November 28, 2011 7:32 pm
Q: What are the main reasons why homeowners remodel?
A: There are many reasons. Home remodeling can improve the appearance of your home, enhance its value, add to your quality of life, and appeal to future home buyers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the top four reasons homeowners remodel is to obtain more space, avoid buying a new home, enjoy more amenities, and adjust to lifestyle changes.
November 22, 2011 7:12 pm
A recent report from the Huffington Post revealed that despite last-ditch attempt to lure grown-ups to movie theaters, the movie industry is suffering from ever-declining ticket sales among adult audiences. While teenagers can still be relied upon to head to the local theater, grown-ups are increasingly content to stay in, save a few dollars, and watch a movie at home. Greg Hamus, a film critic and blogger from the site FilmCatch, says watching movies at home is an affordable option, but making movie night something the whole family can enjoy sometimes proves challenging.
“Anyone can rent or buy a DVD or Blu-Ray,” Hamus notes, “but turning it into a truly compelling event takes some planning.” Hamus has compiled a set of tips for adults hoping to establish movie nights the whole family can enjoy.
“Home viewings are definitely cheaper than going to the Cineplex, but they lack some of the same wow factor,” notes Hamus. “Making home movie night into a real event takes some doing, but is ultimately a more satisfying experience.”
Hamus says the most important thing to remember is that people want more than just a movie—they want a special event. His tips follow suit.
1. Send invitations: The quickest way to turn a movie into an event is to treat it like a party. An invitation, be it paper or electronic, goes a long way.
2. Pick a theme: If planning a double feature, find a creative way to link the two movies being shown. Otherwise, think about thematic décor or even attire.
3. Plan seating: Unless a home theater is part of the house, this might prove tricky, but throw blankets, beanbag chairs, and the like will all add bonus seating on the floor.
4. Make it a game: Before the movie, look up some interesting facts about the movie or its stars, and play movie trivia.
5. Schedule an intermission: If snacks and drinks are being served, this is an especially important step to take.
According to Hamus, going out to the movies can seem like a big event, but escalating ticket prices make it less appealing for grown-ups and families alike.
“Turning a home viewing into an event is possible,” Hamus says, “so long as creativity and a little planning are involved.”
November 22, 2011 7:12 pm
Your home's holiday decor this year can feature fast, simple but visually stunning interior redecorating by using budget-friendly faux wood, stone and brick.
“It’s amazing the huge impact an accent wall or some trim pieces can have on the entire look of a room,” says Steve Barron, president of Faux Wood Beams and Faux Panels.
Today’s synthetic panels and beams are created from molds of genuine stone, brick and wood beams to replicate their natural beauty. Yet thanks to modern polyurethane foam, they're virtually maintenance free, highly durable, fast and easy to install, and much more affordable than their genuine stone or wood counterparts.
Even better, they’re a DIYer’s dream.
“If you can use basic tools like a hammer and screwdriver, you can install faux panels,” said Steve Barron. “It goes up so fast—you can do an entire wall in one to two hours.”
Even homeowners who want to hire a contractor benefit from the quicker installation time. Less time means lower labor costs.
Here are four small or medium projects that will add some zing to your holiday home decor just in time for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year.
1. Accent Treatments Change the Look of an Entire Room
Less is more, especially in decorating. Rather than doing an entire room in faux stone or brick, just do a small segment, creating a focal point for the entire room.
Covering a fireplace in faux stone or brick is a common way to change styles. Another home decorating idea is continuing the design all the way up to the ceiling—a great technique that can create the appearance of a higher ceiling.
2. Give Those Holiday Stockings a Better Home
A new fireplace mantel is a super quick and easy way to change the look of a room during the Christmas decorating season. In addition to faux wood styles—many available in a Class A Fire Rating for additional peace of mind—genuine wood mantels are also available.
If you like your current mantel but want to change its appearance, corbels can be added underneath as decorative support features. Even better, you'll be done in less than an hour.
3. A Little Trim Goes a Long Way
Adding a few faux wood beam knee braces livens up porch supports, and they’re incredibly easy to install. Because they’re made of durable polyurethane, pests like termites have no interest in them and they hold up in even the most severe weather conditions—like a very snowy winter.
Knee braces add character year round but during the holidays, a string of holiday lights or pine garland wrapped around them would add even more visual interest for Christmas curb appeal.
4. Mail Those Holiday Letters with Style
Mix some practicality with an exterior redesign by installing a faux stone column with a mailbox near the end of your driveway or by the front door. It’s a very simple DIY project that creates a visual anchor for the front of your home—and it’s completely weather resistant.
“People think ‘redecorating’ and assume it has to be a huge project but little changes like this can really make a big difference to the look of a room while still getting it done in time for the holidays,” said Steve Barron.
For more information, visit FauxPanels.com and FauxWoodBeams.com.
November 22, 2011 7:12 pm
The holidays can be joyous, but they can also bring acute pressures that put us in the grip of stress and anxiety. CPP, Inc. (CPP.com), an industry leader in research, training, and organizational development tools including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) assessment, offers some tips to keep the time enjoyable, beginning with what may be one of the most stressful environments of all: the holiday dinner table.
Marvel not that this cherished time with loved ones can be a major stressor. Holiday dinner assembles people of varying personality types whose socializing preferences may differ immensely. However, knowing a bit about your own personality and those around you allows you to remove friction by flexing your own interaction style.
People tend to get their "energy" in two ways. Those with a preference for extraversion tend to focus on the outer world of people and activity, while those with a preference for introversion tend to focus on the inner world of ideas and reflections.
• If you're energized by the outer world, accommodate more reflective friends and family by:
o Practicing active listening skills
o Providing pauses in the conversation for others to join in when they're ready
o Respecting the need for privacy if someone isn't immediately sharing
• If you prefer reflecting on your inner world, try accommodating externally-focused guests by:
o Acknowledging you're listening with cues: nod, smile, maintain eye contact, etc.
o Anticipating "thinking out loud," understanding these thoughts may not be 100% complete
o Focusing on discussing topics you're comfortable with and know well
o Similarly, people prefer to make decisions either by: Thinking – basing them on logic and objective analysis of cause and effect; or Feeling – basing them primarily on values and subjective consideration of how it'll affect people.
• If you favor logic and analysis, accommodate the more values-driven decision-makers by:
o Focusing on the people involved: find out what is valued and important
o Knowing when to provide feedback gently and critique behaviors, not people
o Acknowledging others' feelings and values, not analyzing them
• If you prefer values-based decision-making, flex to your more analysis-driven loved ones by:
o Being honest and frank with your comments, as well as positive
o Not feeling threatened when someone challenges or debates
o Showing the cause-and-effect with pros and cons
For more information on CPP, visit www.cpp.com.
November 22, 2011 7:12 pm
The continuous redesign of electronics and appliances for enhanced portability, functionality and energy efficiency has made many of today's consumer goods increasingly intricate, fragile and costly to repair or replace. At the same time, products are being manufactured with low-cost components and manufacturers are limiting warranty periods along with customer support options.
According to the Service Contract Industry Council (SCIC), as the technology in products rapidly evolves it can prove difficult for manufacturers to keep replacement parts in stock for products utilizing yesterday's technology. Consequently, consumers whose malfunctioning product is outside of the manufacturer's warranty period and who want to repair it to keep it for the long-term may be out of luck. With an extended warranty, however, consumers can find protection; if a malfunctioning product cannot be repaired, it generally is replaced with a comparable newer one.
Consumer Reports (August 2011) stated, "...consumer goods have become more complex and contain more electronics than they did a decade ago... when things do go wrong, they tend to go horribly wrong." The 27,404 subscribers surveyed for the Consumer Reports' story reported that 53,218 of their home products including appliances, electronics and more needed to be repaired or replaced.
"An extended warranty is particularly relevant in uncertain economic times," said Tim Meenan, Executive Director of the SCIC. "When things do go 'horribly wrong,' the consumer is protected by law."
Extended warranty providers are a fixed component of retailing in America because they meet a large market demand, provide an enhanced quality product, and proactively establish and enhance consumer protections—all the while greatly improving the state of the industry through self-regulation.
Why to Buy an Extended Warranty:
A survey of consumers by Brand Keys, Inc. predicts a 10 percent increase in electronic purchases over last year. Of those consumers planning to give an electronic device, 25% are purchasing e-book readers, 19% tablets, 15% smart phones, 9% computers and 6% cameras.
o Consumer electronics are complex, increasingly mobile and expensive to repair
o Cracked screens for both eReaders and tablets can cost from $160-350 to repair/replace
o Battery upgrade/replacement $80-150
o Lines in screen $160-350
o Unit frozen/not able to connect to computer $180-500
**(higher range applies to tablets)
o 30-day free look back period – if you want to change your mind, you can!
o 100% parts and labor coverage for failures caused by:
o Normal wear and tear
o Defects in workmanship and materials
o Mechanical and electrical breakdowns
o Environmental factors
o Power surge protection (great for small businesses)
o Replaces products that require multiple repairs for the same failure.
o 24-hour, toll-free access to pre-qualified technical support and local repair person
o Time savings - no hauling products back to place of purchase, etc.
o Free transferable coverage
o Save the environment. Repair versus dump and replace products.
When Not to buy an Extended Warranty:
o If at all pressured by a sales person to buy on the spot
o If the contract is not available for review at the time of purchase
o If the cost of the warranty is a high percentage of the overall product price; the warranty should cost between 10-20% of the overall retail price
o If you receive an automated phone sales pitch or mass mailer
o Contact your local BBB or state insurance commission with any concerns. Always read terms carefully and research provider prior to purchase.
For more information, visit www.go-scic.com.
November 22, 2011 7:12 pm
Real estate broker. Individual who has passed a state broker’s test and represents others in realty transactions. Anyone having his or her own office must be a broker.
November 22, 2011 4:12 pm
When hosting a holiday party, there's plenty to consider—from the decorations and guest list to the beverages and food items. But as you get your home ready for the festive feast, don't forget to take extra precautions when preparing the meal to avoid spreading bacteria.
As a mom and celebrity chef, Cat Cora always follows a few simple steps to ensure "unwanted guests" aren't invited to her holiday feasts. "My family is the most important thing to me and figuring out ways to prevent cross-contamination while creating meals is key," says Cora.
With this in mind, Cora has provided tips to ensure safe food preparation:
• When thawing frozen meat or seafood, don't leave it out on the counter. Place the meat or fish on a plate and cover with plastic wrap, then store in the refrigerator.
• Use a glass cutting board when slicing raw meats and vegetables. The surface of a plastic or wood cutting board can get cut and nicked by knives while preparing food, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.
• If you tend to favor one knife for slicing and dicing, wash the knife each time you move on to a new type of food to avoid passing bacteria from one food item to the next.
• Clean as you go; wash knives, cutting boards, dishware and other prep tools after each use. Look for products such as antibactierial dish liquid soap that kills salmonella, E. coli and staph. If you clean as you cook, you will reduce the risk of transferring bacteria to other surfaces in your kitchen, ingredients or food prep tools.
• Make sure to clean your sink—including the faucet—after rinsing fresh vegetables or washing dishes and kitchen tools.
November 22, 2011 4:12 pm
Real estate. The land itself and everything extending below and above it, including all things permanently attached, whether by nature or by man.
November 21, 2011 7:12 pm
Here are some simple tips, courtesy of Glidden, to help do-it-yourself enthusiasts liven up any indoor space this holiday season.
1. Pick the appropriate lighting for your paint color. The trick is to create a harmonious balance between color and light. Make up for the lack of light by adding in some table lamps, wall sconces, a chandelier or a mirror and watch how it makes the room look so much bigger even if you've painted it charcoal gray.
2. Don't forget about layering texture and pattern. It gives a room personality and stops the room from looking too flat. Silk curtains, a patterned pillow, or even a nice linen wallpaper are all things that can give the room dimension and make the room more interesting.
3. Look for ways to mix and match furniture. Just because the furniture you like is available as a set doesn't mean you have to purchase it that way. Mix it up a bit. Consider going with a white lacquer bookcase and a wood coffee table in your living room or a leather sofa paired with a beautiful upholstered armchair.
November 21, 2011 7:12 pm
Cooler weather means the increased use of furnaces to stay warm and dry. Southern California Gas Co officials say if you haven't already, now is the time to prepare homes for an energy-efficient heating season, and to help keep gas bills low.
"With the cold and wet weather, we're seeing an increase in the use of home heaters, and that translates into higher heating bills," says Bret Lane, vice president of field services for SoCalGas. "To help keep a lid on heating costs while staying warm and dry this winter, we encourage customers to continue to practice conservation and use energy efficiently."
SoCalGas offers these tips for a warm, cozy and energy-efficient winter:
• Focus on the furnace. Home heating accounts for more than half of a typical customer's monthly gas bill;
• When using the home furnace, lower the thermostat three degrees to five degrees (health permitting) and turn it off when not at home. This can help save up to 30 percent on heating costs;
• Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when necessary. When installing a new or cleaned filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly;
• Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning;
• Don't block heating outlets or return registers with furniture or other objects;
• Repair cracks or broken seams in forced-air heating ducts;
• Install or upgrade attic insulation;
• Caulk and weather-strip drafty windows and doors;
• Open the drapes or blinds during the day and let the sun help warm the home. Close drapes or blinds at night to keep the warmth inside;
• Consider adding another blanket or two at night to stay warm; and
• Choose a higher efficiency model when shopping for a new gas furnace.
For more information, visit www.socalgas.com.