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Simple Bathroom Renovations to Help Your Home Stand Out

July 2, 2013 5:48 pm

From increasing your property’s curb appeal to staging your home to attract a larger pool of potential buyers, the list of things that require attention before putting your home on the market may seem endless. While the bathroom may be the first area that gets overlooked, it’s often one of the most important spaces when it comes to helping your home stand out.

After all, a bathroom is a place where one starts each morning and ends each night. Not only is it a place for grooming, it can also be a homeowner’s sanctuary—a space for relaxing in a hot bath, escaping the stresses of daily life for a few moments.

In addition, studies have shown that updating a bathroom before putting a house on the market is one of the best ways to increase a home’s resale value. There are plenty of small fixes that are easy to implement, such as replacing the lighting with decorative fixtures or adding a new shower curtain, however, there are a few larger and not-too-expensive renovations that should be considered, too.

For instance, 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 showerhead, a low-flow faucet aerator, and a dual-flush toilet, can save thousands of gallons of water each year and attract an energy-conscious buyer. The addition of energy-efficient windows is another easy option, since bathroom windows are typically on the smaller side. Also, adding natural stone countertops and flooring, which help keep the space cool during the summer and warm during the winter, is another fix that is both decorative and energy efficient.

Even if your bathroom is on the smaller side, there are several things you can do to optimize the space and make it appear larger than it really is. One option is to replace the vanity with a designer pedestal sink, which will add intrigue to the room while taking up less space. You may also want to consider adding large floor tiles and painting the walls a light color to give the illusion of space. Switching out the current bathtub for one that is smaller, but more unique, is another quick fix that’ll add mass appeal.

If you’re looking for something really different, try hanging an entire row of plants along one wall. Or, incorporate multiple mirrors or even a chandelier into the space. Decorative glass, stone tile and extra-wide wall tiles remain popular options in 2013, according to home stagers.

Incorporating unconventional decorating themes will help your bathroom stand out while attracting a larger pool of prospective buyers.

For more bathroom renovation ideas, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Short Sales

July 2, 2013 5:48 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 the importance of updating the bathroom as you prepare your home to be listed on the market. Other topics covered this month include how having the right tools on hand can help new homeowners turn their house into a home and tips to keep the family pet happy and healthy throughout the moving 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.


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Barbecue Bliss: Keeping Bacteria at Bay

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Summer brings out barbecue grills—and bacteria, which multiply in food faster in warm weather and can cause foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning). Following a few simple guidelines can prevent an unpleasant experience.

Wash your hands
Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you're eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap and paper towels or have disposable wipes/hand sanitizer available.

Marinate food in the refrigerator
Don’t marinate on the counter—marinate in the refrigerator. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.

Keep raw food separate
Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. Don't use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.

Cook food thoroughly
Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly to destroy harmful bacteria. Partial precooking in the microwave oven or on the stove is a good way to reduce grilling time—just make sure the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to finish cooking.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
Keep hot food at 140°F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, or wrap well and place in an insulated container.

Keep cold food at 40°F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time. Keep coolers out of direct sun and avoid opening the lid often.

Cold foods can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a pan of ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.
Don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.

Transport food in the passenger compartment of the car where it’s cooler—not in the trunk.

Put these items on your list:
These non-food items are indispensable for a safe barbecue.
• food thermometer
• several coolers: one for beverages (which will be opened frequently), one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and another for cooked foods and raw produce
• ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
• jug of water, soap, and paper towels for washing hands
• enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
• foil or other wrap for leftovers

Source: www.fda.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities with family and friends. For many people, a day at the beach, on the boat, or at a backyard barbecue will include drinking alcoholic beverages. But excessive drinking and summer activities don't mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and it also decreases inhibitions—which can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. In fact, research shows that half of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.

Swimmers can get in over their heads.
Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk-taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers. Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they're getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over-confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.

Boaters can lose their bearings.
According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. And a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are ill equipped to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.

Drivers can go off course.
The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.

Stay hydrated and stay healthy.
Whether you're on the road or in the great outdoors, heat plus alcohol can equal trouble. Hot summer days cause fluid loss through perspiration, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Together, they can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke.
But this doesn't have to happen. At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you're the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated. If you know you'll be driving, stay away from alcohol. And remember, there's no shame in taking a cab or sleeping on a friend's couch if you feel at all unsure if you should be driving.

Summer will end, but consequences can endure.
You can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding beverages that cause mental and physical impairment while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start. Be smart this summer—think before you drink, and make sure that you and your loved ones will be around to enjoy many summers to come.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Help More than 2. 3 Million Homeowners Keep their Homes

July 2, 2013 4:30 am

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac completed more than 130,000 foreclosure prevention actions during the first quarter of 2013, bringing the total foreclosure prevention actions to nearly 2.8 million since the start of conservatorship in 2008. These actions have helped more than 2.3 million borrowers stay in their homes, including nearly 1.4 million who received permanent loan modifications. The results are detailed in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s first quarter 2013 Foreclosure Prevention Report, also known as the Federal Property Manager’s Report.

The quarterly report has information on state delinquencies and an updated, interactive Borrower Assistance Map for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages, with information on delinquencies, foreclosure prevention activities and Real Estate Owned (REO) properties.

Also noted in the report:

-Serious delinquency rates dropped from 3.3 to 3.0 percent at the end of the quarter.

- The number of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac borrowers who are more than 60 days delinquent declined 11 percent in the first quarter to the lowest level since the first quarter of 2009.

- Half of troubled borrowers who received permanent loan modifications in the first quarter had their monthly payments reduced by more than 30 percent.

- More than one-third of loan modifications completed in the first quarter included principal forbearance.

- Over 30,000 short sales and deeds-in-lieu were completed in the first quarter, bringing the total to more than 476,000 since the start of conservatorship.

- Third-party sales and foreclosure sales continued a downward trend in the first quarter while foreclosure starts increased.

- A new streamlined modification initiative, announced during the first quarter, will take effect on July 1. Although numbers are not available yet, the program is expected to help eligible homeowners who have missed at least three monthly payments modify their mortgage by eliminating administrative barriers associated with document collection and evaluation.

Source: FHFA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Plants Poison Your Gardening, Landscaping Project

July 1, 2013 4:28 am

If you are gardening or working around your property and come into contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, it can take a few hours to several days after exposure to the sap for signs to show.

Poison Ivy can be found throughout the United States except in Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the West Coast, according to the FDA. Each leaf has three glossy leaflets, with smooth or toothed edges.

Poison Oak grows as a low shrub in the eastern United States, and in tall clumps or long vines on the Pacific Coast. Fuzzy green leaves in clusters of three are lobed or deeply toothed with rounded tips.

Poison Sumac grows as a tall shrub or small tree in bogs or swamps in the Northeast, Midwest, and parts of the Southeast. Each leaf has clusters of seven to 13 smooth-edged leaflets.

All three plants undergo color changes throughout their growing season and may also sport small clusters of light colored berries.
The FDA's tips for prevention are as follows:

• Wash your garden tools and gloves regularly. If you think you may be working around poison ivy, wear long sleeves, long pants tucked into boots, and gloves.
• Wash your pet if it may have brushed up against poison ivy, oak, or sumac. Use pet shampoo and water while wearing rubber gloves, such as dishwashing gloves. Most pets are not sensitive to poison ivy, but the oil can stick to their fur and cause a reaction in someone who touches them.
• Wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible -- the sooner you cleanse the skin, the greater the chance that you can remove the plant oil or help prevent further spread.
• Use topical over the counter (OTC) "Ivy Block" if you know you will come into contact with the poisonous plants.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer is Here...and So are Head Lice!

July 1, 2013 4:28 am

Between the slumber parties, summer camps, and backyard adventures, lice have an even higher rate of infestation than during the school year. So what is the best way to avoid contracting lice? Here are a few tips parents, camp counselors and childcare experts should keep in mind to spare their children and families from an infestation:

• Avoid head-to-head contact during play, sleepovers, or other activities at home, the beach and elsewhere.

• Don't share combs, brushes or towels. Do not share clothing such as hats, scarves, coats, hair ribbons or barrettes.

• Once lice are in a family, 85 percent of siblings, 65 percent of moms and 10 percent of dads become infected. Re-check everyone in a household where a lice infestation has been confirmed every few days for at least 10-15 days after an outbreak.

"Lice is a year round issue, however, in the summer, children are being exposed to a completely different circle of friends which brings lice to a ‘head.’" said Rachel Knutsen, co-founder of Ladibugs. "They are heading off to camp with children from around the United States, sharing pillows, towels and hair accessories. They are heading off to the ball field with children from different cities and sharing helmets. Lice is spread in only a matter of 30 seconds of head-to-head contact, so therefore lice becomes an even larger issue during the summer months than when the children are in school."

Source: Ladibugs, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Act Now to Keep Pets Safe for the 4th of July

July 1, 2013 4:28 am

The veterinarians at Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center remind pet owners to take steps now to protect their pets over the July 4th holiday. Booming fireworks, barbecues and lots of activity can present significant danger to pets. Although most pets are not directly exposed to fireworks, the loud noises fireworks produce can result in stress and anxiety for pets. Pet owners are encouraged to visit their veterinarian in advance of the holiday to develop a plan for keeping pets safe and calm during the July 4th celebrations. If necessary, a veterinarian may prescribe medication to help ease the pet's stress.

Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center offers the following tips to help pet owners protect their cats and dogs over the holiday and throughout the summer.

Leashes: Keep your pet on a leash when outdoors. An unleashed pet can be hit by a car, bitten by another animal, or otherwise be a danger to themselves and others.

Balconies, decks and windows: Balconies, decks and open windows are dangerous to pets. Both cats and dogs are known to jump or fall off balconies and decks and through open windows. Fireworks can cause even usually calm pets to jump. When on a balcony or deck, pets should be on a harness leash held by a responsible adult.

Food: Pets that get into human food during cookouts can suffer serious health problems as a result. Corn cobs and bones can get lodged in a pet's intestine and require surgery to remove. High fat foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages often cause stomach upset and can lead to pancreatitis, a serious health problem for dogs. Many foods, including chocolate, sugar-free gum, avocados, grapes and onions, can be poisonous to pets. It's best to always keep pets on their usual diet.

Sunscreen and bug spray: Sunscreen and bug spray should never be used on pets unless the item is specifically approved for use on animals. Bug sprays are particularly problematic because they often contain DEET, a product that can cause neurological damage to pets. Pet owners should check with their veterinarian to learn how to protect pets from fleas, ticks and other pests.

Heatstroke: Heat stroke can lead to kidney failure, brain damage, and in severe cases, death. Keep pets cool when temperatures rise and make certain they always have plenty of cool, fresh drinking water. Leaving pets in an unattended vehicle is especially dangerous on warm days because car temperatures can increase dramatically in just a few minutes.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Get Your Home Ready for Outdoor Entertaining

June 28, 2013 10:28 pm

(Family Features)--With the warm weather here, it's time to get your house and yard in shape for outdoor entertaining. Here are a few tips to quickly spruce up your home for your next gathering, so you can spend more time with family and friends, and less time worrying about the prep work and clean up.

Tidy Up the Yard
- The first thing guests will notice is the condition of your lawn, so make sure to give it a fresh mow the day before you're having guests over. Tidy up yard debris like extra sticks and mulch, and put away garden tools, lawn toys and garbage cans so they are out of view.

Add Fresh Flowers - Find annuals in your favorite party-theme colors and plant them in ceramic or terra cotta pots to brighten the space. Position potted plants as table centerpieces, near serving stations, and on the patio or deck for pops of color. Use your home as a way to express your personal style and get creative by coordinating flowers with your table linens and furniture upholstery.

Clean Up Your Sitting Area - From picnics and pool parties, to birthdays and cookouts, get your backyard ready for the season. It is a good idea to spruce up your deck at least once a year to remove any weathering and stains that may have occurred, and wipe down lawn and patio furniture that was lying dormant during the winter. Tackle both with a product that is gentle on unfinished wood. Remember to rinse thoroughly any residual product.

De-grime the Grill - Grungy grills are never a welcome part of any backyard barbecue, especially if they were collecting dust and dirt all season. Wipe the grime and grease off the outside of the grill, and clean the interior racks, by scrubbing with a wire brush and a solution of three parts baking soda to one part warm water. Rinse thoroughly.

With the right tips and tricks you can easily prep your home for entertaining and offer your guests a comfortable and relaxed experience during all of summer's festivities.

Source: www.oxiclean.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Summer Home Repair Safety Tips to Prevent Serious Hand and Finger Injuries

June 28, 2013 10:28 pm

Hand and finger injuries are among the most common causes for emergency room visits, but taking time to prepare a safe work area, using proper tools and alerting someone nearby about your home repair project can reduce your risk for serious accidents this summer.

The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database reports that nearly 3.5 million people a year are seen in a U.S. emergency room for injury to an upper limb, which ranges from shoulder to fingers; of these, 45 percent occur at home and 23 percent involve deep cuts, called lacerations. Dr. Nebil Bill Aydin, a board certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon with the New York Group for Plastic Surgery and an attending surgeon at Westchester Medical Center, has operated on many home repair-related upper limb injuries, including the wrist laceration experienced by 55 year-old David Guiliano of Valhalla, NY, that nearly cost him his left hand.

Guiliano, a firefighter as well as a professional bricklayer, was renovating a friend's pool house and needed to demolish a brick seven feet up a wall. He stood on an overturned plastic bucket and held his heavy electric grinder tool in both hands high over his head. As he pushed grinder to brick, the blade tip caught and jerked, pushing him backward. As he fell, the grinder slipped from his grasp and the blade sliced his left wrist, cutting through tendons, nerves and arteries down to the bone.

Looking back, Guiliano recognizes that his many years as a bricklayer led to complacency about home repair work. "I didn't secure my balance, and I used a grinder with an exposed blade instead of a saw with a protective guard," he said. "I bypassed important precautions because of my experience, but I'd urge everyone to take time to prepare properly and put some simple safety measures in place for any task using tools."

Regardless of experience, following simple safety rules can help you avoid a serious injury:

• Think through the tools and materials you'll need in advance, and position them strategically in your work area before starting. If you realize in the middle of the project that you've forgotten a tool, carefully and fully disengage from your work to get it — do not lean over or reach up for it.

• Do not use a tool that lacks safety mechanisms or is inappropriate for a specific task. If you're unsure, check with an expert at the hardware store.

• Alert a family member or neighbor that you are undertaking a home repair project and ask if they'll come by to check up on you periodically.

• Keep a phone and first aid supplies nearby, in case. If you're not working at your own home, be sure you know the specific address so emergency dispatch can find you, and be aware of nearby major medical centers.

Source: New York Group for Plastic Surgery

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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