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

Tips for Working with Professional Landscapers

May 14, 2013 4:40 am

If you're trying to sell your home this spring, working with a professional can boost your home's curb appeal and attract possible buyers to the door. As any landscaper would tell you, the condition of your lawn can have a big effect on the value of your home. If you plan on hiring some help, here are a few tips to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Talk to several landscapers before deciding to hire one. Scheduling consultations with multiple landscapers is important. Have them come survey your property and make recommendations on what needs to be done. Use them as consultants, helping you narrow down the work that needs to be done versus extra frills you would like to add to the process. For smaller tasks such as mowing, weeding, gardening or raking, you may want to consider hiring a local teenager or family member in order to save money.

Request estimates. Now that you know what it is you want to have done, request an estimate from at least three of the consultants you met with. Depending on the company, costs could range greatly and the differences could be thousands of dollars. For example, according to the Consumers' Checkbook, a tree-removal job could cost anywhere from $1,935 to $6,300 and lawn care could range from $229 to $805. Finding out what each company will charge you for the job is crucial to staying in budget.

Don't be hasty on saying 'yes.' If your landscaper suggests an add-on of any sort, think it through before OK-ing it. Sometimes your company might recommend various fertilizers, treatment or sprayings, but make sure there is a good reason and necessity for it. The more your landscaper provides, the higher your bill will be.

Quite possibly the most important step: Don't pay until the job is finished. If possible, pay nothing until the job is fully completed. If the landscaper requires a payment, do so with a credit card. If the job isn't finished to your satisfaction, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. By not paying up front, you also have more leverage in terms of ensuring that the job is completed the way you want it. Keep this in mind while you're hiring professional help.

Hiring a professional landscaper can improve your curb appeal by leaps and bounds
. However, keep these tips in mind to make sure you get the most for your money.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Consumers' Checkbook

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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8 Tips toward Unplugging on Vacation

May 13, 2013 4:34 am

You have your iPhone, your BlackBerry or your Android. You have your laptop or netbook with WiFi. It's hard enough to unplug for the weekend, let alone an entire vacation, but for your own sanity and even that of your coworkers, you need to. There's no reason to take a vacation only to spend it working. The beach might be great, but think about how much better it would be if your phone was left in your hotel room.

Vacations are meant to help employees recharge so they can return to work re-energized and refocused. But if you're constantly checking in with the office, you won't get a real break. To help you unplug and look forward to your vacation, here are eight tips:

1. Plan ahead. Coordinate your vacation time with your co-workers, team and other executive staff to ensure that things run smoothly while you're out.
2. Designate your main point of contact and give them a detailed account of all your projects and work commitments along with your emergency contact information.
3. Try to leave the majority of your work-related hardware at home.
4. Inform your key accounts, vendors and clients when and how long you'll be out of the office.
5. If you have a lot of projects that will need attention while you're out, consider distributing your projects among your co-workers or team.
6. If you can't resist the temptation to check in, try to set up specific times or days you will be checking messages.
7. Leave your mobile devices in your room so you can concentrate on family and friends and not be tempted to check in during the day.
8. If you receive urgent voicemails or emails while you're out, ask your main point of contact to troubleshoot the issue.

Remember, your health is important and taking a vacation may be all the help you need.

Source: CareerCast.com

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Energy-and Water-Saving Tips for Your Apartment or Condo

May 13, 2013 4:34 am

Energy costs and growing concerns about the environment are prompting many homeowners to try to reduce the amount of energy and water they use. Cutting down on your energy use can also help you save money, whether you pay your utility bills directly or through your rent or condominium fees. If you live in an apartment or condo, the following tips can help you save energy and water, and make your home more comfortable:

• Seal any cracks or holes in your walls, ceiling, floors, windows and doors to keep drafts out, and keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
• Take advantage of natural heat from the sun by opening your curtains and blinds on sunny winter days, and closing them at night to keep the heat inside. Watch for any water that may form on the windows and wipe it up to prevent damage and mold growth. In the summer, keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day. If security isn't an issue, try opening windows in the evening and early morning to let the cool air in, and then closing them during the day to keep the heat out.
• Make sure the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms are clean, dust-free and working efficiently. Keep your refrigerator working efficiently by cleaning the evaporator coils once a year and ensuring the door firmly seals shut.
• Fix leaky faucets and toilets, and consider installing low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets.
• Use fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in your home. CFLs are 75 to 80 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Make sure you dispose of them properly as they contain small amounts of mercury that can be harmful to the environment.
• If you're purchasing appliances or electronic equipment, check the EnerGuide label on large appliances or the ENERGY STAR® ratings for electronics, home office products and small appliances. If you're purchasing a new washer, consider a front-loading model. Front-loading washers use up to 40 per cent less water and 60 per cent less energy than top-loading machines.
• If you're buying an air conditioner, look for a model with an energy efficiency rating (EER) of at least 11 and an ENERGY STAR® symbol on the label. Clean the filters every month and set your thermostat higher or off when you're not home.
• Turn off lights, appliances and electrical equipment when you're not using them. Take the stairs if you live near the ground floor. Try to run only full loads when washing clothes or using the dishwasher.
• Remember: always consult with your building manager or landlord before undertaking any maintenance, repairs or improvements to your unit. For major repairs, you may also want to hire a contractor or other qualified professional.

Source: CMHC

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Keep Decks Looking New with Proper Maintenance

May 13, 2013 4:34 am

A deck is a great investment. It increases your home’s usable living space at a fraction of the cost of adding an inside room. Remodeling magazine estimates a properly maintained deck will return about 77 percent of its original cost. But no one wants to buy a home where they are going to immediately incur costly deck repairs. Courtesy of Pillar To Post, here are a few tips for caring for decks:

• Deep Clean: This is best done on a cloudy day before the weather gets too hot. Start by sweeping the deck and removing debris that’s trapped between the deck boards. A putty knife is great for this. You can attach it to a pipe or dowel rod so that you don’t have to bend over the entire time. Then, wash wood decks and all railings with a standard deck cleaner. You can also mix bleach and water at a ratio of one-to-one. If you have composite deck, make sure you use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material.

Seal the deck: This should be done 48 hours after the deep clean. You can test if your deck needs sealing by splashing some water on it. The water should bead up. If it soaks into the deck, you need to reseal it. Most decks will need to be resealed annually.

Inspect and Repair: In the warm, dry summer months, inspect the deck for signs of rot. This is easily done by poking a flat-blade screwdriver into areas that look worn. If you can push the screwdriver more than a quarter-inch into the deck, you should repair it. Small areas, anything about an inch or smaller, can be chiseled out and treated with wood preservative. If the rot covers a larger area, you should consult a professional to evaluate the deck and recommend repairs. Also, you’ll want to tighten any screws that are loose on the railing and add galvanized lag screws to posts that need extra support.

Preventive measures: Before winter comes, secure or replace loose and missing nails. Trimming back bushes near the deck will prevent mold, moss and rot. Moving planters, chairs, tables and other items that are on the deck will prevent the deck from becoming discolored.

Source: www.pillartopostfranchise.com

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New ‘Treat Obesity Seriously’ Effort Encourages Treatment of Obesity as a Serious Health Condition

May 10, 2013 1:12 am

With two out of three adults in the United States considered obese or overweight, obesity scientists and clinicians are asking that obesity be treated as a serious health condition, such as heart disease and cancer, to bring us closer to combating the epidemic. The Obesity Society (TOS), the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity, is launching the Treat Obesity Seriously campaign to encourage a shift in the way Americans look at the disease. The effort is aimed at educating policymakers on the need to recognize obesity as a serious condition and providing clinicians the tools to diagnose and treat obesity.

"Obesity is one of the most complex, chronic medical conditions," said Harvey Grill, PhD, TOS President. "Successful treatment often requires the support and guidance of professionals. Unfortunately, the way many people look at obesity in the U.S. is limiting the treatment approach, which often means lower standards of care, inconsistent communication of treatment options, and disjointed care coordination. Multidisciplinary care is necessary to treat obesity, particularly given the complex nature of the disease and its impact on both physical and mental health."

It is widely accepted that obesity puts individuals at risk for more than 30 health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obesity also has a strong correlation to depression. However, evidence increasingly shows that it is harder for some people to take effective steps on their own to lose weight. For example, brain activity studies show that obese people get a smaller "reward" when eating than people of normal weight and each year more genetic factors are found to be associated with obesity.

As part of the effort, TOS is looking to policymakers to improve access for obesity treatment so those affected can get the same necessary medical care and treatment coverage that's available to all others who suffer from other chronic diseases. Some members of Congress are already working to improve access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management through Medicare. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

In fact, a 5–10 percent weight loss alone can have significant benefits for a patients' health and new research shows that preventing obesity can have substantial long-term cost savings for the entire healthcare system.

"Obesity treatment is a smart strategy to improve public health and clinician engagement is an important factor," said Grill. "Patients are three times more likely to lose weight if their healthcare provider talks to them about the variety of options available for managing and treating the disease."

Through the newly launched campaign website, clinicians can sign up to receive the following tools by mail:

• BMI prescription pad: Clinicians can record and share information with patients about BMI and waist circumference, two of the primary measures of obesity. The pad also includes information about obesity-related risks and provides links to find out more information about the disease.
• Physician office poster, "Obesity is a serious disease": As they wait to see the doctor, patients can learn more about obesity, such as related health conditions and the significant impact moderate weight loss, as little as 5 percent, can have on these conditions.
• BMI wheel calculator: Technology is not necessary to determine BMI. This simple, circular paper tool allows for a quick calculation of BMI by matching height and weight.

Source: The Obesity Society

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?

May 10, 2013 1:12 am

To celebrate National Home Remodeling Month in May, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers recommends that homeowners consider the safety risks, time delays and hidden costs before attempting do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements.

According to the 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS) from the HUD/Census Bureau, home owner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects accounted for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects performed nationwide from 2010-2011 but only 18 percent of all remodeling spending. DIY home improvement projects tend to be smaller, require less technical training and expertise and cost less, with 50 percent of homeowners spending less than $950 on these projects. At the same time the median spending on professional remodeling projects is close to $4,000.

One of the most expensive remodeling projects is a kitchen addition, with half of these projects costing more than $27,000. Very few homeowners attempt or manage to add a kitchen on their own. The AHS data show that more than 80 percent of kitchen additions are done professionally. Replacing roofing is also largely outsourced to professional remodelers, 82 percent of these projects are completed by professionals. Homeowners also tend to hire professionals when it comes to home improvement projects that require technical training and, often, a professional license. Close to 90 percent of all remodeling projects that involve adding or replacing a HVAC system are done professionally. Almost two thirds of projects that replace internal water pipes, electrical system, major equipment and appliances are completed by professionals. Not only that homeowners might not have the right tools and knowledge to complete these projects, but many warranties become void by improper installation.

Homeowners are more adventurous and successful in finishing smaller projects. About half of all plumbing fixture replacements are completed with no professional help. More than half of all bedroom and recreation room renovations are completed by homeowners as well. These tend to be smaller projects, with half of them costing less than $1,500 and $1,600, respectively. Professional bedroom and recreation room renovations are bigger in scope with median spending of $5,000 and close to $7,000, respectively.

Source: NAHB Eye on Housing

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Valuable Pieces of Wisdom from Mothers across the Country

May 10, 2013 1:12 am

A Place for Mom® (APFM), the nation's largest senior living referral service, released results from its second annual Mother's Day survey to shed light on maternal relationships, including valuable pieces of wisdom from moms across the country. Leading themes of wisdom were shared on topics including life and happiness, kindness and compassion, career and money, love, strength and coping, humility and morality, and family and children.

"As we celebrate Mother's Day, we are inspired by the valuable advice and insights received from the moms and daughters we help each day," said Sean Kell, CEO of A Place for Mom. "Our Senior Living Advisors provide strength and guidance to families in need, and this survey was a wonderful opportunity for us to benefit from the wisdom of those we serve as they care for their loved ones."

A sampling of the wisdom shared from mothers across the country, according to the survey were:

• You cannot control what life gives you, but you can control how you handle it.
• Seek first to understand, not to be understood.
• Work hard and always have something for yourself.
• Don't give up. Remember your roots. Stay strong, and if all else fails, have a good cry (but privately)!
• Doing the right thing isn't always easy, but it's easier than the alternative.
• It is important to be kind to your family, because you are stuck with them forever.
• No matter what obstacle you are facing, no matter how difficult, daunting or terrifying, if you attack it with everything you are made of you will always prevail.
• Surround yourself with people that lift you up and make you laugh!
• Love is what matters most in the world.
• Always have a good pair of red heels and red purse.

With over 300 Americans ages 18-65 polled, survey results showed that many Americans describe their mothers positively and state relationships have grown closer over time.

Words used to describe mom were:
o Inspirational (90 percent)
o Loving (29 percent)
o Strong (27 percent)
o Caring (22 percent)
o Hard-working (22 percent)
o Unselfish (20 percent)

Mothers have positively influenced key areas of their children's lives including:
o Relationships with others (40 percent)
o Decision-making (34 percent)
o Self-esteem (24 percent)
o Career (12 percent)

Over time, more than half of adults surveyed have strengthened their relationship with mom and have:
o Become closer friends (54 percent)
o Become each other's support system (39 percent)

Moms (45 percent) and sons/daughters (40 percent) seek each other's advice before making major decisions

Source: A Place for Mom

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Create Budding Home Updates

May 9, 2013 1:08 am

(Family Features) Bring the garden inside to add a romantic and softer touch to your home décor. Though real flowers are always a gorgeous addition, they can be costly and, unfortunately, they will expire. Due to their permanent and authentic nature, more decorators are turning to their faux counterparts when glamming up interiors.

Boasting an incredibly realistic look and feel, faux flowers are available in many varieties and colors. So, no matter what type of décor appeals to you – from contemporary to colonial – you can find the perfect petals to match your look and style.

Here are tips for using artificial flowers in your home:

• When shopping, choose the best you can afford within your budget. You’ll be happy you spent the money on quality blooms that you’ll treasure for years to come.
• In doubt of your decorating skills? Simply tuck one stem of your favorite variety in a glass vase for a classic, chic look.
• Faux petals are easy to care for and clean with the use of a handheld vacuum, a steamy shower or a soft, dampened cloth.
• Add one or two accent pieces that feature artificial flowers. From pillow cases to lamp shades, this look is everywhere and will add a cheerful glow to any room.
• Stay away from colors that don’t naturally occur. For example, a rose in a bright blue shade will not convey the same amount of charm as a dusty pink.

Floral Lampshade

Some experience necessary
Approximate Crafting Time: 3-5 hours

Supplies and Tools:

Scissors
26” Hydrangea Sprays
Jolee’s Jewels Bicone/Pearl Combo: White
Offray 1/8” Black Ribbon
Offray 7/8” Oatmeal Ribbon
Black Tassel
Fabric Lampshade: Cream
Sewing needle
Thread

1. Remove individual blooms from hydrangea sprays.
2. Sew crystals and pearls to centers of blooms.
3. Hot glue blooms onto lampshade, slightly overlapping to cover the entire surface of shade.
4. Add a ribbon bow and tassels, if desired.

Source: www.joann.com/projects

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Is That Driver On The Road Next To You Asleep?

May 9, 2013 1:08 am

Driving with untreated sleep apnea is equivalent to driving with a .06-.08 blood alcohol level. Recent studies have shown that truck drivers are at high-risk for sleep apnea and other sleep disorders—affecting 28 percent of Commercial Truck Drivers. In the aviation industry, alternating shifts and rapidly changing time zones present unique obstacles when it comes to sleep apnea and safety in the air. Eighteen percent of train operators attribute "near miss accidents" at work due to their sleep apnea. Over 100,000 vehicular accidents and 1,500 deaths annually are caused by sleep deprivation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. According to the CDC, sleep quality, duration, behaviors, and disorders need to be monitored in order to show its health impact on Americans. One of the many concerns with sleep deprivation is driving and flying sleepy especially for those in the transportation industry. Disturbance of sleep compromises mood, performance, and alertness which can result in the inability to pay attention and react to signals, which then can lead to injury or death.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 100 million people worldwide have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) or sleep apnea. In the U.S. alone over 23 million Americans (approximately 25 percent of OSA sufferers) have been diagnosed with OSA and an estimate of millions more whom have not yet been diagnosed; so many of these people are pilots in the air, engineers on the railroads, or commercial truck drivers on the interstates. With these staggering numbers, the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is growing exponentially.

Most with sleep apnea use CPAP therapy to manage their sleeping disorder. The transportation industry is now recognizing the importance and need for their workers to comply with their prescribed CPAP usage, but for those transportation specialists, CPAP therapy is much more difficult to manage while on the road. Maintenance and keeping the equipment clean and sanitized comes with its challenges, especially for those who are traveling.

It is critical to ensure those Americans who are in the transportation industry are experiencing proper sleep apnea treatment and therapy coupled with an effective, effortless, and transportable way to clean their equipment on the road. This will help to better protect the traveling public from the dangers associated with those in the public transportation industry who suffer with sleep apnea.

Source: www.betterrestsolutions.com

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Consumers Tip Scales of Home Price Change Expectations

May 9, 2013 1:08 am

More than half of Americans now expect the country’s home prices to climb within the next year, illustrating a growing optimism toward the health of the housing industry. The share of respondents to Fannie Mae’s April 2013 National Housing Survey results who expect home prices to go up rose another 3 percentage points in April to 51 percent. By comparison, at the same time last year, only 32 percent expected an increase in home prices.

“For the first time in the survey’s three-year history, the majority of Americans surveyed now expect home prices to increase,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Crossing the 50 percent threshold marks a significant milestone as most Americans believe a housing recovery is truly occurring throughout the country. Reflecting that increased optimism toward housing, the share of Americans who think it is a good time to sell has doubled during the last year. Many homeowners who have been underwater are gradually returning to positive equity, and selling is now becoming an available and attractive option again.”

The share of respondents who say now is a good time to sell climbed 4 percentage points in April to 30 percent, compared to 15 percent at the same time last year. Americans’ increasing optimism toward the selling market may bode well for continued improvement in housing activity, as recent market data suggest that five out of eight people who buy a home first have to sell.

Findings:

Homeownership and Renting


• The average 12-month home price change expectation held steady at 2.7 percent.
• The share of people who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months hit a survey high of 51 percent, while those who believe home prices will go down remained at the survey low of 10 percent for the fourth month in a row.
• The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up fell 3 percentage points to 43 percent, while those who say they will go down increased slightly to 7 percent.
• At a survey-high 30 percent, the share of respondents who say it is a good time to sell a house increased 4 percentage points over March.
• The average 12-month rental price change expectation held steady at 4.1 percent.
• Forty-eight percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next year, a 2 percentage point decrease from last month’s survey high.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move increased slightly to 65 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances

• At 39 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased 4 percentage points over March.
• The percentage of people who expect their personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months fell 5 percentage points to 16 percent.
• Twenty percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, holding steady from last month.
• Eleven percent reported significantly lower household expenses compared to 12 months ago, a 3 percentage point increase over March.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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