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New Year's Resolutions Every Home Seller Should Add to Their List

January 3, 2013 5:08 pm

Now that the new year has arrived, sellers are back in full force, pulling out all the stops in order to get their home sold. Whether you’re listing your home for the first time or finally ready to get that “For Sale” sign out of your front yard, add the following New Year’s resolutions to your list.

1. Set Reasonable Expectations: Although the housing market is showing signs of being better in 2013, we’re still nowhere near the levels of the last housing boom. Therefore, you need to be practical when setting a price and listening to offers. Too many sellers still expect to put their house on the market and have people fight over it within weeks, when the reality is bidding wars just aren’t that commonplace these days.

2. Don’t be Discouraged - React: If your house has been sitting on the market for a long period of time, or no one is coming to see it, don’t give up. Be proactive. Do something to change up the listing—add some new photos, incorporate video, or hire a professional writer to add panache to the descriptions that are being used to market your home. In addition, talk with your agent about why he or she thinks your home isn’t selling and fix anything that’s reasonable.

3. Communicate with Your Agent: There’s a reason you hired an agent to sell your home, so be sure to take full advantage of their expertise. Ask them for their advice as well as tips regarding the best way to sell your home. If there’s a problem with any part of the process, don’t just bite your tongue; talk to your agent and iron out any issues.

4. Don’t be Stubborn: Oftentimes, sellers will set a price that they expect to get for their home and absolutely refuse to budge, no matter what. While you have every right to set the price you want, if you list a $400,000 home and someone comes in with an offer of $370,000, don’t just write them off. Take some time to research whether their offer is more in line with what houses are selling for and listen to their reasons (if the agent provided them) for the lower price. When it comes down to price, there’s nothing wrong with negotiating a figure that will work for both parties.

5. Leave the House: When sellers have their house on the market for a long period of time, eventually they may give up on the notion that they have to leave the house during a showing. However, it’s important to get out of the house no matter how long it’s been on the market. Being present for a showing not only makes it harder for the real estate agent to do his/her job, it can also lead to an uncomfortable situation for those viewing the home.

For more information about selling your home in the new year, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Short Sales

January 3, 2013 5:08 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 five key resolutions that every home seller should add to their list in order to hit the ground running in 2013. Other topics covered this month include home renovation projects that will provide the most bang for your buck and how to deal with pests and termites so that your home sale stays on track. 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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Freshen Up Your Home, Naturally

January 3, 2013 6:32 am

(Family Features) Homes trap all kinds of smells — last night’s salmon dinner, dirty gym clothes in the laundry basket, the cat’s litter box and more. When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a recent survey.

But if you’ve become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it’s odor free? Healthy living expert, building biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home:

Kitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months.

Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil — such as lavender or eucalyptus — with two cups of water.

Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they’re on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen’s surfaces in toxic repellent isn’t a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won’t cross.

Cooking: Help prevent unappealing cooking odors, such as fish, from spreading and lingering throughout the home by upgrading to an odor reduction filter. It helps remove odors and gases from the air passing through the filter and helps keep the home fresh for families and houseguests. Synthetic air fresheners, candles and incense only provide temporary relief from odors by masking them in one particular room but will do nothing to remove the odors from the entire home.

Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly.

Source: www.Filtrete.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Achieve Weight Loss Resolutions with Realistic Goals and Sound Nutrition Advice

January 3, 2013 6:32 am

Millions of Americans resolve to lose weight and eat healthfully at the beginning of each year, but resolutions are notoriously broken. Registered dietitians weight in on why resolutions fail and how to best set yourself up for success in 2013.

"It may be tempting to focus on losing weight fast, leading many to turn to dangerous fad diets and crash diets," said registered dietitian and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Angela Ginn. "However, research shows that slow, healthy weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes."

While you should consult a physician before adopting an exercise plan, primary care physicians identify nutrition experts such as registered dietitians as the most qualified providers to care for obese patients, according to a recent study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Forget about fad diets and work with a registered dietitian to get back to the basics with realistic and personal goals for eating smarter and moving more.

Be realistic. Be specific.
"Expecting to hit the gym for 4 hours every day or to stick to a super restrictive fad diet is overwhelming for your body, mind and schedule," Ginn said. "Instead, choose smaller, healthy changes you can stick to over the long term, such as taking a walk during your lunch break or adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate each meal."

One large goal can seem overwhelming, so set yourself up for success with realistic goals, and divide large, vague goals into smaller, more specific goals. For instance, rather than saying "I will eat better," break this into specific goals like "I will eat one more piece of fruit per day," and "I will choose whole grains more often."

Goals should be challenging but also reachable. Consult a registered dietitian to build a plan with goals that work for your unique nutritional needs and fit with your lifestyle. Also, make sure the goals you set are measurable so you can track your progress. For instance, choose goals in terms of "how much?" or "how many?" so you can easily review and track your progress, as well as reward yourself. These smaller goals will help keep you from getting discouraged because you can see results more quickly.

Build a support network.
Enlist family and friends to try new healthy recipes with you or to be your workout buddy. Having a support network can help you focus on positive results rather than temptations, and motivate you to stick with your plan.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ten Ways to Save Money and Energy This Winter

January 3, 2013 6:32 am

Winter is finally here! Just in time for the New Year, here are some new ways you can save money and energy this season.

• Keep your thermostat at the lowest comfortable setting. Every degree above 68 can add three percent to the heating bill.
• Keep heating vents and registers clear. Make sure they are not blocked by draperies or furniture. Vents should also be cleaned regularly with a vacuum or broom.
• Caulk, re-caulk or add weatherstripping around windows and doors. This helps keep the cold out and the heat in. If caulking or weather stripping is cracked, remove it and reseal with new materials.
• Let the sun shine in. On sunny days, open drapes or blinds to allow natural solar heat to warm the house.
• Change air filters. Dirty filters can increase heating system operating costs. Change filters every month or so to help the unit run properly.
• Wrap water pipes. This will reduce heat loss from hot water lines and help to prevent pipes from freezing.
• Dress warmly, even indoors. This will allow a lower thermostat setting without sacrificing comfort.
• Make sure fireplace dampers fit tightly, and keep them closed when not using the fireplace. Add a glass fireplace screen, if possible.
• Have your heating system professionally checked to make sure it's running properly. This can prolong the life of the system, as well as reduce operating costs.
• Remove window air conditioning units during winter months.

Source: Georgia Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keeping Your New Home Environmentally Sound

January 2, 2013 6:30 am

While the focus is often on redecorating and buying new furniture when moving into your new home, there are several steps you should take to ensure your home’s environment is safe and comfortable, in addition to aesthetically pleasing.

According to contractor Danny Lipford and Honeywell Home Environment, the following simple strategies will protect your home and its occupants for years to come…and save you money in the process.
  • Choosing the Right Supplies. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases that can be emitted by some paints, solvents, cleaners, adhesives, furniture, and shelving. Try to find products with low or no VOC levels. When using products that contain high levels of VOCs, open windows or, better yet, turn on an air purifier that has a VOC pre-filter to help remove VOCs from the air that passes through the unit.
  • Pay Attention to the Temperature. Set back your thermostat about 10 degrees when you’re away from home for eight hours or more. You could shave as much as 10 percent off your energy bill without sacrificing comfort. Many of today’s thermostats can be programmed to adjust during the day and at night while you’re sleeping. When you are at home, try turning down the thermostat a few degrees and use a portable heater in the rooms you are in the most.
  • Watch Humidity Levels. A too-dry environment is not only bad for your family’s health, but for your home itself. Humidifiers offer solutions during dry winter months or in dry climates to help protect valuable wood furniture from drying out and cracking and prevent wood floors from buckling and separating.
  • Fight Dust. Pollutants like dust and mold that settle in the home can be attributed to poor air circulation. A whole room fan should be used to ventilate the home properly. Look for models that have a wide ventilation range and are also quiet.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Best Cities for Wedded Bliss

January 2, 2013 6:30 am

A recent survey from Rent.com revealed some interesting facts about newlyweds, polling couples about combining households and their attitudes toward finances and quality of engaged and married life.

According to the survey, 75 percent of all respondents said that their overall quality of life has improved since moving in with their significant other. For the 25 percent of respondents that found living with their significant other to be stressful, the key areas of stress were not having their own space (42 percent), sharing household expenses (33 percent), and splitting up household chores (25 percent).

Finances are often a point of contention with couples, married or not. The good news is that 62 percent of respondents report that their financial situation has gotten better as a result of moving in with their significant other.

In addition to measuring couples’ attitudes, Rent.com also researched cities across the country, looking at cost of living, mean annual income, the unemployment rate, and rental inventory to identify 10 ideal cities for newlyweds. The website considers these locales both fun and affordable:
  • Austin, Tex. – Austin is the perfect home to inspire creative couples. A thriving art scene is a great way to experience unique date nights and meet other couples.
  • Raleigh/Durham, N.C . – Young professionals and new families are drawn to Raleigh for its affordability, friendliness, and favorable climate. Livable residential neighborhoods with the cultural benefits of a larger city make Raleigh/Durham the perfect place to settle down.
  • Dallas, Tex. – If you’re looking for a sports town, Dallas is the perfect new home. From watching professional sports to getting outdoors and playing yourself, active couples will never experience a dull moment in Dallas.
  • Kansas City, Mo. – Living in Kansas City offers a dynamic blend of affordability and high culture, combining both a renaissance of the arts and the warmth of a small town.
  • Houston, Tex. – One of the most culturally-rich cities in the nation, Houston offers everything from world-class museums to local farmers’ markets. Houston is great for both couples and new families, and boasts a thriving culinary scene.
  • Denver, Colo. – From craft beer culture to day trips to the Rocky Mountains, Denver is the city for adventurous newlyweds.
  • Minneapolis, Minn. – As the American Fitness Index’s “Fittest City in America,” Minneapolis is the most bike-friendly city in the nation. From lakes to parks, newlyweds will stay fit and active in Minneapolis.
  • Phoenix, Ariz. – Phoenix offers perpetual sunshine and colorful deserts for hiking and exploring. If outdoor adventures don’t suit your lifestyle, the city is also known to be a haven for foodies and families.
  • Washington, DC – A central location with a wide variety of job opportunities, Washington, DC offers something for everyone – shopping, entertainment, and cultural activities. It’s truly the city of compromise for opposites that attract.
  • Baltimore, Md. – A modern cultural center known for its hospitality, Baltimore offers a vibrant waterfront scene coupled with a laidback attitude. This city is perfect for couples looking for the comfort of a smaller hometown with the benefits of urban living.
Source: Rent.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Tips for Refinishing Your Hardwood Floors

January 2, 2013 6:30 am

Gleaming hardwood floors have long been a valuable component of any home. They are susceptible to wear and tear, however, so maintaining and refinishing when necessary is a must. The process doesn’t have to be as daunting or costly as it seems, however. Let the following steps be your guide:

Step 1 - Determine if Your Floor Needs Refinishing
Refinishing hardwood floors is often a better choice than simply replacing the flooring, because it costs less and takes less time. In some cases though, a floor might be damaged beyond repair. Consult a professional to determine whether to opt for a hardwood floor refinishing technique or new flooring.

Step 2 - Determine if Some of the Floor Planks Need Replacing
Sometimes 90 percent of the floor might be in good shape and only a few planks are in need of repair. Be sure to replace those boards before beginning the refinishing process. Since most planks will be connected using a groove-tongue joint, it will be slightly difficult to get one out, but it's not impossible.

Step 3 - Filling the Gaps
It's considered good practice to fill in the gaps at the ends of the floor planks before sanding, but you shouldn't waste time with every little crack. They're unavoidable, as wood tends to expand and contract due to humidity. Unless the gap is big enough that you think it might create problems during the hardwood floor refinishing process, feel free to skip it and save some time and energy.

Step 4 - Getting the Right Equipment
Some of the equipment you'll need for refinishing your floor will need to be bought or rented: sand paper (different weights); a drum sander; a palm sander; an edge sander; claw hammer; a vacuum cleaner; a buffer; a scraper; a brush; safety goggles; a dust mask; protection gloves; and knee pads.

Step 5 - Preparation
Since it usually gets quite messy when you refinish hardwood floors, a little preparation goes a long way. Make sure you turn off all vents that might take dust and sand particles across the house and only use ventilation that connects the room to the outside. It's also a good idea to use some wet sheets across entrances to the room you're working on for the same reasons.

Step 6 - Sanding
Sanding is probably the most important part of the process and you need to put all focus into it if you want your floor to look great at the end.

Step 7 - Cleaning
Use a broom and the vacuum to pick up the dust from the floor; never use any moisture to clean the floor. You'll also have to clean the walls and ceiling.

Step 8 - Buffing

Make sure the floor is clean before you start buffing it. You'll want to choose a screen for the buffer at the rental or hardware store that's around 100 grit, then carefully sweep it across the entire floor.

Step 9 - Staining
Staining is one of the last steps you'll have to take, but it's also the step where many make mistakes. Take extra care and time for this part of the process.

Step 10 - Finishing

If you're sloppy with finishing, all your work thus far is for naught. Take your time with this final step to achieve the best results for your floor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Children Safe at Home

December 31, 2012 6:30 am

While some safety measures around the house are routine, there are some potential hazards that could be dangerous for young children. According to information provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, since 1990, more than 200 infants and young children have died from accidentally strangling in window cords. With this in mind, here are a few tips provided by the Window Covering Safety Council (WCSC) reminding parents to practice window cord safety and to make safety a priority in the home:

• Install only cordless window coverings in homes with young children. Replace window blinds, corded shades and draperies manufactured before 2001 with today's safer products.
• Move all cribs, beds, furniture and toys away from windows and window cords, preferably to another wall.
• Make sure cribs are properly assembled and meet current safety standards, and that crib mattresses fit snugly.
• Keep all window pull cords and inner lift cords out of the reach of children. Make sure that tasseled pull cords are short and continuous-loop cords are permanently anchored to the floor or wall. Make sure cord stops are properly installed and adjusted to limit movement of inner lift cords.
• Lock cords into position whenever horizontal blinds or shades are lowered, including when they come to rest on a windowsill.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Make Cohabitation Work

December 31, 2012 6:30 am

The majority of couples marrying today cohabited first, with U.S. Census reports revealing there are about 7.6 million unmarried couples living together. In light of this news, here is some advice on successfully sharing space with a significant other:

1. Talk money before the move. Discuss finances up front–even before you start looking at apartments. Before the apartment becomes something tangible, make sure you establish what each person is comfortable contributing financially. When you have this discussion, remember to include the cost for Internet, utilities, parking, and any other fees that may arise.

2. Respect personal space. When you move in, make sure you each give yourselves some space that is your own, especially if this is the first time you are moving in with a significant other. As crazy as you are about each other, spending every minute in the apartment together may drive you both a little batty. Ensure each person still has some alone time carved out for themselves.

3. Discuss décor. Hand in hand with respecting your significant other's personal space is respecting their personal decorating style—or lack thereof. Before either of you hang (or purge anything), sit down and talk about your decorating styles and how you can make them blend harmoniously.

4. Don't forget dates. Once you live together, it's easy to mistake seeing each other around the apartment for quality time. Be sure to make time for a night out on the town together or plan a special evening at home. Remember, this is your potential soul mate, not just a roommate you split the bills with.

5. Consider going halfsies on large purchases. Shared purchases are an interesting issue. To fill your apartment, you may need a new couch or dining room table—or you may just want that new big screen TV. So, who pays for this major expense? Consider splitting it 50/50 (or in whatever way makes financial sense for you as a couple). Making these purchases together shows your partner you're committed to the relationship and investing in your future together.

Source: Apartments.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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