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Tips to Help Homeowners and Buyers Avoid Appraisal Problems

October 21, 2013 3:18 am

The Appraisal Institute recently released some helpful tips for consumers, providing guidance for homeowners and buyers seeking to ensure their sales are completed in a timely manner.

As one of the nation’s largest professional associations of real estate appraisers, the Appraisal Institute created these helpful tips to let consumers know how to protect themselves and how to avoid unnecessary frustration when selling or buying a home.

“Too many consumers in this struggling real estate market face problems with appraisals when attempting to buy or sell a home,” said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA. “But rather than passively endure delays in closing a sale, homeowners and buyers can take proactive steps to avoid pitfalls.”

The Appraisal Institute’s tips encourage homeowners and buyers to:

- Understand the role of appraisals.
- Make sure their lender hires a qualified appraiser (such as a designated SRA, SRPA or MAI member of the Appraisal Institute).
- Accompany the appraiser during the inspection of the property if possible.
- Request a copy of the appraisal report from the lender.
- Examine the appraisal report and ask questions.
- Appeal the appraisal if appropriate.
- Ask the lender to order a second appraisal by a qualified and designated appraiser.
- File legitimate complaints with appropriate state board or professional appraisal organizations.

“Credible opinions of value can help to stabilize the real estate market,” Magdziarz said. “Appraisals are especially important because they are an objective and unbiased source of information. Unlike others involved in real estate transactions, the appraiser is an independent professional who performs a service for a fee rather than for a commission.”

Magdziarz noted that normal declines in the real estate market have led to increased caution by lenders. That caution has led to delays in completing some real estate transactions.

“Appraisers today are doing the same thorough, fact-based research and analysis they have always done,” Magdziarz said. “Nothing has changed in that regard.”

Magdziarz added that appraisers have been wrongly accused of prolonging the nation’s real estate downturn by developing value opinions that are below proposed sale prices. Specifically, he said, they’ve been unfairly criticized for including comparable sales in the valuation process that provide opinions that are below the cost to build.

It serves neither the lender nor the consumer to enter into an upside-down mortgage, he noted. Some real estate agents, mortgage brokers and home builders have used the Home Valuation Code of Conduct and Interagency Appraisal and Evaluation Guidelines as a scapegoat for current declines in the real estate market caused by the weak economy and the general oversupply of homes in the market, Magdziarz said.

For more information, visit www.appraisalinstitute.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Ripple Effect of Home Buying

October 21, 2013 3:18 am

Using the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NAHB Economics research shows that a home purchase triggers additional spending on appliances, furnishings, and remodeling. Such spending typically exceeds that of non-moving homeowners and persists for two years after moving.

The NAHB analysis compares spending behavior among three groups of single-family detached homeowners: buyers of new homes, buyers of existing homes and non-moving owners. During the first two years after closing on the house, homebuyers tend to spend on appliances, furnishings and property alterations considerably more compared to non-moving owners. However, homebuyers tend to be larger households with children, and on average wealthier, with higher levels of education and concentrated in urban areas. Any of these factors could potentially explain higher spending on appliances, furnishings and remodeling by home buyers. Thus, the NAHB analysis controls for the impact of household characteristics on expenditures, and, nevertheless, finds that a home purchase alters the spending behavior of homeowners and that otherwise similar homeowners spend more across all three categories compared to non-moving owners during the first two years after moving.

Looking at spending patterns of new homebuyers and identical households that do not move, the differences are largest on furnishings. A typical new homebuyer that buys a new home is estimated to spend in excess of $3,000 more on furnishings than an identical household that stays put in a house they already own. The elevated level of spending persists into the second year as new home buyers spend additional $2,000 over their typical budget on furnishings.

Similarly, moving into a new home triggers higher levels of spending on appliances. A typical new homebuyer that moves into a new home is estimated to spend $1,005 more on appliances during the first year compared to a non-moving owner. The difference shrinks to $348 during the second year and goes away after that.

In the case of property repairs and alterations the differences are smallest, $740, and last only one year, which is not surprising considering that most households would not want to spend years in a house with ongoing remodeling projects.

Buying an older home also triggers additional spending. The typical buyer of an existing home tends to spend close to $4,000 more on remodeling, furnishings, and appliances compared to otherwise identical homeowners that do not move. However, in case of buying an older home, most of this extra spending goes to remodeling projects, more than $2,000, and occurs during the first year after closing on the house. Only the additional spending on furnishings tends to persist beyond the first year.

The statistical analysis further shows that this higher level of spending on furnishings, appliances and property alterations is not paid by cutting spending on other items, such as entertainment, transportations, travel, food at home, restaurants meals, etc. This confirms that home buying indeed generates a wave of additional spending and activity not accounted for in the purchase price of the home alone.

In summary, the NAHB analysis shows that during the first two years after closing on the house, a typical buyer of a new single-family detached home tends to spend on average $7,400 more than a similar homeowner who does not move, including $4,900 in the first year after purchase. Likewise, a buyer of an existing single-family detached home tends to spend about $4,000 more than a similar non-moving home owner, including $3,600 during the first year. The overall ripple effect of home buying does not stop here, as producers of appliances, furnishings and remodelers spend their additional income paid by homebuyers and trigger further waves of economic activity.

Source: NAHB’s Eye on Housing Blog, http://eyeonhousing.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/the-ripple-effect-of-home-buying/

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Handy Tools to Ease Your Autumn Clean-Ups

October 21, 2013 3:18 am

With autumn approaching, I have begun rummaging around the basement for gear that will be required to take care of the annual pre-winter property cleanup. While poking around on the web later, a few new fall cleanup tools popped up that looked pretty interesting.

The right knife. Gardeners.com started off with something very simple, but apparently with high utility. They recommend anyone heading out for yardwork carry the Hori Hori Knife (available everywhere - around $25).

It can be used to cut back perennial foliage, plant bulbs, divide plants, cut open bags, pop dandelions out of the ground, set out transplants, cut twine, even pry the lid off a paint can. The sharp, serrated steel blade easily divides plants, severs weed roots and cuts through twine and packaging.

It's sharp enough to cut back perennials during fall cleanup, according to its makers. Just grab the tops in one hand and slice off the dying foliage near the ground with the knife.

WORX Electric Leaf Shredder. If you're raking up mountains of fall foliage, you can reduce them to a manageable size with an electric leaf shredder, and do good things for your landscape and the planet. Instead of bagging the leaves and having them hauled away, shred them and use them! This shredder can reduce 11 bags of leaves into just one. (available everywhere - around $125)

GreenWorks Electric Chipper. For heavier chopping jobs, the electric chipper fills the bill. The Electric Chipper chops twigs and branches up to 1-3/8" in diameter. It's quieter and cleaner than gas-powered chippers, but effectively turns hedge trimmings, storm and pruning debris into landscape mulch. Just plug it in, put on your safety glasses, press start and you're ready to go. (available at dozens of DIY and gardening sites and stores - around $150).

The WORX JawSaw.
This electric chainsaw is concealed within the jaw-like housing, allowing an operator to safely and easily cut branches up to 4" thick. Between cuts, the blade retracts back into the housing. Steel teeth hold branches in place while cutting. Cut fallen branches where they lay, without lifting.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Being Frugal Doesn't Have to Stop the Fun

October 18, 2013 3:09 am

Saving money isn't always easy, but putting aside a few dollars here and there can add up. Fall is the perfect time to begin the habit of making small adjustments so you can have a frugal fun night and put the savings toward something even bigger later.

Being financially responsible doesn't have to mean boring. It does include setting priorities on how to spend and how to save. With a little creativity, it's possible to have fun with family and friends and still stick to your budget, which should include saving toward specific goals.
Here are some suggestions on how to be frugal, but still have fun.

Rent a movie. Before spending a small fortune to see a recent release, rent a movie you forgot to see before it left theaters. Spend $15 on the rented movie and snacks from the grocery store and put the remaining money in your savings account. What would have been a $45 date night is now a frugal movie night.

Take a picnic to a public park. Instead of spending your play money to go out to eat all the time, pack up a picnic basket and head to a nearby park with your loved ones. Enjoy the outdoors by bringing a ball, kite or frisbee so you can play after lunch. Many state parks require a small fee, but most local public parks are completely free. A day in the sun is the perfect time to save for a rainy day, so deposit the money you would have spent eating out straight to your savings account.

Visit the museum and zoo on free days. Many entertaining destinations like these have a designated day each month for the public to enter at a free or reduced rate. Instead of paying around $30 for two adults to be admitted, with a little planning you can check out American Indian relics, paintings and animals for little or nothing.

Take a bike ride. Who decided exercise had to be boring? Take a new bike path or explore a neighborhood you've always wanted to see. You'll find out more about the area in which you live and make yourself more fit in the process.

Participate in a seasonal tradition, visit a pumpkin patch. Fall, food and fun—you can't go wrong. Take some friends to pick pumpkins, and later, spend the evening baking pumpkin pie. If you pull the money for pumpkins out of your grocery budget, you will have spent no money on entertainment at all.

By participating in a little frugal fun, you can work toward your savings goal without radically changing your lifestyle; if you do one of the ideas mentioned each weekend, you can save your way to something even more fun, like an island getaway.

Source: BMO Harris

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fall Allergy Sufferers Advised to Reduce Indoor Allergens

October 18, 2013 3:09 am

So far, fall 2013 is proving to be a miserable time for people suffering from allergies and asthma. High levels of ragweed pollen, combined with outdoor mold and other triggers has created a problem nationwide, especially in those cities listed in the 2013 Fall Allergy Capitals report, issued this month by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

For individuals dealing with allergy issues this year, Mike Tringale, senior vice president at AAFA, offers a few tips:

1. Consult a board-certified allergy specialist in your area. The AAFA website includes a list of local and regional clinics that specialize in allergy and asthma treatment and education.

2. Understand your diagnosis and reduce exposure to those specific triggers. While it is very difficult to completely remove household allergens, with the proper measures, allergens can be reduced to manageable level.

3. Place Certified allergen-barrier bedding on your mattresses and pillows. Wash your bedding at least once a week in 130+ degree hot water to kill mites and their eggs.

4. Frequently dust hard surfaces with moist cloths or dry dusters that trap allergens.

5. Use high-filtration bags in the vacuum and clean the carpet frequently.

According to Tringale, Americans spend more than $10 billion each year on non-medical products that they hope will help reduce their exposure to asthma and allergy triggers at home.

Source: Protect-A-Bed

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Supplement the Water Supply in Your Home

October 18, 2013 3:09 am

Despite our abundant supply of clean water, it remains, by its very nature a valuable resource that should be conserved and protected. As a result, more and more people are paying attention to the amount of water they use and are cutting back by using water wisely and purchasing water efficient fixtures and appliances.

Another way to conserve water is by using auxiliary water sources, if permitted, to supplement and conserve the local public water supply. Auxiliary water includes everything from rainwater collected from your downspouts, to "greywater" that's collected from the laundry or shower, treated and reused for non-drinking purposes around your house.

If you're thinking about using auxiliary water sources in your home, the following tips can help you supplement your water supply while keeping your family safe and healthy:

• If you're building or renovating a house, find out from your local building department what's allowed, what is not and what may be required to get municipal approvals.

• Auxiliary water sources must use a separate plumbing system so it is not mixed with your potable water. Talk to your builder, architect, renovator or plumber as early in the process as possible about including auxiliary water-ready components in your home. This may include dedicated piping for auxiliary water as well as any related storage and treatment systems. Planning for those components now could save you a great deal of time and money in renovations later whether or not you include the auxiliary supply today or at some point in the future.

• Work with your contractor to determine how much water and what level of water quality is needed for different uses in your home. This will help ensure the system is designed properly and will be able to supply all the water your family needs, at whatever level of quality you require.

• Make sure you know where the water you're collecting comes from, and what you will be using it for. Not all of the water you collect from different fixtures can be used for the same purposes. For example, water that's collected from your shower might be safely treated and reused to flush your toilet. But only fully potable (or "drinkable") water should ever be used in the shower itself. Again, make sure you check with your municipality.

• Depending on what you are using the auxiliary water for you may also need to think about storing the water before it is used. For instance, rainwater collected from your downspouts to water your lawn is often used immediately, without any further treatment. But if you're collecting greywater for use in toilet flushing you may need to treat and store that water so it is available when you need it.

• Lastly, find out what programs or regulations are in effect in your area when it comes to auxiliary water. Some communities offer rebates for homeowners who use auxiliary water. Other cities may have rules in place that limit which kind of water you can reuse. Always check with your local municipality or water authority before you install an auxiliary water system in your home.

Source: CMHC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Responsible Winter Driving

October 17, 2013 3:09 am

As the weather turns cold, are you prepared to face the hazards of winter driving? Bridgestone Americas, Inc. encourages travelers to prepare their cars for winter weather and brush up on their winter driving skills.

"Winter driving can be intimidating and hazardous, and is something that you really do need to prepare for," said Anant Gandhi, product manager for winter tires at Bridgestone Americas. "It's not just about having the right equipment; it's also important that drivers understand how to respond correctly to various winter hazards. We all have a responsibility to make sure we prepare not just our vehicles, but also ourselves."

Some key tips for winter driving include:

If you can see your breath, it's time to switch. When the temperature approaches freezing, switch your all-season or high-performance tires to winter tires. With unique polymers and tread pattern elements, winter tires are optimized for more grip and the control you need in winter weather conditions.

Periodically check traction, or available grip, when driving in challenging conditions. Road conditions can change drastically in a short period of time/distance in winter. Apply the brakes with moderate pressure to determine the available grip and modify your driving, if needed, to respond to ever-changing road conditions.

Maximize available grip by separating driving maneuvers when negotiating a curve. Brake to an appropriate speed while traveling in a straight line prior to a curve. This allows you to use all of the available grip for negotiating the curve. Accelerate gradually when you are able to straighten the steering wheel at the exit of the turn.

Avoid cruise control in wet, icy or snowy conditions. Maintain control of acceleration and deceleration at all times.

Forgo driving if the weather looks too treacherous. Safety comes first.

Winter tires are designed to provide maximum performance during low winter temperatures and on ice, snow and slush. They perform better due to the combination of specialized winter tread patterns, deeper tread depth and unique tread compounds that remain softer in winter temperatures.

Retailers offer a wide range of tires sold as winter tires with an M+S (mud and snow) rating, but they are not always equal when it comes to performance.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) in the U.S. and the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) developed the mountain/snowflake symbol, which can be found on a tire's sidewall, to designate winter tires that meet the newest severe snow standards. Tires that have earned this symbol can be expected to provide 20 to 40 percent more traction in winter conditions than conventional all-season tires, which may be the difference between driving safely and losing control.

Source: Bridgestone Americas. Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Change Can Save Costly Engine Repairs

October 17, 2013 3:09 am

(Family Features)--The sticker on your car's windshield serves as a constant reminder that every car eventually has to be taken to get its oil changed. Go too long and a bright red indicator light will also start demanding attention.

If you're ever tempted to ask if all of those oil changes are really necessary, consider the important work oil performs for your engine.

Keep your motor running
• Motor oil lubricates and cools the moving parts in your car's engine. Without clean oil your engine's metal-on-metal components can grind against each other, causing extensive wear. So, not having clean oil and the proper amount of oil can have serious consequences.

• Even if oil is present, there's no guarantee it will properly protect an engine against damage. If you decide to forego changing the oil according to your car's maintenance schedule, dirt, sludge and varnish can build up leading to serious damage or, even, an engine replacement.

Take time for a change
• Extended oil change intervals are the number one cause of sludge and varnish build up. Motor oil degrades over time due to heat, pressure and contamination. Check the owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommended oil change interval for your vehicle and remember, oil is the lifeblood of your engine.

• Conventional oil changes leave as much as 10 to 20 percent of metal wear particulates, dust and other contaminants behind. Using an oil system cleaner a day before any routine oil change will provide a more complete cleaning of your oil system helping to eliminate unwanted metals, gums and varnishes that can lead to oil contamination. One day prior to your next oil change, just add the oil change system cleaner, and then change the oil and filter. For more information about this, visit www.synergynusa.com.

Inspect for potential problems
• Most cars are designed for easy oil change maintenance so if you don't change your own oil, take this product to your professional service installer. Those who like to do the job themselves should always pop open the hood and inspect the car for fluid levels and leakage, cracked or frayed belts and bulging hoses.

• Next, inspect for broken or worn parts that can't be seen from above. For protection from other issues that can't be seen, add the oil change system cleaner a day before changing the oil. It frees sticky valves and lifters, cleans gum and varnish from internal parts, improves oil circulation, increases lubricity, reduces friction, restores engine performance, and improves fuel economy. After that, add Synergyn XTrA MPG Engine Treatment when you change your oil and filter and let your engine run for 20-30 minutes to let the engine treatment circulate in your car's oil system. Finally, don't forget to rotate the tires after every third oil change.

• Visit any reputable auto repair garage or lube shop to have all of these inspections and maintenance tasks performed during your car's oil change. They'll also dispose of the dirty, used oil for you.

Source: Synergyn

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Pumpkin Carving with Power Tools

October 17, 2013 3:09 am

Want to use items you may already have to save time and effort on your Halloween pumpkins? Mr. Handyman has perfected pumpkin carving using power tools. Power tools are sturdier than pre-packaged carving kits, and help you achieve better results. Mr. Handyman shares five tips to make your pumpkins front-porch worthy this year:

• Cut off the Top: To remove the top of your pumpkin, use a jigsaw blade at a 45 degree angle around the top to remove the lid. Watch how quick and easy it is to open the pumpkin.

• Gut the Pumpkin: Purchase a pumpkin gutter tool for around $10 and save 20 minutes compared to scraping the insides with a spoon. Simply insert the pumpkin gutter into your drill, tighten, and quickly clean the insides without damaging the seeds.

• Drill Perfectly Circular Eyes: Use a ruler and mark two evenly spaced places for the eyes. Then, insert coring bits into the drill and to easily cut perfect holes for the eyes.

• Chip Away Pumpkin "Skin": One of the biggest trends in pumpkin carving is chipping away the "skin" or outermost layer of the pumpkin. To get this look, download one of our pumpkin carving templates, outline your design on the pumpkin using a pen or thumb tacks. Next, place the tip of a woodworking chisel underneath the skin and push away from the outside edge of your design.

• Create Mini Pumpkin Bats: Spray cardboard and mini pumpkins with black spray paint. Cut the cardboard into wing shapes, take a chisel to cut slips on the sides of the mini pumpkins, and insert the wings. Drill holes in the pumpkins and insert small bolts for eyes. You can insert an eye screw on the top so you can hang a dozen of these around your front door using fishing line.

Source: Mr. Handyman

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Things That Make Your House Spooky - and How to Fix Them

October 16, 2013 3:06 am

The Plan Collection (TPC) notes that having a haunted-looking house might be just the look you want once a year, but what about once Halloween's over? The company shares their list of the top 10 elements of a house plan design that can make any home the scariest in the neighborhood along with advice on how to fix them.

1. Eerie Architectural Style. Remember the rather "unique" look of the home in The Addams Family? Norman Bates' house on the hill in Psycho? Certain architectural styles - such as Victorian and the Second Empire style with its mansard roofs - have a long history in spooky literature and horror films. Ironically, we often associate these same styles with some of the most cheerful and charming places in the country - just think Disney's Main Street USA.

2. Lifeless Color Scheme. Dark paint colors, when used as the primary exterior color, can make almost any home look dreary, uninviting. Lighter paint colors that complement the design of your house are often the better choice for the exterior of your home. Reserve your use of darker color to areas that emphasize special features such as the trim or windows.

3. Ghostly Lighting. No one wants to knock on the door of a house without exterior lighting, but lighting features that cause heavy shadows along walk-ways or at entry points - creating that fear that something or someone might be lurking just ahead -- can be even worse. Redirecting the light features or using lower wattage bulbs is often an easy way to chase the ghosts away. If investing in new lighting, consider lamps that emphasize the beauty of your home's exterior features.

4. Zombie Landscaping. Those trees and bushes might have looked perfectly sized to the house for perhaps the first five years after planted, but don't forget... they're alive. Alive! Neglected trees and shrubs keep growing and need constant tending. Without attention, they end up surrounding your house with an "undead" feel. In addition to detracting from the house design, older, large branches are also a risk to your home in storms. Take those pruners and cut off some heads or at least give everything a good trim.

5. Suspended Maintenance. Most everyone puts at least some repairs off, but rigorous home maintenance is essential. Spring and fall are the best time of year to start checking fix-it projects off your list. Fix that step before you have to fix the entire stairs! If the exterior is starting to look dull consider power washing it. Touch up paint before a small problem becomes a big one.

6. Scary Windows. Small windows or windows covered with heavy drapery create a more somber feel. For small windows, use brighter window treatments to lighten the mood. Take advantage of any larger windows to bring outdoor light into the home.

7. Creepy Front Door. Ever have second thoughts before knocking on a front door while trick-or-treating? Well, the size and color of the entry door play a big role in making first impressions. If the front door feels uninviting, think about using a bolder, friendlier color such as a bright red, or chase away the shadows by strategically using lighting.

8. Bone Chilling Floor Plan. Small rooms and narrow hallways make for a cramped, uninviting floor plan. Consider an open concept floor plan if buying or building a house. If renovating, be sure to consult a professional before removing walls in your current home, as they may be "load bearing" walls, and will have to be replaced with other supports or structures.

9. Mysterious Staircases. Narrow staircases with walls on both sides can be dark and creepy. Lowering a wall to open the staircase up to the room or hallway below can go a long way to dispelling some of the dark, scary mystery and making your stairs more inviting.

10. Horrifying Home Décor. Dark, oversized furniture and heavy rugs can have a tendency to make a home feel less inviting. Stacks of stuff and excess clutter around the house? Not going to help the situation. Ask yourself if you really need all that stuff and if not, get rid of some of it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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