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Six Money-Saving Tips for DIY Movers

July 14, 2014 4:51 am

Moving without the assistance of a professional moving company is no easy feat. DIY movers must pack and unpack an entire household, risk breaking or losing possessions, or ship items and travel long distances.

One way to alleviate moving day woes is to rent a truck. Cut rental costs by keeping in mind these six money-saving tips:

1. Rent early. Most moves happen over a weekend near the end of the month. Save extra by renting on a weekday or earlier in the month.

2. Seek discounts. Shop around to find discounts. Many rental companies offer markdowns for students, municipal workers, seniors or AAA members.

3. Use your insurance. If your existing insurance continues during a move, see if it extends to cover moving vans. You’ll save on paying more for the truck separately.

4. Get an accurate size estimate. Renters often charge more for larger vehicles, so be sure you’re only reserving what you absolutely need. Most companies have online tools that will help you get a precise estimate of space required.

5. Save on boxes. Take advantage of grocery stores, which often give away cardboard boxes for free. Select U-Haul locations also participate in a swap where movers can drop off or pick up no-cost boxes.

6. Stick to the schedule. Rental companies typically allot specific times that the truck may be used. Be sure to return your truck in a timely manner (preferably as soon as you’re finished unloading) to avoid late fees.

Source: Bankrate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Most Shoppers Confused by Egg Carton Labels

July 14, 2014 4:51 am

Nearly two-thirds of Americans routinely spend more to buy specialty eggs, but a new nationwide poll reveals they don't always get what they think they're paying for.

When asked to describe the terms "free-range" and "cage-free," most respondents said they imagined hens roaming and feeding on open pastures. In reality, they were describing “pasture-raised” eggs. What’s the difference? Vital Farms explains egg carton labels:

Genuine pasture-raised hens have unlimited daytime access to a minimum of 108 square feet of outdoor space each. They are exposed to sunlight and fresh air, and can forage for any foods that are naturally available on their pastures. Additionally, they are rotated to new pastures every few days so their vegetation is always fresh. The hens are brought inside at night for safety.

Free-Range and Cage-Free Hens
According to industry standards, free-range hens have limited outdoor access. This outdoor space is typically compacted dirt, and access is restricted through a small opening. While cage-free hens are not in cages, they can be packed in a barn with no access to the outdoors.

Currently, there are no government standards for egg labels, and the term “organic” is the only label regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Source: Vital Farms

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Ready to Move? 5 Questions You Must Ask Before Listing Your Home

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Buying or selling a home is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Whether you’re simply looking for a change of scenery or considering a cross country move so that you can be closer to a significant other, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions before making the decision to move—whether it’s down the road or across state lines.

1. Why do I want to move? Maybe you’re bored with your lifestyle and want to try living in a new place or you just need a change of scenery. But before you do something drastic, make a list of the pros and cons associated with leaving the area where you currently reside. Deciding to sell on a whim could be a decision you end up paying for long into the future, so make sure you really think about what moving means and how it will affect your life going forward.

2. Do I have to move? Is your job relocating you? Have you met the man or woman of your dreams? Can you no longer afford to make your mortgage payments? While some of these reasons may be more practical than others, make sure you explore every possibility before putting your house on the market. If you’re considering moving for a new job, how certain are you that the position is going to be permanent? Is your reason for moving financially based? If so, have you looked into refinancing or borrowing from another source? Whatever the reason may be, make sure you explore all your options before making a decision.

3. Is now a good time to move? Before you make the decision to move, it’s important that you understand what the housing market is like in your area. Check to see what houses have been selling for and compare comps to find out what direction the market is moving. If time isn’t an issue and you’re simply looking for a change of scenery, you can always wait out the market.

4. Should I rent? Perhaps you aren’t 100 percent sure that leaving is what you really want to do. If this is the case, consider renting out your home for a year so you can continue to pay the mortgage and see where your life takes you over the next 12 months. You might decide that you miss the neighborhood and the closeness to the city or suburbs, and this scenario allows you to easily go back.

5. How should I sell my home? While some people try to sell a home on their own, studies show that selling with the help of a qualified real estate agent will get you a better price and a quicker deal. Interview a few local agents and ask around to see if your friends, family and neighbors have any recommendations.

For more information about selling your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What You Need to Know about "Coming Soon" Properties

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Have you ever driven through a neighborhood and seen a real estate sign with the words “coming soon” rather than “for sale?” While this listing feature is creating a lot of controversy among industry practitioners, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently released a set of guidelines to better explain the “coming soon” process and a REALTORS®’ role in it.

“The first important step in advising a seller-client on whether to advertise a property as ‘coming soon’ is to identify the client’s best interests, as defined by that client,” says Katie Johnson, NAR’s general counsel, in an organizational release. “Failing to act in the client’s best interest and failing to disclose the pros and cons of a limited marketing plan, such as ‘coming soon’ advertising, can violate state real estate license laws and regulations, MLS policies, and the Realtor Code of Ethics.”

A “coming soon” property could either be an unlisted home that may be listed with a broker in the near future, or it could be a home subject to listing agreements where property is available to potential purchasers only through the listing broker and not available, temporarily or indefinitely, for showing or purchase through other MLS participants.

In both cases, the home is normally not listed in the MLS.

There are some who believe that a “coming soon” property is more desirable for a house hunter because it falls into the “can’t have it so want it” mentality. If the homebuyer did get an appointment to view the home, they would be more likely to make an offer quickly and less likely to negotiate the price. Also, by having people wait weeks to see a home they have only seen from the outside, anticipation builds, which can work in a seller’s favor.

Others believe that the “coming soon” designation scares off too many potential buyers and creates a limited number of people who actually see the home, which can hurt its value.

NAR created its report in response to some who feel that an agent who holds back from including a property on the MLS is being unethical and not serving his or her clients best, hoping to sell the house him or herself. Anyone selling a home who believes this to be the case should contact the brokerage or call their agent on it.

However, in most “coming soon” cases, it’s simply a matter of the seller wanting to make additional renovations or fixes, perhaps do some landscaping to beautify the home, and they are simply trying to pique interest before officially putting it on the market.

For more information about “coming soon” properties, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pre-Sale Inspections Provide Peace of Mind among Buyers and Sellers

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

One of the most stressful times for a home seller is that short period of time between when a bid is accepted and the inspection comes back, as you never know what might turn up.

Many times, an inspection will uncover hidden problems or other defects that will change the offer and put the negotiating power in the buyer’s favor. Things like rotting floors, mold in the attic or termites on the deck have been enough to kill deals altogether.

The problem with a buyer getting an inspection and pulling out because they didn’t like the results is that normally, you don’t know what they didn’t like and you don’t have access to their inspector’s report. This can be frustrating because if you knew the problem, you could get it fixed.

One way to ensure that the inspection doesn’t offer any real surprises is to arrange for an inspection yourself prior to putting the home on the market. By doing so, you will discover any problems ahead of time, which will give you the opportunity to make the necessary fixes.

While the inspector won’t necessarily be the same as the one a potential buyer brings in, a professional inspector should be able to come up with most of the same things that anyone would find. Inspectors have specific knowledge in all aspects of home construction, including plumbing, wiring and other components, so their findings shouldn’t vary much.

Your inspector will work with you to identify hidden problems such as leaks in the roof, possible water damage, remodeling efforts that don’t meet current building codes, or improperly grounded outlets. Once you have the list of potential issues, you can either repair the problems or reduce the price of your home accordingly. Making certain repairs before you put your house on the market makes sense when the repairs are relatively small and inexpensive. For larger items, it may be better to take money off the asking price and let the buyer fix or replace these things once they move in.

If you have a pool, you should also consider hiring a separate pool inspector since pools are typically a big draw among prospective buyers.

While the price of an inspection will run you a few hundred dollars, it’ll be well worth it when you think of the alternative of losing a sale because of something that could have easily been fixed ahead of time.

Keep in mind that if you do get an inspection and discover something is wrong, most states require you by law to let the buyer know. If you conceal a defect from the buyer and the buyer’s inspection doesn’t discover it, the buyer can sue later if it’s discovered. But if you fix the problems or just let the buyer know prior to the deal, you will be okay.

To learn more about pre-sale inspections, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Contingencies and Their Role in Real Estate Transactions

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

When it comes to buying or selling a home, there are a lot of moving parts that need to come together to ensure the transaction is a success. One key piece of the puzzle that can’t be ignored? Contingencies. Part of any standard home purchase contract, contingencies deal with items such as inspections, financing, insurance and agreed-upon repairs that must be completed before a deal is finalized.

Contingencies are an important part of any real estate transaction simply because if something that was agreed to is not done, you have an out. For example, if the deal was contingent upon the home seller replacing the water heater or fixing a leaky pipe and these things aren’t done by closing time, you’re not required to go through with the deal. And this puts all the negotiating power in your court.

A financing contingency is usually on the onus of the buyer, and states that they must secure an acceptable mortgage or other means of financing to buy the home. With so many loans falling through, this is a safety net for the seller that ensures the sale will go through. If not, an agreed-upon fine will be imposed and the seller can re-list the home.

Additionally, some buyers have added an insurance contingency to their contracts to make sure they will be able to get insured. With many living in states with a history of toxic mold, earthquakes or floods, insurance carriers no longer automatically issue a policy, so the contract can be contingent on applying for and receiving an insurance commitment in writing.

Other popular contingencies include the seller asking that the deal be made contingent on his or her successfully buying another home, or the buyer making the deal contingent on selling his or her own home. A home sale contingency can be risky to sellers as there’s no guarantee that the other home will eventually sell. Even if the contract allows the seller to continue to market the property and accept offers, the house may be listed “under contract,” making it less attractive to other potential buyers. In a hot market, these are often not agreed to, but when things are slow, you’ll find an increase in these contingency plans.

The most important part of any contingency is putting it in writing. Your agent can help you incorporate contingencies as part of your own contract or as part of the contract you and the seller agree on.

A home transaction is one of the largest transactions you’ll ever take part in, so make sure you take the proper steps to ensure you get what you pay for.

To learn more about contingencies, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Instagram Provides Unique Twist to House Hunting Process

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Social media has taken the real estate industry by storm, and buyers and sellers alike are pulling out all the stops when it comes to using various platforms to achieve their real estate dreams. Today, many are turning to Instagram to truly scope out the unique features they desire.

A picture-friendly website, Instagram has over 200 million active users. And on any given day, around 55 million photos are uploaded, resulting in approximately 86.4 million comments.

It’s no wonder that many real estate agents and home sellers are utilizing the site to not only better showcase a home, but to attract a larger pool of prospective buyers. Pictures have become one of our default modes of sorting and understanding the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to every day and sharing shots on Instagram helps to cut through some of the clutter.

House hunters can search Instagram for photos of houses in a specific area by entering search terms such as “homes for sale” and the city or community one is interested in buying into. Once they do, the number of photos that come up may be surprising.

And these photos aren’t your typical cookie-cutter shots of the exterior of the home or the kitchen or bedrooms. These are unique photos that showcase interesting aspects of the home and the property that you wouldn’t see unless you were in the house itself.

On a random day on Instagram, photos for houses for sale included a close-up of an ornate design on the kitchen cabinetry, pictures of 19th century doorknobs and a star-filled view of the sky taken from the master bedroom. It’s shots like these that tell a better story to entice prospective buyers to come visit the property. In addition, most photos also include links to shots of the rest of the house, so you can decide from the comfort of your own home whether it would be worth your while to visit.

While Instagram is devoted to sharing images, photos often include a brief description with additional details, oftentimes much different than what you would find on an MLS listing. As with any social media platform, those taking advantage of Instagram are providing a creative and fun avenue for you to explore.

If you’re looking to add a little fun to the house hunting process, sign on to Instagram. It may just be the social network that leads you to your new home.

For more information about using Instagram to find your dream home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Pre-Sale Inspections

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how Instagram can play an integral role in helping buyers find their dream home. Other topics covered this month include five questions you need to consider before moving and what you need to know about “coming soon” properties. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Debt-Free Is Still the 'American Dream’ for Most

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

Being out of debt and retiring financially secure represent the American Dream for a majority of Americans, and most are optimistic that they can achieve it, according to the 2014 American Dream Survey. Retiring financially secure at age 65 represents the ultimate American dream for 36 percent of those surveyed, while getting out of debt came in at a close second, with 25 percent of respondents choosing it as their definition of the "American Dream."

The majority of survey respondents are optimistic about their ability to achieve their version of the American Dream, with 16 percent saying they have already achieved it and another 50 percent indicating it is within their reach. Only 24 percent say it is it not within their reach.

Other significant findings from the survey include:

• Dreams are personal and varied. After retirement and getting out of debt, the other top definitions of the American Dream included owning a home (17 percent), joining the "one percent," (five percent), graduating from college (three percent), and paying off student loans (two percent).

• Getting out of debt is a top priority. When asked about their top financial priority for the next year, at the top of the list was paying off credit card debt, with 19 percent of consumers choosing that option. Close behind that, another 18 percent chose "being debt-free." Other responses included investing for retirement (12 percent), saving for a major purchase (12 percent), buying a home (nine percent), paying off student loans (six percent), retiring financially secure at 65 (six percent), sending kids to college (five percent) or paying off the mortgage (four percent).

• Most are fairly optimistic about their ability to pay off debt. When it comes to being debt-free, 79 percent said they are very or somewhat likely to achieve that milestone in their lifetimes, with only 18 percent indicating that it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, those with student loan debt were most likely to say it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes (28 percent), followed closely by those who have been unemployed in the past three years (24 percent).


Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to De-clutter Kitchen Cabinets

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

From spices to coffee filters to cooking oils, those kitchen cabinets have a way of filling up fast, and keeping these culinary tools in order can be a daunting task. Use these three tips to get your pantry and kitchen cabinets in order:

1. Empty Each Shelf
Go through each shelf to properly wipe out dust and crumbs, and to sort through outdated food. Before you put the items back on the shelves, clean the base thoroughly and line each one with a non-adhesive shelf liner which will create a protective, cushioned barrier on your surfaces.

2. Survey Food Items
Go through food items and donate or dispose of those you won't use, and group similar items together. This will help you keep track of your inventory. For further organization, sort based on expiration so you can use up food while it's still fresh.

3. Create User-Friendly Spaces
Make your pantry more ergonomic and easier to access by placing commonly used items on eye-level shelves. In addition, maximize the space in pantry and cabinets with turntables for spices and other storage solutions.

Source: Duck Brand

Published with permission from RISMedia.