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10 Ways to Save on Utility Bills This Summer

 

Posted on May 16 2017 - 12:52pm by Housecall

Window sill of a house in rural

By Rob Caiello

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready

Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long-run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents

Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed

Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect—sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work over-time, which in turn will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates

Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there.

5. Time Your Thermostat

If you want to be cost conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs

While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern

If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan

In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips

Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule

Irrigation schedules or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips, we promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Rob Caiello is the Vice President of Marketing over at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and setup of home utilities and services (like internet, TV, and electricity) for millions of movers relocating across the United States.

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    High-Resale Value Projects You Can Tackle In A Weekend

    RIS Media's...

    High-Resale Value Projects You Can Tackle In a Weekend

    Posted on Mar 1 2017 - 3:58pm by Megan Wild

    kitchen

    “There’s no place like home,” as the old saying goes. That’s especially true when it comes to an investment.

    You live in and love your home, but there might come a time when you have to leave it. And when that time comes, you’ll want to get as much money as you can for your property so you can move onward — and upward.

    In order to increase your abode’s value, you might think you have to put in a ton of time, effort and money, but that’s not entirely true. Instead, you can take on weekend projects over time to spruce the place up so when it’s time to sell, you have a completely updated property that’ll end up selling itself.

    Ready to get to work? Roll up your sleeves and start on one of the following five weekend projects.

    1. Repaint Your Kitchen Cabinets

    When it comes to smart investment in your home, the kitchen is one of the best places to start. Buyers expect kitchens to be updated. Stone countertops, stainless appliances and sleek flooring all make a space feel modern. Obviously, these changes require a lot of money and, sometimes, a lot of time. That’s why you can tackle it in bits and start first with your cabinets.

    Old wooden cabinets with equally dated hardware — think oak doors with shiny brass handles — don’t require a complete gut job. Instead, spend a weekend repainting them a more neutral hue. Finish the project off with new metallic knobs and pulls to complete the modernized look.

    2. Make the Eye Go up With Crown Molding

    Most homes have roughly the same ceiling heights, but there’s a little trick to make yours look bigger — crown molding. Yes, that white line at the top of your painted walls will draw eyes upward, making the room appear airier than it may very well be.

    The project is easy enough to complete, too. You might not be able to install molding throughout your entire home over a single weekend, but you can certainly tackle the project on a room-by-room basis. Again, start with the spaces likely to draw in the most moolah:

    • Kitchens
    • Bathrooms
    • Living spaces
    • Master bedrooms

    These tend to be the make-or-break rooms when it comes to a big purchase. Crown molding adds a bit of detail, a feeling of luxury that’ll certainly add to the bottom line.

    3. Boost Curb Appeal — and Backyard Bonuses

    No one will come in your home unless the first impression is stunning. Another DIY project should be a landscape overhaul of your front yard. It can be something as simple as adding a path of pavers to your front yard or sprucing up your flowerbeds with colorful blooms. All of this will catch the eye of potential buyers — and fatten up the bottom line of the offers they make.

    Another easy fix — your garage door. If it’s street-facing, it’s another area for prospective buyers to look at, and it has a great return on investment.

    You don’t have to stop with the front of your home. Especially if you live in a climate that permits lots of outdoor activity, you’ll want a backyard to match. Some may require you rent or buy tools for landscaping and other applications, but imagine the payoff with, for example, the beauty of a functioning fire pit in your backyard. Not only will you be able to enjoy it while you’re still living in your home, but potential buyers will easily be able to envision themselves sitting around a fire.

    4. Beautify the Bathrooms

    Bathrooms have a big effect on buyers. They expect clean, modern updates, just like in the kitchen. Overhauling your powder room is an easy weekend task that might require small swaps, such as a new modern light fixture over the vanity or a new vanity altogether.

    Your full bathrooms will require a bit more attention if you want them to be up to snuff. Again, look in the familiar places:

    • Lighting fixtures
    • Cabinets
    • Hardware
    • Countertops
    • Tile

    You don’t have to shell out a ton of money to have someone else re-tile a wall or backsplash in your bathroom, either, if you have the patience to demo and tile the space yourself.

    5. Out With the Really Old

    Some accents once considered fresh and fashionable now give your home a dated appearance. You probably already know what in your home screams 70s, 80s or 90s. Whatever it is should go in due course.

    The list of outdated design elements is truly endless, but some of the biggest offenders are old-school wallpaper, the floor-to-ceiling wood paneling that may or not be actual wood, and, of course, popcorn ceilings. By removing these three offenders alone — a popcorn ceiling doesn't take much effort - your home will snap right back into 2017.

    Once people start envisioning themselves living in your home, you won’t have to envision offers pouring in — they’ll start coming thanks to your hard work. You go, weekend warrior.

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      6 home Maintenance Tasks You Didn't Know You Were Forgetting

      6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Didn’t Know You Were Forgetting

      Posted on Feb 22 2018 - 1:34pm by Housecall

      home maintenance

      By Brentnie Daggett

      In all likelihood, your home is the biggest investment you'll make in your life. To protect that investment, turn to regular maintenance tasks to ensure that your home will be running efficiently for years to come.

      Most folks are already aware of this. But if you feel like you're mastering your home maintenance, you may be surprised to learn that there are a few you probably never realized you were forgetting. Here are six tasks that require your attention, that you may not be tending to frequently enough, or may be overlooking altogether:

      Clean Your Refrigerator Drip Pan

      Did you know that refrigerators have drip pans? They do, and those drip pans need to be cleaned regularly or they can be prone to mold growth. Pull it out carefully to prevent spills, and dump excess liquid and clean the pan with an all-purpose cleaner.

      Flush the Water Heater

      Check the temperature of your water heater to ensure that it's set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding. Test its safety relief valve once a year so that it operates properly and flush the system to remove sediment buildup which can cause system failure.

      Reseal Your Grout

      Grout needs to be resealed annually to protect your tile from wear and tear. Most grout is made of sand and cement; this means it can absorb water, bacteria and even stains. Resealing will help your grout look better and last as long as possible.

      Test Smoke Alarms

      Testing smoke alarms and changing their batteries is a vital maintenance task for safety reasons. Smoke alarms should be tested twice a year. Remember, at minimum, you should have one detector on every level of your home, and in each bedroom.

      Change Your HVAC Filters

      Have your heating system inspected, serviced and cleaned annually. Proper maintenance can extend the life of your furnace, postponing an expensive replacement. Change air filters seasonally to monthly, depending on your home's needs, to protect against major HVAC issues.

      Block Out Pests

      Prevent against pests setting up camp in your home by caulking small holes or cracks to deter bugs. Also, use hardware cloth to cover any larger areas.

      Mastering home maintenance tasks can be a chore, but by ensuring that you're not missing these all-too-often ignored jobs, you'll be able to rest easy knowing your home is that much more protected.

      daggett-brentnie-headshot-growella-150x150Brentnie Daggett is a writer and infographic master covering the rental and property management industry for Rentec Direct. She loves to share tips and tricks to assist landlords and renters alike. To learn more about Daggett and to discover more great tips, visit www.rentecdirect.com.

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        Food Pantry Dinner Benefit

        We would like to send out a HUGE thank you to all of the family, friends, colleagues, and community that came out in the bitter cold to support our first ever Lasagna Dinner to benefit the Food Pantry.

        So happy to say that we raised $812.00, collected bags and boxes of non-perishables, and thanks to the Knitting Group at The Yarn Sellar, we had a big box of scarves to donate as well.

        We would also like to thank Rick’s Restaurant for co-sponsoring the event and for doing all the hard work.  Thank you Veronica, Bree, and Maryann!  Finally thank you to everyone that volunteered their time to make it a success.  Can’t wait to do it again!

        CENTURY 21 Atlantic Realty

                                                                        

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          Buying A Home? Factor These Into Your Interest Rate Calculations

          Buying a Home? Factor These Into Your Interest Rate Calculations

          Posted on Oct 16 2017 - 3:46pm by Housecall

          interest rate calculations

          By Liz Dominguez

          The mortgage process can be complicated if you jump in without any prior knowledge on home-buying and lending. The best tool you can arm yourself with is an understanding of how your mortgage interest rate is calculated.

          Credit can make or break you. 

          Your credit score will determine how reliable you are in the lending world. The higher your score, the lower your interest rate will likely be. Check your credit on one of the three major credit reporting agency sites—TransUnion, Experian and Equifax—or your credit card company may have a free credit report service (although these aren't as reliable).  Improve your FICO score for a better chance at a lower interest rate.

          Factor in size and location.

          • State or County: Even your place of residence can affect your rate.
          • Local Mortgage Lenders: Shop around. Interest rates can vary from company to company even if they're located in the same town.
          • Loan Size: The size of your home can also impact your interest rate. The bigger the loan, the higher your interest rate will be if you're not putting more money down.
          • Down Payment Size: Your mortgage interest rate may also depend on how much you're putting down and if your loan includes closing costs and private mortgage insurance (PMI). Putting down less than 20 percent can increase your risk factor and may require PMI, but your interest rate may be lower depending on the loan.

          Not all loans are created equal.

          Loan Length: Your loan terms play a bigger role in interest rate calculations than you think. Have you decided whether you want to pay off your loan in 15 or 30 years? You may pay more per month with a shorter term, but you'll be paying less interest over the life of your loan. Short-term loans may also have a smaller interest rate.

          Fixed or Adjustable: You'll also have to consider whether a fixed- or adjustable-rate loan is right for you. Your interest rate can change over time if you choose an adjustable-rate loan. It may start off low or fixed, but can increase over time depending on market conditions. Fixed-rate loans, however, will have a higher interest rate attached to them.

          Loan Type: Interest rates can also vary according to your loan type. Choosing a loan can be overwhelming, but a local lender should be able to provide you with the best options. Some of the more popular loans are conventional, FHA and VA loans. While FHA loans have less down payment restrictions and a smaller interest rate, your monthly payment can be more expensive due to the required PMI added on. VA loans can have smaller interest rates and don't require PMI like FHA does. Conventional loans are widely accepted in the real estate industry as dependable, but your interest rate may be higher.

          Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

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            Green Your Space: 5 Tips for a Healthy Home

            Green Your Space: 5 Tips for a Healthy Home

            Posted on Mar 6 2017 - 10:43am by Andrea Davis
            Healthy home

            Every homeowner wants a healthy home for his or her family and pets. Making the right choices in your house isn't always easy though. Keep reading to learn more about how you can create a healthy space and enjoy your home even more. These five tips should put you on the path.

            Update Your Insulation

            Individuals and families in older homes should consider the fact that they may have unhealthy types of insulation in the walls keeping them comfortable. If you're not sure about your insulation, have the pros check it out first.  In the case of asbestos or any other hazardous material, you don't want to be digging around in the walls on your own.

            Asbestos and hazardous insulation remediation can be a big job, but for a homeowner, it should be a top priority in terms of a healthy home. Updating your insulation will also be a major plus when and if you go to sell your home.

            Get a Mold Check

            Most homeowners never think about mold until they get an inspection related to selling their home. For others, mold isn't even a consideration until damage to the home occurs and a mold issue more or less reveals itself. Getting a mold check for your home can help your family breathe easier in the house. While most recently built homes won't have mold, getting a check isn't going to hurt you.

            Pick the Right Paint

            According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paint, wood stain and other varieties of coatings account for about nine percent of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions in the country every year. For a healthy home, look for low-VOC paint. They are water-based, low or no odor and non-toxic. While it can be hard to identify low-VOC paint on store shelves, online searches and on-can labeling should make it easy to find this type of paint if you're looking for it.

            Take Your Shoes Off

            Taking your shoes off every single time you come in your home might be a hard habit to get into, but for many people, it can lead to a healthier home environment. Your home might also require a little less cleaning, which is an added benefit. If you have a mudroom or a large entryway, removing your shoes should be easy. Tracking less outside germs from your shoes into your home can also help keep pets and children with a tendency to spend time on the floor healthier all year round.

            Add Plants to Your Décor

            Fresh, live plants can beautify almost any space. Live plants do more than just make your home look a little bit nicer though. Spider plants, lilies and aloe vera can help get rid of formaldehyde in the air, and English ivy, asparagus ferns and bamboo plants can work to clean indoor air as well. Whatever plant you choose, make sure they're not toxic to your pets if they roam free around your home.

            Making your home a healthier place isn't exactly as glamorous as buying new furniture or adding a room to your house. Don't take your home's health for granted and you won't have to worry as much about home-related hazards.

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              Should I Sell My Home Now or Wait Until the Spring?

              Should I Sell My Home Now or Wait Until the Spring?

              Posted on Nov 6 2014 - 4:29am by Kyle Hiscock
              pumpkins staging

              There are many questions homeowners ask themselves during the selling process. "How much will my home sell for?"  "How much should I list my home for?"  "Who should I select as a real estate agent to sell my home?"  "What if the real estate agent overprices my home?"  Last but not least, "Is this a good time to be selling a home?" is also a very common question that real estate agents are asked.

              As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly most real estate markets across the United States experience a "spring market rush" every year. There is no doubt that the "spring market" is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.

              Here are several reasons why choosing to sell your home now may be a better decision than waiting until the spring:

              Less Competition
              One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition.  The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.

              Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.

              Serious Buyers Are Out There
              Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period!  Many homeowners believe that buyers aren't out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there!  Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is.

              The fall and winter months are also a great time for a potential buyer to see what a specific neighborhood is like.  Do your neighbors have pumpkins on their front step?  Are there lots of Trick-or-Treaters wandering the neighborhood on Halloween?  Do any of your neighbors have any light displays for the holidays?  There are buyers out there who will look at these types of things when determining whether your home is in the right neighborhood for them or not.

              The Best Agents Are Always Up To The Challenge
              Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that.  A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn't have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.

              Staging For The Holiday Season
              Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells.  While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be "sold" on a home because it is staged.  Simple “seasonal” staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.

              Mortgage Rates Are Low
              If you've read about real estate in the past year, it's likely you've read that the mortgage rates are very low.  You also probably read that there is an expectation that the rates will increase very soon. Since mortgage rates are so low right now, buyers are able to afford more expensive homes.  If mortgage rates increase over the fall and winter months while you're waiting for the spring market, it could cost you thousands of dollars as it could eliminate many buyers from the real estate marketplace!  Less demand for your home will mean less money. Bottom line: take advantage of selling your home while the rates are this low.

              Quicker Transactions
              Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring.  The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do.  All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved.  One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.

              By considering all of the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring.

              Kyle Hiscock is a top producing Webster, N.Y. real estate agent with Nothnagle Realtors, based out of Rochester, N.Y. He has helped hundreds of buyers and sellers move in and out of the Greater Rochester, N.Y. area. In addition to his vast real estate knowledge, Kyle is very active on many different social media websites. Connect with Kyle on Google+.    

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                10 Easy Improvements to Make on Your Fixer Upper

                 

                Posted on Mar 22 2017 - 10:01am by Housecall

                House and key shaped paper cutout, calculator and magnifier on wooden table.

                By Cary Teller

                There is something awesome about buying a fixer upper and doing the renovations yourself. Some people fix them up a bit at a time, using cash as they have it available. If you want to make a big impact by doing small things, here are 10 things you need to include.

                1. Change Out the Lighting

                Nothing says outdated like an old-fashioned gold chandelier. Lighting is something that can be updated easily and won’t cost a bunch of money. It is one of the smallest things you can do that will have the biggest impact.

                2. Paint

                There is an old saying that states “if a barn needs to be painted, slap some paint on it.” You will be amazed at what some paint can do to your home. A new hue can cover imperfections and give the room the blast of color it needs. Forget drab, white walls that are lackluster. Give your home a color makeover.

                3. New Fixtures

                Just like the lighting, the fixtures in the home become outdated quickly. Start with the kitchen faucet and then move on to the bathroom. You can update and upgrade a fixer upper by just adding these small touches.

                4. Paint Cabinets/Add New Hardware

                If you have new cabinets in the budget, then you should go for it. However, if your budget is limited, then you may want to try to paint them. Painting old cabinets and installing new hardware will give the kitchen a facelift. If the cabinets are old but sturdy, then you can bring them back to life. Painting is inexpensive and has a huge impact.

                5. Rip Out Old Carpeting

                Carpet is great when it is new; however, when it is old and dingy, it can really have a negative impact on a space. Hardwoods are the best option, followed by laminate floors. However, if you are stretched for money, you may try a bag floor or a penny style one. There are creative options online that allow you to do great things with your floors for less.

                6. Add Curb Appeal

                The curb appeal of the home is everything. It does not matter how great the inside looks if the outside is in shambles. Clean up any dead plants and add some new. Be sure to pick flowers and shrubs that bloom at different times. This will allow you to have color year-round. Add some shutters and a fresh coat of paint to the porch. Use decorative numbers to display the address. Finally, replace the mailbox if necessary.

                7. Repaint Ceilings

                Ceilings are often overlooked. They are usually white and the color is reserved for the walls. However, people do not realize how dirty these ceilings can be. A fresh coat of paint on the ceiling can really enhance the whole room. The walls are not the only thing that needs to be painted.

                8. Upgrade the Exterior Façade

                The biggest impact you can have on the outside of a home is to replace or paint siding. If you have it in the budget, you can add brick and stone accents. Most fixer upper homes have chipping paint and worn out siding. Splurge for some nice siding or paint a great color to update the home’s look.

                9. Replace the Windows

                New windows are expensive, but they are important. If you have old windows in your home, you need to spend the money to upgrade them. Windows are great for keeping the elements at bay. You will save yourself money in the long run by sealing off old-drafty openings.

                10. Update the Heating and Cooling Unit

                To help the process of heating and cooling a home, you need to make sure the home has an updated HVAC unit. The air filters are just as important as the unit. Filters with a rating of Merv 11, have "astro pleating" to help ensure no dirt or dust gets into your system. Extend the livelihood of your unit by selecting quality air filters.

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                  Know Your Real Estate: 5 Researching Tips for Homebuyers

                   

                  Posted on Mar 20 2017 - 11:47am by Housecall

                  woman and man at home typing on laptop computer

                  By Dixie Somers

                  Being a first time homebuyer can be an intimidating prospect; it seems like there's so much to learn! The process doesn't get less challenging the second or third time around, but here are five tips to help you research and prepare for your next home buying experience.

                  Location, Location, Location

                  It's a cliché but it's true: location really is the most important part of the real estate equation. However, the right location isn't the same for everyone. Take your family's priorities into account and know where you would buy a home, and where you would not. Try to be flexible, but if you're longing for a place with a yard, then a balcony might not cut it, however a roof deck might! Always look for the exception to the rule. It's also a good idea to compare home prices around the home that you're considering. This will help you figure out if your house is a good deal and in line with the market expectations.

                  Find Your Financing

                  Finding the perfect house can take years, but once you find it things will move quickly. Most real estate markets are fast moving and a great house at a great price can easily go on the market in the morning and be under contract by the evening. When you find that house you have to be ready to jump on it. This means that you should have your financing figured out before you make an offer. Ask friends, family, any law or finance professionals your family uses, or ask your REALTOR® for a recommendation for a mortgage company. Be sure to get quotes from several different firms so you have a general idea of what your rates really should be.

                  Understand the Vocabulary

                  You should take the trouble to educate yourself about some of the jargon that comes with the real estate territory, otherwise, you might find yourself completely out of your league when discussing purchasing terms.

                  Check out the Neighborhood

                  If you're looking for homes outside of the neighborhood you live in, the best way to get a feel for it is to go and spend the day there. Find a few open houses you're interested in and go make a day of it. Have lunch, stroll the streets, check out the parks, schools, and find out what kind of people live there. These are the things that give a neighborhood its flavor, and things that you can't know until you go there and see for yourself.

                  Choose a Trustworthy Agent

                  A real estate agent can make or break your home buying experience. If you don't have an agent you already know and like, ask for recommendations, check local ratings sites and ask around. This can be a very personal relationship, so if you find an agent you believe in, hang on to them!

                  Buying a home is an exciting and stressful process, but with these tips, we hope you'll have a great experience researching, shopping and purchasing your next home.

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                    Green Your Space: 5 Tips for a Healthy Home

                    Some great ideas from RISMedia's housecall...

                    Posted on Mar 6 2017 - 10:43am by Andrea Davis
                    Healthy home

                    Every homeowner wants a healthy home for his or her family and pets. Making the right choices in your house isn't always easy though. Keep reading to learn more about how you can create a healthy space and enjoy your home even more. These five tips should put you on the path.

                    Update Your Insulation

                    Individuals and families in older homes should consider the fact that they may have unhealthy types of insulation in the walls keeping them comfortable. If you're not sure about your insulation, have the pros check it out first. In the case of asbestos or any other hazardous material, you don't want to be digging around in the walls on your own.

                    Asbestos and hazardous insulation remediation can be a big job, but for a homeowner, it should be a top priority in terms of a healthy home. Updating your insulation will also be a major plus when and if you go to sell your home.

                    Get a Mold Check

                    Most homeowners never think about mold until they get an inspection related to selling their home. For others, mold isn't even a consideration until damage to the home occurs and a mold issue more or less reveals itself. Getting a mold check for your home can help your family breathe easier in the house. While most recently built homes won't have mold, getting a check isn't going to hurt you.

                    Pick the Right Paint

                    According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paint, wood stain and other varieties of coatings account for about nine percent of volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions in the country every year. For a healthy home, look for low-VOC paint. They are water-based, low or no odor and non-toxic. While it can be hard to identify low-VOC paint on store shelves, online searches and on-can labeling should make it easy to find this type of paint if you're looking for it.

                    Take Your Shoes Off

                    Taking your shoes off every single time you come in your home might be a hard habit to get into, but for many people, it can lead to a healthier home environment. Your home might also require a little less cleaning, which is an added benefit. If you have a mudroom or a large entryway, removing your shoes should be easy. Tracking less outside germs from your shoes into your home can also help keep pets and children with a tendency to spend time on the floor healthier all year round.

                    Add Plants to Your Décor

                    Fresh, live plants can beautify almost any space. Live plants do more than just make your home look a little bit nicer though. Spider plants, lilies and aloe vera can help get rid of formaldehyde in the air, and English ivy, asparagus ferns and bamboo plants can work to clean indoor air as well. Whatever plant you choose, make sure they're not toxic to your pets if they roam free around your home.

                    Making your home a healthier place isn't exactly as glamorous as buying new furniture or adding a room to your house. Don't take your home's health for granted and you won't have to worry as much about home-related hazards.

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