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Mary Mastroeni

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For the Real Estate Market, the Outlook is Good

July 15, 2017 12:39 am

Despite the rise in home prices and affordability issues in several pockets of the country, the U.S. housing market has a bright future. According to Nationwide’s latest forward-looking barometer of U.S. housing market health, the primary reason for the positive outlook is simple: housing demand. Household formation growth picked up sharply over the last quarter to move above the long-term average, and job gains remain solid.

According to Nationwide's Health of Housing Markets Report (HoHM Report), household growth is expected to remain above average during the next few years, increasing demand on an already limited supply of homes. In fact, while the National Association of REALTORS® recently reported that national home inventory is at about four months at the current sales pace, several markets are experiencing just a month's supply of inventory turnover in half – and even a quarter – of that amount of time.

The report also found that, regionally, the rankings show positive and healthy housing trends in more than 75 percent of MSAs, suggesting sustainable expansion during the next year.

While markets with strong ties to the energy sector (including North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana, and Alaska) continue to dominate the bottom 10 rated MSAs, the outlook for housing in these areas is slowly improving as energy production and employment recover.

MSAs with the lowest housing inventory are, in order: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo.; Tacoma-Lakewood, Wash.; Boulder, Colo.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, Ore.-Wash.; Mankato-North Mankato, Minn.; Olympia-Tumwater, Wash.; San Francisco-Redwood City, Calif.; Sacramento-Roseville, Calif.; Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas; Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.; Columbus, Ohio; and Oakland-Hayward-Berkeley, Calif.

The 10 top metro areas in the index are, in order: Lancaster, Pa.; Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; Fort Smith, Ark.-Okla.; Lawton, Okla.; Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Toledo, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; Philadelphia; and Vineland-Bridgeton, N.J.

Source: Nationwide

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Priciest Zipcodes, Unveiled

July 15, 2017 12:39 am

It’s no secret that some areas of the country are pricier than others. To explore this,

GOBankingRates used data from Zillow to find out how zipcodes stacked up against one another. To do this, the company surveyed median home values and mortgage payments, as well as cost of living expenses such as groceries, transportation, utilities and healthcare for zip codes in 48 states and the District of Columbia. To find the total amount of money needed to live comfortably in each zip code, the study split the costs using the following metrics: necessities (50 percent), discretionary income (30 percent) and savings (20 percent).
Below are the results.

Top 5 Most Expensive Zip Codes

Atherton, Calif.: 94027
Total Income Needed: $668,078

Water Mill, N.Y.: 11976
Total Income Needed: $438,510

Alpine, N.J.: 7620
Total Income Needed: $330,756

Medina, Wash.: 98039
Total Income Needed: $297,905

Greenwich, Conn.: 6830
Total Income Needed: $222,002

Additional Study Insights

- Honolulu, Hawaii (96821) sits at No. 6 on the list of most expensive zip codes across the country, with a total income of $202,798 needed to live comfortably there. This city also has utility, transportation and grocery costs that top the charts.

- Of the most expensive ZIP codes in every state, the 25314 ZIP code in Charleston, West Virginia is the lowest, with a total income needed of just $61,100.

- South Dakota and Maine have been excluded from the list due to lack of data (for example, only two ZIP codes exist in Maine).

Source: GOBankingRates

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Are You Making These Travel Insurance Errors?

July 15, 2017 12:39 am

Traveling to a new destination is exciting--and expensive. When it comes to insuring your trip, Squaremouth, explains the following three mistakes travelers make that causes them to overspend on travel insurance.

Not Capitalizing on Credit Card Insurance

Travelers don't always know that some credit cards include free travel insurance for customers who pay for trips with their card. However, many of these cards limit the trip costs that can be covered, and typically don't cover medical emergencies during a trip.

Expert Tip: Only insure the trip costs that are not covered by your credit card. If your card covers $10,000 per trip, and your trip cost is $15,000, you can save money by only insuring the additional $5,000. A lower trip cost typically results in a less expensive policy, however, be aware that some providers require you to insure 100 percent of your trip cost.

Over-Calculating Non-Refundable Trip Costs

Trip cost is one of the main factors that can drive up the price of a policy. Travelers have the choice of insuring all, some, or none of their trip cost, but travel insurance can only reimburse prepaid and non-refundable trip expenses up to the amount insured.

Expert Tip: Insure only the trip cost you lose if you cancel. If you just pay a 50 percent penalty to cancel a hotel reservation, insure that amount rather than the full cost of the hotel to get a less expensive policy.

Overlooking the Least Expensive Policies

When comparing travel insurance, more expensive does not mean better. Each provider tailors their policies toward a specific demographic. If one policy is less expensive than another policy with the same coverage amounts, it's because the traveler falls in that provider's sweet spot, not because the coverage is worse.

Expert Tip: Pick the least expensive policy that meets the coverage you need.

Source: SquareMouth

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Precaution: Don’t Leave Home Without It

July 14, 2017 12:39 am

Can’t wait to get out of town for a much-needed vacation? Make sure you don’t ruin your trip by returning to a disaster at home. New York-based T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning offers the following tips to help prevent an unpleasant homecoming:

Unplug all appliances. Believe it or not, phone chargers, computers, televisions and coffee pots all continue to use energy even when turned off.  Unplugging them before you leave will not only  save energy, but help prevent damage from lightning strikes and power surges.

Raise the thermostat. Air conditioning uses a significant amount of energy, so turn the temperature up 10 degrees higher than it is usually set. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat that will allow you to turn the AC on just before returning home.

Clean the garbage disposal. You don’t want to come home to the unpleasant odor that results from an unused garbage disposal. Before you leave, flush it out with half a cup of white vinegar and hot water while the disposal is turned on.

Change the setting on the water heater. There’s no need to heat water for an empty home. Adjust the water heater to vacation mode. If the water heater does not have a vacation mode, turn the temperature down.

Put lights on a timer. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are more than 2.15 million burglaries each year. A dark home is a sure sign that no one is there, so put a couple of lamps on a timer inside the home. Set these to go on and off at different intervals.

Avoid stagnant water. Water left inactive in the toilet can produce a foul odor and a difficult-to-remove ring that forms around the bowl. To prevent this, place half a cup of bleach in the toilet bowl just before leaving home.

Taking these steps will ensure that not only your vacation is relaxing, but your return home as well.

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How to Safely View a Solar Eclipse

July 14, 2017 12:39 am

With a solar eclipse coming in August, consumers across the country are gearing up for a great sky show. But solar eclipses aren’t all oohs and ahhs. To keep yourself safe, the AOA is sharing a few tips for viewing:

Get centered and enjoy the view. Within the path of totality, you can safely witness the two or more minutes when the moon completely covers the sun with the naked eye. Otherwise, your eyes should always be protected by verified viewing tools. Never look directly at the sun without eye protection, even briefly.  

Know your duration. Outside of the path of totality, always use solar filters. O.D.s want to reinforce that the only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters or other ISO-certified filters, such as "eclipse glasses" or handheld solar viewers. The AOA encourages ordering solar eclipse glasses in advance and recommends referring to the American Astronomical Society's (AAS) site for a list of manufacturers.

Be aware of harmful solar exposure. If you stare at the sun without protection, you may experience damage to your retina (the tissue at the back of your eye) called "solar retinopathy." This damage can occur without any sensation of pain, since the retina does not have pain receptors. The injury can be temporary or permanent. Visit your local doctor of optometry immediately if an accident occurs.

Visit your doctor of optometry. Check in with your doctor of optometry for information about safely viewing the eclipse. If you experience any problems with your eyes or vision after the eclipse, your optometrist will be able to provide you with the medical care you need. To find a doctor of optometry near you, visit the AOA's doctor locator at aoa.org.

Source: aoa.org/2017eclipse.

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Summer Safety For Your Feline

July 14, 2017 12:39 am

(Family Features)--Summer is officially here and while it may be the perfect time for family trips and outdoor activities, it's also a great time to reset and make sure you're keeping the whole family healthy, including your feline friend. By keeping your cat healthy, hydrated and active, your family will be able to enjoy more time together and get the most out of the season.

"For both people and cats, hydration, proper nutrition and overall healthy habits are imperative to fully enjoying the summer months," says Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and IAMS Cat spokesperson. "To live their best lives, cats need to feel healthy from the inside out and much of that stems from what they eat. It's important to look for a premium cat food that includes high-quality protein to help your cat maintain strong, lean muscles and incorporate healthy vitality."

These tips from Ward can help keep your cat active, healthy and safe during the summer months.

Focus on food – Cats are natural carnivores and need the proper amount of protein in their diets, which helps maintain strong muscles and keep cats active. Ward recommends a high protein cat food, such as IAMS High Protein.

Other key elements to look for in a high-quality dry cat food include:
- Optimal levels of fatty acids for a soft and shiny coat.
- A fiber blend, including prebiotics and beet pulp, for healthy digestion.
- A good mix of premium, high-quality ingredients to contribute to healthy energy levels.

Keep hydrated – Cats need to stay hydrated, especially in warmer weather. Make sure their water dishes are always full and place a few dishes throughout the house. If there are certain rooms your cat is drawn to or if the family is spending quality time in a different area, have water readily available so pets can easily quench their thirst and avoid dehydration.

Prioritize playtime – Though they tend to sleep a lot, cats need exercise, too. Playing a cat and mouse game with your furry friend is one way to give him or her necessary exercise and create a fun bonding experience. Toys that can encourage cats to get off the couch are a great way to get engaged in a little aerobic activity.

Eliminate clutter – Cats are curious by nature and it's no secret that they tend to explore even the highest or smallest nooks in the house. It's nearly impossible to keep an eye on your cat at all times, so it's important to create a safe environment at home. Tuck cables and cords away, limit the amount of free-standing, sharp or glass objects and keep hazardous chemicals, such as cleaning supplies, locked away to help reduce the possibility of illness or injury.

Source: IAMS

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How-to Throw Shade On Your Deck

July 12, 2017 12:39 am

Summer sun is fun, but what happens when you want to retreat from the heat? Below are five deck shade solutions to help provide coverage all season long.

Canopy awning. Looking for semi-permanent shade? These fabric-roofed structures are attached to a free-standing frame that you bolt to your deck for year-round coverage.

Oversized patio umbrella. If you’re looking for a simple version of the canopy awning, try an oversized patio umbrella that will give you feet of shade, but need not be bolted down like the awning.

Shade cloth. These durable strips of cloth can be strung from the corners of your deck to provide cooling coverage.

Retractable awnings. Similar to shade cloths, these accordion-style awnings can be pulled in our out at your leisure.

Portable shade canopy. Also known as “easy ups,” these four point square structures can be set up on the deck and removed when no longer needed.

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Ideas for the Fifth Wall

July 12, 2017 12:39 am

If you’ve ever felt like the walls are closing in on you, here’s a simple solution: Look up.

The ceiling, referred to as the fifth wall in design circles, is an often overlooked element when decorating, yet can make a tremendous impact when thoughtfully incorporated into your home’s decor. Here are some ways to make the most of your overhead:

Skylights. In rooms where your fifth wall is also the roof, the addition of a skylight or two can make not only an amazing impact on the look and feel of the room, but work wonders for energy efficiency as well. Skylights provide balanced, natural light that reduces reliance on powered light and ventilation fixtures. They can also work in concert with vertical windows to create the "chimney effect" where cool, fresh air enters through vertical windows and warm, stale air escapes from the skylights, cooling your home without using electricity.

Wood. From elegant to cabin-like, a slat wood ceiling can dramatically change the ambience of a room. Whether stained rich cherry, white-washed or natural pine, installing a wooden fifth wall can achieve a wide variety of interesting looks.

Wallpaper. A carefully chosen wallpaper - either in a print, stripe or textured solid - can add a real wow factor to a room’s interior design when used on the ceiling. Do lots of research online to get an idea of the look you’re going for and consult your local home improvement expert as well.

Paint. There’s no need to stick to basic white when it comes to painting your ceiling. Consider adding an interesting pop of color, a stenciled pattern or some trompe l’oeil effects. Or, paint the ceiling the same hue as a room’s walls for a cozy feel to your space.

No matter what you choose, be creative. Decorating your ceiling is a great chance to reflect your personality and add great interest to an otherwise average space.

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Transferring College? Read This First

July 12, 2017 12:39 am

If you or someone you love is planning a college transfer, you likely know it can be a complicated process. From getting credits to transfer, to physically relocating, there is a lot to think about. Green Mountain College offers the following considerations to pay mind to.

Cost: Make sure a transfer is affordable. Pay special attention to whether your previous undergraduate credits will be honored so that you can graduate within four years, and not be required to pay for extra courses.

Culture: What does the school do to make sure you feel welcome and empowered to hit the ground running? Are there dedicated support teams and orientation programs just for transfers?

Curriculum: Is your college's specialization authentic? In the sustainability area, for instance, is this discipline a core focus in the classroom, residence halls, and community?

Career: Will your school lead to the career that you dream about? Are alumni not only employed but happy with their current situations?

Source: Green Mountain College

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Cool Down with These Frosty Summer Treats

July 12, 2017 12:39 am

Smoothies, popsicles and chilled boozy beverages are often the go-to for an edible cool-down. Shake up your chilled staples with these frosty treats.

Frozen grapes. Wash a rack of grapes, remove them from the stems, and pop them in the freezer. Pull out a handful whenever you’re feeling overheated--or just want a refreshing snack.

Chilled watermelon. Watermelon is an iconic summer staple. Cube it and keep it in the fridge for even more ahhhh.

Fruity ice cubes. Looking to jazz up your summertime drinks? Fill an ice cube tray with water, and add a few raspberries or blueberries to each cube before freezing.

Chocolate covered bananas. These cool creamy treats are a bit more work, but completely worth it. Slide a popsicle stick into a ripe banana. Dip the banana in melted chocolate, place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, and freeze for 4-8 hours or more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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