February 1, 2012 6:48 pm
Q: Is it possible to save on closing costs?
A: Certainly, once you get pass the sticker shock. Closing costs are expensive. They can average between 2 to 3 percent of the total home purchase price. But here are a few ways to save:
• Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
• Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
• Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage – you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
• Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders.
• Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.
January 31, 2012 6:46 pm
What do houseplants, a boiling pot of pasta and your shower all have in common? They all add moisture to your home's interior. And, while some humidity in the home is good, excessive moisture can be uncomfortable.
"We often get calls from homeowners who are concerned that their windows are 'sweating' or leaking either inside or outside the home because they see moisture on the glass," says Gary Pember, vice president of marketing at Simonton Windows®. "In reality, that's simply not the case. While condensation may collect on the interior or exterior of energy-efficient windows, the units are really doing their job by helping serve as a barrier in the home."
Pember points out that windows do not cause condensation—they simply prevent the moisture in the home from escaping to the outside. "If the inside glass surface on double- or triple-glazed windows show excessive moisture, you can be reasonably sure that the moisture is also collecting on your walls and ceilings," says Pember. "This means you should take steps to reduce the humidity level in your home by using exhaust fans and dehumidifiers."
What Can a Homeowner Do to Help Reduce Condensation?
Water vapor is part of our lives and our homes. To help control the amount of condensation in the home, try the following tips:
• Use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans.
• If you have a humidifier, set it to the correct outside temperature.
• If your home is overly humid, or if you have a damp basement, use a dehumidifier.
• Properly vent clothes dryers, gas appliances and stoves.
• Open a window in the bathroom.
• Make sure your attic, basement and crawl spaces are well ventilated and free from obstructions.
• Open curtains and blinds to allow more air circulation around your windows.
January 31, 2012 6:46 pm
Now that winter’s darkest days are (hopefully) behind us, spring is closer than you think. Get a head start on spring gardening and begin planning now for an easier and more rewarding gardening season. The following tips can help jumpstart your season.
• Scout your yard for shrubs than may have been damaged by snow, ice or wind. Prune broken branches cleanly, back to the next healthy joint or bud.
• Growing flowers from seed? Remember that some plants need a big head start. Petunias, impatiens, verbena and snapdragons, should be planted indoors under lights, 10-12 weeks before the last spring frost.
• Check houseplants for spider mites, aphids and scale. Give troubled plants a healthy boost with a cool shower, some fresh potting soil and a dose of liquid fertilizer.
• Packets of flower or vegetable seeds make a nice gift for Valentine’s Day. Just slip them in with your card and a potted primrose or bouquet of tulips.
• Mustard, ragweed, henbit and many other pesky weeds start growing with the first hint of spring. Keep them from sprouting by applying a weed preventer two weeks before the ground begins to warm up.
• Consider adding raspberries, blueberries, currants or other small fruits to your landscape. For the best selection, order dormant plants by mail. All should be planted in earliest spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
• Grow your own micro-greens. Plant leftover broccoli, radish or basil seeds in a pot and grow on a sunny windowsill. Snip young plants with scissors for a pretty garnish or a spicy addition to a salad.
• Take cuttings of geraniums, coleus, rosemary and other tender plants that you have overwintered indoors. Root them in water or in moist potting mix.
• Most perennials benefit from being divided every few years. The best time to do this is earliest spring just as new growth appears. Think about the plants that are most in need of dividing and make a list of them so this task doesn’t get forgotten in the rush of spring.
January 31, 2012 6:46 pm
Don’t go overboard for Super Bowl decorations; most people will be more interested in the TV screen than your carefully crafted table centerpiece. One easy way is to choose serving platters, dishes and table cloths in the colors of the competing teams. Take it a step further by choosing a few food items that display the team shades, which are the same this year! Blue and red frosted cupcakes are a fun way to show spirit.
Before kick-off, have your own football game in the backyard. This big game pre-game method is a terrific way to amp competition, and it assures everyone will be tired—and hungry—come game-time.
A buffet is the way to go for a Super Bowl party; a formal sit-down meal just isn’t conducive to the laid-back atmosphere of game day. Plus, leaving the food out is a great way for people to snack throughout the afternoon. Keep food fun and easy to eat Sandwiches, salads, wings, chili, dips and crudités are traditional choices.
Create a Safe Space
Often there are a handful of non-sports fans at every Super Bowl party who are just there for the company. Set up a space in another room for them to hang out and catch up if they don’t want to watch the game. This will also benefit hardcore football fans who don’t want their game interrupted by chatter. This goes for kids too; if young children will be around, set up a coloring and game station in another room—but be sure to have an adult supervising at all times!
January 31, 2012 6:46 pm
Usury. Charging a higher rate of interest on a loan than is legally allowed.
January 31, 2012 6:46 pm
Flu season is no joke. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this cyclical virus affects as much as 20 percent of the U.S. population each year.
So my attention was drawn to advice from cleaning experts at The Maids, who remind homeowners that while they may already be armed with an array of physical preventatives—from flu-shots to Emergen-C, neti-pots and home remedies—they may not be doing everything it takes to stop the flu from spreading.
The Maids make it a policy to clean for health year-round, and recommend the following tips to stop the flu from invading your home:
• Wash your hands regularly in warm soapy water. For quick clean-up, use antibacterial hand sanitizer. Make an effort not to touch your mouth or nose without first washing your hands.
• Wear rubber gloves when cleaning household items to protect yourself.
• Spray disinfecting spray on a cloth, or use antibacterial wipes on toys, doorknobs, appliance handles, keyboards, remote controls, light switches, phones and facial tissue box covers. Viruses can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces.
• Wash items like towels and bedding in hot water with soap if someone has been sick in the home. Be sure not to share these items until they are thoroughly cleaned.
• Change vacuum bags monthly, or even more frequently.
• Boil toothbrushes for one minute in water and vinegar, run through a dishwasher cycle or purchase new brushes.
• Wash mop heads in a solution of ¼ cup bleach and one gallon water, dry thoroughly, then store. Not only will mop heads pick up germs and dirt, but they also can also grow mold and mildew if they don’t dry out completely.
• Disinfect the bathroom and kitchen, especially the faucet and toilet handles, daily. The kitchen and bathroom are the most used rooms in the home and possibly the most contaminated.
Here's to a flu-free winter for all!
January 30, 2012 6:42 pm
In December, I declared 2012 would be the 'Year of the Rehab.' But it is also important to remember that whether you're engaging in a major construction project, changing a light bulb, or warming up a hot cup of soup, keeping safe at home should be your ultimate goal 24/7.
That brings us to a new reminder from the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org) and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors phoenix-society.org. Those agencies are partnering up and urging the public to be cautious when handling hot liquids and soups.
According to a study released by the Journal of Burn Care & Research, prepackaged microwavable soups, especially noodle soups, are a frequent cause of scald burn injuries. And scalding is the second leading cause of burn injuries in children, older adults and people with disabilities.
To help prevent scald injuries, the NFPA and Phoenix Society offer these safety tips:
• Teach children that hot things can burn.
• Test the water at the faucet. It should be less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).
• Always supervise a child in or near a bathtub. Before placing a child in the bath or getting in the bath yourself, test the water. Test the water by moving your hand, wrist and forearm through the water. The water should feel warm, not hot, to the touch.
• Place hot liquids and food in the center of a table or toward the back of a counter.
• Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried. Never hold a child while you are cooking, drinking a hot liquid, or carrying hot foods or liquids.
• Allow microwaved food to cool before eating and open it slowly, away from the face.
• Choose prepackaged soups whose containers have a wide base or, to avoid the possibility of a spill, pour the soup into a traditional bowl after heating.
• Treat a burn right away. Cool the burn with cool water for 3-5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help if needed.
For more tips view the NFPA’s scald prevention tip sheet at nfpa.org/safetytips.
January 30, 2012 6:42 pm
Clipping coupons and using promo codes are two ways the average shopper can save money on grocery bills and other commodities. But for smartphone users and the app-happy, says U.S. News and World Report, there are newer ploys for saving cash as you shop.
Here are six shopping habits the cyber-savvy should adopt:
• Compare prices with shopping apps – With Amazon’s shopping app, you can compare prices at multiple stores simply by scanning a bar code or doing a product search from your smart phone or tablet. Amazon also works with independent sellers who may be offering lower prices than retail merchants— so it pays to comparison shop.
• Keep up with Facebook deals – More and more retailers are posting Facebook-only deals and special offers on their Facebook page throughout the week. Check your News Feed now and then to take advantage of such offers.
• Subscribe to local daily deal sites – Besides the major daily deal sites, which post great deals on travel packages and luxury goods, there are dozens of smaller daily deal sites specific to your local area. Check your local newspaper's shopping section for information on local deals and do an online search for deal sites specific to your city. You may be rewarded with deep discounts on a variety of goods and services.
• Use online coupons to stockpile – Search for printable online coupons for products you use on a regular basis and use them to buy in bulk—taking advantage of double coupon and in-store coupon offers—whenever these items go on sale.
• Read online reviews and testimonials – Save money and make better buying decisions by doing a search for unbiased online reviews, recommendations, and testimonials from your peers on Facebook. This can be especially helpful—and save you money on return shipping costs—if you like to buy online.
• Join the less-cyber savvy in checking receipts – Mistakes can be made and scanners are not always accurate, so do as all smart shoppers do and watch the cash register as prices are rung up. Then check receipts carefully to be sure no errors have been made and you have received all the discounts you are entitled to.
January 30, 2012 6:42 pm
Heating your home during the colder months uses a large percentage of the energy you use throughout the entire year.
And with winter weather finally setting in, most of us are likely to crank up the temperature indoors to ward off the cold outdoors.
But at a time of year when many of us are already stretched against a difficult financial climate and high energy prices, how many of us can really afford to have the heating on all the time?
The follow advice, offered by Glow-Worm heating, can help you get the best from your heating systems during the cold winter months.
Ensuring your heating system is running efficiently and that you are not wasting any energy can therefore help you to make big savings on your fuel bills.
"Accurately sizing a new or replacement boiler is very important. But it's also very important for homeowners to ensure their whole heating system is working as efficiently as possible. This may mean new or replacement radiators, controls, under floor heating or even investment in renewable technology,” says Pippa Wibberley, commercial director at Glow-worm.
Program it. Many people believe that keeping their heating on all day, even when out, is more efficient as it will take less energy to bring their home up to the desired temperature.
In fact, a far more efficient way to heat your home is to program your system to operate when you need it most. This helps to create a more efficient heating system which can deliver significant savings on household energy bills.
Radiator rules. Your heating professional may suggest installing thermostatic radiator valves. This means applying a valve to each radiator, which will control the temperature of a room by regulating the flow of hot water to the radiator. If a room is not used, then the thermostatic radiator valve can also be turned off completely.
Check it out. It's important to arrange an annual maintenance check for your boiler and central heating system. A check-up can sometimes seem unnecessary when nothing is broken, but your service engineer can help to ensure that everything is in good working order and reduce the risk of any breakdowns during the cold snaps of winter. It's also very important to get your boiler serviced annually as in many cases, you will need to do this to keep your manufacturers warranty valid.
January 30, 2012 6:42 pm
Recent news is reporting lower unemployment and a slow growth in the economy, but forecasters warn of a steady rise to consumer debt. The average household in America is still burdened with just over $15,000 in overall credit card debt. While credit card debt is still the main culprit of debt advice seekers, student loans are on the rise, reporting the second most frequent form of debt. Regardless of what kind of debt is strapping consumers, many feel they are without options in this current debt-ridden climate.
Make Sure You Have a Plan
It was Harry Truman who spoke about a plan, "make no small plans, instead, make 1 big plan and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." You are going to get out of debt, but you most certainly need a plan. If you are going to take on your debts, you must be honest with yourself and know your weaknesses. If you are eating out too much, acknowledge it and cut back. If shopping spending sprees are impulsive and out of control, either cut yourself off cold turkey or set a monthly budget as a precaution and do not exceed it. Simple lifestyle acknowledgements will allow you to tackle your debts more effectively.
Look Into Debt Relief Options
Debt negotiation is an alternative to bankruptcy that can help eliminate one's debts. In short, an agent from one of these companies will intercede with the various creditors of the debtor, making the payment schedule easier for the consumer. Laws and regulations surrounding debt negotiation have recently changed making it more reliable than before.
Debt consolidation is another option you may want to consider. By consolidating your debt, make one low monthly payment instead of several. Unlike credit cards, the interest rate for debt consolidation is tax deductible and can even improve your credit rating because you are essentially paying off higher interest debt faster.
Credit counseling and debt management are further options for those in debt and focus on the interest rate. By working with a non-profit consumer credit counselor, creditors often lower the overall interest rate, waive late fees, and attempt to bring your debts current.