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Homeowners Have Spoken: "We Love Yard Work!"

June 7, 2016 1:16 am

Yard work may be time-consuming, but for many homeowners, it’s time well spent.

That’s according to recently released research by Troy-Bilt®, which reports nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of homeowners “look forward” to working in their yards. The research finds over half of homeowners spend at least three hours each week working on their yards, with some devoting six hours or more to preparing their yards for entertaining.

Troy-Bilt’s research also reveals a pattern: most homeowners follow a routine that includes mowing, cleanup and weeding—and most do it all on their own.

“Homeowners are willing to work continuously on their lawns and gardens because they care greatly about the overall look of their outdoor spaces,” said Megan Peth, Troy-Bilt brand marketing director, in a release. “That may mean taking extra time to stripe the lawn, till a garden or edge along walkways, but they are committed to doing whatever it takes to make their yards into something they can be proud of.”

For homeowners eager to tend to their yard, Peth and Troy-Bilt share the following tips:

• When possible, water the lawn before sunrise or after sunset to minimize evaporation.
• If edging the lawn, do it early or late in the day, when soil is damp.
• When mowing the lawn, cut no more than one-third off the grass blades—any more may cause damage.
• To keep weeds at bay, apply nitrogen-rich compost to the soil in your garden.

Source: Troy-Bilt®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Greet Guests from Work—or Paris—with Your Front Door!

June 7, 2016 1:16 am

It’s hard to believe our front doors could hold so much potential for technology—but automated door locks, cameras, facial recognition, intercom stations, lighting, motorized shades, peepholes and smart doorbells are all making the front door a new entry point in the smart home.

CEPro.com, a leading trade source for the custom electronics industry, recently unveiled their annual list of High Tech trends for the home—front door technology included.

According to CEPro.com, one innovation set to hit the big time is the smart doorbell—a fixture that’s barely seen a makeover since it was invented over 100 years ago!

The residential “access control” system didn’t enter the mainstream until recently, when SkyBell and Ring (originally Doorbot) launched smart doorbells with video cameras, two-way voice and apps, installed without the need for a professional. Since then, many other companies have entered the DIY doorbell fray, including August (of door lock fame), Yale (e.g., the Digital Door Viewer peephole cam with ZigBee and Z-Wave), Chui, DoorBird and Chamberlain.

Professionally-installed products are next to make waves. Case in point: the recently-rolled out Vivint Doorbell Camera has sold over 100,000 units in its first five months on market, according to CEPro.com, making it the company’s best-selling product ever.

This front door technology goes hand-in-hand with automated door locks—another category of growing popularity, CEPro.com reports. Airbnb recently launched Host Assist, a cloud service for managing digital key exchange and keyless entry through the company’s booking platform. Host Assist works cloud-to-cloud with network-connected door locks from August, Danalock, Igloohome, Kevo, Keycafe, Lockstate, Miwa, Nest, and Yale Locks.

Check out more of CEPro’s trend list at www.cepro.com/article/top_5_home_technology_trends_to_watch_closely_in_2016.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Security Sales Scams on the Rise

June 7, 2016 1:16 am

Scammers have found yet another area in which to con homeowners: home security.

Home security sales shams are on the rise, according to Better Business Bureau (BBB), with the majority of recent incidents concentrated in Utah.

The scam involves a “salesperson” knocking on doors, informing homeowners that their security system is being “upgraded” or that the security company is “going out of business,” and then threatening homeowners with discontinued service if they do not comply with their demands.

Many of these salespeople, BBB reports, claim to be from ADT, one of the nation’s widely used home security companies.

“[Last year], about 600,000 consumers nationwide turned to BBB to look up information about home security companies,” said Jane Driggs, president and CEO of BBB Utah, in a statement. “While we love it when they come to us for the research, they also come to us to complain—and what they complain about, far too often, is that the salesperson who knocked on their door was not honest about what they were selling. Consumers feel pressured into signing before they understand that they are switching companies and increasing their costs.”

Knowledge is your best defense. To learn how to spot a home security scam, as well as best buying practices, visit BBB.org/HomeSecurity.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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National Rose Month: 5 Tips for Your Rose Garden

June 6, 2016 1:13 am

June is National Rose Month—the ideal time to plant a rose bush in your garden at home.

Rose bushes are not as challenging to cultivate as some have been led to believe. In fact, according to the “Redneck Rosarian” Chris VanCleave, caring for roses is very much like caring for any other plant.

“All plants need the right growing conditions to thrive, and roses are no different,” VanCleave says. “If you provide the right conditions and the right care, rose bushes will thrive in virtually any garden.”

VanCleave and the experts at Weeks Roses recommend:

Choosing a variety ideal for your garden – Avoid purchasing a rose bush based solely on its flowers. Consider other factors, like bloom time and disease resistance, before committing to a species.

Surveying the location before planting – Like any other plant, roses will not thrive if the location is less than ideal. Areas in your garden that receive six to eight hours of sunlight are best.

Pruning – Depending on the variety you purchase, your rose bush may or may not be a
“repeat bloomer”—that is, a plant that flowers throughout the growing season. If the bush is a repeat bloomer, prune it each time it flowers.

Watering wisely – Roses—and other plants, as well—can die from either too much or too little water. Generally, roses need to be watered once a week (twice at most), deeply so that the water reaches the roots.

Fertilizing sparingly – Over-fertilizing can be harmful to your roses. Use a combination of fertilizer and compost to avoid damaging the plant.

Visit WeeksRoses.com or your local garden center to view the rose varieties available now.

Source: Weeks Roses

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Household Products Wasting Your Money

June 6, 2016 1:13 am

Household products account for a portion of almost everyone’s shopping list. You can save money by making smart choices about the products and services you buy, says consumer editor Nikelle Murphy of CheatSheet.com—in fact, there are at least five common household products you can strike from your list:

1. Air Fresheners – Air fresheners are a multibillion-dollar industry. If you’re concerned about pet, cooking or other household odors, leave a bowl or two of baking soda on the counter, or sprinkle it into smelly shoes or on your carpet. Leave it in the bowls overnight, or vacuum it up after letting it sit for a while. The sodium bicarbonate in baking soda reacts with acidic odors and absorbs them.

2. Extended Warranties – Most manufacturers provide a warranty that covers any short-term issues you may encounter with their products—and retailers who sell extended warranties keep at least half of the proceeds. Except for a car, or perhaps a laptop, most extended warranties are a waste of money.

3. K-Cups and Coffee Pods – Coffee pods and K-Cups may be convenient when you want only one cup of coffee, but using them regularly will cost you five times more than one bag of home-brewable Starbucks coffee. They are also non-biodegradable, making them a poorer choice for the planet.

4. Paper Towels – Not only are paper towels harmful to the environment, but they are also far more costly than using rags or washcloths to clean up messes. Tear up fraying towels or an old jersey sheet and keep the rags handy. Toss them in the wash with the rest of the whites and save yourself a lot of cash.

5. Robotic Vacuum Cleaners – Robotic vacuum cleaners don’t save the cost of a regular vac, simply because they don’t do stairs, they lack the power of a traditional vac for heavy-duty cleaning, and they don’t navigate well around clutter. To boot, they’re expensive—between $300 and $900—and they require maintenance.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Investors: The Top Markets for Flips

June 6, 2016 1:13 am

2016: the year of the flip?

Sales of flipped single-family homes and condominiums shot up 20 percent from the quarter prior in the first quarter of this year, reaching the highest rate since the beginning of 2014 and grossing, on average, a profit of $58,250, according to a recently released RealtyTrac® report.

Markets that saw the highest share of flip activity in the first quarter, per the report, include:

• Memphis, Tenn.
• Clarksville, Tenn.
• Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla.
• Fresno, Calif.
• Visalia-Porterville, Calif.
• Tampa, Fla.
• Las Vegas, Nev.
• Virginia Beach, Va.
• Miami, Fla.
• Jacksonville, Fla.

Markets that saw the highest average gross profit in the first quarter, per the report, include:
 
• East Stroudsburg, Pa.
• Reading, Pa.
• Pittsburgh, Pa.
• Flint, Mich.
• New Haven, Conn.
• Philadelphia, Pa.
• New Orleans, La.
• Cincinnati, Ohio
• Buffalo, N.Y.
• Cleveland, Ohio
• Jacksonville, Fla.
• Baltimore, Md.

A flip is defined in the report as “a property that is sold in an arms-length sale for the second time within a 12-month period based on publicly recorded sales deed data collected by RealtyTrac in more than 950 counties accounting for more than 80 percent of U.S. population.” The average gross profit, as defined in the report, is “the difference between the purchase price and the flipped price (not including rehab costs and other expenses incurred, which flipping veterans estimate typically run between 20 percent and 33 percent of the property’s after repair value).”

Source: RealtyTrac®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Blow Your Wedding Budget! 3 Tips to Save

June 3, 2016 1:04 am

$27,000.

That’s the cost of the average wedding—and for many couples, that’s over budget. The overspending, however, isn’t due to a lack of restraint. Some wedding expenses may be unfairly inflated, according to a recent investigation by Consumer Reports.

Using secret shoppers, the consumer watchdog discovered vendors in a sampling of states, such as caterers, florists, limousine services and photographers, quoted higher prices for a wedding than for an anniversary party in over 25 percent of cases. One instance uncovered a $7-per-person cake-cutting fee!

“If you’re planning a wedding, you need to be aware that you may be paying a premium for products and services in some cases,” says Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports. “You may not think to bargain, but you should. While our findings aren’t enough to indict an entire industry, they’re a warning to wedding shoppers to read fine print, ask smart questions and negotiate before signing anything."

Stanger and Consumer Reports advise couples:

Get Married in the Off-Season – Weddings held in January and February tend to be the least costly. The same goes for off-days and off-times: weddings on Fridays and Sundays, and those scheduled prior to dinnertime, will likely be less expensive.

Compare Meal Prices – Thirty-five percent of those surveyed recently by Consumer Reports opted for a cheaper menu at their event. Bear in mind a buffet, while seemingly a bargain, may be more expensive than a sit-down dinner.

Reduce Booze Costs – Forgo premium alcoholic beverages in favor of house drinks, or, if possible, supply your own alcohol and hire a licensed bartender to serve it. You’ll be able to recoup what you don’t use!

Cutting back in these areas can help you keep your budget on track —and avoid incurring debt on your big day.

For more money-saving tips, visit ConsumerReports.org.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Expo: Hot Products for Outdoor Living

June 3, 2016 1:04 am

Kitchens outdoors, fires indoors.

That’s the takeaway from the HPBExpo, the largest outdoor living showcase in North America, hosted by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) earlier this year.

For many household manufacturers, the Expo is an opportunity to unveil some of the industry’s latest innovations in heat-producing appliances for indoor and outdoor kitchens and on patios and decks.

The talk of the Expo this year? Hestan Outdoor grills and Dimplex electric products, both of which received numerous accolades at the event.

Anaheim, Calif.-based Hestan Outdoor captured two Vesta awards, given in the Gas Barbecue category and in the Outdoor Room Products category. The company’s high-performance grill features an easy-open hood, interior hood lighting, built-in rotisserie with spit storage and lasered, stainless steel grates.

Three-time winner Dimplex took home a Vesta, as well, for Best Electric Product. The company’s Opti-myst® Pro 1000, a cassette-style, linear electric fireplace with 360-degree viewing capabilities, can serve as a dividing wall between a bedroom and bathroom.

Expect these two innovations to crop up in new builds in the year to come, as well as in a home improvement store near you in the future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Still Below 4 Percent

June 3, 2016 1:04 am

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has ticked upward to 3.66 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®)—a sub-4-percent rate close to a three-year low point.

“Since jumping 11 basis points on May 18, the 10-year Treasury yield has leveled off around 1.85 percent,” explained Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, in a statement. “Mortgage rates continue to adjust to this new level with the 30-year fixed-rate inching up another 2 basis points this week to 3.66 percent.”

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has an average 0.5 point, survey findings show. The 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.92 percent (with an average 0.5 point), and the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.88 percent (with an average 0.5 point).

“Recent statements by the Fed appear to have persuaded the market that a rate hike may come sooner than later,” continued Becketti. “However, the market is fickle, and [last] Friday’s employment report has the potential to swing opinion 180 degrees in the other direction.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Freelance Jobs That Pay Well

June 2, 2016 1:04 am

Freelancing has become a viable option in today’s high-cost business world, as more working people and stay-at-home parents supplement income with contract jobs. While many freelancers don’t make large sums of money – the average for professionals is between $25,000 and $75,000 – it can be enough to support a family on the high end, and allow for extras even on the low end. 
 
However, there are freelance positions that pay well - especially if you capitalize on your previous experience and training, say the editors at Kiplinger Magazine. It will take some salesmanship, and it may not be easy to find your first few gigs. The best paying freelance jobs are available in these fields, according to Kiplinger: 
 
Legal Work – If you are trained as a lawyer or paralegal, look into freelancing. Patent lawyers can demand $112 per hour, intellectual property lawyers up to $120 an hour, and even run-of-the-mill legal consulting pays about $70 an hour.
 
Marketing – If you have a marketing background, you can earn an average of $50 an hour creating brand strategies, utilizing social media and bolstering customer relationships. Find a company or career professional who likes what you do, and you could have a long-term, flexible job.
 
Photography – The competition is stiff, but if you have talent and build a portfolio that showcases your work, you can earn $2,000 or more to photograph a wedding or special event, and $100 an hour (or more) for portrait photography.
 
Programming – Computer programming can be done from anywhere. If you know how to program, and have experience and a portfolio, you can make about $60 an hour freelancing.
 
Recruiting – Use your human resources know-how to find strategic employees for big companies, many of which prefer to outsource the search. A good recruiter working part-time can earn as much as $46 an hour.
 
Translation – If you know two or more languages, there are translation gigs for you! Translating to and from Korean pays well, as does Spanish-English translation, but there are opportunities for almost every language combination. You can make between $25 to $40 an hour, depending on the task.
 
Writing – Good professional writers are in demand by many companies and publications. Find a specialty in a field you know and you can earn an average of $55 an hour.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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