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A "Luxury" Laundry Room? It Can Be Done!

May 18, 2016 12:55 am

(Family Features)—“Luxury” and “laundry room” are two terms rarely found in the same sentence—until now. Laundry rooms are goin’ glam! Get in on the lackluster-to-luxe trend with these tips, fresh from the pros:

Luxe laundry rooms take location into account, so take time to assess your existing space. Could laundry be completed more efficiently if the room were elsewhere? Consider moving the washer and dryer to a walk-in closet, ideally in proximity to the bedrooms, to lend an upscale touch.

Sleek, top-of-the-line appliances scream “luxury,” but today’s models are much more affordable than predecessors. Seek out machines that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also high-functioning and high-powered, to achieve the luxe look for less.

Set a high-end tone with structure. Spring for durable concrete or quartz countertops atop a wash station, and install a reflective or stone backsplash—both coveted finishes—to reinforce the look.

Brighten up the space—and introduce an unexpected touch of luxury—with an elegant lighting fixture, such as a centerpiece chandelier or coordinating wall sconces.

Incorporate on-trend patterns, like chevron or ombré, in accessories—think curtains or baskets. Go for inexpensive fabrics and finishes that mimic the higher-end look, so that they can be updated effortlessly as fads come and go.

Source: Electrolux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Senior Safety: 3 Tips to Avoid "Grandparent" Scams

May 17, 2016 12:55 am

Swindlers hoping to make off with someone else’s money often target unwitting seniors in “grandparent” scams. These schemes, according to the American Bankers Association (ABA), victimize thousands of seniors—and their loved ones—each year.

The scenario, the ABA says, starts with the senior receiving a phone call from a purported family member in what appear to be dire circumstances. The pseudo-family member requests that money be sent immediately, often through wire transfer, to rectify the situation.

To avoid falling prey to these tricks, the ABA advises:

Refusing to provide personal information – In general, it is wise not to relay any personal information over the phone. If you suspect a scam, take care not to offer up any indentifying or financial information.

Proceeding with caution – Scammers use sophisticated means, including social media, to obtain personal information about a target’s family or friends. Take precautionary measures, including confirming the call with another family member and/or requesting to call the scammer back, before agreeing to any action.

Asking several questions – The more questions you ask, the less likely a trickster will see the scheme through. Don’t hesitate to ask questions—doing so can even derail the con completely.

Listening to your gut – Let your instincts guide you. If something feels amiss, say no and hang up the phone immediately. Avoid rushing into a decision at all costs.

“Fraudsters have no problem preying on your goodwill to get inside your wallet,” says Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “They’re using social media and Internet searches to fabricate convincing stories, so be careful, trust your gut and do your best to confirm who you’re dealing with before sending any money.”

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Valuable Is a New Front Door?

May 17, 2016 12:55 am

Some home improvement projects are bankable for the seller—some, unfortunately, are a bust.

A new front door, according to ContractorQuotes.us, is one of the projects that can yield a high return on investment. A steel door, specifically, costs an average of $1,230 to install, but may increase the home’s value by $1,252—a 101.8 percent return.

A fiberglass door, too, may boost a home’s value, by over $2,000 ($2,107, to be exact), while costing an average of $2,926—a 72 percent recoup for the seller.

If you’re planning to replace your front door, keep in mind that some doors require maintenance. Be sure to clarify these requirements before purchasing, ContractorQuotes.us advises.

Remember, also, that the least expensive product is not necessarily worth the savings. The front door is likely the first feature buyers will notice when visiting the home.

It may be tempting to select a style you like personally, but, ContractorQuotes.us suggests choosing a style that is reflective of the exterior of the home. Will it complement the style of the rest of the house?

High-tech security features are also worth considering. A recent report by CEPro.com includes front door technology among its top trends for the home, with the doors themselves holding much promise for integrated home technology.

We'll circle back on this trendy front door tech in a future report.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Cleaning: How Often Is Enough?

May 17, 2016 12:55 am

Spring cleaning, for many, is as habitual—and as universally a pain!—as facing those annual income tax returns. We do it, grudgingly, and are rewarded by the clean, uncluttered space we come home to.

What about cleaning the rest of the year? How often is enough?

Turns out, our homes harbor more bacteria than many a public trash can, the Miami Herald reports.

Just how often do we need to clean—and what?

Refrigerators have much more bacteria in them than most realize. Experts say salad drawers alone contain 750 times what’s considered a “safe” level of bacteria. Make cleaning it a priority!

The microwave may kill bacteria, but heating days-old leftovers can be risky if the walls aren’t splash-free. Once each week, mix half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water in a heat-safe dish. Microwave on high until the window steams up, then wipe down the interior with a clean cloth or sponge.

Toilets get the bad rap, but a recent study found more infection-causing bacteria in bathtubs. Clean it—along with the toilet—once every week.

Researchers have also found that washing your towel after only three uses removes millions of dead skin cells. Stick to this guideline to ensure cleanliness.

Your bed linens, on the other hand, don’t get as dirty as you think. If you shower in the morning or sleep in the buff, however, make it a point to wash them every one to two weeks.

Mattress and pillow protectors do shield the bed and pillows from dust and grime, but they should still be washed (or even replaced) periodically—every three months is the general rule of thumb.

Don’t neglect your home’s air quality, either. Research shows it can be up to 10 times worse than that of the air outdoors. Have carpets professionally steam-cleaned at least once year, or more often if you own a pet.

Overall, remember: just because you don’t see dirt doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Consistent upkeep throughout the year will keep your home tidy and bacteria at bay.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Study: Home Loan Shopping Takes Backseat to Car Buying

May 16, 2016 12:49 am

House hunters spend a lot of time researching homes—but not many spend time researching home loans.

Recent Zillow survey findings show Americans spend an average of eight hours researching loans, including refinancing, attaining an average of four quotes, versus the average 26 hours spent researching homes themselves.

At nine hours, millennials—likely first-time homebuyers—spend the most time researching loans; baby boomers spend eight hours, and those in Generation X spend seven, according to survey results.

Millennials are more likely to compare mortgage rates than older generations: 85 percent of those included in the survey shopped around for a loan, compared to 75 percent of Generation X shoppers and 55 percent of boomers. They are also more likely to seek out more quotes from lenders—six, on average.

The survey also finds boomers spend the most time researching a home (32 hours) and spend the most time researching major and minor home improvement projects (nine hours and five hours, respectively).

Comparatively, when it comes to researching a car purchase, millennial and Generation X shoppers spend an average of 11 hours, and boomers spend an average of 12 hours—all told, an average three hours less than the average time spent researching a home loan.

For homebuyers and refinancers, it’s important to keep in mind that you may work with the lender of your choosing, though your real estate professional may offer recommendations.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home on the Market? Tips for a Landscape That Sells

May 16, 2016 12:49 am

Beautifully-appointed outdoor spaces are not just a perk for today’s homebuyers—they’re expected. Landscaping, in particular, can make all the difference in selling price, according to the Appraisal Institute.

Citing two studies, the Institute shares these findings:

• Manicured landscaping can raise a home’s value by as much as 11 percent. (Michigan State University)

• Eighty-five percent of Americans believe landscaping affects the decision to buy a home. (National Association of Landscape Professionals)

While the quality of the lawn is an important consideration, the Institute recommends sellers also give due to flower beds and porches, with an eye for what’s most popular in the neighborhood.

Consider incorporating landscaping that spares the new owner money or time, such as trees or native plantings—features that could potentially increase perceived value, the Institute says. Trees indirectly reduce energy consumption, and native plantings do not require the same scope of care as other species.

Lighting is also important, the Institute advises, because it can enhance a home’s appearance (thereby, perceived value), as well as heighten the safety of the home.

“Just as job seekers shouldn’t show up improperly attired for a job interview, sellers need to ensure their property is as attractive from the outside as possible,” says Appraisal Institute President Scott Robinson. “First impressions matter.”

Source: The Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates This Year Dive to Lowest Point Yet

May 16, 2016 12:49 am

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) has plummeted to its lowest point yet this year, according to Freddie Mac’s most recent report, reaching a three-year low overall at an average of 3.57 percent, with an average 0.5 point.

“Disappointing April employment data once again kept a lid on Treasury yields, which have struggled to stay above 1.8 percent since late March,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti explains. “As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate fell four basis points to 3.57 percent, a new low for 2016 and the lowest mark in three years. Prospective homebuyers will continue to take advantage of a falling rate environment that has seen mortgage rates drop in 14 of the previous 19 weeks.”

The 15-year FRM has also moved down, to an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) has lowered, as well, to an average 2.78 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Foreclosures Provide Buyers Ample Opportunity in Today’s Competitive Market

May 13, 2016 9:13 pm

If you’re looking for a great deal and don’t mind the possibility of getting your own hands dirty in the process, you may want to consider purchasing a foreclosure.
 
A foreclosure occurs when a borrower defaults on their mortgage for an extended period of time. The lender then has the right and option to either foreclose the home or assume the rights of occupancy for the property, resulting in lenders being more open to letting the properties go cheaply. However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these homes need a lot of work, so the money you save on the sale price will most likely go into updating or repairing the space.
 
If this is something that interests you, let your agent know you’re interested in seeing recently foreclosed homes.
 
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering a foreclosure as your future home. 
 
Before It Happens. Many lenders publish a list of homes approaching foreclosure so prospective buyers and their agents can approach the owner before it actually happens. By going this route, you could save anywhere from 25 - 30 percent of market value. Since a foreclosure will ruin someone’s credit report, many sellers are open to a quick sale.
 
REO Sales. A real estate-owned sale occurs when the lender decides to sell a foreclosed property directly. While the savings aren’t as great, buyers are able to finance the purchase, a process that generally occurs in the same way a traditional home purchase would.
 
Expect the Worst. Lenders don’t want to add to their collection of homes, and they aren’t going to make significant investments in sprucing up the space, so be prepared to make a lot of upgrades and fixes once the home is yours. You may find that many things, including electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, need to be brought up to code to make the home livable.  
 
If you’re thinking of purchasing a foreclosure, be sure to keep an open mind. And do your homework to avoid jumping into a situation that may not be best for you.
 
To learn more about the opportunities foreclosures provide, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Ways to Make Your Older Home More Energy Efficient

May 13, 2016 9:13 pm

While older homes are full of charm, characteristics and nuances that won’t be found in a newly constructed home, the odds are good that unless there have been some major upgrades over the years, its energy efficiency rating will be nowhere near that of a new home.
 
Still, older homes appeal to many buyers, and it’s easier to incorporate eco-friendly elements into an older home than it is to add charm to a newly built home.
 
If you’re attempting to sell an older home, and want to attract the eco-minded buyer, there are numerous things you can do to make the house more energy efficient.
 
To start, hire someone to come in and conduct an energy audit, or check with your utility company to see if they’re offered for free. During the audit, a professional will analyze the home and recommend a set of measures to improve energy performance, alerting you to areas of the home that are most vulnerable to energy inefficiency.
 
One of the easiest things you can do to increase an older home’s energy efficiency is better insulate the space. Purchasing insulation won’t break the bank, and a novice handyman can most likely handle the job. If you’re interested in going this route, there are plenty of DIY videos on YouTube to help guide you through the process. Be sure to pay attention to attics, crawl spaces, basements, heating and cooling ducts and the area around water pipes, as these spaces are typically lacking when it comes to insulation.
 
It’s also a good idea to cover your water heater with an insulated water heater blanket so the heater retains more heat and consumes less energy to heat the water.
 
Windows are another important area that can’t be overlooked when it comes to making an older home more energy efficient. If installing energy-efficient windows is out of your budget, another alternative is to use interior window Low-E (low-emissivity) films. Energy films block 97 percent of UV rays and 70 percent of thermal infrared light. Not only will this keep heat from getting in during the summer months, it will do wonders when it comes to retaining warmth during the colder months.
 
Ceiling fans are another great alternative for older homes. During the summer months, fans should circulate in a counter-clockwise direction to push cool air down. During the colder winter months, fans should rotate in a clockwise direction to produce a gentle updraft, forcing warm air near the ceiling down into the occupied space.
 
As far as upgrading appliances, adding energy-efficient refrigerators, dishwashers or washers and dryers will ultimately make the home more attractive to prospective buyers, however, it’s up to you and your agent to decide if the money spent updating appliances will lead to a faster sale.
 
And last but not least, if your foundation has cracks or your windows have holes, these should be fixed by a contractor, as repairing these items will help save money on heating and air conditioning bills. If you want to handle the job yourself, seal any areas where you feel air infiltrating your home.
 
To learn more about incorporating energy-efficient features into your home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hardwood Floors Top Wish Lists When Searching for Dream Home

May 13, 2016 9:13 pm

From open floor plans to updated appliances in the kitchen and everything in between, prospective buyers are all over the board when it comes to what they’re looking for in a home. But hardwood floors are one feature that many prospective buyers have at the top of their wish list when searching for their dream home, something that sellers should take note of as they prepare their home for sale.
 
In fact, according to a survey by the National Wood Flooring Association, 82 percent of real estate professionals said that homes with hardwood floors sold faster—and often for more money.
 
Not only are hardwood floors ecologically friendly, many leading health associations agree that they’re the perfect choice for those looking for a healthy home because they don’t collect dust and other allergens. In addition, a recent EPA study found that pesticides used in gardens and homes accumulate on floors and other surfaces in the home, but wood floors greatly reduce the accumulation of such toxins. Hardwood floors don’t trap or harbor dust mites or molds either.
 
Homes with open floor plans stand to benefit from hardwood flooring because it creates the feeling of continuity homeowners are looking for, which will go a long way toward attracting house hunters.
 
Despite the existence of modern architectural trends in flooring, hardwood has come a long way over the years. With more colors, styles and species available than ever before, hardwood flooring can still compete with floor tiles and other artificial materials. 
 
Available in a variety of colors and grains; light, medium or dark shades; and a variety of sizes, styles, finishes and species, the options are endless. While maple, mahogany and oak are the most popular choices today, some homeowners are going the extra mile by investing in exotic species such as Brazilian Cherry and Purpleheart. It’s also important to remember that more traditional hardwood flooring is less expensive, and solid wood flooring can be refinished several times to increase its lifespan.
 
To maintain your hardwood floors, regularly sweep them with a soft-bristle broom or dust mop to remove surface dirt and debris. If your floor contains beveled edges, use a vacuum with a soft bristle brush attachment to remove dirt and debris from between the floorboards.
 
In the end, remember that when someone enters your home, they usually look down before they look up, so that first step is vital for making a great first impression.
 
To learn more about hardwood floors, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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