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Mary Mastroeni

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Q: What Else Should I Take into Account when Buying a New Home?

June 21, 2012 4:58 pm

A: You can find out more about an existing property and neighborhood before you buy than you can a new home in a newly developed community.

When the home is on the outskirts of town, ask the developer about future access to public transit, entertainment venues, shopping centers, churches, and schools. Also review local zoning ordinances. A remote area can quickly turn into a fast food haven.

You want to ensure the neighborhood will not spiral out of control and lose its residential appeal.
Other things to consider:

• Ask homeowners already living in a development about the builder. If none currently live there, find out where the builder has previously built and speak to those owners to find out if the builder followed through on promises and needed repairs.
• Ability to make changes. Most homes in a development resemble each other. But the developer may impose restrictions on house color, landscaping, renovations, and other items that a homeowner may want to alter.
• Do not buy into the highfalutin images created by marketing experts. Form your own opinions about a property and only buy where you feel comfortable. After all, you are the one who will be living there.

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New Tech: What Products NOT to Buy Now

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

Buying a new tech gadget only weeks before the price drops, or before a new model comes on the market, can be maddening, notes consumer tech advocate Becky Worley. From her own list of Silicon Valley sources, Worley provides advice to consumers on what tech gadgets NOT to buy now:

Windows Laptops – New laptops with Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors will come out this fall. They'll run faster and have better battery lives, and Windows 8, the new operating system from Microsoft, is rumored to be released in October. It will come pre-loaded on all new PCs.


MAC products
– Macbook Air and Macbook Pro lines were just updated with faster Ivy Bridge processors, and a new Macbook Pro has an eye-popping screen. But Apple will release a new operating system in July called Mountain Lion. While any Macbooks purchased now will get a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion, it might be easier to wait until July and have them install it for you. (BTW, Apple products go on sale one day a year — the Friday after Thanksgiving – with a 10% discount. Whether that’s worth waiting for is up to you.)

iPhones – If the rumors are right, a new iPhone will debut this fall with a better processor, better camera, and faster connectivity. It will probably have a bigger screen with higher resolution.

TVs – Prices are generally lowest before Christmas and after the Super Bowl. Since no major innovations are expected any time soon, expect manufacturers to woo customers this winter with especially attractive prices.

Kindle Fire – This $199 device may have been rushed to market in time for Christmas last year, which may mean the next iteration due out this fall will be significantly refreshed. Amazon will probably keep the price low, especially if Google comes out with a 7-inch competitor.


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Road Warriors: Tips for Nighttime Driving

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

(ARA) - Summer is a great time for a road trip. With kids out of school and longer hours of daylight, many families will head out on the highway to a variety of summer vacation destinations. For many, night-time driving will be an unavoidable necessity if they want to make the most of their vacation time.

It's important to keep night-time travel as safe, comfortable and convenient as possible for everyone who rides in your vehicle. If you'll be driving at night during this summer's vacation, here are some tips to help ensure you enjoy good travels:

Prepare your vehicle

Before you begin your trip, make sure your vehicle is in top shape for traveling at night. Take care of any necessary repairs or maintenance, no matter how minor they seem, including things like checking that tires are properly inflated and the air filter is clean and functioning properly.

Visibility is an important consideration for night driving. All windows, headlights and tail lights should be clean and unclouded. Check headlights to ensure they're properly aimed; poorly aligned headlights can make it difficult for you to see the road, and can blind drivers in other vehicles.

Look after your passengers

Before setting out on your summer driving trip, be sure interior climate controls function properly and that all passengers have the proper safety restraints. Infants and children should ride in the back seat throughout the trip.

Although it may be tempting to allow children to lay down in back seats and sleep during night drives, children should be properly buckled up whenever traveling in a vehicle. Put infants and toddlers in car seats appropriate for their weight and age. Children younger than 12, shorter than 4 feet 9 inches, or less than 80 pounds should use a booster seat, according to SafeKids.org.

Take care of yourself

As the driver, you are the most important piece of safety equipment in the vehicle. Make sure you are well-rested before setting out on the road. Update eyewear prescriptions and take all necessary medications with you inside the vehicle so you're not tempted to skip a dose while driving.

Finally, avoid frustrated driving by minimizing distractions. Plan your route before you leave home so that you don't have to deal with confusion over where you're going or the distraction of trying to figure out directions while driving. 


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The 10 Worst Cities for Renters

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

If you know anything about economics, you'll know that when the real estate market tumbles, the renter's market skyrockets.

Unless your credit score falls closer to 800 than 700, you could have a hard time getting a mortgage. Banks and homebuyers got burned in the 2008 real estate bubble, and they're trying to avoid that mistake again by only giving out loans to the most qualified.

What that means for everyone else is that the rents have surged. But when you pay your monthly rent, just be thankful you don't live in one of these top 10 worst cities for renters, as compiled by Forbes.

New York City, N.Y. While New York City topping this list is no big surprise, the average rent of $2,902 is shocking and over $1,000 higher than the average rent of the next highest rent city (San Francisco). You need to make $55,000 before taxes just to pay rent. Count me out.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. A bit of a surprise to be the second worst city to rent given that the average rent in this Midwest city is only $965. However, it's much cheaper to own here, so renters lose out.

San Francisco, Calif. The first of many California cities on this list. The average rent is $1,901. Just be happy you don't work in Manhattan.

San Jose, Calif. Only 50 miles south of San Francisco, San Jose's rents have skyrocketed as the line between Silicon Valley and the City of San Jose have blurred. With dot com millionaires come expensive housing. The average rent is $1,520.

Boston, Mass. Boston can be considered a glorified college town. Pity to parents who have to shell out an average of $1,752 so junior can go to school.

Washington D.C.The nation's capitol represents this list with an average $1,419 rent.

Oakland, Calif. Besides having high crime, Oakland also has high rent averaging $1,318 a month.

New Haven, Conn. The average rent here is $1,604. Is this the Yale effect?

Los Angeles, Calif.The average rent is only $1,398, but don't be deceived as Los Angeles is enormous, and the low average rent is depressed by a lot of units in parts of the city you'll never want to visit, let alone live.

Santa Ana, Calif. The fifth California city on this top 10 list. The average rent is $1,516.

Next time you want to complain about rising rent, just remember the poor renters in these top 10 worst cities for renters. Just be aware that there are laws that protect renters including laws that limit how much security deposit may be required and laws against housing discrimination. If you have experienced any of these issues, you may want to contact a landlord tenant attorney.


Source:
www.findlaw.com


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Word of the Day

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

Junior mortgage. Any mortgage, such a second or third mortgage on a property, which is subordinate to the first one in priority.  


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Q: Can You Negotiate the Price of a New Home?

June 20, 2012 7:56 pm

A: In real estate, almost everything is negotiable, so it is certainly worth a try. Now, this does not mean the builder will fall down and roll over. It is very common for builders to claim that their prices are based on fixed construction costs. Perhaps, but timing is everything.

A builder is more likely to be flexible on price at the very beginning and end of a project. Early on, most developers want to move people in quickly so the project builds momentum. In the end, they may be more inclined to accept lower offers when only a few units are left.


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Plant-Based Perspective: How Is Your Cholesterol?

June 19, 2012 7:54 pm

I like to think I am pretty in tune with my body. I know that if I don’t get enough sleep, the next day I will have the urge to eat everything in my path. I know that I can keep mood swings in check by eating a blend of whole grains, healthy fats and protein. And, as a vegan, I know that I have to monitor my diet to make sure I am getting enough nutrients to avoid health problems like vitamin deficiencies!

But for everyone—vegans and omnivores alike—a blood test every now and then helps to make sure you are getting what you need.

The last round of blood work I did showed that my cholesterol is way too low. Embarrassingly enough, this excited me a wee bit as it gives me an excuse to eat more yummy heart healthy fats! Healthy fat and a normal cholesterol level is important–it gives you glowing skin, healthy nails and hair, stabilizes moods, regulates your metabolism, increases your energy and revs your libido! Vroom, vroom!

Many Americans have high cholesterol, and if that's the case for you, then eating heart healthy fats can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) while raising your good cholesterol (HDL)! High five! So what are some great HDL promoting foods?

Flax oil. Right after visiting the doctor, I went out and got flax oil which I have been putting in my breakfast bowl of oatmeal, my smoothies and on top of salads and grains. It has an amazing nutty flavor and delivers tons of omega-3s!

Avocados. You may be thinking, but avocados have saturated fat! Well sure, but they also have monounsaturated fats, full of cholesterol-blasting oleic acid. I have been trying to eat more avocados in my salads or sliced on top of toast in the morning with tomato (tomato season is just around the corner!) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper—delicious!

Nuts. Incorporating a variety of nuts and seeds is not only good for your cholesterol, but also provides you with fiber and iron. Anyone from my office will confirm that at some point between 3 and 5 p.m., I can be found in the office kitchen, sucking on a spoonful of nut-butter.

Regardless of your diet, it’s a good idea to get some blood work done several times a year. Be sure to tell your doctor to ask that the test checks your cholesterol and vitamin levels like folate, iron, b12 and zinc.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia's Associate Editor, animal and plant lover and certified holistic health counselor. 


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Don't Let Pests Ruin Your Summer Fun

June 19, 2012 7:54 pm

The first day of summer brings warmer temperatures and more time outdoors; unfortunately, that also means you are more likely to get stung by fire ants, bees and wasps and bitten by mosquitoes. As you barbecue with friends or work in your garden, watch out for the following insects that can spoil your outdoor fun.

Mosquitoes

"While fire ants, bees and wasps are dangerous because of their stings, the number one pest to look out for this summer is the mosquito," says Jim Warneke, Orkin's Southeast division technical services manager. "They can carry serious diseases, some of which are fatal."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some mosquitoes can transmit West Nile Virus, malaria, dengue fever and the virus that causes encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.

"The CDC reported 712 cases of West Nile virus in 2011, and dengue fever rarely occurs in the United States," says Warneke. "Prime mosquito-biting times are dusk and dawn, so be sure to take the proper precautions and spray an EPA-approved insect repellent on exposed skin, and wear long sleeves and socks if possible."

Mosquitoes only need a few ounces of water to breed and survive, making them very hard to control, so Warneke suggests removing any standing water from gutters, birdbaths or flower pots.

Fire Ants

Fire ants are reddish-brown and sting when they are disturbed or feel threatened. They attach themselves with their mandibles to people or animals and inject venom through their stingers. Fire ant stings are very painful and can be fatal, but most victims experience painful red bumps.

Fire ants prefer warm and dry, sunny weather and avoid shady areas. Mounds can grow up to 24 inches in diameter and 18 inches high. They are most common throughout the southern U.S. but have been found as far west as California and as far north as Maryland.


Bees, Wasps, Hornets and Yellow Jackets

Flying, stinging insects like bees, wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are found all across the country, and they like to build their nests in inconspicuous places.

"Yellow jackets tend to build their nests in the ground, and paper wasps are notorious for building their nests under a building's eaves and soffits," says Warneke. "They also tend to build nests in ornamental plants and hedges. Bees, on the other hand, will build their nests in many different locations, from inverted, unused flower pots and barbecue grills to inside the walls of homes and buildings. They spend their time around flowering plants, so be careful when you are pruning your roses or other annual flowers."


Bee, wasp, hornet and yellow jacket stings are painful and can cause symptoms ranging from headaches, fever and fatigue to vomiting and convulsions. Stings can also be deadly to those who are allergic to their venom. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket and fire ant stings are the cause of about 500,000 allergy-related emergency room visits each year and at least 40 deaths in the United States from anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction.

Africanized honey bees, also known as killer bees, are typical throughout the southeastern U.S., but can be found throughout the country. They, too, are opportunistic when it comes to building nests and will make their home just about anywhere, warns Warneke.

"It is best to stay away from all bees because they are difficult to identify," said Warneke. "All honey bees have a pheromone in their stingers that will attract other honey bees, and that could lead to additional stings."

Warneke recommends the following tips to help prevent flying, stinging insects from being attracted to your home:

  • Remove all unnecessary food and water sources.

  • Seal cracks and crevices around doors and windows.

  • Clean up spilled food and drinks immediately, and keep drinks covered.

  • Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.

  • Thin vegetation and do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes and access for ants to enter your home.

 

Source: Orkin, LLC


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Five Rules for Buying a Foreclosure or Short Sale with Confidence

June 19, 2012 7:54 pm

 (ARA) - Buyers are still clamoring for real estate deals in this turbulent market. Foreclosures and short sales offer some of the best bargains, but also have a higher risk level. Still, more than four in five adults think foreclosures and short sales can be good deals, according to a recent American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) survey.

Some analysts say the rebound has begun and home prices may rise by the end of 2012. This means now may be buyers' last chance to take advantage of affordable properties and low interest rates. If you want to score a bargain before the housing market recovers, you'll need to follow a few rules to invest with certainty.

Make a wise investment by adhering to these five rules while shopping distressed properties:

Rule 1: Position yourself for success

Before starting your search, get preapproved for a mortgage so when a good deal presents itself, you're positioned to submit a bid right away to be the first offer on the bank's desk. Work with an experienced real estate agent who can help guide you through the daunting sea of foreclosures and short sales. Bidding can be complicated and time-consuming, especially when working with a home sale needing bank approval. A good agent will know how to navigate through the paperwork and red tape.

Rule 2: Do your research

A real estate agent can help you with research, but it's wise to do some on your own. Are there any undisclosed liens on the property? Is the seller behind on his property taxes? What permit records does the city have on file? This information will be critical during decision-making. Work with your agent to ensure the contract requires any delinquent taxes, liens or assessments will be paid prior to you taking ownership of the property.

Rule 3: Always get a home inspection

Eighty-four percent of adults surveyed by ASHI said they would be more likely to purchase a distressed property after a home inspection has determined its condition.

A home inspection gives you the confidence to move forward with your purchase because you'll have as much knowledge as possible about the condition of the property. An inspector will visually examine the condition of the home's roof, attic and insulation, foundation, basement and structural components, as well as interior plumbing and electrical systems. Be sure to find an ASHI-Certified Inspector (ACI) to ensure your inspector is experienced, as many states have minimal licensing requirements. To find a local ACI, use ASHI's "Find an Inspector" tool on www.ASHI.org.

Rule 4: Budget for repairs

When looking at short sales and foreclosures, remember price is only one aspect to consider. A home will almost always require some type of repair. After receiving your inspection report, you can estimate costs associated with necessary repairs, maintenance or energy-efficient improvements.

Rule 5: Assess the neighborhood

Location should be a top consideration when purchasing real estate, and in a tough housing market, it's even more important. A home has limited worth if it's located in a less desirable neighborhood. High foreclosure rates can turn a once-desirable neighborhood into one many might likely avoid. These locations are likely to see a slower recovery than more populated or favorable areas less affected by the economy. Make location as important as price when making a purchase decision.

Protect yourself with knowledge and expert advice to make a confident, smart decision about your largest investment.

 


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Word of the Day

June 19, 2012 7:54 pm

Judgment. Court decree stating that one person is indebted to another. Also specifies the amount of the debt.


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