Regina "Ginny" Wolkoff
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Mortgage Rates Linger Near Year Low

May 23, 2016 1:37 am

Mortgage rates remain around year-to-date lows, giving homebuyers and refinancers time to act ahead of a potential interest rate hike next month.

According to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) is up slightly, averaging 3.58 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 15-year FRM is holding steady at an average 2.81 percent with an average 0.5 point.

“The 10-year Treasury yield saw minimal movement over the past week, despite encouraging news from April's consumer spending and CPI data,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac. “Accordingly, the 30-year mortgage rate moved up just 1 basis point from its 2016 low to 3.58 percent. Although there was minimal change in rates this week, the hawkish tone of Wednesday's Fed minutes release had an immediate impact on Treasury yields, and could possibly shake up next week's survey results.”

The survey also revealed a somewhat-higher 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM), averaging 2.80 percent with an average 0.5 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Foods to Kickstart Your Summer Slimdown

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

Summer weather’s around the corner, and like millions of Americans, you may be focused on shedding a few pounds for the season.

Kickstart your slimdown with these eight foods, compiled by EatingWell.com, which contain few calories and lots of tummy-filling fiber.

Almonds – A two-ounce serving of almonds is a satisfying snack—and the more times you chew them, the more satisfied you’ll be. Chewing releases more healthy fat, which triggers hormones that curb hunger.

Apples – A medium apple is four grams of fiber for a mere 95 calories. Munch on slices as you work.

Chili Peppers – Consuming a little hot pepper (in tomato juice or in capsules) 30 minutes before a meal can help you feel less hungry, and eat about 10 percent less.

Eggs – Dieters who eat eggs get fewer calories and more satisfaction than those who eat a bagel for breakfast. Try them for lunch or snacks, too, in salads or simply shelled and eaten out of hand.

Mushrooms – These low-calorie filling veggies can be as satisfying as meat, recent studies report. Use them in omelets, salads, sauces and soups in place of bacon, ham or sausage.

Oatmeal – Eating a breakfast made with "slow-release" carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or bran cereal, three hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat, recent studies suggest.

Small Desserts – Sugar-filled desserts are hardly diet aids, but studies show that banning sugar from your diet altogether often results in binge eating. Reward yourself now and then with a sweet of 100 calories or less.

Soups – Recent studies show that people who start a meal with vegetable soup eat 20 percent less calories overall.

These slimdown secrets can be applied to virtually any meal. Be creative! Who knows? You may stumble upon a recipe that becomes a new favorite.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hard Water at Home? Handle It with These Tips

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

Certain areas of the U.S. contain soil replete with calcium and magnesium—two contributors to hard water, or water with a high mineral content, at home. Though hard water poses no health risks, it can damage a home’s plumbing system if not addressed.

“Homeowners and renters who do not have a home water softener or water purification system are probably very familiar with the tough, white residue left over by hard water,” says Josh Kelly of Parker & Sons, an Ariz.-based home services company. “The severity of hard water is measured in grains-per-gallon, or, as we call it in the industry, GPG.”

Severe mineral build-up can accelerate the deterioration of pipes. It can also restrict water flow, creating pressure within the home’s plumbing system.

“There are many different options when it comes to dealing with hard water,” Kelly says. “We suggest doing researching and picking out the method that is best for your home.”

One option is an ion exchange water softener, which removes calcium and magnesium ions and replaces them with sodium ions. The result is softened water with higher sodium content. It is important to note, cautions Kelly, that individuals on a doctor-prescribed low-sodium diet should ask their physician before using.

It is also wise to leave the installation to a professional, Kelly says.

“It is always a good idea to consult with a professional, especially when it comes time to install your water softening system.

“Quality of life will improve almost immediately,” Kelly adds. “Say goodbye to unsightly white deposits on your dishes and glassware, and say hello to clean, soft, delicious-tasting water.”

Source: Parker & Sons

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Maintenance 101: A Structurally Sound Deck

May 20, 2016 1:28 am

(BPT)—A deck isn’t just a bonus for homeowners—it’s sought after by homebuyers, too. In fact, at resale, a wood deck addition can recoup up to 75 percent of its cost, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report.

For maximum return-on-investment, maintain your deck’s structure with the long-term in mind, recommends the Softwood Lumber Board (www.woodnaturally.com).

To start, inspect your deck each year. Go underneath to make sure beams, boards, connectors, fasteners, joists, posts and railings are all stable, says David Finkenbinder, branch engineer with Simpson Strong-Tie, a structural connecting system manufacturer.

“The ledger connection is where the deck connects to the house,” Finkenbinder explains. “It is one of the most common failure points on a poorly built deck. It's very important to use structural screws, rather than nails, to secure your deck ledger board to your home.”

Like a house, a deck should support the weight it will need to carry. The deck should be load-tested, with structural connectors and fasteners spanning from the house to the posts in the ground.

Metal connectors, nails and screws can corrode over time due to the elements, weakening the deck’s structure. Connectors with a zinc-galvanized coating and hot-dip-galvanized fasteners resist this corrosion. If you live along the coast or near a body of water, consider using stainless steel connectors and fasteners.

A licensed contractor or your local building authority can assess your deck to ensure it is up to code. You may also want to review the “DCA 6: - Prescriptive Residential Deck Construction Guide,” a publication by the American Wood Council, at www.awc.org/codes-standards/publications/dca6.

Beyond those measures, the Softwood Lumber Board advises regular maintenance, and a cleaning and/or staining or sealing once a year.

If you have more questions regarding the structure or safety of your deck, consult a professional. He ors he can thoroughly inspect the structure, as well as recommend repairs and estimate costs, if needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sit Back, Relax…and Find Your Own "Zen" at Home

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

Our ever-hectic lives underscore the need for relaxation spaces at home—especially in the bedroom. In fact, that bedroom “zen” we’re all after trumps the need for sleep for nearly half of Americans surveyed in a recent report.

Many of us have tried to create a more restful space in our bedrooms (60 percent, according to the survey), but often, professional and personal demands foil those plans. Those surveyed seek “calmness” and “comfort” above features like “better functionality,” “excitement” and “organization.”

Achieving that coveted calm doesn’t have to be an exercise in futility, says Elizabeth Mayhew, author, decorator and partner of The Saatva Company, which conducted the survey. She advises these tips:

• Select a harmonious color palette. Natural colors in cool, soft tones, such as gray, white or shades of beige or blue, have the power to induce a sense of calm.

• Look for fundamental furniture with clean, simple lines and no excess ornamentation.

• Avoid strong direct light from the ceiling, which can inhibit relaxation, and combine soothing ambient light with the room’s natural light.

Don’t neglect the bed, adds Mayhew. Mattresses manufactured today marry comfort with advanced, eco-friendly technology, which lends to the overall zen vibe.

Source: The Saatva Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Still Spring Cleaning? Tips to Donate Excess

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

Has your spring cleaning produced an ever-growing pile of usable items? Donate them!

When donating non-cash items, it’s important to be mindful of your chosen charity’s specific needs. According to CharityNavigator.org, remember:

Ask First – Contact the charity first before delivering your donations. Let them know what you have to offer, so that they can decide if your items are needed.

Think Locally – It makes little sense for you (or the charity) to travel long distances to retrieve and haul items—some of which may not even be useful to the charity!

Consider Tax Implications – There are regulations behind deducting non-cash donations. Consult the CharityNavigator.org “Tips for Donors” page to learn more about these tax benefits.

Bear in mind that in many cases, a cash donation is preferable to a non-cash one, especially when responding to natural disasters. Monetary donations give charities the flexibility to spend on what they need, rather than forcing them to use items that may not be ideal.

To mutually benefit, hold a garage or yard sale to convert items to cash first, and then donate the money to the charity directly.

Visit CharityNavigator.org’s advanced search tool to find organizations by mission or close to home. Each charity’s profile page includes contact information, so you can follow up directly with the organization of your choosing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Pre-Summer Checks for a Well-Insulated Home

May 19, 2016 1:28 am

El Niño’s effect on the U.S. has been mild so far, but it is expected to bring above-average temperatures to many regions this summer—and homeowners should be prepared.

One of the simplest ways to beat the heat at home is with adequate insulation, says Patrick Pitrone, president of USA Insulation.

“Most people associate insulation with keeping things warm,” Pitrone says. “However, it is equally important when it comes to ensuring your family is cool and comfortable in the summer. We've helped customers save thousands of dollars in energy costs, making insulation one of the best investments you'll never see.”

Minimum insulation standards are not as effective as they could be, adds Pitrone. Homeowners should conduct checks in these areas before the heat wave sets in:

Attic – Confirm the insulation in your attic is at least 12 inches thick. Generally, there are 15-20 inches of insulation in a well-insulated home, Pitrone says.

Band Joist – This is the area where the basement ceiling meets the basement wall. Check to see if there is an open cavity or space—there shouldn't be!

Basement – It may not be the most fun to navigate your way through your basement crawl space, but it's important to inspect, says Pitrone.

Ductwork – Make sure there are no holes or areas of exposure in your duct system—this can leak 30 percent of the cool air generated by your A/C.

Walls – Remove a switch plate (or drill a small hole) to determine whether or not there is insulation in the walls. Remember that even if there is insulation, it may be insufficient.

Beyond these checks, consider contacting a professional to do a thorough insulation assessment. He or she can recommend best options for your home’s specific needs.

Source: USA Insulation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Prevent Electrical Fires

May 18, 2016 1:28 am

Did you know that approximately 50,000 home fires each year start from an electrical source?

That’s according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which estimates half of those fires involve cords, plugs or other electrical equipment.

To protect your loved ones and your property, the NFPA advises the following safeguards:

1. Hire a qualified electrician to complete any repairs or replacements to the electrical system in the home.

2. Purchase light bulbs with the same power (wattage) recommended by the manufacturer for fixtures throughout the home.

3. Run cords away from areas in which they can potentially be damaged, such as under doorways or rugs.

4. Consult appliance operator manuals to determine best practices for plugging and unplugging devices. Plug in just one heat-producing device into an outlet at any given time.

5. Insert outlet covers or install childproof outlets, if applicable. Consider, too, having a professional install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), which cut off electricity in hazardous circumstances.

Source: NFPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tool Tune-Up: 5 Tips for Property Maintenance

May 18, 2016 1:28 am

Can you hear it?

The outdoors are calling!

Get your property in tip-top shape for summer with a power tool tune-up, outlined below by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI):

1. Refresh your memory. Review the equipment manufacturer's guidelines, which likely have not been reviewed since last season. Re-familiarize yourself with operation and safe handling.

2. Inspect the equipment. Examine all brakes, cables and wheels for signs of damage. Make sure no safety features or guards have been disabled or removed. If you find anything concerning, take your equipment to a qualified service representative.

3. Replace the oil. Run the engine for a few minutes to warm up existing oil. Stop the engine, remove the drain plug and empty the old oil. Replace the plug and refill the engine with oil recommended by the manufacturer. Be sure to dispose of the old oil properly.

4. Check the fuel tank. Fuel left in the tank over the winter months must be drained. Fill with fresh fuel that contains 10 percent or less ethanol (“E10” or less), and dispose of the old fuel properly.

5. Clean the machine. Use a wire brush to scrape away any grass clippings or dirt, and replace the filter. Remember to always disconnect the spark plug before working around the underside of a mower.

“You want your outdoor power equipment to be ready when you need it,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the OPEI. “Doing some basic maintenance now will ensure that your equipment operates safely and helps get the job done.”

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A "Luxury" Laundry Room? It Can Be Done!

May 18, 2016 1:28 am

(Family Features)—“Luxury” and “laundry room” are two terms rarely found in the same sentence—until now. Laundry rooms are goin’ glam! Get in on the lackluster-to-luxe trend with these tips, fresh from the pros:

Luxe laundry rooms take location into account, so take time to assess your existing space. Could laundry be completed more efficiently if the room were elsewhere? Consider moving the washer and dryer to a walk-in closet, ideally in proximity to the bedrooms, to lend an upscale touch.

Sleek, top-of-the-line appliances scream “luxury,” but today’s models are much more affordable than predecessors. Seek out machines that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also high-functioning and high-powered, to achieve the luxe look for less.

Set a high-end tone with structure. Spring for durable concrete or quartz countertops atop a wash station, and install a reflective or stone backsplash—both coveted finishes—to reinforce the look.

Brighten up the space—and introduce an unexpected touch of luxury—with an elegant lighting fixture, such as a centerpiece chandelier or coordinating wall sconces.

Incorporate on-trend patterns, like chevron or ombré, in accessories—think curtains or baskets. Go for inexpensive fabrics and finishes that mimic the higher-end look, so that they can be updated effortlessly as fads come and go.

Source: Electrolux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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