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Current Economy Keeps Lid on Mortgage Rates

July 18, 2016 1:31 am


Mortgage rates, slow to react to Brexit, remain below 4 percent.

According to Bankrate.com’s weekly rate report, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 3.57 percent, with an average 0.23 discount and origination points. The 15-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 2.85 percent, with an average 0.20 discount and origination points. The 7-year adjustable mortgage rate is averaging 3.23 percent, and the 5-year adjustable mortgage rate is averaging 3.04 percent. The jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate is averaging 3.67 percent.

Borrowers obtaining a 30-year fixed mortgage at the current average rate can expect to pay $905.92 monthly. 

Close to three-quarters of mortgage experts surveyed by Bankrate.com expect rates to rise only marginally in the next week, due to the sluggish state of inflation, interest rates and economic growth globally.

Source: Bankrate.com
 

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The Smart Home Takes a Swim

July 15, 2016 1:28 am


Smart home automation’s dipping into pools.

Many poolside mechanisms, such as the heater, pump and timer, can now be automatically controlled with smart home technology, optimizing energy use and performance and potentially extending their lifespan—a benefit that can result in thousands in saved repair or replacement costs, which are often a burdensome expense for pool owners.

“New automation options eliminate the inconvenience of trips to pool or spa equipment to reset timer clocks and thermostats,” said Kyle H. Chaikin, president of the Northeast Spa & Pool Association (NESPA), in a statement. “Control the pool at poolside, from inside the house, on the golf course or halfway around the world with handy smartphone apps.”

According to the NESPA, pool owners can automate any or all of the following features:

• Chlorine Generator
• Cleaner
• Filtration System/Pump
• Fountain
• Heater
• Jacuzzi/Spa
• Lighting
• Timer
• Waterfall

Pool owners can take automation a step further by assigning control to their pool service provider, Chaikin added.

“Pool and spa automation fits perfectly into any busy lifestyle. You can monitor your pool and poolscape yourself, or you can turn it over to your pool service company who will monitor it in real time, and be able to respond in real time, should any issue develop.

“Automation equipment quickly makes your backyard ready to use right when you are ready to use it, regardless of the season,” Chaikin added. “Owning and operating a pool and spa today has never been easier or more fun.”

Source: Northeast Spa & Pool Association/The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for a Better Backyard

July 15, 2016 1:28 am


(Family Features)—Fenced-in or acreage to spare, a backyard should be worth coming home to. Get inspired to better yours with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Trex (Trex.com).

Light Bulb!
Start by drawing ideas from DIY bloggers, HGTV.com, Houzz.com, Pinterest and other resources. Bookmark the elements that resonate with you most. You’ll soon compile enough inspiration to form a near-complete design for your backyard.

A Helping Hand
Consider hiring a professional landscape contractor if your design is outside DIY ability. A professional can assist with projects like hardscaping or structural building.

Limbo
Factor any maintenance requirements into your design. Incorporate features like all-weather cabinetry, composite decking, shade and storage to keep function high and maintenance low.

Put the Heat On
Enjoy your new backyard any time of day or night with heat- and light-producing fixtures. Most popular now are fire pits and fireplaces, lanterns and tiki torches.

What Rules?
Lastly, be open to mixing up the furniture in your new backyard—a variety of styles outdoors reads inviting, not eclectic. Think outside of the box when it comes to accessories like pillows, tableware, and even artwork, to lend a personalized touch.

Source: Trex.com
 

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Expecting a Storm? Plan-Ahead Tips for Property Owners

July 15, 2016 1:28 am


Preparation is vital for property owners that stand to be impacted by an impending storm—so much so that it can be life-saving even after storm conditions have subsided.  Post-storm cleanup, especially, can be made less challenging with precautionary measures.

“Preparing for bad weather is always wise,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an internationally-recognized association. “While everyone thinks about buying milk, bread and toilet paper before a storm, many people forget about making sure their outdoor power equipment is in order “It's important to keep your equipment in working order, have the right fuel for your generator or chain saw, and know where your safety gear is.”

Kiser and the OPEI suggest property owners plan ahead for a safe cleanup by:

Taking Stock – Take a look at the property and consider what-if scenarios:

• Will the buckling deck survive the storm?
• Will the shed withstand high winds?
• Will that tree fall?

Inspect the equipment you do have and purchase other items, such as a chain saw, reflective clothing or safety goggles, if needed.

Fueling Up – It is common for fuel stations to close in the days following a severe storm. Stock up on the fuel needed to power any outdoor equipment you may be using, including a generator. Bear in mind that for outdoor power equipment, it is illegal to use fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

Reviewing – Before the storm hits (and the power potentially goes out), take time to review operator’s manuals of any outdoor power equipment you plan to use for post-storm cleanup. Reviewing this information can help reduce safety risks when operating the equipment.

Staying Safe – To minimize hazards during cleanup:

• Exercise extreme caution when using a chain saw. A chain saw can “kick back” when the chain touches an object, so stand with your weight evenly distributed to both feet, away from the blade. Do not use a chain saw with one hand.

• Keep stable footing when using a pole pruner or saw. Ensure any bystanders and power lines are at least 50 feet away from the area.

• Ventilate portable generators. Do not operate a portable generator inside the home or the garage—doing so can cause buildup of carbon monoxide, which can be lethal. Place the generator outside of the home, away from windows, doors and vents.

Remaining Aware – Note the area surrounding the cleanup zone. Do not allow others (pets, included) in the zone, even if cleanup is just beginning. Stay abreast, too, of physical limitations. Keep hydrated and take breaks, if needed.

Source: Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI)
 

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3 Tips from the Rich to Build Wealth

July 14, 2016 1:28 am


The overwhelming majority of affluent Americans accumulated their wealth not through inheritance, as is commonly believed, but through earned income and investments.

The financial editors at Money Magazine recently interviewed a sample of well-off individuals, coming up with three universal tips that may help average folks to build wealth:

1. Get There Slowly – While some attained wealth fairly quickly by starting the right business at the right time (or developing a killer app), most entrepreneurs say you can amass the better part of $1 million if you start to earn at a young age and remain persistent about saving for the long haul.

A 25-year-old beginning at $40,000 a year, for instance, who gets 2 percent annual raises and contributes 12 percent of his/her salary each year to a 401(k), would end up with an account worth more than $1 million at age 65, assuming a 6 percent annual return and an employer match of 3 percent per year.

2. Stick with the Basics – Many wealthy people own non-traditional investments, including hedge funds, timberland, and art, but when they were asked by Money how they made their greatest investment gains, 89 percent said traditional stocks and bonds.

3. Don’t Try to Out-Guess the Market – With pundits constantly predicting which stocks are heading up or down and which sectors will sizzle or fizzle, it’s easy to get the impression that success lies in shrewdly shifting your money around. The majority of the rich don’t buy that.

Just 14 percent asked by Money said they made the bulk of their investment gains by timing the market; the other 86 percent credited their success to good old buy-and-hold investing. They key, they said, is investing in a diversified mix of stocks and bonds, and riding the long-term upward sweep of the market.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Apply for Disaster Assistance

July 14, 2016 1:28 am


Homeowners recovering from the effects of a disaster may be eligible to receive assistance funds from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Generally, these funds may be used to assist with financing home repairs, moving costs, rental or temporary housing, and more.

To be considered, those seeking assistance must register through FEMA. Applying for assistance is free, and registration is open to those with and without insurance.

Registration can be completed online at DisasterAssistance.gov, by phone at 800-621-FEMA (3362), or at a local disaster recovery center.

Applicants who have been granted assistance will be notified by FEMA through letter, and receive funds either by check or direct deposit. The letter will explain how the funds may be spent. The funds should not be used beyond their intended purpose—if they are, the grantee may be denied funds in the future, and may even be liable for repayment.

FEMA advises keeping all receipts related to spending of the granted funds for at least three years. If the applicant’s insurer later covers the expenses already paid for by FEMA funds, the grantee must reimburse FEMA.

Beyond housing needs, grantees are generally permitted to spend FEMA funds on medical care for a disaster-related injury, “necessary educational materials” and repair or replacement of a “flooded essential vehicle.”

Source: U.S. Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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All in the Family: Boomer Parents House Boomerang Kids

July 14, 2016 1:28 am


Moving back home to live with parents after college no longer carries a stigma.

Boomers housing boomerang kids is the new normal, says blogger Mary Quigley in a recent AARP.org feature on the subject. Quigley cites one survey that found millennials believe it’s acceptable to live with parents for up to five years after completing college.

Mary Dell Harrington, another blogger featured in the AARP story, says the recession made moving home a necessity for unemployed college graduates, many of which continued to return to their folks’ homes after the recession receded. Harrington believes there's a “great practicality” to moving home, especially in high-rent urban areas.

I fall under both boomer and boomerang kid categories, having been born in the '60s and returned to live with, care for, and eventually take on my parents' pride-and-joy historic home. Boomers tend to re-establish independence once children leave the nest, so the prospect of welcoming back one or more “boomerangs” may be daunting.

Blogger Christina Newberry, also featured in the AARP piece, urges boomer parents to have an honest discussion with their adult children before they return or soon thereafter, as well as to draw up an actual contract about expectations. (A contract template is available on her website, AdultChildrenLivingatHome.com.)

Among the points for discussion, says Newberry:

Curfews and Privacy – Will he/she come and go as he/she pleases? Will you keep tabs on where he/she's going? What about overnight guests?

Expenses – Who pays for food, especially if the young adult wants a vegan, organic or other specialized diet? What about cell phones, cable TV, dry cleaning and gas?

Financial Contributions – If the grad has a job, will he/she pay rent? If not, will he/she get part-time work while looking for employment to pay rent and/or living expenses?

Length of Stay – What's the expectation—a few months? A year?

Responsibilities – Will he/she help with cleaning, errands, laundry or carpooling younger siblings?

The end goal, Newberry says, is not to kick them out as soon as possible, but to get them to the point where they're ready to leave.

For more resources on boomerang parenting, visit AARP.org.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Surprise! Home Repairs a Common "Shock" for Retirees

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Pre-retirees often underestimate the expenses they’ll encounter when their working years are over. One of the most common unexpected costs—“financial shocks”—are home repairs, according to a recent survey by the Society of Actuaries (SOA).

“There is still a disconnect between what people think they will do in retirement to manage risks, compared to what approaches retirees actually used,” explained actuary Cindy Levering of the survey.

Most pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA carry mortgage, credit card and auto loan debt—some with $30,000 in addition to a mortgage. An unforeseen home repair, coupled with thousands in debt, could rapidly sap retirement savings.

Home repairs, unfortunately, are inevitable. Downsizing may offload some of that debt, while reserving more funds for unexpected repairs or replacements.

Changing homes in retirement may also be beneficial when considering life expectancy and aging-in-place accommodations. Many pre-retirees surveyed by the SOA expect they will live to age 85—younger than actuarial tables indicate.

“More than half of pre-retirees and retirees estimated their personal life expectancy well below actuarial estimates,” said actuary Anna Rappaport, chair of the SOA's Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks.

Whether 85 or beyond, diminishing capacity and limited mobility related to aging may make performing functions in the current home challenging.

Given the frequency of unexpected home repairs, and that most homes are inadequately designed for aging, changing homes may be the most prudent decision for those nearing retirement.

Source: Society of Actuaries (SOA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Log Homes Experiencing Revival

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Log homes—an iconic symbol of Americana—are as sought-after as ever, partly because of their environmentally-conscious design and construction.

Log homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Log and Timber Homes Council (LTHC) (LogHomes.org), are erected through a near-zero-waste process, with the entire log purposed in construction. Byproducts of their manufacture are mulch and sawdust, both of which can be used as fuel.

Log homes are also highly energy-efficient, especially if constructed with sealant, according to the LTHC. Logs by nature absorb and radiate heat at optimal times during the day, effectively regulating the home’s temperature—“thermal mass.”

The LTHC is one resource worth consulting for a log home build. LTHC log home builders not only adhere to a code of ethics, but also ensure structural integrity by grading their materials through third parties.

“The log and timber home industry emerged entirely out of consumer demand for this unique style of construction,” said Log and Timber Homes Council Chairman Doug Parsons in a statement. “This distinctive style of home can suit any homeowners’ needs, whether they’re looking for a small cabin for weekend getaways or a multi-million dollar estate.”

Source: National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Where on the Map Can You Find the Most Mansions?

July 13, 2016 1:25 am


Mansions are typically associated with luxury markets, but most of them exist outside high-end enclaves.

Utah, in fact, boasts the most mansions by metropolitan area—homes that have at least 15 rooms (excluding bathrooms and closets), five of which are bedrooms, according to an analysis by SmartAsset (www.smartasset.com).

Provo-Orem, Ogden-Clearfield and Salt Lake City, all in Utah, are the top three metropolitan areas nationally with the most mansions. In the Provo-Orem area, 2.42 percent of houses are considered mansions by SmartAsset’s definition—nearly double the amount in Ogden-Clearfield, which is 1.57 percent. Just over 1 percent (1.44) of Salt Lake City homes is considered mansions.

Rounding out the top 10 metropolitan areas with the most mansions are:

4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. (1.37 percent)
5. Washington, D.C. (1.11 percent)
6. Atlanta, Ga. (1.11 percent)
7. Honolulu, Hawaii (1.02 percent)
8. Orlando, Fla. (0.93 percent)
9. Raleigh, N.C. (0.84 percent)
10. Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif. (0.77 percent)

In the market for a mansion? Contact your real estate professional for insight on the mansions available in your area.

Source: SmartAsset
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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