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In this Edition: Chimney Inspection

August 5, 2016 9:16 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of understanding your credit score and how it can affect the home-buying process. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to keep in mind as you search for the perfect starter home and the best way to use paint to help your home stand out from the competition. 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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More Urban Homeowners Are Buzzing over Beekeeping

August 5, 2016 1:49 am


Do you know that of the 100 crop species providing 90 percent of the world's food, over 70 are pollinated by bees?

Without a ready force of beekeepers to protect and sustain hives, the world's environmental balance threatens to teeter. The good news is, communities are permitting more property owners—particularly in dense urban settings—to establish and keep bee hives.

John Caldeira, an expert in urban beekeeping from Dallas, Texas, recently blogged (OutdoorPlace.org) about the growing corps of urban and suburban beekeepers establishing hives in backyards and on rooftops. According to Caldeira, urban beekeepers have the added challenge of ensuring their bees do not become a nuisance to neighbors.

Caldeira says relatively few communities in the U.S. outlaw beekeeping, but most do have nuisance laws that are intended to outlaw activities most people would find objectionable. Other communities have laws that put practical constraints on beekeeping, such as a limit on the numbers of hives on one property. Prospective beekeepers should always learn local legal restrictions before keeping bees, Caldeira says. 

Third-generation beekeeper Zan Asha published a feature in Grit urging aspiring beekeepers to research their new hobby—in the article, Asha says it's not uncommon for keepers to obtain bees without any idea how to care for them. Asha advises aspiring beekeepers to consult the massive selection of books, attend beekeeping classes or search YouTube for videos to learn about bee behavior, honey harvesting, and more.
 

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9 Smart Tips to Keep Your Home Spotless

August 5, 2016 1:49 am


Nobody likes to spend hours cleaning house—and sometimes, there are few hours to spare. How is it some seem to have a knack for keeping their homes looking spotless in no time at all?

Country Living magazine recently polled home bloggers to come up with nine tricks:

Take Your Shoes Off – Shoes carry dirt and germs. Mandate the family remove them when coming in the door—and put up a sign in the entryway asking visitors to do the same.

Make the Bed – Even if the bedrooms are not picture-perfect, a neat bed pulls together the room.

Squeegee the Shower Every Time – Squeegeeing only takes about 20 seconds, and it keeps the glass clean and shining.

Clean the Bathroom Sink – Quickly swipe the sink with a wipe to keep it sparkling. Keep the wipes handy under the sink.

Wipe Down Kitchen Counters – Use a homemade solution of one part vinegar with three parts water to keep counters clean.

Clean Up as You Go – Wash the pots and put away ingredients as you finish while you cook—the goal is to have nothing to do after dinner but put plates in the dishwasher.

Do a Five-Minute Cleanup Before Bed – Five minutes before bedtime, put everything back in its place—pick up the dog's toys, hang up jackets and put away the mail, for instance.

Put Your Clothes Away – Every master bedroom has one chair that starts off empty on Monday and ends up covered with clothes by Friday. Before you go to bed, put them away.

Open a Door or Window – Letting in fresh air helps keep your home feeling fresh.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do You Live in One of America's Most 'Handi-Able' Communities?

August 5, 2016 1:49 am


People with disabilities have distinct considerations to make when searching for housing in a new city, including accessibility of facilities and quality of healthcare.

WalletHub.com recently analyzed 150 of the most populated cities in the country to determine the most "handi-able" locations, or those best suited for people with disabilities. Key indicators were measured in the analysis, such as number of physicians per capita and rate of employed people with disabilities.

According to the analysis, the 10 best cities for people with disabilities are:

1. Overland Park, Kan.
2. Scottsdale, Ariz.
3. Peoria, Ariz.
4. Tampa, Fla.
5. St. Petersburg, Fla.
6. Huntington Beach, Calif.
7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
8. Gilbert, Ariz.
9. Honolulu, Hawaii
10. Santa Clarita, Calif.

Stats emerging from the analysis include:

​• The percentage of the population with disabilities living below poverty level in Cleveland is five times as high as in Overland Park, Kan.

• The employment rate of people with disabilities in Amarillo, Texas is twice as high as in Pembroke Pines, Fla.

• The cost of a doctor visit in Milwaukee is three times as high as in Jacksonville, Fla.

• The annual cost of in-home services in San Francisco is twice as high as in Brownsville, Texas.

• The percentage of persons with disabilities living in Cleveland is four times as high as in Irvine, Calif.

• The percentage of the population with walkable park access in San Francisco is four times as high as in Charlotte, N.C.

For more statistics from this analysis and others, visit WalletHub.com.
 

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Study: Credit Card Spend Rises Before Mortgage Closing

August 4, 2016 1:49 am


Altering credit habits in the time leading up to the closing of a mortgage can affect the outcome of the loan. Despite this, many mortgage borrowers—movers and refinancers—charge more to their credit cards before a loan closes, found a study by TransUnion, one of the three credit reporting bureaus.

“A long-held assumption among lenders is that new mortgage applicants spend less on their credit cards prior to their mortgage closing event—either to ensure their credit picture does not change or simply because they anticipate spending more once they move into their new home,” said Charlie Wise, co-author of the study and vice president of TransUnion’s Innovative Solutions Group, in a statement. “Our research indicates that millions of consumers actually increase their card spending in the months before the new mortgage origination. Whether it’s to purchase furnishings or make updates to their existing property, many consumers who move increase their spending before moving into their new residence.”

Results of the study show borrowers charge two to three times more to their credit cards in the months prior to the mortgage closing.

“Card spending increases are even greater for mortgage borrowers who refinance,” Wise continued. “These consumers may be anticipating lower mortgage payments, and take advantage of the greater available cash flow by increasing card spending in the months before their refinancing.”

The study analyzed the behaviors of more than 16 million prime or better-risk borrowers over two years.

Source: TransUnion
 

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Summer Boredom Setting In? 5 Ideas for Stay-at-Home Kids

August 4, 2016 1:49 am


Nothing strikes dread into a mother’s heart like kids home for the summer wailing, “We have nothing to do!”

Busy moms can keep little ones occupied with some shrewd pre-planning. WorkAtHomeMoms.com, an online resource for mothers on a schedule, suggests stockpiling a grab bag full of books, coloring books, puzzles and other inexpensive toys to draw from when boredom sets in.

The website also offers five ideas for keeping stay-at-home kids in the 6-12 age range involved:

Create a Comic – Provide materials for a comic book: paper, markers, colored pencils and a stapler. Ask each child to dream up an original comic book character—a bratty kid, a superhero, or a favorite animal—and star him or her in a homemade comic book.

Have Some Retro Fun – Teach your children a few of the old-fashioned games you played when you were a kid: jacks, hopscotch, marbles, jump rope or lawn croquet. You can even plan an Olympics-type competition, moving from one to the next.

Let ‘Em Make Lunch – Divide lunchtime chores according to age. Children can make simple sandwiches and no-bake cookies and pack them into a picnic basket, along with plates, napkins and plastic forks. At lunchtime, the whole family can picnic in the backyard or at a local park.

Plan a Game Day Marathon – Start with age-appropriate puzzles, followed by a series of card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and Old Maid. Finish with a favorite board game or two. Keep track of the time, and the child or team who finishes first gets to choose what’s for dinner.

Put on a Show – Discuss ideas in advance—perhaps a fairy tale—then let the children do it all: write the script, put together the costumes and stage set, and rehearse and act out the parts. Parents become the audience (friends and neighbors optional!), with dessert for all after the show.

For more ideas for summer and beyond, visit WorkAtHomeMoms.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Swim Season: 5 Tips to 'Pool Safely'

August 4, 2016 1:49 am


Pools, though a pastime at home, present a danger to children with limited swimming abilities.

Though the number of fatal child pool drownings has dropped significantly in the years since the inception of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign (PoolSafely.gov), parents and caregivers must continue to remain vigilant when children are in or near a pool at home.

To do so, the CPSC recommends:

• Learning how to swim, and teaching your child how to swim;

• Learning CPR, for both children and adults;

• Installing a four-sided fence around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate;

• Installing federally-compliant drain covers; and

• Assigning supervisory duties to a “Water Watcher,” or a person who will remain alert and on guard while children are swimming.

For more pool safety tips, visit PoolSafely.gov.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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20 Must-See International Destinations

August 3, 2016 1:49 am


After the recession left many without the means to take a trip, a lot of us have found the wherewithal to travel again—and most of us are turning our eyes to must-see destinations abroad, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders Group.

“Overall, we can confidently say that the demand for leisure travel is still very strong,” said Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, in a statement. “Our survey also revealed that more than nine out of 10 will take the same number, or more, leisure trips in 2016.”

Travel Leaders Group ranked the top 20 international destinations, based on ratings by those surveyed. These must-see stops are:

1. Venice, Italy
2. Florence, Italy
3. Rome, Italy
4. London, England
5. Dublin, Ireland
6. Paris, France
7. Europe (River Cruise)
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Europe (Mediterranean Cruise)
10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11. Caribbean (Cruise)
12. Europe (Baltic Cruise)
13. Aruba
14. Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico
15. Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya, Mexico
16. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
17. Montego Bay, Jamaica
18. Cancun, Mexico
19. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
20. Mexico (Cruise)

Source: Travel Leaders Group
 

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Credit-Confused? What to Know About Your Score

August 3, 2016 1:49 am

 
Credit-confused? You’re not alone. Most of us have trouble understanding the impact some actions may have on our credit scores, though many of us do know the basics.

Just half of those surveyed recently by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions know that their lender must inform them about the lender’s use of a credit score in the mortgage application process, for instance, and less than half of those surveyed wrongly believe that marital status is a factor in the calculation of credit scores.

Many of us also underestimate the consequences of a low credit score, the survey found: only one-fifth of those surveyed know a low score can increase the cost of a loan.

Some of us are even in the dark when it comes to non-creditor use of our credit scores. Half of those surveyed did not know that utility companies may factor scores into the decision on the initial deposit for service, and one-third did not know that home insurance providers and landlords might also factor scores into their decisions.

“The good news is that consumers understand the basics of credit scores, such as the importance of making loan payments on time,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director, in a statement. “The bad news is that this knowledge is limited and, each year, can cost them hundreds of dollars in fees on services and additional interest on consumer loans.”

In addition to making loan payments consistently and on time, checking credit report(s), keeping credit card balances low and refraining from opening new credit accounts are all credit-wise actions, according to CFA.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

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Survey: Owners, Renters Say Housing Solid

August 3, 2016 1:49 am


Homeowners and renters feel positive about homeownership, expressing confidence in a market that has made encouraging strides so far this year.

The majority of households, according to the recently released SCE Housing Survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, perceive housing as a “good financial investment.” Of the renters surveyed, approximately three-quarters (74.1 percent) would rather own than rent, and close to one-fifth (17.5 percent) believe obtaining a mortgage would be “easy.” Both renters and homeowners perceive mortgage rates lower than they did last year, at an average 4.7 percent.

Most homeowners and renters surveyed expect home prices to rise in the next year, but to a declining degree: 3.3 percent. Rent raises are expected to remain steady during that same period.

Of the homeowners surveyed, the probability that they’ll purchase a home within the next three years rose to 63 percent; the probability that the renters surveyed will purchase a home grew to nearly 50 percent.

If you are a homeowner planning to purchase a new home, or a renter planning to purchase a home for the first time, contact a real estate professional for more information.

Source: New York Federal Reserve
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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