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4 Ways to Erase the Most Common Household Messes

July 20th, 2015

(BPT) – No matter how neat you keep your home, odors and stains will occur. These can be especially challenging to remove in areas prone to spills and smells. According to the KILZ paint and primer experts, here’s how you can freshen up even the most stubborn spots in your household.

1. Eliminate Refrigerator Odors - Refrigerators are subject to a variety of spills and odors. To clean your fridge, begin by emptying its contents and throwing out, recycling or composting any food that is expired or beginning to smell.

Next, pull out any removable drawers or shelving and place them in the sink. Using a damp, soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge, wipe down these pieces, the interior of your fridge and the door with a multi-purpose cleaner. Or, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of hot water for a natural soap alternative. Don’t forget the seams of the shelves and rubber door seal.

If your fridge requires an extra-deep cleaning, unplug it while you work to avoid wasting energy. Before putting all of your food back into the fridge, wipe down the exterior of each jar or container with a damp cloth.

2. Conceal Wall Stains with Primer - Have your kids made artwork of your walls, or has a leaky roof caused a water-damaged mess? Tough wall stains like these can be hard to get rid of, but are easily sealed by applying a high-quality, stain-blocking primer.

Before covering the problem area with primer, clean the wall thoroughly with a grease-cutting solution and lightly sand the area to be painted.

3. Remove Dirty Grout Lines - Tile surfaces are prone to dirt and debris, especially in bathrooms or high-traffic areas. To keep tile looking fresh and new, grab an old toothbrush or electric toothbrush for a deeper scrub. Before you start, wash the surface with water then mix two parts baking soda with one part water. Scrub the resulting paste into the cracks and crevices, then douse with water again. If the grout lines are stained, spray a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water onto the area and brush. After a final rinse, the grime will be gone.

4. Fight Off Washing Machine Mold
- If you own a front-loading washing machine, you’ve probably noticed the unpleasant smell that can linger after completing a load of laundry. Despite being more energy-efficient, these machines have a tendency to hold odors and harbor mold. To clean and prevent grimy buildup, try this: instead of detergent, cycle two cups of vinegar and a quarter-cup of baking soda on a hot setting. When it’s done, use a clean sponge to scrub down the inside. Finally, rinse with a plain-water cycle, and you’ll see (and smell) the results

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Don’t Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 16th, 2015

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Perk Up Your Patio with These Plants

May 14th, 2015

Nothing brightens up an outdoor space quite like blooming flowers and thriving greenery. Whether you’d like to upgrade your deck, porch or patio, consider planting these florae, recommended by the experts at garden plant grower Monrovia.

  • Hydrangeas – Beloved for their large, colorful blooms, hydrangeas thrive in full sun to part shade and should be planted in moist, rich soil. If you live in a drier climate, water them two or more times each week. 
  • Gardenias – Known for their distinct fragrance, gardenias can be grafted onto hardy rootstock to make them easier to grow and less prone to disease.
  • Peonies – Available in an array of colors, peonies are a popular pick, especially itoh peonies, which are a hybrid of herbaceous and tree varieties. Itoh peonies have an extended bloom season and disease resistance, and are much less expensive than when they were first introduced.
  • Peruvian Lilies – Great for cut flower arrangements, Peruvian lilies will provide fresh flowers to adorn your home’s interior all summer long. To boost growth, start off with a bulb and give them ample space in a container or within a garden.
  • Roses – A welcome gift for many, groundcover roses are pest and disease resistant, and require minimal pruning and no dead-heading.
  • Edible Plants – Fruit-bearing plants like blueberry or raspberry shrubs make great long-lasting gifts. They flower in spring, fruit in summer and display colorful foliage in the fall.

Source: Monrovia

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

How Does the Color of Your Home Affect Buyers?

April 2nd, 2015

By Suzanne De Vita

It’s no secret that color is crucial when marketing a product. In fact, consumers come to a subconscious conclusion about a product within 90 seconds of viewing, and much of that judgment (62-90 percent) is based solely on color, according to the Institute for Color Research. Retailers apply these findings every day (think red sale signs) to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Can the same be said in real estate?

Consider this: If color influences product marketing strategies, the color of a home can be a decisive factor when selling.

“Your home’s exterior color is literally the first thing a buyer will see and comment on,” says Suzanne Otto, home stager and owner of Six Twenty Designs in Montgomery County, Pa. When preparing a home for the market, Otto recommends shades within the white, tan or gray color families. These colors resonate beyond pure aesthetics – according to e-commerce giant eBay, white indicates safety. For a homebuyer, a home with a white exterior can translate to concepts like “shelter” or “safe haven.”

Related: Staging Curb Appeal for Web Appeal

Similarly, understated browns (including the aforementioned tan) signal security. Homes painted in sandy or mushroom hues read comfort and warmth. Colors like taupe, which falls somewhere between brown and gray, call to mind traditional values, homeownership included. Earthy tones like laurel green or artichoke can not only highlight a verdant landscape, but also evoke a sense of tranquility.

Per eBay’s assessment, blue is ideal to move product because it transcends culture. Homes outfitted with a dusty blue or blue-gray exterior may not bridge the gap between your everyday seller and an international homebuyer, but a universally regarded color can help widen the net for buyers on the home front.

If red signs boost retail sales, it seems likely a red home would be ideal for a speedy sale. Not necessarily – red in small doses, such as sale stickers or tags, encourages action. Red on a grander scale can cause adverse reactions. An alizarin crimson door, for instance, might be well-received by buyers, but a house in the same shade could potentially limit offers.

Homes in other colors can sell successfully – our retinas tend to register yellow before any other color, so a buttery yellow exterior could be an attractive option for buyers – but non-traditional colors, like oranges and purples, appeal to very specific personalities and can significantly shrink the pool of interested buyers.

It’s important for sellers to consider the home in relation to the neighborhood before swapping out the exterior color or refreshing an existing paint job. Do nearby homes share a distinct color scheme? Is each home uniquely colored? Evaluating the home’s surroundings can help sellers determine what’s most popular in their market.

View this original blog post at RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for real estate news and trends for you and your clients.

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

2015 Home Design Trend Predictions

February 16th, 2015

This blog was contributed by Vicki Clary, marketing director of Curtis Homes.

It’s a new year and that means new opportunities, particularly in the realm of home design trends. What will be the hot choices in 2015? What can we expect to see popping up in design magazines and blogs over the next 12 months? While only time will tell, here’s a look at some of the top predictions for 2015 home trends.

Deeper, Darker Colors: Several experts are saying this year will be out with the light and bright and in with the dark and deep. “Almost every new textile collection and furniture debut seems to be awash in a much more saturated hue than we saw in the early 2010s,” says designer Scot Meacham Wood, in a Q&A at House Beautiful. Nancy Mitchell at Apartment Therapy agrees: “For a long time we’ve been seeing mostly bright, white interiors (white walls, white floors, white ceiling), but I’m feeling a shift towards darker, moodier hues.”

Comfortable, Cozy Sectionals
: As society continues to shift away from formality toward more casual living, it only makes sense that big, comfortable sectional sofas would become a popular trend. According to Houzz.com Editor Sheila Schmitz, “It is back in a big way. As living rooms have become more relaxed places for lounging, we have less need for formal sofas and more love for a versatile padded zone that lets us sprawl out however we like.”

Cowhide
: Using cowhides as rugs in living areas is expected to keep growing in popularity this year. Alexa Fiander at Zillow calls it the “ideal accent texture for 2015’s modern, yet approachable design aesthetic.” Expect cowhide to move beyond rugs, too — to pillows, throw blankets and even art.

Open Floor Plans: An open layout is not a new trend, but it will likely remain a popular one this year. According to Barbara Ballinger at REALTOR Magazine, “It’s becoming a wish beyond the young hipster demographic, so you’ll increasingly see this layout in traditional condo buildings and single-family suburban homes.” Ballinger attributes this to the fact that after the kitchen became the hub of homes, the easy next step was to expand it into open-living areas for greater togetherness.

Mid-Century Modern Elements
: From furniture to lighting, mid-century modern should stay big in 2015. “Many are attracted to the simplicity and clean lines of mid-century modern furniture, accessories and décor,” says Karen Highland at the Frederick Real Estate Blog. “A few iconic pieces can work well in any room.” Whether found on Craigslist or West Elm, these slick pieces will remain popular this year.

Gold Accents: 2015 will likely see an uptick in gold accents, from light fixtures to mirrors. Lauren McPhillips at Style at Home says “Gold and warm metallics have graced the homes of Canadians and the runways of the world for the past several seasons and they’re not going anywhere in 2015.“ What’s more, varying shades of gold and brass will be mixed together to create unique looks.

Wallpaper: Wallpaper is making a comeback. “Wallpaper provides an easy way to add visual impact, even in small amounts,” designer Lee Hardcastle told Houzz. “Wallpaper gives you the control of complementing the architectural elements throughout the kitchen or adding a beautiful contrast to an otherwise simple color palette.”

Whether you’re ready to redecorate or the new trends are getting you inspired, consider working some of the hot 2015 decorating choices into the way you design. If the predictions are right, this is what we can expect to see a lot of in the coming year.

Vicki Clary is the Marketing Director of Curtis Homes, a semi-custom home builder. For over 50 years, Curtis Homes has provided premium homes and townhomes in the Southern Maryland Communities.

View this original post on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall.

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

3 Reasons Housing is Looking Up in 2015

January 12th, 2015

By Zoe Eisenberg

As 2015 rolls forward, there are several economic indicators that the housing market may have a break-out year. Let's review the top three.

The job market is stronger

With the recession behind us, more and more companies are adding new employees to the payroll. The unemployment rate has dropped 5.8 percent and 321,000 jobs were opened up in November, with all of this added work equating to improved consumer optimism. The Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Index highlighted confidence weighing in at 19.5 percent higher than a year ago. As jobs continue to stabilize and moods lift, more potential homebuyers will enter the market as they become more eligible for a mortgage, and more capable of taking on those pesky mortgage payments.

Home prices are stabilizing

Home prices between January and October, 2014 rose 4.5 percent nationally, which—while still an uptick—is much mellower than the same period of time during 2013, when prices jumped 11 percent. Additionally, mortgages have settled below 4 percent for 30-year fixed rates, and the combination of stable prices and low mortgage rates creates a cocktail of affordability that will shine a bright light on housing in 2015.

Rents are high

There's nothing like a sky high rental market to send on-the-fence buyers scurrying into homeownership. As more Americans took to renting when the housing market took a tumble, rents began to increase, and are currently at a seven-year high.

And while, sure, renting offers flexibility and low-stakes living for millennials, a recent survey by Fannie Mae showed 9 in 10 would prefer to own, if it were possible. In December, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced programs that would allow first-time buyers to secure homes with low down payments (3 percent instead of the previously stated 5 percent) which will open up the doors for young people with high debt and low savings.

"With rents now rising at a seven-year high, historically low [interest] rates and moderating [home] price growth are likely to entice more buyers to enter the market in upcoming months," Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, says in recent a release.

However, it's not all peaches and cream for housing in 2015. Economists are predicting that, as prices stabilize, mortgage rates may begin to drift upward, settling near 5 percent by the year's end. While this number is still low, historically, it's higher than those low, cushy numbers we've been seeing of late.

Source: NPR.org

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Q: How Do You Clear Up Bad Credit?

October 24th, 2014

A: It is not easy but certainly doable with both commitment and time.  

By law, any unfavorable information in your credit file can stay there from 7 to 10 years. Today, however, a creditor must remove credit blemishes in a timely fashion if you challenge them and they turn out to be false.

The first step in any recovery plan is to get copies of your credit records.  You are entitled to free copies if you have recently been turned down for credit. Otherwise, request copies for a fee from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, (800) 311-4769; Equifax, (800) 685-1111; and Trans Union, (800) 916-8800.

If you see any incorrect information, let the credit reporting agencies know.  Also contact the companies that reported the negative claims against you.

If the credit report is correct, move immediately to take care of any outstanding delinquencies, tackling a little at a time until you get back on the right track. In fact, make an effort, if at all possible, to repay your debt in full and on time for six months to a year to prove you are working hard to repair any damage.

 

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

How to Make Your Home Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

October 24th, 2014

If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters at your home this Halloween, take time to rid your yard of any potential hazards that can compromise a child’s safety. Follow these steps for a fun and safe Halloween in your neighborhood. The costumed crowd, and their parents or guardians, will thank you.

Secure your entryway. Before trick-or-treaters come bounding up your doorstep, look for trip hazards like loose pavers or extension cords. Guide children around these dangers with markers, or restrict access completely.

Avoid using flammable materials in your décor. According to FEMA, more fires occur on Halloween night. Swap out the candles in your jack-o’-lanterns for LED alternatives, and be cautious when using seasonal flammable décor, like hay or dried cornstalks, which can easily catch fire if too close to heat sources.

Light up the night. Aside from keeping all porch lights on, consider turning the lights on in rooms that have windows facing the street. If you have a longer walkway, add tea lights or glow sticks to light the path.

Contain your pet.
Costumes can sometimes spook dogs, even those who are normally well behaved around strangers. Set your pooch up with a comfortable space inside and away from the front door.

Source: Zillow

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

How to Raise Money-Wise Kids

September 29th, 2014

Kids are never too young to learn the skills of saving, budgeting, and other basics for becoming a money-wise individual.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by T. Rowe Price found that 60 percent of kids whose parents frequently talk to them about budgeting feel they are smart about money, as opposed to just 34 percent of kids whose parents do not.

Financial experts agree that the sooner parents start imparting key money concepts, the more effective they will be in raising financially responsible adults. While it may seem like an involved topic, it’s as simple as starting a conversation.

"There is a clear correlation between talking with kids about financial topics and their habits," said Judith Ward, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price. "Parents can invest in their kids by talking to them weekly about money matters."

The survey also found that parents are having more financial conversations with boys rather than girls.

"Boys and girls should have the same opportunities to learn about money matters at home so they can grow into financially savvy adults," Ward says. "By talking to kids of either gender about things like saving for college, parents can help kids get involved and excited about their future."

How can parents start the conversation? First, learn to engage in frequent money conversations with your kids. While you can sit down to discuss in a formal manner, casual dialog may be more effective and memorable. From trips to the grocery store to a visit to your neighborhood bank, there are plenty of real-world situations where you can teach your kids about spending, saving, and other money concepts.

Ward offers these tips to help parents initiate conversation:

  • When discussing weekend plans: When your kids plan for weekend fun with friends, ask them how much the activities will cost. Find out if they have budgeted for these expenses and if they are saving for any other upcoming events.
  • When talking about their future: Ask your child what they wish to be when they grow up. This is a great opportunity to talk about what kind of college degree may be required for the profession, how much getting the degree can cost, and the need to save for it in advance.
  • When talking about extracurricular activities: When talking about extra activities like soccer, dance, karate, piano lessons and others, talk with your kids about the cost of each. Help them understand that all of these add up to a lot of money, so they can help you save by only doing the ones they really enjoy.

Use these simple tips to help integrate money conversations into your daily lives — your kids will thank you.

Source: T. Rowe Price

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Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Poll: Are Finances Keeping You Awake at Night?

September 10th, 2014

Close to four in five respondents (79 percent) to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling’s® (NFCC) July poll admitted that their personal finances keep them awake at night. The second highest number of responses came in a distant second, with 13 percent indicating that they sleep like a baby. The remaining choices were marital concerns, job security, and problems with children, which each had single digit responses.

In addition to the obvious credit problems resulting from overwhelming debt, financial concerns can wreck marriages, tear families apart, and put a person’s job in jeopardy due to being distracted while at work. Debt is like a dark cloud that follows a person 24 hours per day. They wake up with it, take it to work with them, and as the NFCC poll confirmed, they take it back to bed with them.

“There are two pieces of good news that can be gleaned from the poll,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “First of all, the respondents were able to identify the source of their distress, and secondly, they went to a reliable and trusted resource, www.DebtAdvice.org, for help. Their next step should be to reach out to an NFCC member agency for customized and solution-oriented assistance.”

If someone has personal finance issues, they are not alone. The 2014 NFCC Financial Literacy Survey revealed that 71 percent of consumers, or roughly 179 million people, admitted to having personal finance worries, with not enough savings, job issues, debt, and credit topping the list.

Here are the results of the NFCC’s July online poll:

What keeps you up at night?

A. Financial worries = 79%
B. Marital concerns = 2%
C. Job security = 4%
D. Problems with the children = 2%
E. Nothing, I sleep like a baby = 13%

Note: The NFCC’s July Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC website (www.DebtAdvice.org) from July 1–31, 2014, and was answered by 2,148 individuals.

Century 21 AA Realty Long Island

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.


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