Turning To Real Estate Agents
number of people selling their home without the help of a real
estate professional plummeted over the past year. Today's
challenging marketplace favors buyers--who are taking their time
and exercising caution when investing in homeownership. But in
this environment, sellers benefit from the knowledgeable
guidance and advice that real estate professionals can offer.
"Selling a home is a full-time job," said National
Association of RealtorsŪ (NAR) president Vicki Cox
Golder. "Unrepresented sellers often
don't understand the complexity, range and timing of tasks
they'll have to perform. In a competitive market, sellers need
every advantage they can get."
According to the NAR 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers,
"for-sale-by-owner" transactions dropped to a record low 11
percent, and almost half of those sellers sold their home to
someone they already knew, such as a relative, friend or
On the open market, today's sellers have to compete with
bargain-priced short sales and foreclosures as well as other
homeowners who may be trying to sell their homes. In addition,
managing the appraisal process, inspections and buyer
qualifications in a tougher credit market has become more
complicated in this environment, adding to the already intricate
Without professional assistance, sellers are faced with a
marketing disadvantage. The survey revealed that more than half
of unrepresented sellers did not actively market their homes to
potential buyers. Those who did used yard signs, Internet
listings and print newspaper ads. Unfortunately, unrepresented
sellers don't have access to fundamental marketing services,
such as a multiple listing service, and can't list their homes
there to reach a broader audience.
Professional insights into preparing, pricing and positioning
a home for sale pay off. In 2009, a typical property without
professional assistance sold for $172,000 compared with $215,000
for the typical agent-assisted property.
Golder believes the decline in
"for-sale-by-owners" indicates a growing awareness of how
complicated today's market is.
"A RealtorŪ has specific knowledge of your market and can
save consumers time and money," she said. "They can help a
seller set a realistic price and ensure that the proper
paperwork and various disclosures and inspections are handled
correctly. Sellers will get broader market exposure and are more
likely to generate competitive bids by working with a real
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How To Be
Properly Prepared For Emergencies
may be better able to protect yourself and your family in the
event of an emergency if you plan ahead and make sure you have
what you need before you need it. After all, about 1,000
tornadoes, five hurricanes and 400,000 house fires happen in
America each year.
Here are ideas to help you prepare for
whatever emergency situation comes your way. They come from the
experts at the International Association of Fire Chiefs and
1. Develop a Family Disaster Plan. Families can cope with a
disaster by preparing in advance and working together as a team.
Make sure everyone knows how to get out of the house and where
to meet in case of a disaster. Draft and practice an evacuation
plan, mapping out your route toward safety and shelter. Make
sure you have an out-of-town contact who knows all the important
information about your family in case you are separated during
2. Gather Emergency Supplies and store them in a covered,
waterproof plastic bin that contains:
- Food. Keep a three-day supply of nonperishable foods and
a manual can opener.
- Important documents: insurance papers, medical records,
bank account numbers and Social Security cards, sealed in a
- One change of clothing and footwear per person; toys and
books for children.
- One blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- A first-aid kit, including necessary prescription
medications and eyeglasses.
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family
3. Make an Energizer Keep Safe. Keep GoingŪ power kit to
include with your emergency supplies:
- Battery-powered radio or crank radio and LED light to
keep your family apprised of the current weather-related
- Extra specialty batteries. Hearing aid batteries and
specialty batteries can power critical health devices such
as hearing aids and blood glucose monitors.
- Plenty of extra batteries. Energizer Ultimate Lithium
and Energizer MAX batteries (AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt) can
provide long-lasting power. Lithium batteries have a long
storage life, perform well in extreme temperatures and are
good for LED flashlights and other high-tech devices. The
other batteries can be the power source for standard
flashlights, lanterns and radios that may be pressed into
action during a power outage.
- Flashlights for every member of the family. For safety's
sake, use flashlights instead of candles when the power goes
out. Many home fires are started by candles left unattended.
- Battery-powered cell phone charger to help stay
connected even when there is no electricity.
4. Additional Emergency Supplies:
- Water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency says each
person should have a supply of one gallon of water per day
for three days, as a normally active person needs at least
one-half gallon of water daily just for drinking, in
addition to cooking and sanitation.
- Pictures of family members and pets in case of
- Pet-care items.
- An extra set of car keys.
- Vehicle fuel tanks filled.
- Credit card or cash.
- Hammer, nails and duct tape.
- Waterproof tarp.
- Antibacterial wipes.
Make sure you check all these items annually--a good time
might be the first day of spring--and replace expired batteries,
medicine, food, etc.
Remember, what you do during the calm before the storm can go
a long way toward helping you stay safe and protected during and
For more tips on preparing for a variety of natural disasters
and home fire safety, visit the sites
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Season Descends: Tips On Enduring
can save time, trouble and money by preparing a plan for storm
season. Aside from such common and accessible items as
flashlights, candles, blankets, canned food, hand-cranked
radios, manual can opener, matches, first-aid kit, batteries and
bottled water, there are additional tools to bring peace of mind
and provide comfort during storm season.
For example, portable
generators can be a great way to maintain limited power.
However, standby generators can provide a permanent solution to
the average of five power outages Americans can expect to
Similar to central air conditioning in appearance, automatic
standby generators operate on either natural gas or liquid
propane and are wired into a home's circuit box. The generator
senses a power outage, kicking on backup power in as little as
20 seconds, then automatically turning off when utility power is
restored. As a result, homeowners can continue many day-to-day
activities without concerns about heating or cooling their home,
or preventing basement flooding or food spoilage.
To help, GE, a world leader in power innovation, has a line
of automatic standby generator systems from Briggs & Stratton
Corporation, the exclusive licensee for GE-branded Standby
The advanced computer-controlled system lets consumers use
power throughout the home more efficiently, so life can continue
virtually uninterrupted until utility power is restored.
Consider these additional steps to ensure
you're prepared if the power goes out:
- Turn your refrigerator/freezer to the coldest settings.
- Identify the most insulated room in your house to gather
to stay cool/warm.
- Have blankets and cardboard handy to cover windows to
- Once the power comes back on, turn down the thermostat
and turn off the circuit breaker for the water heater to
reduce high demand for electricity. This will help prevent
- Leave one light on so you will be alerted as soon as the
electricity is restored.
- Learn how to manually override an electric garage door.
- Use a surge protector to prevent damage to electrical
items such as computer, TV and stereo.
Standby Generators by GE can consume up to a third less fuel
than competitive systems and are available in sizes ranging from
7kW for small and medium-size homes to 45kW to handle the higher
power demands of larger houses. Visit
www.ge.com/generatorsystems for more information and an
easy-to-use guide to determine power use and standby generator
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Managing Your Lawn Like A Pro
by Kyle Miller
lawns don't just happen. They require a plan. To maintain a
healthy lawn, do what the lawn care pros do and develop a turf
health care plan that includes proper mowing, watering,
fertilizing and pest treatments. These fundamental steps are the
foundation of an integrated health care plan for a beautiful,
Mowing: Turf pros mow at least weekly. Frequent mowing
minimizes leaf area removal, which creates less shock to
turfgrass. It also helps grasses
tiller, meaning new offspring plants grow next to parent plants,
leading to a denser, healthier lawn.
Start by sharpening your mower blade and put it to work
frequently. Dull blades tear turf, and turf damage makes grass
tips more susceptible to disease and insects. Sharp blades make
clean cuts, which heal quickly and are less prone to pests.
Watering: Watering is crucial for healthy lawns. Do it early
in the morning for two smart reasons. First, 30 percent of
watering during a hot day simply evaporates. Second, morning
watering allows the sun to dry the tips of the blades, which
reduces the amount of time the turfgrass
foliage stays wet. That's good news, since diseases and insects
are most destructive in moist plant material, so don't water at
night when the top of the lawn will stay wet for many hours.
Fertilizing: Stimulate grass growth by applying a fertilizer
when turfgrass is actively growing.
Nutrients in fertilizer typically include nitrogen, phosphorus
and potassium and levels of each, such as 5-10-20, appear on
packaging. In this case, the 5-10-20 fertilizer would have 5
percent nitrogen, 10 percent phosphorus and 20 percent
A balanced fertilizer such as 5-10-20 promotes strong roots
for the fall and winter months.
Treating for Pests: Plants--like people--can get sick. For
example, grass can suffer from environmental stress that creates
conditions for pest pressure. If lawn disease strikes,
medication treatments in the form of pesticides are required to
nurse the plant back to health.
To control weed pests, such as dandelions and clover, sedges
and grassy weeds including crabgrass, treat your lawn with a
pre-emergent herbicide. As the name implies, pre-emergent
herbicides inhibit weed growth before weeds emerge.
If weeds emerge over time, treat them with a
postemergent herbicide. Always
consult specific pesticide product labels for restrictions,
rates, use sites and safety information. Learn more at
Kyle Miller is Senior Technical Specialist for BASF
Professional Turf & Ornamentals.
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out your closet and creating a clean and attractive spot for
your stuff may be easier and less expensive than you may have
Here are hints that can help:
- Edit your wardrobe. Donate clothing you haven't worn in
a year or more, plus anything that no longer fits. When you
wear something, return it to the closet with the hanger
facing out; at the end of the year, you'll know which items
you've never worn.
- Consider painting your closet interior a bright color or
lining the shelves with pretty wrapping paper. Making your
closet prettier and brighter may encourage you to keep it
clean and clutter-free.
- Choose the right hanger. Real Simple Solutions flocked
slim-line hangers can double your closet space and keep
clothing from slipping. Indents hold straps in place and
accessory bars securely hold belts, scarves or ties.
- Arrange folded items. When folding clothing to store on
shelves, place heavier items at the bottom. Arrange garments
by function (workout tops together, business tops together)
and color (white to nude to bright colors to black). If your
closet has no shelves, consider the Real Simple Solutions
Sweater Organizer. If you have a taller closet, hang it
lengthwise; if it's wider, use the side hinge to flip up the
bottom shelves so they're side by side. The stretchy side
pockets can store belts, scarves, purses or other
accessories. Other uses for the item include putting it in
the mudroom and assigning one section to each family member;
organizing your child's outfits for each day of the week; or
hanging it in the pantry and stocking it with entertaining
supplies such as napkins, place mats and plastic dinnerware.
- Put your purses away. A hanging purse organizer lets you
store your bags in a safe, space-saving manner. It will also
hold rolled towels or linens or help you organize toys and
- Store shoes. For everyday shoes, you can use the sturdy
Real Simple Solutions Shoe & Boot Organizer for easy access.
It can hold 18 pairs of shoes in the pockets, plus two pairs
of boots. The eight stretchy side pockets can store
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young children how to spell the word "door" may offer an
additional lesson about garage door safety.
www.GarageDoorCare.com, a site sponsored by the
International Door Association (IDA), spells safety this way:
- Doors are heavy--never stand, run or play under or near
any garage door, especially when the door is open or moving.
- Openers are for adults--never play with the button on
the wall that opens and closes the garage door.
- Ouch!--never touch any part of a moving garage door.
Your fingers and hands can get hurt.
- Remotes are for adults--never play with the remote
control in the car or on Mom and Dad's key chain.
IDA is the world's largest trade association of professional
garage door and access system dealers and installers. The site
helps homeowners learn about garage door safety and maintenance.
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Save At Home
With Federal Financial Help
may be able to save more money than you think when you get an
energy-efficient new appliance, with financial help from the
Using nearly $300 million from the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act, all 56 U.S. states and
territories have programs to help families replace older,
inefficient appliances with new energy-efficient ones.
Depending on the program in your state, rebates may be
available to you when you get an Energy
Star−qualified appliance, such as a:
- Central air conditioner
- Clothes washer
- Heat pump (air-source and geothermal)
- Room air conditioner
- Water heater.
For the greatest savings, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
strongly recommends recycling all old appliances, especially
refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers that
contain ozone-destroying and heat-trapping chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
that by law are required to be captured.
The programs are expected to help achieve the national goals
of spurring economic growth, creating jobs, saving energy and
reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The DOE also suggests these easy low-cost and
no-cost ways to save energy:
- Install a programmable thermostat to keep your house
comfortable but not waste energy when you're not at home.
- Use compact fluorescent lightbulbs
with the Energy Star label.
- Air dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying
- Turn off your computer and monitor when not in use.
- Plug home electronics, such as TVs and DVD players, into
power strips; turn the power strips off when the equipment
is not in use (TVs and DVDs in standby mode still use
several watts of power).
- Lower the thermostat on your hot water heater to 120°F.
- Take short showers instead of baths.
- Wash only full loads of dishes and clothes.
- Drive sensibly. Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid
acceleration and braking) wastes gasoline.
- Learn more. Visit
www.energysavers.gov for more energy-saving ideas. Go to
www.energysavers.gov/rebates to find all the details
about the rebate programs, which products are covered, how
much the rebate is for, how to take advantage of it and what
the timetable is likely to be as they vary state to state.
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Tips To Help
You Share A Shower
you find yourself adjusting the shower spray to another setting
when first getting into the shower, read on for a few tips to
help make showering more enjoyable.
According to Victoria
Silow, marketing manager at
Speakman Company, this can be an
unnecessary source of friction. "My husband likes a strong and
forceful shower and I like a softer, full-body spray," says
Silow. "I always have to readjust
the setting every time I shower. Needless to say, we are not
You may want to take this into consideration when buying a
new showerhead. Look for side handle adjusters or outer rings
with tabs, finger grips or indentations that make the showerhead
easy to turn with one hand. Adjusters allow all the members of
your household to select the spray they like to get the most
enjoyment out of their showers.
Another tip is to look for heads with which you can adjust
the shower feel at any water pressure. Most showerheads have
interchangeable spray functions like massage, full flood,
aeration and combination, but these spray settings will react
differently under varying water pressures.
Speakman Company offers a line of
Anystream fixed showerheads and
handheld showers that allow even the most varying spray
preferences to be satisfied at any water pressure with a quick
turn of the side handle.
While you might not be spray compatible, people in the
household are still able to experience their desired spray and
have an enjoyable shower experience.
For more information about shower products, visit
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