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Word of the Day

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

HUD. Acronym for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, an agency from which almost all of the federal government’s housing programs flow.

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Question of the Day

September 22, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What about a vacation home as an investment?

A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.

Other things to consider:
• Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
• What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
• If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?

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Buying the Right Mattress for You

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Mattresses can vary greatly in price and, because most people keep their mattresses for an average of eight to 10 years, it is important to make the right choice. When two people share a mattress, finding one that suits the needs of both can make the choice even more difficult.

“Basically, there are only three types of mattresses to choose from,” says Los Angeles mattress salesman Bruce Weyer. “If you know that going in, and take the time to test each type for a minimum of 15 minutes in the store, your decision will be that much easier.”

And, Weyer notes, some mattress stores offer an in-home trial, so be sure to check out that option.
Either way, here are some details about each of the three mattress types:
• Innerspring - Traditional innerspring mattresses come in firm, plush and pillowtop versions and vary in price based on the coil count. The higher the coil count, the higher the price. People with a higher body mass index will probably be more comfortable on a higher coil count mattress—but the most basic (read: inexpensive) innerspring mattress may be just fine for healthy younger people or for use as an occasional guest bed.
• Foam - Pricewise, foam mattresses fall between innerspring and air mattresses. They are good for people who are really sensitive to pressure, because of the way they contour to the body. They are cozy, but they are also a lot warmer to sleep in, and some people don't like the way the foam reaches around to hold the sleeper in place.
• Air mattress - Not to be confused with the blow-up air mattresses you set up in a tent or guest bedroom, today’s air mattresses are generally the most expensive option because they allow you to adjust the firmness with a remote control, increasing the amount of air. They also allow you to choose a different firmness—sometimes called a sleep number—for each side of the bed, which can be a boon if two sleeping partners have different firmness preferences.

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Prep Your Home for Months Indoors

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Shorter days and cooler nights mean more time spent indoors. For many Americans, this is the perfect season to take simple steps toward a cleaner and more efficient home. 

According to a recent survey by the Cleaning Institute Organization, 96 percent of people think it's very important to have a clean home. But with family obligations, busy work schedules and extracurricular activities, we sometimes fall short. Here are some useful tips to help prepare your home for the indoor months ahead, making it a fresher and more enjoyable place to be. 

Check the perimeter. Carefully inspect the perimeter of your house. Check window frames and entryways, since you may need to re-caulk and add additional weather strips. Clear gutters and chimneys of debris. Be sure to check for insects when putting away items such as garden hoses, outdoor toys and potted plants.
Store outdoor furniture. Before you store lawn or patio furniture, scrub each piece thoroughly with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda—this natural cleaning method means that you won't need to worry about harsh chemicals washing off onto your lawn. Baking soda can also be used to eliminate odors from seat cushions or remove grease from the grill before the off-season. 

Wash and weatherize windows. Clean window panes with a simple solution of vinegar and water, which removes the dirt and grime left behind from winds and rainstorms. Then, place storm windows securely on each frame to help keep your house cozy and warm throughout the colder months. 

Remember to deodorize. Even if it's too cold to open the windows, you'll want your home to smell fresh and clean. Baking Soda is a great option for neutralizing unpleasant odors—from the refrigerator and freezer to the carpets and furniture. Sprinkle it in sports bags, gym shoes, waste baskets, diaper pails and drains.
Shine your floors. With allergies on the rise, it's important to pay special attention to the floors—use a product that will clean deep-down to get rid of the pollen and dirt that is frequently tracked into the home. Don't forget to clean baseboards, corners, stairs, in-between the banister spindles, and other hard-to-reach locations where dust often becomes trapped. 

Unpack cold weather wear. You carefully put away all your sweaters and winter jackets last spring, but that doesn't mean they haven't been in contact with dust mites. Remember to launder clothing before returning it to your closets, and take this opportunity to wash curtains and other fabric coverings. Add one cup of Baking Soda to the wash for an added boost when trying to remove tough dirt and odors. 

For more helpful tips on using Baking Soda around the home, visit www.armandhammer.com.

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Affordable Ways to Decorate for Fall

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

From the runways of Paris to the world's best interiors, unique color combinations are everywhere this fall. Shoppers can now incorporate the season's trendiest looks into their own home decor with simple and affordable changes in wall art, rugs and mirrors from Art.com, Inc., an online specialty provider of wall art. To determine the latest styles, Art.com merchandising experts shared their top tips for infusing attractive hues into a space to create a variety of looks—from classic to contemporary, and vintage to sophisticated.

Art.com's color-based suggestions to enhance any room of the home or office include:
• Classic Neutrals: Modern meets casual thanks to neutral colors like camel with touches of gray, which offer a simple and contemporary look. The tone-on-tone effect is often found to be soothing.
• Soft and Subtle Pastels: Light colors found in botanical prints and maps create an instant vintage feel—one of the season's enduring trends.
• Warm and Cool Tones: Foster an earthy, inviting energy by combining orange with red hues inspired by worldly shades of India and Morocco. For a cooler look, turquoise and teal accents can conjure up thoughts of the ocean or clear skies.
• Rich Colors: Deep shades of purple and even yellow, when mixed with gray or charcoal, can completely transform a room's energy into something regal yet inviting.
• Trendy Metallics: Adding sheen and luxuriousness to a room is easy thanks to metallic (gold, silver and copper) wall decor—from custom-framed mirrors that add a reflective glow, to gold-framed and metallic accented fine art pieces.

Additionally, Art.com recommends using these colors to create a personal gallery by hanging wall art with frames in different sizes, shapes and colors to create an engaging, dramatic and unique statement. Art.com now offers a collection of area rugs and mirrors of all shapes and sizes to help customers complete their decorating vision.

For more information, visit www.art.com.

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5 Tips to Set Priorities

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

It’s easy, especially this time of year—right after vacations—to get into the right mindset and get organized.
From the personal to the professional, our priorities can sometimes be a little confused.

For this, score.org offers these five tips for getting your priorities in order:
1. Use a paper-based, electronic or computerized list to keep track of your tasks, instead of relying on your memory. A list will give you a clear idea of what you need to accomplish.

2. Which tasks could you handle another day? If you would face no consequences by moving a task forward, move it ahead another day or another week.

3. Know the difference between important and urgent. Important means a task needs to be done while urgent means it must be done immediately. Knowing the difference between the two will make prioritizing easier.

4. Realize that you can't do everything. This will help you to realistically prioritize your tasks.

5. Determine if postponing the task would affect other projects you are working on. Tasks and projects can have a domino effect. If you do one task, yet fail to do another, you may have wasted effort on the first task.

Source: score.org

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Word of the Day

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Housing codes. Local regulations that set minimum conditions under which dwellings are considered fit for human habitation. It guards against unsanitary or unsafe conditions and overcrowding.

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Question of the Day

September 21, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: Does the federal government offer home improvement programs?
A: Yes. Among the most popular: 

Title 1 Home Improvement Loan. HUD insures the loan up to $25,000 for a single-family home and lenders make loans for basic livability improvements—such as additions and new roofs—to eligible borrowers.
Section 203(k) Program. HUD helps finance the major rehabilitation and repair of one- to four-family residential properties, excluding condos. Owner-occupants may use a combination loan to purchase a fixer-upper "as-is" and rehabilitate it, or refinance a property, plus include in the loan the cost of making the improvements. They also may use the loan solely to finance the rehabilitation. 

VA loans. Veterans can get loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs to buy, build, or improve a home, as well as refinance an existing loan at interest rates that are usually lower than that on conventional loans.
Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Loans. Funded by the Agriculture Department, these low-rate loans are available to low-income rural residents who own and occupy a home in need of repairs. Funds are available to improve or modernize a home or to remove health and safety hazards.

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Should I Remodel or Sell ‘As Is

September 20, 2011 5:03 pm

This question is a common headache for many homeowners when placing their home on the market. On one hand, a remodel could create a diamond in the rough, and possibly even encourage a faster sale. On another, selling as-is in a competitive market could save months of listing time if priced right.

When You Should Remodel
Analyzing your competition can be a great way to gain insight into what buyers are looking for in your market. It's easy to assume a feature or amenity should immediately increase the value of your home. In some cases it will, but many times a remodel will only bring your home to the market readiness of other similar homes in your neighborhood.

You should consider remodeling a room in your home if any of the following applies:

1) When analyzing sold history and currently active homes on the market, you find that this particular remodel is commonly found.
2) The room is in dire need of attention and a simple clean up won't suffice to get it market-ready.
3) When analyzing sold history, a predominant higher price is offered for homes with this particular remodel.

You're likely to never recoup the entire cost of a remodel, but getting your home up to par may be necessary to sell your home in a reasonable amount of time.

When You Should Sell As-Is
If your home can be considered a "benchmark" home, or a home that is already loaded with amenities not commonly found in your market, you should consider selling as-is. While a pricey remodel will certainly make your home shine during an open house, it usually costs more than it's worth.

You should consider selling your home as-is if your home meets any of the following criteria:

1) The average price per square foot in your market is deteriorating (down market).
2) Your home can be considered a "benchmark" home, or a home that has more features and amenities than the competition.
3) Your home is already on par with other active properties in the area.

The Rule of Thumb
First, ensure that your home meets the standard set by the competition currently for sale in your market. If your home is not up to par, you should consider remodeling.

If your home shares the same features and amenities as its competition, then you should consider selling as-is to avoid leaving any money on the table. A remodel is always a nice selling feature, but many times it does not make financial sense and is simply a waste of time.

Take the time to get with your real estate agent to analyze your competition, and base your decision on what buyers are demanding in your particular real estate market.

Author Jeff Hammerberg is the Founding CEO of www.GayRealEstate.com.

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Winterize Your Yard and Garden

September 20, 2011 5:03 pm

As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.

Troy-Bilt®, a manufacturer of outdoor power equipment, offers these tips to winterize your yard and garden for the cold months ahead:

"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for Troy-Bilt. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."

• Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.
• Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.
• Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.
• Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.
• Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn–not spring–is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.
• Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.
• Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.
• Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.
• Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.
• Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.
• Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden. Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter, and thrive for seasons to come.

For more information, visit http://www.troybilt.com.

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