Real Estate News

    • 10 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids

      8 July 2020

      If you were like most kids, you probably dreaded eating fruits and vegetables during your childhood. But now that you’re a parent who understands the importance of healthy food for a child’s well-being, you might find yourself struggling to talk your young kids into doing exactly what you once refused to do.

      Pretty ironic, right?

      To help you overcome this common challenge, ChooseMyPlate.gov suggests encouraging your children to eat fruits and veggies by trying to make it fun. Depending on their age and abilities, your kids may even be able to prepare their own healthy creations, making it all the more enjoyable for them.

      ChooseMyPlate.gov offers these 10 kid-friendly ideas for fruits and vegetables:

      Delicious Dippers. Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip.

      Smoothie Creations. Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen, canned and even overripe fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches and/or pineapple. If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice!

      Caterpillar Kabobs. Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers or tomatoes.

      Personalized Pizzas. Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread as the crust. Get tomato sauce and low-fat cheese, and cut up vegetables or fruits for toppings. Let kids choose their own favorites. Then pop the pizzas into the oven to warm.

      Fruity Peanut Butterfly. Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter, and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.

      Frosty Fruits. Frozen treats are bound to be popular in the warm months. Just put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer (rinse first). Make “popsicles” by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.

      Bugs on a Log. Use celery, cucumber or carrot sticks as the log, and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or cherries, depending on which type of “bugs” your children want.

      Homemade Trail Mix. Skip the pre-made trail mix and make your own. Use your favorite nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots or raisins. Add whole-grain cereals to the mix, too.

      Potato Person. Decorate half a baked potato. Use sliced cherry tomatoes, peas and low-fat cheese on the potato to make a funny face.

      Put Kids in Charge. Ask your children to name new veggie or fruit creations. Let them arrange raw veggies or fruits into a fun shape or design.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Save Up for a Down Payment

      8 July 2020

      Saving up for a down payment is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring first-time homebuyers. A typical down payment can range from 5 to 20 percent of a home’s purchase price–that’s no small chunk of change. Although it might seem overwhelming to rack up thousands of dollars, practicing some discipline and using the right tactics can help you pull it off, making it possible for you to go from renter to proud homeowner.

      To help you save for a down payment, consider these tips from the American Bankers Association:

      Develop a Budget and Timeline. Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month–that’ll help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

      Establish a Separate Savings Account. Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment, and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash.

      Shop Around to Reduce Major Monthly Expenses. It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, cable, internet and cellphone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

      Monitor Your Spending. With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

      Look Into State and Local Home-Buying Programs. Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.

      Celebrate Savings Milestones. Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This’ll help you stay motivated throughout the process.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Preventing Dust Buildup in Your Household Appliances

      8 July 2020

      Have you ever turned on one of your household appliances that hasn’t been used in a while and watched dust fly out of it? That’s a clear sign it's time to bring out the dusters and blow some clean air through your home to eliminate dust buildup and tiny debris particles like pet dander.

      Keeping your household appliances clean isn’t that hard when you follow a few basic steps:

      Clean Your Home Routinely
      Running a dust mop and wiping the smooth surfaces on your furniture can help get rid of accumulated dust in your home. Be sure to shake the dust mop before and after each use. If the dust head is washable, launder it every month or so. Vacuum your carpets and rugs every week to remove dirt, sand and tiny particles that have inadvertently been carried into your home. A thorough mopping of every non-carpeted floor will help remove dust and debris from those areas as well. Avoiding dust buildup in the house in the first place will help keep it from accumulating in your harder-to-clean appliances like air conditioners and laundry machines.

      Keep Dust Away From Appliances
      Family members who work in dust-related jobs like road repair, construction or lumber should be sure to change their clothes and shoes as soon as they get home and before using any appliances. Someone wearing dust-covered work clothes while using the microwave with a kitchen fan running or a breeze blowing through the window can spread dust into tiny crevices of home appliances. Removing dirty shoes at the door is also a good idea. When cleaning your chimney or drapes, think about covering nearby appliances or shielding the work area to prevent dust from settling.

      Routinely Clean Your Appliances
      As you notice dust building up in or near your appliances, remember to wipe them down periodically to remove even fine dust debris. This will help prevent buildup on the surfaces of appliances that you don’t use that often. You might be able to buy covers for toasters, blenders and other appliances to protect them from dust accumulation. Refrigerator coils can be vacuumed occasionally, but refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines.

      Have Your Air Conditioning Serviced
      Air conditioning service should be performed regularly to ensure the equipment is working effectively without parts at risk of breaking anytime soon. As your AC controls the flow of air through your house, its filters must be changed regularly as well to avoid dust buildup that can then taint the airflow. Also, remember that an AC technician can provide maintenance to clean the unit and keep it working properly.

      Taking care of your home and household appliances can control the buildup of dust that often contributes to health issues. Follow these steps to keep your appliances dust-free and your house comfortable and sanitary to live in!

      Source: Brooke Chaplan/RISMedia's Housecall

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • A Home Equity Loan Could Affect Private Mortgage Insurance Requirements

      7 July 2020

      Homeowners often use their equity as a resource when they need to finance home improvements, a child’s college education or another major expense. Before you tap into your home equity, consider the possible effect on your private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements.

      What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?
      If a homebuyer puts down less than 20 percent of the purchase price, a lender considers the loan risky. Most conventional lenders therefore require a borrower who puts down less than 20 percent to obtain PMI so the lender will be compensated if the borrower defaults on the loan. A borrower must continue to pay the premiums until reaching 20 percent equity.

      How Can Borrowing Against Home Equity Affect PMI?
      Premiums for PMI are based on your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. If you currently have less than 20 percent equity and pay for PMI, you may be able to obtain a home equity loan, but that’ll increase your LTV ratio and, thus, your PMI premiums.

      If you take out a home equity loan before you reach 20 percent equity, you may reach that goal much later than you would’ve without the home equity loan, and you’ll have to continue to pay for PMI in the meantime. Depending on the amount you’re currently paying for PMI, the amount you’d pay for PMI after taking out a home equity loan, and the interest rates on your mortgage and home equity loan, the additional cost might not make a home equity loan a good idea.

      If you have more than 20 percent equity now, you aren’t paying for PMI. If you take out a home equity loan that causes your LTV ratio to rise above 80 percent, however, your home equity lender and your primary mortgage lender may both require you to purchase PMI.

      Should You Take out a Home Equity Loan?
      A home equity loan can be a useful tool to pay for large expenses, but you should think things over carefully. If you’re currently paying for PMI, a home equity loan could raise your PMI premiums substantially, and you could be on the hook for PMI payments for a much longer period of time than you would if you didn’t tap into your home equity. If you’ve been working for years to pay down your mortgage and the combination of your existing mortgage and a new home equity loan would cause your equity to fall below 20 percent, you could have to deal with the additional expense of PMI, on top of mortgage and home equity loan payments.

      Talk to your lender about your current LTV ratio and how a home equity loan would affect your PMI obligations. If your monthly costs would rise significantly, you might be better off postponing a large purchase or exploring other financing options.

      This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 3 Overlooked Rooms Primed for a Remodel

      7 July 2020

      When you think of remodeling your home, your mind likely jumps immediately to your kitchen or bathrooms. While these are excellent spaces to remodel, there are plenty of other rooms throughout your home that can benefit from a little extra attention.

      If you’re in need of some inspiration for your next remodeling project, here are three rooms you should definitely consider:

      Laundry Room
      Laundry rooms are known more for their utilitarian value than their beauty, so it makes sense that they’re not often considered for remodeling. A spruced-up laundry room, however, can allow you to be more productive by getting more laundry done, more easily. For example, you can add automatic laundry detergent dispensers that allow you to use the correct amount of detergent every time. Plus, you can add large countertops so you can prepare clothes more easily for washing and fold them when they're done. If nothing else, it makes sense to beautify the space where you do one of your least favorite tasks to help make it a little more enjoyable.

      Garage
      You park your car and store various items there, but, beyond that, your garage probably doesn’t demand much of your attention. However, a remodeled garage can provide a multi-purpose space that you can be proud of. Remodelers can add enhanced insulation to make the space usable year-round. Then, with the addition of amenities including speakers, game tables and some comfortable chairs, you’ll wind up with a great hangout space where everyone will want to congregate.

      Mud Room
      Given the clean-up that it helps prevent, it’s a wonder that the mudroom isn’t more appreciated. It makes sense, though, given that your mudroom serves as a simple pass-through on the way to a welcoming home. Renovation makes sense, though, to ensure your mudroom stays as clean and organized as possible and thereby helps the rest of your home stay clean, as well. By adding hooks for backpacks and hats, extra shelves for shoes and improved mats to capture dirt, you can make your mudroom just as welcoming as the rest of your home.

      When it comes to any repair project, it’s important to understand the parts of the project you can complete yourself and those you need to hire out. Proper delegation will ensure you can complete your project quickly with minimal interruption to your daily activities. This also ensures that you stay safe as you avoid any aspects of the project that you’re not properly equipped to complete. With a quick completion, you may be inspired to renovate even more rooms around your home.

      Source: Brooke Chaplan/RISMedia’s Housecall

      Published with permission from RISMedia.