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Question of the Day

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

Q: What about repairs made to get the home ready for sale?

A: If you realize a taxable gain after you sell your home, even with an exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs. These selling costs may include items that are otherwise considered to be repairs such as painting, wallpapering, even planting flowers if you complete them within 90 days of your home sale and provided they were completed to make the home more saleable.

Copyright 2010 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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Unused and Expired Prescription Drugs Pose Safety Threats

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011-In a nationwide effort to clear homes of potentially dangerous, expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs, Independence Blue Cross is supporting the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day taking place on Saturday, April 30.

"At IBC, we focus on enhancing the health and wellness of the Philadelphia region, and so we are proud to be an advocate for responsible use and disposal of all prescription medicines once they are no longer in use," says Dr. Richard Snyder, IBC's chief medical officer. "National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day helps raise awareness of the serious dangers of improper drug use and disposal, and it also benefits the safety of our environment, which will have positive effects on the health of our community as a whole."

According to a national survey on Drug Use and Health, more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. The Partnership for a Drug Free America reports that each day, approximately 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. In addition, research indicates that usual methods of disposing unused medicines-flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash-pose potential safety and health hazards.

This year on April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the DEA will offer hundreds of locations available for the public to dispose unwanted prescription drugs. The service is free and anonymous; no questions asked. For more information and to find the collection site nearest you, visit www.dea.gov, click on "Got Drugs?" and enter your zip code.

During its inaugural National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in September 2010, the DEA collected more than 121 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 4,100 collection sites across the country. This year's collection numbers are expected to exceed the 2010 figures.

"Many do not know that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic. Unused prescription medicines that remain in homes can be misused or abused if they get in the wrong hands of children, family or friends," says Allan Korn, M.D., BCBSA senior vice president and chief medical officer. "BCBSA and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies nationwide are leading efforts to increase patient safety and make it a healthcare priority and we commend the DEA's efforts of providing a safe and easy way for Americans to drop off their unnecessary prescription drugs."

For more information visit www.ibx.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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Spruce up Your Home This Spring

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011-Now that Spring is here, wood care manufacturer Ronseal is urging people to spruce up their homes and do those jobs they've been putting off all winter.

1. Get rid of those unsightly holes. General wear and tear and unfinished DIY tasks mean houses are full of holes and cracks. Apply a filler to resolve the problem. Easy to use, these products will help even the most novice DIYer achieve smooth, professional results-whether it's a hairline crack or a gaping hole!

2. Knock wood knots on the head. Unsealed knotty wood such as pine can cause paintwork to discolor quickly if a good exterior wood paint hasn't been used. To keep your wood looking good for longer apply primer and undercoat to bare or previously painted wood, to prevent knots from showing through.

3. Finish floors with finesse. A beautifully painted floor can be a real focal point in the home. Make sure all of that hard work lasts by choosing a highly durable, slip resistant paint.

4. Hide those horrible damp water marks. Apply an anti-damp paint directly to damp walls and ceilings. Many of these paints dry in just one to two hours, leave a smooth white finish with just one coat and are ideal for interior surfaces including plaster, cement and stone.

5. Don't neglect window frames, doors and skirting boards. Varnish is the easiest way to achieve beautiful interior wood.

For more information visit www.ronseal.co.uk.

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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Get a Head Start on Next Winter with a New Roofing System

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011-It wasn't very long ago that your RIS Consumer Confidant was peering out across several feet of snow, which also weighed heavily on many neighbors' roofs. And while it is too late for the winter of 2011, there's no harm in preparing early for next winter with some ideas about rooftop snow melting systems.

First, a little orientation: there are four main types of roof snow melting system that an individual can choose from, according to our contacts at WarmQuest in Salt Lake City (Warmquest.com):

Gutter melting: Heated cables can be placed in the gutters of a roof. This is primarily meant to keep gutters clear of possible build-ups of ice.

Heat roof edges: The heated cables here are installed strategically on the edge of the roof to prevent icicles from forming.

Heated roof: This is pretty self-explanatory. The entire roof is heated to melt snow either as it comes down, or in stages while it is still too cold to melt the snowfall as one.

Heated problem areas: A roof is assessed for weaknesses and heating elements are fitted where needed. Every roof has different weaknesses and must be evaluated on an individual basis.

The main goal of having a roof ice melting system is to prevent the buildup of ice dams and large icicles around eaves, drains, and valleys. Companies like WarmQuest offer low voltage systems that can be installed under asphalt, shake or tile shingles, have a low level of visibility and can be stapled or nailed down, as long as it is on a non-conductive surface.

Do you have metal roofing? No problem-the company's Tuff Cable can be installed in a Heatizon Heatsink Kit, or Invizimelt Aluminum Panel for deicing under metal roofing.

WarmQuest claims the systems are easy to install, and guarantee the electrical equipment is ETL listed and conforms to UL Standards.

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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How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

By Stephanie Rabiner

RISMEDIA, April 28, 2011-Security deposits are part of rental life, but that doesn't mean that they aren't the bane of every renter's existence.

It's rare that a tenant doesn't have security deposit landlord issues, with delays and too many deductions.

If you're currently having (or want to prepare for) security deposit problems, this is what you need to know about landlord disputes over security deposits.

Every state has a specific deadline for how long a landlord may hold a tenant's security deposit after he has moved out. Within that time limit-normally 14 to 60 days-the landlord must mail the security deposit, plus any applicable interest and an itemized list of all deductions made for cleaning, repairs and unpaid rent.

If you're having security deposit landlord issues, chances are that your landlord has either deducted more than normal wear and tear, has wrongfully deducted past due rent, or just hasn't sent the money at all.

The first step in recovering your security deposit is to simultaneously send a letter -be sure to keep a copy-and make a phone call to your ex-landlord requesting your security deposit. Give him a few days to respond.

If the polite route is ineffective, you have the right to take your ex-landlord to small claims court.

Small claims courts typically have a maximum recoverable limit of $7,500 and don't permit parties to be represented by attorneys. Small claims judges are generally understanding, and as long as you bring evidence of your claims, you should be able to effectively present your case.

Should you win in small claims court, your ex-landlord must pay your security deposit and any court fees. If he fails to do so, you can always file papers to have the sheriff collect the judgment for you.

For more information visit www.findlaw.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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Word of the Day

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

Survey. An exact measurement of the size and boundaries of a piece of land taken by civil engineers or surveyors.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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How Healthy Is Your Indoor Air?

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-The Healthy House Institute (HHI) and the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) have announced the release of the 2011 QuickGuide to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)-a concise mini-guide with checklists to help consumers identify simple steps to make their indoor air healthier.

QuickGuide to Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Though invisible, air is the most basic, life-sustaining feature of your home. Preventive measures, ventilation, and daily habits play a role in protecting your home's precious supply.

Threats to the Breathing Space

Dirt and Dust: Outdoor soil can contain fertilizer, pesticides and more. Tracked in, it becomes part of the indoor dust, which already holds dander, dust mites, plastics, and sometimes lead or asbestos from indoor sources. As dust becomes airborne, these substances may enter the body and cause symptoms ranging from asthma and allergy flare-ups to even nervous system damage and cancer.

Mold: Airborne mold spores and mold fragments can trigger asthma and allergy episodes.

VOCs: Volatile organic compounds are found in cleaning liquids, paints, solvents and many more household supplies. They volatize or "off gas" into the air. Not all are harmful, but at high levels, many can cause a range of symptoms from short-term irritation to more ominous organ damage and cancer. The impact of lower levels and of mixtures of VOCs is under discussion or unknown, but reducing exposure is generally a good policy.

Formaldehyde: This VOC is used in a wide variety of household products. Manufacturers have scaled back-but in many cases not eliminated-its use. It is a known carcinogen and can trigger asthma attacks and irritate the eyes and respiratory system. Off gassing can continue for years, decreasing over time.

Asbestos: Found in some insulation, fireproofing materials, acoustic tile and "popcorn" ceilings, these tiny particles can cause lung-tissue damage and cancer. Asbestos containing materials are harmless as long as they stay intact, but disintegration frees the fibers to enter the airspace and the lungs.

Lead: Damaging to the nervous system, lead can enter the air as dust. Blood lead levels have dropped dramatically since the 1980s, indicating that unleaded gasoline and strategies regarding lead paint and lead pipes are working. Continued vigilance in the home is recommended, especially if your home is older.

Moisture: Water leaks and high relative humidity encourage mold growth, dust mite proliferation and increased formaldehyde emissions from building materials, furnishings and other household items. These irritants can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.

Carbon Monoxide: Fuel-burning appliances and idling cars in attached garages can release carbon monoxide into the home, causing approximately 500 preventable deaths each year and thousands more to become ill.

Radon: Radioactive gas can cause lung cancer-no smoking necessary. The EPA estimates radon causes 21,000 preventable deaths each year. Radon testing is quite inexpensive and almost effort-free.

Three Action Principles

Eliminate

Often, the most reliable method of protecting yourself from unhealthy exposures in the home is simply to make sure harmful materials and contaminants are not present. Building or furnishing carefully with less hazardous materials, as well as proper cleaning, eliminates many health threats.

Separate or Isolate

When removal is not advisable or not possible, reduce exposure by creating a sealed barrier. For example, tight wall construction keeps potentially hazardous insulation particles out of the living space.

Ventilate

Reduce remaining air contaminants by regularly letting stale air out and fresh air in. Balancing in and out airflows in this process provides fresh air for your family and prevents a vacuum from forming and drawing air from a dangerous source like the furnace exhaust.

Action Plan

Regular Habits

Use a central vacuum that exhausts outside, or a well-filtered (e.g., sealed HEPA) portable vacuum

Dust with tools that don't flip dust into the air

Declutter to remove dust harbors

Sweep entry walks and keep large mats at doors

Remove shoes when coming in from outside

Keep relative humidity at 30 percent to 50 percent

Reduce spray and aerosol cleaner use

Use low-VOC cleaning solutions and products

Run exhaust fans while cooking and showering. Open a window slightly if necessary to keep air pressure balanced

Air out bedding daily to release body moistures before making bed; launder weekly in hot water

Continuously use ventilation systems to provide healthful air in the home

Annual Protections

Replace batteries in carbon monoxide alarm(s)

Clean and/or inspect furnace ducts and A/C unit

Sweep chimney

Inspect roof and repair as needed

Winterize outdoor faucets

As Needed

Test for radon at least once and as house settles

Fix window leaks-caulking, weather stripping, etc.

Check for and repair plumbing leaks

Monthly to quarterly, replace central A/C and ventilator filters with MERV 10 or 11, or the highest-efficiency filtration your units can handle (see manuals)

New Construction & Special Projects

Install hard floors or remove old (dust-filled) carpet and replace with low-pile, low-VOC carpeting

Use low- or no-formaldehyde alternatives over traditional particleboard and plywood building materials and furnishings. Substitutes include solid wood or outdoor grade plywood

Apply moisture barriers during flooring foundation and wall construction.

Install a whole-house, continuous ventilation system

Build in radiant rather than forced air heat

For good drainage, create or renew a 5 to 6 percent grade of soil sloping away from the house

Professional Assistance Recommended

Deep clean carpet and upholstery

Clean chimney

Home inspection

HVAC inspection

Mold abatement

Asbestos remediation

Radon mitigation

Lead abatement

For more information visit http://www.healthyhouseinstitute.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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Get Serious about Identity Protection

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-Whether through a smartphone, or with a click of a computer mouse, your RIS Consumer Confidant knows more Americans are bringing their banking, and their bank, home with them than ever before. They are shopping, ordering prescriptions, medical products, furniture and even cars, all through the Internet.

This is why David Nelson, an FDIC fraud specialist, warns the time to get serious about your own identity protection is NOW-and he offers these basic tips to protect yourself:

If you bank online, frequently check your deposit accounts and lines of credit to spot and report errors or fraudulent transactions, just as you should with traditional banking.

Never give your Social Security number, credit or debit card numbers, personal identification numbers (PINs) or any other confidential information in response to an unsolicited e-mail, text message or phone call, no matter who the source supposedly is.

Don't open attachments or click on links in unsolicited e-mails from anyone you don't know or aren't sure about. And watch out for sudden pop-up windows asking for personal information or warning of a virus.

Be on guard against scams hiding behind online coupon offers. Beware of any coupon site that asks for personal, financial or payment information, which can be misused by criminals.

Be careful if you download banking software onto a cell phone. Many cell phones called "smart phones" allow consumers to add computer-like features ranging from video games to "mobile" banking. The latest emerging threat comes from criminals selling malicious software for mobile banking, some even falsely displaying bank logos. These applications may contain spyware, and downloading them could be giving a hacker access to your bank account or payment card information.

Nelson's last word: "Only download mobile banking applications from a safe site, such as your wireless provider, phone manufacturer or your bank." When in doubt, he added, "contact your bank before downloading any banking applications to your cell phone."

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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How to Avoid Common Home-Purchase Contract Mistakes

April 29, 2011 7:23 am

By Tracey C. Velt

RISMEDIA, April 29, 2011-If you're buying a home, it's important to mean what you say and say what you mean when filling out the contract.

That's the advice of lawyer Jeff Marks, a partner with Ryan and Marks Attorneys LLP in Jacksonville, Fla. A real estate dispute in the Sunshine State illustrates his point.

Christine and Nigel Gibney contracted to buy a house from Helen and Randy Pillifant for $620,000. The purchase contract provided that the sale was "contingent upon this property appraising for no less than $620,000," according to court documents.

Two appraisals were done. One arranged by the Gibneys (the buyers) came in at $560,000. The Pillifants secured an appraisal that valued their house at $635,000. The buyers refused to close and terminated the contract.

The sellers sued for breach of contract, arguing that any appraisal of $620,000 or more obligated the Gibneys to buy the house. The Gibneys argued that any appraisal for less than $620,000 allowed them to terminate the contract.

Who's right? Florida's Second District Court of Appeal favored the would-be buyers, ruling in April 2010: "In our view, 'appraising for no less than $620,000' means that no appraisal may be less than $620,000," the court ruled. "The appraisal contingency allowed the Gibneys to terminate the contract if any appraisal valued the property at less than $620,000."

Too often, homebuyers and sellers think a contract allows for one thing, when the language says something else.

"Contingencies should be written in full sentences," Marks says. "In this case, it should have read, 'This agreement is contingent, at buyers' option, on the property appraising for at least $620,000 as determined by the appraiser for the buyers' lender,'" he says. "There's no confusion in that language."

Here are four ways to avoid making common contract mistakes.

Give Yourself Time to Get a Loan

Many contracts are contingent upon the buyer getting financing by a certain date. In today's tough lending climate, buyers are wise to allow themselves plenty of time to get mortgage approval for a loan. If the date passes and no financing has been secured, the sellers may terminate the contract and keep the earnest money deposit.

"You should also be realistic about your closing date," says Patti Lawton, a broker with Welcome Home Realty in Brunswick, Maine. "Don't try to close too quickly. There are a lot of things that need to be done properly and you must give lenders, title companies and others time."

Be Specific about Which Items Stay with the House

You've heard the story of the buyer who walked into a new home only to discover that the refrigerator and chandeliers were missing. Check the contract. As a seller, be sure you specifically state on the contract what will stay with the home. As a buyer, pay attention. Don't assume that the Sub-Zero refrigerator is yours once you close.

Know the Effective Date

Surprise! The contract doesn't always go into effect on the day you sign it. "In every contract, there are things that must be done within X number of days from the effective date: inspections, loan applications and approval, title searches," Marks says. "If you don't know the date that the contract went into effect, you may not have a valid contract."

Get Everyone to Sign

"Sometimes the home is owned by both spouses, other owners or an entity such as corporation," Marks says. "Make sure all of the parties sign the contract. If a party to the transaction fails to sign, they're not bound to perform the contract."

You've heard it before: Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you're going to make. "Take it seriously and make sure everything that's important to you is in writing," Lawton says.

For more information visit www.bankrate.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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Word of the Day

April 27, 2011 10:23 am

Subdivision. A tract of land divided by the owner into smaller lots for home sites or other use.

Copyright 2008 RISMedia, Inc., All Rights Reserved. This material may not be republished without permission from RISMedia.


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