Liz Hieter
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What to Consider before a Remodel

June 11, 2015 1:45 am

Many homeowners decide to remodel on a whim, but a number of factors must be evaluated thoroughly before taking on any project, says Sergei Kaminskiy, Kaminskiy Design and Remodel. It’s important to have a conversation, he says, about lifestyles, health issues, family growth plans, aging parents, work habits and other matters before beginning a remodel. To start, prioritize a list of the following for your remodeler.

Determine quality of life issues. Maybe you need more space and are considering a room addition or another level added to the home. Should you move or stay and remodel? For some, moving is not an option, due to a career, roots in the neighborhood or otherwise, and remodeling is the right choice.

Consider how long you plan to stay in the home. If it's short-term, decisions are much easier than to plan for 10-20 years. If you consider your home a legacy home that will be in your family for years, you will need to give consideration to current and future toddlers, teens and aging parents. If the home is long-term, it will make sense to use the best materials for roofing, flooring, surfaces since quality materials can last up to 100 years.

Evaluate the health and physical needs of your family. If you have an elder or you are an elderly couple and don't want to move to a retirement community, living on one level and avoiding stairs may be the best option. The same may be true if a family member has physical challenges. If this is the case, choose to turn a downstairs room or office into a bedroom with bath.

Calculate the cost of moving. Moving typically costs about 8-10 percent of the value of the current home. Don’t forget to add in the costs of upgrades like carpet, furniture, painting, etc., and you can easily see how it adds up even more.

Source:
KaminskiyHomeRemodeling.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Wow Buyers with Outdoor Staging

June 11, 2015 1:45 am

As one of the busier times of year for real estate activity, summertime is ideal for sellers hoping to unload their homes for top dollar. If your home is on the market this summer, stand out from the pack with these outdoor staging tips, courtesy of the experts at Point2.com.

1. Invite Buyers In


It’s no secret curb appeal matters to buyers, but too often, minor details are overlooked when setting the stage out front. To roll out the welcome for buyers, replace your worn welcome mat with a summery alternative, and install large house numbers in a prominent location that can be viewed from the street.

2. Shine Up Windows

Cleaning windows inside and out can be taxing, but it makes a noticeable difference. For the exterior sides of the windows, scrub off any accumulated film from tree pollen and polish until glistening. Buyers will be pleased to see not only a sparkling home outside, but a light-filled interior as well.

3. Showcase Small-Scale Color

In lieu of a costly exterior paint job, choose specific areas outside to add pops of color. Window boxes bursting with blooms are often well-received by buyers, as well as container plantings. If the exterior could use refreshing, consider re-painting the front door before recruiting a professional to do the entire home.

4. Spotlight for Safety


Make sure the outdoor spaces around your home, including the front entrance, deck, patio, and walkways, are appropriately lit. Updated light fixtures are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are an added safety feature to the home.

5. Maintain the Landscape

A well-kept home speaks volumes to buyers, and the exterior is no exception. Whether you hire a professional landscaper or DIY, trim the lawn and any hedges – the latter can be a trip hazard if left untouched.

6. Deck Out the Deck

Whether your home features a deck, patio, porch or other outdoor living area, take time to power wash the surface to remove any debris. If your outdoor furniture is lacking, consider purchasing a fresh set, complete with all-weather cushions and pillows in vibrant colors.

7. Make Pool Picture-Perfect

Pools can be a make-or-break feature for buyers, so play it up as best you can. After having the pool cleaned by a professional, take care to skim the surface for any debris that accumulates between buyer visits. Be sure the pool cover, mechanized or otherwise, is free of damage and the filtering system is in proper working order.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Traveling? How to Thwart Vacation Scammers

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

(BPT) – Fact: Scammers, identity thieves and fraudsters rarely take a vacation, even when you do.

"When people plan vacations, they let their guard down," says David Barnhardt of Early Warning, a fraud prevention company. "Fraudsters know this, and they have a whole bag of tricks created specifically for people in a vacation frame of mind."

Enjoy your vacation, he says, but exercise good judgment. That suggestion mirrors similar advice offered by both the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Their websites each devote pages of precautions about potential travel scams - some of which can happen long before you pack your suitcase.

Many pre-vacation scams, the FTC warns, can begin with unsolicited vacation e-mails announcing amazing travel deals. The agency says if an offer sounds too good to be true, be wary.

Barnhardt agrees. "If you get an e-mail announcing you have won a 'free' vacation, be careful," he says. "Chances are before long you will be asked to provide someone with a credit card number to confirm your reservation. You would be surprised how many people fall for that scam."

Credit card numbers are the gold-standard for many fraudsters, and one way to protect your card, Barnhardt advises, is to place a travel flag on your credit and debit cards. Those flags can help card issuers quickly identify suspicious charges.

"If charges are swiped outside of your vacation dates, it can signal a compromised card," he says.

That said, Barnhardt recommends travelers use credit cards instead of debit cards.

"Simply put, credit cards draw on credit lines, whereas a debit card hack means your money is actually withdrawn from your account," he says. "That can cause an overdraft, which means overdraft charges. You may get your money back, but it often means you may need to file a police report, which can be a huge headache, especially if you're overseas. Plus you may have to explain to your creditors why your payments were returned and work with your institution to get penalty fees reversed as well."

Credit cards are also the safer method of payment when you're asked to put a deposit on a vacation rental.

"If a website advertises a gorgeous house or condo and the property owner asks that you wire a deposit, a red flag should immediately go up," says Barnhardt. "Don't do it. Money wired is money gone. Unlike a credit card deposit, once you wire money, you cannot get it back."

And after you have arrived at your destination, it pays to stay alert. "Hotels and motels can be breeding grounds for fraud," says Barnhardt.

One prevalent travel scam the FTC warns about involves a late-night phone call to your room allegedly from the front desk at a hotel, motel or resort. The caller claims there is a problem with the credit card and asks the guest to read the number over the phone. The obvious solution: make a trip to the front desk to speak with someone in person.

Barnhardt also warns of another lodging-related credit card scam currently in vogue: fliers slid under hotel-room doors offering pizza delivered right to your room.

"This sounds great to a hungry traveler, but if you call and they ask for your credit card number, it's better to hang up the phone and ask the front desk to recommend local eateries," he says.

Don’t forget to exercise caution when logging onto the hotel's free Wi-Fi network, says Barnhardt.

"Just about every hotel and motel provides free Wi-Fi," he says. "But fraudsters have perfected the art of mimicking legitimate networks. Logging onto a fake Wi-Fi network can put all the data stored in your tablet or phone in jeopardy."

Once again, he says, the best solution is to ask before acting.

"Check with the front desk," he says. "Make sure you are using the hotel's authorized network and they've supplied you with a secure Wi-Fi password. A bogus Wi-Fi can be outsmarted just by being cautious. Vacation time is about relaxing, but don't relax your common sense."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Great Debate: Saltwater vs. Chlorine Pools

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

(Family Features) For many families, some of the most anticipated summertime activities happen around the pool. Both chlorine and saltwater pools are common in homes today, but there are distinct differences between the two. In a saltwater pool, chlorine is produced by a salt chlorine generator, rather than adding chlorine to the pool directly. A saltwater pool is still being sanitized by chlorine.

Before you dive into the fun, remember that saltwater pools require the same maintenance functions and still must be checked and balanced regularly, just like a traditional chlorine pool. Here’s how to do it.

Test the Water Daily

Whether your pool uses traditional chlorine or is equipped with a salt chlorine generator, make testing it a top priority, especially when your pool is used frequently.

Make sure to read and follow the product label instructions closely when dealing with pool chemicals. Proper dosing of pool chemicals is important for swimmer comfort.

Always test the water and make sure the free chlorine level never falls below 1 parts per million (ppm). Chlorine is the main sanitizer of your pool (and drinking water), and the more people in your pool, the more chlorine you may need.

Keep Water Balanced


If your eyes are irritated and the pool water is cloudy or looks green, the balance is probably off. Here's how to test it:

- Use strips that show chlorine, alkalinity, pH and cyanuric acid levels.
- Follow instructions on the package for how to submerge the strip.
- Compare color readings on the strip to the range on the product bottle.

Ideal water balance ranges for chlorine are 1-4 ppm; alkalinity, 80-120 ppm; pH, 7.2-7.6; cyanuric acid, 20-50 ppm.

Source:
SaltorChlorine.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing's Looking Up, Americans Say

June 10, 2015 1:45 am

With more Americans preferring to buy instead of rent and others believing now is a good time to sell, housing is right on track with forecasted improvements this year, a Fannie Mae survey recently reported.

Based on the survey, a growing number of Americans say now is a good time to buy a house, climbing back up to 66 percent. The amount of Americans who believe it is a good time to sell also increased, surpassing a survey record.

“Things are looking up for housing,” says Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Those saying it is a good time to sell a house hit a survey high of 49 percent. Also, the percentage of consumers telling us their household income is significantly higher than 12 months ago grew six percentage points to 28 percent over the past two months.”

Additionally, more than half of Americans expect rents to rise, further boosting optimism for buying a home.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You a Habitual or Aspiring Saver?

June 9, 2015 1:39 am

As a large portion of the population nears retirement, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) recently examined the relationship between saving patterns and long-term outcomes. Chief among the findings was the ratio of habitual, occasional, past and aspiring savers, with habitually-saving Americans surpassing global statistics at 52 percent.

These habitual savers, put simply, are consistently setting aside funds for retirement. One-fifth of Americans identified as occasional savers, contributing to a retirement fund from time to time; 12 percent are past savers, who are currently not saving, but have in the past; and 11 percent are aspiring savers, who are not saving enough for retirement, but intend to do so. Just 5 percent are not saving, and have no plans to do so in the future.

The TCRS research also found the average annual income for habitual savers to be $73,000 – significantly higher than that of the rest of the world. Predictably, habitual savers reported having higher incomes than aspiring savers.

Beyond receiving a pay raise, which most aspiring savers say would be helpful, the findings illustrate ways employers and policymakers can play important roles in promoting habitual saving.

Source: TCRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Landscape Investments Drive Home Value

June 9, 2015 1:39 am

Maintaining the landscape on your property creates scenery not only visually appealing – it can enhance value, too, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“If landscaping is properly maintained, the impact on home values can be positive,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA. “However, it’s important for homeowners not to exceed neighborhood norms when upgrading.”

Curb appeal is an important factor when selling a home, Coyle adds, noting that it is one of the best ways for property owners to make a positive first impression. A home with landscaping that is dated or not appropriately maintained can be a turn-off to prospective buyers and can have a negative impact on the home’s potential resale value.

Coyle says homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to their home’s landscaping:

• Is the landscaping nice enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design modern and on-par with comparable properties in the neighborhood.

• Could the landscaping help future owners save money? Landscaping that needs minimal, if any, water to maintain could be attractive depending on the geographic area.

• Does the landscaping help with the property’s energy efficiency? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a location where they provide shade in locations with year-round hot climates.

If you’re installing a new landscape or planning to revamp an existing one, the EPA’s Energy Star program advises selecting plants that are appropriate for their climate and using a suitable landscape and irrigation design. Homeowners should also consider landscaping techniques using low-water and drought-resistant grass, plants, shrubs and trees.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Tech Evolves with Apple HomeKit and More

June 8, 2015 1:36 am

(Family Features) There’s no doubt technology brings convenience and peace of mind to homeowners. At the touch of a button, families can benefit from thoughtful, digital shortcuts throughout their homes.

One of the newest additions to home technology is Apple HomeKit, slated for release sometime this year. Apple’s latest rollout will make controlling smart devices seamless using iPhone and Siri. Some of the first HomeKit-enabled products include Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, Honeywell thermostats, the iDevices Switch and Schlage door locks.

While you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of HomeKit, take a look at these other advancements already available for your home.

• It is now possible to control lighting throughout the interior and exterior of your home using your smartphone. With the proper bulbs, in-home Wi-Fi network and an app on your phone or tablet, you can control lights from anywhere and even schedule lights to turn off and on at intervals to give the appearance that someone is home. You'll never have to enter a dark house again when you use lights with geofencing technology, which recognizes when you pull in the driveway and turns lights on automatically.

• Similarly, you can automate and control your home's temperature from your smartphone or device. Although many thermostats allow you to drop temperatures while you're away at work for the day, options such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Lyric take climate management to a whole new level, learning your schedule and adjusting temperatures automatically.

• Motorized drapes not only add a stylish enhancement to your windows, they help keep dawn at bay and your privacy intact through smartphone control. A variety of options allow you to customize settings based on needs, such as blocking daylight, obscuring valuables from outside view, managing the impact of UV rays on your possessions or regulating solar heat.

• With landscaping a chore for many, and water conservation a growing concern, a robotic hose attachment may be the answer, delivering precise amounts of water to each plant. For a large yard, or to use your existing irrigation system, a smart sprinkler system may be a better answer to keep your yard looking lush. Most models can be customized by valve or zone, and many use weather data or moisture sensors to ensure the right amount of water is delivered each time.

• When dinner plans call for a steak on the grill, keep your meal deliciously on target with a smartphone app, such as iGrill or Grill It, which guides you to the perfect temperature based on variables such as the cut and thickness.

With such advancements right at your fingertips, it's becoming easier than ever for families to manage household tasks and functions quickly and easily. Evolving technology means more sophisticated alternatives are yet to come. It's clear that when it comes to home management technology, the future is only a click away.

Source:
Chamberlain.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Patio Hacks to Try This Summer

June 8, 2015 1:36 am

When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach or taking in a game at the ball park, your backyard is likely playing host to summertime activities. To crank up the good times at home, add these unconventional upgrades served up on your patio for endless fun all summer long.

1. Chandelier and Sconces – Today’s outdoor lighting designs have evolved beyond tiki torches and paper lanterns. String up tiny twinklers, repurpose a chandelier or install sconces to add some sparkle to your summer.

2. Suspended Sofa – Outdoor spaces have become an extension of the interior of the home, and your patio should be no exception. Suspend a sofa for lounging, create a coffee nook for weekend mornings or a cozy bench to tackle your summer reading list.

3. Pizza Oven
– It’s no secret outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Add your very own to your backyard by installing a pizza oven. For the non-handy homeowner, pre-manufactured pizza ovens are available, but do-it-yourselfers can construct one in a weekend.

4. Foldable Bar – A bar is a must if you regularly host guests. If your patio doesn’t permit a full bar set, DIY a foldable bar. The best part? It can be stored at a moment’s notice – not that you’d want to!

5. Movie Screen – An outdoor movie at home is a fun way to spend warm summer nights without breaking the bank. String clothesline between deck posts or trees and use a white sheet and a projector to create your very own theater.

6. Dance Floor – If your patio is spacious, up the entertainment factor with a portable dance floor. If your patio is natural wood, reserve a corner for when Saturday Night Fever rolls around.

7. Container Garden – Your patio is the perfect place for a container garden. Inject life onto a stone slab by growing your own vegetables (tomatoes are easy) or summer blooms.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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