Consumer Real Estate News

    • Energy Savers that Make 'Cents'

      17 July 2018

      (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

      17 July 2018

      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.

    • 4 Tips for a Smooth Back-to-School Transition

      17 July 2018

      (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.

    • How to Use Less Water at Home

      16 July 2018

      Whether you live in a drought prone area or are simply environmentally conscious, saving water is important, and you can do so both inside and outside your home.

      The non-profit GRACE Communications Foundation (GRACE) developed a free Water Footprint Calculator, so consumers can see how their everyday actions – from washing dishes to watering the lawn to buying groceries – impact water use.  

      Here are some great ways GRACE says homeowners can conserve water inside their homes:

      - Get a dishwasher, especially water- and energy-efficient models. Hand washing one load of dishes can use 20 gallons of water, whereas water- and energy-efficient dishwashers use as little as 4.5 gallons.
      - When doing dishes by hand, use a little water to get your sponge soapy, then turn off the faucet until you’re ready to rinse a bunch of dishes at once. Or plug the sink or get a tub to wash dishes in so you don’t need to let water run.
      - Use dish and clothes washing machines only when it’s full.
      - Choose ENERGY STAR water- and energy-efficient dish- and clothes-washing appliances if you’re in the market.
      - Wash denim clothes and jeans less – washing them a lot will wear them out more quickly. Consider airing them out or even putting them in the freezer to freshen them up.
      - Dry clothes on a drying rack or a clothes line. When you save energy, you also save water because power plants use a lot of water to produce electricity.
      - Put a bucket in the shower while you’re waiting for the water to warm up, and use that water for plants, flushing the toilet, or cleaning.
      - Install a low-flow showerhead — conventional showerheads flow at 5 gallons per minute or more, whereas low-flow showerheads typically flow at 2.5 gallons per minute (or less).
      - Spend less time in the shower, and turn off the water as you soap up, shave or brush your teeth to save time.
      - Avoid baths. The average bath uses 35 to 50 gallons of water, whereas a 10-minute shower with a low-flow showerhead only uses 25 gallons.
      - EPA New England further advises immediately repairing leaky faucets, indoors and out.


      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 3 Healthy Habits That Aren’t So Healthy

      16 July 2018

      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.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.