Today's Top Real Estate News

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5 Reasons For Fall and Winter Solar Installations

September 23, 2019
The season for solar does not end with the summer. According Headline Solar, while many people assume solar panels are only effective on long, sun-filled summer days, installing a solar energy system in the fall and winter can save homeowners money. Jared McKenzie, CEO of Headline Solar, offers the following insights.

Improved Efficiency = More Power from Less Light
The quality of solar panels continues to improve exponentially, meaning they can generate more power with every hour of daylight. If the sun is out, even behind clouds, you're generating power. Germany has some of the highest usages of solar power on the planet, but they have long, dark winters. Solar panels produced there are top quality and American homeowners can benefit from that. Plus all electrical systems are more efficient in colder weather.

When Construction Season Slows, Prices Drop and Permitting Speeds Up
As long as there is no snow on the roof, a good installer can get a solar system in place. In fact, most workers prefer cooler temps compared to a rooftop in July. Because overall home construction slows in the winter, most municipalities are able to process permits faster in the winter as well. But the biggest benefit to homeowners is that most solar panel installers are less busy in the winter and willing to offer great deals.

Let It Snow...and Slide Right Off
If your home and attic are well insulated, snow stays on your roof. That's a good thing. But solar panels are not insulated and in fact generate some heat which means the snow slides right off. And that's a great thing. For overly-eager solar power producers, there are snow rakes and brooms with long extensions that can be used to clear off panels right away and the panels are plenty durable.

Be Clark Griswold and Let Your Lights Shine
Summer is certainly the peak electric-use season when air conditioners are running, but most homeowners still use a lot of power in the winter. Shorter days mean you've got the lights on longer. Colder weather means you're inside longer and just want to Netflix and Chill. And if you're that guy who cranks up the holiday lights from Thanksgiving to Valentine's Day, you can certainly cut your electric bill with solar panels in the winter."

Federal Solar Tax Credit End December 31.
This is absolutely the number one motivator for winter solar panel installation. The federal government will credit 30 percent of the cost of your solar installation but that offer expires this year. The installation doesn't need to be done by New Year's Day, but the contract needs to be signed and a 5 percent deposit needs to be paid. (Most homeowners finance the rest of the install cost.) This is often about $10,000 in savings, so it's a fantastic Christmas gift to give to yourself.

Source: Headline Solar

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Understanding the 5 Most Common Plumbing Problems

September 23, 2019
Plumbing problems can create a serious headache - and financial burden - for homeowners. However, it is possible to get ahead of them. "Prevention and detection is key when it comes to most plumbing issues," says Max Rose, owner of Four Seasons Plumbing. "The problem is, a lot of homeowners simply don't know what to look for, or how to guard against plumbing mishaps. That's why we've decided to offer advice based on our professional experience."

To help, Rose says there are five main plumbing concerns that arise:

Toilet backups: The best way to "fix" a clogged toilet is to prevent it from happening in the first place. A lot of items that most people consider flushable, like sanitary products, paper towels, and cat litter, are actually very harmful to your sewage system and can fairly easily cause a backup to occur. A good rule of thumb: Do a bit of research before attempting to flush anything that isn't toilet paper.

Frozen pipes: Depending on where you live, this may or may not be an issue, but even in the Southeast, temperatures almost always drop below freezing at least a couple of times each winter. The problem is in warmer areas. homeowners are less likely to prepare for those temperatures than residents who live further north, so frozen pipes are a pretty common issue. You might consider adding extra insulation to solve for this, or keep your heat turned on at all times. If you leave for a holiday trip and decide to turn off your heat, consider letting your faucets slowly drip while you're away.

Slow pipe leak: Slow pipe leaks are especially troublesome because they are difficult to detect, but have the potential to cause massive amounts of water damage to your home. The best way to detect a slow leak is to pay careful attention to your monthly water bill. If it seems to be slowly, steadily increasing, you should call a licensed plumber immediately and schedule an inspection.

Cracked water heater: If too much sediment builds up in your water heater, it becomes more likely to crack and leak. If your home seems to be running out of hot water at a faster rate than usual, you might have sediment buildup in your water heater. To fix this, try attaching a garden hose to the drain valve at the base of the unit, and run the other end of the hose outside. Slightly open a nearby hot water faucet in the home. Then open the drain valve and let all of the water drain out of your water heater. This should flush unwanted debris.

Malfunctioning sump pump: Sump pumps are especially important this time of year in the Southeast, since rainfall is typically heavier than normal during the autumn and winter months. If you have a basement that's prone to flooding during a heavy rainstorm, make sure to test your sump pump prior to inclement weather by pouring a large bucket of water into the basin. If the pump doesn't switch on and remove the water, contact a professional to inspect and repair the system.

Source: Four Seasons Plumbing

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Reverse Commuting Hacks

September 23, 2019
Many big corporations are joining the movement to relocate out of the city and into the ‘burbs. With more affordable rents allowing for bigger space, locations that are more accessible for many employees, and technology replacing in-person client meetings with virtual ones, it only makes sense for companies to hop on the suburban bandwagon.

But what if you’re a city dweller now confronted with commuting out of town for your job? An increasingly common scenario for those who prefer to live in an urban environment, even if their employer does not, here are few reverse commuting hacks to make an easier go of it:

Weigh the costs. Look into the costs of commuter trains and buses versus the parking costs of keeping a car in the city. If you live in a neighborhood where street parking is accessible and you don’t have to rely on a pricey garage, then that might be the route for you. Or if you’re in the market for an apartment or condo, find one that has monthly parking on the premises.

Car pool. If you choose to drive, find a car pool, either within your company or with others working in the same suburban city. Companies that relocate to a suburban location are usually not alone, so there’s a good chance you’ll find others to commute with.

Get productive. If you do choose to use public transportation, the good news is, you’ll be dealing with much smaller crowds, which will likely mean a guaranteed spot and room to work. Use your commute time to get busy work done, such as responding to emails or working on a presentation. You’ll already be ahead for the day once you get to the office.

Take care of phone calls. While you wouldn’t want to handle a stressful client call or presentation while commuting, it could be the ideal time for a quick meet-up with your staff or boss. Or, perhaps it’s just an excellent time to catch up with a friend or your mom. Less crowded public transportation and roadways will allow you to freely converse.

Binge watch or read. When you’re commuting, you don’t have to wait for the couch to start unwinding. If you’re on the train or bus, pop in your headphones and catch up on your favorite series. If you’re in the car, listen to an audiobook or podcast. 

These ideas will take some of the stress out of your reverse commute and may even add a little pleasure and purpose to those moments of your day!

Published with permission from RISMedia.

New Parents: Tips for Baby Safety

September 20, 2019
For all parents, keeping your children safe is always top-of-mind. But for new parents with their first child, the untraversed terrain of childcare can feel rife with safety concerns. To help, Happiest Baby offers the following safety tips.

- Don't share a bed with your infant. More than 3,500 babies in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly every year while sleeping, among those who die before the end of their 3rd month, 70 percent die in bed with their parents.

- Careful where you put your baby to sleep!  No's include living room furniture, inclined rockers, car seats and swings. New statistics say room-sharing can lower the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent. It's easier to keep an eye on your baby, comfort, and feed him.

- Lose the loose blankets, bumper pads, quilts, pillows and toys. Bulky bedding is a very real suffocation risk.

- Babies should rest/sleep on their backs.  About 50 percent of babies who die in their sleep are on the stomach at the time of death.  Until at least 6 months, babies should only sleep on the back – for naps and at night. We know babies who sleep on their stomachs are 3-4 times more likely to die.  Some parents worry that babies will choke when on their backs, but that's almost unheard of. That's because the baby's airway anatomy and a simple turn of the head prevent that from happening.

- Snugly swaddle baby so that they cannot turn over! Some babies calm immediately with swaddling, but many resist and may actually cry louder initially. But remember, most doctors warn to stop swaddling once the baby is beginning to roll over, usually at 2-3 months of age.

Source: Happiest Baby

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Steps to Better Sleep for Peak Sports Performance

September 20, 2019
(Family Features)--While plenty of attention goes into developing skills and talent, other important components that affect an athlete's performance can be overlooked.

Considering the demands of an athlete's training and game schedule, getting adequate sleep is often an afterthought.

However, a lack of sleep can significantly affect athletes' performance both on and off the field.

Sleep quality, efficiency and duration all may decrease just before competition, limiting opportunities for athletes to get the optimal quality and quantity of sleep their bodies need due to intense practice and game schedules, according to research published in "Sports Medicine." 

The same research found sleep can affect several aspects of an athlete's performance. Skills that require endurance tend to be more affected by sleep deprivation than short-term, high-power activities. Running speed and free throw accuracy improve with more sleep, for example. There is also evidence that getting inadequate sleep increases the risk of injury as sleep deprivation can cause low energy and problems with focus during the game. It may also negatively affect split-second decision-making.  

Less sleep also means fewer opportunities for natural secretion of the growth hormones that occur in deep sleep and aide restoration, physical performance and a healthy metabolism.

Athletes can maximize their performance, recovery and overall health with these tips from Mattress Firm's sleep health expert, Dr. Sujay Kansagra:

- Ensure you are getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Athletes may need additional sleep due to strenuous daytime activity.

- Keep your wake time and bedtime similar, regardless of your training schedule. Don't wake up early to practice one day and sleep in the next. Try to keep it consistent.

- If you have trouble falling asleep, avoid workouts late in the evening just before bed.

- For competitive sports teams that travel across time zones, it's important to try to adjust your circadian rhythm based on the time you will be playing in the new time zone. The goal is to time the game to when circadian rhythm and alertness are at their peaks, in the late morning and late afternoon or evening.

- As the body works to repair itself during sleep, creating muscle tissue and releasing important hormones, sleeping on the proper mattress can provide support that aids in reducing aches and pains.  

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Bring New Life (and Comfort) to Your Balcony

September 20, 2019
For condo and apartment dwellers, one of the most important areas of home decor happens once you step the balcony!

Not only can a balcony be an important selling feature when it comes time to list your property, it’s a great extension of your living space, offering urban dwellers access to the outdoors, natural light and fresh air. Here are some great suggestions to step up the style factor of your balcony, no matter how tiny it may be.

- Always have a table and chairs. Don’t think that your balcony is too small for seating. A small, foldable cafe table and two chairs is just enough for morning coffee or a casual meal al fresco, even on the most diminutive balcony.

- Consider built-in bench seating. A clever, L-shaped banquette or bench on your balcony will allow you to add seating and maximize space. Plus, you’ll never have to worry about high winds blowing your furniture away.

- Add plants and herbs. Fill your balcony with an assortment of potted plants, flowering shrubs and herbs to create the feel of a backyard, nurture your green thumb, and add a secluded feel. 

- Choose an outdoor rug. Add color, warmth and style with the addition of an outdoor rug. The rug can play off of your indoor decor scheme to add continuity and help expand your interior space.

- Hang or mount a light. The right lighting will add ambience and allow you to utilize your balcony far into the evening hours. Consider wall sconces or stylish hanging pendant lamps. For a more casual, fun look, string lights will do the trick.

- Go for comfort. Just because your balcony is small, doesn’t mean it can’t be an exceedingly comfortable nook. Consider floor pillows, a hanging chair, even a hammock. Have a warm throw at the ready for stargazing or watching the sunrise.

- Add privacy. If your balcony abuts your neighbor’s place, then a little privacy may be in order. Consider installing a rolling shade made from a weather-proof material or plant a short evergreen border, such as bamboo, boxwood or pine.

By putting these ideas into action, not only will your balcony look magazine-ready, you’ll actually use it more and enjoy more time outside in this special, personalized oasis you’ve created.

Source: Architectural Digest

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Pet Health Tips for an On-the-Go Lifestyle

September 19, 2019
(Family Features)--People who lead busy lives often seek convenient and healthy choices when it comes to taking care of their own well-being. For pet parents, a little creativity can make it easy to deliver the same level of care for their beloved pets, even when the pace of life accelerates.

Pet obesity is at an all-time high and pet owners need easy and accessible ways to keep their furry friends healthy, whether they're on the go with their pets or inside on a busy day trying to keep up with dogs' and cats' regular routines. These tips from the experts at Petcurean can help you maximize your schedule for better pet care:

Multi-task with your four-legged friend in tow. If you live in a walkable city, take your pet with you while running errands. Pets are welcome at an increasing number of locations, so plan your jaunt accordingly. If your community is more suitable for driving, you can still consider inviting your dog or "adventure cat" to tag along; the fresh air, change of scenery and companionship can do you both some good. 

Make time for time. Your attention is among your pet's chief needs, so find ways to ensure those cravings for affection and attention get met. It may mean allowing your pup to rest next to you while you tap away on a keyboard or letting your cat perch on the counter while you apply your morning makeup. The key is making sure you work some quality time together into every day. 

Find simple feeding options. For humans, a busy day may mean a meal gets pushed back or even missed altogether, but you can curb hunger with a quick snack. Pets thrive on routines and schedules and rely on their owners to take care of meal planning, so finding ways to keep their meals on track is extra important.

Partner with another pet lover. You probably won't have to look hard to find a friend or neighbor who shares your struggles making time to get your pup the exercise and attention he or she craves. Enlist a dog or cat exercise buddy so you can make arrangements to take turns walking and playing with each other's pets along with your own.

Get creative to inspire more activity. Indoor cats can be difficult to exercise and provide enough stimulation. However, easy entertainment isn't hard to find. Next time you're at the grocery store, grab a bunch of empty boxes and make your own playground. Place some boxes upright and some on their sides, and toss some catnip and favorite toys in the boxes so your cat can exercise and stay entertained jumping in and out for hours.

Source: Petcurean

Published with permission from RISMedia.

School-Year Safety Tips

September 19, 2019
While we encourage our kids to pay attention, study hard and make friends at school, we may neglect to properly guide them on how to stay safe each day. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following primer on some of the common safety issues children encounter during the school year, and how we can advise them to be careful.

Distracted walking. While distracted driving has become a term we’re all familiar with, distracted walking is also a real concern. For the five-year period from 2014-2018, there were an estimated 6,500 ER-treated injuries associated with walking-while-texting. Remind kids to keep their heads up and avoid texting or talking on the phone while walking, especially near traffic and cross walks.

Bicycles: From fractures to contusions and lacerations, there were an estimated annual average of 154,200 ER-treated bicycle injuries from 2016 to 2018, for children under the age of 16 years old. Insist that children who are biking, skateboarding or riding a scooter to school wear a helmet.

Playgrounds: Each year there are more than 230,000 injuries associated with playgrounds.  Have children leave necklaces and clothing with drawstrings at home to reduce choking hazards.

Backpacks: From 2016-2018 there were an estimated annual average of 7,400 kids under 19 years old who were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks. If your child is complaining about back pain, make sure their backpack isn’t too heavy and discuss ways they can lighten the load, such as online textbooks.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.

10 Secrets of the Millionaire Next Door

September 19, 2019
We’ve all heard the stories: the hotel maid or shoemaker who put three kids through college - or died and left a fortune to charity. Where did the money come from? 

While $1 million may not buy what it once did, the goal is reachable, suggest the editors at Kiplinger, the personal finance magazine, who offer 10 secrets about “the millionaire next door” that could determine whether you can someday be one of them:

Most millionaires are self-made. They weren’t born into money, but worked hard and smart to become millionaires.

Most millionaires don’t have advanced degrees. Some 74 percent have an undergraduate degree, but only 18 percent have a Master’s, while only eight percent have a law degree and six percent became physicians.
However, those with advanced degrees earn more than those with undergrad degrees and undergrads earn more than those with a high school diploma.

Millionaires are smart savers. They know that, thanks to the magic of compounding, a 20-year old who begins saving $200 per month will be worth more than $1 million at retirement. 

Most millionaires have limited knowledge about investing. They take professional advice and they do invest, but 78 percent say they still have a lot to learn about investing.

There are more millionaires in America now than in 2006. There are 7.7 million U.S. households with more than $1 million in investable assets today than there were before the Great Recession. That’s because as stocks recovered, so did their portfolios.

Millionaires hail from across the job spectrum. No matter where you work or how much you work, the key to millionaire status is saving, millionaires agree.

Making millionaire status costs more as you age. The longer you wait to start saving, the less money you will amass. A 45-year old would need to save $20,400 a year to hit $1 million by age 65.

A majority of today’s millionaires live in Silicon Valley. Although topping the list of small cities with a lot of millionaires is the resort town of Summit Park, Utah.

Millionaires still worry about retirement. That’s why they continue to save and invest.

Money doesn’t buy happiness. A Princeton University study confirmed most people are happier as they earn more, but that levels off. Someone making $300,000 a year is not necessarily happier about his or her life than someone making $75,000.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Help Safeguard Your Family's Finances

September 18, 2019
(Family Features)--Every year, millions of American workers enroll in employee benefits through their workplaces during a period known as annual enrollment. It's usually a short window of time, but employees make crucial financial decisions for their families for the coming year. 

In addition to medical insurance, many employers offer a range of voluntary benefits - those you select and pay for yourself, often by having the cost deducted directly from your paycheck. These voluntary benefits can help bridge the gap between what health insurance covers and what you're financially responsible for, especially as more employees opt for high-deductible health insurance plans.

In fact, according to a poll of 1,512 full-time U.S. workers conducted by employee benefits company Unum, 49 percent of working adults plan on enrolling in a high-deductible health plan for the coming benefit year, with Millennials (58 percent) and Gen Z'ers (54 percent) at even higher rates. 

"While high-deductible health plans offer lower monthly payments, that can mean more financial responsibility for policyholders when they need to use the benefit," says personal finance expert Laura Adams. "Combining a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account can offset out-of-pocket costs, but it's also a good idea to consider voluntary benefits like disability, accident and hospital insurance to further financially protect your family."

If an accident, illness or injury prevents you from working, disability insurance replaces a portion of your income. While it may seem unlikely to many they would ever experience a disability, it's more common than some realize. Based on 2019 information from the Social Security Administration, more than 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67. 

Accident and hospital insurance can pay a lump sum directly to you to offset out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care often not covered by health insurance. 

- Accident insurance can provide financial benefits for urgent care and emergency room visits, ambulance and other transportation to the hospital, initial care and surgery, hospital stays and lodging expenses related to an accident and even follow-up care such as doctor's visits and physical therapy.  

- Hospital insurance can pay a benefit directly to you when you are admitted to the hospital. This could include immediate medical costs and travel expenses or to help cover other bills.

Voluntary benefits, policies and details vary, so it's essential to review your options and discuss with your family before your benefits enrollment begins.

"Investing a little additional time on the front end can help reduce your family's financial risk down the road," Adams says.

Source: Unum

Published with permission from RISMedia.