAgra Foods' campaign in partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To learn more food safety practices, visit HomeFoodSafety.org. Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
26

(BPT) - Smart homes make life easier and more convenient. Who wouldn't love being able to control lighting, entertainment and temperature from their couch — or from anywhere for that matter? Whether you're at work or on vacation, smart devices alert you to what's going on at home and help you stay connected and protected. "Since inventing the world's first residential smoke alarm, First Alert has been at the forefront of advancement in home safety technology," says Tom Russo, president of First Alert. "Our Onelink portfolio of smart products goes beyond traditional perceptions of safety products and ushers in a new era of interconnectivity between a home's comfort level and people's safety and lifestyle preferences." According to the experts at First Alert, the following are just a few of the many benefits of giving your home a "smart" makeover: Safety and security Having the ability to monitor your home from wherever you are is one of the biggest benefits of a smart home. Devices that deliver notifications about everything from intruders to water leaks help homeowners react quickly and avoid major disasters. For families with children, smart devices can provide parents with added peace of mind. You can safeguard doors and drawers, such as the liquor cabinet or gate to the pool, with connected contact sensors. With smart locks and cameras, you'll know when your kids get home from school, and can ensure their safety when the doorbell rings with mobile access to live video. There are even smart safes with motion detecting technology and access notification that are ideal for keeping weapons and medications safely locked away. Convenience and customization Convenience is one of the most common reasons people purchase smart devices. These high-tech products streamline common tasks by giving users remote access to everything from heating and cooling systems to multimedia devices, kitchen appliances, security features and even a forgotten garage door. You have the ability to program devices to your family's specific needs and preferences, and the flexibility to choose which features to integrate into your smart system to create a connected home custom designed to cater to your specific lifestyle. Ease and expansion Unlike their complicated predecessors, many of today's smart home products can be easily installed, and you certainly don't need to buy everything all at one time. One of the best places to start building a smart home system is with essential devices like a thermostat, or smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. To make things as simple as possible, the Onelink by First Alert Wi-Fi Smoke + CO Alarm is designed to work with most existing interconnected hardwired alarms, so users do not have to replace all of their existing alarms at once. The Apple HomeKit platform makes it easy to add new alarms and other devices to expand a smart home system. The alarm can be easily tested or silenced using the Onelink Home app on an iOS device (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch) or Apple Watch. In the case of an emergency, the Onelink Alarm will instantly alert the homeowner via a notification on their mobile device, allowing the user to assess the situation and alert authorities if needed, or silence the device in the event of a false alarm, like burnt toast. Energy efficiency and cost savings A major part of what makes "smart" devices smart is their ability to save users money through improved energy efficiency. Lights can be programmed to turn off automatically when no one is in a room. A thermostat can be set to let the indoor temperature drop during the day before returning it to a more comfortable level just before residents arrive home in the evening. You can even track energy usage and expenditures to determine ways in which your family can reduce consumption. In addition to all of these benefits, automated home products are fun to use. Whether setting lighting and music from your iPhone for a surprise romantic evening at home, or keeping an eye on your house from a tablet while lounging on an exotic beach, you'll find home automation easy and enjoyable. For more information about Onelink by First Alert, visit https://ift.tt/1F54vg0, and for more information about Apple HomeKit, visit https://ift.tt/1NF8BnT.
May
25

In life and in real estate, first impressions matter. Before placing your home on the market, it's worth taking a look at the paint on the outside, which may have been impacted by elements from the past winter. "If you've been huddled inside for the past few months, you may not be aware of the price your exterior paint has paid keeping winter weather at bay," says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the paint Quality Institute. "Freeze-thaw cycles, rain, sleet and snow can cause paint to fail quickly, especially if you didn't use top-quality paint to begin with." Zimmer suggests starting by inspecting for flaking or peeling paint on the exterior siding and trim. If the compromised paint is confined to a small area, a touch-up may be all that's needed. Begin any touch-up project by scraping off loose paint, then sanding the edges smooth, Zimmer explains. Next, prime any areas where bare wood is visible, and then apply a coat of leftover paint. If the paint damage is beyond touch-up repair, Zimmer advises re-painting the home sooner rather than later. "Assuming that you're a do-it-yourself painter, you'll find it much more comfortable to do your surface preparation and painting now, when the weather is mild," Zimmer says. "Your paint may even last longer if you act quickly.  Exterior paints tend to 'cure' better in moderate temperatures, which enables them to form an especially durable paint film." It's doubly important to act fast if you plan to hire a painter, Zimmer adds. Professionals tend to book up this time of year. No matter which route you choose, don't skimp on the product—it will make all the difference. "A top-quality 100-percent acrylic latex paint will provide the best-looking and longest-lasting results, no matter where it is used," Zimmer says. Source: Paint Quality Institute Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
22

Some home improvement projects are bankable for the seller—some, unfortunately, are a bust. A new front door, according to ContractorQuotes.us, is one of the projects that can yield a high return on investment. A steel door, specifically, costs an average of $1,230 to install, but may increase the home's value by $1,252—a 101.8 percent return. A fiberglass door, too, may boost a home's value, by over $2,000 ($2,107, to be exact), while costing an average of $2,926—a 72 percent recoup for the seller. If you're planning to replace your front door, keep in mind that some doors require maintenance. Be sure to clarify these requirements before purchasing, ContractorQuotes.us advises. Remember, also, that the least expensive product is not necessarily worth the savings. The front door is likely the first feature buyers will notice when visiting the home. It may be tempting to select a style you like personally, but, ContractorQuotes.us suggests choosing a style that is reflective of the exterior of the home. Will it complement the style of the rest of the house? High-tech security features are also worth considering. A recent report by CEPro.com includes front door technology among its top trends for the home, with the doors themselves holding much promise for integrated home technology. We'll circle back on this trendy front door tech in a future report. Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
20

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has plummeted to its lowest point yet this year, according to Freddie Mac's most recent report, reaching a three-year low overall at an average of 3.57 percent, with an average 0.5 point. Mortgage concept. Financial agent complete wooden model of the house with last piece with text mortgage. Wide banner composition with bokeh background. "Disappointing April employment data once again kept a lid on Treasury yields, which have struggled to stay above 1.8 percent since late March," Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti explains. "As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate fell four basis points to 3.57 percent, a new low for 2016 and the lowest mark in three years. Prospective homebuyers will continue to take advantage of a falling rate environment that has seen mortgage rates drop in 14 of the previous 19 weeks." The 15-year FRM has also moved down, to an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has lowered, as well, to an average 2.78 percent with an average 0.5 point. Source: Freddie Mac Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
15

(BPT)—Staging your home ensures a speedy, profitable sale—if the senses are considered. Prospective buyers interpret a potential home through all of their receptors, and that includes senses like sight and smell. To stage to this effect, remember the three Ds: Deep-Clean the Selling Points Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes—but they must be immaculate to do so. In the kitchen, clean inside appliances that are staying put: the dishwasher, oven and refrigerator. Replace the filter in the range hood, if you have one, and polish windowpanes to a sparkling finish. In the bathrooms, de-scale glass shower doors and showerheads and scrub the grout. Clean metal drain grates, and add in a few drops of sweet-smelling essential oils to maintain a "freshly-cleaned" aroma. Deter Odors Most households have their own unique scent, likely indistinguishable to the seller, but potentially a turn-off to buyers. Neutralize smells, malodorous or otherwise, with a naturally-derived fragrance, such as lemon or eucalyptus. If possible, warm up a buyer-friendly combination of scents (think cinnamon, clove, orange and vanilla) on the stove just before a showing—it's low-cost, fast, and heightens the "welcome home" atmosphere. De-Clutter "Invisible" Areas Many sellers fall into the trap of staging only the "visible" areas of their home—but a discerning buyer will look at the "invisible," too, such as cabinets, closets, drawers and the garage. Disorganized, full-to-bursting invisible areas can read cheap, cramped or poor-quality to buyers, which can lead to low-ball offers, or, worse, no offers at all. De-cluttering is particularly paramount in the garage, where buyers are seeking a sense of spaciousness. If your garage is loaded with moving boxes, consider storing them in a rental unit while your home is on the market. Source: Aura Cacia Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
12

Home inspections are an important part of the home buying process. Before finalizing an offer, hire a home inspector who will check the condition of the home. A home inspector will check things such as the electrical system, roof, and ventilation. Although a home inspector will thoroughly review a home, his or her main concern is the actual house, not the surrounding areas. It is possible that your home inspector may miss problems around the home.   A home inspector or house building repair contractor in a hard hat holding a level and a clipboard outside a home doing an inspection or construction quote   Evaluate these things before you make an offer. 1. Fences and outdoor buildings: Your inspector may skip the outside portion of your house, so make sure you double check the condition of fences and anything else outside the home. If these features are damaged, they can be an expensive hassle to repair. Make sure your fences, sheds are in top shape before you purchase your home. If they aren't, you can negotiate your offer. (Credit) 2. Roofing: Inspectors don't usually go on the roof. They inspect from ground level and may miss a lot of problems. Inspectors will take note of missing shingles or panels but if there is a deeper problem, like a leak, it can be more difficult to identify. Consider hiring a roof contractor to go up on the roof and make sure everything is in excellent condition. (Credit) 3. Drains: This is a little problem that can become a major one if it's not taken care of. Inspectors may overlook the drainage system or go over it quickly, not giving sinks and tubs enough time to show an issue. Fill up your tubs, showers, and sinks to see if there is a drainage problem. This may be a quick fix with a drain clog remover, or you may need to seek a specialist. (Credit) 4. Air conditioning and heating systems: An inspector might not want to run the air conditioning in freezing temperatures or the heat in 90 degree weather, at risk for ruining the system. For this reason, there may be a bigger problem at hand and you won't know it. Do your own test of the A/C and heat to determine if there is a problem. (Credit) 5. Fireplaces: A fireplace is a common mistake when it comes to home inspections. Home inspectors may glance at a fireplace and chimney but not make it a priority. Light a fire in the fireplace to make sure it's safe and that the chimney is in working condition. Hire a professional to clean the chimney if needed. (Credit) If you think that your home inspector may have missed a few issues, look at them yourself and then make the decision to hire a specialist. This will help you ensure that your home is up to code and is the best home for you!   Source: https://www.century21.com/real-estate-blog/things-your-inspector-missed-that-you-can-still-catch/
May
8

Improving the look and functionality of your home goes a long way toward boosting its value. But what types of renovation are today's buyers looking for? Consumer Reports reveals the most sought-after amenities: Allowance for Aging in Place – As people are living longer and the number of senior citizens continues to increase, buyers see the long-term value of walk-in showers, comfort-height toilets and master bedrooms on the main floor. Color and Light Matter – Fresh paint, natural color schemes and window treatments that let in the light will improve the look, as well as the value, of your home. Energy Efficiency – Buyers are interested in energy costs and efficiency. ENERGY STAR appliances, high-efficiency windows and LED lighting help to lower the cost and increase your home's 'green' appeal. The Great Outdoors – Up your home's curb appeal by keeping lawns and shrubbery neatly trimmed. Also high on buyers' wish lists are a water-smart yard, a deck or patio and a built-in grill. Kitchens Top the List – Buyers want a clean, updated and well-organized kitchen. A new coat of paint or modernized lighting can be inexpensive starts. Increasing the value exponentially are quartz counters, attractive cabinetry and stainless steel appliances. Smart Technology – Some high-tech features may lose value as technology continues to evolve, but security systems, whole house generators and programmable thermostats controlled by smartphones will add value for their efficiency and convenience. Updated Systems and Surfaces – Central air conditioning and updated mechanical systems, including water heaters and gas heat, can increase a home's value by 3 to 5 percent. A newer roof and hardwood flooring are also much in demand. Workable Floor Plans – Regardless of the size of your home, strategically increasing the living space is sure to boost its value. A more open floor plan, a finished basement or a dedicated playroom or office space appeals to the needs of young families. Published with permission from RISMedia.
May
5

Planning to purchase a home in the next year? Don't let poor credit dash your hopes! My new home ! Subprime credit—generally between 300 and 600 on the VantageScore scale—can inhibit a buyer's ability to secure a mortgage. Recent research from TransUnion®, one of the three major credit bureaus, shows many first-time buyers, particularly millennials, are lacking in the credit department: 43 percent of would-be millennial buyers surveyed by the agency have a subprime credit score. "Credit scores are a crucial component of the home-buying process, impacting everything from the size of a mortgage payment to the interest rate on a home loan," says Ken Chaplin, TransUnion's senior vice president. "People with subprime credit may face financial barriers to homeownership, making it difficult for their dream home to become a reality. "The home-buying process begins well before you start looking for real estate," adds Chaplin. "A credit score, which significantly impacts the home financing process, is built on good spending habits and a pattern of responsible borrowing established over a lifetime." To better your financial circumstances—and your chances of being approved for a mortgage—Chaplin advises the following tips: Check your credit report first. Mortgage lenders will look at your credit report and score when you apply for a mortgage. To catch issues before they do, check your report three months before starting the home-buying process. Bear in mind your credit score is built over a lifetime of spending. Keep an eye on your score and track how your spending habits affect it. Build credit. Those with low or no credit must build a healthy credit score. This includes paying all bills on time each month and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, which is a ratio of how much credit you use out of your available credit limit. Other ways to build credit include factoring existing payments into your report, such as student loans (automatically included) and rent. Do your homework. Research mortgages and interest rates. While placing a larger down payment will lower your monthly mortgage payment, don't put down more than you can afford. Keep in mind, also, that you will need money for closing costs, including a home inspection, before you can purchase your home. Remember, Chaplin says, that improving your credit can take time. If your finances aren't in shape for a home now, that doesn't mean homeownership isn't a realistic goal for the future. Keep an open mind! Source: TransUnion® Published with permission from RISMedia.

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