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The Federal Government Takes Action on Radon Gas to Prevent Lung Cancer Deaths in 2011

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

October 17-24 is Federal Radon Action Week according to The Surgeon General. Health agencies throughout the United States have joined forces to promote awareness of the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during the October awareness drive.

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. In fact, a recent study by Harvard University ranks radon as America’s #1 in-home hazard. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided.

Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires and handguns combined. If a home hasn't been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action. Contact your state radon office for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at For more information about the Federal Radon Action Week, visit


As Mortgage Rates Dip Lower, Homeowners Should Consider Refinancing

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

Rates were already low at the start of the quarter, but following an announcement from the Federal Reserve, the national average rate on a traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has inched lower. Informa Research Services, a subsidiary of Informa plc (LSE: INF), encourages qualified homeowners to take advantage of low interest rates and look to refinancing their current home loan.

According to, "Mortgage rates were already near record lows when the Federal Reserve Board acted to further reduce long-term interest rates in general, and included a targeted effort to push down mortgage rates even more." Following this announcement, national average 30-year mortgage rates dropped from 4.37% last week to 4.29% this week.

Homeowners who want to reduce their monthly mortgage obligation can check convenient rate tables found on websites such as to stay abreast of the most current mortgage rate movement. Furthermore, the lenders featured on these rate tables typically offer rates significantly lower than the already low national average.

A successful refinance will bring qualified homeowners immediate savings in the form of reduced monthly mortgage payments, but more importantly, larger savings over the remaining term of their loan. That being said, homeowners who are considering refinancing a current loan should research their options to ensure that the benefits of refinancing their mortgage will outweigh the costs. This relies heavily on the rate that is attached to the current home loan.

For more information, visit


One in Three Adults Currently Living with Relatives

October 14, 2011 8:52 pm

Nearly one in three adults has moved in with relatives for financial reasons, according to a new study conducted by Hanley Wood. Known as “doubling up,” cohabitation has risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression, according to the survey, which questioned the living patterns of 3,000 homeowners and renters.

According to data from the latest U.S. Census, there has been an increase in doubling up among households, particularly among young adults who are opting to move back with their parents. Approximately 5.9 million Americans aged 25-34 lived with their parents in 2010, a 25% increase compared to the years prior to the recession. Men were also found to be nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents.

The survey also found that renters and homeowners are delaying new home purchases due to tougher mortgage qualifying standards and concerns over the economy and job security. In conjunction, a majority of homeowners and renters say homeownership is important and they felt that now was a good time to buy with lower home prices.



Tips for Tackling Pesky Procrastination

October 13, 2011 8:52 pm

By Nick Caruso

For many Americans, it's hard to get motivated and complete tasks after a full day or week of work. From picking up and organizing your home, to washing your car and mowing the lawn, growing to-do lists can quickly become overwhelming. Rather than allowing procrastination to cripple you, here are a few tips to tackle your projects and check off those important chores:

1. Making lists is an often overlooked first step, but will help immensely. By seeing all of the tasks that are needed to be done, you can better determine when and how to complete each one without forgetting anything important. Prioritize the list if necessary, leaving longer projects for the weekends and shorter ones for during the week.

2. Get a monthly calendar to help you keep track of important tasks and dates. If supplies are necessary to purchase, find time during the week to stop at the store around your other professional and social responsibilities. You can't complete a task without having the right materials.

3. On busier days, accomplish even the smallest task. On nights when you really don't feel like it, push yourself to do even the simplest house chore. Is laundry backing up? Throw a load in while watching some TV. Do you need to switch out your seasonal clothes from the basement or attic? Get it done! Your feelings of productivity and accomplishment will only snowball and motivate you to do more as the week continues.

4. Give yourself breaks and rewards while working on overly lengthy projects. Don't break your back, literally and figuratively. After completion of a major job, reward yourself with a day off. Just because you're trying to avoid procrastination doesn't mean that every day's schedule must be filled.

5. People don't plan to fail, they fail to plan. Your lists and calendars are a great start, but further planning is usually necessary. Do you need help from a friend? Do you need to borrow a tool? Does a job need to be completed during a specific period of a specific day? Over planning never hurts anyone and will propel you further on your quest to avoid procrastination.


Don't Let a Tough Economy Spook Your Spending This Halloween

October 13, 2011 8:52 pm

Halloween is now the second most expensive holiday and with the weight of the U.S. economy becoming more and more taxing, families are taking notice of their unnecessary spending, especially when it comes to Halloween.

According to National Retail Federation’s 2011 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, Americans will spend $72.31 on costumes, candy and decorations. This amount is up from last year’s $66.28 and from 2009 when people spent $56.31. Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $6.86 billion, the largest amount since the survey’s nine year existence.

Here are a few tips on how you can cut costs and stay within budget:

• Use this opportunity to be creative and make Halloween costumes. Use the Internet to find websites or videos to show you how to make popular costumes and decorations out of everyday household items.
• Buying unisex costumes leaves more options to reuse the Halloween costumes.
• Hold a costume swap with friends. This will cut out the price of new costumes, ultimately cutting down Halloween spending.
• Repurpose old Halloween costumes. Take pieces of old costumes to create new ones. For example, a black cape from a batman costume can always double as a cape for a vampire costume.
• Start up a pumpkin bank or collection. Throw loose change into a pumpkin bank daily over the course of the year. Use the money to pay for Halloween expenses.
• Shop sales at the end of the season. It’s never too early to start planning for next year. Many stores have sales for up to 90% off of items after the holiday is over. Use this opportunity to collect a few items to use for the following year.



Uncovering the Truth about Accident Forgiveness

October 13, 2011 8:52 pm

As the weather turns, the chances of a car accident due to inclement weather start to increase drastically. As such, it's important for consumers to protect themselves from the insurance rate consequences of an at-fault accident.

Accident forgiveness, the latest trend in automobile insurance, certainly draws drivers in. Good drivers who are involved in their first accident can be very frustrated by the increase in rates that results. After paying insurance premiums for so long, seeing an increase for one accident leaves drivers feeling cheated. Insurance companies introduced accident forgiveness to combat this – but does it fully protect from rate increases?

How Accident Forgiveness Works
Accident forgiveness is a very simple concept. Normally when a driver is involved in an accident and is determined to have been at fault, they are responsible and therefore have an increase in rates. This is because having had one accident, they are considered a higher risk for the insurance company and also to make up some of what the insurance company has had to pay out on the claim.

With accident forgiveness, a driver can have one at-fault accident, their first, and not see a rate increase as a result and keep their lower rate. This is the insurance company’s way of acknowledging that even good drivers can make the occasional mistake. It also acknowledges that previously paid premiums can count towards covering the claim payment. Offering accident forgiveness makes the insured feel valued and less likely to jump ship for another company, so it benefits the company as well. But there are some details about the feature that every driver should know.

Accident Forgiveness Has Limitations
If a driver chooses to shop their rate and move to a new insurance company, forgiveness for an accident will not come along. Thus the new insurance company can and likely will charge for the accident on the new policy. This fact is what keeps the current insurance company confident that they will keep customers. Of course, there is nothing wrong with staying with the insurance company that is not charging for an accident, but should a driver want or need to change for other reasons, this might come as a surprise.

It is commonly believed that the accident will not result in an increase no matter what the situation, but this is not true. Every insurance company has limits on how they choose to apply the feature and in what situation it applies and does not apply. It is important to read all the fine print and get all the details before buying a policy to obtain accident forgiveness.

In some cases a driver must be with the same company for a certain amount of time before the accident forgiveness goes into effect. There may also be limitations on how long the driver must maintain a good driving record before accident forgiveness will apply. Every insurance company makes their own rules in relation to accident forgiveness and it is up to the consumer to find out what they are.



How to Protect Your Children from Cyberbullying

October 12, 2011 8:50 pm

One in five has been a victim of cyberbullying or participated in cyberbullying, according to a survey of 4,400 children conducted by the Cyberbullying Research Center, an organization tracking the trend of internet bullying. From text messaging to emailing, there are many different forms of cyberbullying, and many of them are more common than you'd think. According to The National Crime Prevention Council, cyberbullying “happens when teens use the internet, cell phones or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”

Cyberbullying can have detrimental effects on its victims. In schoolyard bullying, victims know that their home is a safe haven where they can seek relief. With cyberbullying, however, there is seemingly no escape, as the attacks are digital and coming from sometimes anonymous sources.

If you want to protect your children from cyberbullying, here are a few things you can do to prevent it:

Keep open lines of communication. Ask your kids if they've ever received a harassing email, if they've ever been bullied at school, or what they do if they see someone being bullied. You'd be surprised at how much you can learn simply by asking.

Check their Facebook and email accounts. As long as your child is a minor and your intentions are good, don't be afraid to check email or Facebook accounts to see some of the communication that takes place there. Find out who they are talking to, what people are saying to them and also what they are saying to others.

It's up to parents to put a stop to bullying. If you find out your child is being bullied, contact the parents of the bully. If necessary, threaten to involve the police if future incidents occur. It's never to early to put a stop to unwanted behavior.

Teach your child to stand up to bullies and to do the right thing. They may be able to prevent the bully from attacking them or somebody else.

Bullying has become a large problem in American society for youngsters. By keeping a mindful eye on your child and his or her interactions, you can prevent them from ever becoming a victim or aggressor.

Source: Southwestern Parents


Think Spring with Raised Garden Bed Fall Tasks

October 12, 2011 8:50 pm

With the weather finally starting to cool, Fall is the perfect time of year to prepare your garden for Spring. A little work now will keep your raised garden beds springing up green all year long.

Clean out all dead plant debris like leaves, vines, stalks and roots.

Fill holes from harvested plants with compost and mix it in. Typically, one trowel full of compost for each square foot is a good guideline.

After adding compost, replant the space. One advantage of raised garden beds is that soil stays warmer in the Fall and warms earlier in the Spring than a traditional garden, which extends the growing season and can help plants mature faster. Depending on your climate zone, a 4'x4' stackable raised garden bed can actually yield crops year-round when used correctly.

Vegetables - Root crops like parsnips, turnips, carrots and red beets can be planted now. Cover with straw when frost threatens or snow falls to extend harvest all Winter. Cool weather crops like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes and peas can also be planted in the Fall.

Flowers - Flowers improve the overall beauty of a garden and improve pollination. Plant flower bulbs including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, daylilies and crocus for vibrant color next spring. Bury large bulbs four to eight inches deep and small bulbs two to four inches deep.

To further extend the growing season, consider covering raised beds with clear plastic to capture heat like a greenhouse to protect crops from frost. Attach an enclosure with an easy zipper access to care for the plants. For best results, leave covers off until absolutely needed.

For more information, visit


Myth-busting the Home Buying Process

October 12, 2011 8:50 pm

Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned veteran who has been out of the game for awhile, buyers should always be aware of and note certain home buying myths that abound. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of buying new property, but by being educated and realistic, buyers can avoid a few common-yet-untrue beliefs as they venture toward closing a deal.

The Myth of "The Perfect Home"
Along with all that excitement comes the dreams of your ideal home. If the vision you've set for yourself is too close to perfection, you may not find what you're looking for. Every house is bound to have something wrong with it. If a home is nearly perfect, don't nitpick over smaller needs and priorities. Lock it down before it gets snagged.

The Myth of "The Speaking House"
It's human nature to get a certain "feel" to a house when first walking through it. As they always say, first impressions go a long way and the same rings true with real estate. Buyers, however, should try to fight initial gut feelings. More than likely the home was staged for buyers to feel an emotional tie to the décor. Look past the paint and décor to figure out if a home is right for you.

The Myth of "The Old Furnace"
An old furnace can sometimes be difficult to maintain or replace, but don't let it be a deal breaker for an otherwise suitable home. The same goes for other issues such as a roof in need of repair, old wiring, etc. If everything else is in order without needed repairs, the home in question can still be a great choice for your investment.

The Myth of "The House to Grow In"
First-time buyers always get the advice that they should buy up so that they can grow into a house - for instance, should a couple be planning for children. Look at your current needs, not what you'd like to have down the road. If you end up needing more space for a larger family down the line, you can always sell and move up later.

The Myth of "The Negotiation Winner"
Don't feel like you have to win the negotiation. The winner is not the person to have the last word, but rather, everyone when the deal is truly a fair one. Don't sweat the small stuff, and remember that it is a business transaction - leave those emotions and egos at the door.

The Myth of "The Best Deal"
Don't fall into the frame of mind that thinks foreclosures are always the best deals. Though they can sometimes save in large amounts, oftentimes there's a lot of work and repair to be done. Foreclosed homes are occasionally not left in the best condition. Sometimes the easiest transaction is buying from a seller and negotiating until an agreement can be reached.

When buying a home, it's important to separate hearsay from your actual needs, wants and beliefs. Try to view every property with a clear mind and minimal expectations. Avoid these real estate myths to reach your own conclusion based on your needs, and most importantly, never say never.



Why Choosing the Perfect Neighborhood is Just as Important as the House Itself

October 11, 2011 4:57 pm

By Keith Loria

It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but buyers need to think about more than just the home itself before deciding to live there. While the home may have the perfect number of rooms, a large play area for the kids and that master bathroom you have always dreamed about, you also need to consider the neighborhood in which the home is located.

That’s why before buying any home, a buyer should explore the surrounding neighborhood and area to make sure it has everything they want and need.

For buyers with children or those thinking of starting a family, the first thing you will want to look at is the local school system. You’ll also want to research the closest parks and community centers and consider how busy the streets in the neighborhood get. Even if you are single, living in a top school district will raise your property value.

Another consideration is your daily commute to work. You’ll want to understand the traffic patterns to and from your job and figure out if you’re going to be sitting in traffic for several hours a day. Researching the local mass transit system is also important, as you may want a neighborhood that gives you the option to not have to drive to work.

Profiling the perfect neighborhood also involves scoping out the neighbors themselves. Are there a lot of kids on the block? Are there neighborhood events? Do you see a lot of fences and “Keep Out” signs? It’s never a bad idea to take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to some of the people you see and ask about the neighborhood before putting in an offer.

Don’t forget to map out stores and restaurants in the area as well. You may be used to a five-minute drive to the local grocery store, only to find out that the home you are interested in is 25 minutes away from the nearest place to buy milk. And if you like to walk to stores and shops, make sure to tell your agent that you want a place where this is possible.

You also want to find out if your potential new home is part of a neighborhood association and if your community has lawn or construction restrictions and if there’s a yearly fee involved. The last thing you want is to find out that you can’t put those holiday decorations up because of a strict town ordinance.

Also consider warning signs that the neighborhood could be in trouble. If you see abandoned buildings, vandalism or a lot of “For Sale” signs, it could be a sign that the community is heading in the wrong direction.

A perfect home isn’t always in the perfect neighborhood and you’ll want to make sure that both meet your expectations.