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Word of the Day

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Q: Are home selling costs deductible?

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

A: If you sell your home and realize a taxable gain even after the exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs.

Your gain is defined as your home's selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

Real estate broker's commissions, title insurance, legal fees, administrative costs, and inspection fees are all considered to be selling costs.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Healthy Snacks for Hectic Schedules

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011-While many of us try to make healthy eating a priority, the reality is that our busy schedules can make it difficult to eat right while on-the-go. But, if you keep your fridge and pantry stocked with a few key ingredients, it becomes a whole lot easier to make snack choices that are both satisfying and nutritious.

Keep these four foods on hand as healthy, on-the-go snacks that will help you avoid the temptation of vending machine junk food.

Fruit. Whole fruits are a great way to enjoy a nutrient-dense snack when you're in a hurry. Apples, bananas, pears, grapes and oranges don't require any preparation-just grab and go. Frozen fruit is picked at the peak of ripeness and flash-frozen to preserve their nutrient value. Keep frozen strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, mango and cherries on hand for a fast and nutritious smoothie.

Nuts. Tree nuts have no cholesterol and are a good source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, which fill you up and help you keep going. They're also a great source of vitamin E and B vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and potassium. Buy unsalted nuts in bulk and portion them out by putting a handful into a snack-sized resealable bag.

Popcorn. Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain food that's low in calories and fat. It's also an energy-producing complex carbohydrate and a good source of fiber. Air-popped popcorn has only 31 calories per cup. Make a satisfying snack by mixing one cup air-popped popcorn with a few peanuts and dark chocolate chips.

Whole soy. Whole soy is minimally processed to keep soy's naturally occurring nutrients intact. Soy in its whole form is packed full of isoflavones (plant-based compounds with antioxidant properties), vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, and complete, high-quality protein. Plus, whole soy is low in saturated fat and cholesterol free. You can enjoy whole soy in edamame or dry-roasted soy nuts.

For more information, visit www.familyfeatures.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Choosing the Right Vacuum

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Contributing Editor

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011-If you are ready to purchase a new vacuum cleaner, there aren't too many decisions to make. But making the right decisions on a few key issues will help you choose one that will serve you well for years.

Bag or bagless: Both clean equally well, but a bagged cleaner will lose effectiveness as the bag begins to fill. For peak efficiency, bags should be changed when they are half to two-thirds full. In a bagless cleaner, the dirt is captured in a clear container so you can see when it needs to be emptied. The bagless system provides more suction power and more constant airflow, but will lose suction when the filter gets clogged. Some bagless vacuums use centrifugal force to separate dust from particles, helping the filter stay clean longer.

Upright or canister: Canisters were once thought to be easier to use in hard to reach places and on a variety of flooring. but today's uprights have added features such as bare floor height adjustments, and are easily maneuverable. Also, the upright's onboard cleaning tools make them pretty versatile. If you have stairs, some uprights now have detachable canisters that make cleaning those stairs easier.

Amp power: Amps are a measurement of the electrical current used by the motor and do not necessarily indicate greater cleaning ability. Performance is the result of good suction/airflow plus brush action.

HEPA vacuums: HEPA stands for 'high efficiency particulate air,' and are thought to be better for allergy sufferers because their filters retain more and larger particles than other cleaners. It does a good job of cleaning up dust and allergens that have settled on furniture, floors and carpet, but it may not do the whole job. It takes a HEPA air cleaner to draw airborne allergens toward its filter.

Choosing a vacuum cleaner is mostly based on personal preference. Be sure to check for easy to use controls, a well-located on-off switch, and one that is lightweight and relatively quiet.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Maintaining a Healthy Kitchen

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011-Exactly how clean is your kitchen? Not as immaculate as you might imagine says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, while surfaces may look clean, many infectious germs may be lurking around. A regular cleaning schedule helps protect your kitchen from lurking grunge that can cause odors and harbor disease, says "Healthy Housekeeper" Laura Dellutri. She also recommends paying special attention to both the obvious and not-so-obvious spots in the room- like your garbage disposer, a big contributor to your sink's secret grime.

Dellutri offers these tips for helping maintain a healthy kitchen:

Suspect Kitchen Sinks: Disinfecting the sink after washing meats, fruits and vegetables will help prevent germs and bacteria from multiplying on sink surfaces and help avoid cross contamination in the room. All you need is chlorine bleach, water and a soft cloth. Dilute the bleach with water and wipe the sink with cloth dipped in the solution. Rinse immediately and wipe dry with a soft cloth. If the sink looks dull or cloudy, wipe it with a soft cloth moistened with undiluted white vinegar.

Disease-Ridden Disposers: Garbage disposers typically serve as an exit for fresh and left-over foods, but without proper cleansing they can create odors and house organisms that may cause illness and disease such as pneumonia, bronchitis and intestinal flu.

Grimy Dishwashers: Despite the myth that dishwashers are self-sufficient and clean themselves, hard water deposits, rust and food may be left inside the dishwasher, disrupting its performance and causing odors.

Reeking Refrigerators: To effectively clean your fridge and free it from odor-causing culprits, a complete refrigerator overhaul is the best solution. Empty the refrigerator completely and remove any expired foods. Use hot soapy water with a germicidal cleaner to remove all food particles and spills. Before restocking the fridge, place washable refrigerator liners over shelves to help prevent the need to scrub when a spill occurs. Storage is also critical- it prevents odors and spills with well-sealed plastic containers. And of course, an open box of baking soda inside the refrigerator will absorb new odors.

Spotty Microwaves: Splatters of food in a microwave not only look and smell bad, but they may also decrease efficiency. To clean the appliance, fill a microwave-safe bowl halfway with water, add a tablespoon of vinegar, and place it inside the microwave. Let the microwave run for five minutes, then wipe down the inside with a clean towel or paper towel. The heated water and vinegar will steam up the microwave walls and make wiping away dried-on food a cinch.

"Truly rescuing your kitchen from a state of grunge and grime might seem overwhelming, and there are a lot of hidden areas to think about," says Tony Cronk, VP of Marketing for Summit Brands.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Water Damage 10 Tips for Homeowners

April 13, 2011 10:11 am

By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 13, 2011-Water damage in your home, whether caused by rainstorms, burst pipes, a water heater or an appliance that sprung a leak, offers a real challenge for homeowners. There isn't much you can do to protect yourself in advance, but knowing how to respond in a waterlogged emergency can make a real difference in minimizing the damage overall.

Because bacterial growth can begin right away, experts suggest calling in a water damage professional without delay. Here are some more tips for handling the situation until professionals arrive:

1. Never try to vacuum wet floors or carpets. You place yourself at risk for electric shock.

2. Do not enter a room with standing water if the electricity is still on. Wait until a professional arrives.

3. Turn the air conditioner system on low if you have one, or turn on any ceiling fans, box fans or oscillating fans throughout the house.

4. If the outside temperature is 65 degrees or higher, turn on the dehumidifier if you have one.

5. Lift saturated area rugs and place them outdoors. Warning: they will be heavy!

6. Grab as many large towels as possible and blot or wipe down wet furniture and floors to minimize both water damage and mildew accumulation.

7. Lift and tack up any wet draperies or curtains that are skimming wet floors or carpets.

8. Remove wet books as well as damp clothing, tablecloths or bedding and spread them outside to dry.

9. Gather up family photos, artwork and any valuable documents that are not in a weatherproof box and put them in a safe place outside of the house.

10. Open all interior and exterior doors, windows, closets, dresser drawers, etc. to help maintain air circulation and speed the drying process.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Word of the Day

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

Report of title. Document required before title insurance can be issued. It states the name of the owner, a legal description of the property, and the status of taxes, liens, and anything else that might affect the marketability of the title.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Q: How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

A: According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following:

- Only accept cash payments;

- Pressure you for an immediate decision;

- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front;

- Solicit door-to-door;

- Offer exceptionally long guarantees;

- Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job;

- Ask you to get the required building permits;

- Not list a business number in the local telephone directory;

- Offer you discounts for finding other customers;

- Suggest that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam a sure way to lose your home.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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Last Minute Tips for Filing Your Taxes

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-The deadline for filing your taxes is approaching quickly. April 15 is usually the last day to file your taxes, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the 2011 deadline to Monday, April 18.

The extension probably brings little relief to the millions of taxpayers who always wait until the last minute, regardless of the deadline. The following tips will help you file your taxes on time and avoid mistakes.

File an extension

-If you cannot file your taxes by the April 18 deadline, apply for an extension. This gives taxpayers six additional months to meet their tax obligations. It's better to file later than to rush and file your taxes with mistakes.

-Although the extension gives you more time to file your taxes, it does not mean you have more time to pay your taxes. The deadline for paying is still April 18. The IRS offers payment plans and installment agreements if you have trouble paying your taxes.

-To apply for an extension, you need to fill out the form 4868 and follow the instructions.

-The extension can be filed in three ways: electronically, on a personal computer by using the IRS's FreeFile online service; online or by phone, if you are able to pay part or all of your tax bill using a credit or debit card, by sending the form by traditional mail.

File your taxes online

-Filing your taxes online is not only secure and convenient, but it is also a good option if you don't have enough time to find a tax preparer. The IRS has several programs to help all taxpayers file their taxes online for free.

-So far, the 2011 tax season is showing a 6% increase in online filing as compared to 2010.

-If you're planning to file your taxes online, visit the FreeFile section on the IRS website since not all private industry software is compatible with the service.

Check the application

-The rush to file your taxes on time might increase the chances of making mistakes. While tax software might detect some errors, it won't pick up typing mistakes or other information that's incorrectly entered.

-To avoid the most common mistakes when filing your taxes, the IRS suggests the following: double check the information on the application and pay close attention to the math; if you want to get your refund via direct deposit, make sure the bank or financial institution information is correct; don't forget to include accompanying documents such as your W-2, and sign and date your tax return.

For more information, visit www.usa.gov.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Moving to a New Home

April 12, 2011 1:11 pm

RISMEDIA, April 12, 2011-Now that you've found your dream home, be sure the actual moving process goes just as smoothly. From the Move Advocate, here are five mistakes to avoid when moving to your new home:

1. Getting a quote over the phone or Internet: A big mistake that consumers make, when planning their moves, is obtaining a quote over the phone or the Internet. Any quote obtained in this manner is a non-binding quote. The only way to obtain a guaranteed or binding quote is to have a visual survey of your household goods by a reputable mover. If you choose to accept a quote over the phone or Internet, you are setting yourself up for a nasty scenario when the mover shows up at your new home and demands more money.

2. Waiting too long to line up a mover: Allowing time for a visual survey, receiving a written and binding quote, and reserving a truck for your move takes a lead time of 4-6 weeks. Although moves can be arranged in a shorter period of time, many consumers find that their choices are limited by availability, especially in the busy summer months. In our current real estate market, many homes are taking longer to sell, but once sold are closing very quickly. The time to obtain estimates for your move is before your home sells so that you are prepared when it does.

3. Misrepresenting what you are moving: It is very important to show the surveyor or estimator everything you are planning to move. If you forget to show items in a basement, garage, attic, or off-site storage unit and then add those items at time of pick-up, your estimate will no longer be binding. In the same vein, if you commit to packing your own items but don't have time to finish, the van line will pack your items and charge you for the service. If you are uncertain of whether you will be taking something, or are not sure if you will have time to pack everything, ask the surveyor to put the items or service in the estimate. If you decide not to take something, or do not require the packing, the cost will be adjusted downward.

4. Paying a deposit up front: Reputable movers do not ask for payment up front to reserve trucks or dates. This is a classic red flag in moving. A reputable mover will expect payment upon delivery.

5. Finding a mover based upon price rather than reputation and service: If a mover gives you a price that is significantly lower than other movers, it is likely that you are being low-balled. If a surveyor has underestimated your weight in order to give you a lower price you may find, on moving day, that the moving truck does not have enough room for your shipment. This is called an overflow. An overflow means that your items will not all travel together, will not all arrive at the same time, and will generally just cause you a big hassle. Another way to lower cost is to compromise service. Look for a competitive bid from a professional mover who is certified and reputable. Although price is an important factor, don't base your decision on price alone.

For more information, visit www.moveadvocate.com.

Copyright 2011 RISMedia, The Leader in Real Estate Information Systems and Real Estate News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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