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Reducing Exposure to Produce Pesticides

March 23, 2015 6:00 am

Fresh produce is an important part of a healthy diet. Following a study on pesticides in produce, Consumer Reports determined that certain produce are best purchased organic to mitigate pesticide exposure. Those foods are:


Green Beans
Sweet Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers
Sweet Potatoes

Universally, the study found that organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories when it comes to pesticide exposure, so shoppers should choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible. If organic produce is too pricey or unavailable, there are often low-risk conventional options equivalent to organic.

Low- or very-low risk conventional produce items that are safe to consume include bananas, cherries, oranges, broccoli, lettuce and onions.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Spring Cleaning a Family Affair

March 23, 2015 6:00 am

Spring cleaning your home can be overwhelming without help. If you’re a parent, enlist your children with these creative (and fun!) ways to clean, courtesy of Debra Johnson, home cleaning expert for Merry Maids.

• Host a Fashion Show

Go through closets and play dress up with the kids. Put away the show-stopping outfits and make piles of items that no longer fit to donate or discard.

• Skate Over Dust
Remove furniture and rugs from hardwood surfaces in your home and have your kids slide over the floor with microfiber cloths wrapped around their feet (supervision required). Have a trash bag on hand to collect dust afterwards.

• Celebrate Christmas in Spring
Help children sort through toys and games that are no longer being used for donations. Bonus - kids may re-discover items they love!

• Establish a Finders Keepers Rule
Entice little ones to help with cleaning under couch cushions or beds with a finders keepers rule, letting them know that any money found while cleaning is theirs for the taking. Hide coins in places that need the most attention, and provide each child with a jar to collect their spring cleaning savings.

Source: ServiceMaster

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Curb Appeal: 4 Ways to Attract Buyers

March 23, 2015 6:00 am

(Family Features) If you're planning to list your home for sale, curb appeal is a must. The exterior of your home sends an important message about its value, and the first impression can set expectations for both buyers and appraisers. Boost your home’s curb appeal with these tips.

1. Evaluate the Landscape - Curb appeal is about the big picture, which includes your lawn, shrubs and features such as flower beds and rock gardens. Keep grass neatly trimmed and prune vegetation for a well-kept look. Give your home a thorough assessment from the street. Are trees or shrubs obscuring an appealing architectural detail? Does vegetation dwarf your home, making it seem small? Would a pop of color from some flowering plants add to the overall look?

2. Beware of Dirt - Because you see your home every day, you may not realize the exterior has become dull with a layer of dust and dirt. An adjustable pressure washer can help you wash siding, garage doors and shutters without stripping paint, as well as delicate items such as glass top patio tables. Switch to high flow mode to clean second story windows, eaves and gutters or to blast away hard-to-reach cobwebs and insect nests.

3. Update with Paint - If a power wash isn’t enough, it may be time to revisit your home's exterior color scheme. Even modest adjustments, from pale beige to a deeper tan, for example, can completely alter the look. If a complete paint job isn’t in the budget, freshen up the trim, door and shutters.

4. Remember the Details - Decks, fences, mailboxes, birdbaths, gazebos and other decorative features all factor into your home's exterior image. Thoroughly clean these items, repair any loose or broken pieces such as fence slats, and apply a fresh coat of paint or stain, if needed.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Move Down in Time for Spring Buying Season

March 20, 2015 6:00 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) showing average fixed mortgage rates moving down across the board. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate continues to run below 4 percent – a good sign for the spring homebuying season.

“The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.78 percent this week following mixed housing data,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Housing starts dropped 17 percent to a seasonally adjusted pace of 897,000 units, below market expectations. However, housing permits increased 3 percent in February. As we head into spring, home builders remain positive about home sales in the near future although the NAHB Housing Market Index dropped another 2 points to 53 in March.”

Freddie Mac’s PMMS® found that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 0.6 point for the week ending March 19, 2015, down from last week when it averaged 3.86 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.32 percent.

The 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.06 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.10 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM average 3.32 percent.

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.97 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.01 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.02 percent.

The 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.46 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.49 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Signs of Leaky Plumbing

March 20, 2015 6:00 am

Did you know that the average home can lose roughly 11,000 gallons of water each month due to running toilets, dripping faucets and other household leaks? Find and eliminate wasteful leaks with these tips from the specialists at American Leak Detection.

1. Check for drips by leaving a glass underneath a faucet. Stopping these drips can easily save enough water for over 30 showers, and usually only requires replacement of an inexpensive washer or valve seat.

2. Are you regularly adding or refilling water in your pool or spa? This may be a sign of one or more leaks.

3. Leaky toilets can be spotted by adding a teaspoon of food coloring to the tank; if you see the color in the toilet bowl, then the flapper valve needs to be replaced.

If your water bill has been creeping up recently, stop all running water in your home and check your water meter to see if it is moving.

Source: American Leak Detection

Published with permission from RISMedia.


HVAC Safety As Warm Weather Approaches

March 20, 2015 6:00 am

For individuals owning furnaces and other HVAC units, it's important to keep safety in mind as the spring and summer season approaches.

“Many homeowners don’t realize the potential risk factors involved when their HVAC unit is not properly maintained after the cold winter months,” says Interstate Co-Owner Raymond Kishk. “Not only can heating and cooling systems pose a serious threat to one’s health, it can also pose a serious threat to the life of the equipment.”

Here is a brief checklist of suggested heating and cooling end-of-season maintenance one can do to prevent any health risks:

Clean and change your air filters. Do you have any idea what is in the air you breathe? In the past we have found the following caught inside an air filter, lint, dust, debris, pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust mites. Not to mention, changing filters often saves you money.

Close the gas valve. When you stop using your unit for heat, make sure to close the gas line. Gas could be escaping into the room, which is very dangerous. Troubleshooting and diagnosing any problems can be difficult for someone who has no knowledge of the system, so calling a professional can give you peace of mind knowing your unit is safe for use.

Change your belt and lubricating motors. Replacing belts allows for the motor to run efficiently. A motor would work twice as hard if the belt is loose. Cleaning & lubricating motors is also a must do pre summer season. Not doing so is causing the HVAC system to draw more power to circulate the air in your house leading to higher energy bills.

Clean you evaporator and condenser coil before using your air conditioner. Dirty coils will increase operating costs because adequate heat transfer is not provided, which will lead to a reduction in cooling. A evaporator coil is a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can greatly impact the indoor air quality.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Application Denied? What You Need to Know to Rectify the Situation

March 19, 2015 8:30 pm

Over the last decade, the number of mortgage applications that have been approved has decreased significantly, however, it’s important for prospective buyers to remember that there are a number of things that can be done to help rectify the situation.

While Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have set requirements including the Fico score, debt-to-ratio income and proof of income, recent data reveals that prospective homebuyers with credit scores of less than 640 are being shut out of the market, showing that banks are being far more strict than the minimums placed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The last thing you need is to miss out on the home of your dreams because you’re not able to get the mortgage you need.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are three things you can do.

1. Ask for a Second Opinion. While this may seem absurd, you do have the right to ask a lender to have someone else at the company look at the application and review it. These sort of exceptions aren’t utilized much, but if you can write a convincing argument, this might be your best route. If there’s one small thing on your credit report holding you up (say a bill from college that your roommate supposedly paid), explain the circumstances and give examples that show that it never happened again. If you can back up your claims, you may just find yourself approved.

2. Find a Different Lender. Just because one lender says “no,” doesn’t mean the lender down the block will. While each lender has different requirements, it doesn’t hurt to try your luck with as many as you can. If you find that lenders are rejecting you for the same reason, you’re going to need to go a different route. In the end, remember that what might scare one lender away may not have the same affect on another.

3. Get a Co-signer. Even if you’ve been denied a mortgage because of your finances, getting someone to co-sign the loan (like a parent or sibling) is a great way to get approval fast. Odds are, you know someone with good credit who would be willing to help you out; just make sure not to default on your mortgage or you will harm their credit as well, creating a rather uncomfortable situation.

Finding a mortgage can be tricky—especially if your credit isn’t perfect—but with a little determination and possibly a helping hand, one can get the funds needed for the home of their dreams.

For more information about getting approved for a mortgage, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Update Your Home Decor This Spring Without Breaking the Bank

March 19, 2015 8:30 pm

Now that the spring selling season has arrived, prospective buyers are jumping back into the home search. With the added interest that comes with the season, if your home is currently on the market, now’s the time to make sure it truly stands out above the competition.

Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can easily update your home’s decor by using your imagination and DIY skills. From painting to landscaping to highlighting vases and candles, there’s a lot you can do to get your home looking good.

Here are seven ways to inexpensively improve the look and feel of your home.

1. Add Rugs. Go to any carpet store or even superstore and you’ll find inexpensive rugs in plenty of pleasing colors and patterns. Rugs can give any room in your home an individualistic flavor while adding some pop. You can even layer a smaller rug in a contrasting color over a larger neutral carpet or rug.

2. Embrace the Outdoors. You can bring the outdoors inside and create unique design spaces by displaying glass bowls filled with shells or pebbles near windows or on countertops. Also, place seasonal flowers and foliage in vases and baskets around the house to enhance the interior of your home with freshness.

3. Take a Seat. Another budget-friendly way of improving the ambience of a room is
by changing the cushion covers on a couch or chair. Choose designs with bright colors or work off the rest of the room.

4. Change the Color Scheme. One of the simplest and least expensive ways to update the décor of your home in a truly eye-catching manner is by painting. You can paint an entire room or just one wall to add some flare.

5. Add Curtains. You may like having the sun shine in, but curtains add a level of luxury to a room that people tend to gravitate toward. Even if you already have curtains hanging, replace them with a more modern look with bold colors and designs.

6. Knock Three Times. People sometimes forget that the door to a home is one of the first things a buyer will see, so replacing a door knob with a brass design can be key to getting a house visit off on the right foot. Other nice fixtures include adding an antique door knocker and a cool design around the doorbell.

7. Say It with Fruit. Adding bowls of fruit to bedrooms or even the family room can add to the ambience and make the home look more inviting and warm.

For more ways to update your décor, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Turn Your Unfinished Basement into a Space You and Your Family Will Love

March 19, 2015 8:30 pm

When it comes to unfinished basements, the sky’s the limit in terms of creating a space that you and your family will enjoy. From a game room for the kids to an extra bedroom for visiting relatives, the basement can become an extension of your current living space.

Here are a few ways to consider utilizing a basement space.

1. Create an Art Studio. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or someone who likes to paint along with old Bob Ross videos, setting up an art studio in the basement is a great way to use the space. Use a wooden floor that will look increasingly artistic as paint continues to fall on it, set up easels throughout and add shelves full of paint, chalk and other art materials. If you really want to be unique, use chalkboard paint on the walls to allow little ones to have some fun with creative designs as well.

2. Start a Wine Collection. Ever dream of heading to your cellar during a party and emerging with a nice bottle of wine? Why not convert a small portion of your basement into a wine cellar to store your favorite wines and start a new collection? You don’t need to have the most expensive collection out there. Simply buying an extra bottle or two each time you head to the liquor store is an easy way to start growing your collection.

3. Stay Fit. Long before there were gyms on every retail corner, people would exercise in their basements, doing weights and riding exercise bikes. Now, the home exercise equipment market has blossomed and people can create their own fitness studio in the home—complete with yoga mats, a treadmill, Nautilus machine and a good old-fashioned workbench.

4. Play, play, play. A basement is the perfect place to store toys and games that your children constantly play with. Since it’s out of view from the rest of the house, you won’t care if it gets too messy. Consider making a wall of shelves or a large closet to store every doll, car and book in an organized fashion. You can also add things like a Lego table, a Barbie section, a place to do puzzles or even a large train set.

5. Work Away from Work. Finding a quiet place to work or do your bills is sometimes hard, which is why creating a home office in the basement is a great idea. You can seclude yourself away from others and get your work down without any distractions. If you work from home on a consistent basis, incorporating a home office into the basement will keep you organized while providing the peace and quiet you need to get things done.

To learn more about taking advantage of your unfinished basement space, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips to Successfully Incorporate Pantone's Color of the Year into Your Living Space

March 19, 2015 8:30 pm

Now that spring has sprung, homeowners are once again eager to incorporate pops of color into their home décor. While choosing the perfect color isn’t always easy, taking cues from the experts is one way to ensure you’re keeping up with the current trends.

With Pantone having recently declared its color of the year for 2015 to be Marsala, homeowners can rest assured that the hue will be popping up everywhere this year—even in the home.

While painting is the most obvious way to incorporate this year’s hottest hue within different areas of your home to enhance its design and look, there are plenty of additional ways to bring the color into your space.

Much like the fortified wine that gives Marsala its name, Pantone describes its selection as a “hue that embodies the satisfying richness of a fulfilling meal while its grounding red-brown roots emanate a sophisticated, natural earthiness. This hearty, yet stylish, tone is universally appealing and translates easily to fashion, beauty, industrial design, home furnishings and interiors.”

If you’re looking to incorporate this year’s hue into your home, one of the best areas to do so is in the dining room. Whether you choose to paint the walls or even change the fabric on your dining room chairs, there are plenty of options when it comes to incorporating Marsala into your interior décor. To ensure that you don’t go too extreme, use Marsala sparingly while leaving some spaces painted white to truly let the color have a presence.

The bathroom is another ideal place for a makeover in Pantone’s official color of the year. Not only can Marsala titles be soothing when unwinding at the end of the day, if you intersperse the tiles with mirrors and cabinets, the entire room will be soothing and refreshing.

In living rooms or bedrooms, a matte finish highlights Marsala’s organic nature, while adding a sheen is a great way to convey a completely different message of glamour and luxury. Pillows, curtains and candles featuring the color are also great additions.

If you’re looking to add a splash of Marsala to an entryway, find a mat or throw rug to add to the space. These items can be used within other rooms as well. You can also change up the artwork in your home with some inexpensive paintings that make use of the color.

Adding the color of the year to your kitchen can be achieved with the addition of new appliances—such as a toaster or mixer. Or, purchase a new set of plates or cups that feature Marsala.

Staging experts agree that Marsala is equally appealing to men and women and is a stirring and flavorful shade for apparel and accessories—one that encourages color creativity and experimentation.

By creatively introducing Marsala touches to different rooms in your home, one can make the interiors reflect the color of the year with ease. And when Pantone chooses a new color next year, the color will stay in vogue for years to come.

To learn more about incorporating Pantone’s color of the year into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.