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10 Ways to Celebrate Memorial Day in Your National Parks

May 23, 2014 3:54 am

The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, invites Americans to join in remembering our brave veterans in national parks across the country. On Memorial Day weekend, many sites throughout the National Park System will hold events in memoriam of the greatest sacrifice made by those protecting our nation, while other sites stand as permanent tributes to fallen soldiers year-round.

"Memorial Day is about honoring all who have served," said Neil Mulholland, president and CEO of the National Park Foundation. "National parks guard and honor the legacy of our brave military men and women in places such as battlefields, historical parks, and national monuments."

From the American Revolutionary War to the events of September 11, 2001, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation work to protect the memory of those lost in service to their country. This Memorial Day, everyone can observe this day of reflection in a national park, paying respect to the ultimate devotion and sacrifice made by fellow Americans.
Celebrate and honor the memory of U.S. military members by:

1. Learning what it was like to be a soldier in the American Revolutionary War at Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania) with activities and presentations throughout the day.

2. Remembering the lives lost in the first battle of the U.S.-Mexican War at Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park (Texas), one of the foundations’ American Latino Heritage Fund sites.

3. Paying tribute to America's fallen troops -- from the War of 1812 to today -- at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve's Chalmette National Cemetery (Louisiana).

4. Reflecting on the sacrifices of this nation's military personnel at Shiloh National Military Park (Tennessee) by listening to living historians as they interpret wars from colonial times to today.

5. Visiting the numerous sites at National Mall & Memorial Parks (Washington, D.C.) and taking time to remember the contributions and service of American veterans both at home and abroad.

6. Recognizing the valiant dedication of the first African American military pilots in World War II at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site (Alabama), one of the foundation’s African American Experience Fund sites.

7. Joining Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine (Maryland) as they pay tribute to the graves of fallen War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and II, and Korean War veterans.

8. Honoring of the lives of ordinary passengers and crew members, who joined together for an extraordinary act of selflessness at Flight 93 National Memorial (Pennsylvania).

9. Exploring the Lincoln Memorial (online) through an interactive website that showcases the memorial and park ranger reflections on its history.

10. Watching PBS's live National Memorial Day Concert on Sunday, May 25, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET, and enjoying the musical tributes by groups such as the U.S. Army Chorus, U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, and the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants.

Source: National Park Foundation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Design: The Value of the Ideal Exterior Color

May 22, 2014 3:42 am

(BPT) - When it comes to designing a home - whether it's new construction or a renovation - choosing beautiful exterior colors and complementary accent hues is critical to creating an appealing household.

"To select the right colors for your home, view siding colors as an exterior project tool that both turns a home into a showpiece and increases its value," says Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of the United States.

Color and architecture trends vary from city to city across the United States. The homes and buildings within a neighborhood define its character and in some ways, culture. Before deciding on the best design, take into consideration the local geography and design trends.

Here are four general recommendations to help a homeowner determine the best color choices for a home:

* Location - Consider the neighborhood as a whole. Think about the next-door neighbor and the homes down the street. Regardless of the neighborhood, the streetscape - sizes and facades of homes, landscape architecture, balance of light and shade - plays a role in creating an idyllic neighborhood and affects the value of individual homes and communities, overall. The natural surroundings also play a significant part in color selection. For example, a green wooded area would blend better with earth tones than a home near the blues and grays of the ocean.

* Color combinations - Selecting the right combination of colors for a home varies, but a good rule of thumb is to use three to six, depending on the siding and trim of the home. A best practice is to avoid selecting more than two siding colors, one trim color and one accent color for features like doors and shutters.

* Balance of color choices - A home's visual balance can be disrupted by color hues that don't mix or match. The eye is naturally drawn to light colors, so consider pairing a brighter, lighter garage door with a darker siding shade. Contractors, builders or remodelers can help guide homeowners on choosing multiple siding colors and trim hues that not only create a classic look for a home, but also help it blend in with its surrounding environment.

* Color performance - A home is a reflection of the person and family in it. It's also an investment. If exterior products are both functionally and aesthetically sound, they offer a greater curb appeal, which can also help with resale value when the time comes.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safely Spring into Home Improvement Projects

May 21, 2014 3:30 am

Many people across the country are celebrating the end of a long, cold winter by de-cluttering their homes and tackling a growing list of other spring cleaning projects around the house. Whether you're starting up the lawn mower for the first time this season, climbing a seldom-used ladder, or simply moving furniture to clean those hard-to-reach places, spring cleaning chores create a number of safety hazards that could lead to injury if the proper precautions are not taken.

"Thousands of Americans are injured from cleaning and home improvement projects each year, and it is often because we fail to recognize the dangers of these seemingly simple, low-risk chores," said orthopaedic trauma surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) spokesperson Gregory John Della Rocca, MD, PhD. "By recognizing the risks involved in using items such as ladders, lawn mowers and power tools—and knowing how to use them properly—you can reduce your risk of injury."

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013:

• More than 511,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors' offices and emergency rooms for injuries related to ladder use;
• Approximately 301,425 people were injured from lawn mower-related injuries;
• Nearly 7,500 were treated for injuries related to power tools; and
• More than 569,000 injuries were related to sofas, couches, davenports, divans or studio couches.
In an effort to prevent these unfortunate injuries, AAOS offers the following recommendations to stay safe as you prepare your home for the change in seasons:

Ladder Safety
• Always place ladders on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft, wet or otherwise unstable;
• Make sure your shoelaces are securely tied and your pant legs do not extend underneath your shoes;
• When working on a ladder, leaning too far to one side or reaching too far overhead can make you lose your balance and fall. As a point of reference, your belly button should never go beyond the sides of the ladder;
• Never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you;
• If working outside, make sure the ladder is away from electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions; and
• Use a sturdy step ladder instead of a counter-top or furniture, such as a table or chair, when cleaning high, hard to reach areas.

Lawn Mower Safety
• Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure it is working correctly;
• Be sure the motor is off before inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment;
• Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris from the blade;
• Wear protective gloves, goggles, closed-toe, sturdy shoes and long pants when using a lawn mower. Never mow barefoot or while wearing sandals or flip flops;
• Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine; and
• When using lawn mowers, be sure that children are not playing in the area being mowed. Never carry a child on your lap when utilizing a ride-around lawn mower or tractor.

General Safety
• Use proper technique when lifting and carrying to avoid back injuries:
• Separate your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; and
• If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself.
• Read directions carefully before operating power tools and other equipment;
• Be cautious when using extension cords. To avoid tripping or falling, be sure they are properly grounded and do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways;
• Take frequent breaks while working around the house and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after to prevent dehydration; and
• Always keep a phone within reach in case of accident or injury.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 5 Ways to Create the Ultimate Backyard This Summer

May 21, 2014 3:30 am

The start of summer means entertaining friends and families, hosting cookouts and barbeques, and spending time outdoors. These days, the backyard has become an extension of the family room and kitchen.

According to a U.S. online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), spending on decks and patios has been on the increase. Consumers reported they intended to spend 37 percent more in 2013 to hire professional help for patios and other hardscape and specialty services.

PLANET offers their top five ideas to transform an ordinary yard into the ultimate retreat, family fun, or entertaining space this summer.

Add an Outdoor Kitchen. Outdoor kitchens have been growing in popularity for years and are often the center of family life in the summer. They can be as extensive as a complete kitchen made of stone, brick, or concrete pavers with a stove, stone or brick oven, counters, and even a sink or refrigerator, or they can be as compact as a patio with a grill and table. There are a wide variety of options for every space, purpose, and price range.

Add Outdoor Lighting. Outdoor lighting highlights a home's landscape, special trees, as well as walkways and porches, providing both curb appeal and safety. "Nightscaping" makes gathering spaces usable and enjoyable for entertaining after dark. Landscape professionals can design lighting to complement or highlight important areas of the yard, and there are a variety of basic do-it-yourself options, such as adding a set of solar walkway lights.

Add a Fire Feature. A portable fire pit or chiminea, or building a stone fireplace into the deck or patio extends the time people can spend in their backyards, making a cozy entertaining space on summer nights or well into the fall and winter.
Add a Water Feature. Water features, ranging from small fountains to ponds, streams, or water walls, create a sense of peace and calm, help people connect with nature, and may attract wildlife.

Create a Wildflower or Herb Garden. Wildflowers or herbs make great container gardens or ground cover. They are beautiful and smell great. Many home chefs grow their own herbs and many landscape companies now create edible gardens for clients. These gardens are also a benefit for the environment and for wildlife, providing food and safe cover for small animals.

"Outdoor living spaces have evolved from a grill and a picnic table to lavishly landscaped patios and decks with couches, lounge areas and dining spaces under shaded arches, trellises, and porticos," said Sabeena Hickman, CAE, CMP, CEO of PLANET. "Americans have had a long love affair with the backyard barbeque, and now, they are taking it to the next level."

Source: PLANET

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Choosing the Mortgage That's Right for You

May 19, 2014 4:21 pm

In early April, Freddie Mac reported that the average rate for a 15-year mortgage increased to 3.39 percent from 3.33 percent the previous month, which is still about a point lower than a 30-year mortgage. While these rates are still historically low, some industry experts predict these low rates won’t last long. If you’re thinking of going for (or refinancing) a 15-year mortgage, now’s the time to do it.

The main benefit, of course, is that a 15-year mortgage allows you to pay off your mortgage twice as fast as a 30-year term, while saving a significant amount of money on interest in the process.

A 15-year fixed-rate mortgage has proved popular with young homebuyers as it enables those with sufficient income to meet the higher monthly payments to pay off the house before their children start college. It also appeals to those already established in their careers who may want to have their mortgage finished before they retire.

These mortgages also provide additional financing options thanks to the equity built up in a house. For example, one can easily take out a second mortgage by banking on the equity already in their home.

One negative to the 15-year mortgage is that tax benefits are less. The amortization schedule of a 30-year fixed is back heavy, with early-term payments big on interest and light in principal. Meanwhile, a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage is always light on interest, so deductions are not as large.

It’s also important to take into consideration that the monthly payments for this type of loan are higher than those for a 30-year mortgage by about 10-15 percent.

When it’s time to make a decision, your personal financial situation will determine the right mortgage term for you. If you can afford the higher payment, have a substantial emergency fund and can meet all savings goals, a 15-year mortgage is a great way to own your home faster and pay less money in the process.

To learn more about the 15-year mortgage, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Appealing to Younger Buyers

May 19, 2014 4:21 pm

In today’s housing market, younger people are buying homes at a greater rate than they ever have over the last decade. In fact, a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS® revealed that 31 percent of homebuyers come from Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1979) and 28 percent of recent home purchases were made by millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000.

These numbers show just how important it is to make sure you do everything you can to attract these young, often first-time, buyers.

One of the best ways to do this is to make use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest when marketing your home. Talk with your real estate agent and make sure he or she is using these valuable sites to not only list your house, but to include catchy videos, photos and descriptions that appeal to these buyers.

Walkability is a huge selling point today for young couples, so highlight a home’s location near public transportation, commuter routes, fitness centers and even nearby shops and restaurants.

As for the listing itself, if your home has a formal dining room or den, call them home offices, game rooms or extra bedrooms, and demonstrate which rooms would be suitable for entertaining guests. Most young people will use the kitchen for eating, so dining rooms are becoming obsolete for this generation.

It’s also important to highlight any technological advancements in the house, be it a security system, high-speed Internet availability or any automated systems. And stage the space with a top-of-the-line home entertainment system in the family room or living room and let people envision what watching TV in their own home will look like.

Most millennials aren’t going to want to spend their weekends fixing up the house, so they’ll be more likely to look for homes that don’t require much maintenance. Wood floors and granite countertops are preferable because there’s not much work involved in the upkeep.

Younger homebuyers tend to have set ideas on what they want within the space and will most likely be willing to renovate some part of the house to make it more their style. A savvy agent will include information about an FHA 203(k) loan with their marketing materials to show buyers that they can include renovation costs into their mortgage.

Young buyers also prefer open spaces, so declutter any extra rooms and take out any old-looking furnishings, replacing them with modern chairs and lighting fixtures.

If the home has green elements, highlight those as well. Most of the under-30 crowd is very interested in saving the environment.

Of course, not every buyer is the same, and you may find an older buyer interested in your home. Regardless, doing what you can to attract the greatest number of potential buyers is key to a successful and quick sale.

To learn more about what you can do so that your home attracts younger buyers, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Simple Ways to Take the Stress Out of the Home-Selling Process

May 19, 2014 4:21 pm

The emotions that come with selling a home vary widely from person to person, however, at one point or another, almost all sellers have undoubtedly felt some degree of frustration with the entire process. Whether it’s worrying that the house won’t sell on time, or the price won’t be right to the constant cleaning that comes with making sure the home is always ready for a showing, sellers often find it difficult to look past these obstacles.

No matter where you are in the selling process, it’s important to take a moment to relax and breathe while thinking about how wonderful things will be when you sell your home and move on to the next chapter of your life.

Here are some simple ways to alleviate the stress and frustration that often go hand in hand with the process of selling your home.

Practice Meditation. Sit quietly with your eyes closed, imagining the sights, sounds and smells of your favorite place (the beach, a favorite vacation spot, etc.) Take deep breaths and envision time spent in your personal oasis. Research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.

Take a Long Bath. Grab your favorite book, a glass of wine and light candles around the bathroom and soak in some relaxation for a while. There’s nothing that will clear your mind faster than enjoying some peaceful reading time in a hot bubble bath.

Get Away. Jump in the car and take a long weekend getaway, putting all thoughts of your house sale behind you. Even if you don’t go far, find a nice bed and breakfast or spend a night in a nearby city, taking in a show. Tell your agent you’re not to be bothered (unless an offer comes in!) and enjoy the time away.

Schedule a Massage. Those cares will melt away as you relax to soothing music and have a massage therapist working the stressful kinks from your body. Take part in a couple’s massage so that both of you can enjoy being away from the house for a while.

Do Something You Enjoy. Whether it’s playing tennis, hiking or attending a coin show, take some time to do the things you love and stop worrying about when that next house showing will be. You don’t want to put your life on hold just because you’re selling your home, so continue taking part in activities and hobbies that make you happy.

For more ways to take the stress out of the home-selling process, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pool Inspections a Pivotal Part of Real Estate Transaction

May 19, 2014 4:21 pm

According to recent real estate data, as many as 20 percent of all homes on the market have a pool or spa, and as the temperature continues to rise, many prospective buyers may be adding these features to their wish list. While a pool or spa will most likely add to the price of a home, you’ll want to make sure you’re investing the extra money wisely.

If you’re buying a home with a pool and it hasn’t been opened yet for the summer, don’t just judge the condition from some photos included with the sales brochure as you can’t verify when the photos were taken and if the condition of the pool is the same. Even if the pool is opened and looks beautiful the day you visit the home, you still need to get things checked out to make sure there’s nothing wrong with it.

Pool inspections aren’t always top of mind when buying a home, but they are just as vital as checking the walls for mold or looking at the home’s foundation to ensure you’re not buying something you don’t want. A proper inspection of a pool or spa will reveal any problems, making the buyer more comfortable with proceeding with the purchase.

A professional pool inspector will inform the buyer about the condition of the pool and offer tips on how to remedy problems by providing the different options available and recommended materials and services for them to consider.

A typical pool inspection covers a lot of bases. Not only will all the equipment be checked—including the diving board and ensuring the proper amount of fittings are in place—the inspector will also look at the electrical system, safety controls and under-water lighting, in addition to making sure the step, drain designs and walk-surface perimeter are safe and secure.

Common problems typically include broken and cracked concrete slabs above plumbing, incorrect fittings, worn out plumbing parts, improper plumbing techniques, leaks, cracks in the pool’s foundation or bad pressure. The seller will need to provide written permission for the inspection company to gain access to the plumbing for pressure testing, which doesn’t harm the pool in any way.

Regardless of whether it’s summer or winter, all of the preceding items are verifiable. Even the proper winterization techniques can be verified during the inspection so things are properly safeguarded through the winter months.

Sellers may be wise to schedule an in-depth inspection to correct deficiencies, present the pool in a more positive manner, anticipate necessary negotiations and take care of minor problems in a leisurely manner.

So, before you dive right in to buying a home with a pool, make sure you hire a licensed pool inspector so that everything goes swimmingly.

To learn more about pool inspections, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bathroom Tips and Trends to Attract the Masses

May 19, 2014 4:21 pm

Statistics show that prospective buyers value bathrooms above almost any other part of the home, making it more important than ever that you don’t overlook this space when it comes time to update your home before listing it in today’s competitive market.

In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, bathrooms have a dramatic affect on selling price, with each full bath adding about 24 percent to the selling price. Additionally, new bathrooms return about 51 percent of their costs at sale time, so the money you spend now will more than likely come back to you.

While a complete bathroom overhaul may not be in the cards, spending a little money updating a tired looking bathroom is one of the best things you can do to increase a home’s resale value.

Here are five tips to make sure your bathroom attracts the masses.

1. Think Big. Most bathrooms don’t take enough advantage of the space available and have small, non-descript bathtubs. If you do the measurements, you may be surprised to find that a large, deep, spa-like bath can be incorporated into the space to help wash people’s stress away. And while you’re at it, look into changing your shower head to one of the massage models or something flashy that will appeal to a wider range of house hunters.

2. Update Fixtures. Fixtures can become outdated quickly and also lose some of their shine over the years. Adding new cabinet handles or faucets made out of brushed nickel or other metals that are polished and elegant is a great way to fancy up the bathroom. Multiple sinks are also in vogue and can be added without too much hassle.

3. Bring in an Expert. How many times have you started a project yourself only to end up spending more time and money than you had originally planned, with an outcome that’s still less than perfect? While YouTube videos might help fix a toilet or add some fixtures to the space, hiring a trained contractor is probably your best bet for getting the job done correctly.

4. Replace Lighting. Bathrooms are notorious for having little light, so incorporating additional lighting features, especially around the vanity, can go a long way toward creating an inviting space. People rarely complain about having too much light, and incorporating different lighting styles is a great way to highlight the positive features of a bathroom. Mood lighting around the tub area is also increasing in popularity.

5. Think Green. The bathroom is a prime place to start putting those environmentally friendly devices to work. Installing fixtures that save water, such as a low-flow shower head, a low-flow faucet aerator, and a dual-flush toilet, can save thousands of gallons of water each year. Another fix that is both decorative and energy efficient is the addition of natural stone countertops and flooring. Not only will this keep the space cool in the summer, it’ll also go a long way toward keeping heat in during the long winter months.

For more tips on updating your bathroom, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: 15-year Mortgages

May 19, 2014 4:21 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 top tips for updating your bathroom so that it appeals to the masses. Other topics covered this month include the importance of appealing to younger buyers and five simple tips to take the stress out of the home-buying or -selling process. 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.