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More Sellers Turning To Real Estate Agents

(NAPSI)-The 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 neighbor.

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 transaction process.

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 estate professional."

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How To Be Properly Prepared For Emergencies

(NAPSI)-You 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 Energizer.

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 the disaster.

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 waterproof container.
  • 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 members.

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 news.
  • 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 separation.
  • 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 after it.

Learn More

For more tips on preparing for a variety of natural disasters and home fire safety, visit the sites www.energizer.com/preparedness and www.iafc.org.

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When Storm Season Descends: Tips On Enduring

(NAPSI)-Homeowners 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 experience annually.

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 Generator Systems.

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 prevent sun/draft.
  • 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 an overload.
  • 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 needs.

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Tips On Managing Your Lawn Like A Pro

by Kyle Miller

(NAPSI)-Healthy 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, enjoyable lawn.

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 potassium.

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 www.betterturf.basf.us.

Kyle Miller is Senior Technical Specialist for BASF Professional Turf & Ornamentals.

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Decluttering Your Closet

(NAPSI)-Clearing out your closet and creating a clean and attractive spot for your stuff may be easier and less expensive than you may have feared.

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 sports equipment.
  • 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 accessories.

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Garage Door Safety

(NAPSI)-Teaching 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

(NAPSI)-You may be able to save more money than you think when you get an energy-efficient new appliance, with financial help from the government.

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:

  • Boiler
  • Central air conditioner
  • Clothes washer
  • Dishwasher
  • Freezer
  • Furnace
  • Heat pump (air-source and geothermal)
  • Refrigerator
  • 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 cycle.
  • 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

(NAPSI)-If 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 spray compatible."

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 www.speakmanshowers.com.

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