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Tips for a Clean, Guest-Ready Home

August 20, 2014 6:09 am

(Family Features) Now is the season for enjoying backyard BBQs and poolside parties with friends and family – not being trapped in the house for pre- and post-party cleaning. With a little planning, you can minimize time spent on daily chores and maximize time spent soaking up the sun and creating memories with guests. Here are a few quick tips to clean and prep your home for get-togethers – anytime day or night.

Load the dishwasher first. When you’re throwing a get-together, the last thing you want is to open the dishwasher to find dirty dishes. Make sure to run the dishwasher the day before your guests arrive to ensure everything is clean when you need it.

Prepare dishes for the wash cycle. To ensure dishes get clean and dry the first time, scrape away large pieces of food and excess leftovers before loading, and the dishwasher will take care of the rest. Make sure your silverware gets the right water coverage by loading some pointing up and some pointing down, including knives. And remember, safety first, especially if kids are helping. If you don’t plan to run the dishwasher immediately, remember to rinse foods such as mustard, mayonnaise and tomato based products as they may cause discoloration of plastics if allowed to sit for a long period of time.

Fill the upper rack, load the bottom. Cups, glasses, stemware, small plates and bowls are all welcome in the top rack. Make sure any plastic items go on top, too. Be sure to load open-ended items into the washer facing down for the best cleaning and draining. No more tumblers full of water. Save your biggest items for the edge of the lower rack. Face everything else – plates, large bowls, etc. – toward the center of the rack for a thorough clean.

Make it a family event. Throw a family cleaning party to get everyone involved with the get-together prep, making it quick and fun. Get creative and play a game to assign rooms to different family members. Put all rooms that need to be cleaned on a piece of paper, place them in a hat and have everyone pick. From dusting to loading the dishwasher to taking out the trash, the extra hands will be a big help, and before you know it, everyone will be out of the house and into the backyard to enjoy the sunshine.

For more tips to make your home a clean and welcoming environment, visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Clothes Dryer Shrinking Your Energy Budget?

August 19, 2014 5:57 am

Regular readers know I talk a lot about new developments and technologies related to home appliances. But despite great strides many manufacturers have voluntarily made creating more energy efficient appliances, clothes dryers that still play an important function in millions of homes across the nation are still a major energy concern.

According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released in mid-June, clothes dryers in U.S. homes are wasting up to $4 billion worth of electricity annually because energy-saving standards for the common appliance have not been significantly updated for almost 30 years,

The NRDC report, “A Call to Action for More Efficient Clothes Dryers,” finds that today’s typical electric clothes dryer can easily consume as much energy as a new energy efficient refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher combined.

Noah Horowitz, director of NRDC’s Center for Energy Efficiency Standards believes it is time to bring U.S. clothes dryers into the modern era and achieve some of the massive efficiency gains all the other major home appliances have seen.

The NRDC’s analysis suggests incorporating existing technology used abroad and adopting recommended technical and policy changes could slash U.S. dryers’ $9 billion annual electricity bills by 40 percent. And it can prevent roughly 16 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to taking three coal-fired power plants offline.

A key reason for the energy waste is that U.S. dryers continue to use decades-old technology that bakes water out of clothing with brute force, wasting a lot of energy and blowing hot-air exhaust to the outdoors.

NRDC’s report recommends steps consumers can take in the interim to cut laundry-related energy use and utility bills:

  • Use the washer’s maximum spin speed to lessen the amount of water remaining in the clothing before reaching the dryer
  • Choose cold water in the washer will also save up to 50 cents per load in energy costs
  • Select dryer cycles like delicate that reduce energy use (but increase drying time)
  • And no overfilling the drum, this gives clothes more room to tumble dry more quickly

Read the report at

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mind-Body Practices that Can Change Your Life

August 19, 2014 5:57 am

There is a lot of advice floating around out there about the best ways to manage your life and improve your professional success.

Entrepreneur Magazine recently interviewed five mega-successful individuals – including media magnate Oprah Winfrey and author/entrepreneur Arianna Huffington – to unearth some of the mind-body practices they say helped propel them to success.

Read the responses of these entrepreneurs and decide for yourself if making any or all of their five suggested changes may help vault you to greater accomplishment:

  • Deepening the human connection – Entrepreneur Seth Godin, author of “Tribes,” tries to tap in to the human desire for connection and belonging. He advises investing heavily in relationships that matter, cultivating strong ties to friends and family that increase trust and personal security and open the mind to better networking and decision-making.
  • Creating energy through exercise – More than one highly successful individual recommends regular physical exercise as a means to opening the mind. Whether it’s walking, yoga, or workouts at the gym, cultivating a healthy body can increase creative energy.
  • Getting enough sleep – If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will crash and burn at some point, said Huffington. Good sleep habits increase mental acuity and foster a balanced emotional state.
  • Being grateful – Successful people are grateful people, said Winfrey. They remember to appreciate what they have every day and to say thanks often along the journey. The more you do that, Oprah says, the more successful you become.
  • Using stillness as a motivator - Whether it’s meditation, yoga or any other method of achieving a calm state of mind, respondents noted that being perfectly still for some period of every day promotes inner peace, increases the ability to react appropriately, and helps you to better solve problems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Be Wary of Fall Home Maintenance Scams

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

When autumn arrives, many homeowners prepare their homes for cooler weather by hiring specialists to clean and make repairs. Be mindful of cons during this time of year – scammers use this opportunity to swindle homeowners out of thousands of dollars for unnecessary work. Be wary of these four scams typically advertised during the fall season.

Chimney repairs – Scammers disguised as chimney sweeps will tell you your chimney needs to be inspected, and then use hard sales tactics to get you to make expensive, unfounded repairs. Don’t fall for it.

Gutter cleaning – Fraudulent gutter cleaners tend to prey on the elderly or those who cannot clean their gutters easily. They will assure you that they’ve worked in the neighborhood before, and quote you a very low estimate in return for shoddy, incomplete work.

Energy audits – Many scammers offer a “free” energy audit to reduce heating costs, claiming to be a representative from your local utility company. They insist on costly upgrades for your attic, such as solar blankets or insulation, and may or may not burglarize your home while conducting the audit.

Ductwork cleaning – Ductwork cleaning is rarely a necessity, so take caution. Scammers are known to damage your heating system while cleaning it in order to leech more money out of you for repairs. They also may create indoor air hazards.

Before scheduling maintenance with an unknown service provider, research the individual or company through your local BBB or the Internet. Seek out referrals from trusted family and friends, check for proper licensing and never pay upfront.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Lower

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) showing average fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower. Averaging 4.12 percent for the week, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage once again is at its 2014 low.

"Mortgage rates were down slightly amid a week of light economic reports,” notes Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. “Of the few releases, retail sales were virtually unchanged in July after a 0.2 percent increase in June, ending five months of increases. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales were up 0.1 percent last month."

Survey findings include:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.12 percent with an average 0.6 point for the week ending August 14, 2014, down from last week when it averaged 4.14 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.40 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.24 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.27 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.44 percent.
  • 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 2.98 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.23 percent.
  • 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.36 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.35 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.67 percent.
Average commitment rates and average fees and points reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Employers Look for 3 'Cs' When Hiring

August 18, 2014 5:45 am

(BPT) - Whether you are an employer looking to hire someone or the person looking to get hired, it's all about competency. Only 11 percent of employers believe recent graduates have the skills needed to succeed within their work forces, according to a recent Lumina Foundation report. Two-thirds of employers say recent college graduates may have the skills and knowledge for entry-level positions, but less than half believe recent graduates have what it takes for advancement to higher level jobs, according to a 2013 survey conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

So what are these essential competencies that candidates are missing? At the top of the list are the three ‘Cs’: critical thinking, collaboration and communication. Hiring officers look for candidates with good problem-solving abilities, the ability to work in teams, and those who have good verbal and written communications skills. For the traditional college graduate in his or her early 20's, much of their focus in school was spent on mastering subject matter, not necessarily on cultivating the three ‘Cs’. They may have a degree, but not much else in the way of experience. On the other hand, working adults who are earning their degrees later in life have had ample opportunity to hone these skills and are lacking the credential - a diploma - to get hired or promoted.

A new approach to higher education taking hold on campuses and in board rooms is called competency-based education. Under this model, students can receive credit for knowledge and skills they already possess. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that 87 percent of Americans believe students should be able to receive college credit for knowledge and skills obtained outside the classroom. Some schools are well-established leaders in this practice. Degree programs like these define what students must know, have well-defined learning outcomes and have a rigorous means of assessing whether students have achieved these outcomes.

How can job candidates, young or older, demonstrate both subject-matter mastery and competence? To start, first evaluate and identify your unique combination of skills, values and personal traits. Research the job that you are seeking and the company that is doing the hiring. Think broadly and don't confine yourself to the same industry in which you may have experiences, either as an employee or a student who had an internship. List the knowledge you have gained and skills you have developed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pets and Home Sales: How One Impacts the Other

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

Selling a home can often be a time-consuming process, full of various moving parts that need to come together seamlessly. And adding a pet to the mix can be a challenging proposition, often hindering a sale.

People who don’t like pets might be afraid of the animal or bothered by it. And fellow animal lovers might spend so much time playing with, or talking about, your cat and dog, that they may not focus on your home. Plus, there’s always the prospect of liability if your dog was to bite someone while they were looking at your home.

When you have appointments scheduled for prospective buyers to come take a peek at your home, consider having the dog stay with a friend or family member. If there’s just one appointment scheduled for a certain time, take your dog for a walk while the prospective buyers are looking.

Another idea is to schedule a pet daycare or grooming appointment when potential buyers are coming. It’s especially important to keep pets out of the house during open houses. The more people in the home, the more likely the animal is to be distracting. And with so many people coming in and out of the house, you don’t want to worry about a dog getting out.

You also should assess any damage your pet may have inflicted within the home. Hair, spills around a water bowl, and minor damage are all part of living with a pet, so be sure to clean thoroughly and vacuum up any hair. It’s also a good idea to put food and water bowls away and thoroughly clean any areas where a mess has been made. For cat owners, keeping litter boxes clean is crucial so that unpleasant odors don’t make their way through the home.

Also, take steps to remove all stains and odors that may be lingering within your home due to having a pet. If the weather is appropriate, open your windows to let fresh air in. You may also want to use air fresheners and other products designed to remove pet odors from carpets and furniture. After doing all of this, invite friends and relatives over and ask them to honestly say if there are any odors in the home. Sometimes it can be difficult for a pet owner to even notice smells caused by the animal.

And while you’re at it, don’t neglect to look for any areas outside the home where the family pet may have wreaked havoc. Fill any holes your dog might have dug up, get rid of any plants or decorations your dog might have chewed and clean up any messes your pet may have left behind.

By following these few simple guidelines, you and your pets could be celebrating a successful house sale in no time at all.

For more tips about selling a home with a pet, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Kitchen Improvement Tips

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

As any real estate agent will tell you, the kitchen is the heart of the home. While a messy, overcrowded and tired looking kitchen can be a big turnoff, the following steps will make your kitchen more appealing to prospective buyers.

Make Your Kitchen Functional. Clear the counters as much as possible—completely clear is the best option. Put cooking appliances you don’t often use in storage. Keep drawers clean and organized with only the utensils you need and get a head start on packing by putting everything you want to bring with you in boxes. And while you’re at it, throw away any useless items you come across. Make your move even easier by donating items you never use to a local charity.

Clean It. Go through the fridge and cabinets and throw out all those ingredients you haven’t touched in years. Clean the fridge thoroughly and organize it, and clean all the appliances as well. You may want to consider replacing low-cost items such as toasters, coffee makers and microwaves to give the kitchen a fresh, new look. For cabinets, dust or vacuum up any crumbs that have gathered. Throw away what you don’t need and make sure cabinets are neat and tidy. If you have cabinets that are stuffed with plates, mugs or cooking utensils, either get rid of some stuff or put it in storage for the time being.

You’ll also want to clean the floors thoroughly, in addition to cleaning behind the fridge and stove.

Be sure to check the curtains in your kitchen as well. When’s the last time you cleaned them? Buying new curtains is a very affordable way to spruce up a room. And make sure the windows are spotless.

Consider Renovating. If you have outdated cabinets and counters, buyers will almost certainly take some money off your asking price. The good thing about remodeling a kitchen as a seller is that you can design it for sale. Without spending a lot of money, you can buy new light fixtures, new faucets and handles and even replace these things yourself. If you don’t want to spend money on new cabinets, think about replacing the doors, or at least painting the cabinets. Just be sure that whatever you spend is worth it.

Staging the Kitchen. When prospective buyers come to look at the house, set the table tastefully as if for a meal with a centerpiece and settings. Bake cookies so that visitors are greeted with a pleasant, homey smell. Open curtains and turn on the lights so that people can see the best of what your kitchen has to offer.

For more tips to improve your kitchen, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Setting the Stage with a Positive First Impression

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

In today’s competitive real estate market, you only have one chance to make a positive first impression, making it more important than ever that your home’s exterior is visually appealing. One simple way to up the ante? A beautifully landscaped yard.

When it comes to the lawn itself, the best way to keep it looking attractive is by mowing regularly. Typically the most prominent visual aspect of your landscaping setup, make sure you don’t cut the grass super short. Instead, set the mower so that it keeps the grass higher, as this will keep it healthier. In addition to mowing regularly, it’s also important to irrigate, fertilize and aerate the lawn.

Effective watering is another crucial piece of the process, as poor watering habits can lead to various problems, from harmful insects to disease. Although your instinct may be to give your lawn a drink during the middle of the day when sunshine is aimed on the grass, it’s actually best to water the lawn in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler.

When watering the lawn, be sure to position sprinklers so that the water covers the entire lawn. It’s also important to avoid having water hit your driveway or the street, as this wastes water. And if you have prospective buyers coming to look at the house, you don’t want them to have to run through a sprinkler to get to your door.

Perhaps the most important rule of thumb is to keep your landscaping simple. This means getting rid of lawn ornaments and making sure your garden beds are colorful and well-maintained. While adding fresh mulch is a nice touch, you don’t want prospective buyers to be intimidated by your landscaping, so your flower beds should be done in a way where they appear to be easy to maintain.

Trees and shrubs are another element that can add beauty to a home, but make sure they’re well maintained. Shrubs and bushes should be trimmed so that they’re not encroaching on walkways or the front porch. Trees should also be under control. Branches can grow and hang low, and the last thing you want is for a prospective buyer to walk into a low branch as they tour the property.

And last but not least, keep your home lit at night to highlight these exterior features. You never know when prospective buyers might be driving by, and this could be that special touch that helps finalize a sale.

For more information about making a positive first impression, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Expose Your Listing to the Masses with a Sound Social Media Strategy

August 15, 2014 8:42 pm

Thanks to social media’s leading role in today’s home-buying and -selling process, it’s now easier than ever to reach prospective buyers. And working with a real estate professional who knows how to leverage various social media platforms is a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to achieving real estate success.

Here are a few simple ways you and your agent can incorporate social media into the mix to improve the chances of selling your house at the right price.

Post Links to Your Listing. If you have a good real estate professional on your side, chances are they’ve set up an online listing with descriptions of your house, along with lots of photos showcasing the home. Sharing the link to the listing on Facebook is an easy way to get the word out to your friends and relatives who can then pass the link on to anyone they may know who is in the market to buy. If your agent hasn’t created a website, you can create your own on WordPress, or post a nice package of photos on your Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram accounts.

Tweet Tweet Tweet. Not only can you use Twitter to share the link to the listing on a daily basis, it’s also a great platform to post updates about the ways in which you’re enjoying the home. Post pictures of the lawn after it’s been landscaped, a beautiful table setting, your favorite room, or even a breathtaking view from your property. If you’ve upgraded the kitchen, bathrooms or laundry room with new appliances, be sure to tweet about how they’re making your life easier.

Sharing is Caring. Sharing all this great information about your house with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers is only one piece of the puzzle. To reach an even greater audience, ask your friends and followers to retweet and share your posts. They may even want to add comments about the great times they’ve had at your home over the years.

Hire a Professional Photographer. Whether you’re posting photos on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter or Instagram, you’re more likely to get a better response if you use top-notch photos. A professional photographer, especially one who specializes in real estate, knows how to make rooms appealing and can even suggest ways to arrange furniture and items to make each room look its best.

Working with a real estate professional who believes in a sound social media strategy is a surefire way to ensure your home is being exposed to the masses. Ask your agent how he or she uses social media within the home-selling process and make sure he or she is taking advantage of all available avenues.

Remember, you want to work with a real estate professional who will find new and exciting ways to post information about your home on a regular basis.

To learn more about incorporating social media into the real estate process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.