Consumer Real Estate News

    • How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

      20 September 2017

      The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

      The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

      Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
      - Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

      - If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

      - Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

      - If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Here’s How You Can Afford Your Rent

      20 September 2017

      If you’re like many Americans - in particular, millennials who are just starting out on their own - chances are high that your housing costs exceed what you can actually afford. According to federal guidelines, if you’re paying more than 30 percent of your pre-tax dollars on rent, you fall into the ranks of the cost-burdened. Here are some tips from RentHop to make rent more affordable and restore some balance to your wallet...and life.

      Try a different neighborhood. This may sound obvious, but moving to a new, more affordable location is often overlooked as an option. While you may be dead set on living in a certain neighborhood, do the math. If living elsewhere means saving hundreds of dollars a month, it might well be worth it. Find out what more affordable neighborhoods are still within reasonable commuting distances to your job or if flex work schedules may be an option.

      Try a different apartment. In other words, downgrade. While you may love the high-end amenities and the extra closet space, are they really within your budget? Consider scaling down a bedroom or forgoing an on-site workout facility. Figure out what you can live without and you’ll be rewarded by a much-needed cushion in your bank account.

      Get a roommate. If you don’t want to give up the extra space, the great location or the amenities, it may be time to find a roommate. The savings are obvious - reduce your costs by half or two thirds depending on how many roommates you take on. Just be sure to figure out in advance how you’ll handle non-fixed expenses like groceries.

      Looks into rental assistance programs. If you’re really having trouble making ends meet and having a roof over your head is in jeopardy, look into rental assistance programs that may be available in your state. These programs have a mission to help low-income tenants and families keep their current housing through providing financial support. Such rental assistance programs can be given through the government, charity programs, local resources, non-profits, etc. Do your research on short- and long-term assistance programs where you’re living. If you qualify as a low – to moderate-income family, you could be eligible.

      Talk to your landlord. Before you make any big changes, talk to your landlord. He or she may be willing to accept a late payment or two, or partial payments until you can get back on your feet or find a roommate. This is particularly true if you’re renting from a local individual as opposed to a large property management firm.

      Renegotiate your lease. If your lease is up for renewal soon, use this opportunity to renegotiate with your landlord to at least maintain the same price you had been paying. If you’re in a spot where you know there isn’t a lot of interest, it will work in your favor.

      Sublet. If you have an opportunity to move to a more affordable place before your lease is up, see if subletting your apartment is an option. Before you do, however, make sure it’s not forbidden in your lease agreement and that there are no other laws against subletting. Discuss it with your landlord to be safe.

      So if you’re feeling squeezed by your monthly rent, don’t despair. Sit down with a calculator and consider the options above. There is always a solution.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Renovating Your Bathroom? Think Safety First

      20 September 2017

      A renovation can be a fun period where your wildest home-design ideas can be put into action. However, when planning out a brand new bathroom, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially if you have seniors or children living in your spaces. Moen notes that children younger than five account for more than half of all slips and falls in the bathroom.

      Here are six tips from Moen to help make your bath safe and stylish:

      Install grab bars. These bars can make or break a fall in the bathroom. The best places to install them are: 1) near the toilet, 2) along the showerhead wall and 3) on the back wall of the tub/shower.

      Choose a dark grab bar. Darker finishes against a lighter wall allows those with impaired vision to easily find grab bars.

      Love levers. Faucets with lever handles make turning the fixture on and off easier for everyone.

      Go handheld. A handheld shower brings the water to you, which helps keep you safer and makes it easier to bathe children.

      Shelf life. Keeping items (like shampoo) within reach on a shelf in your shower helps you avoid slips and falls.

      Take a seat. Studies show that women are 72 percent more likely to be injured in the bath or shower than men. Add peace of mind with a shower seat to prevent slips during activities such as shaving legs.

      Light it right. Consider three or four globe lights for a well-illuminated, safe bath.

      Source: Moen

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How Much Do You Know About Your Credit Score?

      19 September 2017

      While your credit score affects everything from your ability to buy a car or a home to how much interest you will pay on the loan, many people don’t know how these scores are calculated or what impacts them positively or negatively.

      Moreover, says the Credit Federation of America (CFA), more than 25 percent of respondents in a recent survey did not know that a low credit score could increase the cost of a car loan by $5,000. More than half didn’t realize that utility companies, cellphone companies, and even insurers sometimes check credit scores before issuing services – or that multiple inquiries in a short time, as when you are shopping for a loan, are treated as one inquiry in order to minimize the impact on your score.

      The CFA provides more about credit scores that every consumer should know:

      All your credit scores are not the same – Most people assume their credit score is a single three-digit number, but each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) scores you differently, since they don’t necessarily have the exact same data in their files.

      Closing old accounts will not necessarily boost your scores – Closing old or inactive accounts may inadvertently lower your credit score because now your credit history appears shorter.  If you want to simplify, close newer credit accounts first or put the cards away so you don’t use them but your credit history stays intact.

      Paying off a bad debt will not erase it from your score – Once a debt goes to collection, or you’ve established a history of late payments, you will deal with the consequences even if you pay off what you owe. It will show as paid, but it is not erased. Also,while your score will get a boost if you pay off an old debt, it may not be by as much as you think. The best way to increase your scores and keep them high is to make payments on time every month over the long haul.

      Co-signing for a loan impacts your scores – When you co-sign for someone else’s loan, you are responsible for the debt – and if the person your co-signed for does not pay, your credit score will be impacted.  

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Steps to a Healthier Kitchen

      19 September 2017

      Trying to lose a few pounds or simply boost your nutritional intake? Well, what you eat and how you eat all starts with how you stock and organize your kitchen. These foundational steps will put you on the path to a cleaner diet and an all-around healthier lifestyle.

      1. Lose the preservatives. The reason that loaf of bread and box of crackers in the cabinet lasts so long is because they’re loaded with preservatives. But all those ingredients you can’t pronounce on the nutrition label are really bad for you. Opt for organic breads or buy them fresh from the bakery, then freeze them. Sliced options let you conveniently grab just the servings you need at any given time.

      2. Buy then eat. Do you often encounter a rotten tomato or two at the bottom of your vegetable bin? To avoid the common problem of being unable to consume fruits and veggies before they go bad, get into the habit of swinging by the grocery store or produce stand on the way home from work and buy just what you need for that evening and lunch the next day. Not only will this prevent food waste, it will ensure you’re consuming these nutrient-rich foods in their freshest possible state.

      3. Store properly. Fruits and vegetables should be removed from those plastic grocery bags before being stored in your fridge. Remember to store fruits and vegetables separately, on different shelves or in different bins.

      4. Grow your own. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow a few of your own cooking ingredients, such as herbs. A sunny window can provide all the tools you need to grow basics such as basil, oregano and rosemary.

      5. Keep food organized and accessible. It’s one thing to buy the right foods, but if they get lost in the recesses of your fridge, what’s the point? Wash and chop fruits and vegetables and place them in clear plastic containers at eye level. Buy healthy snacks like yogurt, hummus and nut butters in grab-and-go friendly sizes.

      With these few small adjustments you’ll be on your way to a healthier way of life in no time!

      Published with permission from RISMedia.