November 9, 2011 6:46 pm
November 9, 2011 6:46 pm
A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.
November 9, 2011 3:46 pm
Once considered a luxury, decorating services are more of a necessity for today's busy homeowners who simply can't afford to make costly mistakes, or run all around town trying to 'pull it together' from retail stores, or worse—the Internet. The experts at Decorating Den Interiors offer this pertinent advice to homeowners seeking professional guidance in their home decor.
The best professional to decorate your home will most likely come from a combination of compatible personalities and tastes. Remember that you will be working together for several weeks, if not months. During your initial consultation, ask to review the (online?) portfolio of the designer or decorator to assure yourself that (s)he is capable of working in diverse styles, and that your personalities are fairly compatible.
Working with a professional should be an enjoyable experience. Since interior decorating projects are highly personal and collaborative, the final results are always much more successful when the lines of communication are open and ideas are freely discussed. Be candid with your designer regarding such important elements as priorities, timing, budgets and tastes. If a style, color or home furnishings suggestion is one that you do not care for, feel free to say so early on, and provide a new direction for your team.
To ensure that you get off to the right start and to also get the results you are looking for, keep in mind the following tips:
Be a keen observer. Consciously make note of what catches your interest as you peruse decorating magazines and the internet for interesting rooms and makeovers. Start a file of colors, patterns and designs that appeal to you. You may notice a chandelier, mirror, color combination or window treatment that you like. Once you clip and track these for a brief period, you will be better able to draw a conclusion as to your personal style and convey that to your new decorating professional. It’s really all about communication, once you’ve decided with whom to work.
Take an honest inventory of your existing décor to determine which pieces you want to keep. Assess your furnishings the way you periodically review your wardrobe. Plan to keep the pieces you truly love and put all others on the ‘to-be-replaced-eventually’ list.
Based upon your initial consultation, your designer should present you with fabric samples, sketches and pictures for your evaluation. Since professionals have access to a world of options unavailable in retail stores, be reasonable about asking to see more and more of everything available. Remember that the first two or three designs you are shown will be, in the decorator's opinion, the best looks for your home and your taste. One of the most important services a professional provides is sparing you the confusion of the unlimited choices available. Trust your designer's advice and stay focused on the overall design goal.
Give your decorator some latitude to decide for you the small details such as trims, pillows, accessories. Your project will move forward more smoothly if (s)he doesn't have to get your approval on every button and candle.
Just remember that all change—even for the better—requires a period of adjustment. Most homeowners who have redecorated their home will be quick to tell you "I should have done it long ago!"
For more information, visit http://www.HowToBecomeAnInteriorDesigner.com.
November 9, 2011 3:46 pm
According to the AA Home Emergency Response experts, a burst pipe is the most common call-out during winter.
The damage and distress it would cause makes a burst pipe the most feared emergency—either in the home or on the road—with more than three-quarters (76%) of 18,251 AA members in a recent AA/Populus poll rating it one of the worst imaginable scenarios.
Internal checks on your home
As well as checking pipes for missing insulation to help prevent a burst pipe, there are a number of other quick and easy steps to prepare the home for winter. If you have a gas-fired boiler, get it serviced regularly to make sure it's up to the demands of a long winter; bleed radiators to improve their efficiency; check windows for any draughts and seal as necessary; and make sure you know where your water stop valve is—it's normally under the sink or stairs.
External checks on your home
Just as you would walk round and check your tires, lights and wiper blades on your car, it will pay for homeowners to do a visual check from ground level of their roof for any missing or broken tiles and guttering for signs of overflowing; clear drain gratings and check walls for any cracks that could let water seep in.
If in any doubt, seek professional advice and assistance.
Interior of the home
• Get your boiler serviced regularly by a qualified Gas Safe-registered engineer—if it's due its annual service soon, get it booked in before the weather gets really cold;
• If you regularly use an open fire or log-burning stove, get the chimney swept;
• Familiarize yourself with the location of your mains water stop valve (it's usually under the sink or stairs), in case you need to shut it off in the event of a burst pipe;
• If you know how to, bleed your radiators, as air pockets reduce their efficiency;
• Check pipes and water tank for missing insulation and arrange replacement if necessary;
• Check windows and doors for draughts—fit draught excluders or repair seals as necessary;
• When required, wipe condensation off windows to help prevent build-up of mould and damp—consider buying a de-humidifier if the problem is persistently bad;
• If your home is going to be empty for a while (for more than a few days) or if you have a second property, keep the thermostat set to low, to stop temperature dropping too low;
• Make sure you have adequate home insurance cover on your home;
• Keep a torch and spare batteries in a convenient place and have emergency contact numbers to hand, including home emergency response supplier or numbers for a local plumber, electrician and gas engineer.
Exterior of the home
• Walk round and do a visual check of the roof for any missing tiles or damage;
• Check guttering from ground level by looking for signs of water overflowing during heavy rain. Get someone in to rectify if you're not confident on a ladder;
• Check exterior walls for any damage that could let water in and inspect windows for cracked panes – arrange repair work as necessary;
• Make sure that brick air vents are clear from obstruction;
• Clear as necessary any drain gratings and pathways;
• Consider purchasing sand/salt and shovel to clear driveways and paths;
• Turn off and drain external water taps and store garden hoses in a frost-free place;
• Lubricate external locks and padlocks with WD-40;
For more information, visit www.theaa.com.
November 9, 2011 3:46 pm
• Consider all of the related fees to see the real cost of flights or hotel stays. Airlines fees for baggage or changing flights can vary substantially between carriers. Consider parking fees, resort fees, internet usage fees and other fees when comparing hotels. Be sure to evaluate all of the extra costs and fees when making your travel decisions.
• Some airlines such as Southwest don't charge baggage fees or fees for changing your travel plans. Many OTAs don't include Southwest, so be sure to visit their site at Southwest.com to compare fares if you don't see their fares on your favorite OTA site. Look for hotels that have freebies. Free breakfast, free internet usage, free gym use and more can add up to a lot of savings.
• Earn miles and avoid fees through an airline-branded credit card. Many airlines will waive baggage fees and offer perks for cardholders which can more than cover the cost of the card's annual fee.
• Procrastination does not pay when booking travel. The very best rates at Getaroom.com are for bookings done at least 21 days in advance of your travel date.
• Skip car rental insurance as it is very likely you are covered by your current auto policy or credit card. There is no need to pay an extra $15 to $25 per day on unneeded insurance. You can always do a five-minute call to your insurance agent or credit card firm to confirm.
• Top destinations such as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. are substantially cheaper during the holidays.
• If shopping in New York, consider the third week in December when hotel rates are much lower than the first two weeks.
• Consider a trip to Las Vegas where first class hotel rooms on the Strip can be snagged from $39 a night. The best deals are for stays Sunday- Thursday.
• Love the points Be sure to rack them up by joining the airline, hotel and car rental company frequent user programs. They are free and often get you additional benefits.
For more information, visit www.Getaroom.com.
November 9, 2011 3:46 pm
"The common cold is a leading cause of missed school days," says Dr. Tanner. "Studies have shown that most cold viruses are spread by surfaces through 'self-inoculation' where hands pick up cold viruses, and then touch the nose or eyes to initiate infection. Washing hands often is a necessary task to ensure germ prevention and combat the spread of cold viruses."
While germs may seem to be everywhere, the "Twice as Handy Cough and Cold Season Guide" helps moms zero in on the areas most important to help keep the family healthy this cough and cold season. The guide features a double-dose of tips from both Dr. Tanner and Stacy Debroff. Backed by extensive knowledge in each of their dedicated fields, the experts offer helpful advice for the season, such as:
Practice Good Hygiene for at Least a Week after a Cold. Cold and cold germs can be found in nasal secretions of children for two to three weeks after the onset of symptoms. That's a long time for an unwanted guest to stick around!
Go into Laundry Overdrive. When a cold assault runs through a family, wash your kids' pillowcases and sheets in very hot water—even daily, if you can. And, if your child constantly clutches a blanket or stuffed animal, toss those in, too.
Keep Your Immune System Healthy. Studies show that maintaining a healthy body weight with proper nutrition reduces risks of infection, and also may prevent inflammation (potentially damaging immune system hyperactivity).
Keep kids' immune systems kicking during cough and cold season by preparing healthy meals with lots of fruits and vegetables. By adding a chewable multivitamin each day, Moms also can help ensure children get needed vitamins.
"Moms are really pressed right now to make everything work doubly hard to keep their families healthy," says DeBroff.
For more information, visit www.wetones.com.
November 9, 2011 3:46 pm
A: Yes. In fact, some builders pay agents to find prospective buyers. But you also can use a buyer’s agent to help negotiate the price and upgrades on a new home. An agent can be particularly valuable directing you to newly built developments that match your needs, as well as helping you select reputable builders who are financially sound and respond promptly to buyers’ concerns.
Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site. This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy. Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make a first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission – even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process.
November 8, 2011 6:42 pm
The experts offer six tips for making your dream honeymoon more fun and more affordable:
1. Consider the timing – Traveling off-season can save you big bucks both on airfare and resorts. Even ‘shoulder season’—two or three weeks before or after the peak season—offers considerable value. If possible, plan your wedding to take advantage of these travel discount periods. If the wedding date is firm, check with a travel agent for information on where the deals are whenever your honeymoon will begin.
2. Go where the dollar is strong – If you plan to leave the country, check the financial markets for information on where the U.S. dollar buys more. At home, choose destinations ‘off the beaten path’ to find the best values.
3. Try for frequent flyer mile gifting – Since free or discounted airfare will make your trip more affordable, ask your family members and your wedding party for gifts of their frequent flyer miles. This can be an especially wise choice if you have little need for traditional wedding registry items.
4. Register your honeymoon – Popular resorts like Sandals and Starwood sell honeymoon ‘gift certificates’ at sites like weddingchannel.com. Tell guests who ask that that’s where you are registered, and make their gift selection easy.
5. Don’t book all the extras – Recreational outings, such as scuba diving, horseback riding, and local tours are often cheaper when you book them on-site. Make air and hotel reservations early, but wait till you get there before you book excursions.
6. Broadcast your status – Whether it’s in the air or at a hotel or restaurant, flaunt your newlywed or second honeymoon status. More often than not, it will net you upgrades, discounts or vouchers that are sure to save you money.
November 8, 2011 6:42 pm
1. Do a little daily. Vowing to do a bit of cleaning every day—even something as simple as wiping down your kitchen counters or vacuuming one room—can have a big impact. Five to ten minutes a day will give you great results, and you will never fall too far behind.
2. Clean while you wait. How many minutes a day do you spend waiting for that commercial to end or dinner to finish simmering on the stove? Spend those extra minutes sweeping the dining room floor, dusting windowsills, etc.
3. Stay organized. The less clutter you have around your home, the less you have to maneuver around to get a good clean. Purge your home of any unused objects or knickknacks you don’t need. (Bonus: sell them at a garage sale for a little extra cash!) Keep in mind that clear surfaces automatically look cleaner than messy ones. Pick up after yourself all week long to avoid a mess come the weekend.
November 8, 2011 6:42 pm
According to this research, more than 450 non-native forest insects are established in the United States. Many of the insects featured in this report, including the emerald ash borer, red bay ambrosia beetle, and thousand cankers disease, are known to move frequently on infested firewood. Other pests that move on firewood have cost local and federal authorities tens of millions of dollars to control and eradicate in just the past five years.
"This new study tells us that when people move firewood, they could unwittingly cause millions of dollars of damage to their communities, including their own properties," said Leigh Greenwood, Don't Move Firewood campaign manager, The Nature Conservancy. "Fortunately, people can stop the spread of these destructive and costly pests, and save their community trees by buying locally harvested firewood and by communicating this message to their friends and neighbors."
Invasive insects and diseases can even lurk in dry and seasoned firewood, hidden in the layers of wood beneath the bark, which makes them difficult to detect. While these pests cannot move far on their own, when people move this firewood that harbors them, they unwittingly enable these pests to start an infestation far from their current range. Past invaders have devastated native species of trees such as the American chestnut, hemlock, and American elm – tree species that had been part of American forests and city streets for centuries until the invasion of foreign pests decimated them.
"Burning a wood fire in the winter has a lot of different uses – a primary heat source, a place for a family gathering, or part of a romantic evening," said Greenwood. "When firewood comes from a well managed local forest, it's a great alternative to using fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. Our campaign is focused on educating people how they can help protect local trees and communities by not risking the accidental movement of insects and diseases that can wipe out entire forests that when buying firewood for these purposes."
By buying locally harvested wood, individuals can help protect themselves and their communities from decreases in property values, the high expense of removing diseased or infested trees, and the loss of attractive landscapes. Another good reason to buy wood locally is that in many regions of the country, it is illegal to move firewood over county or state lines.
Following are tips from the Don't Move Firewood campaign:
• Obtain firewood near the location where you will burn it – that means the wood was cut in a nearby forest, in the same county, or a maximum of 50 miles from where you'll have your fire.
• Don't be tempted to get firewood from a remote location just because the wood looks clean and healthy. It could still harbor tiny insect eggs or microscopic fungal spores that will start a new and deadly infestation of forest pests.
• Aged or seasoned wood is not considered safe to move, but commercially kiln-dried wood is a good option if you must transport firewood.
• If you have already moved firewood, and you need to dispose of it safely, burn it soon and completely. Make sure to rake the storage area carefully and also burn the debris. In the future, buy from a local source. • Tell your friends and others about the risks of moving firewood—no one wants to be responsible for starting a new pest infestation.
For more information, visit www.dontmovefirewood.org.