Tips to navigate the real estate landscape and find the perfect home


(BPT) – For most Americans your home is the biggest ticket item you will ever purchase. It’s no wonder that people can take months, and sometimes even years, to find the perfect home. When you walk into a house that’s on the market, many times the homeowner or real estate agent has “staged” it to ensure that you focus on the home’s greatest assets and overlook its flaws. Your job is to look past all that to see if this house is right for you.

Annette Lawrence, academic director of design programs, at The Art Institute of Ohio – Cincinnati, and Marissa Alexander, interior design program coordinator at The Art Institutes International Minnesota, offer these tips to navigate the real estate landscape.

Before you ever step out of your current home, make a list says Alexander. Your list should include one column for “must haves” and another for “wants.” “The wants you can compromise on,” advises Alexander. If you know what you are looking for and what you can’t live without, it’s a lot easier to find it.

Many people get caught up on the basic aesthetics of a home. “The paint is not a big deal,” says Lawrence. “Countertops are not a reason to choose a home or cross it off your list.” The shag carpeting can be ripped out and replaced. These are all easy fixes.

You should beware of the fixes that can break the bank. Will the roof need to be replaced? What about other big-ticket items like the heating and cooling system? Does the perimeter of the house slope toward it? That could mean flooding during a heavy rain. And what about the structural integrity of the foundation? A good inspector will spot the red flags and could keep you from making a costly mistake. That inspector will also check the chimney, the insulation in the attic and the gutters and spouts.

And there are things you can check on before you call in an inspector. “If you want to know whether a floor is warping, just take a ball and roll it across the room,” says Alexander. If it doesn’t roll straight across, it could signal issues with the foundation.

Figure out what kind of layout you want for your house. “Ask yourself what kind of floor plan you like,” says Lawrence. “Those are the kinds of things that are costly to change.” If the floor plan is right for you, the cosmetics will be a fairly easy and inexpensive fix.

While you may think that this home purchase will be one of many, you should consider the possibility that this could be your home for decades to come. That’s why Lawrence is a big proponent of finding a home that allows you to “age in place.” She suggests you find a home with a first floor master bedroom and laundry room. Also consider how many steps there are from the driveway into the home. Are the hallways and doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or a walker?

Even if you do not think you’ll need these accommodations, consider your home’s “visitability.” If you have elderly relatives or friends with disabilities, are they going to be able to come to your new home? “My grandmother was one of my most frequent guests,” explains Lawrence. “I had low lighting and had painted the walls dark colors. Consequently, she couldn’t see too well when visiting.”

Courtesy of BPT

How to turn must-do home improvements into things of beauty

When it comes to home improvement, you can spend money in two basic ways: on things that make your home look better and things that make it function better. Under the first category, you’ll find all the things you want to do, like replacing narrow casement windows with a lovely bay window. Under the second, falls all the things you must do, like replacing those drafty windows with something more energy-efficient.

When “want to” and “have to” meet, they create the opportunity to make a smart buying decision – and choose an upgrade that will look good and improve the livability of your home. The key to making smart home improvement decisions is to recognize these opportunities and take full advantage of them.

Here are a few “have to” improvements that have the potential to turn into a good-looking, energy-efficient, enjoyment-enhancing “want to.”

Replacing the hot water heater.

You probably don’t care what a new hot water heater looks like sitting in your garage or basement – or wherever it resides in your home. But the right replacement water heater can help your house achieve a lovely shade of green. High energy-efficiency water heaters can help reduce energy usage, thereby trimming your energy bills and your home’s environmental impact. Solar water heating systems take the beauty a step further by using the power of the sun, collected through low-profile solar panels on the roof, to heat water – at a monthly savings that’s about 80 percent less than the cost of traditional heaters.

Getting some light in here.

Do you really need a bunch of scientific studies to tell you that a home filled with natural light just feels better? Probably not. Illuminating your home with natural light is a smart buying decision on multiple levels. First, you don’t pay to power the sun. Second, natural light delivers a host of mood-enhancing benefits. If you have the wall space, by all means add some windows.

But for rooms where a window is impossible (like a powder room) or where you don’t want to sacrifice privacy (like a master bathroom) a tubular skylight is a good alternative. Some are easy enough to install that a seasoned do-it-yourselfer could accomplish the task. They cost less than traditional skylights and bring natural light to hard-to-light areas like closets, hallways and other small spaces.

Getting some air in here.

Just as natural sun is good for your mood, ventilation can be good for your health. An Energy Star qualified venting skylight is a great way to passively vent stale, moist air from inside your home, especially from baths and kitchens. While some skylights are “fixed,” those that do open can be controlled by a remote to open when you want fresh air and close when you want to retain warmth. They can also close automatically in case of rain. In addition, they introduce free light into your home. Adding blinds – also remote-controlled – can help you better control the amount of sun a skylight admits into your home. And blinds are not just functional – you can get them in colors and patterns to complement your decor while increasing energy efficiency. Compared to other venting solutions, a skylight is a relatively low-cost, great-looking way to address ventilation issues while adding drama to a space. Log on to www.veluxusa.com to learn more about skylights.

When one door opens …

Beat up, weathered garage and front doors not only look bad, they can be a source of air leaks that make your heating, ventilation and cooling system work harder. Exterior doors aren’t something you buy every day, but they can have a big impact on how your home looks and on its energy efficiency. They can definitely be a smart buying decision if you opt for doors that not only look good, but are also highly rated for energy efficiency. If you’re not sure how to choose, look online, where you’ll find guides for buying garage doors and front doors.

Courtesy of BPT

Dining outdoors? Tips for keeping food safe and delicious

(BPT) – Al fresco dining is one of the great pleasures of warm weather. Whether you’re hosting a neighborhood barbecue or an intimate dinner party on your deck, outdoor dining is a great way to savor good food, company and the great outdoors. To ensure your meals are safe and enjoyable, it’s important to know how to prepare, transport and store food for outdoor eating.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) offers some advice for safely handling food when you’re dining outdoors this summer:

Purchasing

Warm weather brings a bounty of fresh produce, and a trip to the local farmers market can make a nice addition to your outdoor meal. Food safety starts in the field. It’s important to get to know the growers selling produce at your local farm stand, and ask about their farming practices. How do they keep their products free from bacterial pathogens and other contaminants? Farmers may also have great tips for storing produce, testing for ripeness and even ways to prepare the fruits and veggies they sell.

IFT spokesperson and food safety expert, Don Schaffner, PhD, says that when you’re purchasing produce, make sure it’s free of mold, bruises or blemishes where bacterial pathogens can grow. Many grocery stores offer freshly cut, packaged produce for customers seeking nutritious convenience foods. Freshly cut vegetables and fruit need proper temperature control to prevent the growth of bacteria that cause foodborne illness.

Prepping

Before preparing food, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure all prep utensils such as cutting boards, dishes and countertops are clean before preparing each food item.

Dirt, dust and pathogenic microbes can linger on produce. It’s important to wash fresh produce before consuming it. The only exception is are pre-bagged salads and leafy greens, as experts advise that additional washing of ready-to-eat green salads is not likely to enhance safety. Thoroughly washing in cold water will suffice for most fruits and vegetables, but some types of produce require special handling. Wash spinach or salad greens in a bowl of water and rinse them gently to remove dirt and other contaminants. –

Give extra attention to fruits with stems, such as apples, pears and peaches. You may be tempted to forego washing fruit with a rind, since you won’t be eating the rind. But, it’s still important to wash oranges, avocados, melons, cantaloupe, etc. – pathogens can linger in unwashed crevices and transfer to your hands or the knife you use to cut the fruit. In addition, wash items you’ll peel – such as carrots and cucumbers – for the same reason.

Grilling

If you’ll be grilling at home, remember to always marinate meat in the refrigerator, never on the kitchen counter or outdoors. Discard any extra marinade that’s touched raw meat.

Grill food thoroughly, using a thermometer to ensure the proper internal temperature: 145 F for steaks and fish, 160 F for pork, hot dogs and hamburgers, and 165 F for poultry. Keep finished meats hot until you serve by moving them to the side of the grill rack, away from the coals or highest flame on your gas grill. Avoid cross contamination by using separate serving plates and utensils for different meats and vegetables.

If you’ll be grilling away from home – in a park, tailgating at a sporting event or on a camping trip – consider purchasing pre-formed patties for burgers and pre-cut poultry. This minimizes the amount of handling meat requires and can help minimize the risk of bacteria and cross contamination.

Transporting

A picnic in the park can be great fun for everyone, but it’s important to assure your food arrives safely along with your family and guests. Follow smart food packing guidelines. Keep meats, including lunch meats and raw meats, cheeses and condiments cold in insulated, soft-sided bags or coolers with freezer gel packs.

Food needs to be stored at 40 F or colder to reduce the risk of pathogen growth, so limit the number of times you open the cooler. Never allow food to sit for more than two hours at temperatures below 90 F, and no more than an hour when temperatures exceed 90 F. Throw away food that’s been sitting out too long.

Securely package raw meat, seafood and poultry to ensure the juices don’t contaminate other foods. Pack only the amount of perishable food that you think will be eaten. Beverages and perishable foods should travel in separate containers and coolers, especially if you’ll be transporting raw meat.

When it’s time to go home, don’t reuse packaging material that has touched raw meats or meat juices. Make sure perishable leftovers stay cold on the trip home. Avoid taking home uncooked leftovers.

Courtesy of BPT

Being a proactive patient goes a long way in the fight against breast cancer

(BPT) – The grim reality is that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. But women don’t need to sit back and wait for breast cancer to happen.

“Women can become proactive in their own health care to reduce their risks where possible and to increase their chances of early detection if breast cancer strikes,” says Jacqueline Ross, PhD., a registered nurse and senior clinical analyst in the Department of Patient Safety, The Doctors Company.

Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in causing cancer deaths among women, with 220,000 newly diagnosed cases and 40,000 deaths each year in the United States. Fortunately, death rates from breast cancer have been declining due to early detection, screening and increased awareness.

Women can be proactive by increasing their knowledge of the risks of breast cancer. The majority of women with breast cancer have no direct family history of breast cancer. The chance of getting breast cancer increases with age. Two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer are ages 50 and older. Some other risk factors related to breast cancer include radiation exposure, never having been pregnant, having the first child after the age of 35, beginning menopause after 55, never having breast fed, obesity, drinking more than one alcoholic beverage a day and having dense breast tissue, which can mask the presence of a cancerous tumor.

As with any risk factor, some of these can be controlled, but many cannot. For example, hereditary factors cannot be controlled. A woman who has a sister, mother or daughter who had breast cancer – especially if cancer was in both breasts, was pre-menopausal or occurred in more than one first-degree relative – is two or three times more likely to develop breast cancer. If a woman has this history, she should consider genetic counseling.

Women can also be proactive by taking steps to help prevent adverse events in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Some 92 percent of breast cancer malpractice cases involved a delayed or missed diagnosis, according to six years of data on breast cancer claims from The Doctors Company, the nation’s leading physician-owned medical malpractice insurer. Both patients and physicians have a responsibility to take action to prevent adverse events. Patients can be proactive by communicating with their physicians and then adhering to their instructions. The following are other steps patients can take to help prevent adverse events:

* Discuss with your physician when and how often to get screened. Screening recommendations vary. The American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation recommend that women over 40 get annual mammograms, whereas the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends screening mammograms should begin at 50 and younger patients should discuss with their physicians when to initiate screening mammography.

* Discuss with your physician whether to get a digital or traditional mammogram. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared traditional mammograms to digital mammograms. The digital mammogram is stored in a computer, can be manipulated better for visibility and clarity, has a lower average radiation dosage, but is more costly. The findings showed that digital mammograms were superior to traditional mammograms for three groups of women: those younger than 50, those with dense breasts (a risk factor in breast cancer), and those who were premenopausal or who were in their first year of menopause.

* Work closely with your physician on developing a comprehensive health history. -Many risk factors for breast cancer are known. Share any family history of cancer with your provider.

* Discuss with your physician how to do a self-breast exam. Often sudden changes can be discovered in-between annual exams. Let your physician know immediately if you notice any changes.

* If diagnosed with breast cancer, follow all your physician’s instructions for follow-up appointments and medications.

“While women can do nothing about the strongest risk factor for breast cancer – age – there is still a lot they can do to lessen other risks and increase their chances of successful treatment if diagnosed,” says Ross. “They can know the risk factors, get screened, be in touch with their bodies, make healthy lifestyle choices, communicate clearly with their physicians, and follow their doctor’s instructions.”

For more patient safety articles and practice tips, visit www.thedoctors.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Giving back to family caregivers: Tips to help those who sacrifice for others

(BPT) – No one knows exactly what life will bring, but we all know that there will be joys and there will be challenges. Sometimes, life gives you a combination- as millions of average Americans who are family caregivers can attest. Providing dedicated care to a loved one is a generous way to live one’s life, but it can also brings difficulties, stress and isolation. That’s why giving back to those unsung heroes – caregivers – who give so much can make a world of difference to them, and the people they help.

It’s not unusual for non-professional caregivers to insist that they don’t need a break or a pat on the back. Recognizing their sacrifices, even in small ways, can help them understand the importance of their work. Also giving these caregivers a little time to themselves can help them recharge, ultimately allowing them to take even better care of their loved ones.

If you know a family member, friend or neighbor who is a non-professional family caregiver, consider these ways to give them the recognition and help they deserve.

* Arrange a relaxing day off. Many caregivers are members of the “sandwich generation” which takes care of their children as well as an elderly or disabled family member. Looking after everyone else can easily eat up all of a caregiver’s time. So give the caregiver you know a ‘free day’ that is just about them. Arrange a massage, a trip to a museum, a sporting event, favorite restaurant or park- whatever they will enjoy most. Then arrange for respite care so they know their loved one is well cared for while they’re away.

* Consider making a BRAVE Awards nomination. The Shire BRAVE Awards honor the courage and devotion of non-professional caregivers around the world. These annual awards celebrate the amazing commitment of unsung, everyday heroes – non-professional caregivers. Many BRAVE Award recipients provide care over years and decades, overcoming incredible challenges to ensure that their loved ones have everything they need to live as full and rewarding a life as possible. Nominations for the BRAVE Awards are open and award recipients selected each receive $10,000. For more information, visit www.shirebraveawards.com.

* Offer to help with the little things. There are countless small tasks we all have to finish every day, but for caregivers, that “to do” list can be extra long and overwhelming. Offer to assist with a regular chore, like making dinner, mowing the lawn, picking up prescriptions or putting out the garbage, and you’ll be taking away some of the stress. Even if you can’t lend a hand on a regular basis, let the caregiver know to call on you when he or she needs help. Having others to rely on can help make caregivers feel that they’re not alone.

* An old-fashioned “thank you.” A simple word of encouragement, when unexpected, can have a big effect. A handwritten note only takes a little time, but has a far-reaching impact. Add a small treat, such as a photo or a gift card, and you will surely brighten the caregiver’s day.

Caregivers dedicate themselves to helping others without expecting recognition or thanks, but that makes them all the more deserving of both. By lending a hand, nominating them for an award or offering a few kind words, you’ll be giving them a bit of well-earned care, too.

Courtesy of BPT

Singled out: 3 financial tips for Americans going solo


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More and more people are choosing to live solo. While there are plenty of resources for home improvement, a new survey shows singles could use some help getting their financial house in order.

 
Many single workers lack an adequate financial safety net that would protect their income if they were unable to work due to an illness or off-the-job injury, according to The Hartford Benefits For Tomorrow Study, a national survey of 1,000 full-time workers ages 18 to 64.

 
The annual poll showed only 44 percent of single Americans have disability insurance. This is despite the fact that singles would be hard hit by an unexpected health issue. In fact, 87 percent of single survey participants said they would need to make lifestyle changes to meet expenses if they lost income for three to six months.
“Fifty-nine percent of workers who don’t have disability insurance said they’d rely on their savings or retirement account if they could not work for more than six weeks,” says Mike Fish, vice president of voluntary benefits for The Hartford. “That means singles without paycheck protection are not only putting their current finances – and independence – at risk, but their golden years, too.”

 
Here are three benefits tips for single Americans:

 
1. Educate yourself. Many Americans don’t completely understand disability insurance. “May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. It’s a good time to get up to speed on paycheck protection,” Fish says.

 
2. Know your risks. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled during their career. “You might think that you don’t need paycheck protection because you won’t have an accident or you don’t engage in unsafe activities,” Fish says. “But, you still could be at risk. Approximately 95 percent of disabilities are caused by illnesses rather than accidents, according to the Council of Disability Awareness.”

 
3. Get a price check. In The Hartford’s survey, 45 percent of survey participants overestimated the cost of short-term disability insurance by hundreds of dollars; and another 45 percent said they had “no idea” how much the coverage costs.  "It pays for you to check on whether you can get disability insurance at work,“ Fish says. "Group disability insurance costs about a dollar a day on average. So, it can be more affordable than depleting your savings.”
Going solo doesn’t mean going it alone when it comes to your finances.

You can find more information about disability insurance at The Hartford’s MyTomorrow website www.thehartford.com/mytomorrow

Courtesy of BPT

Bathroom remodeling ideas that add style and space


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Now, more than ever, homeowners are adding to the value and comfort of their homes by renovating bathrooms into private retreats with luxurious touches that rival those of an upscale spa or resort.

Ron and Susan Bishop of Adams Township, Pa., recently completed an extensive remodel of the master bathroom in their 20-year-old home. The remake covered nearly every square inch of the space, including the installation of new cabinets, tile, floor coverings and lighting. The couple says one of the biggest highlights is the custom shower enclosure, made from Clarvista glass by PPG, which uses a fused-on coating to keep its showroom appearance over time.

“Few things detract from the appearance of a luxurious bathroom more than a shower door covered with water deposits and soap scum,” Ron Bishop says. “Susan and I made it a point to find a product that would keep its good looks and be easy to maintain. We completed the renovation on our master bath more than a year ago, and the glass on our shower enclosure still looks brand new.”

When considering an update for your bathroom, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips:

* Consider the size of the bathroom. If you have a small room, look for ways to make it feel more expansive. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you’ll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures.

* Think outside the box. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today’s designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don’t be afraid to consider a circular or oval-shaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile.

* Don’t skimp on the glass. All glass used for shower enclosures is safety glass, which means it is tempered to make it stronger and more shatterproof. That doesn’t mean all shower glass is alike, though. Most shower doors and enclosures are fabricated from conventional clear glass – which typically has a light, almost imperceptible green cast – or some variation of frosted glass. If you want a look that’s chic and ultra-clear, ask your bath designer or showroom retailer about Clarvista on Starphire glass.

* Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel.

* Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize usable space.

It’s been shown time and time again that remodeling a bathroom can add to a home’s value. Whether you want to sell or just enjoy your home more, it’s one of the most practical and dramatic ways to make your home more appealing. To discover more great ideas and inspiration for bathroom remodeling, visit www.ppgclarvista.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Top winterizing tasks for your home

(BPT) – If you shudder at the thought of shivering through another frigid winter, building industry experts say now is the time to consider winterizing your home. Several simple and cost-effective measures can yield both immediate and long-term benefits.

While instinct may prod you to increase the heat during winter and keep your home toasty all day long, that’s not always cost-effective. Investing in a programmable thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature remotely, lowering the setting when the house is empty, and save money in the process. Modern thermostats let you monitor the indoor temperature of your home remotely via your smartphone or online. By keeping the temperature low when no one is home and programming the thermostat to increase the temperature when everyone arrives home, you could notice a 10 percent drop in your heating costs.

Fall is also an ideal time to ensure your furnace is functioning optimally. Schedule an appointment for a professional to inspect and clean your furnace once a year. By doing so, you’ll help your furnace function more effectively and last longer.

If ice damming on the roof is an annual problem, consider taking measures to completely stop dams from forming. Major damage can result from ice damming, so it’s never too early to start thinking about a long-term solution. Ice damming occurs when warm, indoor air escaping through the roof melts snow on the shingles. The water then refreezes as it runs off the roof, creating a barrier of ice at the edge. Shovelling snow or chipping ice away can threaten life, limb and roof, so it’s best to consider more permanent solutions.

While caulking or weather-stripping can help address the gaps allowing the air to escape, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver website says that proper air sealing, insulation and attic venting are the best methods to stop ice damming from occurring. Spray foam insulation is one modern material that both insulates and seals to stop ice damming. Installed by professionals, spray foam insulation, like that available from Icynene, works well in all climates to completely seal the building, filling every gap to stop air leakage and stop ice dams from forming.

As a long-term solution, spray foam insulation helps maintain a comfortable temperature year round while helping to control monthly heating and cooling expenses. Thanks to spray foam insulation’s air-sealing qualities, homeowners can reduce the size of their heating and cooling equipment since less effort is required to heat or cool the home, according to InsulationSmart.com.

While air leakage can cause energy bills to sky-rocket and ice damming to occur, a well-insulated home and economical winterizing can help you get through the cold winter months. Learn the five easy steps to choosing the right insulation by visiting icynene.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Three green trends for home remodeling


For some homeowners, remodeling projects are regular occurrences to keep their homes looking fresh. Sometimes, that means smaller changes like a new coat of paint or changing a light fixture. Other times, more substantial changes are needed. Determining those changes can be a challenge, but looking at the potential return on investment is a great way to prioritize.

Bathroom remodeling offers a 68.7 percent return on investment, according to a National Association of Realtors survey. One way to add value to a bathroom remodel is to pick bathroom fixtures that are more efficient than what you currently have installed. People are going green in many areas of life, whether with more energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars or by recycling more regularly. Bathroom fixtures are no different.

Here are three reasons why you should consider going green with your bathroom modeling project:

* Products may be outdated. Toilets made before 1994 use anywhere from 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons per flush (gpf), while new EPA WaterSense labeled high-efficiency toilets can work beautifully on a modest 1.28 gpf. Not sure of your toilet’s vintage? Look at the underside of the tank lid – the date of manufacture is often stamped into the porcelain. In the shower, the typical showerhead installed in California homes built after 1994 uses as much as 2.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, your eight-minute shower consumes a whopping 20 gallons of water.

* Savings to be had. Compared to 3.5 gpf toilets, TOTO’s Aquia One-Piece Dual Flush High-Efficiency Toilet has a flushing system that enables homeowners to select the level of water used each time the toilet is flushed – 1.6 gallons for bulk waste or .9 for liquid. The approach provides exceptional water savings paired with outstanding performance. A family of four can save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If you replace a typical 2.5 gpm showerhead with a TOTO high-efficiency Trilogy Showerhead, you will experience the same luxurious shower, yet consume a responsible 14 gallons, saving 20 percent of the water used by older models.

Even something like a faucet can contribute to water savings. TOTO’s Silas Widespread Lavatory Faucet is a WaterSense labeled lavatory faucet that consumes a responsible 1.5 gallons per minute without sacrificing an ounce of performance. Its design has a classic contemporary elegance with a graceful, curved spout.  

* Be a trendy homeowner. A whopping 68 percent of builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that energy-saving technologies and features including low-E windows, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting will be common along with other green features like engineered wood products, and water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets by 2015. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Courtesy of BPT

Three helpful tips for renting out your home


(NewsUSA) – Home ownership has always been a part of the American dream, but that may be changing. 

According to an online survey commissioned by the National Apartment Association, 76 percent of consumers think that renting is preferable to owning a home in today’s market.

Likewise, some homeowners believe it’s better to rent out their home than to sell it for less than its worth, if they can sell it all. Those considering renting out their property shouldn’t make a hasty decision. Neglecting to weigh the costs and potential risks could put first-time landlords in a poor situation. Moco, Inc., a company that provides screening services to property owners, managers and employers throughout the United States, offers the following tips:

* Look at the numbers. Renting might not be the best option. If you’re going to lose money each month, it might make more sense to sell, even if you won’t get your asking price. Consider all potential costs, including property taxes, income taxes on your tenants’ rent, maintenance, and the normal wear and tear your property will experience. Remember that you won’t be able to pocket all of the rent money; you will have to put a portion of it back into the property.

* Find quality tenants. Nightmare tenants can be, well, a nightmare. Prepare for a careful screening process. Many private landlords can’t access the quality screening products available to larger businesses without going through a lengthy certification process. However, you can avoid time and expense by asking your applicants to visit MyScreeningReport.com. The report includes a consumer credit report, SSN verification, comprehensive criminal search, eviction search, national sex offender registry search and an OFAC (federal terrorism database) search – everything you need to determine whether a potential tenant meets your standards.

* Use an all-encompassing lease. Whether you use a template or hire an attorney to write your lease, make sure that the lease clearly states your expectations. The lease should state who is responsible for what, when you expect rent to be paid and what penalties you will impose if it is late.

For more information, visit www.MyScreeningReport.com.