Donna Maicher
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Pest Prevention as Easy as 1, 2, 3

July 31, 2015 2:27 am

Pest prevention is a matter of homeowner diligence – establishing cleanliness habits and maintaining pest-prone fixtures regularly. According to the pest control experts at Assured Environments, pest problems can be avoided in three simple steps.

1. Establish Storage Habits – Keep all garbage in tightly sealed containers and empty trash receptacles regularly. Be diligent about safe food storage. Keep food items in sealed containers and never keep anything past its expiration.

2. Maintain Plumbing System – Keep all pipes in working order. Ensure there are no leaky patches in roofs and do not let water accumulate. Make sure toilets do not back up. Use dehumidifiers in basement storage areas.

3. Inspect Wood Structures – Termites and other small creatures are highly attracted to rotting wood. Ensure all wood structures on the property are well-maintained. Note any openings and seal them to stop small rodents and insects from entering.

Source: Assured Environments

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates in Flux

July 31, 2015 2:27 am

According to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey ® (PMMS®), the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) ducked beneath four percent to 3.98 percent amid ups and downs on the home front and overseas.

The survey also indicates the average 15-year FRM declined to 3.17 percent, the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) moved down to 2.95 percent, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed hybrid ARM decreased to 2.52 percent

“Monday’s eight percent decline in Chinese stock prices triggered similar–though smaller–sell-offs in global equity markets,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti. “The associated flight to quality drove U.S. Treasury yields down nearly five basis points. Accordingly 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell six basis points to 3.98 percent.

“Recent housing data exhibited the same good news, bad news pattern as overseas developments,” Becketti continues. “Coming into this week, existing-home sales for June and the latest FHFA house price measures both suggested a stronger tone in the housing market. However, this week brought nothing but bad–or at least weaker-than-expected–news. New-home sales and pending-home sales both weakened and the Case-Shiller house price indices, while positive, fell below the lower end of expectations. Finally, the inadvertent release of Fed staff projects increased uncertainty over the timing of future Fed rate moves.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Summertime Safety Tips for Your Pet

July 30, 2015 12:27 am

While enjoying the dog (and cat!) days of summer, it’s easy to lose sight of your pet’s safety. Whether you and your furry friend are out soaking up the sun, traveling on a road trip or playing host to a backyard barbecue, keep in mind these summertime safety tips recommended by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

1. Train your pets for travel.
Traveling can be highly stressful for pets. If you’re planning a road trip, prep your pet in advance by taking short rides in the car and getting them used to riding in a crate or car harness.

“Pet owners should never leave their animals unattended in a parked vehicle,” says ASPCA Animal Hospital Vice President Dr. Louise Murray. “Parked cars, even with windows open, become very hot in a short amount of time and could lead to heatstroke or death.”

2. Hydrate your pets often.
Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of water when the weather is hot. Always make sure your pet has a shady place to escape the sun. Don't let your dog linger outdoors, especially on hot asphalt – their bodies can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can get burned.

3. Avoid feeding your pets festive foods. Food and drinks at backyard barbecues or parties should be served only to people, not pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, and remember that any change of diet – even just treating them to a bite of your festive food – may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Make sure to avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol, which are all toxic to pets.

4. Outfit your home for “high-rise syndrome.”
During warmer months, many animal hospitals and veterinarians see an increase in injured animals as a result of “high-rise syndrome,” which is when pets fall or jump out of windows and are seriously or fatally injured. Keep all unscreened windows in your home closed and make sure screens are tightly secured.

5. Always use a leash. Warm weather can inspire longer walks, and while this is exciting for both dog and owner, it’s important that dogs are always kept on leash – with collars and up-to-date ID tags and microchips – to protect them from getting loose and injuring themselves or others.

Source: ASPCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Paint Like a Pro in 5 Steps

July 30, 2015 12:27 am

(BPT) - Nothing transforms the look of a home as simply and inexpensively as paint. Whether you’d like to liven up a dated design or refresh your entire home to sell, paint like a pro with these tips.

1. Look for high-quality products. When it comes to paint, quality matters. Search for a combination paint-and-primer to save a few steps and ensure complete coverage and deep color saturation. The paint should have high hiding ability and resist dirt and scuffs.

2. Get inspired online. Color selection can seem intimidating, but it's a chance to infuse your personality into your home. Many online resources are available for homeowners to explore, coordinate and experiment with different looks. Pinterest, Houzz and Apartment Therapy are great websites for browsing images, finding home décor inspiration and colors that speak to you.

3. Use paint samples, rather than chips. The most realistic way to envision the color in your home is to see it in action. Many paint retailers offer small sample cans for just a few dollars. Use these to paint a few stripes of each color option in the room you'll be painting. Note how color changes in different lighting conditions.

“Sunlight, shadows and furniture can all alter the appearance of paint in your space,” says BEHR Vice President of Color Marketing Erika Woelfel. “Before fully committing to a hue, make sure it's one you'll love morning, noon and night."

4. Use the right painting supplies. High-quality painting tools save you time over the course of your project and produce the most beautiful finish. For best results, use a lint-free roller cover. Select brushes made of nylon and polyester. For flawless edges, use a painter's tape specifically designed for your surface type.

5. Prep before painting. Begin by removing all wall fixtures, such as pictures, doors and light switches. If you have small cracks or holes in your walls, remove any dust and apply a patching material. Make sure to allow this to dry completely before sanding the finished area. Wash away oil, grease or wax stains by dampening the surface, applying mild detergent with a sponge and then rinsing the wall clean. Once dried, you'll be ready for smooth application and beautiful color.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Must-Read Glossary of Terms for Homebuyers

July 30, 2015 12:27 am

A number of products and services exist to help homeowners protect what will likely be the largest investment they’ll make – buying a home. The key to their effectiveness is gaining a clear understanding of various industry terms, defined by the non-profit National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA).

Home Service Contract/Warranty

A home service contract provides service, repair or replacement due to normal wear and tear on major, built-in household appliances and systems. Most cover items such as dishwashers, ovens, wiring and plumbing systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).

Many contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool pumps, spas and freestanding appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Rural homeowners may also elect to add septic tanks or well pumps.

At an average cost of $550 a year, contracts historically renew annually. In recent years, many providers have begun to also offer coverage on a month-to-month basis.

Qualified contract providers maintain a toll-free service call line 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the convenience of their customers. Dispatch of a trusted local service provider usually occurs within 3-5 business days, with expedited options for emergency situations.

Service calls average approximately $75 and protect the homeowner’s pocketbook, as some repairs and replacements have the potential to run thousands of dollars with no contract in place.

Builder’s Home Warranty

A builder’s home warranty is very different from a home service contract or warranty. These warranties, provided by the builder on a new home, are designed to offer coverage on the actual workmanship and materials used in the home’s construction.

Product and Extended Warranties

Retailers and manufacturers frequently offer warranties on the purchase of on the goods – such as electronics and automobiles – they make and sell directly to the public through retailers. These new product warranties are generally active for a limited time to safeguard against existing defects in the product.

Extended warranties are just that – warranties that extend beyond the original warranty period. At purchase, retailers may offer to extend a new product warranty for an additional price. These new product or “retail” warranties are part of a separate industry, aside from the home service contracts/warranties.


There is little similarity between home service contracts and insurance. Insurance protects a homeowner against partial or total damage or loss to the structure itself or possessions in the home. Insurance protects against sudden and fortuitous events such as fire, wind, hail, theft, collision or other accidents. Insurance does not cover breakdowns due to normal wear and tear. The two products complement each other – they do not overlap.

Homeowner’s insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.

If a tree falls on the exterior air conditioning unit of a home, it s covered by insurance. If an air conditioner stops blowing cold air, it is covered by a home service contract or warranty.

In most states, it is not legal for a home service contract to cover anything which could be covered by insurance.

Source: NHSCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Much? Average Employee Tax Burden Revealed

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

Taxpayers may be handing over a lot more of their earnings on pay day than they realize. According to a recent Tax Foundation report, wage earners in the U.S. average a 31.5 percent tax burden on their pre-tax income, or over $17,000.

The average U.S. wage earner faces two major taxes: individual income tax and payroll tax, levied on both the employer and the employee. Although a little more than half the worker’s payroll tax burden is paid by his or her employer, the worker ultimately pays this tax through lower take-home pay.

While the revenues from these taxes pay for government programs, it is important to know what the cost of these programs are from the average worker’s perspective. Of the average $17,372 tax burden, $8,631 is for the individual income tax and $8,741 is for payroll taxes.

In the absence of income and payroll taxes and the benefits they provide, the average worker would take home nearly $5,000 in additional annual income, the report found.

Source: Tax Foundation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Add Chimney Cleaning to Summer To-Do List

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

In warmer months, lawn and pool care naturally become priorities for homeowners – but did you know chimney cleaning is also best completed in summer? Scheduling an annual inspection of your chimney during the summer months can save you frustration in the autumn, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Traditionally, Labor Day is the start of the busiest time of year for chimney sweeps.

“Chimney sweeps get extremely busy in the fall; if you wait to schedule, you are not likely to get an appointment as soon as you might like,” says CSIA Director of Education Ashley Eldridge. “By scheduling now, you will have time to complete any necessary repairs before the start of the heating season. Not to mention the peace of mind you will get knowing that your fireplace or wood stove is ready to go for those dark days of winter.”

When you have your chimney and heating system inspected, be sure the technician inspects furnaces for missing panels and ductwork or open cold air returns. If these situations exist in your home, they should be repaired.

When hiring a chimney sweep, look for the CSIA certification. This demonstrates the professional is has passed an extensive examination of fire codes, clearances and standards for the construction and maintenance of chimney and venting systems. They are also well-versed in the characteristics of fuels available for home heating, such as wood, gas and oil.

Source: CSIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renting a Moving Truck? 8 Tips for DIY Movers

July 29, 2015 2:24 am

Moving to a new home? Instead of shelling out big bucks for a professional mover, do it yourself with a rental vehicle and these tips, courtesy of the experts at U-Haul.

1. Plan your move in advance.
Since nearly 45 percent of all moves occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, make your reservation for a rental vehicle at least two to four weeks prior to your moving date.

2. Avoid the weekend rush.
Typically, Sunday through Thursday offers greater equipment availability, plus banks, utilities and government offices are open. In addition, rates may be lower during this time.

3. Look into your homeowner’s insurance policy
prior to moving, as some policies will cover belongings while moving as long as the insurance policy is in force during the move.

4. Allow time for the rental process.
Be sure to conduct a walk-around inspection of the equipment at the time of pickup to become familiar with its features and operation, and to ask any questions you may have.

5. Pack your boxes strategically.
Choose a packing room ahead of time and box up a few things each day. Mark each box with its contents and destination room. Have all your boxes packed before you go to rent your truck. Load the heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack items firmly and closely.

6. Read the equipment user’s guide for tips on driving and safety.
Monitor the equipment while it is in your possession, just as you would your own personal vehicle.

7. Always secure the back door of the moving van or trailer with a padlock.
Always make sure your doors are locked.

8. Always park your rental equipment legally and in a well-lit area.
Back up your rental equipment as close as possible to a garage door, building or wall, and if you can, park another vehicle in front of the rental truck.

Source: U-Haul

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renting a Car? Verify Coverage You Have First

July 28, 2015 12:26 am

If renting a car is part of your travel plans, you likely have insurance options already available to you, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The I.I.I. recommends making these two phone calls before renting a car – you’ll save a bundle on wasted duplicate coverage!

Call #1: Your Insurance Professional

If you own a car, find out how much coverage you already have. In most cases, whatever insurance and deductibles provided by your auto policy would apply to a rental car, providing you are using the car for recreation, not business. However, if you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

Check to see whether your insurance company pays for administrative fees, loss of use or towing charges. Some insurance companies may provide an insurance rider to cover some of these costs, which would make it less expensive than purchasing coverage through the rental car company. Keep in mind, however, that in most states diminished value (the reduction in a vehicle’s market value that occurs after a vehicle is damaged and then repaired), is not covered by insurers.

If you do not own a car and are a frequent renter, ask about a non-owner liability policy. This would provide liability insurance when you either rent or borrow another person’s car.

Call #2: Your Credit Card Company

Most credit card companies provide some level of insurance for rental cars. To find out the details of what is covered, call the toll-free number on the back of the credit card you will be using to rent the car and ask them to send you rental car coverage information in writing. In most cases, credit card benefits are secondary to either your personal auto insurance policy or the insurance coverage offered by the rental car company.

Insurance benefits differ widely by both the credit card company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. Credit cards generally do not provide personal liability coverage. Some credit card companies may provide coverage for towing, but may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Household Convenience You Shouldn't Purchase

July 28, 2015 12:26 am

Liquid detergent pods may come in handy on laundry day, but their convenience is far outweighed by the danger they present, especially to young children. With over 5,000 complaints to poison control centers in the last six months alone, Consumer Reports advises households home to children younger than 6 should refrain from purchasing them.

“We recognize the role parents and caregivers play in keeping children safe, but we believe the unique risks posed by liquid laundry pods warrant this action, at least until the adoption of tougher safety measures leads to a meaningful drop in injuries,” says Consumer Reports Senior Home Editor Dan DiClerico.

Key changes to laundry pods have already been implemented in Europe, including the addition of a bittering agent to give them a bad taste, higher burst strength to make them harder to bite into, and a slower dissolve rate, so they’ll be less likely to open in a child’s mouth.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.