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Thursday, July 28 2011

What do side-by-side refrigerators, laptop computers, and zero-turn-radius riding mowers have in common? They’re among the most repair-prone products consumers can buy, according to Consumer Reports’ most recent Product Reliability Survey.

In the magazine’s Repair or Replace Survey, 27,404 subscribers reported about the troubles they had with 53,218 broken appliances, electronics, lawn equipment, and more.

Though consumer goods have become more complex and contain more electronics than a decade ago, the 33 products featured in the survey aren’t failing more frequently. But when things go wrong, they tend to go horribly wrong. Consumer Reports National Research Center found that more than half of the products that did break stopped working altogether, and another 30% still worked, but poorly.

“Should I repair or replace it; how much is the repair likely to cost; what will a new one cost. These are many of the questions that go through a consumer’s mind when a major product breaks,” says Celia Kuperszmid Lehrman, deputy home and yard editor at Consumer Reports. “Being armed with the right answers can save people thousands of dollars on appliances and gear.”

Here’s what else Consumer Reports’ survey found:

Computers break — a lot. Around one in three laptops and desktops break by their fourth year. Many computer breakdowns are due to malicious software (malware) or hard drive failure. Installing antivirus software on a computer is the best defense against malware. To be safe, always shut down the device before traveling even a short distance.

Some technologies are finicky. Refrigerators with icemakers are twice as likely to break down as those without. The device’s complicated design and the extreme environment it must operate in explains the high failure rate. Among laundry appliances, front loading washers are more repair-prone than top-loaders. The large rubber gasket that forms a watertight seal around the door is the common culprit. Mold is another issue. Manufacturers recommend periodically cleaning the gasket with a bleach solution and keeping the door ajar after each use to allow ventilation.

Extended warranties don’t deliver. Based on Consumer Reports’ survey, appliances usually don’t break during the extended-warranty period, normally after the standard warranty has expired, but within two to three years of purchase. Even when breakdowns occur in that time, the median repair cost isn’t much more than the median price of a warranty. And if a product doesn’t break, the extended warranty is just a waste of money. A computer might be an exception, especially if you travel frequently and take the device along for the ride. Make sure the warranty covers accidental damage and extended tech support.

Brand reliability varies by product. Manufacturers often have strengths and weakness in different product categories. GE, for example, has made very reliable cooking appliances, but its refrigerators with icemakers have been repair-prone. John Deere’s lawn tractors have been very reliable, but its self-propelled lawn mowers have been significantly more repair-prone than other brands. And LG has made reliable plasma TVs and clothes dryers, but not reliable side-by-side refrigerators.

The 50% rule still stands. Consumer Reports suggests buying a replacement if the repair will cost more than half the price of the new product. Replacing electronic gear might be less costly than most people think because prices are steadily dropping in some categories. Major appliances, on the other hand, are getting more expensive and they usually have long service lives, which is why Consumer Reports generally recommends holding onto them longer than electronics.

Some products are harder to repair. Consumer Reports’ survey indicates that repairs of gas cooktops, built-in refrigerators, and home-theater systems can also be frustrating because they take an inordinately long time, cost a lot, or because the item requires further service calls. Dryers, electric cooktops, and digital cameras have the highest success and satisfaction rates.

The full report on repairing or replacing appliances, electronics, lawn equipment, and home exercise gear, appears in the August issue of Consumer Reports and online at

Source: Consumer Reports

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 27 2011

Housing data for June shows pending sales increased 16.4 percent statewide. The report from the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of Realtors and the Indiana Association of Realtors also indicates the median sales price rose 1.4 percent. IAR Chief Executive Officer Karl Berron says "pending sales are a good measure of confidence."

INDIANAPOLIS – In the first half of 2011, decreased housing activity and stable prices defined the central Indiana market. Housing data released today for June 2011 provided a brighter picture for the future, including increased prices and an abundant number of pending sales. This is according to data in a jointly released report from the Metropolitan Indianapolis Board of REALTORS® (MIBOR) and the Indiana Association of REALTORS® (IAR).

In central Indiana, the average sales price of homes increased by 1.1 percent to $150,797 during the first six months of 2011 when compared to January-June 2010. Average sales price also rose in the three month comparison by 2.2 percent to $156,999 and by 2.9 percent in the one month comparison to $164,190. Median sales price during January through June 2011 experienced a drop of 1 percent to $120,788. April through June 2011 median sales prices held steady, while June-only numbers increased 4 percent to $129,999.

The number of closed sales in central Indiana decreased by 12.7 percent in the first half of 2011. Closed sales for June show a smaller, 6.3 percent decrease.

The surprise number comes in the form of pending sales, while down for the year, up 19 percent for the month of June. Pending sales reflect signed purchase agreements that have yet to close. The robust number bodes well for more closed sales in the coming months.

Statewide, when comparing June 2011 to June 2010:


The median sales price increased 1.4 percent to $119,900

Pending sales increased 16.4 percent


“During the last six months, the recovery of the housing market has been slow and steady – not dramatic or flashy,” said Dave Goff, 2011 MIBOR president. “This month, however, has painted an encouraging picture for the remainder of the year. Interest rates are down nationally and local pending sales have climbed drastically, providing a positive outlook.”

IAR CEO Karl Berron agreed. “Pending sales are a good measure of confidence. A full recovery lies with jobs, available financing for qualified buyers and less foreclosure inventory. It’s all part of the mix.”

Additional key central Indiana findings for January through June 2011:


New listings decreased by 15.2 percent during the six month comparison.

Months of supply increased to 9.8 months during the first half of 2011.

Total active listings fell by 1.6 percent


The attached data will tell consumers how the central Indiana housing market is performing according to eight different indicators. Each indicator will have one-, three-, six- and 12-month comparisons, as well as a historical look. Consumers will also have access to specific county information for the 13 counties included in MIBOR’s Broker Listing Cooperative® (BLC®): Boone, Brown, Decatur, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Madison, Marion, Montgomery, Morgan, Putnam and Shelby counties.

IAR’s report, found online under the Reports tab of, will show consumers the state of Indiana’s housing market according to the same indicators with one-month and year-to-date comparisons, as well as a historical look. Consumers will also have access to specific county information for 91 of Indiana’s 92 counties in a sortable table format.

This information has been provided by MIBOR. MIBOR is the professional association representing central Indiana's REALTORS®. MIBOR serves the needs of more than 6,500 members in Boone, Brown, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, Marion, Montgomery, Morgan and Shelby counties. MIBOR also supplies the BLC® listing service to REALTORS® in Decatur, Madison and Putnam counties.

IAR represents approximately 16,000 REALTORS® who are involved in virtually all aspects related to the sale, purchase, exchange or lease of real property in Indiana. The term REALTOR® is a registered mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the world’s largest trade association, the National Association of REALTORS®, and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

Source: MIBOR & Report

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 26 2011
Create a home inventory before disaster strikes to make filing an insurance claim a smoother process.

Experiencing a theft, flood, fire, or other casualty loss is devastating enough. Now imagine trying to list from memory for your insurance claim every single item that was damaged or destroyed. The task becomes less daunting if you create a home inventory in advance and keep it in a safe place.

Creating a home inventory can be done with pencil and paper alone, but a digital camera and camcorder make the job easier. Set aside enough time to review your insurance policies, dig up receipts, document your possessions, and figure out where you’ll store your records. One day should be sufficient.

A home inventory is essential

From appliances, plates, and glasses to collectibles, rugs, and furniture, the average home is packed with an array of items collected over the years. And while you may be able to list many of them in a pinch, chances are you’d miss some important possessions if you ever needed to reconstruct your home’s contents from memory, says Mark Goldwich, founder of GoldStar Adjusters, a Jacksonville, Fla., claims adjusting firm.

“Home inventories are a must no matter what the value of the home’s items are,” says Goldwich. “If you’re going to insure your property and pay for that insurance, you really should be able to document the ownership and the value of the items that you’re insuring. If you don’t have proof of the items you owned, it makes filing your claim much more difficult.”

Your job doesn’t end once you’ve compiled a home inventory, a detailed list of everything in your household. Be sure to compare estimated values to your policy’s coverage to ensure that you’ll be able to replace your belongings in case of damage or theft, says Goldwich, who is the author of “Uncovered: What Really Happens After the Storm, Flood, Earthquake or Fire.” In some cases, he says, you can purchase additional coverage if the value of your possessions exceeds the limits on your homeowners, flood, or other disaster policy.

Take photos and video of possessions

Jack Hungelmann, author of “Insurance for Dummies,” says a picture can be worth more than just a thousand words—it can add up to thousands in cash if you ever need to file an insurance claim. Hungelmann recommends using a digital camcorder or camera to take pictures of each room to document your belongings. “I recommend that people open up their cupboards and drawers. Be sure you have a record of all the things you own,” he says.

Goldwich says that creating such a home inventory might seem daunting, but digital video—you can pick up a decent camcorder for about $150—can make the task much easier.

Homeowners can literally walk from room to room and record narrative descriptions of items. You should note whether something is an antique, for example, or if it has other qualities that make it especially valuable such as the size of a television screen or the type of stones in a piece of jewelry. Get close-up shots of serial numbers on electronics, power tools, and the like.

Filling in a printed checklist with serial numbers, brands, quantities, and estimated values will prove indispensible if an insurance claim ever needs to be filed. The adjuster will likely ask for such a list, and you can use the video or photos as proof of ownership. Download our free home inventory checklist to create your own.

Keep your home inventory safe

Of course, such documentation is useless if it’s destroyed in a natural disaster, consumed by fire, or stolen along with your personal computer. Hungelmann says that using digital media allows you to store the files on online backup services like or in case your home is destroyed.

If you’d like to save the $10 or more per month these services typically cost, you could also save the files on a USB drive that’s kept in a safe-deposit box, at a relative’s home, or in your emergency bag. The bag should include essentials your family needs in case you’re forced to flee on short notice.

It’s also a good idea to keep a file with receipts and any appraisals of valuable items you own. Store these documents off-site as well. Goldwich says that the more documentation you have to prove what you owned and what it was worth, the easier the claims process will be.

Gwen Moran has been writing about business, finance, and real estate for more than a decade. Her work has been published by, Entrepreneur, Financial Planning,, On Wall Street, The Residential Specialist, and many others.

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, July 25 2011

HIGHLANDVILLE, Mo. (AP) __ A 72,000-sq.-foot private home being built in southwest Missouri will be one of the largest in the United States when it’s completed.

The Springfield News-Leader reported that the home is being built by Steven Huff, who has family ties in Missouri and is chairman of Wisconsin-based TF Concrete Forming Systems.

Not surprisingly it will be built out of the insulated concrete, manufactured and distributed by Huff’s company. Michigan-based Helix also is partnering in the project, providing the steel
reinforcement product that will be used.

Luke Pinkerton, founder of Helix, said the idea was to create a home that uses very low energy, as well as having strong resistance to tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, flood and insect damage.

“What we’re able to do is develop a home that has very, very good insulating properties for heating and cooling,” he said. “It’s very robust and strong.”

Called Pensmore, the home includes two elevators, 13 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a billiard room, a home theater, a music room and a 1,600-sq.-foot library. Blueprints submitted in 2007 show the main level and second story span 44,641 sq. feet. There are another 23,020-sq. feet in the basement, and the garage is 4,000 sq. feet.



Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, July 22 2011

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - New construction of U.S. houses jumped in June to their highest level in five months, the Commerce Department estimated Tuesday. Starts rose 14.6% in June to a seasonally adjusted 629,000 annualized units, stronger than the 580,000 pace expected by economists surveyed by MarketWatch. This is the highest level of starts since January. Starts of new single-family homes rose by 9.4% to 453,000 in June, while starts of large apartment units surged 31.8%% to 170,000. Building permits, a leading indicator of housing construction, rose 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 624,000. This is the highest level of permits since December

Read the full story:
Housing starts rise 14.6% to five-month high

Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 21 2011
We have more good news to report based on last month’s local real estate activity. We closed more transactions in June than we did last June. That would not be so impressive, until one considers that June of 2010 was the last month in which buyers could close transactions and take advantage of the homebuyer’s tax credit. The real estate market has been out of the tax credit business for a full year now and it is clear that we are a better position today than we were a year ago. We are absolutely positive that we will close significantly more transactions over the next few months than we did over the same period last year. Based on June sales, our month’s supply of active listings is lower than it has been for 35 of the past 36 months.  Properly priced listings are selling in today’s market. We would be happy to do a market analysis for you, or anyone you know who is considering selling their home.
     As we have said many times, all real estate is local, and as proud as we are of how our market has recovered there are some other non real estate specific issues that have had a positive impact on our local market. First on a state level, Indiana has recovered far better than most states. According to The U. S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Indiana’s GDP grew 4.6% in 2010 which was third highest in the nation. Partially as a result of decreasing the state’s corporate tax rate, Chief Executive Magazine ranks Indiana’s business climate best in the Midwest and sixth best in the nation. The U. S. Conference of Mayors recently ranked metropolitan areas based on the projected time at which they will have fully recovered to pre-recession levels. The conference studied the 15 largest Indiana metropolitan areas. Out of that group, the Evansville metro area is expected to recover the soonest.
     We are always researching new ways to help our buyers and sellers. Next month we will be able to tell you about another new tool we are adding to give better service for your real estate needs. Feel free to contact me on my cell phone at 812-499-9234 or send me an email:
Enjoy the rest of the summer and stay cool.
Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 09:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, July 21 2011

Moving to a new home can expose you to the risk of identity theft, so take precautions to guard your personal information as you finance your new home, close and open new bank or utility accounts, pack, and move.

“Identity thieves are pervasive and creative in finding opportunities to steal information, and something as simple as forgetting to forward mail can put a consumer in jeopardy of identity theft,” said Steve Schwartz, executive vice president of Intersections Inc., a consumer identity protection firm.

Schwartz offers these nine tips for keeping identity thieves at bay during and after a move:

  • Submit your change of address form at the post office. Then watch for a confirmation from the Postal Service confirming that your new information was correctly updated. Mail should start coming to your new address within 7 to 10 business days after filing; follow up at the post office if it doesn’t.
  • Shred sensitive documents that you’re not taking. Don’t be in such a rush that you toss papers with personal information into the recycling bin.
  • Monitor financial statements. Watch your bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity.
  • Use reputable moving companies. Do your homework before you hire a mover. Read online reviews, research the company, and ask trusted friends, family, or real estate agents for recommendations. Check the mover’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau. Make sure it’s registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and has a U.S. Department of Transportation number before you sign any agreement or even get an estimate.
  • Keep documents with you. Transfer all important physical documents that will be making the move, such as wills, stock certificates, bonds, etc., to a safe and secure place such as a locked box. Keep physical documents with you during the move and do not leave any secure receptacles for movers or others to transport.
  • Lock down your computer. Devote time and resources before your move to make sure all computers in your home are hack-proof and packed and out of sight before movers arrive.
  • Supervise the move. Make sure you are present for the entire duration of the move. Your presence could deter potential theft from occurring and ensure that the movers take good care of your personal belongings.
  • Check your credit report. Take a look at your credit report for several months after you’ve moved. Any suspicious activity on the report may be a sign that your information has been compromised. If that happens, immediately contact the police, your banks, your credit card issuers, and have the credit repositories put a fraud alert on your credit profile.
  • Verify mail is being delivered. After the move, verify that you’re receiving all mail from the list of senders you identified and contacted beforehand.

Source: Intersections Inc.

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Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, July 20 2011

Indiana Landmarks is taking steps to restore Evansville's former Greyhound Terminal. The city of Evansville has contributed the 1939 building and $250,000 to the nonprofit effort.

Evansville, Ind. -- Indiana Landmarks today took steps toward getting Evansville’s Greyhound Terminal in running order. Pending board approval, the private, nonprofit organization plans to restore the rare building at the corner of NW Third and Sycamore Streets.

The City of Evansville primed the redevelopment pump by contributing the building and $250,000. Vacant for four years, the 1939 building is one of two remaining terminals from Greyhound’s “Blue Period” and the only surviving station clad in enameled-steel panels.

“Everyone loves this building,” says Indiana Landmarks’ President Marsh Davis. “Some have personal associations of arrival or departure, and others just love the streamlined Art Moderne design, the colorful exterior, and, of course, the speeding greyhound.

“This will be a challenge, however. The enameled-steel panels are an uncommon building material, and problems can be lurking unseen behind the glazed surface. We’ll tackle the roof first, and anywhere that water is penetrating, since rust is the great enemy of a building like this,” Davis declared. The preservation group must also remediate environmental problems.

The City recognized the terminal’s significance in acquiring the building in 2007 when Greyhound built a new facility. Indiana Landmarks congratulated the City for recognizing the value of the downtown gem.

“Modernist landmarks often face threats because people think they’re not old enough to warrant protection,” Davis noted. “We’re grateful to Mayor Weinzapfel and the Evansville Redevelopment Commission for their investment in our restoration.

We think it will take $1 million to put the landmark right and light the neon running dog, and we’re committed to raising the rest of the money,” Davis says.

Indiana Landmarks intends to open its southwest regional office in the terminal. The organization operates nine offices in the state, most in landmarks it owns. Earlier this year, Indiana Landmarks unveiled a new state headquarters and cultural center in a formerly vacant nineteenth-century church in downtown Indianapolis. The Cook family of Bloomington contributed over $10 million to the renovation. Next month, Indiana Landmarks will hold an open house at its newest acquisition, a 1941 bank building in downtown Terre Haute that houses its western office.

Since 1997, Indiana Landmarks has employed a preservation professional to serve the southwest part of the state, operating from a home office. Stewart Sebree has been in the position since January 2001. Indiana Landmarks hopes to add staff when it opens the permanent southwest regional office in the terminal. “The office will give Indiana Landmarks a greater presence in Evansville, and in turn give preservation a higher profile in the region,” vowed Sebree.

“Indiana Landmarks will work with the City and the community, and do our homework to make sure we find a sustainable use that gives the public access to this wonderful place,” Davis pledged. “We want to fill the terminal with a use that contributes to the economy and livability of downtown.” He has heard from some who hope for a winter Farmer’s Market in the building. Others vote for a restaurant.

The statewide preservation group has three Evansville residents on its 30-member board. Businesswoman Christine Keck, Evansville Living publisher Kristin Tucker, and developer Gene Warren will play a primary role in helping the organization raise the money to complete the project.

Source: Indiana Landmarks & Report


Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 19 2011

The best defense is prevention. Here are some prevention tips:

Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.

  • Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Stay indoors and, if at all possible, stay in an air-conditioned place. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library–even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, fans will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others. Check regularly on:
    • Infants and young children
    • People aged 65 or older
    • People who have a mental illness
    • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.


    If you must be out in the heat:

    Limit your outdoor activity to morning and evening hours.

  • Cut down on exercise. If you must exercise, drink two to four glasses of cool, nonalcoholic fluids each hour. A sports beverage can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat. Warning: If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage. Remember the warning in the first “tip” (above), too.
  • Try to rest often in shady areas.
  • Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat (also keeps you cooler) and sunglasses and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher (the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels).

    This information provided by NCEH's Health Studies Branch.

  • Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Monday, July 18 2011

    Beginning on July 21, consumers who are rejected by lenders for new lines of credit, such as a credit card or home loan, based on their credit score will be allowed to find out why, according to a report from CBS News. When consumers are denied, the financial institution will have to provide them with a free copy of the credit score it used to determine their ineligibility. Previously these reports would have cost consumers a small amount of money to view.

    [Consumer Resource: Tips to Improve and Rebuild Your Credit]

    This rule is also being extended to cover all consumers who are granted the line of credit but given interest rates that are less than ideal, the report said. In addition, the lender will have to explain what portion of the consumers’ credit history was weighing down their rating.

    The large majority of a consumer’s credit score is made up of the payment history and the amount of available credit being used across all accounts. Altogether, these two factors alone make up 65 percent of a total rating. As a consequence, it is of the utmost importance to keep credit card spending under control and make regular on-time payments.

    [Free Tool: Not sure where you stand credit wise? Get your Free Credit Report Card to find out.]


    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Thursday, July 07 2011

    Now that you're ready to purchase a place, you want to make sure it's the right one for you. Follow these tips to find a home that's a perfect fit for you:

    1. Go for the long haul

      When looking for a home, search for one that you could see yourself living in for several years -- at least five to seven years is ideal. Buying -- and moving -- to a new home takes a lot of time and effort, and can add up significantly in closing and moving costs, etc. Staying in place longer will help you avoid those added expenses. Plus, the extra time spent in your home could be just enough to help you ride out a downturn in the real estate market.

    2. Leave room to grow

      Aim for a home that can adapt to your needs as your life changes, say, if you have a new baby, or Junior moves back in after college. If you can't afford a place that's large enough to meet your anticipated future needs now, look for one that will allow you to build on later on.

    3. Be flexible

      Consider a place with rooms that can serve multiple functions, so the home remains highly functional for you through the years. For example, an open-floor-plan-style home is very adaptable. A kitchen that overlooks a family room is helpful when one's children are young (you can cook while watching the kids), while such a kitchen is also great for entertaining your friends once the kids leave the roost.

    4. Go for your type

      Think about what style of home fits you best -- house, condo, townhome, etc. -- they're not one size fits all. For example, a single-family home -- which sits on its own lot and must be maintained by the homeowner -- may be great for a person seeking privacy, but not so wonderful for somebody who doesn't want to worry about mowing the lawn, fixing the plumbing, etc. Meanwhile, a condo might be perfect for somebody who wants a "lock 'n' leave" lifestyle, but not for somebody who doesn't like sharing a wall with his neighbors.

    5. Check the surroundings

      When you purchase a home, you not only get a house, you also buy into a neighborhood. Think about whether that neighborhood will suit you. Sure, you might love the house itself, but will the loud neighbors next door or the school across the street become too bothersome for you? Also, do you like the feel of the neighborhood and does it offer everything you need? It's best to find a place in a community that you'll enjoy.

    6. Buy what you can afford

      It's easy to shoot for the sky and overspend when buying a home -- you understandably want the best your money can buy. Examine your finances, keeping in mind current and future expenses, and don't exceed your means. It's smarter to buy a home you can easily afford than one you have to stretch to get into. Stay down to earth, and you'll be better prepared should unexpected financial commitments and problems arise later down the road.

    7. Think "home" first

      When purchasing a home, don't imagine the dollar signs you'll see the day you sell it. A home is just that -- primarily a "home," and not an investment. So, buy a place that'd be great to live in first and think about its resale value second. Predicting real estate cycles and home appreciation is tough enough for the experts -- and much more for the average home buyer. Plus, while home renovations tend to add value to a residence, they rarely recoup more than what was spent on them.

    8. Look at both old and new

      It's nice to move into a place that's brand-new. But, new isn't always better. Consider both old and new. While you might not like a previous homeowner's decorating decisions, you might like the owner-installed upgrades -- like a finished basement and a backyard deck -- that a new home might not have.

    9. Location, location

      You've heard this tip before, but a home's location does matter. A house that's located on a busy, noisy street may be less enjoyable to you as a homeowner than one situated on a quiet, secluded cul-de-sac. Plus, a home on a cul-de-sac is likely to be worth more than a poorly located one when it comes time to resell. So consider a home's location before you're smitten by a spectacular interior.

    10. When it comes time to sell

      While you want to think of your place as a home first and not an investment, it doesn't make sense to purchase a white elephant, either. You should put at least some thought into how easy -- or difficult -- it'll be to resell the home one day. If a home is so unlike other nearby homes in terms of size, style, price, etc., you might want to skip it and look elsewhere -- it could become a burden should you want to someday move on.

    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Wednesday, July 06 2011
    A lease option is actually a lease with an option to buy. It refers to an agreement between a buyer and seller of property and is a contract valid for both residential and commercial property. Lease option is different from a lease purchase in which both parties are bound to the sale agreement. However, a lease option makes it binding only to the seller, with the buyer not bound to buy the property in question. However, the buyer does have to state an amount as valuation at which he will get the right to buy at a later date.

    Features of a Lease Option

    • Buyer buys the option for a property at a price decided upon as the cost of the option.
    • A price is mutually agreed upon by the buyer and seller and this will be the price at which the option will be exercised.
    • For residential property the period of time during which the lease option has to be exercised ranges between one to three years.
    • The buyer may have to pay a monthly lease payment, which may or may not be adjusted against the purchase price of the property.
    • The two parties have to agree whether the buyer can further sell his option to a third party, whether he wishes to stay in the property or sub lease it.
    • Distressed properties are purchased by investors, renovated and upgraded and then offered as lease options to interested buyers.
    • Payment of maintenance, utilities, taxes etc have to be decided between the buyer and seller.

    A lease option is similar to a lease, except that in a lease option, the buyer has the purchase option at a later date. This option is used by a buyer if he is relocating or setting up a business and does not have the resources at present to pay for the property. It is preferable to a mortgage since the risk element is far lower in this option. For the seller, it holds promise of higher returns and a definite chance of his property being sold. It also provides a price security to the seller in case the value of the property declines. These are therefore more popular in a slow market besieged by recession. Sellers may not agree to a lease option generally when the prices of real estate are increasing. Lease options are good for first time property buyers, since it gives them time to collect their resources to pay for the property they have selected, after 1-3 years. Such a situation arises when they do not have the savings for a down payment. They may even be able to come to an agreement to live in the house they plan to buy through the lease option.

    Steps to complete before taking a lease option

    • Is lease option the best alternative financially? This involves verifying whether you can afford the monthly lease payments, and whether there is a certainty of managing to collect the money for the purchase eventually, so that buying the option is not just a waste of money.
    • Checking whether the property is the best available in the area
    • Get a valuation done of the property from a professional.
    • Negotiate the terms with the seller and draft a good contract.
    • Verify the insurance details.

    Once all these are looked into, a lease option may bring you closer to your dream property


    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
    Tuesday, July 05 2011
    In a rare midyear move, the Internal Revenue Service is increasing the tax deduction you can take for using personal vehicles for business.

    On July 1, if you use your personal vehicle for business, you’ll be able to deduct 55 cents a mile from your taxable income. That marks a 4-cent increase from the beginning of this year.

    While the IRS normally updates mileage rates once a year during the fall for the next calendar year, the tax agency decided to raise the gas mileage tax deduction earlier due to high gas prices. (The average gas price currently is $3.61 a gallon, which is up from $2.74 last year, according to AAA.)

    "This year's increased gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told USA Today. “The IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the recent increase in gas prices. We are taking this step so the reimbursement rate will be fair to taxpayers."

    Source: “IRS Increases Gas Mileage Deduction at Midyear,” USA Today (June 23, 2011)
    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
    Friday, July 01 2011


    Chemicals Are an Important Part of Life

    Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even though we often don't think about it, we use chemicals every day. Chemicals help keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help our plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals make it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.

    Under certain conditions, chemicals can be poisonous or have a harmful effect on your health. Some chemicals which are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions. Chemical accidents do happen... at home and in the community, and the American Red Cross wants you to be prepared.

    Read more here:

    Posted by: Rolando Trentini AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
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