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TOP-BANNER-NL-JANUARY-2016

Article-1Learn all about what’s happening in your area – or the area you’re thinking about moving to with these short and straight to the point Market Watch Videos on our YouTube Channel.

Want more detailed reports? Visit our Relocation Tools page to see market stats, use our area guide and map narrow your search.

You can also visit our new Hotline News section of our blog to view the detailed market statistics and our monthly Hotline News features. All the local, useful information that you’ve been looking for is now available at your fingertips!

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(Family Features) -Year after year, winter proves to be a challenging season, especially when it takes its toll on your home and surrounding property. This year, prepare for the inevitable with these tips:

Clear gutters and repair roof leaks to avoid clogging from snow. Don’t put cleaning your gutters off until the weather conditions are too unbearable. It is important to clear out your gutters and repair your roof to help avoid major damage from snow and ice.

Check out your heating system and replace furnace filters as the temperature drops. You don’t want to realize your heater doesn’t work and that you’re without a warm living space as colder weather sets in.

Check your windows and doors for cracks, leaks or drafts and repair them as soon as possible. This improves efficiency within your home and keeps you warm from the cold air and wind. Install a door draft insulator to help prevent air leakage.

Drain and turn off your sprinkler system. This may seem like a no brainer, but many people don’t remember to complete this task. Drain and turn off your sprinkler system, as well as your hoses, to prevent freezing and other problems.

Insulate your pipes by wrapping them in insulation or newspapers and plastic. Doing so will lower the chance of frozen pipes later on. Keep the faucets dripping water so that water is always flowing through the pipes, rather than standing still.

Invest in a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide-related deaths are at their peak during the winter months, so protect yourself from this harmful gas by installing carbon monoxide detectors in every sleeping area and on every level within your home.

Keep a winter emergency kit in your home. Include water, blankets, a battery-powered flashlight, a battery-powered radio, emergency flares, energy bars, a pocket knife, rope, jumper cables, a lighter, rock salt and sand in the kit.

Rock salt or sand your walkways, driveways and other pathways to improve traction and melt snow and ice. Rock salt melts ice when the temperature is about 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Sand does not melt ice, but improves traction during dangerous conditions. You may consider adding both to your driveway and walkways to ensure optimal safety.

Source: Snow Joe

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia.©2015. All rights reserved.

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A: According to the Millennial Housing Commission created by Congress, few lenders are willing to administer home improvement loans. Most prefer to make home equity loans or unsecured consumer loans because they are easier to manage. Home improvement loans usually require inspections and irregular draws on the loan amount as work is completed, which forces regional or national lenders to find local partners to provide oversight.

Financing repairs and improvements with home equity is okay for most homeowners, but it difficult for many first-time buyers. They have lower-incomes, smaller savings, and have made lower down payments on their homes than first-time buyers a decade ago. So they have little equity to borrow against. Unfortunately, it is often lower cost older homes purchased by first-time buyers that need the most work.

Unless you have a cash reserve, you will have to shop around for the best borrowing terms. In addition to the options listed above, you can ask relatives for a loan. Borrow against your whole life insurance policy. Refinance your existing mortgage. Get a second mortgage. Contact the government about home improvement programs. And – only as a last resort – borrow from a finance agency, which generally tend to charge higher rates.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia.©2015. All rights reserved.

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(BPT) – The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it’[s also home to a lot of clutter. Resolve to bring order to your kitchen once and for all with these tips, courtesy of the experts at Moen.

You don’t need a large pantry or countless cupboards and drawers to find the perfect spot for all your stuff. If you have blank space on the walls, consider adding a few open shelves. They provide plenty of storage while keeping everyday dishes and staples, like the coffee canister or cookie jar, within easy reach.

The biggest pain point for homeowners is a lack of counter space. Instead of adding to the chaos, designate a specific “drop zone” for items that find their way into the kitchen each day, like mail, paperwork or electronics.

Extend the “everything in its place” mentality to another kitchen staple: the dishtowel. Instead of leaving it in a damp heap on the counter, install a towel bar, towel ring or hook to the side of a cabinet or island to create a spot for it to hang. Not only will it free up space, but like in the bathroom or powder room, you’ll always know where to look for it when you need it.

If you have a pantry, go beyond simple shelves to make this area work better-and smarter-for you. Pullout baskets and shallow drawers will ensure your pantry offers a proper place for everything. Curved cradles can turn an ordinary shelf into a beverage storage center, allowing you to store wine, water or soda bottles on their sides. And instead of wasting the space on the back of the door, install a slim, vertical storage system to provide a spot for plastic wrap, aluminum foil and other awkward-sized kitchen must-haves.
Reprinted with permission from RISMedia.©2015. All rights reserved.

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It’s the holiday season, and if you are one of the many families who will be hosting friends and family for a few days, your aim should be making them feel welcome and comfortable and cut down on stressful situations.

Take a few simple tips from hotel managers to help you achieve the goal:

Give them a key and a cheat sheet – Giving guests a key enables them to come and go without disturbing you – and leave a little cheat sheet on the night table containing such things as alarm codes, emergency contact numbers, your Wi-Fi password, instructions or information about your pets.

Think like a hotel housekeeper – leave an extra pillow or two and an extra blanket in the guestroom – and be sure a supply of towels is within easy reach.

Add fresh flowers and other thoughtful touches – A small bunch of flowers in a vase on the night table goes a long way to make guests feel welcome. Add a magazine or two and a carafe of water and a couple of glasses.

Prepare a basket of toiletries – Outfit the bathroom with travel-size tubes of hand cream and toothpaste, body lotion and shampoo – perhaps even an extra toothbrush or comb. Guests may not need them, but your caring effort will be noticed.

Think about a luggage rack – They are available online for as little as $15, and having one in the guest room will help your guests stay neat and organized.

Ask ahead about allergies or diet restrictions – An email or phone call a few days before the visit will prepare you to meet guests’ food preferences, diet restrictions or other needs.

Keep a basket of snacks in the kitchen – Guests may feel awkward snooping about your kitchen for a snack. Keep a basket of power bars, fresh fruit, small packets of nuts, dried fruit or cookies on the kitchen counter.

Include guests in meal prep or household chores – Most guests will ask how they can help – and they mean it. Enlisting them to chop veggies, set the table, or help clear it will make them feel more at home.

Work out a bathroom routine – If bathroom space is limited, working out a morning or evening routine will make everyone feel more comfortable.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia.©2015. All rights reserved.

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To ring in the New Year with a measure of fiscal confidence, it’s a good idea to review where you stand at year’s end and resolve to do whatever it takes to improve your financial status by the end of next year. Consumer finance consultant Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, suggests taking these five steps before you ring out this year:

Review your spending patterns – With credit card statements in front of you, take a good, hard look at your expense patterns over the course of the year. Too many dinners out? Too much impulse spending? Resolve to do a better job of reining in expenses next year.

Know your net worth – Add up what you own (home, car, savings, investments, etc.) and subtract what you owe (mortgage, loans, etc.) Use the number as a personal framework for making financial decisions going forward.

Rethink credit card usage – If your credit cards are causing you to spend too freely, or spend more than you would without them, put them in the very back of your wallet and resolve to cut back on your use of them.

Create an emergency fund- If you haven’t already, start building a fund that will cover 3-6 months’ worth of essential living expenses in the event you lose your job or cannot work. Try paying into that fund first each month, before you pay your other bills.

Be sure you’re on track for retirement – Re-commit to making retirement savings a priority in your financial plan. Do the math, or check with a financial planner, so you know how much you should be putting away in your IRA, 401(k) or other business retirement plan each month, and make adjustments as needed.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia.©2015. All rights reserved.

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