May 9, 2013 5:36 pm
A: Start by finding out its worth. Contact a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal.
Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.
The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.
The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market.
May 7, 2013 5:16 pm
Whether it's a meal with the kids in tow, a romantic dinner with a spouse, or a night out with the girls, moms all over the place deserve a great meal out. Unfortunately, the dining atmosphere in some cities just doesn’t cater to those in need of a booster seat.
Below is a list of cities voted “mom-friendly.”
“Each of these cities has a diverse dining scene to satisfy mom's appetite for food and fun," says Caroline Potter, Chief Dining Officer of OpenTable. "And, it's very clear from the number of folks dining out locally on Mother's Day that area restaurants have mastered the art of pampering mothers and pleasing their palates."
The following cities, listed in order, comprise the Top 25 Mom-friendly Dining Cities in the U.S.
- Long Beach, Calif.
- Tampa, Fla.
- Boulder, Colo.
- Dallas, Texas
- Austin, Texas
- Columbus, Ohio
- Raleigh, N.C.
- Houston, Texas
- Charlotte, N.C.
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Scottsdale, Ariz.
- San Diego, Calif.
- Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Honolulu, Hawaii
- Kansas City, Miss.
- Santa Monica, Calif.
- Pittsburgh, Pa.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Denver, Colo.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Baltimore, Md.
- Minneapolis, Minn.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
May 7, 2013 5:16 pm
Kids these days! With everyone relying heavily on technology, your teens may be capable of installing a new app, but not a new light bulb. What were once regarded as need-to-know skills have fallen by the wayside, with an overreliance on mom and dad is keeping this generation's teens out of the tool shed and in the dark when it comes to DIY.
A study done by HomeServe revealed that among 18-24 year olds, one in six admitted to not being a able to change a light bulb and six out of 10 shudder at the thought of a blocked drain .
In light of these figures, HomeServe has released their top tips to pass down to the next generation:
1. How to change a light bulb
How many teenagers does it take to change a light bulb? According to HomeServe, you'd need half a dozen to be certain, as this is a skill that one in six young people don't possess. But some gentle encouragement and a little imparted wisdom will undoubtedly brighten up the nation - in every sense of the word.
Useful Tip: One of the few difficulties is knowing which way to actually turn the bulb if it's a screw-type fitting. A general rule of thumb is 'Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey'. Turn the bulb right to screw it into the socket and left to release it.
2. How to unblock a drain
Teenagers are particularly good at putting food, hair and other unmentionables down plugholes, but less good at dealing with it themselves. After all, few jobs around the home make people as squeamish as a clogged drain, which is one reason why so many are unwilling to learn how to clear them.
Useful Tip: If a bathroom or kitchen sink or a bath is blocked, you can clear it with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. Pour about three quarters of a cup of dry baking powder down the drain, followed by about half a cup of vinegar. Then cover the plughole with a damp cloth. The baking powder will react with vinegar and break down most blockages. Let the mixture fizz away for half an hour and then rinse clear with hot water.
3. How to strip wallpaper
Odds are, at some point throughout their teenage years, your son or daughter will demand that their room be redecorated - usually around the time they realize that Thomas the Tank Engine wallpaper is no longer socially acceptable.
But the fact that 48 percent of young people profess to have no idea how to strip and put up wallpaper is evidence that parents are missing the perfect opportunity to engage their child in a DIY crash course.
Useful Tip: Before decorating, you need to strip your walls, which can be as big a job as hanging new wallpaper. Fabric softener is an excellent tool in removing wallpaper and far cheaper than paint stripper. Mix with hot water, spray onto the walls and wait for the wallpaper and glue to soften before scraping off with a metal scraper. This will also leave the room smelling fresh.
Useful Tip: An amateur, no matter how keen to impress, is likely to have issues with bubbles appearing under the wallpaper surface. Simply take a pin, prick the bubble and apply a thin layer of paste to the affected area.
May 7, 2013 5:16 pm
Just like a top football, basketball or hockey player is drafted based on their stats, your credit score is used to determine your financial fitness.
Your credit score is a strong indicator of ability to handle debt. It's based on several aspects of your financial picture and can help creditors determine if you're responsible with your money.
Improving your credit score in 2013 may be an easy way to improve your overall financial scorecard. Doing so may help you get approved for loans and lower your interest rates and insurance premiums.
The following steps may improve your credit score in 2013:
Pay on time. Payment history is one of the most important factors used to calculate your credit score, so consistently paying on time may be a way to boost your score if you have missed payments in the past.
Reduce debt-to-credit ratio. Focus on paying down the amount you owe on your credit cards so each one has an available credit of at least 50 percent. Doing so improves your debt-to-credit ratio and in turn may improve your credit score.
Use more than one type of credit. Your score is built around both revolving (ex. credit card) and installment (ex. mortgage loan) credit. Having both types in your credit history shows you can responsibly handle multiple kinds of credit, and in turn may improve your score.
Stick with the accounts you have. Opening new accounts just to increase available credit means new inquiries on your credit report, which may lower your score. On the other hand, avoid closing accounts you already have, even if you don't use them that often. Doing so can negatively impact your debt-to-credit ratio and credit history -- both of which are used to calculate your score.
Source: BMO Harris Bank
May 7, 2013 5:16 pm
Plat. Map or survey showing the location and boundaries of individual properties and how they have been subdivided into lots and blocks.
May 7, 2013 5:16 pm
A: A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services. The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action. Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home. This could result in a double payment by you for the same job. You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly. Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers. The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.
May 6, 2013 6:00 pm
The month of May houses some great events and activities, like Cinco de Mayo, and the kickoff of gardening season. But it’s not only the month for margaritas and marigolds; May is also National Home Remodeling Month, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers recommends that homeowners consider the safety risks, time delays and hidden costs before attempting do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements.
According to HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau, homeowner DIY projects accounted for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects performed nationwide from 2010-2011. While many projects look manageable at first glance, there are many points to consider when determining the “real” cost generated on a project.
“Remodeling can be complex and often times full of surprises, even for experts like our members,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Bill Shaw, GMR, GMB, CGP, a remodeler from Houston. “DIY projects should be rewarding and fun, but if your DIY can’t be completed in the planned price range or your safety is at risk, leave the work in the hands of professional remodelers.”
Review the following considerations before sinking resources into a DIY home remodel:
- Many of the products purchased for the DIY market, although designated by a name brand, are not always the same quality available to contractors. It is also important to verify the terms of the product warranty. Many warranties become void by improper installation.
- Without the proper training and preparation, a DIYer can, and has, landed in the emergency room. Unfamiliarity with new tools and techniques can lead to life-threatening accidents. A good rule of thumb for any home owner is to avoid projects that require a license or structural changes to walls, roofs and floors.
Troubleshooting unexpected issues often takes more time and expertise than originally planned. Hiring a professional will ensure that you have a contract with a completion date and that the remodeler will bring in whatever help is necessary to get the job finished on time.
May 6, 2013 6:00 pm
Pet owners’ vet bills are growing, which may explain why fewer are taking their dogs and cats to the animal doctor although more Americans than ever have pets.
To make matters worse, a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices that kicked in Jan. 1 includes equipment that’s used for animals as well as people. Items as basic as IV pumps and scalpels are now subject to the tax, which is to help fund the Affordable Care Act.
“Even before the tax, the latest survey showed spending for dog care alone rose 18.6 percent from 2006 to 2012,” says Dr. Rod Block, a board-certified animal chiropractor and author of “Like Chiropractic for Elephants.”
“And even though cat vet visits dropped 4 percent in that time, cat owners paid 4 percent more,” Block continues, citing the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographic Sourcebook, a survey of more than 50,000 households.
“Add to that the new excise tax and I’m sure we’re going to see even more people torn between paying the light bill and taking their pet to the vet,” says Block. But there are simple ways to keep veterinary costs down, while still providing excellent care for your pet – whether it’s a dog, cat, horse or guinea pig, Block says.
“It’s important to always get appropriate care when your animal needs it, but you can easily prevent problems, or catch them early, by simply staying in tune with your pet’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs,” he says.
He offers these tips for accomplishing that, and distress signals to watch for:
• Is your pet in pain? Before X-rays and MRIs, health practitioners relied on these physical indications of pain: heat, redness, lumps or swelling, tremors, obvious discomfort. To recognize the first four, a pat on the head is not enough. Get used to taking some quiet time to place your hands on your pet, and work on honing your perceptive abilities. Being in a rush or having your mind on what you need to do next will impede your ability to perceive changes – use the time to simply be with your animal. If a joint feels warm, it may be inflamed. Mild localized tremors can indicate a problem in the area beneath your hand. Lumps or an asymmetrical feel when you have your hands on either side of the pet may indicate growths. “Take your time and quiet your mind. Animals are keenly aware of intent, and they’ll work with you if feel your intent,” Block says.
• Watch how your pet plays: It’s important that a pet gets physical and psychological stimulation, but those needs vary with temperament, age, and even how energetic the pet owner is. “Pets tend to match their owners’ energy levels, for instance, very elderly owners will tend to have pets that like to nuzzle and curl up next to them,” Block says. Take note of how your pet plays so you’ll be aware of changes. Is he becoming more aggressive? He may be telling you something’s bothering him. Has she stopped hopping up on the couch? Is he favoring a paw (or hoof?) Beyond the physical, your pet’s play can also communicate emotional distress. For instance, if he becomes fearful or timid, consider any changes in the home, routines, etc., that may be affecting him.
• Have a thorough neuro-muscular-skeletal exam done. A veterinary chiropractor can examine a pet’s frame, muscles and nerves for areas that may be pre-disposed to injury, and suggest ways you can help protect them. In dogs, cats and horses, joint injuries are common, with muscle and tendon strains and tears. Problems with the spine can lead to compressed or herniated discs, and neck issues can lead to mobility problems and even seizures. If you know your pet’s vulnerabilities, you can take steps to prevent injuries.
“If you decide to take your pet to a chiropractor, make sure he or she is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association,” says Block, who’s been treating people for 43 years and animals for 16.
“Find one who is in tune with animals – a host of technical skills does not compensate if the practitioner is not in tune with his patients.”
Dr. Rod Block serves as a chiropractic consultant to numerous veterinary practices in Southern California and is an international lecturer on animal chiropractic.
May 6, 2013 6:00 pm
(BPT) - Patio season has arrived, and opportunities for outdoor social gatherings will abound in the coming months. Birthdays, graduations, showers, holidays and any other reasons to enjoy warm weather will call for unique outdoor party solutions that differ from indoor events. Here are a few ideas to make al fresco entertaining a snap.
Enjoying seasonal fruits is one of summer's most delicious pleasures, so incorporate fresh fruits into every aspect of your gathering. Go beyond the traditional fruit plates and garnishes, and sweeten regular water with fresh fruits for an invigorating beverage that is perfect for the patio.
Many people associate summer gatherings with grilling, but that doesn't mean your menu options need to be limited to the typical hamburgers and hot dogs found at most cookouts. Explore the hundreds of recipes for more health-conscious grilled cuisine, including salmon, shrimp, veggie burgers and chicken. Don't just reserve the grill for entrees, either. For an appetizer, try grilling slices of ciabatta or pita bread and topping with chopped tomatoes, basil and olive oil to create an easy bruschetta. Season and toss sliced, cooked potatoes on the grill to make your own steak fries, and use your blender to create a number of dipping sauces and homemade condiments. Roasting vegetable skewers makes for a light but flavorful side, and you can even use rosemary sprigs as the skewers for extra zest. The grill is a versatile tool for summer entertaining, so use it to its full potential this season!
Outdoor dinner parties are typically less formal events, but some instances still call for place settings and arranged seating. To create a fun, light atmosphere that is still organized and thoughtful, use colorful place mats and napkins to offset a white or neutral tablecloth. There's no need to break out the fine china, either. Opt for bamboo or melamine plates and bowls instead, which are available in a wide array of colors and designs. Bamboo serving utensils can create a beach-like feel, and reusable, recyclable plastic silverware is an affordable alternative to disposable cutlery. Have fun with table decorations and fill glass bowls and vases with flowers, colorful stones and floating candles for an attractive, summery table setting in no time. Add pretty citronella candles for decoration that will also keep your table bug-free.
Many summer soirees carry on past sunset, so lighting your patio area is important. With hundreds of options available for any outdoor area and budget, you can create whatever atmosphere you prefer. Solar lamps are a smart, energy-efficient way to light the walking and seating areas, while Chinese lanterns hanging in the trees create a fun, party feel. Garden lights lining the driveway and walkways will direct attendees to and from the gathering areas safely, and an enclosed bonfire pit or portable fireplace is a great way to gather people for post-dinner revelry. The right mood will encourage guests to stay past dark and allow everyone to enjoy a warm summer evening.
Follow these few simple tips to create the perfect outdoor gathering, and you'll be in the swing of summer entertaining in no time.
May 6, 2013 6:00 pm
Planned Unit Development (PUD). Individually owned houses with community ownership of common areas, such as swimming pools and tennis courts.