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Pros and Cons of Building on Lots vs. Land

February 18, 2015 2:00 am

If you’re in the market for new construction, one of the first items you’ll need to address is where your home will be built: on a developed lot or undeveloped land. Let’s review the pros and cons of each.

Lots, or developed land parcels typically partitioned by builders, have unique advantages. They are often priced to sell and owners can expect a significant price appreciation in the future. Thanks to the builder, homes on lots are generally connected to water and sewage systems, have electric, phone and cable lines wired and have paved road access. A qualified builder will also disclose information such as drainage and soil issues, making it easier for the buyer to weigh their options.

Owning on a lot has its cons. For the sake of mass production, builders create cookie cutter floor plans. Every upgrade, whether it’s marble in the bathroom or cherry cabinets, will cost more. Homes in developments are typically spaced close together, limiting outdoor space for some and creating concerns for those who seek more privacy. Homeowners in developments are also subject to HOA fees, which can take a toll on household budgets. But HOA fees do come with their fair share of benefits: trash pick-up or lawn care, for instance.

Building on an undeveloped plot of land gives you the freedom to choose your location. Those interested in building on land will face more expenses, but have the ability to customize the home to their needs and wants. The homeowner may also enjoy a more eco-friendly lifestyle, especially if the home is in a rural area with cleaner air.

Aside from higher costs, the disadvantages to building on land include the potential for zoning changes to affect construction or ownership down the road. Homeowners may also need to install a septic, dig a well or run electric, phone and cable lines. The land itself may also present some challenges, such as buried oil tanks.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

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Give Your Landscaping a No-Maintenance Makeover

February 18, 2015 2:00 am

(BPT) – According to the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), low-maintenance landscaping outranks native plantings, water features and food/vegetable gardens among homeowners. Armed with know-how and using sweat equity, do-it-yourselfers can employ tips that professionals use for a no-maintenance landscape makeover.

Landscape professionals use retaining wall systems for a variety of landscaping solutions. Segmental retaining walls are commonly used to transition elevations, shore up slopes along foundations and define spaces such as planters, tree rings and other features.

Retaining wall systems combined with concrete pavers can be used to create raised patios in place of high-maintenance wooden decks. Retaining wall units and interlocking concrete pavers come in a variety of colors, shapes and textures to complement any landscape design and are often used to create design continuity in outdoor spaces. Tree rings can be coordinated or color-contrasted with raised patios, retaining walls and other hardscapes.

Permeable pavers
are an environmentally sound and low-maintenance solution where impervious surface limits, storm water management, water quality and water conservation are issues.

Low-maintenance landscaping practices can make it easier to control weeds and manage lawn care. The use of rock mulch and natural rock in gardens and beds or as walkways and stepping stones offers an attractive solution to weed control and also lessens the need for irrigation. At least three inches of rock mulch or four inches of natural mulch will prevent weeds. A landscape fabric under stepping stones and rock mulch offers even more protection against weeds.

Selecting maintenance-free outdoor furniture and accessories is another way to make over an outdoor space. Outdoor furniture made of recycled materials requires no storage or maintenance other than cleanup with soap and water.

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Word of the Day

February 18, 2015 2:00 am

Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.

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Six Ways to Start Fresh in an Old Home

February 17, 2015 2:00 am

Buying an older home can net you lots of charm and character, often at a more affordable price than you’d pay for a newer model. But, say home improvement gurus, a few strategic renovations can go a long way toward making it more comfortable and efficient.

Renovation expert Bob Vila, host of TV’s popular “This Old House,” suggests the top six projects new owners may want to plan for when they move into an older home:

New front door – Replacing a decades-old front door will do more than improve your home’s curb appeal. A high quality new door will enhance energy efficiency and provide more dependable security.

New windows – Old windows are drafty and hard to operate. Replacement windows that meet Energy Star® guidelines are not only beautiful and easy to open but will save you hundreds of dollars a year on heating and cooling bills.

Updated electrical system – Modern life involves a lot of gadgets. If you are experience tripped circuits, buzzing noises, or dimming lights when you turn something on, a licensed electrician can update your system to make it safer and more compatible with today’s electronics.

More open floor plan – Older homes were built with smaller, boxed-in rooms that were fairly easy to heat. If you long for a more open floor plan, a licensed contractor can remove barriers and design a brighter, airier, more inviting arrangement of space.

Floors worth a second look – Owners of older homes often find the happy surprise of hardwood flooring under worn linoleum and carpets. If that’s the case, think about refinishing. In any case, check it out before installing new tile or carpeting.

Cook’s kitchen – An older kitchen can be a cheerful and homey gathering place. But if you’re not happy with the old cabinetry and countertops, replacements for both are a great investment – not just for you, but as a draw for new owners when and if you decide to sell the house.

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Surprising New Uses for Everyday Items

February 17, 2015 2:00 am

Ever think of using your hairdryer to dust behind the sofa? Enterprising Woman’s Day Magazine readers shared surprising new uses for everyday items found in nearly every home:
  • Dust hard-to-reach places with a hairdryer – Aside from clearing out dust behind the sofa, set the hairdryer on cool and point it at high shelves or intricate knickknacks to blow off the dust with little effort.
  • Clean the toilet with Alka Seltzer – The fizzy action works like a charm. Drop in a couple of tablets, let sit for 10 minutes, then swish with a bowl brush and flush.
  • Use dryer sheets to freshen stinky shoes – Smelly running shoes or gym bag? Stuff them with dryer sheets overnight to absorb odor and make them sociable again.
  • Use wine bottles to hold boots upright – Floppy boots messing up your closet space? Used and cleaned wine bottles are just the right size to hold boots upright for storage.
  • Shine copper and brass with lemon and salt – Spiff up those copper or brass serving pieces or candlesticks with wedges of lemon dipped in table salt.
  • Use toothpaste to shine silver and more – Non-gel toothpaste will remove tarnish and polish silver. It can also remove a water stain from wooden furniture. Just dab on, allow to dry, and wipe away.
  • Shave your legs with olive oil – Out of shaving cream? Coating your legs with olive oil will give you a smooth shave with no razor burn – and it’s moisturizing, too!
  • Use plastic ice cube trays to sort small items – They make a great way to keep earrings in pairs or store any jewelry as well as organize paper clips, rubber bands or other office supplies.
  • Old plastic bags can aid package wrapping – Re-use old plastic bags as free alternatives to pricey bubble wrap. Stuff them into boxes you are mailing to keep the items inside from rattling around.
  • Use isopropyl alcohol to disinfect surfaces – The medicine cabinet staple will clean off the grime and disinfect communal surfaces around your home or office, like phone receivers, door handles, switch plates and even computer keyboards.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips to Maximize Space in Every Room

February 17, 2015 2:00 am

(Family Features)—Current trending of lifestyles, whether it may be empty-nesters, first time home buyers or the economy, have left people with smaller spaces. There are several ways that you can maximize storage just by thinking ahead and taking steps to stay organized.

Designate a spot

A crucial rule to always follow when trying to conserve space is to give every item its own location. Yes, this may seem like an effortless task; however, how many of your measuring cups or hair products are the exact way you had them when they were first organized? Take the extra time to conserve organization by storing them correctly, and you will be surprised how much time you will actually save when it comes to locating them.

Most frequent in the front

Arrange items by how often you use them by simply placing the items that are used most in the front. This will save time because you will know exactly where to find them without the hassle of digging to the back of the cabinet.

Sliding shelves are super

To get the most out of your cabinets, use sliding shelves. Not only does this eliminate having to kneel and stretch to the back of the cabinet to reach that cake pan that fell behind everything else, but it gives you access to use every inch of space because with a simple pull, everything is brought to you.

Remain or remove

Everyone has those items that have not been touched in years and are the best dust collectors. It is time to decide what remains and what needs to be removed. This is often associated with closet clean outs, but every room can use an annual clean out. Clutter and lack of organization result from an excess of objects. This simple clean out will make a huge difference in maximizing space.

More Organizing Tips

Before leaving a room, take 30-60 seconds to pick up items that are out of place. This little bit of time will make a huge difference.
  • Arrange objects creatively. Maximize space even if it means hanging hooks on cabinet drawers to hang pot holders or utensils.
  • Labels can be your best friend. Be innovative and use them outside of the office. They are perfect for locating items in the pantry, closet, laundry room and more.
  • Put a weekly pantry and refrigerator cleanout on your to-do list. This gives you time to throw out the old items and empty containers to make clutter-free room for new groceries.
  • Be socially responsible and recycle. Keep a few bins around to recycle your cans, plastic and paper. This is such an easy way to teach children responsibility while keeping the earth clean.
Tools to Help

Technology

The advances in technology have allowed products to be made that make life a little easier on you. Cooking and many other activities, a lot of times, leave you with your hands messy or full. Features like touch to lift, touch to light, touch to open and touch to close provide the solution to this mainstream problem in any room.

Lighting

The right amount of lighting complements cabinets to show the true beauty of the wood while also providing the function to make things easier to see. This alone can save space because it gives you access to locate items in all areas of the cabinetry. When paired with organizational solutions, you are guaranteed to get the most out of your space.

Accessories

A wonderful way to be a creative organizer is by putting accessories to use. These can range from those that are built into cabinets or even a few strategically placed bins to keep everything together. This is especially great for drawers, making them easier to clean out.

Source: Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.

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The Best Time to Book a Flight

February 16, 2015 2:00 am

We all want to know: When is the best time to book a flight?

"When you buy your flight makes a huge difference," says CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee. “No one wants to find that the person sitting next to them on a flight paid $100 less for their ticket.”

After analyzing 1.5 billion air fares, CheapAir.com has determined that the best domestic fares were found booking, on average, 47 days in advance in 2014. The study found that the average savings that could be achieved from buying on the "best" day versus buying on the "worst" was $201 per ticket.

Analysis of the data revealed a general pattern that, beginning when flights open for sale 11 months in advance, fares tend to drop slowly but steadily until reaching a low point somewhere between 27 days and 114 days out.

Not surprisingly, the study revealed that travelers should make sure to buy their ticket at least 14 days in advance, or pay an average of $111 more. That amount jumps to $174 more if you buy within 7 days. It also revealed that buying a ticket too early can be costly, too. Tickets tend to be about $50 more expensive than their eventual low point when flights first open for sale.

The study found different dynamics exist for domestic and international flights, concluding that for international flights it is generally best to book earlier than the recommended window for domestic. The best time to buy cheap airline tickets to Latin America, for instance, averaged out to 96 days in advance. To Europe it was 276 days – that's about 9 months! Mexico was close at 251 days and Asia was even more extreme at 318 days.

Source: CheapAir.com

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Households Spend More for Time-Saving Appliances

February 16, 2015 2:00 am

Time is a precious commodity—so much so, it seems, that Americans are willing to spend a little more on faster household appliances, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey.

The survey found that about one-quarter of dishwasher, washer, and dryer owners said they’d pay extra for speedier appliances, and about one-third of that group said they would pay an extra $100 or more.

“The time savings really adds up: 15 minutes here, an hour there,” said Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, Deputy Content Editor of Consumer Reports. “If a home was equipped with one of each type of product, consumers could save more than 2 hours per day!”

Induction ranges and cooktops are growing ever more popular, single-serve coffeemakers are crowding store shelves, and faster settings are being built into washers and dishwashers. Buyers of electronics have a different definition of fast; they want devices that stream, process, and download swiftly.

In the survey, 41 percent of respondents 44 years or younger said they would pay more for a faster washing machine than the one they have. Of the dishwasher owners willing to pay more for a faster dishwasher, 87 percent said they would pay an extra $50 or more.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Three Ways to Become More Eco-Friendly at Home

February 16, 2015 2:00 am

(BPT) - Whether you're motivated by a workplace initiative, a personal goal or the opportunity to teach your children lifelong positive habits, now is a great time to become more environmentally friendly.

Here are three ways your family can create positive environmental change starting today:

Recycle
Research shows that less than two percent of waste in the United States is recycled, yet almost half of all trash can be recycled. School lunches are one source of waste that most families don't consider. These are packed each morning and tossed away each afternoon once lunchtime is over.

Protect water resources
Water is one of the most important resources people have, yet every year billions of gallons are needlessly wasted. You can conserve water in your home by teaching your children to take shorter showers or baths, turning off dripping faucets and avoiding letting the water run while they are brushing their teeth. You can also reduce water waste in your home by investing in water-saving appliances and by reducing or eliminating the practice of watering your lawn, relying on rain to do so instead.

Plant a tree
Trees are more than just a beautiful backdrop; they are also essential to the environment. Trees improve the quality of the air you breathe by capturing dust and pollution particles that can affect your health. As trees grow, they remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from the air, store carbon, and release pure oxygen into the atmosphere And, trees properly planted around a home can help lower air conditioning and heating costs by up to 25 percent.

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More Americans Adopting Mind-Body Lifestyles

February 13, 2015 1:57 am

More Americans than ever are taking steps to live a healthier life, according to a recent report by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The report found that non-vitamin, non-mineral and natural products remain the most popular complementary health approach used by American adults.

The report also reveals an increase in usage of fish oil, probiotics, prebiotics and melatonin among adults, with fish oil being the most commonly-used natural product. Use of glucosamine, chondroitin, echinacea and garlic usage decreased significantly.

The report also points to growing trends in mind-body lifestyle practices, including:
  • Yoga practice among Americans ages 45-64 increased 5.2 percent over the last five years.
  • Nearly 18 million adults practiced meditation.
  • Nearly 20 million adults had chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation.
Source: NCCIH

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