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Top Tips to Relax and Save on Labor Day Trips

August 6, 2013 1:56 am

Looking to plan a getaway for Labor Day weekend? Here are some tips for travelers who want to get out and explore over the long weekend without spending too much money.

1. Celebrate the long weekend in the Big Apple. The Wellington is available Sunday and Monday night for as little as $157 a night. Walk to Central Park or Broadway from the hotel.
2. Booking early is always a smart move. Thousands of hotels offer lower rates for bookings purchased 21 days in advance.
3. Atlantic City is a relaxing and exciting Labor Day destination, with rooms filling up fast. Enjoy fun casinos and a walk on the boardwalk.
4. Some of the top destinations for Labor Day include Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, London, San Diego, Washington DC, Myrtle Beach, San Francisco and Miami.
5. Use Southwest Airlines' low fares to get to your destination. Many flights are available for as low as $59 to some of the most popular spots throughout the country.
6. South Beach sizzles over Labor Day. Try one of's value boutique hotels such as the Harrison Hotel to enjoy nearby beaches, great Cuban food and world-class shopping.
7. New Orleans offers great food, music, and a glimpse into the nation's past. Enjoy first-class accommodations from $99 a night at the St. James hotel.
8. Many hotels in Las Vegas offer very low rates during Labor Day. Every major hotel has a pool and ice-cold air conditioning to help you beat the September heat. Try The Quad for rates as low as $32 a night and an unbeatable center Strip location.

Labor Day is a time to reflect on all of the hard work that made the country great and also marks the end of the summer travel season. With proper planning and some help, Labor Day travel can be enjoyable and within any budget.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renters Insurance Can Provide Important Financial Protection This Hurricane Season

August 6, 2013 1:56 am

Although the majority of homeowners purchase insurance for their home, when it comes to renters, only 65 percent have renters insurance, according to a poll conducted for the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The number of renters is steadily increasing. According to an April 2013 U.S. Census Report, the share of housing occupied by renters rose to 35.4 percent in 2013—up from 34.1 percent in 2009. And in some of the country's largest cities, renters significantly outnumber homeowners. In New York City, 69 percent of households rent their homes, followed by Los Angeles (61.8 percent), Chicago (55.1 percent) and Houston (54.6 percent).

"One of the biggest insurance problems after Sandy was the large number of renters who did not have coverage for their homes," pointed out Jeanne M. Salvatore, the I.I.I.'s consumer spokesperson and senior vice president. "It can be extremely expensive to have to re-buy the entire contents of your home, so a renter’s insurance policy provides very important financial protection when there is a hurricane or other covered disaster."

The good news is that renters insurance is relatively inexpensive. In fact, the average renters insurance policy cost only $185 per year in 2010 (the latest year this data is available), according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That’s less than $16 per month.

When you purchase renters insurance, your belongings are covered against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm and water damage—for example, if an upstairs neighbor's tub overflows and damages items in your apartment. However, renters insurance does not cover damage from flooding. Flood insurance is available for renters from FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.

Renters insurance includes additional living expenses (ALE) coverage if you are unable to live in your home because of a hurricane, fire or other disaster listed in the policy. ALE pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

Like a standard homeowners insurance policy, renters insurance includes liability protection. This covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home or elsewhere by you, a family member or your pet and pays legal defense costs if you are taken to court.

There are two main types of renters insurance policies:

1. Actual Cash Value coverage
pays to replace your possessions up to the limit of your policy, minus a deduction for depreciation.
2. Replacement Cost coverage pays the real cost of replacing your belongings (regardless of depreciation) up to the limit of your policy. This will usually cost about 10 percent more but is a much better value in the long run.

If you have expensive jewelry, furs, sports or musical equipment, or collectibles, you may want to consider adding a floater to your policy. Most standard renters policies include a limited dollar amount for such items. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and may even cover them if they are accidentally lost.

The best way to determine how much renters insurance you need is to create a home inventory. This is a detailed list of all of your personal possessions along with their estimated value. An up-to-date home inventory will also make filing an insurance claim faster and easier. The I.I.I. offers free home inventory software and a mobile app at

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Tips for Summer Picnic Food

August 6, 2013 1:56 am

Picnics are a great way to enjoy the last of those lazy summer afternoons in the sunshine and can be a cost effective family day out. Emma Bridgewater, the handmade kitchen and dinnerware company, has created the following five tips for the perfect picnic.

1) Keep food simple
Think about how practical certain dishes are when you prepare for a picnic. Dishes that work brilliantly around a dining table may not be so sensible served balanced on a picnic rug. Finger food eliminates the need for cutlery and will usually mean less mess at the end of the meal.

2) Choose foods that travel well
Hopefully you'll be taking advantage of a really beautiful day, in which case your picnic will be just one part of the day's fun. With this in mind, choose food that travels well. This will give your dishes a better chance of staying in tact, as well as keeping sandwiches from being disappointingly soggy by lunchtime. The most delicious sandwiches are often the simplest. Use lettuce or baby leaf spinach to surround mayonnaise-based sandwich fillings to keep the bread dry.

3) Create a finger-food salad
Chop up chunks of cucumber, cherry tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks to make a finger-food salad. Serve in bowls with hummus for dipping for a delicious raw vegetable treat. This way you can still serve healthy food without the need for knives and forks.

4) Keep the desert simple
Bring a sponge cake and a bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries or grapes for a refreshing end to your picnic. Avoid sticky foods and cover cakes and sugary deserts to keep insects at bay. Keeping desserts simple is also likely to reduce the amount of cleaning up required at the end of the picnic.

5) Serve fresh and fruity drinks
Homemade lemonade or fruit juices can be kept cool with an ice pack in your picnic basket. Serving drinks in sturdy tumblers with a wide base mean they won't get spilled when you spread out on a picnic rug on uneven ground. Wine glasses and champagne flutes may look elegant at a picnic, but can leave guests struggling to hold a delicate glass, cutlery and plate of food.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Video Reigns Supreme Among Sellers in Today's Competitive Market

August 5, 2013 5:58 pm

As technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, it’s no longer enough to simply post photos of your home on a website in order to attract prospective buyers. For today’s sellers, incorporating technology into the mix is a surefire way to not only ensure their home is being presented in the best way possible, but to also make sure it’s being exposed to the masses. In a world where people are watching videos on their tablets and cellphones everywhere they go, it’s clear to see that video is the name of the game.

Now that YouTube is practically a household name and video-editing software is becoming affordable and user-friendly, marketing videos are no longer a choice, but a necessity. In fact, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, approximately 51 percent of recent homebuyers chose YouTube as their preferred online video destination when shopping for homes. Therefore, if you don’t have a video of your home on YouTube, you’re losing potential buyers.

When it comes to incorporating videos into the marketing mix, it’s important that the agent you choose to work with takes advantage of this medium by creating videos that highlight the key attributes of your home on all of their marketing channels. This includes their personal website, YouTube channel, blog, email mailing list, as well as all of their social media channels.

The best way to feature your home through video is with a listing video, which can allow for a 360-degree tour through any portion of the house. Online visitors are highly visual and want to see as much as they can before they fully commit to coming to see the home in person. While pictures can often be deceiving, virtual tours are usually more true to the house, therefore attracting more clicks.

Another great way to utilize video is to film a tour of your community, showing the best your neighborhood has to offer. If you choose to go this route, be sure to include local schools, restaurants and stores. And if you want to do something really special so that your video truly stands out, get sound bites from people waxing poetic about what makes the neighborhood special.

As with any marketing campaign, a video marketing campaign will only succeed if you tailor your content to the proper target. Understanding how your key demographic reacts to material is key to developing a successful strategy, so be sure to discuss with your agent the best way to do this.

Remember that the ultimate goal of any marketing video is to sell your home to prospective buyers without boring them. Attention spans are short these days, so you need to dazzle people immediately. Don’t try to build to something big, or there’s a good chance it won’t be seen.

If done correctly, video is an ideal way to market a property and get it out to anyone looking to buy a home, so put some time and effort into making your video so that it truly stands out.

To learn more about marketing your home through video, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Create a Positive First Impression with a Healthy, Green Lawn

August 5, 2013 5:58 pm

Putting your home’s best foot forward and making a positive first impression is an important piece of the puzzle that can’t be overlooked when it comes time to list your home for sale. However, many sellers neglect to take their front yard—specifically the condition of their grass—into consideration when it comes to amping up their curb appeal.

While sellers typically pull out all the stops when it comes to bringing in flowers, painting the deck and working on curb appeal, the lawn itself is often neglected. And this can be a big mistake as a well-maintained, healthy yard will undoubtedly pull everything together.

According to landscape designers, when it comes to growing grass, consistent care is key. In fact, failure to invest in long-term turf care can open the window to any number of problems. It’s also important to give your grass the fertilizing lawn care and control treatments it needs based on the season. Just as the seasons change, so do the needs of your lawn, so be sure your lawn is getting exactly what it needs as we transition from season to season.

It’s also important to keep in the mind that the way you mow your lawn can affect the way grass grows. For example, grass needs to be kept high during the spring so that by the time summer rolls around, it’s more manageable to cut. In addition, you never want to remove more than one third of the total blade height when mowing, or you could chop off the food-producing parts of the grass blade and end up with a brown lawn. You should also leave grass clippings on the lawn to help recycle important lawn fertilizing nutrients.

Not only is a yard full of healthy, green grass an inviting sight for prospective buyers, it’s also good for the environment. According to lawn care experts, growing green plants is the best thing you can do to clean the air. In fact, grass is considered to be better than most other plants or trees when it comes to removing carbon and other impurities from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, grass takes carbon from the air and stores it in the ground.

One other important component that can’t be overlooked when it comes to getting your yard in shape has to do with properly watering it. Remember that it’s better to water deeply (down to a depth of six inches) and less frequently, than lightly and more often. If your lawn dulls in color or begins to wilt, it needs water. To keep your grass healthy and make sure it has the nutrients it needs, be sure to sweep any fertilizer that lands on the driveway or sidewalk back on to the lawn.

Grass also acts as a natural air conditioner, cooling the air as it releases water vapor through its blades. The water evaporates and draws heat, cooling the air in the process. As a result, lawns are a safer surface for children to play on and provide the cool comfort we desire on hot days.

To learn more about keeping your yard in shape, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Living the American Dream - Why Now's the Time to Own

August 5, 2013 5:58 pm

From building equity to tax breaks—and even living a happier and healthier life—the perks of owning a home are myriad. And thanks to low interest rates and housing price drops, the American Dream of homeownership is more attainable than ever before.

Aside from simply wanting a great space to call your own, there are many reasons to buy a home today, the most important of which may be price.

From coast to coast, there is tangible evidence pointing to the fact that the real estate market is recovering, causing home prices—and mortgage rates—to rise. Bidding wars are returning, making it more challenging to simply swoop in with a close offer and buy a home. In fact, the longer one waits, the more they may be paying for both the house and the interest rate.

While mortgage rates aren’t where they were earlier in the year, they’re not too far removed from the historic low rates that made headlines across the country. Now’s the time to shop around for a mortgage and take advantage of the low prices while you can. If you put off buying a home for a year or two, it could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.

Then there’s the availability factor. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing. Available houses are dwindling, and you’ll have a better chance to find your dream house if you act sooner rather than later.

In addition, owning your own home means building equity and creating a stronger net-worth. Plus, in most cases, the longer you own a home, the more value it will have. You can also do what you want with it. As opposed to renting, you’ll no longer have to worry about painting walls or adding fixtures.

Owning a home will also do wonders come tax season. Be sure to talk with your accountant about the tax breaks available to homeowners, such as deducting interest on your mortgage and getting deductions for energy-saving upgrades.

Studies have shown that those who own their own home live a happier and healthier lifestyle as well. In addition, children of homeowners are more likely to graduate high school. Plus, the neighbors you meet are more likely to become permanent friends.

The perks of owning a home are myriad and now is a great time to jump into the market. If you’ve been questioning whether or not it’s time to get off the sidelines, make the leap and you’ll be happy in your own home before you know it.

To learn more about the benefits associated with homeownership, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Lead Laws Crucial to Keeping Real Estate Transactions on Track

August 5, 2013 5:58 pm

A study released by the Department of Health reports that about 75 percent of all homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Furthermore, it’s estimated that more than 38 million homes in the U.S. still contain lead paint. While these numbers may seem daunting—for homebuyers and sellers alike—especially when it comes to the health risks associated with lead paint, if there’s an older home involved, addressing the possibility of there being any lead paint present is not something that should be taken lightly.

Real estate agents and their sellers are required to disclose any presence of known lead paint and lead hazards during the sale or rental of housing. The same holds true for renovation and remodeling contractors, who are required to warn customers of the hazards of lead paint.

Back in 2010, the first federal regulation on the remodeling industry was enacted concerning this important hazard. To ensure that all lead paint is removed safely and effectively, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting rule governing the work of professional remodelers in homes where there is lead-based paint was published in the Federal Register on Earth Day—April 22, 2010.

The law requires that anyone who is paid to renovate a home that was built before 1978 be trained and/or certified to follow lead paint safety practices. The new rule lists prohibited work practices, including open-torch burning and using high-heat guns and high-speed equipment such as grinders and sanders unless equipped with a HEPA filter. It also requires a cleaning inspection after the work is completed.

For homeowners who are unsure about the presence of lead-based paint in their homes—and the best way to mitigate the problem—sometimes it's easier to replace windows, doors, or woodwork than it is to remove the lead-based paint. This way, all traces of any paint will have been removed from the home.

There’s no question that a home is worth more if you can say for certain that it contains no lead paint, so for the peace of mind of everyone involved, deal with all lead paint issues as soon as possible.

To learn more about lead paint laws, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Leading the Charge: Single Women Homebuyers Take the Industry by Storm

August 5, 2013 5:58 pm

A 2012 report by the National Association of REALTORS® revealed that unmarried women make up 18 percent of those shopping for homes, compared to just 10 percent of single men. The report also noted that single women have been buying homes at almost twice the rate of single men for about two decades now.

Considering that it was only 45 years ago when the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed, making it possible for single women to finally get approved for a mortgage without a man’s signature attached, women have come a long way in the home-buying game.

Perhaps that’s why real estate agents often direct their clients to make a home more appealing to women—especially homes that are on the smaller side, as they typically attract this burgeoning demographic. Other features that go a long way toward catching the eye of single women who are ready to purchase a home include gourmet kitchens, security features and yards that require little or no maintenance.

When it comes to looking for homes, housing experts say there are numerous reasons why single women may be in the market to make a purchase. Single women often look to buy a place of their own in order to be closer to family and friends, to change jobs, or simply because they desire to own their own space. While some women look for a house right out of college, the greatest percentage of those buying homes fall in the 42-52 age range.

One of the most important things to a single woman looking to purchase a home is the safety of the home and the neighborhood itself. While sellers may not want to spend the money and invest in an alarm system or new windows, these home improvements may just be the icing on the cake when it comes to attracting this demographic.

Single house hunters also generally like to be in close proximity to retail, dining and entertainment venues, as they’re looking to meet others who are of similar age and lifestyle. Therefore, it’s a good idea for sellers to put together a list of some of the top hot spots in the area and leave it for prospective buyers who come to look at the house.

As with any other buyer, single women are looking for a good price, one that won’t stop them from enjoying their single lifestyle. Experts recommend that a monthly mortgage should not exceed 28 percent of a borrower’s pre-tax monthly income, and it’s important for house hunters to keep that figure in mind when determining what they can afford.

And since many single women may be looking to tie the knot at some point down the line, many are often on the lookout for a space that can be rented out in the future should their romantic circumstances change.

To learn more about this growing demographic, and how to appeal to their tastes, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Lead Laws

August 5, 2013 5:58 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 growing single women homebuyer demographic. Other topics covered this month include why now’s a good time to own a home and the importance of incorporating video into the home-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.


Timely Tips for Home Buying

August 5, 2013 1:56 am

Regardless of market conditions, a home is not only a place to live, but also a financial asset and a plan for the future. But is it the right time for you to buy? Here are a few general rules to consider:

- Steady employment. It's essential to have a reliable source of income.

- A solid credit score. A bad credit score will increase mortgage interest rates. Potential homeowners should clean up their credit report and ensure that long-term debts are paid before considering homeownership. And when selecting a house, a potential buyer should determine the qualities that best suit his or her situation.

- An affordable price. The total cost of a home should generally be less than 2.5 years' pay. Ensure that the down payment and monthly mortgage payments are manageable.

- Location, location, location. Where a home is located can change its value dramatically. Being in a district with good schools, for example, is important -- both for raising the family and for resale value. Also consider what's going on in the community. Are peace and quiet high priorities, for example? Then perhaps a rural or suburban environment would work best. By contrast, if a desire for high culture and a fast lifestyle is a factor, then an urban setting might be preferred.

- Size matters. Is the home big enough, and will it allow for future growth?

Finally, when buying the house …

- Get some help from the pros. Using a real estate agent and a home inspector is important in selecting a good home and making an appropriate bid.

- Make the right mortgage move. When selecting a mortgage, determine whether it's better to pay additional points: One portion of the interest paid at closing may lead to greater savings down the road. If the plan is to stay around for a while (i.e., more than five years), experts say it's usually better to take the points.

Follow these tips and make your home-owning dream a reality. Buying a home is truly a life milestone, and it can be a big step toward financial security. Finding a good house in a nice neighborhood could be the key to making a home investment pay off.


Published with permission from RISMedia.