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New Year's Resolutions for Potential Homebuyers

December 18, 2012 6:18 am

If you are a buyer waiting to spring into action, 2013 is the perfect time to jump in and invest in a new home. Not only are interest rates still incredibly low, but home prices are also extremely reasonable in many parts of the country. Being on the cusp of the New Year, it's the perfect time to make a buying plan to set yourself up for success in all of your buying endeavors. Make and keep the following resolutions from AOL Real Estate so that you can be sure to purchase a new home in the year to come.

I will save up for a substantial down payment. Saving for a down payment is a crucial part of the buying process. Although the days of no-money-down mortgages are surely behind us, you don't necessarily need a full 20 percent either. The more you can save now, the more you will save in the future.

I will whip my credit into shape before applying for a loan. No matter what type of loan or where you apply for it, your credit rating will be checked. The most ideal credit score ranges from 700-750. To ensure you get the best terms on your mortgage, prepare yourself financially before officially applying. Pay off credit card debt or any outstanding bills you may have in your name. The more confidence a bank has in you and your credit score, the better deal you are likely to receive.

I will consult the professionals. Whether buying your first home or moving to a new one, it's always a smart idea to consult with real estate professionals if you have any questions regarding any step of the process. A reliable real estate broker is an invaluable source for all of your needs and can recommend trusted financial advisors, home inspectors, etc. When in doubt, seek advice and counsel.

There are plenty of other goals you can set for yourself in the new year to help you get another step further in the home-buying process. By making these resolutions and promising to keep them, you can fully prepare to traverse the buying process and purchase a new property.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Time-Saving Laundry Tips

December 17, 2012 6:18 am

(Family Features) From messy meals to remnants of craft time creations, parents know that life is full of all kinds of stain-inducing adventures. But the great times should live on through cherished memories, not through permanently stained clothing. When it comes to removing those stains – from mud to markers and everything in between – knowing how to care for your child’s garments means you can get out of the laundry room more quickly and focus on the activities your family enjoys.

Aside from letting your washer and dryer do the heavy lifting, there are a few tricks of the trade worth keeping in mind when it comes to protecting clothing items. Put these five tips to the test to help better care for your garments, so you can spend less time sorting and treating stains, and more time with the family.

1. Spot, Treat, and Check – If you spill on a garment, immediately rinse or blot away the stain using cool water to prevent it from setting. Make sure to read fabric care labels and wash accordingly to help clothing last. And before you toss garments into the wash, be sure to double-check the pockets, as well as zip zippers and fasten buttons – this helps cut down on snags, holes, etc.

2. Sort, Sort, Sort – Sort laundry by color, wash cycle and water temperature required. Make it easier on yourself and your family by placing bins marked for whites, darks, mediums and delicates in your laundry room.

3. Choose the Right Cycle
– High efficiency appliances can wash clothing on various cycles. This means you can launder sturdy items such as jeans on the permanent press cycle using warm water, causing less agitation, while washing swimsuits, fine knits and undergarments on the delicates cycle with cold water.

4. Double-duty – If your clothing is heavily soiled, extra-large, or you want to use the cold water setting, add extra laundry detergent when you start the cycle. Some high efficiency washers feature a sanitize setting, which uses the hottest water available to thoroughly get rid of germs and grime.

5. Quick Dry – Dry only full loads – drying only a handful of garments prolongs the drying time by reducing the tumbling. If you have to dry a smaller load, add a few bath towels to help with tumbling.

Source: Frigidaire

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Mortgage Rates Little Changed

December 17, 2012 6:18 am

Mortgage rates showed little movement, with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate reversing last week's move and rebounding to 3.52 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.37 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate held at 2.85 percent and the larger jumbo 30-year mortgage remained at the record low of 3.98 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mixed, with the 1-year ARM sliding to 2.97 percent, the 5-year ARM staying at 2.74 percent for a third consecutive week, and the 10-year ARM rising to 3.2 percent.

Mortgage rates showed little movement as the fiscal cliff talks looked more like a stalemate. But a newly announced stimulus plan from the Federal Reserve aimed at buying longer-term Treasuries should help bring both bond yields and mortgage rates lower, albeit modestly. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds. Don't expect any big moves in mortgage rates as long as the fiscal cliff talks drag on.

The last time mortgage rates were above 6 percent was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 3.52 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $900.32, a difference of $341 per month for anyone refinancing now.

SURVEY RESULTS

30-year fixed: 3.52% -- up from 3.50% last week (avg. points: 0.37)
15-year fixed: 2.85% -- unchanged from last week (avg. points: 0.27)
5/1 ARM: 2.74% -- unchanged from last week (avg. points: 0.35)

Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey is conducted each Wednesday from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 markets.

For a full analysis of this week's move in mortgage rates, go to http://www.bankrate.com/mortgagerates.

Source: Bankrate, Inc.

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Get a Jumpstart on Your New Year's Resolution

December 17, 2012 6:18 am

While many people look to January 1 as the perfect time to start a health and fitness regimen, there are things that you can do now to get a jumpstart and also minimize the damage that you do to your waistline during the next few weeks. Fitness experts are offering the "12 Ways of Weight Loss" to get people thinking about making 2013 the year they get fit.

Studies show that just one week into the New Year, 25 percent of resolutions are forgotten and by the end of the year, nearly 90 percent have failed. Here are a few tips to get started on the road to success during the final days of 2012.

12 Ways of Weight Loss

12: Taper carbs starting at noon
Carbohydrate intake should always be monitored but an easy guideline is to curtail the carbs as the day wears on.

11: The 11 o’clock rule – eat and workout by 11 a.m.
If you haven’t had anything to eat or participated in any activity by 11 a.m., there’s a problem. Either you drank too much the night before, you’re having one of those lazy days that does nothing to enhance weight loss, or you’re starving yourself unnecessarily.

10: Watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week
Instead of watching 28 hours of TV a week as the average American does, find ways to move more and watch less. Incorporate movement into your everyday life, even beyond exercise.

9: Eat approximately nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day
This doesn’t mean you need to eat nine different fruits and vegetables, though that would be great too. Keep in mind that one serving is equal to a small or medium piece of fruit, a half-cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of raw veggies.

8: Get eight hours of sleep each night
Research has proven that lack of sleep can contribute to a number of metabolic disturbances. Remember, cat-naps in the middle of the day do not qualify as quality sleep, so try to hit the sack in a timely fashion to get in the full eight hours.

7: Eat breakfast seven days a week
A cup of coffee does not count as a healthy, well-balanced breakfast. Get in some good carbs, protein, fruit…and then add that caffeine.

6: Exercise six days a week and have one day of rest
Not ready to conquer this level yet? No problem. Start with one, two or three days a week, with the goal of working your way up to six. And don’t forget to make it fun too.

5: Eat at least five ounces of protein a day
Protein is very satiating and balances out meals quite well – and it doesn’t always have to be animal-based. Vegetarian protein sources, like tofu, are great too.

4: Drink four glasses of water by 4 p.m.
Most people forget to drink water during the most active part of their day, so make 4 × 4 a habit. By doing this, you’ll avoid dehydration, headaches and nocturia (midnight bathroom trips), and it may help with weight loss too.

3: Weigh yourself at least three times a week
We don’t want you to be hyper-focused on the scale numbers, but research has proven that the earlier you identify weight gain trends, the easier it is to do something about them.

2: Exercise with a friend
Pooch or person, it doesn’t matter. Just get out and exercise with someone. You’ll feel more accountable to your partner and make him/her healthier in the process.

1: Have one splurge meal per week
Deprivation is challenging, so don’t completely abstain from your favorite foods, no matter what they might be. Just be sure that one meal doesn’t turn into two, three or four.

Source: Anytime Fitness

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Tips for Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers

December 14, 2012 6:12 am

With only 12 shopping days remaining until Christmas and Free Shipping Day fast approaching on December 17, there are still numerous ways for shoppers to find substantial savings during the hustle-and-bustle of the holiday shopping season. The following tips are for the procrastinator in all of us:

Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store—Take advantage of online coupons and Cash Back savings by avoiding the inevitable long lines in stores. Many merchants offer this option through Christmas Eve.
eGift cards arrive almost instantaneously—Add a little something extra or grab gifts for those that may have slipped your mind with an eGift card. This is a great last-minute option that won't come with a hefty last-minute shipping price tag. Also, consider gifts that keep on giving such as Wine.com and Omaha Steaks monthly gift packages. You can notify the recipient via email of their gift and they can select when to start shipping.
Stack Deals—Check and see if a merchant allows you to combine a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon. The end result will likely yield deep savings. Be sure to look for Cash Back rewards to stretch your money even further this holiday season.
Mobilize your shopping—Browse on-the-go with your smartphone for easy access to savings and deals. Use mobile apps and simply browse by store to uncover coupon codes, daily deals and automatic Cash Back rewards. If you decide to select an in-store pick-up option for shipping, then you can still take advantage of Cash Back savings even while browsing in store.
Relax, there's time—Many retailers are extending their deadlines so your gifts arrive by Christmas. You can shop even later with in-store pick-up and avoid express shipping fees – most stores offer this service for free. To ensure your gifts arrive in time:
Toys "R" Us: Purchase by Friday, December 21 and choose Express Shipping for most items; Order by 2:00 pm on December 24 for same-day in-store pick-up.
Sears: Purchase by Saturday, December 22 and choose Express Shipping for most items; Choose same-day in-store pick-up and allow at least 2 hours for processing.
• Apple: Order by Saturday, December 22 and choose Express Shipping.
Walmart: Order by Friday, December 21 and choose Express Shipping; Choose same-day in-store pick-up and allow 4 hours for processing time.

Source: www.ShopAtHome.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top 10 Things to Donate Before Year's End

December 14, 2012 6:12 am

During this busy and celebratory time of year, many people are looking for a way to help those in need, and donating used goods is perhaps the easiest, most affordable, and certainly one of the most efficient ways to help.

"In a season when many of us are focused on gift buying, many Americans are also just as interested in giving back," said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "Even if funds are tight, people can give back by donating gently used items—everything from unwanted holiday sweaters to computers and laptops—even gift cards."

Here are 10 items you should consider donating:

10. Computers: At the end of their useful life, computers can be donated at your local Goodwill store and recycled via Goodwill's Dell Reconnect partnership. Donor should be sure to delete personal data before donating.

9. Kitchenware: Get something new for the kitchen for the holidays? Gently used kitchenware can be donated.

8. Video Games: Donate 10 video games and help fund job training sessions. Ten games can provide 47 minutes of on-the-job training for someone in need of getting back on track educationally.

7. Books: Upgrade from paperbacks to a Kindle or iPad this year? Donate 15 books and provide 26 minutes of career counseling

6. CDs: You've got all your songs saved on hard drives and MP3 players. Do you really need those hundreds of old CDs taking up space in the back of your closet?

5. Cell phones: Unused cell phones are one of the fastest growing kinds of trash in America. Instead of discarding your old phone out, recycle or donate it. Donors should be sure to delete personal data before donating.

4. Household items: It's time to give that lamp a new life. Lamps, frames, vases, curios, baskets, and collectibles are just a few of the many items that you can donate.

3. Bikes: When your children have outgrown theirs, or you've moved on to a new bike, consider donating.

2. Gift Cards: Billions of dollars in holiday gift cards go unused every year. You can donate an unwanted gift card with any unused amount on it.

1. Clothes: Suits, pants, dresses, shirts…you name it. Donating clothes not only funds job training programs, but also provides new outfits for job-seekers.

Donating used goods of all kinds provides valuable services to millions of Americans every year. Consider donating 10 items this year and you can make a world of difference.

Source: Goodwill Industries International

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Mortgage Rates Ease Slightly, Remain Near Record Lows

December 14, 2012 6:12 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates easing slightly and remaining near record lows to keep homebuyer affordability high and attractive to those looking to refinance.

News Facts

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.32 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending December 13, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.34 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.94 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.66 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.67 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.21 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.70 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.69 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.86 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.53 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.55. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.81 percent.

"Mortgage rates held relatively steady following the November employment report," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. "Although 146,000 jobs were created, above the market consensus forecast of 85,000, revisions subtracted 49,000 workers over the September and October period. The unemployment rate fell from 7.9 to 7.7 percent. However, in its December 12 monetary policy statement, the Federal Reserve (Fed) noted that this rate remains elevated and modified the statement to tie any increases to its target rate to the unemployment rate falling below 6.5 percent. The latest Fed central-tendency forecast is for unemployment to be between 7.4 and 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 and between 6.8 and 7.3 percent by late 2014."

Source: Freddie Mac

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Three Hidden Health Dangers in the Home

December 13, 2012 6:08 am

People are continually on the lookout for ways to safeguard their family’s health at home. However, some of the most likely sources of danger may not be the first that come to mind. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) warns that rodents, cockroaches and stinging insects pose serious, but often hidden, health risks when they infest a home.

“Many people think pests are just an annoyance and often forget that there are real health dangers associated with the presence of these pests in and around the home,” says Greg Baumann, senior scientist for NPMA. “People don’t think of asthma, Salmonella, or severe allergic reactions, which is why infestations should not be taken lightly.”

Rodents bring other pests including fleas, mites, ticks and lice indoors and contaminate food with feces that can transmit Salmonella and Hantavirus. Cockroaches spread 33 kinds of bacteria, six parasitic worms and more than seven other types of human pathogens. More, cockroach droppings and shed skins lead to allergen accumulation that can trigger asthma attacks, especially in children. Nearly $1 billion is spent on professional cockroach management services in the U.S. each year, making them one of the most prevalent and hazardous pests.

Stinging insects, including wasps and hornets send more than half a million people to the emergency room every year. NPMA offers these tips to keep pests from becoming a hidden danger at home:

• Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Eliminate standing water and sources of moisture in or around the home, in flowerpots, pool covers and other objects that collect water.
• Keep food and garbage in sealed containers.
• Seal cracks and holes in your home’s exterior and patch ripped screens.

If you see signs of a pest infestation, contact a licensed pest professional.

Source: National Pest Management Association

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Are the Holidays Wreaking Havoc on You? Get Organized and Take Control

December 13, 2012 6:08 am

At the midpoint of the holiday season, busy schedules and stress levels continue to rise. To help you survive and thrive during this holiday season, here are several tips and tricks to help make yours memorable and stress-free.

• Home is where the heart is.
And it's also the gathering place for family and friends, so get yourself and the house prepared. Create a chore chart and timeline so you're not in this alone and focus on the "public areas" of the house, especially the kitchen. Maximize its space by cleaning and clearing counter tops. A professional carpet cleaning, which is recommended every 6-18 months, should be considered, as well.
It's Party Time! If you're hosting a holiday event, request RSVPs to ensure an accurate headcount. Then, create a plan that includes seating and space requirements, supplies and party favors—2013 calendars make great gifts. Be sure to plan for food storage and cooking/preparation space during the party—this is also a great opportunity to clean out the refrigerator.
What's a feast without Roast Beast? Unless you're in Whoville, you probably will feature more traditional items for your feast. Whatever they may be, write out a detailed menu, create a shopping list, gather grocery ads and coupons, and create a cooking timeline. Make sure to organize these lists and items properly to ensure an efficient trip to the store. Account for dietary restrictions and food allergies, too.
Away you flew like a down of a thistle. Maybe you're not staying at home for the holidays—make sure your travels to your destination are as stress-free as possible. Create and print out itineraries for the entire family. If traveling by car, go through the standard 21-point checklist or make time in your schedule for a professional mechanic to look over your vehicle—use of an auto record book helps you stay on top of required services. If traveling by air, pre-print boarding passes and other necessary documentation for faster check-in. Set up alerts through your mobile devices with the airlines to keep on top of delays or flight changes.
The other line moves faster. This always seems to be the case, and even more so when under the time pressures of the holidays. If you're going to make the most out of your holiday shopping trips, you must have a plan and stick to it.

Source: Day-Timer/AT-A-GLANCE

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Home Safety Tips to Help Minimize the Threat of Winter Fires

December 13, 2012 6:08 am

With cold temps nipping in the air, everyone’s trying to find new ways to stay warm. However, with home heating costs burning a hole in consumers’ wallets, nearly two-thirds of all residential fires occur during the winter months, according to the National Fire Protection Association. This results in billions of dollars in property damage as well as thousands of injuries and deaths each year.

Fires can originate from many sources: too many electrical devices plugged into an outlet, portable heating devices, or roaring fireplaces. However, there are many precautions homeowners can take to keep the home fires burning safely. The use of alternative heating devices is a significant source of many winter fires.

The good news is, many fires are preventable, if the proper precautions are taken. To help minimize the likelihood of a fire occurring in your home, consider the following:

Keep a tight-fitting screen on your fireplace and obtain a professional inspection annually before use. You should also have your chimney cleaned on a regular basis to remove any debris.

If you have a wood-burning stove, make sure there is ample clearance between the stove and any combustible materials. Burn only dry, well-seasoned wood, and dispose of the ashes in a closed metal container outside the house. Do not burn trash in the stove - this can start a chimney fire. Never let a wood fire burn unattended or overnight.

With any type of heater, such as an electric space heater or portable kerosene heater, use common sense. Always keep the heater away from flammables and - although it may be tempting, especially in snow-prone areas - never accelerate the drying of clothes by placing them on top of the heater. Think twice, and use a drying rack instead. Have your heater serviced per the manufacturer’s instructions.
The best defense is a good preparation. A few minutes could save a life.

Source: Metlife

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