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Mary Mastroeni

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Four Food Trends to Try in 2015

January 8, 2015 2:57 am

Is Paleo out? Are we eating carbs yet? Is kale still the queen of green? Nutrition preferences will remain largely health-conscious in 2015, according to Pollock Communications’ annual What’s Trending in Nutrition Survey. Clean labels, convenience, cost and taste will continue to dictate consumer choices when shopping for healthy foods.

What’s on deck for this year? The results are in:
• Superfoods. Seeds, nuts, Greek yogurt, kale, coconut products and avocado remain the prevailing food choices for consumers.

• Green tea. When it comes to better beverages, green tea received the highest marks. Dieticians also recommend the drink for its myriad health benefits.

• Good-for-you proteins. Most consumers rank animal-based proteins, such as meat, fish and poultry, high on their list of quality foods. Fish, eggs, legumes and soy are also popular proteins.

• Ancient grains. Consumers and dieticians agree that ancient grains such as quinoa, amaranth, spelt and freekeh will be on many grocery lists this year.
Source: Pollock Communications

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Burst Pipes May Cause More Damage Than You Think

January 8, 2015 2:57 am

Each winter, frozen and burst pipes result in billions of dollars in property damage for homeowners. Aside from water wreaking havoc, environmental organization Clark Sief Clark (CSC) cautions that other issues, such as mold, can also add to mounting costs for repairs.

As water freezes, it expands and can put tremendous pressure on both metal and plastic pipes. If a pipe does break, supply lines can easily release hundreds of gallons or more of water each day. This water will gradually make its way to the lowest elevation it can reach – second floor incidents, for example, can cause water damage on lower levels of the property, including basements and crawl spaces.

Along with the destruction caused by broken pipes to materials and furnishing, mold can also quickly begin to grow in damp conditions. The presence of mold can impact the indoor air quality, triggering everything from allergies to asthma. Some types of mold are even known to cause infections in people with weak immune systems.

“In addition to concerns over the presence of mold in a property that has suffered damage due to a burst pipe, many older properties still contain asbestos and lead-based paints that can be an issue for anyone in the area during cleanup and repair activities,” says Franco Seif, CSC.

Source: CSC

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Painting Professionals Top Choice for Homeowners

January 8, 2015 2:57 am

According to home network Porch.com, painters ranked highest for homeowner searches in 2014. This search term was followed closely by plumbers and handymen.

"It's no surprise that painters show up so high in the results," said Asha Sharma, Porch. "Painting is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to freshen up a home. For home sellers, interior and exterior painting provides a really good return on investment as you prepare to sell. On the homebuyer side, painting is a great way to add some personal touch whether it's repainting interior walls or improving the exterior curb appeal."

In addition to painters, plumbers and handymen scored big given the yearlong need for homeowners to solicit their services. Whether homeowners need help with projects like appliance installation, pipe repairs, or water heater maintenance, plumbers are a need that every homeowner is likely to encounter along their home journey. On a similar note, handymen and handywomen are often called about to help homeowners complete numerous projects around the home.

The remaining popular searches included:
  • Electrician
  • Roofer
  • General Contractor
  • Landscaper
  • Carpenter
  • HVAC Contractor
Interestingly enough, these results were relatively the same across the country, with each of the four major regions seeking similar services.

Source: Porch.com

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U.S. a Magnet for Foreign Real Estate Investment in 2015

January 7, 2015 2:57 am

According to a recently released survey by the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE), the U.S. housing market will continue to appeal to foreign investors in the coming year. The survey, in its 23rd year, indicated that more than 90 percent of international investor respondents are planning to maintain or increase the size of their U.S. portfolio in 2015.

“As it periodically has been in the past, the United States is currently the target of much of the foreign investment in real estate globally,” said Thomas Arnold, AFIRE. “With a stable and transparent market and an economy that appears to be steadily improving without the fits and starts experienced in other regions, the U.S. has become the first stop for foreign real estate investors.”

By a wide margin, the U.S. was voted the most stable and secure country for investment and capital appreciation. Investors ranked multi-family as their preferred property type.

Two-thirds of survey respondents expect China to become the largest source of inbound capital to the U.S. in 2016 and beyond, with 72 percent expecting investments to be long-term, permanent inflow.

Source: AFIRE

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The Most Popular Green Home Features

January 7, 2015 2:57 am

(BPT) - One of the top trends driving today's housing market is the demand for energy-efficient homes. If you're looking to purchase a new home, green features can save money both now and in the future.

Buyers can expect these upgrades to remain popular in 2015:

Tight Construction
– When searching for new construction, the building process is often as important as the features included. Buyers are looking for tight construction, with no drafty holes, cracks or seams.

Low-emissive Windows
– Double-paned windows with low emissivity (low-e) are on most buyer wish lists. Some versions come equipped with advanced window coatings that retain heat during winter and release it during summer, and block UV rays that may discolor carpets and furniture.

All-over Insulation – Homebuyers are seeking extra insulation at home, including the walls, roof and flooring. Properly installed insulation that meets national code requirements will better regulate temperatures at home, so the furnace and air conditioner won’t have to run unnecessarily. The result is lower utility costs across the board and a quieter, more comfortable home.

Atmosphere-controlling Upgrades – According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, space heating accounts for 41.5 percent of an average household’s energy consumption. To combat this statistic, buyers are looking for efficient heating and cooling systems, such as a heat pump, to reduce their impact environmentally and financially.

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Brace Your Home for Frigid Weather

January 7, 2015 2:57 am

With record lows reported across the country, it’s no surprise that families will be staying indoors this winter. If you’re a homeowner, the best way to brace your home before the next wave of freezing temperatures is to control the humidity inside.

When relative humidity (RH) drops at home, moisture is pulled from anywhere it can be sourced – including people. This can cause uncomfortable issues such as dry skin and static shocks. A lack of humidity can also wreak havoc at home, causing failure of electronics, cracking of wood floors or damage of furniture. To avoid these dry air effects, add humidity back into your home with a humidifier.

Despite the initial cost, humidifiers can lower heating bills. Humidifying your home while the furnace is on creates a more comfortable atmosphere at a lower temperature. According to Energy.gov, turning down a thermostat 10-15 degrees for eight hours can reduce heating costs by up to 15 percent each year. In short, keeping your thermostat down and your humidifier on can add up to big savings.

Many homeowners have benefitted from a whole house-humidification system, which adds moisture to every room using the duct system of the furnace. Installed by an HVAC contractor, these automated systems continually monitor humidity levels to adjust moisture output based on factors such as indoor and outdoor temperature. The best part? These automated systems continually monitor humidity levels, so there will be no condensation on windows or walls.

Source: Aprilaire

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Five Tips for Weight Loss Goals

January 6, 2015 2:57 am

Is weight loss at the top of your New Year’s resolution list? Beat the odds with these tips from the Calorie Control Council.

1. Be realistic. Losing ten pounds in two weeks is probably not going to happen. Most people don’t gain weight overnight – the same applies for losing it. Set a realistic goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week.

2. Pare down goals. Set intermittent goals to stay motivated. Instead of mapping out a plan for weight loss for the entire year, select a target weight to be attained by June.

3. Make substitutions.
Cutting 150 calories a day over the course of a year can result in a five to ten pound loss. Opt for lower calorie meals at restaurants and replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners at home.

4. Change your lifestyle. Swearing off carbs and desserts may be doable for a month or so, but it’s probably not something most people can stick with long term. Make changes that you can live with to maintain your weight loss moving forward.

5. Stay active. Hitting the gym or hiring a personal trainer are great, but come at a cost. Sneak in physical activity by parking farther away from the store, walking children to a play date and taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Source: Calorie Control Council

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What's Next for Smart Homes

January 6, 2015 2:57 am

With more manufacturers pushing the envelope in smart home design, homeowners can expect a fully connected home in the not-so-distant future. From donation-enabled laundry to intelligent kitchen surfaces, find out what the experts at Whirlpool have in store for the “home ecosystem.”

Expanding on the popular digital cook top concept, the brand predicts a concept cooking environment and fully connected, social media hub that syncs devices and all your kitchen appliances. One possible innovation is an interactive backsplash with the potential to:
  • Connect to social networks and favorite websites
  • Store recipe cards in digital format
  • Track refrigerator inventory and create grocery lists
  • Keep tabs on expected guests with GPS
Whirlpool also anticipates the debut of thoughtful appliances that work for homeowners and the greater good. Laundry, for example, could become an act of charity with apps that automate donations for every load. Washers may also come equipped with at-home quiet modes triggered by a smartphone, and varied cycles for specialized clothing like active wear, infant clothing or hand-wash fabrics.

Source: Whirlpool

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Resolve to Save on Homeowners Insurance This Year

January 6, 2015 2:57 am

Trimming frivolous expenses is a popular New Year’s resolution for many, but if you’re a homeowner, there are greater opportunities to cut costs. Save smart this year with these tips from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

1. Raise your deductible.
An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your annual premium. Ask your insurer about all available discounts.

2. Insure for rebuilding cost, not real estate value. The amount for which you can buy or sell a home fluctuates, but insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home – not the sale price. Make sure you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace all of your belongings in the event of a disaster.

3. Avoid dropping your flood insurance. It seems counterproductive to saving money, but damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. With 90 percent of all natural disasters involving some form of flooding, it’s worth researching flood zones and insurance costs and possibly elevating the structure.

4. Seek out satisfactory experiences.
When selecting an insurance provider, enlist family and friends for recommendations. Their suggestions may point to a company with more costly policies, but sound finances and superior customer service will ultimately save you money.

Source: I.I.I.

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3 Tips for First-Time Tax Filers

January 5, 2015 2:57 am

(BPT) - Unless you majored in accounting, the thought of filing your own income tax return may evoke feelings similar to your first job interview. Though understandable, this is an unfounded fear, given the simple taxes most individuals have in their early to mid-20s and the easy digital tax programs available.

“All you need to file your own tax return is a little self-confidence, the desire to get your maximum refund, and a computer or mobile device," says TaxACT spokesperson Jessi Dolmage. “You're well qualified to do your taxes because you're the expert of your finances."

Follow these tips to successfully file your taxes for the first time and every year after that.

Don’t procrastinate.
Waiting until the last minute causes undue stress, and rushing increases the potential for typos and overlooked information. While you can do your taxes in one fell swoop, it's unnecessary. Online tax programs save as you go, so you can stop and finish at your leisure. You may reap benefits from starting early because many tax programs point out potential savings requiring action before December 31 or April 15.

Compare tax products before using them.
Read expert and user reviews. Look at the situations and tax forms each includes, as some require you to upgrade for certain forms. If you have to file a state return, compare prices. Using a mobile filing app? Choose one that also provides access to your data on a browser for convenience and peace of mind in case you lose your smartphone or tablet.

Gather all forms and documents.
Before starting your return, compile all tax forms and documents, including:
  • Form W-2 from your employer (Received by January 31)
  • Form 1099 if you're self-employed or a contractor
  • Form 1098-E from your lender if you've paid student loan interest (Even if you don't receive this form, you can still deduct interest paid.)
  • Form 1098-T for tuition paid and scholarships or grants received
  • Statements for retirement savings accounts
  • Receipts for charitable donations
After filing, keep these papers or make electronic copies to save with a copy of your return.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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