August 10, 2011 5:35 pm
Discount broker. A full-service broker who charges less than the prevailing commission rates in his or her community.
August 10, 2011 5:35 pm
Q: How do I determine the value of a distressed property?
A: One of the best ways is to get your hands on a comparable market analyses. See what price similar properties have sold for in the past and find out the listing price of others currently on the market.
It is important to examine the fixer-upper carefully and figure out how much it will cost to fix any defects or repairs. If you are unable to get in, talk with nearby neighbors about the home’s condition.
You can also do your own cost comparison by researching comparable properties recorded at the local county recorder's and assessor's offices, or at Internet sites specializing in property records. If the property is in foreclosure, you should get as much information as possible from the lender.
August 9, 2011 5:05 pm
This year is certainly flying by, and with the fall just a month away, it’s a great time to start prepping your home before warm weather turns to cooler temperatures. From water leaks to the chimney, it’s better to be ready for the cold season…before it hits.
Here, State Farm offers up some pre-fall maintenance tips for your home:
Check all window and door locks for proper operation
• Windows that can be opened by breaking the glass and unlocking them, are less effective deterrents to criminals. Check with the hardware store for window lock alternatives.
Make sure there are working nightlights at the top and bottom of all stairs
• All exterior doors should have deadbolt locks.
Other safety ideas for stairs:
• Tile and painted wood or concrete stairs can be slippery when wet or when a person's shoes are wet. Resurface the treads with slip-resistant strips near the stair nosing.
Have a heating professional check your heating system every year
• All stairs of at least three risers should have a handrail.
• Do not store items on the stairs.
• Woodburning stove connector pipes and chimneys should be inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least annually.
Replace your furnace filter
• Furnace filters need to be replaced frequently to allow your heating and cooling systems to operate properly.
Run all gas-powered lawn equipment until the fuel tank is empty
• By doing this, you are removing flammable liquid storage from your garage. At the same time, make sure you aren't storing dirty, oily rags in a pile. They can ignite spontaneously.
Remove bird nests from chimney flues and outdoor electrical fixtures
Have a certified chimney sweep inspect and clean the flues and check your fireplace damper
• Soot and creosote, which build up inside the chimney, can ignite when a fire is lit in the fireplace.
• Bird nests on top of light fixtures are a fire hazard. Bird nests in chimney flues can prevent a proper venting of combustion gases and can catch fire from sparks. You should exercise great caution when working on your roof or consider hiring a qualified professional to take care of any work that needs to be done.
Make sure the caulking around doors and windows is adequate to reduce heat/cooling loss
• Check glazing for loose or missing putty or glazing compound. This will also help reduce water damage to the windows and door frames.
• Make sure that the caulking around your bathroom fixtures is adequate to prevent water from seeping into the sub-flooring
• Check for cracked or missing caulk around the base of your toilet, bath tub, and bathroom cabinets. Properly sealing gaps between your bathroom fixtures and flooring material can prevent damage.
August 9, 2011 5:05 pm
With the summer season coming to a close, make your summer last a little longer by trying the following tips.
1. Plan more down time. When the season is ending, most of us try to cram in more activities, which can make the season seem shorter! Section off a Sunday or two where you make no plans, allowing you to plan your activities based on your mood, the weather, or that good book you’ve been meaning to finish.
2. Plan an early fall vacation. Make a weekend getaway in early September to extend your care-free summer vibes.
3. Spend more time outdoors. This doesn’t have to be saved for a weekend. Cook dinner on the grill after work, or take a long evening walk at a local park or beach with pals or your pup.
4. Rise early. Some people like to snag more zzz’s during their down time. But during summer, the sun shines earlier, and so should you. Getting up early, even if it’s only to read on the porch with a cup of coffee, will make your days feel longer and your season sweeter.
August 9, 2011 5:05 pm
After a year of mandatory dorm living for college freshmen, most students have the option to choose between dorm living or off-campus apartments for the remainder of their college years. Each has its advantages, but there's one way that apartment living excels: it gives you the chance to express your individuality.
Painting walls is often an option if you can prove to the landlord that it will enhance the property or that you will paint them back to their original color before you move out. If that's the case, a little paint can make a world of difference. It can transform "blah beige" walls into a bright, inviting space that will let others know more about the creative you.
Before you start, make sure you have the right tools assembled for the project. Since you're a college student on a limited budget, you'll be tempted to buy the least expensive paint. The reality is that it makes more sense to buy better quality paint right from the start. It'll enable you to get the job completed—and you on your way to self-expression—in just one application.
You'll also need to keep a good painter's tape handy. Just like paint, it makes sense to buy a premium quality tape that lets you get the job done right the first time. Cheap tape can leave residue, tear unevenly, damage the surface, and leave messy paint lines where paint seeps under the tape edges.
Quality painter's tape also enables you to try some new and interesting approaches to wall painting. Besides choosing just one color per wall, you can try decorative striped patterns, diamond patterns, checkerboard designs, or a variety of other wall graphics.
For more information, visit http://www.itape.com
August 9, 2011 5:05 pm
Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.
August 9, 2011 4:35 pm
I didn’t feel too smart when it came to the latest information about the rapidly growing U.S. Electrical “smart grid”—so I plugged into some good intel on the subject from Tom Simchak of the Alliance to Save Energy.
According to Simchak, the smart grid is a system of interconnected technologies that enable two-way communications between different parts of the electric power system—from generation through to the appliances—that consume electricity.
This system of communication gives grid operators greater awareness of the condition of the electrical grid at any given location. But Simchak says it also allows consumers the opportunity to have a better understanding of their own energy use—potentially down to individual appliances’ consumption, which allows consumers to identify energy saving opportunities.
Smart grid systems also could open up opportunities for energy management companies, hired by consumers, to use data from “smart meters” to identify opportunities for energy savings, or to measure the success of energy saving measures after they are undertaken.
For utilities, smart grid technologies have the capacity to allow for reductions in electricity use targeted at times when demand is highest. Called demand response, these peak reductions can reduce the strain placed on the electrical grid, and the need for high-cost generation resources.
According to Simchak, consumers participating in demand response activities are compensated for the service.
Consumers do not have to take an action each time a utility calls for demand response activities. Simchak says a utility can simply send a signal to smart-capable appliances that take action based on pre-programmed consumer preferences.
The Electric Consumer Right to Know Act proposed in May of 2011 would allow customers to give third parties access to their consumption data, allowing third-party energy management services to process and reinterpret data from smart meters and to program smart appliances for consumers.
Such services could simplify smart meters’ use, create the potential for greater energy savings, and allow for an aggregation of savings for load management. Retail electric providers would be able to recover the costs of this requirement in electricity rates, subject to the regulation of their public utility commissions or other authority with jurisdiction.
August 8, 2011 5:05 pm
If your July water bill showed a marked jump in water usage, that is bad news for your wallet, as well as for the environment.
“Whether you are on a city water line or use your own well, the number of gallons used daily by a family may be expected to rise in hot weather,” says Charlotte Gorman, author of The Frugal Mind: The Little Book of Living Frugal. “But following a few simple guidelines to help conserve water can make a notable difference in your monthly bill as well.”
Below are 10 of the many tips Gorman suggests to help achieve these goals:
1. In the bathroom, use low flow shower heads, which reduce water usage by up to 40 percent.
2. When showering, wet your body, then turn off the water as you lather up. Turn the water on again to rinse off after you have lathered and shampooed.
3. When you brush your teeth, turn the faucet off as you brush. Turn it on again only to rinse.
4. In the laundry, most clothes washers use up to one-third more water for permanent press loads. Save your laundry until you have a full load, and don’t use the permanent press cycle more than necessary.
5. In the kitchen, avoid thorough rinsing of dishes that are going into the dishwasher. Scrape off remaining food, rinse only briefly, and let the dishwasher do the rest.
6. Use a pan in the sink when washing fruits and veggies. The saved water can be recycled to water indoor or outdoor plants.
7. Water yards, vegetable gardens and plants in the early morning or evening. Try watering less often than you have been accustomed to, and use a soaker hose instead of sprinklers to get the most water for your buck.
8. Don’t let the kids play in the sprinklers every day. Thirty minutes of water play could squander several hundred gallons each time.
9. Cover children’s wading and swimming pools when not in use to reduce water evaporation. You won’t need to refill them as often.
10. When it’s raining gently, move your car out of the garage and let nature wash it for you. A quick rubdown afterward should leave the car shiny and save water.
August 8, 2011 5:05 pm
Fannie Mae's July national consumer attitudinal survey finds that Americans' attitudes about the economy and household finances are growing more pessimistic—with 70 percent of Americans believing that the economy is moving in the wrong direction, while only 23 percent think the economy is moving in the right direction. Key indicators show that more consumers across the country have diminished expectations for home prices and their personal finances, more are thinking about renting as a next step, and twice as many are reporting significantly higher expenses than incomes.
"The impact of recent financial market volatility on household wealth has been a setback to consumer confidence, which we're seeing in our survey results and in Americans' continued restraint in their willingness to take on additional financial commitments," says Doug Duncan, vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. "Our overall July survey data, beyond the eleven indicators we present this month, show that most Americans think the economy is on the wrong track. The sluggish pace of job growth, coupled with this economic uncertainty, is clearly having an impact on consumers' attitudes toward the housing market and their own personal financial situations."
Homeownership and Renting
• On average and consistent with June, Americans believe home prices will decline slightly over the next year.
• Only 11 percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell one's home (similar to May and June 2011 survey results).
• Despite Americans' expectations that rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, fewer Americans say they would buy their next home (down 5 percentage points) and more of those surveyed say they would rent (up by 3 percentage points).
• For the third month in a row, optimism about personal finances has declined, with 35 percent of respondents expecting their finances to get better over the next year (down from 40 percent in April).
• Consistent with June, 20 percent of respondents report significantly higher household incomes over the past 12 months, while 17 percent report significantly lower incomes.
• As compared to past months, four times as many Americans report significantly higher household expenses (up from 37 percent in June to 40 percent in July) as significantly lower expenses (10 percent).
For more information, please visit www.fanniemae.com.
August 8, 2011 5:05 pm
It can be a challenge to keep the house clean, especially for busy families. When the kids are home from school, it means more dirt, mud and sand get tracked in—whether it's from sports practice or backyard fun.
Pets add to the mess, too. In fact, a recent study conducted by the NPD Group revealed more than half of pet owners (51 percent) reported that managing and cleaning up pet hair is their number one cleaning chore.
Pierra Jolly, founder and editor of JollyMom.com, a website devoted to her daily trials and tribulations of raising a three year old and Labrador retriever in Atlanta, can relate.
"Certain times of the year I typically double my cleaning efforts, making sure that everything is under control just in case we are babysitting, dog sitting or hosting an unexpected cookout or sleepover," says Jolly. "Unless I stick to my established cleaning schedule, I fall behind."
Keep your sanity with these Jolly Mom tips for minimizing messes.
Clean One Room a Day to Keeps Messes Away—Develop a cleaning schedule where each day is devoted to one room in your home (for example, kitchen on Tuesday, bedrooms on Wednesday). Save the rooms that are considered high-traffic areas for later in the week in case of unexpected company.
Avoid Pet Hair Emergencies—The guests are about to arrive and suddenly you realize that your pet has picked an in-opportune time to hop on the couch. Tidy up with the Hoover T-Series WindTunnel Pet. Made with pet lovers in mind, it comes with an Air-Powered Pet Hair Hand Tool. Rubber blades collect hair and powerful suction carries it away. A rinsable filter and high-quality HEPA filter helps absorb odors from your furry friends, all for less than $100. Additionally, consider grooming more frequently to help control shedding.
Start at the Top—When you are cleaning a room, start at the ceiling with the corners and light fixtures, and work your way to the floor. Finish by vacuuming to pick up all the dust and dirt from your efforts.
Leave the mess outside—Make sure the dirt from the outdoors stays where it came from. Avoid tracking in grass, mud and sand by establishing a mud room; a place for the kids to store toys, shoes, towels and sports equipment.
Let the Air In—After giving the carpets a deep cleaning, open the windows. Fresh air will speed up the process of drying carpets, allowing your family to enjoy the cleaned rooms without spoiling the hard work.
For more information, visit www.editors.familyfeatures.com.