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

Fannie Mae Announces Eviction Moratorium for the Holidays

December 4, 2012 5:42 am

Fannie Mae announced that it will suspend evictions of foreclosed single family and two-four unit properties from December 19, 2012 through January 2, 2013. Legal and administrative proceedings for evictions may continue, but families living in foreclosed properties will be allowed to remain in the home during this period.

"We're taking this step in support of families who have faced financial challenges and gone through a foreclosure," said Terry Edwards, executive vice president of Credit Portfolio Management, Fannie Mae. "The holidays are a chance to be with loved ones and we want to relieve some stress at this time of year. We encourage homeowners having difficulty to reach out for help as soon as possible."

Previously, Fannie Mae announced a temporary suspension of foreclosure sales and evictions in areas designated for individual assistance by FEMA due to Hurricane Sandy. That 90-day suspension will last through February 1, 2013.

Homeowners can visit www.knowyouroptions.com for resources on how to prevent foreclosure, including contact information for Fannie Mae’s 12 Mortgage Help Centers located across the country. Homeowners can also contact Fannie Mae at 1-800-7FANNIE for more information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Eat Healthy and Stay Active During the Holidays

December 4, 2012 5:42 am

It's easy to eat too much and exercise too little during the holiday season. But it doesn't have to be that way. Although celebrations usually take place both at home and work, it is possible to enjoy this time of year while eating healthy and staying active. The tips below will help you get started.

Control Your Portions
People tend to eat too much in part because food is everywhere during the holidays. However, there are a few techniques you can use to keep your weight in check and stay healthy. For one, serve yourself smaller portions and eat slowly so that you can tell more easily when you are satisfied. If you go to a restaurant, split a big meal with someone or take some home. Choosemyplate.gov has great tips on how to decrease portion sizes and how to overcome common stumbling blocks.

Get the Flu Shot
Getting vaccinated is your best protection for avoiding the flu and staying healthy during the holiday season. USA.gov has everything you need to know about this flu season, including tips for high risk groups and the types of vaccines available. Keep in mind that the flu vaccine becomes effective about two weeks after it's been administered, so the earlier you get it the better. Look up the closest pharmacy or vaccination center at flushot.healthmap.org.

Be Physically Active
Dancing is a great way to stay active and have fun, so don't be shy about hitting the dance floor at holiday parties. You can also try to get involved with other physical activities such as building a snowman with the family, or going to a gym or a community center if it's too cold to go for a walk outside. Most adults need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, five days a week. The key is finding the exercise that works for your age, schedule and interests.

Drink Less
Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health and dangerous if you will be driving. You can reduce your consumption of alcohol by setting personal limits, drinking nonalcoholic beverages, or resisting the temptation to drink. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has lots of tips on how to cut down, including suggestions on how to avoid triggers and setting consumption goals. It also has a simple questionnaire that will help you compare your drinking pattern to other adults in the United States.

Be Careful If You Have Diabetes
People with diabetes or other conditions need to be especially mindful about what they eat during the holiday season. Interrupting your normal eating patterns might cause serious consequences for your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resources to help you manage your diabetes during the holidays. It features tips on traveling for the holidays, including making sure you pack your medicine and carrying a medical identification that says you have diabetes.

Source: GobiernoUSA.gov/USA.gov

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Homeowners Encouraged to Ask Insurance Providers about Policy Credits for Lightning Protection Systems

December 3, 2012 5:42 am

Similar to other home security measures that reduce expected losses for insurers, lightning protection systems can provide valuable loss mitigation against a costly weather hazard that affects millions of homeowners in the U.S. Statistically, lightning is the most commonly experienced weather hazard, unlike earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes or hurricanes, which are more likely to affect homeowners in certain geographical regions of the country. Unpredictable weather hazards continue to incur costly losses, which is why insurance companies are recognizing the importance of rewarding loss mitigation efforts by offering premium credits and discounts. When homeowners take steps to better protect their property against weather hazards affecting their geographical region, insurance companies take notice.

Since some insurance providers do not have set policies regarding lightning protection credits or incentives, the homeowner may need to contact their agent or broker for assistance in determining their eligibility for a discount.

Lightning is an extremely powerful force that should never be underestimated. A single bolt of lightning can pack up to 100 million volts of devastating electricity—which is why a professionally installed lightning protection system can provide a valuable return on a minimal investment. Heed the following tips when inquiring about insurance discounts:

-Ask the insurance agent or broker if the lightning protection system installation is applicable for a discount or credit under "security protection for external perimeter" or "weatherproofing mitigation" guidelines.

-Make sure that the lightning protection system is installed by a qualified LPI-certified installer in accordance with Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), NFPA and UL safety standards so that the installation meets quality assurance requirements.

-Request that the installing firm provide system compliance information (inspection or proof of installation document) to forward to the insurance provider.

-Ask the insurance provider about discounts for loss mitigation efforts. If premiums are being lowered for mitigation efforts for earthquakes (frame anchoring, bracing cripple walls, strapping a water heater in place, etc.) or for hurricanes (roof bracing, hurricane shutters, or retrofitted doors), then loss mitigation for lightning may be applicable for discount, as well.

Insurance providers known to provide credits, incentives, discounts and recommendations for lightning protection systems are denoted on the LPI website at www.lightning.org.

Source: Lightning Safety Alliance

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The Importance of Cell Phone Insurance

December 3, 2012 5:42 am

(Family Features) With so much of daily life connected to smartphones, the thought of being without one worries a lot of people. Unfortunately, loss, damage and theft do occur – and more often than you might think.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 1 in 3 robberies nationwide involve cell phones. And, according to mobile phone insurance company Asurion, 36.5 percent of customers filing claims cited loss or theft as the reason for filing a claim. This number jumps to an alarming 54 percent for iPhone customers. Asurion also reported that across all mobile phones, 53 percent of claims involved damage.

Many people don’t realize that replacing their lost, stolen or damaged phone will most likely cost more than what they paid up front. For example, a consumer survey showed that 43.5 percent of parents and 50.5 percent of students believe it costs less than $200 to replace a mobile phone. However, if your iPhone 4S or 5 is lost, stolen or damaged, you will be required to pay the full retail price of the mobile phone to replace it, not the discounted price you might have paid when signing up with the wireless provider or upgrading your phone. And that can be as much as $650.

Insurance vs. Warranty

There are several protection options in the market. However, you need to understand the difference between insurance and warranties. The difference between insurance and a warranty is that a warranty covers hardware issues and accidental damage. You usually have to purchase a warranty at the time you buy the phone. Warranties, such as AppleCare, do not cover loss or theft of a phone.

Cell phone insurance is an insurance product, just like your home or auto insurance. It is regulated by insurance laws in each state. You pay a monthly fee for the insurance (typically between $5 and $7 for the basic insurance coverage). When you file a claim, you pay a deductible, typically $50 to $200, depending on the phone.

When choosing cell phone insurance, look for:

-Warranties for replacement devices.
-Comprehensive coverage that covers loss, theft and out-of-warranty damage (such as liquid damage).
-Convenient claims filing and rapid replacement service.

No one ever really wants to need insurance, because that usually means something unfortunate has happened. But, just like insurance for your home or car, if something does happen to your cell phone, you’ll be glad to have a plan in place to quickly reconnect with family, friends and work.

Source: Asurion

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Simple Tips for Winter Concrete Care

December 3, 2012 5:42 am

With harsh temperatures on the inevitable horizon, a few hours of work now could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars later down the road.

Freezing rain, snow, ice and raw temperatures have been known to weaken concrete surfaces if left unattended. Saturation and freezing of concrete surfaces can lead to cracking and surface deterioration, but the spreading of various salts on the surface can also lead to larger structural issues and unprotected concrete.

Repairing and sealing cracks as they occur is a cost-effective way to prevent pricey projects in the future. According to Quikrete, waterproofing sealers are a great way to make these repairs, offering durable finishes for a variety of surfaces including concrete, masonry, stucco and brick. Acrylic sealers are highly water resistant and provide a coating that protects the surface from cold weather freezing and thawing--a common cause of cracking over time.

If properly maintained, concrete has the ability to last for generations, but homeowners should know what to look for around the home. Look for cracks and missing concrete in the driveway, garage and exterior walkways. Though cracks can be unobtrusively small to start, these eventual problem areas can spread and worse over time.

Concrete Treat recommends checking for spalling, which occurs when too much freezing and thawing causes water to erode the surface layer of the concrete. Salts cause further erosion of this surface area and can really compromise the structural integrity. The longer this problem is neglected the bigger of a repair it will be. Visible water leaks on concrete walls are other signs that water is seeping in from the outside. If left unfixed, this water can cause extensive damage to interior surfaces. Be sure to check around your home for any potential concrete leaks.

By being aware of possible concrete issues, you may be able to prevent catastrophic damage to your property in the future.

Source: Concrete Treat, Quikrete

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Four Easy Ways to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed while Decorating

November 30, 2012 5:38 am

The holidays should be about enjoying the beauty of the season while spending time with family and friends. But, with busy schedules and an abundance of decorating choices, it's easy to be overwhelmed during what is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year. By taking to heart these four simple tips, you just may find yourself decorating with what you already have and enjoying the holidays.

1. Inventory all your decorations, laying them out by color and design when getting started. This gives you a visual overview of what you have available to bring the holiday spirit into each area of your home while making it so much easier to pick out and find what you need. Look at your own inventory of holiday decorations. You may even come across some items you bought on clearance last year. Also, take a good look around your home and yard keeping an eye out for things that could find a place on a holiday mantle, wreath or tree. Re-purposing these items can make your home merry and bright, without making your wallet light!

2. Change is good! So, outdo yourself each year by re-using your existing decorations in different ways and perhaps in different rooms from year to year. Plan ahead. Perhaps your mantle had a little extra flair this time last year. Using those same decorations, mix them up to create a centerpiece or wreath focal point instead. This will satisfy your desire for something new and give lift to show-worthy pieces. For example, planters from your front porch that held summer palms now can be brought indoors and decorated with faux flocked holiday trees to flank a fireplace or doorway.

3. Go room to room leaving the least important spaces in your house for last. Such areas are perfect for your decorating leftovers. Use your best, most cherished holiday pieces in the highest traffic areas of your home. The remaining pieces can still be used to enhance the rooms of your home where you do the least entertaining. Decorative touches in these spaces, even using leftover pieces, adds a festive touch without the stress of creating a major showpiece for guests.

4. Each year get rid of tired decorations and refresh some of your existing pieces or add new ones. Refreshing tired decorations can be as easy as rinsing, dusting and untangling. It's worth the time and effort. If necessary, you can glue inexpensive new ornaments into a wreath to replace broken pieces or add a color. Add new ribbon to garland to freshen its look. Set yourself a budget for new Christmas accessories each year, and stay within those budget restraints.

Taking a little extra time early in the season to plan, reuse and refresh your holiday decorations will help you create different and distinctive looks. By using things you already have, and making a few quick enhancements, you can save yourself the "overwhelm" of additional time, energy and money leaving you more reason to celebrate the season.

Source: Chris H. Olsen

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10 Ways to Have an Energy Fit Holiday

November 30, 2012 5:38 am

The holidays can be an expensive time of year with plenty of gift giving, house guests and festive decor, making an impact on the wallet. In order to keep your home's energy in check, keep the following in mind:

Deck the halls with LEDs. When it comes to holiday lighting, LED lights are the bright choice to get you more for your money. The amount of power it takes to operate just one 7-watt incandescent holiday bulb could power two 24-foot LED strings - enough to light a six foot tree. Additionally, LED light strings last about 10 times longer.

Set time on your side. Set timers for your holiday displays to turn off before bedtime so there is no need to burn the lights all night long.

Switch your non-holiday lights. Before overnight guests arrive, switch out guest room and common area lighting to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Each CFL bulb you install will save you about $50 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

Turn it off. Remind guests to turn off lights and fans when they leave the room. Stopping one ceiling fan from running all the time and turning at least one light off when you leave the room can save you more than $7 a month on your electric bill.

Stop peeking! Ovens lose a lot of heat when opened and require significant energy to heat back up to the appropriate temperature. Instead, when you have to sneak-a-peek, turn the oven light on and look through the interior window.

Choose glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These pans heat faster than metal ones and allow you to set the temperature 25 degrees lower than a recipe suggests for the same cooking time.

Don't forget your crock-pot. Use smaller appliances such as crock-pots, microwaves and toaster ovens when possible. These can be much more energy-efficient for side dishes or small meals.

Select energy-efficient electronics. When it comes to buying gifts for your loved ones, opt for a laptop computer over a desktop computer. Laptop computers require 50 to 80 percent less power than a desktop computer.

Let the star be your guide. Look for the ENERGY STAR logo when purchasing larger electronics or appliances. Newer ENERGY STAR models meet stricter requirements and can save up to 40 percent on energy over standard models.

Give the gift of light.
Use solar-powered pathway or security lights for your home or as a gift to the person who loves being outside in the evening.

Source: Florida Power & Light Company

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Creative Ways to Sell Your Home

November 30, 2012 5:38 am

Ever hear the stories about the people burying statues of St. Joseph (the patron saint of house and family) underneath their "For Sale" signs in hopes that it would help generate a faster offer? It may sound ridiculous, but it's true! In fact, when the housing market is slow, people turn to all kinds of less-than-rational things to get a deal done. While we don't advocate going that far, here are four creative things you can do to help move your house off the market a little faster:

Do some historical digging.
Just because your home doesn't qualify as a historical landmark doesn't mean there isn't a good story behind it! By doing a little bit of homework at your local library or down at City Hall, you may be able to find an interesting tale that will have potential buyers salivating. Maybe your neighborhood sits on an ancient Indian burial ground. Or, maybe your sleepy little town was once featured in a movie. Or, maybe Elvis once ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich in the café down the street. Whatever quirky facts you can dig up, they just might be enough to set your house apart from the competition.

Write a letter. Want potential buyers to know just how great your time in your home has been? Tell them! Instead of sticking around for an awkward face-to-face conversation during the showing, leave a handwritten letter that goes over some of the highlights – like why you fell in love with the house in the first place, what it was like to walk through the front door with your son when he came home from the hospital, and how great it felt to host your first Thanksgiving dinner in the formal dining room. By putting pen to paper, you can bring out a "human" touch that other sellers aren't giving, which may be enough to bring your home to the front of the line.

A New Take on the open house. Let's party! Hate the thought of a bunch of strangers wandering through your home during an open house, while you silently beg one of them to make an offer? Why not make the open house concept a little more enjoyable by turning it into a party? Some sellers are doing just that. One Las Vegas-based REALTOR® hosted a Cinco de Mayo party, complete with tacos and margaritas, while a San Jose REALTOR® brought Santa Claus in for a family-themed holiday party. One word of advice, though – make sure your party complements your home's high points. For example, if you've got a great backyard, host a barbecue or an outdoor brunch. Or, if you've got a great media room, host a football-themed party with the game on in the background. That way, potential buyers will feel more relaxed and you'll get to show off your home's best features all at the same time.

Source: RealtyPin

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Cyber Monday Spending Soars to 1.46 Billion, Ranking as Heaviest U.S. Online Spending Day in History

November 29, 2012 5:38 am

ComScore, a leader in measuring the digital world, reported holiday season U.S. retail e-commerce spending for the first 26 days of the November-December 2012 holiday season. For the holiday season-to-date, $16.4 billion has been spent online, marking a 16 percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Cyber Monday reached $1.465 billion in online spending, up 17 percent versus year ago, representing the heaviest online spending day in history and the second day this season (in addition to Black Friday) to surpass $1 billion in sales.

"Despite some news reports suggesting that Cyber Monday might be declining in importance, the day has once again set an online spending record at nearly $1.5 billion," said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. "However, it is also clear that the holiday promotional period has begun even earlier this year, with strong online sales occurring on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Now, we shall see the extent to which continuing and attractive retailer promotions are able to boost sales for the remainder of the week."

Digital Content & Subscriptions and Consumer Electronics Post Strongest Cyber Monday Gains
Cyber Monday saw Digital Content & Subscriptions continue to set the pace among product categories with a year-over-year growth rate of 28 percent. Consumer Electronics, buoyed by gains in smartphone sales, ranked second at 24 percent, while tablet sales helped the Computer Hardware category post a 22 percent growth rate. Video Games, Consoles & Accessories (up 18 percent) and Jewelry & Watches (up 17 percent) rounded out the top five.

Shopping at Work Accounts for Nearly Half of Cyber Monday Spending
Nearly half of dollars spent online at U.S. websites originated from work computers (47.1 percent), down slightly from last year. Buying from home comprised the majority of the remaining share (47.2 percent) while buying at U.S. websites from international locations accounted for 5.7 percent of sales.

The term 'Cyber Monday' was coined by Shop.org in 2005 to refer to the significant jump in e-commerce spending that occurred following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend as consumers got back to sitting in front of computer screens at work.

"Cyber Monday was often misconstrued as the heaviest online spending day of the year, when in fact it barely cracked the top ten days of the season. However, with the passage of time, the day grew in importance as a result of an increasing number of retailers offering very attractive deals on the day and extensive digital media coverage making sure that consumers were aware of them. As a result, Cyber Monday has assumed the mantle of top online spending day for the past two years – a trend we expect to hold once again in 2012," added Fulgoni.

Source: comScore, Inc.

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Screening the Options for a New HDTV

November 29, 2012 5:38 am

(Family Features) If a shiny, new high-definition TV is at the top of your loved one’s wish list this holiday season, you may be realizing that shopping for a television is much more complicated than it used to be. Today’s models boast a wide range of features and options that can make selecting just the right model an overwhelming proposition. Follow these shopping tips and before you know it, the only challenge left will be how to wrap that oversized box and fit it under the tree.

Size it Up…or Not. Many buyers are tempted to upgrade not only functions and features, but also size when they’re in the market for a new HDTV. But purchasing a model that overwhelms a small room can be an unnecessarily costly mistake. On the flip side, too small a TV in a big space will leave viewers wishing for more.

Understand the Options. Whether you need a plasma, LED or LCD unit depends entirely on your viewing habits and environment. Plasma TVs are best for low-light viewing, offer the widest viewing angles and are ideal for high-action viewing such as sporting events. With greater energy efficiency and a sleeker look, LEDs also are appropriate for diverse lighting situations. A broad selection of sizes makes LCD TVs a good option, particularly for well-lit spaces.

Make the Smart Choice. Similar to smart phones, smart TVs integrate the Internet with familiar technology to create a richer media experience. Although they can be used to watch regular programming, smart TVs are generally geared toward viewers who want a highly interactive experience with entertainment features such as streaming video or music and other online content.

Accessorize. Though most newer model HDTVs come with plenty of bells and whistles, remember that some attractive options may come in the form of add-on accessories. For example, a reliable DVR will help capture hours of programming to watch on that new TV. Some models let you record up to five shows at a time, with plenty of memory capacity that serves up to eight TVs throughout the house.

Define Your Needs. You’ve seen HDTVs advertised as 720p or 1080p — but what does that mean exactly? These numbers refer to the unit’s vertical resolution, or number of visible lines, which impacts overall picture quality. Generally, the greater the resolution, the better the picture. But 720p HDTVs can be a more cost-effective choice, and the majority of broadcast programming is not yet available in 1080p.

Consider these factors while shopping for a new HDTV. It just might be the best holiday gift you give this season.

Source: DirecTV

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