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Create Backyard Buzz to Attract Prospective Buyers This Spring

May 8, 2015 1:57 pm

With the nice weather finally upon us, now’s the perfect time of year for sellers to play up their property's outdoor space to help prospective buyers imagine themselves entertaining family and friends for years to come.

One way to up the ante is to turn your backyard into a fun zone by setting up a variety of games. From buzzworthy toys such as giant Jenga, lawn bowling or even a giant chess set, incorporating a few games into the environment will go a long way toward helping house hunters envision all the fun they can have in the space. You can even offer to throw the games in as part of the sale.

If you want to attract food lovers, you may want to incorporate an outdoor kitchen space into the area, complete with an oven. Other popular features include pizza ovens and stoves, outdoor bar tops, sinks, grilling islands and tables. An outdoor bar is always a hit as well.

In addition to incorporating various forms of entertainment, it's important to make sure the lawn looks nice. This can be achieved without spending an arm and a leg by simply adding shrubs or flowers. Flowers that are the most manageable include marigolds, pansies, snapdragons and alyssum. While marigolds are typically a bright yellow and vivid orange color, pansies range anywhere from dark purple to pale violet. Snapdragons are taller and come in a wide variety of colors from pink to blood red and alyssum—featuring tiny white or purple flowers on a bed of green—is used to fill the space between plants.

As far as seating options, patio furniture comes in different styles and colors, so don't be afraid to mix and match pieces of various sizes. You can even add a few beanbag chairs to truly liven up the space.

If your backyard features a deck, be sure to take the time to sweep off any debris. And if you really want to make it shine, rent a pressure washer so that your deck is clean and inviting when prospective buyers drop by.

And last but not least, if you have a fence around your property, you can dress it up by adding a colorful fabric or some paintings to create a do-it-yourself art show. This is great way to attract buyers, especially millennials.

For more tips on creating an inviting backyard, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Tips for Hosting a Successful Garage Sale

May 8, 2015 1:57 pm

Now that spring has sprung, homeowners who have a move on the horizon are taking advantage of the warmer weather by hosting garage sales to clear out the clutter. While the end goal is to get rid of items you no longer need, including those you don't want to pack and transport to your new home, hosting a successful garage sale begins with proper planning and preparation.

Here are a few simple tips to make sure your next garage sale is a success.

Get the Word Out. It’s no secret that the more people who come to your sale, the better your chance of success. That’s why advertising is such an important part of the process. While posting signs on telephone poles and bulletin boards might have been a winning strategy in the past, successfully marketing your garage sale is much more involved today. Start spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram about a week before the sale by teasing people with photos of the items you'll be selling. You’ll also want to post the details on Craigslist a few days ahead of time, making sure the listing stays up until the day of the sale.

Be Reasonable. While you’ll want to make money at the sale, remember that the end goal is to ultimately get rid of things. Therefore, if someone offers less than your asking price for a particular item, it’s probably worth making a deal. Haggling is a rite of passage for any garage sale participant, so don’t be upset if they try to lowball you.

Put Prices on Things. Spend some time before the day of the garage sale arrives to put price stickers on items you're selling so buyers have an idea of how much an item is. If the sale gets crowded, the last thing you want is to lose buyers because they couldn't find you for a price check.

Have Special Deals. One of the quickest ways to get rid of items at a garage sale is to offer deals such as buy two dishes, get the third free. Or, you can even encourage people who drop by on the day of the sale to purchase an entire box of books for one price. People who shop garage sales are often attracted to deals, and they love getting things for free.

Pay Attention to the Clock. As the day starts winding down, prices should drop and you should be more open to making deals. If you see someone looking at a $10 lamp, tell them they can have it for $5. If you're serious about getting rid of unwanted items, put a sign up toward the end of the day that encourages browsers to make their best offer.

For more tips on hosting a successful garage sale, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Man Caves

May 8, 2015 1:57 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines tips for sellers looking to take advantage of garage sale season. Other topics covered this month include simple ways to incorporate feng shui principles into the home and the importance of trees when it comes to making buying decisions. 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.


Report: Mortgages Drive Overall Debt

May 8, 2015 3:28 am

A sign of an improving economy, overall debt levels declined in metro areas across the country – and the decline was driven by lower first and second mortgage debts, according to Equifax’s recent National Consumer Credit Trends Report. Overall debt totaled $9.9 trillion, down from $10.1 trillion.

"The latest numbers show that while the mortgage market continues to heal, the overall appetite for debt is growing across the board as consumers continue to open their wallets," says Assad Lazarus of Equifax.

Overall debt tumbled from $10.1 trillion to $9.9 trillion, the Report found. Of the nation's largest 25 markets, just six experienced increases. Many of those markets continue to work through a huge backlog of foreclosures that came during the Great Recession, says Lazarus.

Source: Equifax

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Remodeling Budgets Increase as Housing Moves Forward

May 8, 2015 3:28 am

Whether to enhance home design or invest in resale value, more homeowners plan to take on remodeling projects this year, according to data from the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) recently released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Motivated by encouraging interest rates and increasing home equity, the LIRA projects annual spending for home improvements will inch upward 2.9 percent by the end of the year.

“Housing turnover quickly sparks significant improvement spending as new owners customize their recent purchases to fit their needs,” says Chris Herbert of the Joint Center.

The LIRA estimates national homeowner spending on improvements and provides a short-term outlook of homeowner remodeling activity.

Source: LIRA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Let Reduced Rainfall Ruin Your Landscape

May 8, 2015 3:28 am

The water crisis facing California is serious and carries imminent environmental, financial and human impacts, but below-normal rainfall is not uncommon in several areas of the country. Before giving up on your lawn–or worse, ripping it out–consider carrying out the following steps, says the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

Evaluate what you have.
Look at the landscape you have now. Some elements in your landscape may already be drought-friendly, but you may need to change others. Calculate how much water you are using now and how frequently you are watering.

Think about how you intend to use your lawn or landscape moving forward. Do you enjoy backyard barbecues with friends and family? Is your yard a restful oasis from stress? A place for children and pets to romp and run? Consider how you want to use your yard or landscape going forward to ensure that your re-designed landscape meets your needs.

Educate yourself about how lawns and turf grass respond during a drought. Most people over-water their lawns and assume that if grass is not green, it may be dying. Grass actually goes into a dormant state during a drought. It may look brown, but it’s not dead. If the crowns and root system are intact and have adequate moisture, grass can sustain itself.

Consider the environmental and human impacts. Lawns and landscapes offer benefits that mitigate drought impacts. Grass cools the air around a home or building, reduces pollution, limits heat islands, suppresses dust, controls soil erosion and sequesters carbon.

Grass also assists in decomposing pollutants, dissipates heat, lowers allergy-related problems, reduces home cooling costs and acts as a fire barrier. Importantly, grass serves as a natural filter to potable water supplies, reducing stormwater runoff and capturing and filtering precipitation.

Seek the advice of lawn and landscape professionals. With a variety of different rules and restrictions at the state and local level, it is important to make sure you are making changes that are in line with the regulations. A Landscape Industry Certified professional implements best practices, applies up-to-date information, and has a thorough understanding of land stewardship. Many landscape companies have water management specialists, as well as professionals educated in sustainable landscape practices.

Install drought-friendly landscaping and change your watering practices. There are many drought-friendly landscaping options available, such as drought tolerant low-water native plants. Planting with hydro zones and installing drip irrigation can minimize water usage. There are many ways to make a landscape drought-friendly, enjoyable and useful.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finding Relief from Spring Allergies

May 7, 2015 3:27 am

For the 50 million Americans with seasonal allergies, symptoms can arise from a variety of sources, including tree, grass or ragweed, says Anju Peters, a Northwestern Medicine allergist. Pollen kicks the immune system into overdrive, causing the body to release histamine and other substances that result in unpleasant symptoms for allergy sufferers.

If you’re in the throes of spring allergy season, knowing your allergy triggers, recognizing symptoms and consulting with an allergist can help, says Peters. He suggests:
  • Protecting Your Home – Make sure windows and doors are shut completely when pollen counts peak. Dust and vacuum frequently.
  • Being Mindful of Your Clothing – Remove clothing that has been worn outside when you get home. Try to wash all your clothes and bedding frequently.
  • Visiting Your Doctor – Talking with your doctor can help determine what type of pollen triggers your allergies. During the visit, the doctor may perform an allergy skin test or check your blood for potential allergens.
  • Making a Calendar – Once you are able to specifically identify the culprit, create a calendar of your most severe allergy weeks.
  • Using Sprays Sparingly - While over-the-counter medications like antihistamines, decongestants and nasal sprays can help, don’t overuse them. This can lead to ineffectiveness and rebound congestion.
Source: Northwestern Medicine

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Ways to Childproof Windows

May 7, 2015 3:27 am

Open windows can be dangerous any time of year, especially when children are unsupervised. To protect children from window hazards, the Window Safety Task Force recommends the following tips.

1. When young children are around, keep windows closed and locked.

2. When opening a window for ventilation, use those located out of a child’s reach. For example, the upper sash of a double hung window.

3. Avoid placing furniture near windows to prevent young children from climbing.

4. Don’t allow children to jump on beds or other furniture to help reduce potential falls.

5. Don’t rely on insect screens to prevent a window fall. Insect screens are designed to keep bugs out, not to keep children in the home.

6. Supervise children to keep child’s play away from windows, balconies or patio doors. Keep play in the center of a room, if possible.

7. Install safety-compliant devices designed to limit how far a window will open or window guards (with quick-release mechanisms in case of fire) to help prevent a fall.

8. Teach your child how to safely use a window to escape during an emergency, such as a fire.

Source: National Safety Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving? How to Avoid Scams, Theft and More

May 7, 2015 3:27 am

The Census Bureau estimates there are three million moves from state to state each year, with 800,000 of those moves handled by professional movers. But those who rely on a professional are at a greater risk for scams and imposters pretending to be a moving company.

“Hiring a professional mover is a smart decision that saves time and effort while providing the best protection for your household goods,” says Scott Michael, president and CEO of the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). But how do you know you’re getting a fair, honest deal from your chosen moving company?

1. Do your research.
Get at least three written, in-home estimates so you can make an informed decision. Show the mover everything that needs to be moved, from the attic to the basement and including any sheds, garages and storage areas. Avoid any unusually high or low estimates. If someone says they can give you an estimate over the phone or by email, it’s possible they’re trying to scam you.

2. Know your rights. Reputable interstate movers must, by law, provide you with federal publications that explain the moving process, as well as your rights and responsibilities during and after the process. Interstate movers also must provide the cost of full-value protection insurance for your possessions in their estimates. If a mover asks for a large down payment or full payment in advance, that may be a warning sign. And if a company says it won’t return your items to you without more money than you agreed to pay, contact the Better Business Bureau or local law enforcement for help.

3. Get all agreements in writing. Read everything carefully and make sure you have it all in writing, along with copies of everything you sign, especially the most important document—the bill of lading, which is the receipt for your goods and the contract for their transportation. Never sign any blank forms.

4. Take your valuables with you. Cash, coins, jewelry, photographs and important papers should be taken with you or shipped separately. Use a shipping service with tracking numbers, such as FedEx or UPS.

5. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand. If the moving company can’t or won’t answer your questions, you might want to look for another mover.

Source: AMSA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Life Insurance Right for You?

May 6, 2015 3:27 am

Choosing the right type and amount of life insurance is vital to a sound financial plan, but is it right for you? According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are two major types of life insurance: term and whole life. Term covers the policyholder for a specified period, usually from one to 30 years. Whole life, sometimes called permanent life insurance, covers the policyholder for as long as they live – even if it’s to 100.

To assess your insurance needs, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) suggests asking yourself the following five questions.

1. Does anyone depend on me for financial support?

Whether it’s a spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or even aging parents, you’ll want to make sure they’re left financially secure. Purchase enough life insurance to replace your income while also financing the expenses your beneficiaries will incur to replace services you provide within the household (e.g., landscaping, tax preparation). Stay-at-home parents, and those caring full-time for an adult family member, should also consider purchasing life insurance to allow for hiring professionals to undertake these tasks.

Your family may have other sources of income, such as Social Security survivor benefits, but this is rarely enough, particularly if you have children under 18 and want to fund their education.

2. Are my retirement and other savings alone enough to support my dependents?

Unless your savings and retirement benefits are substantial, the income they generate is unlikely to be enough to pay for the housing, education and other day-to-day needs of your financial dependents. Remember, they will also have to take on the cost of replacing your employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance premium payments and retirement contributions.

3. Will estate and inheritance taxes significantly reduce the amount my dependents receive?

Even if you are leaving a considerable inheritance, don’t assume that will be enough. Consult with your financial advisor or an insurance professional on how your tax situation impacts the type and amount of life insurance you should purchase.

4. What is my plan for covering final expenses?

Whether or not you have dependents, you’ll want to be able to cover the expenses incurred by funeral related costs, outstanding taxes and debts, and the administrative fees associated with “winding up” an estate. These expenses can total upwards of $15,000, and can be defrayed by having the right life insurance policy in place.

5. Will I be able to leave a donation to my favorite charity?

A beneficiary does not necessarily have to be a loved one; it can be a much-loved cause. If you have a favorite charity, foundation, museum, etc, you can use a life insurance vehicle to leave the organization a more sizable donation than you might have otherwise.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.