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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.


Don't Be Bored with Your Deck

May 16, 2014 2:30 am

With the Memorial Day holiday less than two weeks away, you may have realized your backyard deck is a wreck. But even if you have no deck at all, it may be time to start dreaming of something bigger and better.

Want to spruce up your outdoor living space? Plow & Hearth offers the following tips to up the style, function and comfort factor of your outdoors:

• When selecting furniture for outdoor use, be sure to pay attention to the materials from which it was made. Woods like teak, cedar, eucalyptus and cypress are durable, long-lasting and require little maintenance. While wicker can be made of natural materials like rattan and bamboo, it is often crafted of resin—a durable, low-maintenance, easy-to-clean material.
Wicker is often lightweight, which makes it easy to move around to create new seating looks whenever you wish.

• The addition of deck planters can really make a deck come alive (literally!) Self-watering planters are an ideal choice, because their reservoir system ensures plants get the water they need to grow.

• It's important to find the right style of furniture for an outdoor space. Adirondack chairs remain a favorite outdoor option. Rockers and gliders offer a traditional, comfortable way to enjoy a leisurely afternoon on your deck.

• Adding a trellis is an effective and affordable means to add vertical interest to an otherwise boring wall on the deck. Trellises can be almost any size.

• Looking for the perfect lighting so the deck can be enjoyed late into the evening? Solar lighting is an eco-friendly, energy-saving option, plus it requires no wiring or cords, which means installation is quick and easy. (And adequate lighting even makes the deck safer for use at night.)

Source: Thompson’s WaterSeal

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Exercise Safety this Spring

May 16, 2014 2:30 am

Spring is the ideal time to take on outdoor home improvement projects, however, only a few among us are truly qualified to take on the risks that are inherent in many landscaping or renovation projects – particularly when they involve electrical systems.

No matter what's on your agenda, electrical safety behaviors and an awareness of your surroundings should be part of your planning. 4 Over Electric offers valuable safety reminders to owners or managers of residential and commercial structures alike, a few of which are listed below:

• Keep Electrical Cords Away from Water – When working outside this spring, remember to always keep electrical cords and equipment away from water or other wet areas.

• Inspect Cords on Power Tools and Electric Lawn Mowers – Many people will have neglected tools like power tools and lawn mowers over the winter months, only to bring them out for outdoor projects in the spring. In the preceding months, cords can become frayed for any number of reasons, leading to dangerous situations. Never use equipment that has frayed or broken plugs or cords until they have been properly repaired.

• Watch for Power Lines that are Hidden by Foliage – In highly populated areas, space is a luxury that is truly appreciated, making tree and shrub trimming a constant necessity. However, if a tree grows into power lines, the combination can be very dangerous. For these issues, it's often better to contact an electrical or landscaping professional.

These safety measures are important, but they are still only a small fraction of the potential risks that can occur when working with electricity. In most cases, it's best to contact a professional for interior and exterior electrical contracting alike.

Source: 4 Over Electric

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How To Prep Your Car for Summer Driving

May 14, 2014 2:06 am

(BPT) - It is summer and you can't wait to get out on the road to head to the cabin, on vacation or just a nice carefree ride with the windows down. But while you may be ready to go, is your car? These quick vehicle inspection tips will help you make sure your vehicle is ready for the open road.

Is it cool in here?

Make sure your vehicle is ready to beat the heat by inspecting the air-conditioning (AC) and engine cooling systems. This means removing dirt and debris from the fins of the AC condenser and radiator.

While you're near the radiator, check the coolant level. Look in the owner's manual for the right anti-freeze. A newer car might require a completely different anti-freeze then what was used by that car's brand a few years ago. "Mixing incompatible anti-freezes can instantly gum up the cooling system," says Tom Taylor, engineer and vice president of auto parts retailer

Also check the cabin air filter that freshens the air flowing into the interior. This filter typically needs to be replaced annually, but it can clog up much faster if the car is driven on dirt roads or parked under trees. "Owners are so relieved when they discover their AC problems are solved by simply popping a new cabin air filter in place behind the glove box," says Taylor.

Kick the tires

Wherever you plan to go this summer, your tires will take you there; make sure they're in great shape.

Start by checking the tire pressure. Most tires have a maximum tire pressure printed on the side of the tire, but you want to inflate the tires only to the cold tire pressure printed on the decal inside the driver's door jam. "With today's low-profile tires, the difference between the maximum and cold pressures might be 20 PSI or more. Inflate a cold tire to the maximum pressure printed on the tire and it will be seriously over inflated once it hits the hot pavement," says Taylor.

Keep up that strict oil change schedule

If you want your engine to stay cool and last, it's essential that you change the oil at the appropriate times and with the proper oil. With older cars, owners might have used lighter weight oil in the winter and heavier oil in the summer. Today's engines often require the same weight oil year round. "Modern engines use oil as a hydraulic fluid for operating valves and doing other new things. Pour 10W-30 into a new engine that requires 0W-20 and there will likely be problems," says Taylor. Use the weight of oil recommended in the owner's manual and don't forget to change the oil filter too.

Take care of your vehicle and follow these tips and you can be sure it will be there with you for every new mile marker and memory this summer and beyond.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Do if Contacted By a Debt Collector

May 14, 2014 2:06 am

U.S. consumers should know that they have important rights if contacted by a debt collector about a delinquent or defaulted account.

"Millions of consumers per year may find themselves behind on payments and are contacted by a creditor or debt collector," ACA International CEO Pat Morris said. "While no one ever wants to get a call or letter telling them they owe money, consumers need to know they are protected by very important federal and state laws."

America's economy relies on the repayment of consumer credit such as loans, credit cards, and bills for services rendered to keep costs down and ensure the availability of affordable credit. Federal, state, and local governments in the public sector also rely on the repayment of billions of taxpayer owed dollars in delinquencies including student loans, uncollected court fees, unpaid taxes, library fines, and traffic tickets. The following are helpful tips for U.S. consumers who may be contacted about a rightfully owed debt:

Know Your Rights. As the old adage goes, knowledge is power. Debt collection professionals have created a valuable resource called to provide consumers with important information about their rights if contacted about a delinquent or defaulted debt.

Communicate. Ignoring a creditor or debt collector does not make the debt go away. In fact, it can make the situation worse. Communication is an important ally in taking control and working to resolve the reason for being contacted. It's a critical step in finding a consumer-friendly solution. If not the right person, it's important to correct this information. Similarly, communication provides an opportunity to resolve concerns or complaints.

Identification is Important. By law, a debt collector may not give out information about the existence of a debt to anyone other than the consumer or their attorney so they must confirm a consumer's identify before discussing specifics about an account. When debt collectors contact consumers they identify themselves by their company name so it can be confusing in that the consumer may have never heard of the business. Once a consumer has been properly identified, the collector can then reveal details about the debt.

Consumers have a Right to Dispute the Validity of the Debt. Third-party debt collectors work on behalf of their creditor clients to recover rightfully owed consumer obligations. By law, the collector must inform consumers of their right to dispute the debt and provide written verification if you dispute it in writing. Typically, collection activity stops until this verification is provided.

Active Military have Special Privileges. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows active military and, in a few cases, non-service members, to suspend or postpone certain civil obligations. A lender, creditor or insurer is prohibited by law from taking any adverse actions against military personnel because they exercised their rights under SCRA, which can only be exercised while engaged in active duty; including full-time training; annual training duty; and attendance at a service school while in active military service.

Protect Personal and Financial Information. Monitor accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to the bank or credit card provider. Consumers should monitor their credit report and report identity theft by contacting the local police department and visiting

Source: ACA International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fun in the Garden with Kids

May 13, 2014 1:54 am

There is something about digging in the dirt that brings us back to childhood. It is a reminder of the simpler days when spending time in the sunshine was all that was on our minds. Involving children in the garden has several benefits beyond making the outdoors a more beautiful space.

Foster creativity
Make children part of the adventure in gardening by including them on a visit to a local nursery. A simple shopping trip can be used to foster their creativity and make them think beyond simple colors. Pointing out the differences in plant varieties such as unique foliage textures or which plants attract butterflies or hummingbirds can make it a more memorable experience. Choose plants together and help to coordinate varieties for a fun project to do at home.

Fun Exercise
Children don't think of gardening as exercise, but the simple act can help improve mobility and flexibility. Try getting the kids involved by giving them the opportunity to help dig holes, pull pesky weeds or carry small loads of soil and mulch. Keeping them moving in the garden allows them to stay active while having a fun time doing it.

Sense of Accomplishment
Completing a garden project from start to finish gives kids a unique sense of accomplishment. Try planting a container garden by using a re-blooming shrub such as Mini Penny Hydrangea as the highlight in the pot. Include other plants such as ivy, begonias or creeping jenny to fill up spaces and grow over the side of the container. Children can help take care of the plant by watering and making sure it gets what it needs. As they see the container flourish, they can take pride in knowing they pulled it all together.

Healthy Benefits
Growing our own vegetables and fruits is a great way to provide healthy food for the family. When children invest time in the garden, they learn where food comes from and get satisfaction in trying what they have created. Planting edible shrubs such as Blue Suede Blueberry gives kids a chance to see how the fruit is formed. Nothing beats picking ripe berries in the summer for a healthy snack or sweet treat for dessert.

Priceless Family Time
You can't put a price on spending quality time together. Studies have shown that doing family activities outside organized sports will create stronger emotional bonds and better communication with children. What better way to spend time together than enjoying the fresh outdoor air and creating a garden project that lasts?

Get the kids outside and create memories that will last a lifetime. It is an activity that can become a lifelong passion that links generations together.

Source: Gardener's Confidence Collection

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best BBQ Spots in America

May 12, 2014 1:42 am

TripAdvisor® has announced the highest-rated restaurants for barbecue. From sweet and saucy to simple and smoky, these spots serve up low-and-slow cooked meats that are sure to satisfy any travelers' tastes.

Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas. Committed carnivores often wait upwards of three hours to score a meal at this joint that serves up the Texas trinity of barbecue: brisket, ribs and sausage. The meat is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and then slow-cooked to perfection over an oak-fueled flame.

Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ & Catering, Kansas City, Kansas. Operating out of a gas station since 1996, this Kansas City restaurant offers a mouthwatering medley of meats that are dry rubbed and then slathered in the region’s distinctive tomato and molasses-based sauce. Fan favorites include burnt ends and the “Z-Man” sandwich, a unique stacking of brisket, provolone cheese and onion rings served atop a Kaiser roll.

Bogart’s Smokehouse, Saint Louis, Missouri. Since designing his first grill at the age of 14, pit-master Skip Steele has perfected the method for crafting melt-in-your-mouth meats. Patrons can choose between four homemade sauces including “Mad Maddie's,” a vinegar-based concoction, and “Pineapple Express,” a tangy and sweet sauce with a burst of tropical fruit.

Wiley’s Championship BBQ, Savannah, Georgia. With more than 30 years of experience winning awards on the national barbecue competition scene, husband and wife team Wiley and Janet McCrary opened their first brick and mortar restaurant in 2008. The joint pleases palates with low-and-slow cooked meats including savory St. Louis cut ribs.

Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Amid the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachian Mountains in southeastern Tennessee, this log cabin style restaurant feeds famished barbecue fans with an emphasis on Southern hospitality. Dry-rubbed meats are smoked over hickory wood, and can be served on a plate, as a sandwich, or even stuffed inside a “killer” baked potato.

Jim’s Smokin’ Que, Blairsville, Georgia. Open Thursday through Saturday, this northern Georgia smokehouse advises guest to arrive early, as their succulent meats – including ribs, brisket, pulled pork, chicken and turkey – often sell out. Those lucky enough to score a meal can also enjoy their choice of satisfying sides, from Brunswick stew to banana pudding.

Joe’s BBQ, Blue Ridge, Georgia. In the midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this joint satisfies hungry guests with tender and moist meats complemented by a selection of sauces including “Alabama white,” a mayonnaise-based mixture that has found fame in several Southeastern states.

Captain’s BBQ, Palm Coast, Florida. Boasting stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, this waterside smokeshack doubles as a bait-and-tackle shop. Moist and juicy meats are the backbone of the mouthwatering menu which offers up classic plates as well as more unique creations, including pulled pork burritos slathered in Baja sauce.

Poppa’s BBQ, Clearwater, Florida. On the Gulf of Mexico, Poppa’s BBQ delights tastebuds with their “Q.” The deliciously simple menu includes an assortment of slow-smoked pulled pork, juicy chicken and Memphis-style ribs that are generously rubbed with a special spice blend and served with a tomato and vinegar sauce on the side.

Madd Jacks Grillin Shack, Cape Canaveral, Florida. This beach-themed joint brings a taste of the West Coast to the Sunshine State, as chef Robby O’Connor dishes out generous portions of California-style barbecue including sliced tri-tips that are dry-rubbed and cooked over white oak for a slightly smoky kick. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bring Fun to Life’s Messiest Moments

May 9, 2014 1:06 am

(Family Features) Who says cleaning has to be boring? If you’ve just had a large party, are making room for a new wardrobe or simply doing house chores, there are plenty of ways to turn an otherwise mundane task into a fun activity.
In fact, lifestyle bloggers, Jessie Jane of LilyShop, Kelly Lee of Kelly Golightly, and Jennifer Brandt of Perfectly Disheveled learned firsthand how to make cleanups more fun when surprise “Trash Crashers” were sent to clean-up their parties.
The bloggers have these tips to make cleanup more fun in your home:

• Host a clothing swap. Designate areas in your house for certain items, such as shoes, accessories and jackets. Once all the clothing has been sorted, swapped and shopped, you can bag up the remaining items to donate or take to a resale store. Afterwards, all of your belongings will be organized and easy to find.

• Add extra bags. Keep extra trash bags at the bottom of each trash can. This way, during the party you (or a handy helper) can empty full trash cans in a snap and easily put a new bag in without having to scramble.

• Keep clean-up easy. Don't let extra party food go to waste. Instead, send your guests home with leftovers in food storage containers. They'll appreciate the snack and you'll appreciate that nothing will go to waste. Plus, this means less clean-up work for you.

• Make it a competition.
Have each person in your family grab a trash bag when you’re cleaning up after a party or another messy occasion. Set a timer so you can see who has collected the most trash after 5-10 minutes. If you’re playing with little ones, you can even have a little candy treat for the winners.

• Work it out. Cleaning is a great way to burn calories. Put on your favorite tunes and you've got a great opportunity to work in some cardio. You can lunge around the room, run or skip – anything to get your heart pumping. Plus, lifting full heavy duty trash bags is excellent for toning your legs and arms.

Source: Glad

Published with permission from RISMedia.