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TOP-BANNER-NL-SEPTEMBER-2015Article-1

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By Suzanne De Vita
Near or far, there’s no shortage of challenges when it comes to moving. Between organizing an entire household, changing addresses and vetting out movers, relocating to a new home can be more hectic than happy. And the biggest stressor of all? Packing.

To help alleviate some of that stress, we’ve compiled a list of clever shortcuts that will ease the burden of packing before (and unpacking after) a move.

  1. Find Freebies – Forget buying boxes. Pick up free ones through Freecycle.org or the “free stuff” section on Craigslist, both of which list items by location. If you can, seek out boxes of varying sizes. And skip the supermarket cartons-they may contain food residue.
  2. Pack to Unpack – The hardest part about packing is figuring out where to start. When boxing up your belongings, start in the kitchen, which typically houses the most items that are not everyday essentials. When you arrive at your new home, unpack your bedroom first, and leave the kitchen for last.
  3. Color-Code – Besides being time-consuming, labeling a box with its contents can give thieves the upper hand as you settle in. To save time and stay safe, assign each room a color and use coordinating colored duct tape. Stick a piece of tape on both the top and sides of boxes so that they can be easily identified when stacked or apart.
  4. Bag It – Don’t waste time un-hanging (and re-hanging) closet garments. Group a few hanging clothes together with a zip tie, slide a black garbage bag over them, and make a hole in the top of the bag for hanger hooks. To “unpack,” simply remove the bag and tie.
  5. Cover Up – Save yourself a step-and a few extra bucks-by forgoing the mattress cover sold by your mover. Instead, place the fitted sheet you use regularly on your mattress, then cover both sides of the mattress with two older fitted sheets you no longer use.
  6. Wrap It – Instead of emptying out the drawers of small-scale furniture, like end tables or corner desks, wrap heavy-duty plastic wrap around the piece of furniture, from top-to-bottom and side-to-side. This will seal the drawers in place and prevent spillage on moving day, and save you hours worth of unpacking time.
  7. Tape Under – If certain furniture pieces require disassembly before moving, keep all of the parts together to save time when re-assembling. Place all bolts, screws and small pieces in a Ziploc bag, and tape the bag with clear packing tape to the bottom of the piece.
  8. Fill Space – Damage on moving day is often caused by items shifting on route. To make certain your household items stay secure, use socks to fill in ‘dead air’ space, especially in and around breakables like glassware. If you want to save even more time, use t-shirts to wrap larger items.
  9. Even It Out – If you’re using a moving truck, even out the weight when loading furniture and appliances to help prevent damage. To make your move as smooth as possible, place the refrigerator in the front right section of the truck and the washer and dryer opposite, front left.
  10. Be Secure – No matter how many precautions you take, there’s no fighting gravity. When loading your plastic-wrapped furniture, place the side with drawers against the wall of the truck to prevent them from opening. If your mover provides them, use tie-downs on the side walls for added security.

This post was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Check the blog daily for winning real estate tips and trends for you and your clients.

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

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By Barbara Pronin

Summer’s coming to an end, and if your bank account’s depleted after vacation spending, consumer bloggers at the Huffington Post offer seven ideas for socking away some money in the weeks before Labor Day when back-to-school expenses pile up.

  • Lower your cooling costs – Fans cost less to operate than air conditioning. Raise your thermostat by four degrees and you will likely feel no reduction in comfort if you turn on a fan in the room you’re in. Also, replace or clean dirty filters in your air conditioning system and grill outdoors instead of turning on the oven in the last days of summer heat.
  • Freeze your gym membership – if you’re not using it because you are exercising outdoors, putting your gym membership on hold can extend your membership term, avoiding early termination fees and saving a few bucks now and in the long run.
  • Get freebies from the library – When kids complain about having nothing to do, make a trip to the library. Check out books and movies for free and take advantage of free programs like craft workshops and story times.
  • Cut food costs with seasonal produce – Produce is abundant, and usually cheap, as summer winds to a close. Serve more salads, fruit and veggies now and save a bit on hefty meat costs.
  • Get a rewards credit card – If you are going to do some back-to-school shopping, book holiday travel or take a trip before Labor Day, take some of the sting out of that extra spending by using a credit card with cash rewards. Cash back cards let you earn back a percentage – typically between one or two percent and up to five percent on certain purchases.
  • Take advantage of sales-tax holidays – Seventeen states have back-to-school sales tax holidays in August, offering consumers an opportunity to avoid sales tax on clothing, footwear and school supplies. Take advantage of them if you can.
  • Snag summer clothing on clearance – Shop before Labor Day for the best selection. Much of what’s on sale now at savings of 50 percent or more can be worn well into the autumn months, especially if you layer the pieces.

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

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Most homeowners who own a home with a fireplace don’t need professional help to build a fire. Maintaining the fireplace and chimney, however, is best left to the experts, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). If you’ve forgone an annual chimney inspection, consider these famous “last words” by do-it-yourself chimney sweeps.

“I’ve swept my own chimney for 25 years and we’ve been fine.”

Many homeowners don’t realize that a very thin, combustible layer of glazed creosote can build up over time. A qualified professional, such as those certified by the CSIA, has the knowledge to identify and the tools needed to remove this dangerous byproduct.

“That crack has been there for years! It’ll be okay.”

When a flue liner is cracked, these cracks open during the heating phase and may allow heat to be transferred to vulnerable chimney walls. One of the important functions of the flue lining is to serve as an insulator between the hot flue gases and the chimney wall.

“I heat with gas. I don’t need to have my chimney swept.”

Qualified professionals do so much more than simply run a brush up the flue. A CSIA-certified chimney sweep will identify and help address operational inefficiencies, installation or venting issues and provide needed maintenance.

“If I start a chimney fire, I’ll burn out all of the creosote.”

Chimney fires are no casual manner. Chimney fires can melt mortar, crack tiles, cause liners to collapse and damage the outer masonry material. Most often, tiles crack and mortar is displaced, which provides a pathway for flames to reach the wood frame of the house. One chimney fire may not harm a home, but a second can burn it down.

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

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By Keith Loria

While it’s widely known that being present during a home showing can do more harm than good when it comes to getting your home sold quickly and for top dollar, many sellers are often unaware that there may be other ways they’re hurting their chances of unloading their home.

Here are five things sellers should avoid if they want to attract prospective buyers, rather than scare them away.

  1. Letting your pet roam free. You may have the most gentle pet in the world, but that doesn’t mean prospective buyers want your pet jumping on them or following them around when they come to view your home. Some people simply don’t like animals and just seeing a dog, cat or rabbit may drive them away before they’ve had the chance to give your home a proper once over. If you have a showing scheduled, do yourself a favor and take your pet to a friend’s house and be sure to remove any of its toys and food before visitors arrive.
  2. Hanging wallpaper. You might want to jazz up a room with a cool design or color by incorporating wallpaper, but industry analysis shows that an increasing amount of people see wallpaper as a turnoff. If you already have wallpaper in your home, you may want to consider taking it down and replacing it with paint.
  3. Transforming your garage. In today’s day and age, it’s important to let your garage function as an actual garage. While turning your garage into an office or yoga studio may have been great for you, many prospective buyers are looking for a garage where they can park their car(s) and maybe even set up a workspace with their tools and lawn equipment. In addition, the garage is typically seen as a great space to store extraneous items, and if your home doesn’t offer the luxury of additional storage space, it could be seen as a negative.
  4. Bold paint colors. While your friends may love your deep gold accent wall in the dining room or your aqua blue bedroom, color is one of those things that everyone has an opinion about. And having something too bright or too different may turn a prospective buyer off. Paint the home in neutral colors-especially the bedroom and living room-and let the rooms speak for themselves.
  5. Personal items and wall-to-wall pictures. When prospective buyers come to see your home, you want them to be able to imagine themselves living in the space, and more often than not, an overabundance of personal items will keep them from being able to do this. If your home is on the market, pack these items away and try to make the home as depersonalized as possible.

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

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With interest rates still hovering at historic lows and the economy and job picture improving across the nation, many property owners are eyeing home equity loans to underwrite a variety of products and purchases. So we’re tapping the folks at Take Charge America, a nonprofit financial planning and resource site (takechargeamerica.org) for some common-sense, home equity do’s and don’ts:

  • DON’T use home equity to purchase unnecessary luxuries.
  • DO use home equity for improvements or additions that add value to your home. It may also be appropriate to use home equity to purchase income-producing property or an investment that’s expected to generate a higher return than the cost of the loan.
  • DON’T tap home equity if you plan to sell in the near future.
  • DO consider home equity to cover expenses from unexpected events. If you do not have emergency savings, your home equity can provide financial relief related to unexpected events, such as an injury preventing you from working.
  • DON’T take out excessive equity. Since a home equity loan or line of credit decreases the amount of equity you have in your home, if you have taken out too much equity and the real estate market drops, you can end up losing all the equity in your home. Further, if you have negative equity, the lender may demand immediate payment of the loan.
  • DO consider home equity for use in retirement. Retired homeowners who have paid off their mortgage can sell their home and cash out the equity by downsizing. Further, homeowners 62 and older have the option of reverse mortgages, which basically means the bank will give your equity back to you while you’re still living in it. The homeowner does not need to repay the mortgage for as long as he/she lives in that house.

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

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