November 7, 2011 6:42 pm
Q: Is there anything I should not tell my agent?
A: Most definitely! Never reveal the top dollar you are willing to pay for a home. It will severely undercut your chance to negotiate the home price with the seller. While an agent may spend a lot of time showing you homes and sharing information, the reality is that she works for the seller, who ultimately pays each and every agent involved in helping to complete the home sale. The seller pays the agents in the form of a commission, a percentage of the proceeds from the home sale. The exception is hiring your own real estate professional, now commonly known as a buyer’s agent or a buyer’s broker.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
Thanksgiving week is here again and with it comes millions of Americans taking road trips, large and small. Drivers must be prepared for everything from snow and ice to sleep-deprived travelers.
To help make sure you are prepared, America's Road Team Captains, elite professional truck drivers, offers the following advice on how to navigate through highway traffic and arrive at your destination safely:
Prepare your vehicle for long distance travel: Check your wipers and fluids. Have your radiator and cooling system serviced. Simple maintenance can prevent many of the problems that strand motorists on the side of the road before you leave your home.
Plan ahead: Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents.
Do not cut in front of large trucks: Remember that trucks are heavier and take longer to make a complete stop, so avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
Check your emergency kit: Contents should include: battery-powered radio, flashlight, blanket, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable foods, maps, tire repair kit and flares.
Be aware of changes in weather: Weather conditions across the U.S. will be changing - especially during early mornings and evenings with the cold. Watch for ice, snow and other weather-related obstacles.
Keep your eyes on the road: Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic accidents. Even just two seconds of distraction time doubles the chances of an accident. Use your cell phone when stopped and never text while driving.
Leave early and avoid risks: Leave early so you won't be anxious about arriving late and to accommodate delays. Road conditions may change due to inclement weather or traffic congestion.
Be aware of truck blind spots: When sharing the road with large trucks, be aware of their blind spots. If you can't see the truck driver in his or her mirrors, then the truck driver can't see you.
Slow down: With the extra highway congestion due to holiday travel, speeding becomes even more dangerous. Allow plenty of space cushion and reduce your speed.
Buckle up: Safety belts reduce the risk of fatal injury by 45 percent and are a simple way to increase your safety on the road.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
With 425,000 items in Apple's App Store, it seems like there's an app for everything now. Looking for a pig-latin translator? Need to find the closest restroom? Well, you know the saying.
As the number of apps continues to increase, developers are taking the technology beyond fun and games. Today, users can find apps that help organize, simplify and enrich areas of their daily lives. One of these areas is home design.
"Home design and renovation can feel like a daunting task at the beginning of any project. Whether creating floor plans or choosing colors and fabrics, there is a lot to think about," said Sarah Reep, director of designer relations and education at KraftMaid Cabinetry. "Luckily we're living in a digital age, and there are apps and online resources to help homeowners with everything from budgeting to hanging a picture frame."
Here's a list of some popular home design apps:
KraftMyStyle: With this app from KraftMaid Cabinetry, you can capture images and create photo collages of items that inspire you, like colors, unique spaces, fabrics and art. Style Boards can be shared with family, friends and in the online gallery. When you're working with a designer, this app is a great way to share ideas and inspiration for your home's design. Available for free for Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. iHandy Level: Say goodbye to crooked frames. This app turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a level. Available for free for Apple iPhone and iPod Touch.
ColorSmart: If you're planning on refreshing your home's walls, this app from Behr paint is a must-have. The app makes it easy to try out different styles and paint colors in your rooms without picking up a roller. Once you've found your favorite colors, share them on Facebook and Twitter. Available for free for Android, iPhone and iPad.
Remodelista: This design sourcebook brings you the latest content from Remodelista, such as DIY projects, 10 Easy Pieces product roundups, and Steal This Look. Photo galleries organized by room bring daily design inspiration. The app costs $2.99 and is available for Apple iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Paint 'N' Wash: With this app, you can paint works of art -- with your fingers -- then wash it away with the Delta faucet. Great for getting those creative juices flowing. Available for free for BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad.
For more design advice, tools and tips, visit www.KraftMaidByDesign.com.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
More than seven million boys and girls across the country will participate in organized sports this year, and unfortunately, injuries are a part of every season. The mistake athletes, parents and coaches often make is overlooking proper nutrition as a sports injury prevention measure. A balanced diet to fuel your athlete is just as important as the right protective gear.
"What an athlete eats or drinks before, during and after a game directly impacts a player's performance," says Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC Board Certified Sports Nutritionist with the University of Miami. Shamrock Farms' Rockin' Refuel™ has teamed up with Dorfman to get the word out about proper sports nutrition to parents, coaches and athletes of all ages.
Dorfman, also the author of "Performance Nutrition for Football," (Momentum Media 2010) explains that "Most energy is focused on pre-game meals. I urge parents and athletes to pay as much attention to the post-game routine, where muscle recovery and protein are key." According to Dorfman, 80 percent of a player's performance comes from nutrition.
With this in mind, Dorfman suggests using the following tips for optimal nutrition and injury prevention during the season:
The Truth about Carbs: A pregame meal packed with only carbohydrates can actually leave athletes feeling tired and sluggish on the field. Make sure to also include items low in fiber and fat, like grilled chicken or a fresh fruit yogurt smoothie before game time.
Three R's to Recovery—Replenish, Repair, Rebuild: It's important to refuel within 30 minutes to one hour of working out. Encourage athletes to reach for foods or beverages that are high in protein to help rebuild muscles, such as Rockin' Refuel, which is 100 percent real milk fortified with 20 grams of protein. It also contains a 2:1 carb to protein ratio, ideal for maximum muscle recovery.
Keep it Simple at Game Time: Look for simple mini meals that will fuel your athlete for the entire game, including foods that are good sources of complex carbohydrates, like whole grain pasta or brown rice. Grilled chicken, turkey and canned tuna or salmon are good sources of protein, which is needed to help build a stronger body.
Whole Foods offer Wholesome Nutrition: Whole foods are always better than supplements, so make sure you read the ingredients on anything your athlete is consuming. Watch out for hidden ingredients in powders, shakes and drinks. For example, encourage your child to eat fruits and vegetables in order to get essential vitamins and minerals instead of taking a multi-vitamin supplement.
Teach Your Teen Healthy Habits: Teenage athletes, more than any other age group, are prone to pick the most convenient—instead of the healthiest—foods and beverages. Keeping your fridge and cupboards stocked with healthy grab-and-go food options like fresh fruit, low fat string cheese, yogurt, dry roasted almonds, ready-to-eat whole grain cereal, baked chips and single-serve bottles of Rockin' Refuel will help ensure teens will grab healthier foods.
Go to www.RockinRefuel.com for more information.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
For most Americans, the holiday season is the busiest and most demanding time of the year. From social engagements and travel to buying gifts and baking, it's often hard to juggle competing commitments. In fact, 80 percent of Americans anticipate stress during the holiday season, according to the American Psychological Association.
If you are planning a cocktail or dinner party this year, remember, inviting friends and family into your home should be fun and festive, not overwhelming. Take time to plan ahead and follow these simple tips for a special gathering that both you and your guests will enjoy.
Set the mood as you set the table. When entertaining, linen napkins and tablecloths can set the tone for the party and create a festive and welcoming experience for guests. If table linens are kept packed away, wash and freshen before setting the table. No one wants to see lipstick or food stains as they sit down for dinner. Before the party, wash linens with a gel detergent that attacks stains and rinses easily.
Menu planning 101. Expect guests to be thirsty and hungry when they arrive. Whether passing hors d'oeuvres or having a sit-down meal, buy and prepare plenty of food to keep everyone happy and full. To have enough cocktails on hand, plan for your guests to drink one to two drinks per hour of the party and calculate from there.
Create a show-stopping centerpiece. Adding centerpieces, whether one large arrangement or a series of small vases or candles, can help dress up any room. Arrangements made from pine, holly, or berry branches tie nicely to the holiday season and can be found at any craft store. As an alternative, make an arrangement of pomegranates, cloves, and oranges to provide a pleasant and fresh scent.
Warm up by the fire. If you have a fireplace in your home, lighting it during gatherings provides an intimate and cozy glow. If you have not used the fireplace in a while, make sure you open the flue. Then add newspaper and wood logs. Plan to light the fireplace 15-20 minutes before guests arrive.
Arrange a festive soundtrack. Music is an essential component of any successful holiday party. Organize CDs ahead of time or make a digital playlist on your mp3 player so you're ready to push play and get the party started as soon as your guests walk in the door.
Freshen up after the revelry. When the party has died down and it's clean up time, check areas around the house for messy remnants from the celebration. In particular, carpets may appear dirty from heavy foot traffic. Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over carpets, let sit for fifteen minutes, and then vacuum up. Baking soda will help neutralize any lingering odors in the carpet.
For more pre- and post-entertaining house prep, visit www.armandhammer.com.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
Origination fee. A charge by the lender for granting and processing a new mortgage loan.
November 4, 2011 6:38 pm
Q: What can I expect from a good real estate agent?
A: Competence, efficiency, and ethics. According to the All America’s Real Estate Book by Carolyn Janik and Ruth Rejnis, good agents take the time to qualify buyers and show properties in their price range. They plan showing routes carefully and have pre-inspected most properties. They have a thorough knowledge of financing options, are up on the latest housing trends, and share with prospective buyers data on the local housing market and home sales.
Good agents also adhere to a strict code of ethics. They avoid high-pressure sales tactics, refrain from showing properties that do not fit your needs or goals, and alert you to problems about the condition of the property. And they show respect for other agents and real estate firms by not “bad mouthing” them.
November 4, 2011 3:38 pm
Employers go to varying lengths to keep their workers happy, providing perks ranging from free coffee or bagels every Friday to company picnics or annual cash bonuses. But happiness in the workplace, suggests career coach Marty Nemko, may be more a matter of job satisfaction than of any material rewards.
“While the following ideas may not turn your workplace into a barrel of laughs, they may help you find a way to reap more satisfaction from what you do all day,” said Nemko, author of, “Cool Careers for Dummies” and a columnist at kiplinger.com.
• Telecommute – It may not yet be an option in your workplace, but it may become one if you suggest it. Offer to try it one or two days a week at first to show you can meet deadlines and stay in close communication with superiors.
• Propose a project – Suggest a special project that ties in to your interests: a feasibility study on opening a foreign branch?…a procedures manual based on interviews with top employees?…a marketing tie-in with a local campaign or event?
• Tweak your job description – If there are aspects of your job you like more than others, suggest teaming with a colleague. For example, on a particular project, you can offer to do all the research while your colleague does all the writing.
• Make your workspace homier – Seek your employer’s buy-in to bring more than family photos into your workspace: a vase of fresh flowers…a favorite painting…an oriental rug under your chair.
• Use stress-busters – Just a regular minute or two of slow, deep breathing, or a five-minute at-your-desk yoga session can do wonders for relieving boredom or improving your outlook during the day.
• Make a close friend – Having someone you can share life’s ups and downs with during lunch or breaks can go a long way toward making your work day more pleasant. If you haven’t already, pick someone instinct tells you could be a good friend and ask him or her to lunch.
November 4, 2011 3:38 pm
It’s easy to overlook a small leak or slight draft. But these problems have the potential to get worse very quickly. To prevent a big problem from arising, energystar.gov recommends having a contractor perform annual check-ups—on the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around the time changes in the spring and fall.
Here are some things you should expect a contractor to handle:
• Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
• Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
• Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
• Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
• Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
• Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system's ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
• Check your central air conditioner's refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
• Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system's efficiency by up to 15 percent.
• Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
Actions You Can Do Yourself
• Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.
November 4, 2011 3:38 pm
Americans love their wireless devices. For the first time, there are more devices (327.6 million) than Americans (315.5 million), according to CTIA-The Wireless Association's survey. People continue to use more voice minutes, text messages and data than ever before, too. As with any bill, but especially since wireless devices are used more than ever, consumers should always review their monthly wireless statement to ensure the charges are correct.
To help wireless consumers better manage their usage and prevent unexpected overage charges, CTIA and many of its provider members, along with the Federal Communications Commission, announced free alerts. More than 300 million U.S. wireless customers will be protected against potential billing surprises due to the industry's efforts. As part of CTIA's "Consumer Code for Wireless Service," wireless providers will send postpaid customers alerts on voice, data, messaging and international roaming. Two out of the four alerts will be available by October 17, 2012 and all of the alerts will be available by April 17, 2013.
Currently, many wireless providers already offer a number of free tools for customers to check on their usage. Here are some tips from CTIA and its members to help you stay in control of your monthly wireless bill.
Monitor Your Usage
All of the major wireless providers offer tools so you can keep track of your usage and know exactly how many minutes, data or text messages you've used. In addition to contacting your carrier via phone or websites, many offer shortcuts on your wireless device.
Check International Rates Before You Leave the Country
Many carriers will alert you to local rates or prompt you to call customer service when you arrive in a foreign country. The "Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines" require participating CTIA providers to inform consumers of international roaming charges when traveling abroad.
Regardless, it's a good idea to understand your plan when it comes to calls, texts and data/Internet usage. Most providers offer:
• Information on where to get the best international voice and data rates and tips and tutorials for what you can expect when using your mobile devices while traveling.
• Temporarily shut-off of your data services to prevent international data roaming.
• Mobile apps to track international use in real-time.
To see rates and availability, contact your wireless provider via phone or website.
Stay On Top of Your Family Plan
Keeping track of your family's wireless use can help prevent accidental overages. Many wireless carriers provide plan monitoring tools that let subscribers:
• Set limits on allotted minutes, messages and downloads each month.
• Set voice and messaging allowances.
• Receive free text alerts when a family member nears or reaches their limits.
• Create a list of blocked numbers to prevent unwanted calls and messages.
• Set specific times of day when a family member can't call, message or use data on their mobile devices (but calls to other account/family members and Emergency 911 are always allowed).
Spending a little time reviewing your service provider's website and using their tools, tips and plans can save you and your family money on your monthly wireless bill.
For more information visit www.blog.ctia.org.