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

A Group Vibe Can Help You Get Fit, Give Back

May 29, 2013 3:36 am

It may come as no surprise that sharing a diet plan or an exercise routine with a friend can help you stay on track.

“Adding public commitment to personal dedication is often what keeps you from falling off the wagon,” said Crunch fitness instructor Amy Flores.

One overweight mom in Missouri lost 70 pounds in seven months by taking the strategy one step further, Flores said – posting her commitment on a Facebook Page and inviting several dozen friends to not just join her in losing weight, but to donate cash to a favorite cause for every pound they lost.

“Once she took her goal public,” Flores said, “she didn’t dare fall off the wagon until she reached goal – and the same strategy could work whether you want to shed pounds, stop smoking, or accomplish any other health and fitness goal.”

Flores offers three tips for those who want to put the strategy in place:

• Give people plenty of notice – Whether you want your friends to donate money for each pound you lose, or donate to a charity of their choice as they work to hit their own goals, determine a start date and post your notice publicly several weeks before you plan to begin.

• Make tracking easy – Create a donation page on a site like GoFundMe or Causes, which provide easy templates to help you set a goal, track your progress, and share it via email and/or Facebook.

• Offer alternatives – Some of your friends may be glad to participate with the cause you have suggested. But give these willing pledgers an option for choosing a charity they care about, which may inspire them to donate more generously.

However you choose to proceed, Flores said, getting others involved will strengthen your commitment to achieving your goal and inspire others to do the same in a fun and positive way.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Home Prices See Strong Gains in the First Quarter of 2013

May 29, 2013 3:36 am

Data through March 2013, released by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three composites posted double-digit annual increases. The 10-City and 20-City Composites increased by 10.3 percent and 10.9 percent up until March, with the national composite rising by 10.2 percent in the last four quarters. All 20 cities posted positive year-over-year growth.

In the first quarter of 2013, the national composite rose by 1.2 pecent. On a monthly basis, the 10- and 20-City Composites both posted increases of 1.4 percent. Charlotte, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and Tampa were the five MSAs to record their largest month-over-month gains in over seven years.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 10.2 percent gain in the first quarter of 2013 over the first quarter of 2012. In March 2013, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual increases of 10.3 percent and 10.9 percent, respectively.

"Home prices continued to climb," says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Home prices in all 20 cities posted annual gains for the third month in a row. Twelve of the 20 saw prices rise at double-digit annual growth. The National Index and the 10- and 20-City Composites posted their highest annual returns since 2006.

"Phoenix again had the largest annual increase at 22.5 percent followed by San Francisco with 22.2 percent and Las Vegas with 20.6 percent. Miami and Tampa, the eastern end of the Sunbelt, were softer with annual gains of 10.7 percent and 11.8 percent.

"Other housing market data reported in recent weeks confirm these strong trends: housing starts and permits, sales of new home and existing homes continue to trend higher.”

As of the first quarter of 2013, average home prices across the United States are back at their mid-2003 levels. At the end of the first quarter of 2013, the National Index was up 1.2 percent over the fourth quarter of 2012 and 10.2 percent above the first quarter of 2012.

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices

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Save Energy with a Tankless Water Heater

May 29, 2013 3:36 am

Other than space heating, most homeowners use more energy to heat water than for almost any other household activity. Finding ways to reduce hot water energy use can therefore, be an important part of an overall plan to reduce household energy costs.

In many homes, water is heated in storage tanks. When there is no hot water being used, the tanks still consume energy just to maintain the water in the tank at a ready-to-use temperature. Tankless water heaters (also known as "on-demand" or "instantaneous" water heaters) use high inputs of gas or electricity to instantaneously heat water, rather than storing hot water for long periods in traditional hot water tanks.

Because they don't need to keep the water warm even when it's not in use, high-efficiency tankless water heaters can reduce the amount of energy you use to heat your water by as much as 40 percent or more, helping you cut down on your monthly utility bills. In addition to saving energy, tankless water heaters can also lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce the consumption of non-renewable resources.
If you're thinking of going tankless, the following information can help you make an informed decision:

• Tankless water heaters can be hung on a wall and are usually more compact than traditional hot water storage tanks. This allows them to take up considerably less floor space in your home. However, you still need to make sure you have enough space available to safely hang your tank and service and maintain it. If you're buying a fuel-fired model, you'll also need to make sureyou have the space available to safely run the venting system outdoors to an acceptable location.

• Proper sizing is another important consideration when it comes to choosing a tankless heater. To make sure your heater can supply all the hot water your family needs, purchase a unit that has a heating capacity enough for your entire household. If you purchase an undersized unit or if your hot water needs increase, try using timers or set the delay function on your appliances to avoid overlapping demands.

• If your home uses natural gas or propane, you may need larger gas pipes to accommodate the higher gas flows needed by the heater.

• In addition, when using a tankless water heater, you may need to let the water flow longer in your taps or shower before it becomes hot. To help cut down on your waiting time, make sure you purchase the right size heater for your home, and try to locate your new tankless heater as close as possible to the bathroom, kitchen or other areas where you expect to use the most hot water.

• Be sure to consult with a qualified professional contractor to assess your hot water needs and to provide guidance on what type of water heater would be most appropriate for your particular circumstances.

Source: CMHC

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5 Tips for Lighter, Brighter Summer Eating

May 28, 2013 3:36 am

(BPT)—Simple, fresh and delicious - that's summertime eating at its best. Less time in the kitchen means more time to enjoy the bright delicious flavors of just-picked berries, peaches, greens and other vegetables.

"It makes sense to eat lighter in the summer," says Chef William Tillinghast, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. "Hot weather slows down the digestion and heavy foods are harder to digest."

Chef Tillinghast got together with Chef Jeffrey Floyd, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, to offer these five tips for enjoying summer's gastronomic delights.

Buy local and seasonal - or grow it yourself

Summer brings locally grown specialties - berries of all types, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sweet onions and more. Visit farmers' markets and ask what's in season. Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to explore eating seasonally. And nothing tastes better than tomatoes from your own garden.

Process produce as little as possible

The fresher the produce, the less preparation needed. "The longer the time between preparation and consumption, the more flavor is lost," says Chef Tillinghast. Try cutting up peaches and a honeydew melon, add fresh blueberries and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Serve immediately for an instant refreshing dessert.

Cook veggies quickly by stir frying. Cut vegetables small. Cook briefly with olive oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat (or put the wok on your grill). Add a little coarse salt and freshly ground pepper - it's the perfect side dish for a simple roast chicken, grilled steak or swordfish.

Keep flavors simple

Allow the flavor of fresh summer produce to shine. Chef Floyd loves this summer salad, adapted from "American Regional Cuisine," by The Art Institutes system of schools. Cut zucchini into matchstick strips. Combine with wedges of ripe tomato, finely sliced fresh basil, thin slices of sweet or green onion. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve on a bed of lettuce, spinach or other greens. Add feta or bleu cheese crumbles if you like.

Use that grill

Grill eggplant, zucchini, onions and peppers. Brush with olive or walnut oil if you like. Put veggies directly on the grill, use a griddle or wrap in a single layer in foil. Grilled peach halves and pineapple rings are also delicious.

Soup is for summer, too

"Cold soups like gazpacho, vichyssoise, avocado and cucumber, or various fruits, are refreshing," says Chef Tillinghast. For a delicious cold soup, peel and chop pears and apricots (or hull and cut up strawberries). Add a sprinkling of sugar and perhaps a little cinnamon or cardamom. Mash lightly with a fork and add sour cream or yogurt, half and half or milk - even champagne.

Beat the heat with lighter, simpler meals - you'll feel better and have more time for summertime fun.

Source: www.artinstitutes.edu

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2013 Hurricane Season Activity Predicted to Be Above Average

May 28, 2013 3:36 am

This year's hurricane season is predicted to be a busy one with above-average activity, according to a recent report released by Colorado State University. Sponsored by the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Preparedness Week aims to increase public awareness of emergency preparation and the upcoming season that runs from June 1 through November 30. Beginning on May 26, the week-long emergency preparedness event provides a good opportunity for those living in hurricane-prone areas to take steps to help ensure their family and home is safe before a storm hits.

After a 2012 hurricane season that produced twice as many storms as projected, forecasters anticipate 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four intense Category 3 or stronger hurricanes for 2013.

"Taking the right precautions and planning ahead are especially important this year as families think about how to mitigate the damage of a hurricane affecting their home," said Amanda Grandy , marketing manager for Briggs & Stratton Corporation. "An ideal way for homeowners to prepare for a power outage is to install a standby generator system."

Fueled by liquid propane or natural gas, standby generators automatically keep the power on when a home's primary power source goes out, allowing homeowners to run appliances like air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, sump pumps, clothes washers/dryers and lights.
In addition to preparing a home to maintain power following a storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Ready campaign offers ways for families to prepare their home for a hurricane, including:

• Cover all of the home's windows with precut plywood or hurricane shutters to protect windows from high winds and further secure the home by closing shutters.
• Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
• Keep all trees and shrubs well trimmed to increase wind resistance.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

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Top DIY Tips to Protect from Ticks and Mosquitoes

May 28, 2013 3:36 am

Welcome to the unofficial start of summer with outdoor parties, barbeques, parades and celebrations under the stars. However, a perfect storm of weather conditions over the past months have made conditions ripe for what is being predicted to be a powerful crop of mosquito and tick populations to wreak havoc on outdoor plans.

Reported cases of Lyme disease continue to rise with more than 280,000 Americans being diagnosed since 2002, with an additional 30,000 diagnoses just last year. Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An illness that can have lifelong debilitating effects such as arthritis, fatigue and even neurological deficits, Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged or deer ticks.

In addition to performing a daily tick check, there are specific actions a homeowner can take to reduce the tick and mosquito population in their yards, thus reducing exposure for themselves, guests and pets:

The 6 Cs to Tick-Proof Your Yard

1. Clear out. Reduce your tick exposure by clearing out areas where lawn and tree debris gathers. Ticks thrive in moist, shady areas and tend to die in sunny, dry areas. Locate compost piles away from play areas or high traffic. Separate them with wood chips or gravel. Don't position playground equipment, decks and patios near treed areas.
2. Clean. Eliminate leaf litter and brush by cleaning it up around the house and lawn edges, mow tall grasses and keep your lawn short.
3. Choose plants. Select plants and shrubs that are not attractive to deer and/or install physical barriers to keep deer out of your yard. Check with your local nursery to determine the best choices for your area.
4. Check hiding places. Know tick hiding places and check them frequently. Fences, brick walls and patio retaining walls are popular hiding places.
5. Care for family pets. Family pets can suffer from tick-borne disease and also carry infected ticks into the home. Talk to your veterinarian about using tick collars and sprays. As with all pest control products, be sure to follow directions carefully.
6. Call the pros. Professionals utilize both barrier sprays that can kill live ticks on the spot as well as "tick tubes." Strategically placed, "tick tubes" prompt field mice to incorporate tick-killing material in their bedding, effectively eliminating hundreds of tick nymphs found in each mouse nest.

When outdoors away from home, the CDC recommends wearing long-sleeved, long-legged, light-colored clothing. Tuck pant legs into socks to refuse ticks an entry point. Spray clothing and any exposed skin with a product containing 20 percent DEET. Clothing and other gear, but not skin, can be treated with Permethrin, which will kills ticks and mosquitoes on contact and should last through several washings. Check carefully for ticks after being outdoors.

5 Ts to Control Mosquitoes
1. Tip. Reduce standing water to eliminate mosquito threats, including those in children's sandboxes, wagons or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts, in plant saucers and dog bowls. Other hot spots include tarps, gutters, and flat roofs.
2. Toss. Remove excess grass, leaves, firewood and clippings from yards.
3. Turn. Turn over larger yard items that could hold water like children's portable sandboxes or plastic toys.
4. Remove tarps. If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment and grills aren't taut, they're holding water.
5. Treat. Utilize a mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on the body. Mosquito Squad's treatments eliminate up to 90 percent of the mosquitoes and ticks on a property.

Source: Mosquito Squad

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Outdoor Home Solutions

May 24, 2013 2:20 am

(Family Features) In the warmer months, we find ourselves outside more often, enjoying nature while playing with the kids and maintaining our lawns. But this additional time spent outside means more home and garden tools and more opportunity for a mess.

Here are some simple tips to keep your outdoor spaces cleaner and more organized:

Storage Bench – Use a storage bench to keep your gardening gloves, tools and children’s outdoor toys. Available in a wide variety of sizes and styles, you can find the bench that fits your décor. Plus, they offer an extra seating area when you have company.

Bundle Cords – No one likes the unsightly appearance or hazard of cords. Before your gatherings, bundle together stereo and electronic chords that are exposed, as well as any cords that run across the lawn.

Paver Pots – Use old pavers to create plant containers. Simply stack the pavers together making a square shape. The heavy weight of the pavers keeps the dirt and plant contained together.

Deck Space – Use the space under your deck for additional, out-of-sight storage. Tuck plastic lidded storage containers underneath for easy access to children’s sporting goods and toys.

Mesh Bags – Pool toys, rafts and inner tubes need a space to dry off. Use mesh bags so these summer toys properly are properly dried, preventing mildew or molding.

Proper Plant Care – Stock up on essentials for a healthy garden, including the tools to make plant seedlings thrive.

Repurpose Furniture – Turn old furniture pieces, such as old filing cabinets, into instant garage storage solutions. Take out the drawers of the cabinet and turn it on its side. Each empty drawer area provides a spot for large items like brooms, shovels and rakes.

Fence Storage – Turn old coffee or paint cans into storage bins for smaller gardening tools like hand shovels and pruning shears. For easy access while in the garden, cut holes and use rope to hang around a close-by fence post.

Tires – Stack old tires on top of each other for an outdoor toy container that kids can easily access. Paint the outside to match the color of your house or whatever color you fancy.

End of Season Storage – Keep your garage area tidy by organizing similar tools together. Use One-Wrap ties to keep gardening tools grouped together, or to keep hoses tightly coiled and out of the way. This product also comes in a variety of colors and sizes so that you can keep everything neat and organized.

Source: www.velcro.com

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Home Buyers Undeterred by Looming Seller's Market

May 24, 2013 2:20 am

According to a recent survey of home buyers, buyers are undeterred by the recovering market and seem to be willing to pay more for what they want. Respondents cite low inventory and rising prices as key concerns when shopping for a home, but while the percentage of people worried about inventory has remained steady throughout 2013, concern about rising home prices has more than doubled year over year. Despite this, homebuyers are accepting the reality of a seller's market and expressing a willingness to pay more. Notably, unease about the overall economy continues to recede.

• Moving toward consensus that this is a seller's market: Sixty-seven percent see now as a good time to sell, up from 48 percent last quarter.
• Home buyers anticipating further price increases remained unchanged: The percentage of homebuyers who anticipate further price increases in their neighborhood remained virtually unchanged from last quarter. Both quarters, 79 percent indicated a belief that prices will increase in the next 12 months. This quarter, 23 percent think prices will rise "a lot," up just slightly from 22 percent last quarter.
• Rising prices are an increasingly common concern: Forty-eight percent of buyers listed rising prices as a major concern, up from 40 percent last quarter. Sixty-five percent cited low inventory as a major concern in the first quarter, down slightly from 66 percent last quarter.
• Increasingly willing to pay more: Forty-one percent of buyers indicated that low inventory has caused them to consider paying more for a home, up from 34 percent in the first quarter and just 26 percent in the fourth quarter.

Source: Redfin

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Protect Yourself from Mortgage Fraud

May 24, 2013 2:20 am

Mortgage scams can occur when desperate borrowers are struggling to keep their homes or when uneducated first-time buyers agree to outrageous terms. The people who perpetuate mortgage scams promise to help, but prey on the weak, doing little to no work, charging excessive fees, and using tactics that often put homeowners at greater risk of losing their homes.

Predators can come in the form of lenders, appraisers, mortgage brokers or even home improvement contractors. These frauds have been known to do the following: sell properties for much more than they’re worth using false appraisals, encourage borrowers to lie on applications, charge high interest rates based on factors that are not credit history, charge fees for unnecessary or nonexistent services, knowingly lend more money than a borrower can afford to repay, and use high pressure tactics to sell home improvements and then finance them at high interest rates.

Every year, misinformed homebuyers become victims of lending or loan fraud. In order to avoid these types of fraud and become a smarter consumer, it’s important to understand the home-buying process. Keep these words of advice from HUD and Fannie Mae in mind and prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

• Interview several real estate professionals, and ask for and check references before you select one to help you buy or sell a home. The more background you know about an agent, the safer you will be.

• Know about the general pricing of houses in the neighborhood to prevent yourself from paying too much.

• Shop for a lender and compare costs. If someone is trying to steer you toward just one lender, be suspicious.

• Never, under any circumstances, let anyone convince you to make a false statement on your loan application, such as overstating your income, the source of your downpayment, failing to disclose your debt, or lying about the length of your employment. Lying on an application for whatever reason may result in criminal penalties.

• Don’t let anyone convince you to borrow more money than you know you need or can afford to repay. If you fall behind on payments, you could lose your house and all the money you already put in.

• Don’t sign a blank document or one containing blanks. If information is added after you sign, you could still be held responsible for the terms. Insert “N/A” or cross out any remaining blanks.

• Ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Never sign if you are unsure of something. Have your contract and loan agreement read over by an attorney skilled in real estate law. You can also take your documents to the HUD-approved housing counseling agency nearest you for further assistance, recommendations or free counseling.

A good rule of thumb: If a deal to buy, repair or refinance sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

Source: HUD, Fannie Mae

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Missed Must-Sees: U.S. Landmarks that Most Americans Have Never Visited

May 23, 2013 2:20 pm

Hotwire.com® announced results from its second annual American Travel Behavior Survey, conducted online on its behalf by Harris Interactive among over 2,000 U.S. adults. Expanding on last year's list, the survey revealed even more well-known landmarks that a majority of Americans have never visited, including The Space Needle, Yellowstone National Park, the Gateway Arch, Hollywood Sign and Las Vegas Strip. And with the weather warming up by the minute, there's no better time for Americans to take advantage of discounts to start crossing these sights off their wish lists at a fraction of the cost.

The Space Needle, Seattle, Wash. (78 percent of U.S. adults have never visited)

If there's one thing more famous than Seattle's coffee, it's the city's iconic Space Needle – a 605-foot tall tower that defines the skyline of Downtown Seattle. Constructed in 1962 to commemorate the Seattle World's Fair, the tower was once the largest structure west of the Mississippi River. And while it may have been knocked off the top spot by newer U.S. buildings, it's still a remarkable sight. Visitors to the Space Needle can take an elevator ride to the top, where there's a restaurant and an observation deck, both with beautiful views of Downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier.

Average hotel price: $99
Average air price: $410
Average daily car rental rate: $29

Yellowstone National Park (73 percent of U.S. adults have never visited)

Even with its status as one of the U.S.' most famous landmarks and the first national park, almost three-quarters of all Americans have yet to visit Yellowstone National Park. Spanning three states, the park takes up almost 3,500 square miles and is home to mountains, canyons, lakes, rivers and hundreds of species of animals. Visitors to Yellowstone have many options when it comes to outdoor activities in this colossal destination. After a trip to the world-famous Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts about once every hour and a half, folks can kayak through the West Thumb area, or even hike through any number of the park's 1,100 miles of trails.

Average hotel price: $136
Average air price: $613
Average daily car rental rate: $21

*Prices based on travel and stays in Jackson, Wyoming

Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri (70 percent of U.S. adults have never visited)

Standing tall at 630 feet, St. Louis' Gateway Arch is truly a modern marvel, and the tallest man-made monument in the United States. Coming up on the 50th anniversary of its completion in 1965, the arch is more than just a jaw-dropping site. As part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, this towering spectacle commemorates the westward growth of the United States, and is sure to please history buffs and everyday travelers just the same.

Average hotel price: $63
Average air price: $361
Average daily car rental rate: $25

The Hollywood Sign, Los Angeles, California (69 percent of U.S. adults have never visited)

If Los Angeles has any one iconic landmark, it's the world-famous Hollywood Sign. Featured in countless films and TV shows, the 45-foot tall letters should look and feel familiar to visitors from all over the world. But folks don't have to look at the sign from afar; with just a 40-minute hike up the Hollyridge Trail, visitors can get up close and personal with the landmark and enjoy a breathtaking view of metro Los Angeles at the same time.

Average hotel price: $98
Average air price: $383
Average daily car rental rate from San Antonio: $28

Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada (45 percent of U.S. adults have never visited)

With a nickname like "Sin City," it might be a little surprising that Las Vegas is the survey's least-ignored landmark to date. But it's even more surprising to think that this larger-than-life Nevada mecca still has yet to be experienced by 45 percent of Americans. A constant influx of new hotels like the luxurious Cosmopolitan and vivacious nightclubs like the Hakkasan are making this desert getaway even more attractive to visitors beyond just the usual crowd from nearby southern California.

Average hotel price: $91
Average air price: $378
Average daily car rental rate: $28

Source: Hotwire

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