Consumer Real Estate News

    • How to Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets

      30 March 2020

      The kitchen is one of the busiest rooms in any household. It's where meals are cooked and families eat, and also a place to play fun games or just talk.

      The foodie craze is changing the way we eat and the way we cook. Amateur chefs get ideas from cooking shows and then visit farmers markets to find the best possible ingredients for the delicious meals they put together. And homebuyers want the perfect kitchen where they can make their culinary creations. While a complete revamp of your kitchen isn't necessarily practical, one easy step is to clear out the cabinets and pantry.

      Organize Your Pots and Pans. You should dedicate a cabinet or two to your pots and pans, and start the process by emptying out the cabinets and dusting them. Then, put the cookware back, neatly and organized. Place covers on pots and arrange them by size. This is also a good opportunity to get rid of items you no longer use and to designate a cabinet for special cooking items like slow cookers, bread makers, food processors, blenders, etc.

      Dishes and Glasses. If your cabinets are overrun with dishes, bowls, cups and glasses, clear out some clutter. Set aside older things you no longer use and, if possible, donate them to a local soup kitchen or senior center. Keep whatever you'll need to use while selling your home and place everything back neatly. Try not to leave any cabinets completely empty, but rather, send the message to buyers that your kitchen has enough room for all their cooking supplies.

      In the Pantry. This is commonly a space that has a lot of potential for improved organization. Go through your pantry and toss ingredients and packages with expiration dates that have passed or that you don't expect to use. Then clear everything else out, clean the shelves of crumbs and spilled foods, and replace things neatly. Put canned goods like soups, sauces and vegetables together, and cereal boxes on one level with boxed goods on another level.

      Under the Sink. Here's a space that can get unorganized and messy very easily. Clear everything out and clean this space thoroughly. This is where people commonly keep cleaning ingredients, dishwasher detergent, sponges and cleaning supplies. Get rid of items you don't use (be sure to dispose of cleaners in an environmentally safe way) and replace them in an organized manner.

      Organizing the storage areas in your kitchen will improve your home's visual appeal while allowing potential buyers to imagine themselves preparing delicious meals in the space.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • These Games Will Help Lighten the Mood at Home

      30 March 2020

      Following stay-at-home restrictions can be taxing on many levels, from learning how to work remotely to keeping the kids engaged in online schoolwork. Add in concerns about your personal health and the well-being of your loved ones, and it’s easy to see why you and your family may be feeling stressed. For a quick antidote that will get everyone away from the TV, try a fun, engaging game, such as:

      Charades. This is a great choice because it requires no equipment whatsoever, and can be played either indoors or in the backyard, weather permitting. You can also tailor charades - from simple to complex - to make it suitable for all age groups in your home. 

      Scavenger hunt. A game that challenges your mind and gets you up and moving, a scavenger hunt can take place throughout the various rooms of your home as well as in your outdoor space. Clues can range from simple, hand-drawn pictures for the preschool crowd all the way to cryptic ciphers for the adults among you. Don’t forget to make the prize enticing enough to keep players on the hunt.

      Hearts. One of the world’s classic card games, hearts is enjoyable for the entire family - and easy to learn for beginners. Gather everyone around the dining room table and the hours will start flying by.

      Jenga. For those who want to challenge both their manual and mental dexterity, Jenga is a great way to get your mind off of things as it requires calm and focus. It’s also perfect for taking a break from business or school work in the middle of the day - just challenge your nearest family member to a quick match or two. 

      Pictionary. Nothing elicits laughter quite like the valiant artistic attempts people make while playing Pictionary. This game is the perfect choice for letting loose and getting loud - just remember not to take it too seriously. Put the focus on having fun, not winning!  

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Ways to Keep Your Utility Bills in Check

      30 March 2020

      Utility bills are often much higher than they should be. By making some simple changes, you can keep your house comfortable and significantly reduce your monthly energy bills.

      Lower Heating Costs
      Heating and cooling are responsible for a large chunk of utility bills. In the winter, you can save money by lowering the temperature on your thermostat. Even a change of two or three degrees can result in substantial savings over the course of a year. You can install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when the house is unoccupied and raise it to the temperature your family prefers shortly before everyone gets home.

      If your house has windows that face south, opening the blinds or curtains during the day can allow sunlight to naturally heat your home so that you can rely less on your heating system.

      Drafts make the heating system work harder and raise utility bills. You can inexpensively seal the areas around windows and block the spaces under doors to keep cold air out. If your windows are old and inefficient, replacing them can consistently save you money over many years.

      Change the Way You Use Appliances
      LED lightbulbs are much more energy-efficient than traditional bulbs. You will need to pay more up front, but LED bulbs can last years longer than conventional bulbs and cost less to operate. This can result in significant savings over time.

      Heating water can contribute to high utility bills, especially if you have a large family. Installing a showerhead that conserves hot water and lowering the temperature on your water heater can easily save you money.

      Ask Your Utility Company for Guidance
      Utility companies offer a variety of tips and programs to help homeowners lower their energy bills. You may find advice on how to make your home more energy efficient, how to lower your energy usage without interfering with your lifestyle, and how to choose energy-efficient appliances.

      Some utility companies also offer free or low-cost energy audits to help homeowners identify where they are losing or wasting energy so that they can make changes and save money. Participating in these programs and investing in energy-efficient appliances may make you eligible for further savings through rebates.

      Your utility company might charge more for energy during peak hours than during times when demand is lower. Find out if your utility company charges more at specific times and look for ways to reduce your family's energy consumption during peak hours.

      The company might allow you to receive energy from another provider that offers a lower rate. You would still receive the same service you currently do, but your energy would come from a different source, allowing you yo save money each month without making any other significant changes.

      Try a Variety of Solutions
      If you dread opening your utility bill each month, take action to save money. With some strategic changes, you can lower your costs while keeping your home comfortable and relaxing.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Organize Your Attic

      27 March 2020

      An attic can be an ideal storage space, but if it's not organized, it can turn into a total mess. If you've lived in your house for several years, chances are your attic has gotten cluttered and could use some organizing.

      Get Help
      If the job is too big for you to handle yourself, ask family or friends to help. Talk about what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of and discuss ways to organize the space. You'll need to make more decisions as you go through the cleaning process, but setting guidelines at the beginning will help you avoid misunderstandings and arguments.

      Decide What Stays and What Goes
      As you go through items, sort things you want to keep into piles. You can put clothing in one area, sports equipment in another, photo albums in another, etc. You can further separate items by person, season, or any other category that makes sense.

      Attics tend to accumulate a lot of junk. You may find things that you have no need for, that you intended to fix but never did, or that you forgot you owned in the first place. Be prepared to get rid of things. Items that are in good shape can be sold or donated. Others can go in a dumpster.

      It’s fine to hold onto something that has sentimental value, but if you haven’t thought about a particular item in years, you might want to discard it. If you come across something that has no value to you, but might have sentimental value to someone else, ask the person if it's okay to get rid of it before you do.

      Get Organized
      The items you decide to keep will need to be organized and stored appropriately. Things that need to be protected from extreme temperatures and moisture, such as photo albums and documents, should be placed in sealed boxes or plastic containers. They should be labeled with a description of what's inside and the name of the owner. Put labels on the sides of containers so they'll be visible when the boxes or bins are stacked. Clothing can be stored in containers or hung on poles. If you have items that are too large to fit in boxes, or that would be difficult to store because they have irregular shapes, you can put up shelves to organize them.

      You'll Thank Yourself Later

      An attic can be an excellent place to store items that have intrinsic or sentimental value, but it often becomes a place where things are put and forgotten. If your attic is cluttered and crowded, set aside some time to go through everything, weed out the junk and organize the things you want to keep. Get help from others to make the process less overwhelming. It might take several weekends to get it done, but you'll be pleased with an organized storage space where things are easy to find.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Transitioning From a Car Lease to a Purchase

      27 March 2020

      Leasing can be a smart way to test out a car for a few years without buying it. A lease can give you all of the latest technology and some time to determine if you like the car enough to buy it.

      If you want to buy it before the lease expires, read the terms of the lease agreement to see if an early buyout costs extra, typically charged in finance fees. It may be worthwhile to wait until the lease ends.

      To make sure you're getting a good deal, research the different ways the car is valued. The first is retail value, which is how much you'd pay to buy it from a dealer. The second is wholesale value, or how much the car would cost at auction. Pricing is available at various websites such as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds. Be sure to compare the same make, model and mileage.

      Compare these numbers with the residual value—that's an estimate of the car's value at the end of the lease and will be stated in the lease agreement. A purchase-option fee may be added. Your research will help you compare your car's value to the residual value to see if it's close to what you've estimated it to be.

      Don't contact the leasing company first if you're thinking of buying. They'll come to you, usually 90 days before the lease expires. If they already know you're interested in buying, you lose an advantage when negotiating.

      Start the negotiations by finding financing elsewhere, since that is where the leasing company is likely to start as a way to make more money off you. Check with your bank and other lenders for lease-buyout loans.

      Some leasing companies may have a policy against negotiating a buyout price, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Request that they waive the purchase-option fee and offer financing discounts and other incentives to buy.

      Remember that you have some leverage when offering to buy a leased car. You can walk away and find another car, leaving the leasing company the work of finding another buyer for the car when they already have a ready and willing buyer in front of them. Remind them of this opportunity and how much higher their price is than what you've found elsewhere, and you hopefully can move them toward a deal.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.