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Electricity-Dependent: Don’t Be Caught in the Dark

You’re sitting here reading this article on your computer, while your television plays in the background, sipping the hot coffee you just grabbed from your coffeemaker… and then, without warning, the power goes out. In our lifetimes, we will be subjected to power outages, whether they’re from a natural disaster or a rolling blackout. (People living on the East Coast can attest to this, after struggling, some as long as a week, with a power loss from storms this summer.) Technology has allowed us to innovate and build everything smaller, faster, and at a lower cost, but it’s still susceptible to nature’s whims.

New products enter the market almost every day to meet a perceived need while, at the same time, making us more and more dependent upon electrical power. If you think about it, even the cordless phones you use in your home need electricity to work.

As this demand for electricity has grown, it has put more stress on the production, transmission, and distribution of power in the United States. Weather isn’t the only threat to your electrical well-being; cyber terrorism is a real and present threat to the power system. Also, as the need for power continues to exponentially increase, the power grid itself runs the risk of equipment failures or human error.

When the power goes out, you never know when it will be up and running again. Depending upon the severity of what caused it to go out to begin with, you may be out of power for days or even weeks. In the case of a power outage, here are five steps you and your family can take to be prepared:

1. Take a good look around.

You need to take stock of all of the items in your home that use power that you couldn’t live without. Is it the furnace, air conditioner, well for water, refrigerator, or even an oxygen machine that you need on a daily basis to survive? In addition to the big picture, look at the small appliances around your house that require power: your alarm clock, water heater, cell phone, landline, and radio.

2. Place a value on your food.

Consider the items in your refrigerator and freezer, as well as how long these appliances will be able to keep perishable items cold. You should have a supply of nonperishable food that will ideally last you a week or more. Did you know a grocery store typically has only three days’ worth of items on its shelves? If they aren’t able to restock their shelves, where does that leave you?

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on October 5th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers

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5 Small Home Improvement Projects with Big Returns

The very mention of ‘home renovation’ can cause anxiety in homeowners, particularly those who have already gone through the process. Extensive remodeling projects can be expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming, but that does not necessarily apply to every project. There are a number of upgrades that can dramatically improve the look and feel of your home without breaking the bank or creating total chaos in your life. If you are trying to sell your home, you will find that inexpensive improvements can yield big returns. Here are five enhancements that fall relatively low on the hassle scale:

1. Hardwood Flooring Installation

Installing hardwood flooring should, in most cases, be left to a contractor, as it requires special equipment and expertise. On the other hand, glue-down hardwood floors are less costly, especially if your home is on a concrete slab. The installation of nailed hardwood floors over concrete requires that a layer of plywood or other suitable wood medium be applied first so that the new product can be attached with nails. However, glue-down flooring eliminates this step because an adhesive is used for the attachment process. It is generally a faster installation as well. For instance, a 400 square foot room floored with 3-inch flooring can usually be completed in 1 to 2 days.

If you already have hardwood floors that are worn, you might want to consider refinishing. Again, this is a job for the well-skilled craftsman, but it will dramatically improve the look of the room and require much less time than a complete replacement. In fact, approximately 86% of homebuyers in 2011 chose a home with hardwood floors, so this renovation is a worthy investment if you plan to sell your home somewhere down the road.

2. Kitchen and Bath Hardware

One of the simplest upgrades that can be performed is the installation of new hardware such as towel racks, cabinet handles, toilet paper dispensers, and other wall-mounted hardware. Several aesthetically pleasing designs are available for a range of prices. If you are handy, this is a true do-it-yourself project.

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on October 4th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers, Home Improvement

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The Most Powerful and Low-Cost Method for Selling a Home Fast

A clean, organized home does more to sell your home compared to any other low-cost selling strategy. This is according to a 2011 survey conducted here at HomeGain, which questioned over 600 real estate agents across the U.S. and found 99 percent of them recommend thoroughly cleaning and decluttering the home before putting it up for sale. It also showed a return on investment (ROI) of 586-percent simply by cleaning and decluttering.

These survey results make sense. Would you buy a home that was cluttered and messy? The answer is probably a defiant “No!” First impressions are critical when selling a home, so it’s extremely important to make your home look its best during an open house or showing.

Decluttering

The first step is to declutter the home. In most cases, the more stuff you get rid of, the better. A minimalist approach will appeal to the highest percentage of potential buyers.

So, start by clearing out obvious trash, junk and boxes filled with stored items. Either temporarily store these items in a storage unit or family member’s home, or trash the items if it’s something you never use or need.

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on September 24th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers

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Guerrilla House Buying: Taking Different Routes to Home Ownership

Some rays of positive light are beginning to shine on the American housing industry. The US Department of Commerce has recently reported that home sales are beginning to move up
from depressing lows to a point where a full-scale recovery may soon be developing. That is wonderful news but there still are some bumps along the way. Homeowners are holding onto
their property longer and a number of buyers are stuck with serious credit problems, making it very difficult to obtain conventional mortgage loans from financial institutions. Yet, it is very possible for a prospective buyer who has poor credit ratings to purchase a house. It just means that guerrilla house buying tactics may need to be used. This isn’t as threatening as it sounds. Guerrilla house buying simply means that the road less traveled is used and strategies that are a bit unconventional are considered (this assumes that a standard home mortgage from a bank is conventional means).

Family is a potential source of financing for even the purchase itself. It is largely accepted that an increased down payment translates to more favorable mortgage terms (lower interest rates, etc). In some instances, this can make for the difference between affordable and cost-prohibitive financing. In this scenario, a buyer agrees with a family member on a loan large enough to provide a sizable down payment. In most occurrences, the terms of a family loan comprises a minimal interest rate; in others, the arrangement may consist of repayment of principle only. Utilizing a (now) larger down payment, it is possible for the buyer to arrange a path to home ownership that creatively slashes costly interest rates (and other associated expenses).

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on September 20th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers

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How to Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter Pests

As the autumn and winter seasons draw nearer, people’s thoughts begin turning to pest control. When it gets cold outside, insects, rodents, and other unpleasant or unsanitary beasts want to come into your home, where it’s warm and there’s plenty of food. Their presence is more than just an irritation or an eyesore. It’s also a health issue. Most common household pests spread disease through their excrement and cause severe allergies with their dander or shed skin. Some others, such as termites, are capable of devouring your home from the inside out and making it uninhabitable. Therefore, it’s of the utmost importance to discourage pests before they can become a problem. Here are some tips for preparing your home for fall and winter pests:

Get Rid of Moisture Accumulation

Leaky pipes, clogged drains, and cracks in the basement wall often lead to an accumulation of water. Many pests are attracted to moisture, such as cockroaches, millipedes, and rodents. Termites are also attracted to moist conditions because they favor wet wood. Considering a standard termite treatment cost, preventing their favorite conditions is the some of the best termite protection you can have. Before fall gets here, it’s strongly recommended that you remedy any leaks or drainage issues you might have in your home.

Seal Cracks and Holes

Any nook or cranny that can be invaded will be invaded. Mice, roaches, flies, spiders, and wasps will exploit any available route into your home, such as cracks in your foundation or gaps around your doors. You should locate all of these areas in and around your home and make sure they’re sealed up.Caulk around windows and use it to fill in small cracks and entry points for utilities. For holes and large cracks, use steel wool. Similarly, you should make sure that chimneys and vents are screened over so that no animals can get in.

Weather Stripping

Weather stripping is useful for more than keeping the cold air outside and the warm air inside. It’s also helpful for keeping out uninvited guests. Install weather stripping on all of your home’s exterior doors, or replace it if it’s cracked or worn. This task is inexpensive and easy, making it one of the best things you can do to control pests.

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on September 13th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers

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Why the Words “For Sale by Owner” Can Spell Doom for Your Home

Today’s real estate market can be trying for even the most eager of individuals. Many people might want to avoid the additional commissions, fees, and whatnot that are involved with realtors, yet having that ominous “for sale by owner” (FSBO) sign in their yards could lead to more problems than solutions. What makes a sale more difficult when owners attempt to do it themselves?

Tricky Sales
When you list a property “for sale by owner,” there is a limited pool of potential buyers. In most cases, the property won’t be showing up on the multiple listing service (MLS). Also, many people think that FSBO sellers are not always the most motivated to sell their properties, and are just putting a sign up to see if they can garner a high asking price. Many times, unfortunately, you see FSBO homes sitting on the market for an unusually long time.

Also, those selling FSBO might not have the experience of an agent in negotiating the best deal. The closing paperwork, if you have never sold a property, can be very complex and confusing. An investor, for example, usually makes the sale as stress-free as possible by handling all the paperwork, closing quickly, buying “as is,” and not charging realtor commissions.

Realtors versus Investors
There are many perks to listing with a realtor. It can be a good idea if the house is in good condition, you are patient, you don’t mind paying additional realtor commissions, and you are looking for a retail price. If the house needs work, however, you are looking to sell quickly, or you don’t want to pay a hefty realtor’s commission, contacting an investor might be a better option than choosing a realtor.

An investor is a great option to get your house sold if you need to sell quickly for whatever reason (including probate, inheritance, divorce, bankruptcy, or relocation, just to name a few). Usually, when investors buy houses, they can buy them in as few as seven days, in as-is condition, and without any realtor commissions. It’s up to you to decide which of these options best serves your ultimate purpose in terms of selling your house.

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Posted by: Guest Contributor on August 24th, 2012 under Guest Bloggers

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