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Sell Quickly with Master Suite Upgrades

July 17, 2014 5:27 am

(BPT) - All signs point to a recovering real estate market. Experts say more inventory will be available and buyers will have an easier time getting mortgages, all of which means more competition among sellers.

If you plan to put your home on the market this season, you might be looking for the most cost-effective renovations to set your house apart from the competition. Assuming you've already taken care of the two top rooms to renovate - kitchen and bathroom - what's your next move?

Three words: master suite upgrades.

Americans spend a lot of time in the bedroom. The master suite is, arguably, the area of the house where you most want to feel like the king or queen of your domain. After you've wowed potential buyers with a great kitchen and bathroom, a beautiful master suite could be the feature that seals the deal.

A mid-range master suite addition recoups 67.5 percent of its cost at the time of resale, according to Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report. Fortunately, you can create a big impact on a master suite with a modest remodeling budget.

Many masters occupy the second floor, making them prime locations for an upgrade that is attention-grabbing, energy-efficient and practical, all without being costly: skylights.

Natural light and fresh air can make a room feel larger, more open and more welcoming. Opening a wall to add a window is rarely practical, but skylights can bring natural light and improve air quality in a master with less fuss. If yours is on the first floor, tubular skylights can deliver natural light into spots where a traditional skylight won't work.

For your second-floor master, an ENERGY STAR-certified solar-powered, fresh-air skylight provides daylight, privacy and more security than an open window (always a concern for a bedroom), as well as cost-effective passive ventilation. Add solar-powered blinds and skylight energy performance ratings improve by as much as 45 percent. Even better, the installation of solar-powered skylights and blinds, plus installation costs, can be eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit.

Often, sellers focus on big-picture issues and overlook the small details that win buyers' hearts. For example, while it's important to paint the walls a neutral, appealing color, don't forget to repaint baseboards, window trim, ceilings and inside closets, too - all significantly affect the overall look of a room.

Be sure to repaint the master bathroom in a color that complements the master bedroom. Add decadent but cost-effective touches like plush towels, a towel-warming rack and an upgraded shower head and faucets. Consider the shower door. Is it old and shabby-looking with glass that has become hazy? Replacing it is a simple, quick fix that will put a bright face on the shower stall. Swap out a straight shower curtain rod for a curved one that greatly increases the spaciousness of the shower area.

Add light, airy curtains to make the room look bigger and brighter, luxurious bedding to impart a restful atmosphere, and you'll have created a master suite that's sure to be an asset when it's time to sell.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Young-Adult Households Adopt Smart Energy

July 17, 2014 5:27 am

Research shows young homeowners, those with children, and those in a home for 3-4 years are leading the adoption of Internet-connected energy devices. Parks Associates reveals more than 10 percent of U.S. households with homeowners aged 25-34 own at least one smart home energy management device.

The entry of major service providers such as ADT, AT&T, and Comcast is helping to increase homeowner awareness and adoption of smart home solutions. Product lines from major retailers such as Staples and Lowe's will increase competition in this space as they introduce home energy products to their large base of consumers.

Smart energy management products provide remote alerts and status updates to consumers, who can then access and control the device from a smartphone or other mobile device. Smart programmable thermostats, smart lighting, smart outlets, plugs and power strips, and smart kitchen appliances are all entering the market in growing numbers.

Furthermore, seven percent of these households plan to purchase a smart thermostat in the next year; however, findings show that they prefer smart home systems with extended capabilities that integrate multiple devices, not stand-alone products.

Source: Parks Associates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 New Uses for Household Items

July 17, 2014 5:27 am

You know that egg carton you threw out in the trash? Tear the top off the next one, and stow the business half in a desk drawer. It’s the perfect way to keep rubber bands, push pins, paper clips and more in neat, uncluttered order.

So prompts lifestyle blogger Brit Morin, who offers 10 more ways to get double duty from ordinary household items:
  • Disposable ice packs – Fill small balloons partially full and freeze them. Pack them in an ice chest for a colorful way to keep food and drinks cold on the move.
  • Package opener – Hate that clamshell packaging that seems impossible to open? Use a can opener to slice through one side of the plastic.
  • Add a key – Save your manicure by using a staple remover to pry open a key ring to add or remove a key.
  • Melon baller – An ice cream scoop used as a melon baller will give you larger, prettier portions of fruit for your next company platter.
  • Candle lighter – Don’t burn your fingers using a match to light those birthday or outdoor candles. Light the end of a strand of spaghetti and use that as your lighter.
  • Bathroom caddy – Short on bathroom space? Hang a plastic shoe organizer on the back of the door to hold curling iron, hair dryer, big bottles of body lotion and more.
  • Jewelry holder – Keep bracelets, chains and necklaces from snarling by storing them individually in the cups of a plastic ice cube tray placed in a dresser drawer.
  • Shoe holder – Don’t throw out that empty cardboard wine carton. Laid on its side in your closet, it can behave like a cheap shoe organizer to keep your shoes off the floor.
  • Pool noodle boot keeper – Done with your pool noodles for the year? Cut them in half and stuff them in your boots to help the boots stand up in your closet.
  • Herb chopper – Protect your fingers by chopping herbs with a pair of scissors instead of a knife. Snipping them directly into the bowl, platter or measuring cup saves washing the cutting board, too.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Give Your Kitchen a Facelift with Updated Appliances

July 16, 2014 5:15 am

(Family Features) Ever hear the saying “kitchens sell a home?” Well it’s true; the kitchen is the most important room in the home. Whether you’re considering putting your house on the market or investing in your home for personal long-term enjoyment, an upgraded and attractive kitchen can make your home irresistible.

While a well-designed kitchen incorporates elements of luxury and style, it’s also important to focus on kitchen updates that will make everyday life easier — so you can spend less time doing chores and more time making memories with the family.

A simple way to give your kitchen an instant facelift is to replace old, outdated or mismatched appliances with newer models. They are not only aesthetically appealing but they can simplify the cooking and cleanup process. Here are some key points to consider when purchasing:

Maintenance-free stainless steel appliances
When potential home buyers walk into a kitchen, the first thing they will look for are updated and matching appliances. An appealing kitchen is one with a complete set of matching appliances for a modern and inviting appearance.

Many buyers love the look of stainless steel appliances but are reluctant to purchase because of fingerprints and watermarks. To alleviate that concern, look for new technologies that resist streaks and smudges.

Maximizing time and space in the kitchen
When trying to maximize space in your kitchen, built-in and counter depth appliances are the way to go. In fact, counter depth appliances, like refrigerators, give you back over four inches of kitchen space. Built-in wall ovens and cooktops increase countertop space as well as cooking capacity, not to mention a sleek looking kitchen and entertaining space.

Consider the different types of cooktops available too — gas, electric or induction. Induction cooktops are in high demand because they offer more precise and efficient cooking methods.

Flexible storage options that can save you money
When it comes to purchasing refrigerators and freezers, it’s important to find something that allows for adjustable storage to meet personal, lifestyle needs. Owning a secondary freezer allows you to make one and a half less trips to the store each month and saves an average of 60 hours per year at the grocery store, according to Frigidaire research. Overall, those who own a secondary freezer say it allows them to stock up on family favorite foods, and the extra storage space lets them take advantage of sales and buying in bulk.

Making a few easy kitchen upgrades can add instant value and save you time, making your home more enjoyable for you and your family.

Source: Frigidaire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Nearly Half of Americans Check Their Work Email Out of the Office

July 16, 2014 5:15 am

GFI Software recently announced the findings of its second independent study into email user habits, which revealed a stark increase in the way that work email is encroaching into personal lives. Of those surveyed, some 44.8 percent admit to checking work email at least once a day in their personal time, while 40.4 percent admit checking multiple times a day or in real-time through pre-work mornings, evenings, weekends and days off.

Other key findings from the survey include:
  • Nearly a third of those surveyed (31.2 percent) respond to work email within 15 minutes or receiving it during work hours. A further 23.4 percent of respondents answer work email within half an hour during office hours.
  • When sending email, the same respondents are less fussy about response times, with only 10.6 percent expecting a reply inside 15 minutes and only 18.2 percent expecting one inside half an hour. Most expect a reply within one hour (23 percent) or at least within a day (21.8 percent) of sending a message.
  • Just under a third (31.8 percent) still resist the temptation to look in on their company email outside of the working day.
The survey revealed a substantial encroachment of work email not only into personal time, but also into social events and other milestone non-work occasions. For example:
  • Nearly two thirds (63.6 percent) of those surveyed admit to checking work email while on vacation.
  • While attending an event at their child's school, 6.7 percent have gone through work email.
  • A further 5 percent have checked email during a wedding ceremony.
  • Even during a funeral, 3.8 percent have checked mail.
  • ...and a further 3.8 percent owned up to checking their work email while their spouse was in labor.
Source: GFI Software

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Home Investment: A Wood Deck

July 16, 2014 5:15 am

(BPT)—As the seasons turn, more homeowners look for projects that not only make their homes more livable, but also offer great return on investment. With demand high across the country for outdoor spaces that bring the comforts of the indoors outside, there's no surprise that decks are one of the top remodeling projects for 2014.

In fact, a residential wood deck addition has a recouped cost of 87.4 percent, according to Remodeling Magazine's 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, the second highest ROI midrange project only behind an entry door replacement. That means adding a deck to your property will increase your livable space so you can enjoy the outdoors more, and you can rest easy knowing you're boosting the value of your home investment.

If you think you'd like to add a wood deck to your home, you might wonder about the different material options. "Although composite and PVC decking have gained popularity in recent years, pressure-treated wood decking still carries the lion's share of the market because it's inexpensive, easy to work with and can be found at any lumberyard," says Chris Fox, product manager at Universal Forest Products, a leading supplier of lumber and decking materials.

Today's pressure-treated lumber comes with advancements that weren't available to homeowners just a few years ago. For example, with more homeowners seeking eco-friendly building materials, wood suppliers are exploring environmentally preferred treatment methods. For example, ProWood's micronized copper azole (MCA) treated lumber decking is eco-friendly, cost effective and easy to install.

MCA is a method for treating the wood (typically pine) using an EPA-registered waterborne wood preservative system to protect against termite attack and rot. MCA-treated lumber provides a light, natural look, unlike other pressurized wood treatments that result in the greenish hue with which most people are familiar.

You can leave MCA treated lumber in its natural state for a more organic appearance in your outdoor spaces, or you can choose ProWood Dura Color decking that is color-infused with pigment driven deep into the wood fibers. This process creates beautiful treated wood grain that will stand up to the elements for many years, with no need for staining.

"People like the natural look of redwood and cedar, but they don't want the drawbacks that come with them, such as the high price and the fact that they quickly fade to gray," says Fox. "ProWood Dura Color lumber not only looks like natural cedar or redwood, but the color lasts much longer and is backed by a two-year color assurance warranty"

When researching treated wood materials for outdoor home improvement projects, such as a deck addition, Fox suggests discussing the project with the local lumber dealer and to be sure to understand and check the end tag for:

1. The description of use (above ground or ground contact)

2. Warranty statement

3. The quality standards it meets

4. Third-party quality inspection (which assures product has passed retention and penetration tests).


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Ways to Make Your Entryway Grand

July 15, 2014 5:03 am

(BPT) - Most people enter their homes through the garage or backdoor, forgetting how the front entrance looks to neighbors and guests. Your front door is often the first thing others notice about your home. That's why it's key to make a positive first impression.

1. Install a new front door. With so many new entry door systems to choose from, ranging from single doors, to double-door options, to those accented with decorative glass, or transoms and sidelights, it's easy to find one that fits your budget and your style.

Sticking with your door? A fresh coat of paint will work wonders. Try a bold color to brighten a neutral color scheme. Alternatively, you can refresh old doors with new hardware. Choose handles and door knockers that complement your home's exterior design.

2. Replace broken or damaged items. Replace broken light fixtures, burned out bulbs and worn out weather-stripping on exterior doors. Ditch that faded wreath, worn out mat, and dead plants, and instead, add a bright new welcome mat and eye-catching seasonal decorations.

3. Polish your porch. Use a little elbow grease and ammonia-free, vinegar-based glass cleaner to wash the windows. Wipe down window and door frames and sweep sills with a dry paint brush or vacuum to remove dirt.

Fill flower boxes or containers with boldly-colored plants to accent your front door. If you've painted your door red, plant red and white or red and purple flowers to create a designer look. Or if you're keen on green doors, try purple or orange flowers for contrast.

4. Illuminate your walkway. Make it easy for others to see the way to your front door at night. Transform and illuminate walkways with easy-to-install solar lights. Stake them in the ground positioned so solar cells get enough southern exposure for sunlight to recharge nightlights during the day.

5. Trim bushes. Landscaping should accent your home, not dominate it. Keep bushes below the bottom sill of your windows to improve your view. Trim or replace overgrown shrubs and trees. Keep plant material trimmed several feet away from your home to minimize damage from wind or insects and eliminate a place for prowlers to lurk.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Steps to a Summer Home Makeover

July 15, 2014 5:03 am

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could bring that vacation feeling home with you? After a well-deserved getaway, recreate a relaxing atmosphere by adding summer touches to each space. Turn your home into a welcoming retreat in three easy steps:

1. Kitchen – Swap out darker finishes for neutral alternatives; think white or off-white table linens and chair cushions. Incorporate natural elements like fresh sunflowers or rattan baskets, and add brightly-colored dishes to your table to imitate a vibrant vacation setting.

2. Living Room – If it doesn’t already, rearrange your furniture to face the outdoors so you can enjoy a beautiful view. Display your summer reading choices on the coffee table as a reminder to slow down and unwind. Remove heavy winter blankets and open up windows to recreate the feeling of a shoreline breeze.

3. Outdoors – If your home has a front porch, designate a sitting area with oversized potted plants to mimic resort-style lounge areas. In the backyard, string lights over a patio or add a firepit to recreate your favorite camp site.

Source: HomeFinder

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Do When Your Bank Starts Charging

July 15, 2014 5:03 am

For everything from paying for lunch to paying the water bill, a checking account is the primary tool many Americans use to make day-to-day financial transactions. But for many, free checking is becoming a thing of the past as banks notify their customers that "free" accounts are being discontinued.

But no-cost checking isn't extinct. Some institutions offer accounts that require only a $100 minimum balance to avoid monthly maintenance costs, which may be a good fit for someone starting out in their career or for a family that is managing significant expenses. If earning power grows or expenses are reduced, it makes sense to explore the benefits of a premium account, which often requires a higher minimum balance but offers benefits like paying interest on your balance and reimbursement for out of network ATM fees.

For those looking to buy a home, choosing the right account can help keep more dollars in your wallet. Those who finance their home at their bank may receive discounts on their mortgage rate, which can translate into hundreds of dollars of savings a year.

Consult with a representative at your bank of choice to review how much money you can comfortably keep in an account, as well as the convenience and features you're looking for from your bank.

Source: TD Bank

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tune up Your Generator before Storms Strike

July 14, 2014 4:51 am

When a storm wreaks havoc on power lines, generator repair shops are often flooded with calls. To avoid living without power for an extended period of time, tune up your generator before a storm strikes.

If you own a gasoline-powered portable generator, maintain it regularly by following the owner’s manual. Supply it with new fuel and oil and ensure the battery is charged if it starts electronically. Fire it up frequently to ensure the engine is working properly, and use your transfer switch to test the system.

When stocking up on gasoline prior to a storm, store it in an ANSI-approved container in a cool, well-ventilated place. Make fuel last longer by adding stabilizer to the can.

During and after a storm, protect you and your home by running the machine at least 15 feet away from the house. Never run the generator in a garage or basement. When refueling, be sure to turn it off and let it cool completely before adding more gasoline.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.