Today's Top Real Estate News

Provided by RISMedia News
7/19/2018  12:54:04 PM

Money Matters: Tips for Resetting Your Personal Finances

Whether you are just setting out with savings, or hoping to beef up your portfolio, below are tips from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. about how you can reboot your personal finances.

Track your Money: Are you keeping track of money that's coming in and going out? In today's digital age, enlist the help of apps to make this process easier.

Check/Repair Credit: As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Equifax data breach, make sure your credit is in good standing. If you notice any suspicious changes, be persistent when correcting your report.

Evaluate Insurance Policies: Don't wait for disaster to strike. Be proactive and evaluate if the policy in place is the best for your current situation.

Consolidate Accounts: By combining your accounts, the resulting higher balance may avoid fees and even help you get a better deal. Not to mention, it will help streamline your finances.

Review Retirement: Have you calculated your retirement number? If not, it can't hurt to boost your retirement contributions in order to boost your savings when you do decide to retire.

Manage Investments: As market volatility increases and the second quarter ends, it is the perfect time for long-term investors to rebalance their accounts.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

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Tips for Managing Caregiver Stress

(Family Features)--Stress can affect anyone and caregivers may find themselves faced with additional stressors. To help manage stress and avoid caregiver burnout, keep these tips from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America in mind:

- Maintain a positive attitude
- Be flexible and accept the circumstances
- Be honest and open about your feelings
- Take it one day at a time
- Get a good night's sleep
- Incorporate stress management techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, as well as exercise into your daily routine
- Drink plenty of water and eat a healthful diet full of fruits and vegetables
- Set realistic goals and go slow

Getting Help with Caregiving
Everyone needs a break from time to time, even caregivers. Look into respite programs for a chance to care for yourself. Types of respite include:

Home Care
- Home care is often initiated by a doctor's order or hospital stay and administered by medical professionals who come into the home and help with personal care and housekeeping functions.
- Medicare covers some home health services.

Adult Day Programs
- Social-model programs offer stimulation, socialization and therapeutic activities in a community-based group setting and often include meals.
- Medical-model programs (adult day health care programs), offer health-based services as well as social activities in a group setting.
- Some programs include assistance with activities of daily living and transportation.
- Adult day services charge per hour and may be covered under some long-term care insurance policies.
- Medicaid covers some adult day health programs.

Facility-Based Respite
- Provide a short stay for your loved one in a nursing home or another facility
- Facilities typically charge for each day your loved one is in their care.
- Medicare or Medicaid may cover some costs of an inpatient facility.

Family and Friends
- Identify responsible family members and friends who can lend a hand in providing supervision for your loved one and create a rotating care schedule, if possible.
- Enlist the help of family members living in different states by assigning them tasks such as legal or financial paperwork.

Source: Alzheimer's Foundation of America

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Put Your Home Equity to Good Use

With home values enjoying a steady rise over the past several years, most Americans have witnessed a return of home equity, and many are leveraging that equity toward other important financial goals.

A recent study by LendingTree, which assessed home equity loan requests since the start of 2018, tracked six uses for home equity loans: home improvement; debt consolidation; retirement income; investment property; emergency funds; and other uses. The research revealed some interesting findings about how homeowners are using their equity:

Home improvement is the No. 1 reason for taking a home equity loan. According to the study, 43 percent of respondents reported requesting a home equity loan for home improvement purposes.

Real estate investors borrow the largest amount. Borrowers who were looking to invest in another property had the highest property values and requested loan amounts. For property investments, borrowers requested an average of $103,625.

For non-property investments, which likely include small businesses, borrowers requested $80,241.

Just over 1 percent of requests were to fund retirement. This group had the highest average age of 63, 12 years above the next highest average age.

A small share accessed their home equity for emergency expenses. This group had the lowest loan amount requested of $35,747 and kept their (loan to value) LTV low at 51 percent.

Debt consolidators push the limits on LTV. Borrowers looking to consolidate debt had the highest LTV of 74 percent.

If you’re looking to take advantage of your home equity, talk to a local real estate professional to find out the current value of your home. You may find it’s the right time to put your home on the market and move up to the larger home or new neighborhood you’ve been eyeing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Storm Safety: 10 Outdoor Power Equipment Questions

Whether a storm is on its way or you're just doing your due diligence, there are many things you'll need to do before you power up that outdoor equipment, especially if you haven't used it in a while.

OPEI offers ten questions for home and business owners to ask when planning ahead:

What equipment will you need during and after a storm? Survey your property. Consider the damage a storm might cause and make a list of what tools might be needed to weather the storm or make repairs afterwards. You might need a chainsaw, pole pruner, generator, or UTV. Take time to think through a strategy for clean-up efforts.

What outdoor power equipment do you already have and what condition is it in? Make sure equipment is in good working order. If needed, take your equipment to an authorized service center for maintenance or repair.

Where is your safety gear for operating the equipment? Avoid the scramble for sturdy shoes, safety goggles, hard hats, reflective clothing, flashlights with working batteries and work gloves. Round them up now and store them in an accessible area with your equipment.

Did you review the owner's manuals for your equipment? Know your machine. The key is to read and understand the owner's manual. The same kind of machine will vary by manufacturer. Read product manuals to ensure you know how to operate your equipment safely. If you don't have the printed manuals on hand, you can look them up online. Save an electronic version to your computer for reference.

Do you have the right fuel on hand for your outdoor power equipment? Fuel stations may be closed after a storm, so it's important to have the proper fuel for your equipment. Store your fuel in an approved container. Use the type of fuel recommended by your equipment manufacturer. It is illegal to use any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol in outdoor power equipment (for more information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment visit

Do you know basic safety precautions? There are some fundamental safety tips everyone should follow year-round. For instance, observe the safety zone, which means keeping bystanders and power lines (those above you and any that might have fallen down) at least 50 feet away from your work area. Also, if using a chainsaw, understand kickback, which may happen when the moving chain at the tip of the guide bar touches an object, or when the wood closes in and pinches the saw chain in the cut. Always stand with your weight on both feet, and adjust your stance so you are angled away from the blade. Hold the chainsaw with both hands. Never over-reach or cut anything above your shoulder height. Always have a planned retreat path if something falls.

If using a portable generator, do you know how to use it safely and have a place outside for it to run? Generators should never be used in an enclosed area or placed inside a home or garage, even if the windows or doors are open. Place the generator outside and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors. It should have plenty of ventilation. Keep the generator dry and do not use it in rainy or wet conditions. Before refueling, turn the generator off and let it cool down.

If you have a UTV (Utility Task Vehicle), do all operators in your home know how to drive it with caution? It's important that anyone operating the vehicle know how to follow safety procedures. Keep the vehicle stable and drive slowly. Do not turn the vehicle mid-slope or while on a hill.

Do you know how to safely use a pump to remove water after a flood? Never operate a centrifugal pump without water in the pump casing. A self-priming pump creates a partial vacuum by purging air from the intake hose and pump casing. All self-priming pumps require water to be added to the pump casing to start the priming process.

Is everyone in your home or business aware of safety procedures when outdoor power equipment is in use? Keep bystanders, children and animals out of your work area. Do not allow other people near outdoor power equipment when starting the equipment or using it.


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Take Control of Your Home Climate

(Family Features)--Managing your home's climate control is typically no small task or small expense. These options offer flexibility and efficiency.

Heat pumps pull from the ground or outside air temperature to both heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Since heat pumps move heat instead of generating it, they're energy-efficient year-round.

Hybrid systems or combination systems combine elements of both a furnace and heat pump. The more efficient heat pump runs until the outside air temperature falls below a certain level, at which point the system automatically switches the heat source to the furnace. This option is more expensive up front, but can generate significant savings in terms of monthly utility bills long-term.

Ductless systems are a flexible, efficient choice for homeowners looking for simple solutions. These systems can be easily mounted on the wall or ceiling, and don't require ductwork, making them ideal for a converted attic space or room addition.

Understanding HVAC Efficiency Ratings

An HVAC system can be rated in a number of different ways. While some of these ratings may be confusing, it is helpful to understand what they mean.

AFUE: An Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating is important if you are purchasing an oil or gas furnace. The AFUE rating measures the amount of fuel used to heat your home against the amount of fuel wasted. A higher rating indicates a more efficient system. The more efficient your system, the less fuel it takes to heat your home, which translates into lower heating bills during the winter.

SEER: The higher the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), the more efficient your system and the less it will cost to heat and cool your home. Federal regulations require all new HVAC systems to have a SEER rating of 13 or higher.

HSPF: The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) measures the efficiency of a heat pump when it is used to heat a home. A higher rating indicates greater efficiency and greater monthly savings on energy bills. New HVAC units are required to have a rating of 7.7 or higher.

Source: JCPenney Home Services

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How New Homeowners Can Save Money

Crossing the threshold to your first home is one of the most exciting moments in a young person’s life... until that first mortgage payment is due. Then the heating bill. And the electric. And the taxes. Let’s face it. Homeownership can be pricey, especially when you’re a newbie.

For those still adjusting to the new financial responsibilities that come with homeownership, there are lots of easy ways to save money by cutting back on some of the expenditures you didn’t think twice about as a renter. Try some of the following ideas, and start building a cushion for home maintenance, new furniture, or adding on a deck.

Set a budget for groceries. Instead of running to the store to pick up whatever you need as you may have done in the past, now’s the time to set a budget for groceries and stick to it. Stock up on low-cost staples to build meals around, like rice, beans and pasta, then add in fresh meats, fish, fruits and veggies each week. Opt for store brands over pricier name brands, shop store sales and use coupons.

Walk, bike or use public transportation. Save money on gas and Uber, and walk or bike as much as possible, or use public transportation. This will be healthy for you, your wallet and the environment.

Have fun at home. If you were in the habit of frequenting trendy restaurants or spending weekends out on the town, now’s a good time to scale that back to one night a week. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun, however. Cook at home and have a romantic dinner for two, or invite friends for a potluck. Have a game night or a movie night. Or, seek out free or low-cost entertainment in your new neighborhood, such as concerts in the local park, craft fairs or free days at the museum. Not only will this get you out of the house, you’ll start meeting the new neighbors as well.

DIY fitness. If you’d been investing in pricey gym memberships or exercise classes, you can save a lot of money by taking fitness into your own hands. A vast array of apps and YouTube videos can guide you through very effective at-home workouts, or take advantage of the great outdoors and walk, hike, run, bike, swim… whatever your area lends itself to.

Saving money is easier than you think - and can actually open the door to a more enjoyable way of life. And the nest egg you’ll start building will help make you a smarter, happier homeowner.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

4 Tips for a Smooth Back-to-School Transition

(Family Features)--Just when it seems like you have gotten into your summer groove, it's time to get back into your school routine, which can be cause both relief and stress at the same time for parents and students alike. Even if your kids are fairly adaptable, big changes like heading back to school after a summer of limited scheduling can be stressful.

Head off potential problems as you transition into the busy back-to-school season with these family-friendly tips to get everyone back on the school-time track:

Set a Family Schedule
Rather than rushing into school season all at once, try to plan your schedule ahead of time. Easing into school season can make for a much smoother transition. This means gradually tapering off later bedtimes and enforcing an earlier wake up call. If meal times have gotten lax, it's also a good idea to start working back toward your school-time schedule.

Stay Organized
From weekly meetings to extracurricular activities and weekend sports, try using lists and charts to stay organized. Especially as kids grow older and their activities lists and school deadlines expand, keeping track of everyone can become a real chore. Find a place in the house where you can post calendars and lists that everyone can see. Try color-coding by child or type of activity (school, work, sports, etc.) for extra organization.

List Family Goals
Have each person in the family list out his or her goals for this school year. They can be small or challenging, but it can give everyone something to strive for. It's also a good way to remind kids about family values like encouraging one another and making time to support everyone's individual interests.

Buy Supplies Ahead of Time
Don't wait until the last minute to search for school supplies like notebooks, pencils and paper or the bigger ticket items like backpacks. Seeking out necessary items ahead of time can alleviate the stress of not being able to find what you need, and spreading out purchases over time can eliminate a major one-time hit to the family budget.

Source: Chinet

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Energy Savers that Make 'Cents'

(Family Features)--A home that operates efficiently isn't just better for the environment. Ensuring your home systems are as efficient as possible can also help reduce the financial burden of maintaining your home throughout the year.

These tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services can serve as areas of focus for lowering your energy bills and lessening your appliances' negative impact on the environment.

Water Heaters
The cost of heating water for bathing, laundry and kitchen use is a common home energy drain, so it's an area that deserves attention when you're looking to upgrade for efficiency. To reduce energy use from your hot water heater, try taking shorter showers and switching to cold water for some washing machine wash and rinse cycles. Other options include turning down the thermostat on your heater, adding insulation or purchasing a newer, more efficient model.

Heating and Cooling
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, as much as 40 percent of a home's energy expenses come from the heating, ventilation and its HVAC system, also known as the heating and cooling system. Like appliances and other mechanical features of your home, over time, the heating and cooling system becomes less efficient. Regular seasonal service like appropriately changing out the air filter can help ensure your system performs at its best, but once its life expectancy has passed, a new unit is usually the more cost-effective solution in the long run.

Understanding your options is important because these systems represent a meaningful investment. There are a lot of potentially overwhelming options and you want to be sure you get the right system for your home. For example, heat pumps, which were once reserved for more moderate climates, are now a cost-efficient solution for homes where temperatures dip lower.

Another option that is relatively new but growing in popularity is known as a mini-split system. These systems let you customize the temperature settings in various spaces, enhancing personal comfort and allowing you to focus your energy use on the parts of your home that need it most.  

While servicing or replacing an HVAC system may be the obvious change when it comes to conserving energy, you can also see reductions by using an upgraded thermostat, such as a "smart" or connected model. These devices can help you monitor the temperature setting in your home while maximizing efficiency. For example, a connected thermostat that's synced to your smartphone may allow you to adjust temperature settings when away from home. This way, if you forget to bump the air conditioner up a few degrees while you're gone more than a few hours, you can log-in remotely and set an appropriate temperature.

A great deal of energy is lost through cracks, holes and faulty seals. Take time to assess all windows, doors and openings for air leaks, adding caulking or weather stripping where needed. Don't overlook culprits like openings around lighting and plumbing fixtures, switch plates and other electrical elements. Also assess potential losses from the fireplace, attic, garage and crawl spaces, where it's common that less attention is given to thorough sealing, and determine whether additional insulation can help contain energy.

Source: JCPenney Home Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.

3 Things No One Tells You About Working With a Real Estate Agent

If you’ve never bought or sold a home before, chances are you have a preconceived notion of what real estate agents are all about. Unfortunately, you may also have the wrong idea or be misinformed about just what these professionals can do for you. Here are five things you probably never knew about working with a real estate agent:

A professional real estate agent is a financial analyst of the local market and will know how to price your home correctly for sale, or will help you make the best offer when bidding on a home to buy. These pricing decisions are based on an in-depth knowledge of knowing what has sold for what price in which neighborhood over the course of the last month, quarter, year, etc. They are also based on granular details of the home, such as a recent remodel that warrants a higher price, or a needed repair that requires a price drop. So expect your agent to have a strong opinion when it comes to advising you on how to price your home for sale or put in a bid on the home you want to buy. Know that there’s a lot of research and knowledge that goes into arriving at those numbers.

Good real estate agents are not just after a deal at all costs. They’re looking after your best interests because their ultimate goal is to make you happy and create a client for life. Therefore, you can expect your agent to advise you on making the best possible decision, not selling you a bill of goods just to earn a quick commission. For example, if you’re looking at homes in a neighborhood that’s going to put you in a financial bind, a good agent will steer you toward an area that suits your preferences, but also your budget. A good agent is not a money-hungry shark, but a trusted guide.

Remember this: The lifeblood of a real estate agent’s business is referrals, so most are committed to serving you and earning your trust.

Your relationship with your real estate agent goes way beyond buying or selling a home. A professional real estate agent will be your connection to a myriad of resources you will need before, during and after the transaction, such as mortgage, title and insurance professionals, home improvement and repair services, home stagers, interior designers, painters and landscapers, cleaning services, etc. Many real estate agents are part of a brokerage that offers some of these services within the firm, or that has partner relationships with such firms. They are also well entrenched within the community and can offer great referrals on a whole host of sources that you might need.

Remember, there’s more to a good real estate agent than meets the eye! Finding the right professional to work with will make your real estate experience positive and successful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

3 Healthy Habits That Arenít So Healthy

With the unending stream of information aimed at keeping us fit and healthy, it’s pretty much impossible to keep up. From new superfoods to the latest exercise trends, what’s good for you and what’s bad for you seems to keep changing. To help you stay up to speed, here are five habits you may have adopted thinking they’re to your benefit, when they actually may be doing more harm than good:

Avoiding carbs. While low-carb diets can not only help you lose weight, but also help reduce the risk factors associated with diseases like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, eating no carbs at all deprives your body from the important fuel source of natural complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. The result? No energy for your workouts, and potentially serious digestive issues from a lack of fiber. So, yes, stay away from white flour and sugar, but make those healthy carbs part of your life.

Doing lots of cardio. How can that possibly be bad? If all that cardio is resulting in an unbalanced exercise regimen, that’s how. While cardio is king when it comes to burning calories, weight training is essential for building muscle, which boosts your metabolism while your body is at rest...and who doesn’t want that? Plus, if you’re embarking on long cardio sessions at a low or moderate pace and, therefore, not getting your heart rate up sufficiently, you’re not burning as many calories as you think. So if the pounds aren’t coming off despite hours of cardio, make your sessions shorter but pump up the volume with some sprints or inclines, then add in weight training to build muscle and overall strength. Or look into high intensity interval training (HIIT), which serves both your cardio and muscle-building goals.

Getting up early to work-out. While prioritizing your work-out is a great thing, if it means you’re sacrificing sleep to do so, then you’re sabotaging your fitness goals. Exhaustion stresses your body and causes increased production of the hormone cortisol, which could be why you can’t seem to get rid of that puffiness around your midsection. Being well rested is the foundation of good health on all levels, so make sure you’re getting at least seven hours each night (some of us need eight or nine), then adjust your work-out schedule accordingly.

The golden rule when it comes to staying healthy? Keep everything in balance. Generally speaking, extremes of any kind usually come with a potentially harmful downside.

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