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More Homeowners Believe Now is a Good Time to Sell

January 28, 2013 5:05 am

Redfin has released its latest survey of home sellers, capturing sentiment of homeowners with the intent to sell. Redfin based this analysis on survey answers from 895 respondents across the U.S. who indicated intent to sell their home in the near future. The Redfin Real-Time Home Seller Survey is a companion to the quarterly Buyer Survey and Agent Survey.

Results Snapshot:

• 81 percent believe prices will rise in the next 12 months, up from 75 percent in the fourth quarter
• 34.1 percent indicated that missing out on future price gains was a major concern, up from 30.6 percent, and overtaking general economic conditions (33.8 percent) as the top concern
• 49 percent indicated that they were planning to sell, up from 45 percent
• 47 percent would also consider renting out their home instead of selling, up from 43 percent
• 22 percent believe now is a good time to sell, up from 15 percent
• 54 percent believe it is a good time to buy, down from 58 percent

Based on increased home-seller confidence reported in last quarter's survey, Redfin was optimistic that inventory would start to pick up in early 2013. As prices continue to rise, Redfin expects what it now considers an inventory crisis to ease as the spring and summer home-selling seasons approach.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Upgrading to a Master Bedroom

January 25, 2013 4:24 am

If you just bought a home or are looking to spice things up, renovate your room into a full-blown master bedroom. A master bedroom provides luxuries both big and small to help you fully utilize your space for rest and relaxation. With these tips, you can customize your room’s lighting, windows and more, to open up the room and turn it into a real sanctuary.

In-suite Bathrooms
It’s always nice to have your own bathroom away from the kids or other household members. His and hers sinks and vanities are popular, as are separate tubs or showers. Incorporate some fun by adding things like a jetted tub or heated towel racks. If you plan to take the shower route, consider adding a shower bench or making it a steam shower. If you have the space to spare, the possibilities are endless.

Add a Balcony or Patio
If your bedroom is on the end of the house or on a higher floor, adding a balcony or patio could really add some flavor to the room. French doors add an intense amount of natural light to the room and can open up to your balcony. If big enough, add a small patio set so you can read, tan or eat outdoors. Outside electrical outlets are perfect for music. A private patio is a great way to escape stress and have some alone time.

Attach a Library or Living Room

Creating your own library or living room may be easier said than done, but if you’re building from scratch it’s an option you should definitely consider. A library can also serve as an office for working at home. If a living room is what you desire, consider mounting a small flat screen television on the wall. A small loveseat and ottoman would provide you with the chance to catch some of your favorite shows in your own space without having to lie on the bed.

Create a Nook

Turning a corner of your bedroom into a reading area can be great to help you relax, especially if you don’t have the room for an attached living room. Add a fireplace next to your reclining chair or ottoman to add ambiance in the winter time. A bedside fireplace would definitely add to your home’s resale value.

Walk-in Closets Are a Must
A walk-in closet is essential for any master bedroom suite. The bigger you can expand it, the better. Not only will you have extra storage space for your belongings, but you can customize the shelving and drawers to suite your personal style. Add full length mirrors and maybe even add a window for some natural light. Creating your own closet will also add to the resale value of the home.

With a little bit of money and the proper time and space, you could transform your modest bedroom into a relaxation haven. As you’re enjoying the fruits of your labor, you’ll be glad you did.

Source: FrontDoor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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2013: Transition to 'Normal'?

January 25, 2013 4:24 am

The trend of gradual but below-potential economic growth seen in 2012 is expected to carry over through 2013 and into 2014. This modest growth path combined with the real GDP growth rate during the recovery from 2009 to this point of 2.2 percent annualized give credence to claims that the recovery’s slow pace has become the “new normal,” according to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group. The fiscal cliff and ongoing debt ceiling debate, which are likely to suppress consumer spending in the first half of 2013, continue to present potentially strong headwinds to meaningful growth activity. Overall, a 2 percent growth rate is forecasted for 2013, similar to the subdued pace of 2012.

This is despite the fact that the housing sector, which has become a bright spot in the economy since home prices began to rebound in 2012, is expected to provide a rising contribution to GDP in 2013 and in coming years. Recent data indicate that the housing recovery has transitioned to a faster upward track, boosted by an improving labor market and low mortgage rates. Overall, home sales, home prices, and home building activity as well as homebuilder confidence appear to be on the upswing, having risen to multi-year highs.

“What we view as sub-par economic growth may actually continue to be par for the course for the near term,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “We expect the fiscal policy climate to act as a drag on growth this year with possible implications on the direction of the economy in the long term. As fiscal policy debates subside later in the spring, we expect to see some upward trend in economic activity, with growth accelerating moderately in the second half of the year. That momentum will find support in the form of continued, albeit slow, improvement in the housing sector. In the longer term, the gradual return of manufacturing to the U.S. and increasing domestic energy production will work together to accelerate economic growth. However, we anticipate overall growth in 2013 will remain below its potential, extending what has been a slow recovery.”

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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National Foundation for Credit Counseling Launches Spanish Version of MyMoneyCheckUp

January 25, 2013 4:24 am

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) announced the expansion of MyMoneyCheckUp™, the NFCC’s free innovative online financial resource tool for consumers. The tool is now available in Spanish at https://www.miayudafinanciera.org and www.DebtAdvice.org, bringing Hispanic populations and communities a unique and much-needed method of assessing personal financial health.

“Our mission at the NFCC has always been to provide the public with the resources necessary for financial stability,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “The introduction of MyMoneyCheckUp™ in Spanish allows us to bring the tool to a much wider audience.”

As of 2011, the Hispanic population comprised 16.7 percent of the United States population, the largest minority group following African-Americans. In addition, 20.3 percent of U.S. households speak a language other than English.

Recognizing the need for expanded financial resources to the Hispanic community, Experian provided a generous grant to translate MyMoneyCheckUp™ into Spanish.

“Experian is so pleased to work with the NFCC Member Agencies in helping families with their financial capability and in making this valuable tool available to a wider audience,” said Maxine Sweet, Experian Vice President of Public Education. “We have a shared goal of helping everyone learn to live credit smart. That starts with a clear understanding of your financial position and having readily accessible tools to help guide your future.”

The English version of MyMoneyCheckUp™ originally launched in 2011 to provide consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for retirement, and home equity.

After answering a series of topic-specific questions, a personalized assessment of the individual’s overall financial health and associated behaviors is generated. With areas of concern identified, the analysis suggests changes that consumers are encouraged to implement in order to become more financially independent. The traditional red, yellow and green traffic light colors signal whether the consumer should continue on their current money path, proceed with caution, or stop and make a change respectively. Individuals can also complete an optional budget to further help them assess their financial health.

“When developing the tool, one goal was to make financial education more readily accessible to a broad segment of the population. Thousands of Americans across the country have already benefited from the English version of MyMoneyCheckUp™. It is our hope that the Hispanic community will now take advantage of this simple and free personal finance assessment tool, and embrace the opportunity to improve their financial stability,” continued Cunningham.

Since 1951, The NFCC and its members have promoted financial education, sound money management, and positive financial habits to millions of people in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, giving them the knowledge, capability, and support needed to achieve their financial goals. The NFCC Member Agency services are provided for free or at low cost, and are available in both English and Spanish.

For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Rise of Craft Beer in the U.S.

January 24, 2013 4:22 am

While the economic downturn has affected consumer spending across many sectors, craft and craft-style beers are defying recessionary trends with an impressive upward trajectory. Indeed, latest research by Mintel on the craft beer market in the U.S. shows that sales of craft beer nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012—increasing from $5.7 billion in 2007 to $12 billion in 2012.

Moreover, the trend toward craft beer options is set to enjoy robust growth through 2017, with Mintel forecasting the segment to grow to $18 billion by 2017 — a result that will see the segment tripling in the decade between 2007 and 2017.

Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst at Mintel, says:

"The growth rates seen by craft beer are impressive, especially during a period when domestic and imported beers have shown a flat to declining performance. Unlike its domestic and imported beer counterparts, craft beer has been able to defy overall beer market trends and continue expansion during the economic downturn and subsequent slow recovery."

The rise of craft beer in the US has been supported by increasing consumer demand. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of consumers who drink beer indicate that in 2012 they drank more craft beer sold at stores compared to 2011. Meanwhile, more than one in five (22 percent) report consuming more craft beer in bars or restaurants.

When looking at age, research shows that craft beer's sweet spot is with 25-34 year old consumers. While overall, some 36 percent of U.S. consumers drink craft beer, half (50 percent) of older Millennials (25-34 year olds) do so. And craft beer also wins on taste. Some 43 percent of both Millennials and Generation X say that craft beer tastes better than domestic beer, compared to 32 percent of Baby Boomers.

In addition, 50 percent of overall craft beer drinkers express interest in locally made beer, and 25 percent are interested in purchasing craft beer where it was brewed. Another 39 percent say that they are influenced to purchase a craft beer if it has a personality to which they can relate.

"Buying local is not limited to supporting one's homebase; it also provides consumers with the ability to support towns that they do not currently call home. To bring that local feel to consumers regardless of location, craft breweries should consider partnering to create multibrewery variety packs that would offer consumers a taste of one city, state, or region. These taste-of-an-area packages would allow consumers to experience smaller breweries from their own or other geographies," Zegler concludes.

Source: Mintel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Will 2013 be the 'Year of the LED?'

January 24, 2013 4:22 am

With prices for energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) dropping, LED holiday lights lasting for years, and 32,000 LEDs glowing on the Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball, 2013 could be the “Year of the LED,” predicts the Alliance to Save Energy.

“We see LEDs grabbing more market share in 2013,” said Alliance President Kateri Callahan. “Their retail prices are coming down, and more U.S. consumers are realizing that their lifespans of up to 25 years make them a good deal.”

IMS Research also projects that starting in mid-2013, market growth for LEDs will skyrocket in North America. And next year, consumers will have even more choices when looking for LEDs, which are now available in 100-watt-equivalents alongside the 40-, 60-, and 75-watt replacements. They are also available in an array of decorative bulbs.

Goodbye Inefficient 75-watt Bulbs
The New Year will also usher in “year two” of the ongoing three-year transition to energy-efficient lighting for the U.S. market. Inefficient 75-watt incandescent bulbs will no longer be manufactured in the U.S., just as inefficient 100-watt incandescents were phased out a year ago.

“As the second phase of the national transition to energy-efficient lighting begins, the Alliance is continuing to work on its own and through the LUMEN Coalition to dispel myths and misinformation and to enlighten American consumers about the benefits of today’s lighting products,” Callahan continued.
Options include energy-efficient halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and LEDs. Halogen incandescents use about 30 percent less energy than inefficient incandescents, while CFLs and LEDs save 75 percent or more.

Energy Star Options
“As always, we advise looking for the Energy Star label, the government’s symbol of energy efficiency, to ensure that you are getting an energy- and money-saving product,” said Callahan.

Lighting accounts for 10 percent of home energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The growing array of energy-efficient lighting options allows consumers to cut those expenses by $50 to more than $100 a year, depending on how many inefficient bulbs they replace and which efficient options they choose.

Consumers can learn more about energy-efficient lighting on ase.org/lighting.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Moving Destinations in 2012

January 24, 2013 4:22 am

The housing market began to improve in 2012 as confidence in homeownership improved. With more people buying, it poses the question, where are they buying? And where are they moving?

Penske Truck Rental released an annual list of top moving destinations within the U.S. To create this list, the company compiled information based on requests for one-way moves in 2012.

Atlanta has topped the list for each of the three years that Penske has compiled this ranking. The Dallas/Fort Worth area made the jump from fourth to second place. Four markets (Chicago, Houston, Denver and Seattle) retained their rankings from 2011.

“This list fits the general geographic shifts of the country’s population with our customers being drawn to the Southeast and Southwest regions,” states Don Mikes, Penske senior vice president of rental.

So where were people moving in 2012? See the top 10 destinations, below.

2012 Top 10 Moving Destinations:

*Please Note: The previous year’s ranking is noted in parentheses

1. Atlanta (unchanged)

2. Dallas/Fort Worth (4)

3. Phoenix (2)

4. Orlando, Fla. (3)

5. Chicago (unchanged)

6. Houston (unchanged)

7. Denver (unchanged)

8. Seattle (unchanged)

9. Charlotte, N.C. (10)

10. Sarasota, Fla. (9)

Source: www.pensketruckrental.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Clean Closets Make a Happy Home

January 23, 2013 6:52 am

(Family Features)—When it comes to getting the house clean and tidy, closets often get left off the to-do list. From hall closets and linen closets to bedroom closets, "out of sight, out of mind" thinking quickly leads to clutter - and then frustration when you can't find what you need when you need it. But a little planning and a few simple tips can help you get your closets in user-friendly shape in no time.

Put your closets on your calendar.
Take stock of your schedule and commit some time to tackle your closets. Set realistic expectations - you don't have to conquer all your closets at once. It may make sense for your family to forego TV one evening a week and focus on one closet at a time, for example.

Start by sorting.
If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in the past year -- or you can't remember the last time you wore something -- then you don't need it. Other items to purge from your closet: children's clothes and shoes that are either too small or too worn out to pass down to a sibling or a friend.

Sort your remaining clothes by season and then into piles to keep or pass down. If you have limited closet space, keep only the current season's wardrobe in your closet. Carefully pack and store the rest for later.

Linen closets stay more organized when you stack similar sized items together. Sort sheets by size, and group washcloths, hand towels and bath towels together.

For closets that hold everything from the vacuum cleaner to art supplies and anything in between, work one shelf at a time. Sort items by categories and dedicate one shelf or area of the closet to each group.

Eliminate excess - but don't throw it away. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another's treasure. There are easy ways to donate your unwanted items to benefit those in need. One example is DonateStuff.com, where you can request pre-paid UPS shipping bags that make it simple and free to send in unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories and household linens. Your donation benefits one of three national nonprofits of your choosing: AMVETS, Easter Seals, or The Purple Heart. It's tax deductible, and it reduces waste. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year. You can learn more at www.donatestuff.com.

Green up your storage. When it's time to put things back into place, instead of buying new containers to hold things, look around the house for boxes and containers you already heave. Baskets, crates and even empty shoeboxes can be reused to keep your closets more organized.

Repeat often. You don't have to wait until the next neighborhood yard sale before you sift through your closets again. As with most household chores, a little maintenance goes a long way to keep your closets looking neat and clean. You could even keep a bag in each of your kids' closets and encourage them to set aside gently used and outgrown items on a regular basis.

You'll be amazed at how much happier clean closets can make the whole house feel - especially when you turn the stuff you don't need into a good deed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Average Credit Score for Online Mortgage Shoppers was 70 Points above Average FICO Score for 2012

January 23, 2013 6:52 am

A review of more than 450,000 online mortgage applications received in 2012 found that the national average credit score for mortgage applicants increased by four points over 2011 to 734. By comparison, the average FICO score nationwide stood at 664 as of November 30, 2012, so online mortgage shoppers on average had a FICO score 70 points higher than the national average.

It was found that California mortgage applicants, for the third year in a row, had the highest average credit scores in the nation at 755 - a full 21 points above the national, online mortgage-shopper average of 734.

"It's worth noting that even the lowest average credit score of 689 is still considered to be a good credit score," said Rick Allen, chief operating officer of Mortgage Marvel. "If you're shopping for a first home, a score in this range is certainly considered to be good, and it will get you a reasonably priced mortgage."

Borrowers shouldn't necessarily be discouraged if their credit scores are not as high as those in the study, Allen said. FHA and VA loans, for example, often have lower credit score requirements.

It is anticipated that average U.S. credit scores will continue to move upward in 2013, as employment opportunities improve and incomes rise.

Source: Mortgage Marvel

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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2013 to Bring Clean Ingredients, Juicy Treats and Bacteria for Home Cooks

January 23, 2013 6:52 am

Thanks to a partnership between Allrecipes.com and Meredith women's lifestyle brands, a new report entitled The Measuring Cup Trend Report: What American Families are Cooking and Eating: 2013 Trends concludes that healthier eating will continue to be a top priority for home cooks, whether it's incorporating probiotics, "clean" ingredients, or more fruits and vegetables in everyday meals.

"In the coming year, women will continue to place a heightened importance on making smarter food choices to influence their family's health and wellness through diet. We'll also see an increasing number of women rely on new technologies to simplify everyday meal planning, food shopping and cooking through the use of apps and sites on their smartphones and tablets, and connecting with their peers for mealtime inspiration on social sites such as Tumblr, Allrecipes and Pinterest," says Esmee Williams, vice president of Brand Marketing at Allrecipes.

The report also found that women are flexing their creative muscles in kitchen. Using whiskey as a flavoring is on the rise, while novelty cakes have taken the place of the traditional sweet treats. Home cooks continue to be mindful of saving money by recreating their favorite restaurant dishes at home rather than dining out. Below is a summary of 2013 trends:

Trend #1: Good-for-You Bacteria Goes Mainstream
Probiotic foods will become conventional refrigerator staples as one-third of home cooks have already "tried and liked them." The biggest probiotic food fans are women ages 30 to 39, with 40 percent earning 100k+/year.

Trend #2: It's a Piece of Cake!
Instead of a traditional birthday or holiday cake, 35 percent of women are creating novelty cakes for special occasions and holiday gatherings (think: ice cream cake, fun shape, unusual flavor).

Trend #3: Dinner Staycation
Home cooks continue to feel pinched by the economy. Survey respondents say they dined out less frequently in 2012 compared to a year ago (44 percent). However these same women still seek the variety and new flavors available through restaurant menus. To satisfy this craving, 61 percent of home cooks admit to having prepared a restaurant-inspired dish at home in the past year.

Trend #4: A Clean Sweep in the Kitchen
With more than 44 percent of home cooks trying to eat cleaner (no processed foods, more whole foods/vegetables), 21 percent eating organic foods, 29 percent cutting back on meat, and 48 percent eating more vegetables, the healthy habits of home cooks are sure to impact 2013. Leading the way in the clean-food frenzy are home cooks in the West and the younger generation (ages 18-29).

Trend #5: Shaken, Stirred or Seared—with Whiskey
Whiskey isn't just for cocktails anymore. The celebration of whisky/bourbon flavors is extending into home kitchens. Bourbon Balls, Bourbon Chicken, Bourbon Fudge, Bourbon Salmon, and Bourbon Meatballs were all among the fastest-moving recipe search terms in 2012.

Trend #6: First Eat with Your Eyes
The wildly popular photo and idea-sharing site, Pinterest, inspires 75 percent of home cooks to try new dishes based on inspiration gathered from friends, family, brands, and—complete strangers!

Trend #7: Increasing App-etites
Mobile phones continue their rapid growth as essential grocery shopping companions for family-focused women. Shoppers are most excited about mobile's ease of use, the variety of app choices, and the ability to make mealtime/purchase decisions while in-store. Shoppers aged 39 and younger are the most likely to seek in-store meal inspiration using a mobile device.

Trend #8: The Juicy Details
More than 56 percent of those surveyed prepared a smoothie or squeezed fresh juice at home last year. The majority trying this juicy option say their main incentive is, "it's delicious" (73 percent), followed by "health benefits" (64 percent).

Source: Allrecipes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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