Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Moms Hate to Wait on Mother's Day

May 6, 2014 12:29 am

Across the country, Mother's Day is one of the most commercially successful U.S. occasions for flowers, greeting cards, and restaurants. However, a new survey from NoWait, the wait-listing app and seating tool for casual-dining restaurants, reveals that the number-one reason why moms would choose not to dine out on Mother's Day is because their "favorite restaurant is too busy." NoWait announced its nationwide survey results to uncover Mother's Day preferences around dining out.

When asked how they typically spend Mother's Day, 71 percent stated they "plan on taking Mom out to eat" for the holiday, yet only one-third (33 percent) find making a reservation necessary for their dining plans. If they do plan ahead, the Mother's Day study shows that partners are poor planners, with 74 percent making plans "less than a week before"; only 20 percent plan "more than a month in advance" and six percent "make no plans at all." Despite the large number of procrastinators who wait until the last minute to make Mother's Day plans -- if they make any plans at all -- 88 percent would walk out after just 30 minutes of waiting; only eight percent are willing to have her wait "up to an hour" and an especially small fraction (4 percent) are willing to make Mom "wait as long as it takes."

More results from the inaugural Mother's Day survey from NoWait are as follows:

• When it comes to the specific meal with which families celebrate Mom, they can sleep in. Almost half (44 percent) take Mom out for dinner, while breakfast (8 percent), brunch (37 percent) and lunch (11 percent) were less popular.
• Although President Wilson officially declared Mother's Day the second Sunday in May, Americans are less literal when it comes to celebrating on the specific day. Despite a majority (70 percent) celebrating Mom "at a restaurant," they are split evenly between dining out actually "on Mother's Day" versus "at some time during the Mother's Day weekend."

Source: NoWait

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Seven Spring Safety Tips

May 6, 2014 12:29 am

Spring is in the air, and along with it comes the urge to clean, organize and spruce up your yard after a long, hard winter. Public Service Electric and Gas Co. (PSE&G) wants to ensure that you do so safely and that your equipment is in good working order. PSE&G offers the following tips to stay safe around electricity and gas.

Spring cleaning indoors:

1. When vacuuming and sweeping, check for electrical cords crossing your path or running under rugs. Cords should be out of pathways to avoid tripping and should never be hidden under rugs or furniture where they could overheat and potentially start a fire.
2. When cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen, make sure that electrical appliances are not placed where they could get wet. Electrical parts can become grounded when wet, posing an electric shock or overheating hazard.
3. When dusting, check lamps and fixtures to ensure they have light bulbs with the correct wattage. Wattage should be of equal or lesser value than that recommended by the manufacturer.

Spring cleaning outdoors:

1. If you use power tools to work outside, make sure that extension cords are marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools. Overloaded cords may lead to electric shock and serious injury.
2. Check for overhead power lines when using ladders to clean your gutters or pool-cleaning equipment that could reach within 10 feet of the lines.
3. When digging in your yard to plant new trees or bushes, make sure that you know where underground electric and gas lines are located..
4. If planning to trim trees, check for overhead power lines. The only safe way to trim trees within 10 feet of power lines is to call a professional.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Add Curb Appeal and Value to your Home during National Home Improvement Month

May 2, 2014 5:44 am

According to professional contractor Mark Clement, National Home Improvement Month in May is the ideal time to make improvements to the exterior of your home. By upgrading your home's curb appeal, you increase the value of your house and make a positive impact on visitors.

"According to Remodeling magazine's 2014 Cost vs. Value study, home improvement projects involving curb appeal have very strong return on investment numbers for homeowners," says Clement, co-host of MyFixitUpLife home improvement radio show. "Their research shows that in a mid-range priced home, up to 67.8 percent of the cost of a roof replacement can be recouped when selling a home.

"For the replacement of a fiberglass entry door, the cost recouped is up to 70.8 percent and homeowners can expect to regain up to a whopping 78.8 percent of the cost of replacing older windows with vinyl replacement windows. These numbers show that curb appeal improvements add value to the home overall and can be considered extremely smart investments for homeowners."

Clement points out that homeowners should start each May with a "top-down" evaluation of their home's exterior products. "Begin by checking out the appearance and functionality of your roof, siding, windows, trim and doors," says Clement. "Look for products that are worn out, need repair or re-painting, or simply should be replaced. Tackling these projects in May means you'll have more time to enjoy the results and a carefree summer."

Clement recommends the following checklist for National Home Improvement Month to make sure your home is in top condition:

1. Check the roof. Using either a ladder or binoculars from across the street, look for problem areas, such as missing or broken shingles, along with roofing tiles that may be "flapping" in the wind. These are all indications that a new roof may be in your future. If that's the case, research the benefits of polymer shake and slate roofing tiles. These impact- and fire-resistant tiles come in a wide variety of colors. Some roofing tiles are sustainable and recyclable. They also have a 50-year limited warranty.

2. Clean and assess the home's siding. Environmentally-friendly detergents, scrubbing and/or pressure-washing all work well for many homes to remove dirt and algae that can grow on siding. Never pressure-wash trim pieces, doors, windows or screens. The extreme high pressure could crack or destroy the caulking around the units. Check for changes in the exterior from the previous year and be alert to buckling, rotting, peeling paint or insect damage that may need to be fixed.

3. Check on the gutters. Each year homeowners should check to make sure their gutters are clean, unclogged, securely attached to the home and remain sloped for proper drainage. Plus, make sure the water running off the roof doesn't cause damage to the building structure, landscaping or property below the roof.

4. Evaluate the windows. If you find that the windows in your home don't operate easily, there's air leaking in or out of the units, or there's condensation between the glass panes, it may be time to seriously consider replacement windows.

Vinyl framed windows have the highest growth rate in the country due to their energy-efficiency, aesthetic appeal and durability. Some of the best have fusion-welded corners and multi-chambered construction. Plus, maintenance hassles are so low you'll forget the horrors of rotting frames, scraping and repainting that come with wood windows.

5. Spend time with your doors
. If you can see light around a door from the inside, your door is hard to close or lock, or the door itself is warped, it's time to consider a new door. Even if you can't see light, air may be moving through gaps in the weather stripping at a surprising rate.

Think about the weather conditions that your home's doors face along with your energy bills. If either run to the extreme, consider replacing an inefficient entryway with a high-performance fiberglass door.

6. Look at your home's accessory features. Spend time with your shutters, trim and louvers to see if they're rotting. Check the bottoms and tops of columns and near the joints in crown and other mouldings for water spots, decay or peeling paint to see if they're deteriorating in any way. They may also be suffering from termites, insect infestations or warping.

Source: Ziprik Consulting

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Take Action against Termites

May 2, 2014 5:44 am

Your first reaction to seeing flying termites in your home could be panic. If you've had a previous termite infestation, you probably just feel angry. Either way, hungry termites mean business and your home is on the menu.

"After the cold winter we've had, you may be surprised to know that termites are swarming right now," says Ty Ferraro, Dow AgroSciences product manager for the Sentricon® System. "We've had a cold winter, but now that we're getting rain and warmer spring air, the termites are here."

The National Pest Management Association estimates that subterranean termites cost homeowners $5 billion per year to repair damages. That's more than fires, earthquakes and tornadoes combined. Yes, termites are a big problem.
So what do you do if you find winged bugs flying around in your home? Here are five steps the experts recommend.

1. Get expert help. Many pest management firms will do an inspection for free. Termite damage is slow but steady, so although it needs to be stopped, you have time to make the best decision.

2. Identify the enemy. Flying bugs could be termites, but they also could be ants or pantry pests. Catch one in a bag or jar to help with identification. Flying ("swarming") termites and ants easily can be confused with each other. Among other traits, ants have a narrow waist and termites have straight antennae.

3. Know your options. Used since the 1950s, liquid barrier treatments inject a chemical insecticide into the soil around and even beneath your home to stop the termites. A better approach, the Sentricon® System, eliminates the underground termite colony and it's a green approach. In fact, it's the only termite product to ever win the U.S. Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

4. Conquer the queen. You need a product that doesn't just kill individual termites, it eliminates the entire termite colony. The colony is a complex hierarchy of termites who depend on each other for survival and who protect and care for the termite queen. Her job is to produce offspring, and depending on the species, has the amazing ability to produce up to 1 million eggs in her lifetime. Bottom line is: you kill the termites in the colony, no one can care for the termite queen and she – and her ability to reproduce – dies.

5. Take action to avoid termite swarming altogether.
Preventive treatments are becoming the norm as pest management professionals seek to help homeowners avoid pest problems before they occur. The old saying that "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" is especially true for termites – flying termites known as swarmers in a home are a sign of a mature colony, and that usually means damage already has occurred. But the lack of swarming termites in your home does not mean your home is not being attacked.

Source: Dow AgroSciences

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Lighting, Mix Use of Cabinetry, Wine Storage Top Kitchen Trends in 2014

May 2, 2014 5:44 am

Kitchens remain a top remodeling project in 2014, according to the Member Profile Study done by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), in time for National Home Improvement Month this May. Eighty-two percent of NARI members identify kitchens as their No. 1 service.

This year, the association’s 2014 CotY Awards program, which recognizes top projects in 25 categories, totaled nearly $73 million worth of remodeling projects and identified national trends emerging, especially in the areas of kitchen updates.

“Consumers want practical, comfortable kitchens that are efficient to use and easy to live in,” says Tom O’Grady, CR, CKBR, chairman of NARI’s Strategic Planning. “Bigger isn’t better, but homeowners still want a feeling of space, and open concept and islands are still part of kitchen trends in 2014.”

Improving the overall look and feel of the kitchen was most often cited as the main motivating factor by homeowners for remodeling, followed by improving function on the CotY entries.

Lighting
The continuing trend of fewer upper cabinets in the kitchen creates more space for decorative task lighting, often on adjustable arms that gives the option to have the light directed where it is needed most. Decorative task fixtures in black, iron and aged brass finishes make a statement. Other trends include:

• Pendant lights over kitchen islands continue to be a great opportunity to bring style into the mix
• Chandeliers in kitchens add a pretty and an unexpected sparkle and can soften up the hard lines and smooth surfaces of appliances and countertops below
• An oversized lighting fixture becomes a focal point in an otherwise plain room
• Under cabinet lights, controlled by a dimmer, provide ambiance

Built-in cabinetry that looks like furniture
Mixing and layering finishes and woods to create a custom look is another key trend, as is built-in accent cabinets that act as framework for the rest of the cabinetry. These cabinets, often designed tall and narrow with glass fronts, provide the look of a built-in china cabinet to showcase collectables. In general, upper cabinets are less popular because they stop the line of sight, especially to backyard garden views.

- Appliances are subtly hidden behind the cabinetry for a clean, streamlined appearance.
- Colorful kitchen cabinetry has made a big comeback. Palettes using and mixing blues,
orange, browns or greens countering neutral white, wood or dark finishes are
providing kitchen flair. Dramatic contrasts of light cabinets and dark countertops
provide visual impact.

Wine storage
With the explosion in the wine market over the past few decades, wine is becoming more of a lifestyle choice and factoring into kitchen designs.

• Dedicated “butler” areas for entertaining, sampling and sharing wine with guests are very popular, allowing the cook the opportunity to socialize while doing food prep.
• Integrated wine coolers, an answer to tight kitchen spaces, are nestled into cabinetry along with wine racks to showcase a homeowners’ collection.

If you're planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these trends to update your kitchen. Before construction gets under way, consult with a professional remodeler about the renovation projects you have planned.

Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Myths of Spring Cleaning

May 1, 2014 5:32 am

(Family Features) Don’t get caught putting extra work into your spring cleaning efforts.

“A little effort up front can make everything you do feel effortless,” said Patrick Coleman, spokesman for Hoover vacuums. “It’s not about finding short cuts. It’s about finding easier ways to do the job right.”

Here are five myths, and the best ways to actually tackle the challenges.

• Cleaning Every Spring is Enough
When it comes to your hardwood floors, putting off cleaning until spring may mean you have to replace them more often.
Walking on dirt and debris can wear down the floors over time. So while it may be tempting to just sweep unless there’s a spill, it’s best to clean the floors at least once a week.

Do this instead:
You don’t need to scrub on your hands and knees every week. Let a machine do it for you. The Hoover FloorMate Deluxe has a set of brushes that spin while they gently wash and scrub hard floors. You’ll be surprised how much less you’ll mind cleaning the floor.

• Vinegar is a Miracle Cleaner
Natural cleaning can be a more environmentally friendly way to tackle the mess, but you need to make the right choice for the right job.

Vinegar will do a great job on glass, plastic and ceramic. However, it can actually damage porous surfaces like the grout between tiles or stone.

Do this instead: Mix 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol, 3 drops of dish detergent and 1 cup of water. Make it smell divine with essential oils.

• More Dirt = More Soap Needed
When something is absolutely filthy, it’s natural to grab the soap and go to town. But that can actually make it dirtier.
While soap is helpful in removing dirt and grime, if you don’t get it all rinsed and removed, the residue acts like a magnet for more dirt.

Do this instead: Use less than you think you need. You can always add more if needed.

• Newspapers Can Replace Paper Towels
You can certainly save money and a tree or two by reusing newspapers instead of buying paper towels to clean windows and other surfaces.

But the ink on newsprint can smear – so you need a backup plan.

Do this instead: Keep a few extra towels or torn garments for when the newspaper is not cutting it.

• Hairspray is the Best Way To Get Out Ink Stains
Yes, hairspray does work. But why add glue and other chemicals to the mess?

Do this instead:
The alcohol in hairspray is what’s actually doing the heavy lifting. So go straight to the source and use alcohol to lightly blot out the stain.

Source: Hoover

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In Most of U.S., Buying Beats Renting After Only Two Years

May 1, 2014 5:32 am

In half of U.S. metros, buying a home is a better financial decision than renting for homebuyers who plan to stay in their home for at least two years, according to the first quarter Zillow® breakeven horizon analysis.

Among the 35 largest metro areas analyzed by Zillow in the first quarter, those with the shortest breakeven horizon were Riverside (less than 1 year), Orlando (1 year), Tampa (1.1 years) and Miami- Fort Lauderdale (1.2 years). Large metros with the longest breakeven horizon included Washington DC (4.2 years), Boston (4 years), Phoenix (3.3 years), San Diego (3.2 years), Minneapolis and Baltimore (both 3.1 years).

Because conditions for buyers and renters can vary dramatically even within cities themselves, Zillow produces breakeven horizons down to the neighborhood level in order to give potential buyers and renters the most insight into local conditions where they're considering living. For example, the breakeven horizon for the city of San Francisco is 2.8 years, but home shoppers who purchase in the Bayview neighborhood will break even after 1.4 years, while those who buy in Presidio Heights will need to stay in their home 11.7 years for buying to be a better financial decision.

"Rents keep rising, and mortgage interest rates remain very low, which is helping to skew the rent vs. buy decision toward buying for those who can afford it. Many renters may ask themselves why renew a lease, when you can break even on the same home in less time in many areas," said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. "However, some renters still have to overcome significant hurdles before they can pull the trigger on homeownership. For those renters who can't qualify for a mortgage or aren't able to save enough for a downpayment on a house, renting can be a more flexible, and often far-less frustrating option."

Zillow's breakeven horizon incorporates all costs associated with buying and renting, including upfront payments, closing costs, anticipated monthly rent and mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance, and renovation costs. We also consider the different asset streams available to buyers and renters. For buyers, the home equity grows.

Alternatively, renters can invest some of the money they would have spent on a home purchase and earn interest. It then factors in historic and anticipated home value appreciation rates, rental prices and rental appreciation rates.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Protect Kids from Dangers Lurking Online

April 29, 2014 5:08 am

(BPT) - Every day, millions of Americans turn to the Internet for news and entertainment and to shop. Over the years, Americans have come to trust the Internet so much, that they regularly share information about their daily lives through social media sites and with online retailers. But what many may not realize is that within just a few clicks, there's an unregulated digital frontier where people, including criminals, buy and sell illegal drugs, guns and pornography, as well as personal and financial details about ordinary individuals. Fueled by software that conceals the identity of people, and digital currency, it's a world that people can't ignore.

That's one of the takeaways from a new report, "Digital Economy: Potentials, Perils and Promises" recently released by the Digital Economy Task Force (DETF). Comprised of experts representing law enforcement, the digital economy and government policy, this task force, brought together by Thomson Reuters and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, explored the risks of the digital economy and the rise of online illegal activity.

Many Americans are familiar with what experts call the Surface Web - the typical retail and company websites, social media pages, blogs and bulletin boards that people routinely visit every day. But underneath the Surface Web is the Deep Web, which consists of networks of content, databases and websites that cannot be reached through common web portals or found by search engines. What makes these networks possible - and untouchable by most Americans - is anonymizing technology that conceals the identity of users.

Within the Deep Web, many websites have become havens of criminal activity such as the trafficking of drugs, guns, humans and child pornography. These illegal sites are known as the Darknet by law enforcement experts. Because people reach these sites anonymously, it makes it very difficult for law enforcement to track the illegal transactions of criminals within the Darknet.

"There's good news and bad news to this story," says Steve Rubley, managing director of the Government Segment of Thomson Reuters and DETF co-chair. "All Americans should know that the rise in the global digital economy offers incredible opportunity. For example, in the case of journalists or dissidents in oppressive countries, anonymizing technology and digital currencies enable a safe link to the outside world.

"But, there's also a dark side to the story," Rubley adds. "Parents should know that some pretty bad people are trying to entice children to send compromising photos of themselves so they can buy and sell those images with other pedophiles. Parents should know that drug dealers are using the Internet to bring drugs to your front door - just like a traditional online retailer."

To foster the growth of the positive aspects of the digital economy while confronting illegal activity on the Internet, the DETF recommends that state and federal lawmakers consider policies and action that will increase law enforcement training, foster more cooperation between law enforcement agencies, promote a national dialogue and education about illegal Internet activity, and more.

"There is a difference between privacy and anonymity," says Ernie Allen, president and CEO of ICMEC and DETF co-chair. "We simply cannot create an environment in which traffickers and child exploiters can operate on the Internet with no risk of being identified unless they make a mistake."

The best defense to prevent criminals and other unsavory characters from violating your privacy online and potentially exploit youth is to implement all privacy settings on social media sites, never friend people you don't know and never respond to emails and text messages you don't recognize. Thomson Reuters offers some additional tips, which include:

* Parents should work with local law enforcement officials to educate their community about the perils of illegal activity occurring on the Internet, and how local citizens of all ages, can avoid becoming victims of online criminals.

* Local citizens should encourage state and local law enforcement officials to invest in the training needed to detect and investigate illegal activity on the Internet that may harm the citizens they represent.

* Parents should monitor online and mobile use by their young children and watch for messages from people that can't be identified or seem out of the ordinary.

* Parents should speak with their children about Internet use and set clear parameters on acceptable use and appropriate websites that can be visited. Set the family computer in a common area to discourage private use. Use parental controls when appropriate to help block access to inappropriate content.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Indoor Air Quality: What You Can't See Can Hurt You

April 28, 2014 4:56 am

The Environmental Protection Agency has named indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health – indoor air may be up to 100 times more polluted than the air outside. With Americans spending 90 percent of their time indoors, purifying indoor air is paramount to keeping families healthy – especially those with family members suffering from asthma and allergies.

"Poor indoor air quality has been linked to a host of health issues such as headaches, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, fatigue, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease," says Megan Leick, spokesperson for Aprilaire. "For individuals that suffer from asthma or allergies, air particulates such as pollen, dust and dust mites are known triggers for asthma attacks and allergic reactions."

More than 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma and 50 million suffer from allergies. Dust alone is comprised of dead insects, dust mites, mold spores, pollen, dander, skin flakes and other particulates that can be harmful to health. Controlling indoor air quality can provide relief for asthma and allergy sufferers and protect your family from getting sick. You can improve indoor air quality with a few simple steps:

1. Prevent Irritants from Entering the House. Take measures to make sure dust, dirt and other pollutants are prevented from entering the house. Simple activities like removing shoes before entering the household, closing windows during high pollen days and not allowing smoking indoors help keep dirt and other irritants from entering the household.

2. Install a whole-home air purification system. A whole-home air purification system is installed as part of the central heating and cooling system to capture and eliminate airborne contaminants. Whole-home air purification systems remove up to 98 percent of airborne contaminants down to one micron in size and are 40 times more efficient than a standard furnace filter. Each time the air system runs, the whole-home air purification system removes dust, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, viruses, fungi, mold and other dangerous substances from the air throughout the entire home, rather than just the air in the immediate vicinity like a portable air cleaner.

Other important considerations include maintaining humidity levels as well as proper ventilation; especially if your home is newer or has been recently updated with tighter materials for more energy efficiency.

Source: AprilAire

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The 4 Types of Travelers That Should Purchase a Travel Insurance Policy

April 28, 2014 4:56 am

There are certain risks associated with traveling - missing a flight, getting sick, or losing luggage. For some, these risks are greater than others. Squaremouth defines the four types of travelers that should consider purchasing a travel insurance policy.

The Traveler with a Sick Family Member
The uncertainty of a family member's health can jeopardize even the most thoroughly planned trip. While all trip cancellation policies cover a family member's unexpected illness, some policies will also cover cancellation due to their pre-existing medical conditions.

The Traveler on Medicare
In most cases, Medicare does not extend coverage outside of the U.S. This means that if a traveler on Medicare becomes ill or injured while traveling abroad, they are responsible for paying 100 percent of the medical expenses. Most travel insurance policies include an emergency medical and medical evacuation benefit that can take the place of a traveler's Medicare coverage while they're abroad.

The Traveler Going to a Dangerous or Remote Location
Travel to an especially dangerous or remote location increases a traveler's need for an escape plan. The evacuation benefits within some travel insurance policies can act as this plan. Non-medical evacuation is a benefit that provides transportation from a dangerous location to a place of safety during civil unrest or natural disaster. Likewise, medical evacuation provides transportation to an appropriate medical facility. This benefit is particularly important as many health insurance providers don't cover this transportation cost internationally.

The Self-Employed Traveler
The inconsistent work schedule of self-employed or on-call travelers can linger over their future travel plans. Some travel insurance policies include a "cancel for work reasons" benefit, which in some cases, covers self-employed travelers who need to cancel their trip if an unforeseen work obligation conflicts with their travel plans.

"Travelers often feel indifferent towards travel insurance until they are in a situation where they need it and don't have it," says Squaremouth Marketing Manager, Megan Singh. "For some travelers who are at a higher risk, not having a policy is simply not worth it."

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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