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Mary Mastroeni

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Q: Are There Standard Ways to Determine How Much a Home Is Worth?

July 27, 2012 6:00 pm

A: Yes. A comparative market analysis and an appraisal are the two most common and reliable ways to determine a home's value.

Your real estate agent can provide a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Reviewing comparable homes that have sold within the past year along with the listing, or asking, price on current homes for sale should prevent you from overpricing your home or underestimating its value.

A certified appraiser can provide an appraisal of a home. After visiting the home to check such things as the number of rooms, improvements, size and square footage, construction quality, and the condition of the neighborhood, the appraiser then reviews recent comparable sales to determine the estimated value of the home.

You also can check recent sales in public records, through private firms, and on the Internet to help you determine a home’s potential worth.

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Best of The 2012 Idea House – Part 2

July 26, 2012 5:58 pm

Sure, maybe zombie-lovers are flocking to Senoi, Ga., to check out filming of the hit cable series The Walking Dead. But there are also some great ideas to bring your place back from the dead in Senoia, home of the Southern Living 2012 Idea House - a historic 1830 circa farmhouse

In this segment we’ll look at the second half of our Top-10 list of Ballard Designs' hand-picked accessories that are breathing new life into the 2012 Idea House.

6. The Calissse 4-Light Pendant is a classic choice to use over a table, in an entry hall or stairwell. The tiered top and clear glass panes recall the romantic candle lit lantern fixtures of the 19th century. A hinged glass panel door allows easy change of bulbs. Priced at $250.

7. Or how about a Julian Apothecary Lamp? This light is designed in the style of traditional pharmacy lamps, the stem telescope, so you can set it to the perfect height. A pivoting shade and adjustable neck helps focus light exactly where you need it. Priced at $99.

8. Available in 18 different finishes, Ballard’s Louis XVI Armoire stands almost 7 feet tall and offers the storage of an additional closet. This armoire is crafted in Italy with fluted side rails, medallion accents and bulb feet. Paneled doors conceal three adjustable shelves and floating back panels, so you can also use it as a media center. Priced at $1799.

9. To compliment your Louis XVI Armoire, go for the matching dresser, also available in 18 finishes. This single Dresser has nicely turned legs crowned in carved rosettes. Beaded drawers with antique brass ring pulls feature protective dust panels and hand painted Italian paper drawer liners. Priced at $1099.

10. Fill Ballard's versatile Seagrass Hurricane with colorful stones, seasonal balls or submerged blooms. With its grand scale and natural texture, the Southern Living Seagrass Hurricane makes an instant statement, inside or out. Add candles or simple stems to create a memorable centerpiece for any occasion. Priced between $45 and $75.

Want to check out more 2012 Idea House accessories and furnishings? Visit ballarddesigns.com. And to learn about visiting the Senoia area and the 2012 Idea House through December 23, visit southernliving.com.

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Protect Your Car from Theft as Temperatures Rise

July 26, 2012 5:58 pm

The warm sunshine of summer brings with it more than just trips to the beach - it also brings an increase in auto theft and auto theft-related crimes, according to H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts), Michigan's statewide vehicle theft prevention program.

According to the FBI, July marks the start of the high season for car theft. In 2010, a car was stolen every 42.8 seconds for a total of 737,000 car thefts resulting in $4.5 billion in losses for American car owners.
"While you're out enjoying the summer sunshine, thieves are out looking for unsuspecting victims," saysTerri Miller, director of H.E.A.T. "Don't make yourself an easy target because you forgot to roll up your windows or left your keys in the car while cooling it down. Michigan drivers need to be educated, aware, and take an active role in protecting themselves and their property."

H.E.A.T. provides Michigan drivers with the following tips for keeping cars and belongings safe throughout the warm weather months:
• Lock It Up – Always lock your car when leaving it, and remember to set alarms or other anti-theft devices every time you get out. Close windows tightly, and don't forget the sunroof or convertible top. You can also add a second layer of protection to your vehicle by using a steering wheel locking device, a steering column protector or an alarm with a visible indicator.
• Watch Those Wheels – Invest in locking lug nuts and park in your garage whenever possible. Thieves target easy-to-steal tires and rims.
• Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Keep all personal belongings, including GPS systems, MP3 players, cellphones and other valuables, out of sight.
• Give and Go – No car is worth your life. If approached by a carjacker, give up your car. Most carjackings involve a weapon, so give them your keys and get away from the scene quickly.
• Keep Watch and Report Crime – Help keep your neighborhood safe by writing down descriptions, license plate numbers and other helpful information. Report any suspicious activity. If you know anything about auto theft, chop shops, carjacking or insurance fraud, report it day or night to your local police department.

Source: H.E.A.T.

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How Safe Is Your Child's Playground?

July 26, 2012 5:58 pm

Thousands of children are treated for injuries related to playground equipment each year. The numbers are alarming and parents should pay attention.

Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) show the following results for kids 3-16 years in the U.S in 2011:

• Approximately 104,157 were treated for injuries from swing sets
• More than 8,800 from seesaws or teeterboards
• Approximately 80,668 from slides and sliding boards.
"In addition to falls and other types of injuries, a playground's surface, design and maintenance also are major factors contributing to mishaps on the playground," says orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson Dr. John Gaffney, DO. "For example, knowing what types of playground surfaces to avoid, or being aware of potential injuries that happen from common practices like going down the slide with a child in your lap are great places to start."

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends the following safety tips:

Tips for Parents:
• Avoid playgrounds that have concrete, asphalt, hard-packed dirt, or grass. Recommended surfaces include shock-absorbing unitary materials like rubber mats or loose fill such as double-shredded bark mulch, engineered wood fibers, sand, and fine or medium gravel of suitable depth.
• Steer children to age-appropriate playground equipment.
• Check to see that there is enough space for kids to easily get off the slide or merry-go-round. Don't let children crowd exit areas.
• Try the handgrips on monkey bars and other climbing devices to verify they are shaped and sized for easy grasp.
• Swing seats should be made of plastic or rubber. Avoid metal or wood.
• Avoid any equipment that has openings that could entrap a child's head.
• Be sure you can clearly see your children on the playground.

Tips for kids:
• Play on dry equipment.
• Hold on to handrails and climb all stairs or steps slowly.
• Slide one person at a time, sitting down and facing forward, and move away from the slide as soon as they reach the ground.
• Be careful crossing in front of moving swings or teeter-totters.
• Remove drawstrings and hoods from clothing that could catch on equipment.
• Use care in the sun. In hot weather, equipment exposed to direct sunlight can burn skin.
• Wear proper footwear — no bare feet.

Source: www.AAOS.org.

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Word of the Day

July 26, 2012 5:58 pm

Open listing. Listing that gives a broker a nonexclusive right to find a buyer; the owner can still find a buyer himself and avoid a commission.

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Q: What Is the Most Common Type of Contract for Listing Properties?

July 26, 2012 5:58 pm

A: The exclusive right to sell. It gives the real estate broker the exclusive right to sell your home during the term of the listing. If a sale occurs – even if you sell the home yourself – the broker gets a commission. The broker may share the listing with other brokers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the widest possible exposure for your home. If you request that the property not be listed on a multiple basis, only the broker named in the contract and his or her sales agents can market and show it.

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Best of the 2012 Idea House – Part 1

July 25, 2012 5:58 pm

I look forward to each July when Southern Living unveils its annual Idea House - and this July was no different. Just a tad southwest of Atlanta is quaint and rural Senoi, Ga., home of the Southern Living 2012 Idea House.

Again this year, my friends at Ballard Designs teamed up with Southern Living to furnish and decorate this historic farmhouse renovation. So in the next couple of segments we’ll take a peek at the Top 10 Ballard accessories or furnishings that are helping to breathe new life into this 1830s-era home.

Here are the first five:

1. Braided Jute Rug - a bit dressier than traditional jutes, Ballard’s jute collection for the Idea House is extra thick and feels surprisingly soft, even on bare feet. Hand-woven of golden 100 percent jute and finished with thick, hand knotted 3" fringe, the rugs offer slip resistant latex backing for added durability - and start at about $39.

2. Take Ballard's Hand Made leather hanging mirror wherever you need it. A popular decorative piece that recalls the work of designer Jacques Adnet for Parisian design house Hermes in the 1950s, this simple round mirror is wrapped in rich chestnut leather and hangs from a leather strap secured by three metal belt buckles, imitating the sleek look of equestrian hardware. Priced at $449.

3. The Idea House’s Rutland Counter Stool embodies pure, simple design with a sculptural look that works with any décor. Perfect for perching indoors or out, the gently curved back is just the right height and comfortable shape, and features a powder coat that resists rust and moisture. Priced at $139.

4. The Niles Double Coat Rack has similar appeal to the Rutland stools. Load up the double hanging rails with guests' coats during the holidays and off–season clothing the rest of the year. Two lattice shelves hold boots, hats and bags. Priced at $179.

5. The comfortable, tufted burlap seat gives the rustic industrial look a touch of sophistication. A cushioned seat lifts off for storing extra bedding, magazines or towels. Crafted of weathered wood slats hand tied with wire and stenciled on each side, the bench also features cutout handles for easy carrying. Priced at $349.

Want to check out more 2012 Idea House accessories and furnishings? Check out the next installment or visit ballarddesigns.com. And to learn about visiting the Senoia area and the 2012 Idea House through December 23, visit southernliving.com.

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7 Tips to Saving Money while Preparing Your Kids for School

July 25, 2012 5:58 pm

Preparing your kids for school can be an extremely busy time, putting a damper on the end of your summer .But with some simple planning, it can be a manageable and less stressful process. For many Americans struggling with debt problems, the end of summer is an anxious time because school supplies, sports gear, updated clothing and other necessities can be expensive, but there are things every parent can do.

"It is important to take an objective look at what your children need for school and what you can afford," says Etta Money, InCharge's President. "We all want to do everything we can for our kids, but for those dealing with limited financial resources or debt problems, the task can be overwhelming.”

Here are seven things every parent of school-age kids should do:
1. Prepare a written budget – Just as you would prepare a guide to your overall expenses, a detailed written plan to follow as you prepare your kids for school is vital.
2. Do an inventory – Take stock of what supplies you have on hand, what you and the kids can make yourselves, and what clothing can be used again for the new school year.
3. Develop a shopping list – Eliminate what you already have from your list and write down everything you need to buy to get your student(s) ready for school to open.
4. Look for deals – With a month or more to go, you have plenty of time to shop online for deals, look for coupons, and search the local papers for sales.
5. Plug in the numbers – armed with the best deals you can make, take the numbers you have discovered for the items you need and work them into your household budget.
6. Cut where needed – If the numbers don't work, you may need to spread out purchases, or make some cuts, either in the school budget or your household expenses.
7. Make your purchases – It's time to buy, but don't forget to distinguish between "needs" and "wants."

Source: www.InCharge.org

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Chalkboard Craft Projects to Help You Organize

July 25, 2012 5:58 pm

(ARA) - Everyone's life needs a bit of organization - so why not do it with a bit of fun and whimsy? For a new way to get organized, think charming, unique ... think chalkboard paint. That's right, the old-school chalkboard is making a stylish comeback. And with a bit of hands-on creativity, your home can be organized, stylish and enjoyable.

Definable drawers
Is your home being overrun with clutter? The best way to overcome clutter - and keep everything tidy - is to ensure everything has its place. Labeling is a great way to stay organized and alert family members where items are - and where to put them away. Using stickers and markers for identification can sometimes look plain and boring, and are more permanent. Luckily, there is another way to label: chalkboard paint.

Drawers are ideal for storage and come in a variety of sizes to store anything from toys to jewelry. Plus, you can find great deals on old sets at yard sales or thrift stores. To start, simply clean and paint your drawers in a color that coordinates with your room's decor. Once the paint is dry, create a border around the front of each drawer with painter's tape. Next, spray several even coats of chalkboard spray paint inside the taped area. When the entire project is dry, use chalk to identify the contents of each drawer. And, don't limit yourself to white chalk. Colored chalk can add a stylish twist to your project.

Time to...
To organize your schedule - or your whole family's - keep track of time with a fun and creative schedule clock. This unique project replaces traditional hours and minutes with your daily activities.

Start by finding a large, flat, wall-hanging clock and carefully remove the hands. Then, apply a coat of indoor/outdoor charcoal black primer to cover the entire clock, making it the same even color. Once the primer has dried, apply three coats of chalkboard spray paint. Finally, when the clock is fully dry, reattach the clock hands and finish by designating certain hours for your daily tasks. This project is especially ideal for young children who don't yet know how to tell time; simply use drawings to help them know when it is time for their activities and you'll avoid the everyday question of "is it time to (fill in the blank) yet?"

Labels for entertaining tables
When entertaining guests, you want them to feel welcome and at home. Adding personal messages or labels can be the solution to put your party over the top. Chalkboard paint can be the perfect addition to many of your go-to entertainment pieces. Spray the base of your wine glasses and label with guests' names to keep track of drinks. Spray the fronts of buckets, bowls or canisters to call out their contents. Spray a large platter or board to create a welcome sign or menu for your guests. The ideas are endless.

Soon, your home will feel more organized and stylish with these easy and delightful craft ideas. And the best thing about a chalkboard is you can constantly change it up. Simply erase and write something new.

Source: www.krylon.com.

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Stay Safe while Boating This Summer

July 25, 2012 5:58 pm

Summer means tons of fun on the water, from lounging at the beach to swimming, surfing and boating. But it’s also important to keep safety in mind. In 2011, the Coast Guard counted 4,588 accidents that involved 758 deaths, 3,081 injuries and approximately $52 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. Of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing life jackets.

"The statistics show that no matter where you are boating, following boating safety, being properly prepared and equipped, and always wearing a life jacket can help save many lives," says Virgil Chambers, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. "Accidents on the water happen much too fast to reach and put on a stowed life jacket. With the variety, comfort and style of today's life jackets, there's no reason why you, your family and friends, can't have fun on the water while always choosing to wear a life jacket."

To prevent drowning and promote safe boating practices, the NSBC encourages all recreational boaters to wear their life jacket and follow these five life jacket safety tips:

1. No matter what activity you have planned -- boating, fishing, sailing, etc. -- always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water.
2. Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Double-check that your life jacket is appropriate for your boating activity.
3. Take the time to ensure a proper fit.
4. Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to "grow into."
5. On recreational vessels underway, children under 13 years old must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket unless they are below decks or in an enclosed cabin. Some state laws vary -- check with your local Marine Law Enforcement Authorities.

Source: www.SafeBoatingCouncil.org.

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