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Anthony Noland

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How to Make Cohabitation Work

February 14, 2012 3:34 am

The majority of couples marrying today cohabited first, with the 2011 U.S. Census report revealing there are about 7.6 million unmarried couples living together. In light of this news, Apartments.com asked their 2011 Roommate of the Year Jesse McLaughlin—who recently turned his cohabitation into a happily-ever-after by proposing to his girlfriend Lisa Harbin—for his advice on successfully sharing space with a significant other. McLaughlin, who has lived with Harbin for the past year, offers five tips to make living with your sweetheart a success:
  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.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Spending Less this Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2012 3:34 am

According to a new survey from Visa, Inc., even love is on a budget these days—Americans are spending less on Valentine's Day gifts, flowers, dining and other items this year. Americans plan on spending $117 this Valentine's Day, down 3 percent from $121 in 2011. The biggest culprit? Women.

The drop can largely be explained by the plummeting enthusiasm among women for spending on Valentine's Day, falling from $101 in 2011, to a meager $87 in 2012—a 14 percent drop. In contrast, men are actually planning on spending more this year, $149, compared to $140 in 2011, an increase of 6 percent. The gulf between what men and women now spend on Valentine's Day is dramatic. Men will spend 71 percent more than women on what has now become a one-way holiday.

Indicating a generation gap in enthusiasm for the holiday, younger people (18-24 years old) plan on spending the most of any age group at $132, while those 25-34 expect to spend $124. Consumers between the ages of 35 and 49 will spend an average of $123 and people 50-64 years of age plan to spend just $98.

Significant regional disparities continue to exist in Valentine's Day spending. In 2011, the Midwest came in dead last in spending for February 14, but in a surprising result this year, the region led the pack at $139. Bringing up the rear in 2012 is the South at $97. In addition, consumers in the Northeast plan on spending an average of $137 while people in the West expect to spend $112.

The survey found that people in the lowest income bracket—who earn less than $20,000 per year—plan to spend more than consumers earning between $20,000 to $50,000 on Valentine's Day.

"Those who try to impress by overspending on Valentine's Day may find it has the opposite effect," says Jason Alderman, Visa's senior director of financial education. "The key is to know what you can afford and stick to your budget."

Source: Visa, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The 7 Jobs You Shouldn't Ignore

February 13, 2012 3:34 am

Contractors across the country were recently surveyed by Angie’s List to determine the most common home aches and pains, and how to remedy them before you have to seek emergency care.

Angie's 7 Signs Your House Needs Professional Care 

1. Up on the Roof: If you notice loose shingles, have attic leaks, suspect chimney issues or see other signs of damage up high, call in a reputable roofing, gutter or chimney expert, or a handyman to give you great advice about what you need done.
2. Leaks don't fix themselves: Leaky faucets, running toilets and other small plumbing issues will just get worse, so do yourself a favor and get those fixed before major damage occurs. If you notice a jump in your water bill but haven't increased your usage, you likely have a hidden leak, which left undetected could lead to mold, wood rot and severe water damage.
3. Caulk it up: The caulking around your tub and shower prevents moisture penetration, which can lead to mold, tile and wall damage and warped cabinetry. Keeping everything watertight will save you a bundle, so be sure to repair any caulking failures. But don't stop there. All homes get cracks and voids in their outside walls over time. Look closely at where two boards come together, because cracks often start there. Also look for damage from animals that are looking for a way in. Caulk any cracks you see to avoid water penetration, subsequent wood rot and to keep the critters out.
4. Sparks fly: Lights that dim on their own schedule are a clear signal that you have an electrical problem. Experts say too many homeowners tolerate this situation for too long, which puts their homes at risk for electrical fire. Another often tolerated-too-long issue is when using one device causes another to switch off because you've blown a fuse. This is a sign you have a capacity or circuit box issue. Less dangerous but still signal-worthy are springy outlets that don't hold plugs. If you have any of these issues, call in a licensed, reputable electrician.
5. Drafty doors and windows: Improperly sealed windows and doors will bring cold air inside during the winter and let cooled air out in the summer, costing you big bucks on your energy bill. An energy audit can tell you where your leaks are and how to seal them.
6. Filter it out: HVAC experts say 60 percent of their service calls result from systems stressed by dirty air filters. Changing air filters regularly (every quarter or so; more if you have pets) can save you up to $100 each year on your energy bill, and will keep you from needing emergency repair. Many highly reputable heating and air conditioning companies offer maintenance plans that include an annual inspection. Doing this will give you an early alert to any issues you have with your entire HVAC system so you can stave off breakdowns.
7. Pump it up: Take a look at your sump pump from time to time. If it's in good shape and its batteries are good, it could save you thousands of dollars in flood damage. But you don't want to find out it needs repairs after the water starts rising. Get an annual inspection and check the batteries at least quarterly.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Survey Reveals Consumer Attitudes Towards Homeownership, Design and Function

February 13, 2012 3:34 am

Better Homes and Gardens magazine recently released proprietary research and insights into the ideas, inspirations, and strategies driving consumers as they consider the function, style and efficiency of their homes.

In a presentation given at the International Builders Show, Jill Waage, editorial director for Home Content for Better Homes and Gardens revealed survey results about consumer attitudes towards home ownership, upkeep and renovations, design and personalization, and more. A primary point revealed in the presentation shows that, despite continuing economic uncertainty, consumer thoughts toward homeownership remain strong with 8 in 10 saying home ownership is still a good investment and an important part of the American Dream. The BHG survey also found that consumers are more proactive in designing and curating their homes and, in fact, are spending more time planning design changes for the home (up to 38% from 33% the year prior).

Among the survey's key findings:
• Owning a home is still an important part of the American Dream (According to 8 in 10 surveyed).
• Consumers are taking more time to plan for home improvement projects (39% in 2011 compared to 33% in 2010) and are shopping around for more deals and bargains before committing to home improvement plans (42% in 2011 compared to 40% in 2010).

• Consumers find it more important than ever to get the most value out of every dollar (61% in 2011, up from 56% in 2010), and will spend more time looking for bargains and deals in order to get the most value for their money (Up to 54% in 2011, from 52% in 2010).
• Consumers are more willing to get rid of excess "stuff" and not willing to mortgage for more storage space. Multi-purpose rooms are a necessity in the home. Consumers aren't interested in "bonus rooms" or "media rooms" unless they have a multi-functional purpose.
• Style upgrades claim even greater prominence as being the most important feature in consumers' upcoming home improvement plans, followed by storage. For future projects, style upgrades on countertops, flooring, faucets and fixtures is up to 55% in 2011 from 50% in 2010. Expanded/improved storage space stayed flat at 39% in 2011, same as in 2010.
• In terms of remodeling priorities for consumers, baths are outpacing kitchens. Bathroom remodeling stayed constant in 2011 and 2010 (31%) and kitchen remodeling was stable at 25% in 2011, compared to 24% in 2010.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Children Safe at Home

February 13, 2012 3:34 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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Enhancing Family Time at Home

February 10, 2012 3:30 am

Today’s technology-centric, fast-paced culture often leaves little time for family bonding. However, building family ties and a sense of security at home is needed more than ever given the upheaval generated by current events around the world.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much time or effort to foster a bit of family bonding, yet the impact is significant and lasting. “Family activities that make the ordinary day special build memories that can last a lifetime,” says family counselor Jeanne Richards. She suggests trying the following fun ideas to start strengthening family ties.
  • Family game night – One night a week, turn off everything electronic in favor of family game night. Even the youngest children can participate in simple board games. Once in a while, try Charades or Pictionary to keep the evenings lively.
  • Family dinner night – Whether it’s pizza, pasta or simple sandwiches, plan weekly or monthly evenings when the whole family can work together in the kitchen to prepare a shared meal. Be sure someone is responsible for a simple dessert like cupcakes, cookies or brownies.
  • Movie night – If board games bore you, choose a movie the family can watch at home together. Pop some popcorn and/or pack up individual “goodie bags” that everyone can enjoy.
  • Wilderness walks – As weather permits, take a nature walk together. Identify plants and animals. Help the youngest kids collect pine cones or shells, or even leaves from which they can make collages.
  • Craft night – Children can make tons of things out of simple things like beads, feathers, pasta, glue and string. Add some paints and colored paper and let everyone’s imaginations take hold.
  • Check the library – Most public libraries schedule regular shows and special events, many of them free of charge. Check the program and choose one or two events the family can attend together.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Selling Your Home? Start at the Top

February 10, 2012 3:30 am

In today’s competitive real estate market, many homeowners go to great lengths to help their home stand out from the competition, from staging to landscaping to replacing windows. An important place to start, however, is at the top. Does your roof add or subtract from the salability of your home?

Any signs of aging or staining will alert a buyer to a potential "leaky roof" issue and/or mold in your attic...and nothing scares away a buyer quicker than mold. Following are some tips for making sure your roof is in showing condition, courtesy of GAF, a leading manufacturer of residential and commercial roofing.
  1. One of the first things a prospective buyer notices, a home's roof can represent 40 percent or more of your home's curb appeal, so make sure it is cleaned before putting your home on the market. Nothing turns a buyer away faster than a black or dirty looking roof. Get rid of any black staining or signs of debris on the roof.
  2. Head into your attic and look for signs of a leaky roof. This is the best spot for noticing water damage. Have any leaks repaired right away. Even if leaks go unnoticed by a buyer, they will be discovered by the home inspector and cost you more money to fix quickly or could potentially lead to losing the sale all together.
  3. Investigate your roof for missing granules on shingles, curling on the edges of shingles or shingles that have come loose. Again, it is best to make these repairs quickly before heading into the sales process.
  4. Make sure to keep records of all repairs/enhancements made to your roof prior to your home’s sale. Have your real estate agent add these details to the listing information. A sound, attractive roof can be just the competitive differentiation your home needs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keeping Your New Home Environmentally Sound

February 10, 2012 3:30 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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Education Matters: School Districts Shouldn't be Overlooked When Searching for a Home

February 9, 2012 3:40 pm

If you’re in the market to buy a new home, you undoubtedly have a laundry list of features you can’t live without and those you’re willing to cross of your wish list. Whether you have children or not, one item that shouldn’t be overlooked is the school district where the home is located.

According to the 2010 National Association of REALTORS® profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, one quarter of all homebuyers listed school quality and another 19 percent listed proximity to schools as deciding factors in their home purchase.

Plus, it’s not just the children who will feel the lasting effects of a school’s reputation, as your home’s value will be affected as well. That’s why people are willing to purchase a smaller home in a good school district and give up other amenities for the sake of the children.

Your real estate agent should know basic information about the school district already, but there’s plenty of data available to help you learn more.

Most real estate sites have data on local schools and show ratings from 1-10 on the overall performance (test results) and then give summaries and some parent comments on actual experiences.

There are also plenty of websites—such as greatschools.org and education.com—that let you search and compare school ratings, stats and teacher information to other schools nearby.

According to the National Association of Elementary School Principals, things parents should examine include the school district’s annual report, budget cuts, the school’s discipline policy, services available at the school, the school’s safety policy and whether there’s an active parent organization.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people in the neighborhood or Google the school itself and see what people are writing about it. Maybe the school is planning a massive budget cut or gang violence has broken out. Conversely, the school may have just added an honors program or unique foreign language classes or is known for its high-quality sports teams.

In addition to researching the school on your own, it might be a good idea to set up a time to visit the school and ask to speak with the principal and some of the teachers. Don’t forget to obtain a copy of the curriculum and the student handbook to look over after the meeting.

You can also attend a Parent-Teacher Association meeting to see what problems might be present within the school district and how the association deals with them.

While gathering this type of information may not be feasible for each home you’re interested in, it’s a good way to know if you’re making the right decision before committing to your dream home.

Even for buyers who don’t have school-age children, good schools can ensure consistent demand for properties—and strong prices. When it comes time to sell, you’ll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many.

To learn more about choosing the home that’s right for you, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renting vs. Buying: Which One's Right for You?

February 9, 2012 3:40 pm

While today’s real estate market is full of low mortgage rates and attractive prices, purchasing a home is still out of reach for many Americans who are putting off purchasing a home and going the rental route instead.

According to a 2010 study of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, over the last five years, the number of renter households rose nearly 10 percent (3.4 million).

A good rule of thumb when considering whether to rent or buy is to predict how long you will stay in the home. If you plan on moving and selling in less than five years, renting is probably a better option right now.

One of the main factors keeping people from buying is the difficulty in obtaining the mortgage they want to afford the property they desire, causing them to either shop for something smaller and less expensive, or rent for a while until they can improve their financial situation.

The main problem most people have with renting is that you won’t be gaining equity and it feels like you’re throwing your money away. Plus, there’s no tax advantage to renting and you are limited with what changes you can make to the home.

Still, there are many benefits to renting. For one, you don’t need to make a long-term commitment, and it gives a future homebuyer the flexibility and time to figure out the best course of action both personally and economically. Other positives include being able to move when the lease expires, there’s less maintenance work required, and you don’t need to have a large sum of money available up-front to live in a nice home.

For those that choose to buy, over time the mortgage balance decreases and equity builds. You also have the freedom to make any decisions you want—including tearing down walls, building decks and remodeling any room the way you have always dreamed.

On the downside, property values can decrease and you can find yourself owning a home worth a lot less than you paid over time. You also need to have a lot of money up-front and it can sometimes take a lot of time, money and effort to sell if you want to move quickly. Plus, if something breaks or goes wrong, there’s no one to bail you out—you must fix the problem yourself.

While every situation is unique, there are a plethora of rent vs. buy calculators available on the Web that can also help make your decision easier.

To discuss whether renting or buying is right for you, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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