Real Estate News

    • Homeowners: How You Can Help Your Local Wildlife

      24 May 2018

      Do you love looking at the wildlife in your yard? From butterflies to birds and bunnies to bees, here are several easy and impactful ways to participate and start helping your local wildlife, from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF):

      Create a habitat for your local wildlife. Think first of the birds, butterflies and bees that you can support in your garden habitat, then select plants that provide the kinds of food they need, such as nectar, berries or seeds. Plant according to your region, local environment and conditions, from sunny deserts to shady woodlands. Use NWF's "Plant Finder" to get a list of the plants native to your area that support wildlife.

      Think small. No yard? No problem! For those with small outdoor spaces, select pots and planters that allow you to plant a selection of blooming pollinator-friendly native plants.

      Plant for year-round diversity and beauty. Wildlife needs food, water, cover and places to raise young all year. Choose a variety of plants that bloom at different times of the year, from native wildflowers to shrubs that produce berries. Evergreens provide year-round cover. Think vertically, too. Incorporate existing large trees and then underplant with smaller trees and shrubs for cover and nesting places.

      Plant in groups. This will result in more color, textural impact and eye-catching patterns throughout the garden bed or landscape. This technique also draws the eye into the garden, and the close plantings will prevent weeds and minimize the need for excess mulching. Clusters of blooming plants are more likely to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

      Keep water sources in mind. Adding bird baths or container water gardens help attract a variety of wildlife, from birds to tree frogs.

      Certify your garden. Celebrate by certifying your garden with the National Wildlife Federation and proudly display a sign! Show why you have designed your yard intentionally to help wildlife and encourage others to do the same. Certifying also spreads the wildlife gardening message to your entire neighborhood.

      Source: www.nwf.org/garden

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • A Handy Guide to Starting a Home Remodel

      24 May 2018

      (Family Features)—Apprehension and inexperience keep many homeowners from pursuing renovation projects that would make their homes more functional, enjoyable and comfortable. Getting your hands dirty on the front-end—with some planning and preparation—is the best blueprint for a successful home remodeling project.
      To help you start your remodel on the right track, consider these tips from Gary White with JCPenney Home Services.

      Start With a Plan
      Although it may sound obvious, the first step really is to decide what you hope to accomplish with your renovation. At the least, begin to outline rough ideas to discuss with an expert. Reaching out to contractors before you've determined a basic idea for your project can waste time and money. Spend time listing the features you must have, as well as some nice-to-haves if budget allows. Also think about overall functionality, design and layout. If you get overwhelmed or need ideas, don't hesitate to turn to online showrooms or magazines for inspiration.

      Set a Budget
      If the sky is the limit, skip ahead, but if you're like most homeowners, money matters. Have a clear idea of what you can afford to invest in your renovation before you get started, and if necessary, research the financing options available to you. Look for financing that provides deferred interest or low monthly payments to help manage the project cost. Setting a clear budget can help keep your contractors accountable, and it goes a long way toward ensuring you can enjoy your finished project without regret.

      Draw Up the Plans
      To help set your plan in motion, there are numerous online tools you can utilize to simplify each step of the process including design, budgeting and more. If you're planning a home remodel, a comprehensive resource, like JCPenney Home Services, offers a one-stop-shop for bathroom remodeling, countertops, custom window treatments, flooring, heating and cooling, water heaters and whole-home water treatment.

      Involve a Professional
      Unless you have the time and skills, you'll want a licensed and insured contractor to lead the project when you're ready to get your renovation in motion. It can be wise to solicit multiple bids, not only to ensure you get the best value, but also to find someone whose work, style and experience is most in-line with the needs of your project. After all, this person will be a big part of your life during a fairly stressful time period. Always check references and verify the contractor's standing with local associations.

      Get Ready for Work
      Remember that you'll need to create a work environment that is safe for your contractors and protects your valuable possessions. Establish a clear path to the project space for easy access and removal of debris. Furniture, appliances, room furnishings, valuables and breakable items should be removed from both the path to the work site and the work site itself. If your renovation project will involve an essential room, such as the kitchen or a bathroom, make alternate arrangements, such as creating a makeshift kitchen with the bare necessities, in another part of the house.

      Source: JCPenney Home Services

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Selling a Luxury Home? Forget Staging, 'White Box' Instead

      23 May 2018

      In high-end luxury markets like New York City and Los Angeles, turns out less is often more. Instead of maximizing luxe features like state-of-the-art kitchens and top-dollar fixtures and moldings, sellers are stripping their pads down to bare bones and commanding a higher sales price in the process.

      According to a recent article on CNBC.com, the trend is called "white boxing," and it's all the rage among the ultra-affluent who often buy a luxury property only to gut it and redo it in the style that suits their unique design taste and lifestyle. For luxury buyers—who place high value on personalizing a home and making it their own—it's much more appealing to buy a space that's already stripped, as it saves them the time and expense of doing so on their own.

      Buying a white-boxed property also makes luxury clientele feel better, too, says one Beverly Hills real estate expert, as tearing out existing features and appliances isn't the most environmentally-friendly course of action. The stripped property can also have the benefit of appearing brand-new in cases where the existing design and features were dated.

      White-boxed properties are the ultimate blank canvas for today's luxury buyer, who often favors "designer-ready " over  "move-in ready," and for architects and interior designers working with buyers, it's a huge boon, allowing work to proceed in a much more efficient manner—stripped properties easily lend themselves to computer-generated designs and virtual renderings.

      Depending on trends in your area, if you're putting a luxury property on the market, talk to your real estate professional to see if white boxing might be a strategy that will work for you.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Steps to Saving Money Easily

      23 May 2018

      (Family Features)—Saving money. It's one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year; however, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits.

      Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth:

      Track Your Spending Habits
      If you think you're spending more than you should, but aren't sure exactly where to start trimming expenses, it can be a good idea to self-audit and see exactly where your money is going. There are multiple websites that can help you connect your accounts in one place and track your spending.

      Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
      Contrary to conventional wisdom, peer pressure doesn't always have to be a bad thing. In fact, according to research conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland, peer pressure can actually help you cut back on unnecessary spending. The researchers studied the spending habits of people using a personal finance website called Status Money and found that users who learned they were spending more than their peers reduced their spending by an average of 23 percent.  

      Identify Problem Areas
      Maybe the newest pair of sneakers on the market have to be yours, or perhaps dining out with friends is just too tantalizing. Once you've compared your spending with peers, you can find out if you're splurging a little too much. Try not to completely deprive yourself of your favorite hobbies or activities, though. See what's a reasonable budget for you then cut back on things you can live without.

      Set a (Logical) Budget
      While it sounds simple to create a budget for each month's expenses, it can actually be pretty hard. Rather than expelling time and effort aiming for a goal that isn't realistic, use online tools to help set a benchmark that's achievable month-to-month. For example, Status Money can help you set reasonable spending limits and automatically predict your future spending to alert you before you hit or exceed your budget.

      Negotiate and Change Financial Providers
      Always be open to deals and financial products that are better suited to your personal situation. Switching providers or negotiating prices can often save you money. You can bargain on everything from a cable bill to purchasing a vehicle—even small savings can add up over time.

      Saving money can be a challenge for people in all walks of life, but creating a plan can help you change the outlook of your financial life for the better. Visit StatusMoney.com to learn how much you can save.

      Source: Status Money

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Why Staying Home May Be Your Best Vacation Yet

      23 May 2018

      Ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need a vacation? Unfortunately, thanks to the stress of crowded airports, long road trips, packed sightseeing schedules and uncomfortable hotel beds (or worse, a tent/sleeping bag combo!), you can often return from a trip exhausted and feeling like you didn't relax at all.

      That's why a staycation may be just what the doctor ordered for your next vacation. The biggest risk in taking a staycation is that you won't fully separate from work or the daily chores of home, so an effective staycation means a complete avoidance of email and laundry. Once you make that commitment, you're on your way to rest and relaxation.

      Here are some great ways to make your staycation the best vacation ever:

      Make an itinerary. Come up with well-defined activities for your staycation, so you don't waste the days away on the couch. Even simple activities like having a backyard cookout by the pool will do the trick. The idea is to partake in activities that are relaxing and vacation-oriented.

      Go somewhere you've never been. No matter where you live, there are definitely places nearby where you've never been, from museums to beaches to state parks. This is your chance to be a tourist in your own backyard.

      Eat out. One of the best parts of any vacation is the lack of cooking, so try out those restaurants you've been meaning to get to and pack picnic lunches for a hike. Just remember: No grocery shopping allowed on vacation!

      See a show. Spend a night or two on the town and take in a play or concert. Get tickets in advance so that these outings are part of the plan.

      Read a good book...or golf, bike or paint—whatever your favorite relaxing hobby is that you never have time to pursue during your day-to-day life.

      Sticking to the above activities and staying away from work and chores will make for a great, relaxing vacation while never having to worry about a baggage charge or a flight delay.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.