Consumer Real Estate News

    • 5 Tips to Get Your Home Winter-Ready

      18 October 2019

      (Family Features)--As the days get shorter and the weather turns chilly, it's time to prepare your home for the winter months ahead. Because your home will likely require extra maintenance to keep it in shape throughout the winter, beginning preparations early can help lower energy bills, increase the efficiency and lifespan of your home's components, and make your property safer overall.

      Consider these tips from the experts at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to help ensure your home is ready before winter weather strikes.

      Get Your Furnace Checked
      To keep your furnace from failing when you need it most, get it inspected by a professional before you need to rely on it to heat your home in the dead of winter. Regular tune-ups can prolong your furnace's life, help prevent carbon monoxide leaks, and ensure your unit is working at maximum efficiency.

      Seal Leaks Around Windows and Doors
      If replacing window screens with storm windows and installing a storm door on your house isn't realistic, you can keep your home warmer and increase energy efficiency by applying caulk to seal any gaps you find around window and door moldings and help keep heat from escaping. If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall of your home, you can also use caulking and weather-stripping to help block potential entry points for cold air.

      Check Your Gutters
      Once the leaves have fallen and before the first snow, check to make sure your gutters are properly secured—replacing gutter spikes and downspout rivets where needed—and clear of debris. If your gutters are full of debris, it can lead to water backing up against the house and overflowing, which can cause potential damage to roofing and siding. Also adjust downspouts so they direct water at least 5 feet from the house, which can help prevent melting snow from saturating the ground around the house and causing foundational damage.

      Prep the Plumbing
      Undrained water in pipes can freeze, both indoors and out, which can cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting hoses and shutting off exterior faucets, draining any water that remains in them and storing hoses indoors to prevent cracks. Drain any other pipes, valves or in-ground sprinklers that may be exposed to the elements and, for an extra layer of protection, wrap water spigots with covers to prevent damage.

      Examine Decks and Patios
      Your patios, sidewalks, driveways and decks need occasional maintenance, as well, and giving them a once-over before colder weather hits can help ensure they're prepared to stand up to the elements. Repairing any broken joints or cracks in stonework and applying sealer can prevent melted snow from getting in and freezing, which can create bigger problems. The same principles hold true for decks and wooden handrails. Though typically made from treated or rot-resistant wood, they are subject to splintering, decay or insect damage, and may need to be stained and sealed periodically. Of course, if replacement is necessary, it's best to complete the project before inclement weather hits.

      Source: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Banking Online? Protect Yourself

      18 October 2019

      These days, most of us do at least some of our banking online. However, First Bank & Trust Company recommends that consumers take extra care to protect themselves when engaging in online banking. They offer the following suggestions: 

      Monitor your accounts regularly. Make sure that all transactions posted are ones you have authorized. Report any suspected fraudulent or suspicious activity to your bank immediately.

      Look out for strange emails. Don't respond to emails that claim to be from your bank (or any company) requesting your account details or passwords. Banks will not reach out to you via email to ask for  account details.

      Avoid clicking links in emails. It’s usually much safer to log into your bank website manually to ensure you’re entering a secure site.

      Change your bank passwords regularly. Avoid using the same password across multiple sites, and make sure you’re choosing a strong password that’s a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Avoid using any words or phrases that contain your name, initials or your birthdate.

      Enable two-factor authentication. Many financial institutions have added a layer of security for account holders. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter an extra verification credential before you can access your account.

      Disable automatic login. Do not allow your web browser to store private username and password information for your online banking websites.

      When available, only use your bank's official mobile apps. And make sure you download apps from reputable sources such as the Apple Store or Google Play Store.

      Source: First Bank & Trust Company

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Help Your Young Adult Build Smart Credit

      18 October 2019

      If you're the parent of a young adult, or an adult yourself, you know how important it is to begin building credit. To help, Experian offers the following ideas:

      Start small and grow slowly. A secured account with a small credit limit can establish your credit history and help you start saving at the same time. Good credit and strong savings habits go hand-in-hand. You don't need a credit card with a high limit to have good credit.

      Use the credit you have wisely. Good credit scores are not about having a lot of credit, but rather, about how you use the credit you have available. Make a small purchase each month and pay it in full. That will show that you can use credit well without taking on debt.

      Use your cellphone to improve your credit. A tool like Experian Boost can add positive telecom and utility payments to your credit history and possibly boost your credit score. In the past, failing to pay your utility or cellphone bills could hurt your credit, but paying on time didn't help. With Experian Boost, that's changed.

      Use technology to make managing your credit automatic. Millennials and Gen Zers are the most technologically savvy generations in our history. Use technology, such as online banking apps and credit management tools like the Experian app, to automate savings and payments, to alert you to potential fraud, and to track your progress as you build your credit history.

      Source: Experian

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 6 Ways to Save When You Think You Can't Afford To

      17 October 2019

      You may worry about not having much of a nest egg, but if you find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard to think about saving. Yet, say consumer finance advisors, getting a handle on where your money is going can help you in your efforts to save.

      From budget living website Wise Bread, here are six ways to start:

      Track your spending. You may think you know where your money is going, but you may be in for a surprise. For one month, keep an accurate account of every expenditure you make, from bills paid to purchases made, right down to your morning coffees. Once you see where your dollars are going, you should be able to make a few adjustments that will help you bank a few bucks out of every paycheck.

      Set up direct deposit savings. Having 10 percent (or more) of every paycheck deposited into savings before you ever see the money is a sneaky but effective strategy. Chances are, you won’t miss it, especially once the tracking you’ve done has helped you pare your spending, and you’ll love watching the savings add up. 

      Take a no-spend challenge. Make the decision to buy nothing but necessities for an entire month. That means ditching the mall, digging deep into your freezer and pantry for meal supplies, and staying away from online shopping sites that tease and tempt you to spend. If you can do that, you should end the month with more dollars you can add to your savings.

      Examine your debt. If you have credit card debt, cutting your monthly spend may leave you with more to help pay down debt. And if you’re paying interest on that debt, shop around to see if you can transfer it to a new account that offers zero interest for at least a year. 

      Save your nickels (and dimes and quarters). Emptying your pocket change into a piggy bank each evening is a habit well worth making. The change grows quickly into dollars you can empty directly into savings.

      Shop for new quotes. Can you save money on your auto insurance or cable bill?  Perhaps, but you’ll never know until you make a few phone calls to find out.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Tips to Improve Wellness and Prevent Stroke

      17 October 2019

      (Family Features)--Stroke is often thought of as something that happens to older people, but more people under 50 are having strokes due to increased risky behaviors, such as smoking and untreated high blood pressure. 

      Strokes don't discriminate, according to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, the world's leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke. They can happen to anyone, at any age. About one in four people worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. However, up to 80 percent of first strokes may be prevented. 

      "Healthy habits can protect and improve brain function and lower your stroke risk," says Dr. Lee Schwamm, MD, American Stroke Association volunteer chairman and executive vice chairman, department of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

      In recognition of World Stroke Day, the American Stroke Association offers these five tips to help reduce your risk of stroke and maintain mental sharpness as you age:

      Keep blood pressure in mind and under control. High blood pressure is the No. 1 controllable risk factor for stroke. Work with your doctor to manage your blood pressure and get it into a healthy range (under 120 over 80).

      Eat colorful fruits and veggies. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure over time, which may help reduce your stroke risk. Some fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, avocados and blueberries, are especially rich in vitamins and minerals that improve brain function and heart health.

      Rest up. Getting 7 - 9 hours of quality sleep each night can improve brain function both today and long-term. A soothing bedtime routine and avoiding screen time before bed can increase the quality of sleep you're able to get. Sleep-related breathing issues may also increase stroke risk, so seek treatment right away if you suspect sleep apnea or similar problems.

      Meditate. Emerging science shows practicing mindfulness and being aware of your breathing may reduce blood pressure. A quick way to be mindful at any time is to pause, notice your breath and observe details in your surroundings. 

      Take a hike. Getting active activates brain cells, encouraging them to grow and connect more efficiently. Aerobic exercise, like going for a walk, also gives your arteries a workout and makes your brain more resilient to reductions in blood flow that can cause strokes. To maximize health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination) and two days per week of moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity.

      "These simple suggestions are great for everyone to follow, even if you don't think you're likely to have a stroke," says Schwamm. "While many adults don't think they are at risk for stroke or reduced brain function, the reality is that nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure, and untreated high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of stroke and also causes up to 60 percent of dementia."

      Source: American Heart Association

      Published with permission from RISMedia.