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3 Reasons to Remodel This Fall

August 18, 2016 2:46 am


Most house remodels occur in spring and summer, when the weather is unlikely to derail a project—but according to one expert, another season is just as ideal for remodels: fall.

Why fall? Dan Fritschen, product manager at RemodelOrMove.com and author of six books on home remodeling, lists three reasons:

1. The off-season means more contractors are available for hire. Remodels are less common in fall, making it the perfect time for homeowners to have their pick of professionals. Contractors are often more responsive in the off-season, and eager to give estimates for work that will keep them employed through fall and early winter.

2. Temperatures are ripe for remodeling convertible spaces. Finishing an attic or basement in spring or summer can be challenging due to a lack of climate control. Fall temperatures, on the other hand, are cool enough—but not too cold—to start (and finish!) a conversion project. According to Fritschen, an attic or basement conversion ranges from $25 to $100 per square foot.

3. The holidays are coming! Starting a remodel in fall will allow time to complete the project before the holidays—what better way to celebrate the season than with a newly remodeled home?

To enjoy these benefits, it is imperative to keep the project on schedule, Fritschen adds. RemodelOrMove.com offers a free remodeling planner that will not only customize the schedule, but automatically send information at pivotal points in the project.

Source: RemodelOrMove.com
 

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Has Federal Intervention Improved Home Appraisals?

August 18, 2016 2:46 am


Have home appraisals become more accurate in the years since the enactment of Dodd-Frank?

For homebuyers, an inaccurate home valuation can derail the opportunity to obtain a mortgage; for homeowners, it can spoil the chance to refinance.

The answer, according to an analysis by Bankrate.com, is murky.

Dodd-Frank was expected to result in more reliable appraisals, Appraisal Institute spokesman Ken Chitester told Bankrate—one provision, the elimination of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC), was aimed at clearing up confusion over who can present information to an appraiser and discouraging lenders from placing pressure on appraisers to value properties at a certain price.

The HVCC, however, had unintended consequences. According to Bankrate, many more appraisals were ordered through appraisal management companies (AMCs), which were dispatching appraisers to properties far afield from the neighborhoods they knew well. As a result, these appraisers were undervaluing homes, putting countless potential sales in jeopardy.

Under Dodd-Frank, REALTORS®, homebuyers and home sellers can consult with an appraiser—but this newfound permission requires some basic knowledge on the part of the consumer, Richard Koestner, partner at Iowa-based Koestner, McGivern & Associates, told Bankrate.

Koestner recommends homebuyers and home sellers ask:

• How long have you been an appraiser?
• How many appraisals have you completed?
• How often do you appraise homes in this area?
• How familiar are you with the local market?
• Where do you get the data that you use in your appraisal reports?

Asking these questions can help homebuyers and home sellers not only assess an appraisers’ qualifications, but also understand the home appraisal process.

For more on home appraisals, or to learn how much your home is worth, contact a real estate professional in your area.
 

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What Not to Pack for Your Next Vacation

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


Airlines have begun charging for checked bags, travel security measures have tightened… what’s a vacationer to do?

A carry-on bag is your best bet—but if you’re traveling for a week or more, packing just a carry-on may seem impossible. Turns out, you can travel light and still have everything you need for a vacation, says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. Here, his top picks for what not to pack:

A Third Pair of Shoes – For most trips, you can get away with a pair of sneakers and one pair of walking shoes nice enough to be worn to dinner. If you must have more, make the third pair lightweight flip-flops.

Banned Liquids – You know you can’t bring bottled water through security, but remember that shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, etc., must be in bottles no more than 3.4 ounces.

Excess Equipment – Blow dryers can be found at even the most modest motels, and forget electric curlers or straighteners— you won’t want to spend so much time on your hair, anyway!

Expensive Items – Valuables are a target for thieves, and bags or purses can easily be lost or rummaged through. If you must take an expensive item, wear it—and if you bring an electronic device, keep it on your person at all times.

More Clothes Than You Need – Make a wish list of outfits you want, then cut it in half. Know the weather in your destination, and be prepared to layer as needed.

Old-Style Entertainment – Free up space by leaving books, especially hard-covers, as well as radios and flashlights, at home.
 

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Share and Separate: Remodeling for Multigenerational Living

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


(BPT)—Multigenerational households are becoming more and more common, as extended family members move to live under one roof for cultural, financial or personal reasons.

While multigenerational living has its advantages, a lack of space can be a challenge. One of the best ways to remedy it is to remodel the home with separation in mind. Converting an existing space—such as a basement, garage or guest suite—into living space for one generation, or compartmentalizing, is ideal.

To compartmentalize effectively, each generational space must have, at minimum, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and living and sleeping areas. Make special consideration when it comes to installing plumbing in the kitchenette and bathroom—some spaces simply cannot accommodate in-ground or in-wall fixtures, and an above-floor, compact system may be necessary.

Setting up shared spaces is equally important when remodeling for multigenerational living. Consider the activities the whole family enjoys—Sunday brunch, crafts, or movie night, for example. Factor these into the remodeling plans, and ensure the areas that support these are accessible from the generational compartments.

The number of multigenerational households is expected to continue growing, as boomers enter their golden years and millennials strive to establish homes. Remodeling for both separation and shared spaces increases the functionality of the home, fostering what ultimately matters most: time with family.

Source: Saniflo
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Money-Saving Tips for Cost-Burdened Renters

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


Renters burdened with rocketing monthly housing costs are limited in their ability to save for emergencies, a down payment on a home, and retirement. It is possible, however, to control costs, even in the current rental market, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of the national non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

“As the cost of rent continues to increase, it’s becoming more difficult for many individuals and families to afford housing and other basic necessities,” said Trumble in a statement. “The good news is that there are tips and considerations that can help renters better manage rent-related costs and ease this major financial burden.”

These tips are to:

Set a rent budget—and stick to it. Keep to a realistic and reasonable rent budget, even if it means compromising with fewer amenities or a less-than-ideal location. Take time to tour a variety of rental listings before signing a lease.

Consider adding a roommate. If the lease and space allow, consider getting a roommate to offset the rent burden. Those savings can be allocated toward student loan debt or a down payment fund.

Cut back on spending. Rent is a fixed cost, but other expenses are not. Cut back on spending in areas like activities, clothing and entertainment, and use coupons as often as possible.

Look for ways to trim costs, too. A lot of renters are burdened by energy costs. Trim the expense by turning off air conditioning and lights in unused rooms, and turning off the faucet while brushing teeth.

Make a move. Rents are often less in areas outside of a city. Consider making a move to an outlying town—if it has access to public transportation, all the better. Call upon the assistance of a real estate professional to make the transition from renter to homeowner as smooth as possible.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
 

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EPA Rule Addresses Formaldehyde in Household Wood Products

August 16, 2016 12:46 am


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized a rule that extends protections over formaldehyde-laced wood products, such as cabinets, furniture and flooring. Exposure to formaldehyde, which is often used as an adhesive in household wood products, can be harmful to health.

The rule, established as directed by the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, mandates that composite wood products manufactured, imported, sold and/or supplied in the U.S. be labeled TSCA Title VI compliant. The rule applies to products such as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard.

The EPA cooperated with the California Air Resources Board to ensure the rule remained consistent with California requirements for composite wood products.

“We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely-used chemical found in homes and workplaces,” said Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement on the rule. “We have worked with the state of California as a partner to help ensure consistency in our requirements. The new rule will level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the California standard and will ensure that imported products not subject to California’s requirements will meet the new standard and, thus, not contain dangerous formaldehyde vapors.”

The rule exempts products made with no-added or ultra-low formaldehyde.

For more on formaldehyde in the home, visit www.epa.gov/formaledhyde.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
 

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5 Tips to Preserve the Water Quality in Your Home

August 16, 2016 12:46 am


Managing the water quality in your home is important, especially when it comes to mitigating water waste. Poor water quality, use and disposal can not only adversely impact your household, but also your community.

“One thing to keep in mind: just because it disappears, doesn’t mean it goes away,” explains Ted Puzio, owner of Southern Trust Home Services, a Virginia-based HVAC, plumbing and electrical service provider.

Puzio says improper disposal is one of the leading causes of compromised water quality. Sewer treatment plants do not eliminate 100 percent of the chemicals commonly disposed of by drain—detergents, lotions, pharmaceuticals and soaps, for instance. These toxins inevitably end up in the water supply.

To prevent contamination, consider using eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaners and personal care items instead of chemical-containing products, as well as properly disposing of hazardous chemicals at a dedicated site in your community.

Pet waste is another culprit of poor water quality, says Puzio. Be sure to remove pet waste as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from entering the water supply.

Overwatering your lawn can also be detrimental to water quality, Puzio says. Overwatering displaces chemical fertilizers down to the groundwater level, which is where most drinking water is derived from. Not sure if your lawn needs watering? Walk on it—if footprints remain, it’s time to water it.

Don’t neglect natural occurrences, either, Puzio adds. Storm runoff is a major contributor to water pollution. A rain barrel will not only lessen runoff and preserve the quality of your water, but will also reduce the amount of water your household consumes.

Source: Southern Trust Home Services
 

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How Many Working Hours Does It Take to Afford a Mortgage?

August 16, 2016 12:46 am


A mortgage is more affordable than rent in many markets—sometimes, in more ways than one.

A recent study from GOBankingRates.com tallies the cost of a mortgage not in dollars, but in working hours—the amount of time spent working needed to afford a mortgage.

“It’s one thing to know the amount of money you’re paying each month to cover your mortgage, but thinking of it in terms of working hours gives that expense a whole new meaning,” says Kristen Bonner, research lead on the study.

According to the study, the states with the least amount of working hours needed to afford a mortgage are:

1. Ohio (30.76 hours per month)
2. Michigan (32.44 hours)
3. Indiana (32.72 hours)
4. Iowa (33.81 hours)
5. Missouri (34.13 hours)
6. Kansas (34.16 hours)
7. Nebraska (36.04 hours)
8. Wisconsin (37.20 hours)
9. Pennsylvania (37.41 hours)
10. Minnesota (38.26 hours)

Notably, the study found that a low home price or low mortgage rate does not equate to fewer working hours needed to afford a mortgage.

Is paying a mortgage in your state more financially sensible than paying rent? Visit GOBankingRates.com/mortgage-rates/many-hours-americans-work-pay-mortgage-state/ or contact your local real estate professional for more insight.

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homework for Parents: A Back-to-School Health Checklist

August 15, 2016 12:40 am


Parents are stocking up on clothes, equipment and supplies ahead of the new school year—one item, however, may have slipped to the bottom of their to-do lists: their child(ren)’s health.

“For many, the focus is on back-to-school clothes and supplies, which is important,” says Dr. Jay Kaplan president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), “but it's equally, if not more, important to also take time to schedule routine doctor visits and to make sure your child's health information is organized.”

Parents still have time to get their child(ren)’s health in check, Kaplan says. According to ACEP, parents should:

• Schedule the child’s medical and dental check-ups before school starts. Consider vision and hearing tests, since impairment can adversely affect learning, and a sports check-up, if needed.

• Organize the child's medical history records and emergency medical contact information.

• Complete a consent-to-treat form* for the child and provide copies of it to the school nurse or day care provider.

• Coordinate with the child's physician and school nurse to develop action plans for issues such as asthma or food allergies.

• Review and practice with the child his or her route to school, explaining potential hazards along the way. Establish a safe, visible pick-up/drop-off area, preferably with a group of children.

• Post emergency contact numbers by every telephone in the home, and ensure the child knows where to locate them. Have the child practice how to call 911 and give his or her name and address, and a brief description of the issue.

• Develop a family emergency plan in case an incident occurs on the way to or from and while at school. Be aware of the emergency and evacuation plans for the child's school.

*To download a free form, visit www.emergencycareforyou.org/Be-Prepared/Organize-Your-Important-Medical-Information.

Source: American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP)

 

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Investing in Land? Don't Go at It Alone

August 15, 2016 12:40 am


(BPT)—Savvy investors know a diversified portfolio can protect against volatility in the market. Land ownership, especially forestland, can be one of the most advantageous investments during swings—but as with any other potential asset, it is important to begin with a few considerations.

According to Bird & Crawford Forestry (BirdandCrawford.com), some of these considerations include:

• When should you plant trees?
• How can you protect wildlife?
• How should you manage vegetation?
• Should you harvest any timber?

An expert forest consultant can assist in answering these questions—foresters offer broad-based knowledge about the characteristics of forestland and economics of timberland management, as well as sensitivity to the issues important to forestland owners. According to Bird & Crawford, forest consultants are experienced in management strategies, which include obtaining knowledge of the existing and/or potential natural resources on the property; developing plans for long-term upkeep, e.g., planting and/or harvesting schedules, conservation efforts, hunting lease management; and establishing goals for the property, e.g., protecting family assets.

A real estate professional specializing in forestland is also an important ally—he or she can assist in not only locating property, but also in determining the best investment course of action.

Hiring both of these professionals will not only widen the potential for profit in the near-term, but also help forge a lasting legacy for family in the future.

For more information on forestland investment, contact a real estate professional or visit BirdandCrawford.com.

Source: Bird & Crawford Forestry
 

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