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Energy Efficient Lighting Tips

November 20, 2013 4:09 am

Days are getting shorter, the weather outside is getting cooler, and the holiday season is right around the corner. During this time of year, people are spending more time indoors, cranking up the heat, and using more lighting throughout their home, which ultimately leads to higher energy bills. is helping homeowners reduce their energy bills by simply choosing energy efficient light bulbs.

When it comes to energy efficiency, CEO Matt Ehrlichman states, "People don't have to invest a lot of time and money to make a difference. Little changes such as switching to energy efficient light bulbs add up. In fact, an average American house can save over $200 per year by replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED."

For those who have not switched over to energy efficient light bulbs, Larry Lauck of the American Lighting Association recommends investigating different lighting options. "Only around 10 percent of the energy in old style incandescent light bulbs goes towards lighting, with the remaining 90 percent of energy spent on producing heat," he says. In fact, the wasted heat produced by just 34 incandescent 60W bulbs producing 850 lumens of light each would be enough to cook your Thanksgiving turkey at 350°. It would take a whopping 258 LED bulbs, also 850 lumens each, to waste the same amount of heat.

When considering energy efficient lighting options, Lauck advises that the first thing homeowners do is identify the lights in their home that are on for a significant amount of time. For many people this could be porch lights or outdoor lighting, which are best suited for LED's as they have the greatest energy savings and last over 20 years. For indoor lighting, kitchens and bathrooms typically use a large amount of lighting energy and are areas where homeowners could save both energy and money by switching to energy efficient lighting.

When considering lighting options in a kitchen or bathroom, Lauck encourages homeowners to talk to a professional because unlike old-style incandescent light bulbs, which all have a universal warm yellow hue, energy efficient light bulbs come in an array of colors ranging from cool to warm hues. Professionals can speak to color temperature, dimming features, and energy efficiency to help homeowners choose the right light bulb for their space.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cranberries Have Health-Promoting Properties

November 19, 2013 4:06 am

Cranberries are more than a holiday favorite, given their remarkable nutritional and health benefits. A new research review published in the international journal Advances in Nutrition provides reasons why these tiny berries can be front and center and not just a side dish. The review authors conclude that cranberries provide unique bioactive compounds that may help reduce the incidence of certain infections, improve heart health and temper inflammation.

"Hundreds of studies show that the bioactive compounds found in cranberries improve health," said lead author Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, FASN, FACN, CNS, Director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory and Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. "For example, the polyphenols found in cranberries have been shown to promote a healthy urinary tract and exert protective benefits for cardiovascular disease and other chronic conditions."

Cranberry Health Benefits Extend Beyond Urinary Tract Health

The authors cite data that shows the cranberry may improve cardiovascular health by improving blood cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure, inflammation and oxidative stress. Cranberries have been shown to help support endothelial function and reduce arterial stiffness. Together, these benefits may promote overall health and functioning of blood vessels to help slow the progression of atherogenesis and plaque formation, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Need Fruit? Eat More Cranberries

While all fruit contributes necessary vitamins and minerals to the diet, berry fruits offer a particularly rich source of health-promoting polyphenols. Because of their tart taste and very low natural sugar content, sugar is often added to cranberry products for palatability. Even with added sugar, cranberry products typically have a comparable amount of sugar to other unsweetened fruit juices and dried fruit products. Additionally, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans asserts that the best use of calories from added sweeteners is for improving the palatability of nutrient-rich foods, as is the case when adding sugar to cranberries. As an additional option, non-nutritive sweeteners are used to produce low calorie versions of cranberry products. Americans can help increase their fruit intake by incorporating cranberries and cranberry products into their diet and there is no need to wait for the holidays – cranberries can be enjoyed year round – fresh, frozen, dried, or in a juice or sauce.

"While we look forward to more research to better understand how cranberries affect our well-being and longevity, we know that including cranberries and cranberry products in a healthy diet is a great way to increase fruit intake," said Dr. Blumberg.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Look for Possible Tornado Damage

November 19, 2013 4:06 am

Residents should be very careful when returning home following the severe tornadoes that struck the Midwest over the weekend. Once it is safe to do so, homeowners should carefully inspect their homes for possible signs of tornado damage, and pay particular attention to the following areas:

• Look for wall cracks in spots where there were no cracks before. Cracks of a quarter inch or more are signs walls may have shifted or settled. Look carefully around windows and doors because these are typically the weakest spots in a home's construction.
• Make sure to closely check rooms not regularly used.
• Look outside for physically visible, new cracks in the home's foundation. Look inside for changes in the levelness of floors. Changes in the level of the floor could be signs of a lift in the home's foundation.
• Inspect plumbing. Look closely around the water heater and/or water softener for signs of water leaks that did not exist before. Flush all toilets, turn on all of the water faucets, and check connecting pipes for any leaking water.
• In the days or weeks after a tornado, check walls and ceilings for water stains or yellowing that did not exist before. It could indicate damage on the roof.
• Carefully inspect the outside gutters. Damaged gutters could cause water damage inside the home long after the actual gutter damage occurs.

Source: Allstate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Statistics Highlight the Need for Preparation and Caution in Holiday Decorating and Entertaining

November 19, 2013 4:06 am

Lights, candles, action! Brightly lighted decorations, elaborate meals and large gatherings are all part of traditional holiday celebrations. Unfortunately, these seasonal traditions also cause an average of 230 home fires each year, with an average of 4 deaths, 21 injuries and $17.3 million in property damage.

"Christmas tree lights and candles are just two of the holiday traditions that increase the likelihood of a fire starting in your home," says Rick Isaacson, executive vice president of Servpro Industries, Inc. "There are about three times as many cooking-related fires on Thanksgiving Day and almost twice as many on Christmas Day as there are on non-holidays. It only takes a single distracted or careless action to turn a family get-together into a tragedy."

Homeowners can help keep their homes and their families safe during the holiday season by understanding the dangers and taking some simple, commonsense precautions.

Holiday Cooking Fire Facts
• Thanksgiving Day has three times the average number of reported home structure fires involving cooking equipment.
• The two other peak days for cooking-related fires are Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

Holiday Cooking Safety Tips
• Supervise items on the stovetop. Fifty-eight percent of kitchen fires involve ranges; homes with electric cooktops have a higher risk of fire than homes with gas cooktops.
• Keep flammable items - potholders, packaging, wrapping, wooden utensils, loose clothing - away from the stovetop.
• Don't let lack of sleep or alcohol consumption affect your ability to concentrate on preparing the meal.

Holiday Decorating Fire Facts
• Half of all holiday decoration fires start because the decoration is too close to a heat source.
• On average, 32 candle fires are reported each day. December is the peak month for candle fires.

Holiday Decorating Safety Tips:
• Keep all decorations away from heat sources like radiators, portable heaters, and fireplaces.
• Use flameless candles.
• If you do use traditional candles, burn them in sturdy candleholders, well away from drapes and other flammable materials. Never leave them unattended and never allow them to burn down to less than one inch in length.

Christmas Tree Fire Facts:
• 50 percent of live tree fires occur between December 22 and January 5.
• 31 percent of tree fires are caused by electrical problems.
• 14 percent involve decorative lights.

Christmas Tree Safety Tips:
• Keep live trees well watered to reduce the chance of a fire.
• Check wiring on lights for breaks and wear, replace worn strings and don't exceed manufacturer guidelines for connecting multiple strands of lights.
• Don't leave tree lights plugged in when you are away from home or asleep.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips to Capture Mood, Splendor of the Season with Lighting

November 18, 2013 4:06 am

(Family Features) As decorations are hung this holiday season in preparation for entertaining family and friends, consider creating ambiance using lighting in the main social rooms of the home, including the kitchen, dining and living rooms. Beyond the trimmings, presents and other jolly adornments, it is essential to have the proper lighting to enhance the glow of the holidays and adjust the mood of a room.

Here are some tips to make sure the lighting in every room in your home is properly outfitted to create an inviting and comfortable atmosphere for the holidays and beyond:

Use higher quality light

Lighting helps set a mood in a room. When choosing the type of light needed for a room, consider whether you want a soft light or crisp bright light. Use lighting that can filter out dull yellow rays and provide clean, beautiful light that brings out the vibrant colors of the holiday season – making reds appear redder and whites whiter – to make the colors in your holiday wreaths and decorations pop.

Layer the lighting

Instead of relying on one type of light source, layer your lighting by using a mix of light sources at different levels, to create a flattering ambiance. The effect of layered lighting in the living room highlights architectural details, like the festively decorated fireplace and mantel with evergreens and holly berries. Ambient lighting from recessed fixtures with dimming control in the kitchen allows flexibility to adjust as needed for cooking and baking during the day to entertaining guests in the evening, or for spending late nights wrapping presents.

Additionally, the holidays would not be complete without cozy, intimate gatherings around the dining room table with family and friends. Layered lighting applied around the dining room table can set the mood so you and your guests can comfortably enjoy the turkey dinner with all the dressings.

Keep energy efficiency in mind

Select energy-efficient lighting – such as CFLs and LEDs – for optimal energy savings. This is especially important in rooms where the most time is spent with the lights on in order to see the biggest energy savings impact. Many energy-efficient alternatives of today mirror the light quality of the traditional incandescent bulb, providing the warm glow and dimming capabilities.

Do your homework

Savvy homeowners should do a little research before purchasing light bulbs to ensure compatibility with their fixtures. Be sure to match up the bulb shape and application, choose the appropriate lumen, or brightness level, and review the light bulb packaging for dimmable options.

Make this holiday season a cheerful occasion, and don’t rely on overhead lighting alone to deck your halls and walls. With a layered approach and a little lighting know-how, you’ll create the welcoming and warm atmosphere perfect for family, friends and good cheer.

Source: GE

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Marriage-Minded Customers Seeking out the Perfect Diamond

November 18, 2013 4:06 am

With so many fine jewelry stores, it can be difficult to pick out an engagement ring. King of Jewelry recommends purchasing fine jewelry only from a store that offers diamond certification from top gemological institutes, such as the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the nation's top diamond grading resource. The benefit of having an independent agency grading diamonds is that they are objective and unaffiliated with any particular retailer, so customers are assured their diamond quality is actually a genuinely fine gemstone. Loose diamonds sold are graded based on their cut, color, clarity and carat weight - sometimes referred to as the "4 C’s" of diamond evaluation. In more detail, these mean:

Cut. The diamond cut is mainly a matter of the buyer's preference, as there are 12 main cuts of diamonds. These include the most popular, the round brilliant cut, as well as other cuts and shapes that appeal to different women, such as the princess, oval, heart, radiant, emerald, pear, marquise, Asscher, triangle, cushion and other small accent cuts like baguette.

Color. Diamond color, or lack of color, is an important factor in determining its value. The diamond's presence of color is judged on a graded scale. "D" represents a rare, natural colorless diamond, and the spectrum continues to the letter "Z," indicating a presence of color.

Clarity. A diamond that has perfect clarity is incredibly rare and valuable, because it must withstand tremendous heat and pressure, and usually this results in a variety of internal inclusions and external blemishes. The GIA has six categories in the diamond clarity scale, from flawless under 10x magnification to included diamonds, which are obvious to the naked eye and affect the transparency and brilliance of the stone.

Carat. Perhaps the most well-known of the "C’s," carat is a measure of the stone's weight. Diamond price always increases with carat weight, but price is also determined by the previous 3 Cs, because two diamonds of equal weight may have very different values.

Source: King of Jewelry

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pinterest Takes Industry to a Whole, New Level

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

As social media sites continue to infiltrate the real estate space, one site that’s not being used by many agents—yet has the capacity to be something special—is Pinterest.

Because it’s entirely visual, Pinterest is an ideal social media platform to sell a home as it’s all about people pinning interesting, inspiring, or creative images to virtual bulletin boards that get shared with all of their friends, family and acquaintances.

This means an agent can showcase your home on Pinterest by displaying image after image, sharing each photo with the site’s community at large. And the photos aren’t just limited to pictures of the home itself. Photos of the neighborhood, schools, nearby restaurants and other community happenings can be “pinned” to present a complete picture of the property and its surroundings, offering prospective buyers the chance to truly picture themselves living in the space.

For example, if your house is up for sale in a neighborhood known for its walkability and community spirit, your agent can open up the Pinterest site to allow others to post photos and comments about their positive experiences in the area.

Any real estate agent will emphasize the power that photos have in online real estate marketing, and Pinterest will truly take the power of photos to the next level. When one photo is pinned, other users can “like” the posted pin, comment on it, and/or re-pin it to their own board.

According to recent data released by Pinterest, there are now more than 12 million members using the site and approximately 25 percent of all Pinterest users connect their account to their personal Facebook profile. Plus, the referral traffic tops the number of YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ referral traffic combined.

For those who are looking for tips on selling their home, Pinterest also has many boards devoted to stagers, real estate bloggers and other experts who show you how best to use your Pinterest boards to make your house stand out in pictures.

If your home is on Pinterest and someone “pins” it, everyone that is following that person will see it as well. By pinning photos with labels such as “Original Spanish tiles” or “Gourmet Kitchen,” people who are already on Pinterest looking for homes could find yours based on what they’re looking for. This opens up your market substantially.

To learn more about incorporating Pinterest into your home selling strategy, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Light the Way to Real Estate Success

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

While wants and needs vary from buyer to buyer, energy-efficient features are typically at the top of every buyer’s list when it comes to searching for their dream home. However, if you’re in the process of getting your home ready to sell, it’s important to take into consideration that eco-friendly home improvements need not cost an arm and a leg.

When it comes to energy efficiency, taking steps to improve your home’s carbon footprint will go a long way toward attracting green-conscious buyers. And switching out your bulbs is one of the easiest ways to incorporate energy savings into your space.

Recent studies have reported that 85 percent of all homebuyers identify energy savings and comfortable surroundings as key factors when deciding between listings, so more agents today are working with sellers on innovative energy, environmental and ecological approaches and opportunities for selling their home. Homes that are listed with energy improvements are also clicked on much more when it comes to prospective buyers perusing listings on the Internet.

If you’re interested in incorporating energy efficient features into your home—without cleaning out your wallet—your home’s lighting is one simple change that can’t be overlooked. Today’s green lighting isn’t limited to the fluorescent light bulbs that most people have been quick to adapt to. In fact, there are plenty of other options with LEDs gaining in popularity as a viable and affordable home lighting source.

It wasn’t until 2007 when this energy-efficient, semi-conducting light source started to become more prevalent in the home. In the past, LED lighting appeared as unattractive blue hues, but in just six year’s time, LED lighting now offers the same bright white output as incandescent lighting. Not only is there an affordable price tag to go along with LED lighting, but people understand the value of incorporating this type of lighting into the home more fully than before.

LED lighting can also be used to better showcase specific features within the home. From track lighting over the fireplace to under counter cabinet lighting to can lighting in the hall, LEDs have an amazing future that translates into an amazing sellable house.

Energy-efficient lighting can also provide a unique advantage when it comes to specific exterior areas such as the deck, pool, patio and garden. These low-energy emitting lights are perfect complements to any outdoor features you want to show off.

There are plenty of other benefits as well. LED lighting uses 75 percent less electricity than the standard incandescent light bulbs, resulting in a sharp decrease in electricity bills over time. LED bulbs also last 50 times longer than normal light bulbs, again, saving you money.

While these changes are easy enough to make once you’re out of the house and the new owner has moved in, savvy real estate agents will tell you that prospective buyers will judge your eco-friendly actions in a positive light and may be more inclined to work with you throughout the process if you incorporate these features ahead of time.

To learn more about incorporating eco-friendly features into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Giving Thanks - No Shortage of Reasons to Be Thankful This Holiday Season

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

As we kick off the holiday season, it’s that time of year when people gather together and give thanks for all they have. While the hustle and bustle of the season may have you feeling frazzled—especially if your home is on the market—it’s important to take a step back and remember that there’s still plenty to be thankful for.

First off, the economy is recovering. According to the inaugural Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report from the National Association of REALTORS®, the economic recovery has brought with it significant improvements in the national housing market. In fact, Millennials and Gen Xers who were waiting to move out of their parents’ homes or leave their roommates are more likely to get off the sidelines and buy a home.

And thanks to the rise of social media and mobile marketing, your home is being seen by more house hunters than ever before. Unlike years past when homes were simply listed on websites, today, real estate agents are promoting your home via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even YouTube.

Plus, thanks to technological advancements, the photos of your home are sharper and better than ever before.

On the flip side, there’s plenty to be thankful for when it comes to buyers, too. Not only have prices on homes remained affordable, but recent studies have shown that now is one of the best times to buy a home in the past decade. In addition to affordable prices, there’s also plenty of inventory available. And for buyers and sellers alike, the fact that the economy is heading in the right direction is certainly something to be thankful for.

In addition to the economy heading in the right direction, so is the government. Now that the Federal shutdown is over, the government is back on track, which will only mean positive things for the housing industry.

No matter where you are in the house-hunting process, be thankful that issues such as predatory lending, robo-signing and interest rates have come to the forefront, creating a better understanding of the pitfalls that could await.

And of course, mortgage rates are still low and buyers should be thankful that they can more easily shop around for the best rate.

As we make our way through the holiday season, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have a home. There are plenty of people out there who aren’t as fortunate to have a roof over their head every night, so even if your home is languishing on the market, there’s still a lot to be thankful for.

For more information about the real estate recovery, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pre-Qualification vs. Pre-Approval: What You Need to Know before the House Hunt Begins

November 15, 2013 6:21 pm

Planning ahead and being prepared is the name of the game when it comes to finding real estate success. Therefore, before you begin seriously shopping for a home, it’s always a good idea to go over your finances and determine what you can truly afford. Having an exact figure in mind from the beginning will go a long way toward making it easier for you and your real estate agent to seek out the best house in your price range.

That’s why getting pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage is so valuable, especially in today’s competitive market. However, it’s important to understand the difference between these two terms, as they don’t mean the same thing.

When a homebuyer is pre-qualified, the lender determines how large a loan the buyer can afford by looking at basic information related to income, balances and payments on current debts, and how much money has been saved for a down payment.

From there, qualifying ratios are applied to the numbers and the lender offers an estimate of what percentage of your gross monthly income can be used to pay for the home loan and attached expenses.

The key thing to remember here is that the lender is offering an estimated amount it would approve, meaning there’s no guarantee. It’s merely an educated guess on the part of the lender based on a quick appraisal of the facts. And if you’re not honest when it comes to sharing your financial information, it could come back to hurt you in the end.

On the other hand, when a mortgage is pre-approved, it involves a much more stringent examination into your finances. During pre-approval, the lender examines and verifies your debt, income, savings, assets and credit report to ensure you can repay the loan amount. Taking the time to go through this process shows sellers that you have indeed been approved for a loan of a certain amount.

While pre-qualification is really just an educated guess of a homebuyer’s purchasing power, a pre-approval goes one step further, guaranteeing that the prospective borrower would be approved for the loan. That’s why sellers prefer to negotiate with pre-approved buyers because they already know the buyer is financially qualified to obtain the financing they need to close the transaction.

Going through the pre-approval process also lets your real estate agent know you’re serious about purchasing a home and won’t have any last-minute financial problems that could hold up a deal.

In the end, it’s important to remember that pre-qualifications simply provide a quick way to show a seller that you’re a viable candidate for buying a home. Additionally, a pre-qualification will get your mindset focused on gathering all the financials you’re going to eventually need. Once you’ve been pre-qualified for a mortgage, it shouldn’t stop you from taking the extra step and getting a pre-approval letter.

Contact our office today to learn more about pre-qualifications and pre-approvals.

Published with permission from RISMedia.