Liz Hieter
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Are Environmental Hazards Lowering Your Home’s Value?

March 23, 2017 1:42 am

You may be well versed in the factors that can improve your home’s value, like adding on a bathroom, installing energy-efficient appliances or putting on a new roof. But are you aware that certain environmental hazards, such as poor air quality can actually detract from your home’s value?

Research from ATTOM Data Solutions Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index shows that 17.3 million single-family homes and condominiums are at high risk of an environmental hazard, such as brownfields, or property potentially contaminated by a hazardous substance, polluters, poor air quality and superfunds.

"Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed," says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

ATTOM details how home values have been affected by each of these environmental hazards:

- In areas with a "very high" brownfield risk - areas previously used for commercial development which may now have environmental contamination - 17.2 percent of properties are "seriously underwater," according to the Index; in areas with a "very low" brownfield risk, 8.9 percent of properties are seriously underwater. Median home prices in very high brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent below 10 years prior, while median home prices in very low brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent above 10 years prior. Home sellers in very high brownfield risk areas gained 25.3 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low brownfield risk areas gained 18.9 percent.

- In areas with a very high polluter risk, 12.7 percent of properties are seriously underwater, compared to 9.2 percent of properties seriously underwater in very low polluter risk areas. Home sellers in very high polluter risk areas gained 16.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low polluter risk areas gained 27.7 percent.

- For areas with a "low" or "moderate" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 26 percent in the past five years, according to the report; for areas with a "high" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 16.5 percent in the past five years, while in areas with a very high risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 3.3 percent over the past five years.

- Median home prices in very high superfund risk areas - a U.S. federal program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants - are 1.5 percent below 10 years prior. Home sellers in high superfund risk areas gained 19.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low superfund risk areas gained 24.4 percent.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Ways You’re Worsening Your Allergies

March 23, 2017 1:42 am

Sniffle, sneeze, cough – we all know the signs of seasonal allergies. But did you know your lifestyle could actually be making your seasonal allergies worse? Read on for five ways you may be worsening your allergies.  

Drinking alcohol: An extra glass of wine at dinner could irritate existing allergies. A Danish study found every additional alcoholic drink in a week increased the risk of seasonal allergies by three percent. The researchers suspect the bacteria and yeast in the alcohol produce histamines and cause a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.

Making your bed: Dust mites love to put down roots in bedding and mattresses. AFC physicians say at night, while you sleep, moisture from body sweat helps keep the little critters alive. When you make your bed in the morning, you are tucking in those pesky bugs so they cannot escape. Airing out your sheets can make it harder for allergens and bedbugs to stay alive. 

Wearing contact lenses: AFC doctors say, in some cases, lenses can trap pollen against the surface of the eye. This can be an even bigger issue for anyone who is already suffering from red, itchy eyes triggered by seasonal allergies. 

Eating certain fruits and vegetables: We are raised to think eating our veggies is good for us. Researchers with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found proteins in certain foods can cause ragweed sufferers to end up with an itchy mouth. The experts say bananas, melons and tomatoes can cause a cross-reaction. 

Using the dishwasher: A Swedish study published in the journal Pediatrics found children do not develop as many allergies if they eat off hand-washed dishes rather than plates or bowls cleaned in a dishwasher. Researchers found automated dishwashers kill so much bacteria children cannot build up an immunity.

Source:  www.AmericanFamilyCare.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Tips for Helping Pets in Need

March 23, 2017 1:42 am

(Family Features)--For pet owners, their dogs, cats and other pets play an important role in bringing added happiness to their lives. As not every dog and cat is as fortunate, you may be looking for ways to give back and help pets in need.

As many as 6-8 million pets enter shelters every year across North America, according to The Humane Society of the United States. There are numerous ways you can help homeless pets and give back, starting with these tips.

Volunteer at Your Local Animal Welfare Organization
Almost every community has at least one animal shelter or rescue group that needs help. A simple internet search is a good place to start, or ask your veterinarian for recommendations on local organizations that assist pets in need. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at shelters and rescue organizations, from office duties and community outreach and education to training, feeding and socializing, so people with every skillset are often able to lend a hand.

Donate Supplies
Items such as food, cat litter, cleaning supplies and blankets are almost always in demand at animal shelters and rescues. While pets await adoption, they need access to food, making pet food a significant operating expense for animal welfare organizations. Through PetSmart's Buy a Bag, Give a Meal program, for every bag of dog or cat food purchased online and at its more than 1,500 stores across North America through the end of the year, the leading pet specialty retailer will donate a meal to a pet in need served by animal welfare organizations and food banks.

Foster or Adopt a Pet
As many animal welfare organizations have dogs or cats not suited for living in a shelter atmosphere, fostering a pet in your home is a simple way to give back without the long-term commitment of pet ownership. These pets may be older and in need of a quiet environment or need space to recover from a recent surgery. Of course, if you're ready for a new pet, your local shelter or rescue organization may have the perfect one waiting for you. Adopting from a rescue or shelter can not only save that pet, but also open a spot in the facility and potentially save another animal as well.

Take Care of Pets at Home
One of the most important things you can do for pets in need is simply not become part of the problem. Be ready for the responsibility before adopting a pet and know that having a pet requires a long-term commitment. Be sure to keep pets fed, watered, groomed and vaccinated, and have your pet spayed or neutered to help avoid pet overpopulation.

Pets give so much to their owners; pay it forward by being a responsible pet parent and giving back to animals in need in your community when possible. Find more ways to get involved at your local shelter or rescue group.

Source: Petsmart.com/giveameal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Not to Sell Your Home

March 22, 2017 1:39 am

While the fundamentals of home staging, like decluttering and removing family photos, are critical when it comes to getting your home sold, it’s just as important to focus on what not to do as certain factors can act as immediate deal breakers to would-be buyers. Make sure your for-sale home doesn’t include any of the following turn-offs:

Odors. Whether it’s pet odors, last night’s stir fry or that musty basement, any type of strong odor can be an immediate deterrent to a buyer, no matter how beautifully your home is decorated or staged. We usually get accustomed to our home’s unique scent, so have a professional cleaner do the necessary work to make the environment odor-free.

Artwork. While all art is certainly subjective, keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate artwork with severe subject matter or nudity. Stick to subtle landscapes and still life subject matter, or remove artwork altogether. Sparsely decorated walls will make your home appear more spacious.

Collections. Your shelves of antique dolls or Norman Rockwell plates might be your most prized possession, but for prospective homebuyers who don’t share the same affinity, collections can skew their opinion of your home - not to mention, make it appear very cluttered. Pack away your beloved collectibles in preparation for their new home.

People. Sometimes, being present during showings can be a plus - you can provide buyers with certain details about your home and what you love most about the neighborhood. But most people don’t want the owners present when they tour a home. So clear out and give them the freedom to pour over every detail of your home and make honest comments to the REALTORS.

Weeds. Curb appeal really is everything, so if your yard isn’t up to snuff, buyers may turn around before they ever step foot inside. There’s no need to break the bank - just make sure the basics are covered: mow the lawn, weed borders and beds, trim bushes and trees, and remove all sticks, leaves and debris.

For more tips and advice on getting your home in perfect condition to list, contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why So Salty? How This Hidden Ingredient Impacts Your Health

March 22, 2017 1:39 am

We’ve all heard that a diet high in sodium is not a healthy one. A diet high in sodium raises blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke -- two of the leading causes of death in the United States. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, consuming too much salt has nothing to do with that cute shaker on the dinner table.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that Americans get 77 percent of their salt from processed foods and restaurant meals, compared to 6 percent from the salt shaker at the table and 5 percent added during home cooking. Studies show that Americans ages 2 and up consume an average 3,400 milligrams of salt each day -- well above the recommended Federal Drug Administration's guideline of 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams per day for people diagnosed with or at risk for high blood pressure.

So where can you nix extra salt? According to the CDC, sneaky salt sources come from the following culprits:

- Breads and rolls

- Cold cuts and cured meat (e.g., deli or packaged ham or turkey)

- Pizza

- Fresh and processed poultry

- Soups

- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers

- Cheese

- Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)

- Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf and tomato sauce

- Snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn

Avoid these to lower your daily salt intake.

SOURCE: American Academy of Family Physicians

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Have a More Functional Home

March 21, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--Turning your home into the living space of your dreams takes effort and commitment, but while the weather is warm and motivation is on your side, it's time to put your visions to the test.
Whether you choose to start your renovation poject on the inside or outside, for fun or for function, the important part is committing to getting it done and doing it right. That includes finding the right materials and products to suit your specific needs and style, whether it's for closet organization, a beautiful kitchen upgrade, adding features like skylights or anything in between.

Your dreams and desires for your home are attainable and within your reach, so long as you're devoted and willing to put in the time.  

Natural Light and Fresh Air from Above
You can brighten your space in an eco-friendly way with Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh air skylights which provide natural light and ventilation to reduce energy costs. Adding solar-powered blinds can further increase energy efficiency. These products, along with installation costs, qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To find certified installers, visit whyskylights.com.

Versatile Home Storage
It's time to get organized. Turn any closet or area in your home into a designer-inspired storage showcase. Find free design, inspiration and organization solutions at closetmaid.com/suitesymphony.

Functional Furniture
Ideal for enjoying a serene cup of coffee or welcoming guests for some outdoor fun, you can liven up your backyard space with a patio furniture set to help both aesthetically and functionally. The right set for your deck, patio or yard can lend a pleasing element to the eye and a comfortable spot to sit and eat, drink or rest after a friendly game of whiffle ball. Available in myriad colors and combinations, look for patio furniture that matches your style and personal preferences.

Backyard Getaway
Find a comfortable temperature and enter your most relaxed state at any time with your own backyard hot tub. The gateway to a restful opportunity, a hot tub gives you a chance to close your eyes and unwind whether it's the end of a long day or starting out your Saturday morning. With varying options like in-ground or above and a multitude of sizes, plus the ability to tune individual jets to your liking, a backyard hot tub can be the perfect personal oasis.

A Finishing Touch
Bring everything together in a kitchen or bathroom with the subtle feature that can sometimes be forgotten – the faucet. Extravagant or simple, modern or classic, the faucet can serve multiple aesthetic purposes like catching attention upon entering the room or simply complementing the design elements around it. Adding the final touch with the right faucet can be a beautiful way to wrap up a room.

Source: eLivingToday.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don’t Get Burned by an Online Purchase

March 21, 2017 1:36 am

Online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, according to recent Pew Research, eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online - that's 79 percent of U.S. consumers who shop on the web or their phones, up from just 22 percent back in 2000.

However, despite the amazing level of convenience, there are important risks involved when shopping online. According to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), the risk often involves the sale of “gray market” goods. The gray market consists of popular merchandise manufactured for export, and then re-imported to the U.S. to be sold for less than current market prices. This often means products with no warranty and items not manufactured according to U.S. regulatory standards.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize that risk and nab a great deal. The BBB offers the following five tips to protect yourself when making an online purchase through an unfamiliar website:

Research the seller. If you are not familiar with a website, check it out with the BBB. If you buy through an auction site, check the seller's rating and customer reviews.

Ask the seller about the merchandise. Sellers are obliged to tell you if they are selling gray market goods. Most states require sellers to disclose when an item is not covered by a valid U.S. warranty, as is the case with gray market merchandise.

Carefully inspect the merchandise and make sure it is in working order. Gray market goods may not be factory-fresh, having gone through the hands of several third parties. Check to see whether the manual and other printed material is in English.

Where can it be repaired? Since gray market merchandise will most likely not be eligible for repair by the manufacturer's authorized service center, ask where you can get repairs done competently.

Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card allows you to dispute the charges if the item was misrepresented online or is broken.

Taking these precautionary steps will ensure that your online shopping endeavors are not only convenient but fruitful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Have Healthy Skin

March 21, 2017 1:36 am

We think about dietary health and physical fitness, but how often do you think about the health of your skin? Not enough, according to the American Skin Association.

"Our skin is our largest organ and protects us from harmful bacteria, pollution, and toxins in the environment," explains Dr. Jean L. Bolognia, professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "As we age, those defenses weaken, making us more susceptible to infection, pain, and hospitalization. The need to establish skin healthy behaviors and protect our skin throughout our lives is more critical today than ever before."

The American Skin Association (ASA) recently announced the official launch of its Seven Principles for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin. Read them below.

Minimize exposure to UV light. Limit time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., apply broad spectrum sunscreen daily, wear sun protective clothing, and avoid tanning beds and similar artificial tanning devices entirely.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular water intake, sleep and exercise. Do not smoke. 

Visit your dermatologist once a year or as needed. 

Examine your skin daily, and report concerning changes in skin condition and/or color to your dermatologist or Health Care Professional as soon as possible.

Hydrate your skin daily, especially after bathing or showering. 

Maintain good hygiene for skin, hair and nails by giving gentle and constant attention to avoid irritation.

Immediately attend to wounds. To avoid infection and scarring, never pick or squeeze blemishes. 

Source: www.americanskin.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Stressed? You’re Not Alone

March 20, 2017 1:33 am

No matter where your political affiliations lie, it’s been a stressful time for Americans. In fact, according to a recent research from the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of Americans reported feeling stressed about our nation’s future, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.

In the APA’s report, "Stress in America™: Coping with Change,” more than half of Americans (57 percent) reported that the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

"The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it," says Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."

At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in recent months.  The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months. A third of Americans have reported specific symptoms such as headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).

How to deal with all this stress? The APA recommends watching your information intake. While it’s important to stay informed, it’s more important to know your limits and work to diminish exposure to distressing information.

Here are some other strategies for reducing stress:

- Limit your social media intake. Social media is supposed to be relaxing and entertaining but has become a hotbed for all sorts of harsh political opinions. Avoid those “friends” for the time being whose posts set your blood boiling.
- Get plenty of exercise. Now more than ever, it’s important to take some time and unplug. One of the best ways to do so is to get outside and walk, run or take the kids to the park. Fresh air and activity will stop stress in its tracks.
- Volunteer. Whether it’s volunteering at the soup kitchen or reading to your child’s class, getting involved with a good cause is a surefire way to generate positive feelings and focus on helping others instead of worrying about big-picture problems.

Source: American Psychological Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Should Homebuyers Size up Smart Homes Carefully?

March 20, 2017 1:33 am

Smart homes and their related technology are only a few years old. That means that first generation of smart homes are just beginning to hit the marketplace as owners relocate or vacate those properties.

A recent NBC news report pointed out that while smart homes are still a small part of the overall market, they are expected to grow significantly in the next few years as more homeowners install these devices and homebuyers come to expect them.

As a result, the National Association of REALTORS is now teaching its agents how to spot IoT devices and how to deal with them at closing.

Recently, Parks Associates announced new research showing that approximately one-third of smart home device owners experience problems with their smart home devices and nearly 10 percent report problems connecting a smart home device to the home network router.

Consumers encounter these issues more often when setting up smart sprinkler systems, networked security cameras, and water leak detectors compared to other smart home devices the study found.
Ed Oswald at cheatsheet.com says there are four major reasons why homebuyers might do well to consider a smart home purchase - or upgrade - very carefully:

1. It can be hacked. This started happening way back in 2014, when security researchers showed that hackers can take complete control of Belkin WeMo smart home devices.

2. The technology is moody. When you use a smart switch or press a smart button to operate a connected device, the signal first heads to your smart hub, then the hub sends it to the cloud, where it is sent back to your hub, and finally to your device. What happens when this fails? Those devices don’t work.

3. Many competing “standards.” The sheer number of smart home platforms and technologies is staggering, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WeMo, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and a host of others. Not every platform talks to one another, and many aren’t even compatible with others, making the problem worse.

4. The price is too high. Before you know it, you could be in deep — to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And what if you want to switch smart home technologies? There’s no guarantee what you just bought will even work.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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