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

3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Fuel-Efficiency

August 31, 2012 9:14 am

One-third of travel for the year takes place during summer and more than three-quarters of those trips are taken by automobile, truck or RV. As summer draws to a close, drivers are encouraged to continue following these three simple steps to improve their fuel-efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint.

Practicing EcoDriving produces the highest mileage from every single vehicle—regardless of size or age--and can reduce gas use and carbon emissions significantly by as much as 15 percent or more. Here are three easy EcoDriving tips that can help many consumers start driving green:

-Turn the engine off when waiting at a curb to save more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour that would have been spent idling.
-Tire pressure changes an average of one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in temperature, so maintaining proper tire pressure can improve gas mileage by about 3 percent. This can earn drivers a free tank of gas every year.
-Avoid rapid starts and stops. This is not only safe, but it can save more than $1 per gallon, according to the U.S. EPA, while improving fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

During summer driving months and even through the beginning of Fall, gas prices tend to rise, but green driving can always lessen the impact.

Source: EcoDrivingUSA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Paying Your Kitchen & Bath Contractor

August 31, 2012 9:14 am

With the market gradually recovering, more homeowners are spending money on remodeling projects. If they are not careful, homeowners can end up paying more than they ever expected. Here are some valuable tips on how to avoid three of the most common pitfalls.

Pitfall #1: A homeowner makes a large deposit, then gets no work done.

This is one of the most common scams among unscrupulous contractors. They ask for a big deposit or to pay for all of the materials upfront, then the homeowner never hears from them again. To avoid this pitfall, homeowners should not pay for work or materials upfront and should avoid any large deposits.

In some states, it is against the law for contractors to ask for more than 10 percent or $1,000 (whichever is less) for a downpayment. They cannot legally ask for upfront payment for materials or work. The one exception is if the contractor is ordering customer-requested custom materials.

Pitfall #2: Suppliers or subcontractors come after the homeowner for payment.

Homeowners are responsible for suppliers and subcontractors who do not get paid on their job. They can even put a lien against the home where they did the work. To avoid this pitfall, there are several strategies a homeowner can use:

-Pay the supplier or subcontractor directly.
-Issue joint checks to the contractor and supplier/subcontractor.
-Get an unconditional lien release from suppliers/subcontractors.

Pitfall #3: Homeowner is liable for an injury on the job, including lost wages.

If the general contractor does not have valid insurance, the homeowner is liable for any injuries on the job. This includes paying lost wages, if someone gets hurt and cannot work for a period of time. To avoid this pitfall, check that the general contractor has valid liability and workman’s comp insurance.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid these and other potential pitfalls is to work with a reputable contractor who has a history of paying suppliers and subcontractors on time.

Source: Cornerstone Design & Remodel

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7 Positive Strategies for Managing Aggressive Behavior In Children

August 31, 2012 9:14 am

As the school year starts, teachers (and parents) may worry about how to handle a child who is having a "meltdown." Some children may fall in a puddle of tears and sob, while others yell and scream. What can be the hardest to handle is when a child becomes aggressive and hits, bites, shoves, throws things or kicks, possibly hurting themselves and others in a fit of anger or frustration.

Although aggressive behavior must be stopped, great harm can be done if an adult restrains an upset child in a way that is physically unsafe for the child or for the adult; acts worried or angry about the child being upset; or shames the child for losing control. Firm, kind, matter-of-fact adult intervention is necessary for everyone’s emotional and physical safety.

These seven intervention strategies may help you manage any aggressive behavior you may face in children:

1. Be prepared that children will sometimes have difficulty staying in charge of their behavior.
2. Identify and reduce causes of stress that trigger outbursts.
3. Teach children how to recognize and manage the feelings and actions that lead to unsafe behavior.
4. Create a plan for how to prevent and handle outbursts for every place the child might be.
5. As the adult in charge, understand and stay in charge of your own emotional triggers.
6. Be a powerful, respectful, adult leader when taking charge of an out-of-control child.
7. When you are caring for other people's children, make a plan ahead of time with the parents and/or your work supervisor about how to handle problems and what you are and are not authorized to do to manage outbursts and keep kids safe.

Children need to understand that all of their feelings are acceptable and normal, including anger. As adults, we can help our kids learn how to stay in charge of what they say and do even if they are feeling very angry or upset at that moment.

Source: Irene van der Zande, child safety education expert

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Natural Food Brands on the Rise

August 30, 2012 3:14 am

Natural raw organic foods are on the rise in the U.S. According to Super Market News, recent information released at the Canaccord Genuity Global Growth Conference indicates a growing and prosperous healthy food industry in the United States. Whole Foods Market, which recently announced plans to triple its number of natural food store locations, boasted a 36 percent gross margin over the last two quarters. General Mills announced that 68 percent of its retail products have been made healthier this year, touting reduced sodium and more whole grains, and Annie’s, an organic snack food line, released plans for two new products set to launch in early 2013. Natural food producer Wholesome Goodness also recently announced plans to sell products in Rite Aid stores nationwide.

While recent business performance seems to indicate a positive outlook for the healthy food industry, here are the top 10 superfoods recommended for those interested in natural, health or raw food options:
1. Walnuts
2. Blueberries
3. Avocados
4. Broccoli
5. Spinach
6. Whole grains
7. Yogurt
8. Salmon
9. Dark chocolate
10. Flaxseed

Source: MassageSchoolSanDiego.com

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7 Steps to Start The School Year Strong, Safe and Sound

August 30, 2012 3:14 am

Looking to give kids a better start to their school year? A new list of seven steps can help your child start the year off strong, safe and sound.  

1. Take a realistic look at your child’s emotional school-readiness.
Qualities like being more sensitive or less sensitive, more outgoing or more reserved, louder or quieter, are all normal and have both benefits and potential liabilities. The sooner children can learn to be in charge of their qualities, so that these are gifts instead of problems, the happier and more successful they will be. 

2. Be clear about both safety and learning expectations.
Tell your child clearly, 'I expect you to feel respected and safe at school. And I expect you to act in safe and respectful ways towards others.' Be explicit about what this means, using specific examples relevant to your child.

3. Make a plan for potential problems.
Children can suddenly find themselves struggling with some academic subject or having emotional or social problems with someone in their circle of friends. Explore ways to make learning and interacting with friends easier. Sometimes children need major support, but often a little bit of help can make a huge difference.

4. Stay in touch with what is going on at school.
Many children are tired of school by the time they get home and don’t give much information when asked general questions like, “How was school today?" At the same time, most children like to share what’s going on in their lives if they are listened to without being lectured or having to hear negative comments about themselves, their school, or their friends.

5. Offer support to your child’s teachers and schools.
Teaching is a hard job and schools face many challenges. Supporting teachers and not taking them for granted is vital to helping kids have a good experience at school. 

6. Prepare your children to set boundaries and to advocate for themselves.
In an ideal world, people would always be kind to each other rather than being mean to each other. However, even people who really care about each other annoy and bother each other sometimes. Rehearsing how to handle specific problems will help to increase confidence, reduce anxiety, and build competence. 

7. Advocate for your children when things go wrong.
Remember that, as parents, our job is to make sure that our children are in places that are emotionally and physically safe and with people who are creating a supportive, effective learning environment. If something goes wrong, be prepared to advocate in a respectful, powerful way for your child.

Source: Kidpower.org

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Second Homeowners Need Professional Help

August 30, 2012 3:14 am

With the sale of vacation homes surging, more current and aspiring second homeowners are seeking ways to supply cash flow or recover expenses by placing their properties in a professional management program - a tactic that’s ripe for success, according to industry experts. Purchasing the home is just the beginning, however. Making sure it’s updated and marketable is vital to compete in today’s travel marketplace, and to drive revenue for the homeowner.

Today’s second homeowners have a choice: rent and manage the property themselves, or engage a vacation rental professional. Rather than personally handling reservations, marketing, maintenance and more, many homeowners choose to partner with an area property management company to handle the legwork, even when the home is not rented. This could possibly translate into more rental bookings for a higher investment return.

Here are a few reasons why “going with a pro” could benefit some second homeowners:
  • Income: Vacation rental professionals earn homeowners money when a property would normally sit empty. It’s also common for property managers to earn extra guest loyalty and repeat visits by providing the guest services homeowners can’t when going it alone. They can also advise on local market conditions, travel trends, and how to expect and plan for seasonal occupancy demands.
  • Zoning and Legal Counsel: A professional evaluation is vital to determining whether a property is legally zoned for vacation rental business. Partnering with a manager also ensures the property will be operated under a proper tax ID and business license; and that the property meets ongoing inspection requirements.
  • 24/7 Attention: Vacation rental managers service the property, homeowners and guests 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with quick and professional responses thanks to fully staffed teams nearby. They commonly handle questions or emergencies after-hours, a time when homeowners may not be able to (or want to) respond.
  • Guest Services: Day-to-day guest operations are made easier for homeowners, as the professionals collect and process bookings and check guests in/out. Many companies also offer concierge services, which make a rental more marketable – think exclusive perks like a private chef, in-home spa treatments, free movie and video game rentals, grocery delivery options, discounts on activities, etc.
  • Marketing: Some of the biggest advantages to partnering with a professional are the in-depth programs designed to market their inventory. Companies may invest in high-resolution property video/photos, guest surveys, contests, promotional trade outs, brochures and rack cards, advertising, PR and more to drive additional business.
  • Housekeeping: Trained housekeepers keep managers’ vacation rental homes cleaned to hospitality industry standards. Inspectors are often deployed to each property before and after every guest, ensuring consistency and quality.
  • Property Maintenance: It’s standard for professionals to oversee services like lawn care, pest control, pool care, A/C service, etc. They maintain relationships with reliable vendors, and offer guests plans to cover accidental breakages. “Going with a pro” also assures homeowners that there are “eyes and ears” for their second home, versus a property sitting empty without being checked or maintained.
  • Interior Design: Many companies assist with staging and set-up for travelers, including ongoing support with insights and upgrades, and some even offer in-house interior design and property improvement services. Design pros provide detailed plans to meet market demands and make homes more profitable. For example, they can advise on repurposing spaces into game rooms or movie theaters, together with popular “extras,” designs and amenities vacationers look for.

For some second homeowners, hiring professional help may reap even more return on their investment, especially for time-crunched second homeowners. For more information, visit: www.DiscoverVacationHomes.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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End of Summer Pool-Closing Checklist

August 29, 2012 3:12 am

Summer is cooking itself to a simmering close, and it is time to think about when you will be closing down your pool. Closing your pool doesn't have to be a chore, though. Whether you are in a cold or not-so-cold climate, you will need to do a few things before you close shop. In the week prior to closing your pool you need to:

• Balance water (bring to pH 7.2-7.6) and make any necessary adjustments in calcium hardness, etc.
• Brush and vacuum.
• Shock the pool.
• Re-adjust the sanitizer, then add long lasting algaecide.
• Turn heater off.
• Reduce filtering times gradually over a week.
• Drag cover out and inspect and clean if necessary.
• Remove any ladders, ropes; clean and store.
• Clean around pool area.
• Clean and store pool furniture.

Try and close your pool before the leaves start blowing around. This will help you avoid fishing out a ton of leaves, which may cause an algae bloom in the spring.

• Drain pool water to below skimmer and blow out the lines with a shop vac.
• Plug return with stopper.
• Add special RV/pool antifreeze to skimmer lines, and return lines, if below ground, and shut them down.
• Drain filter of water.
• Inspect filter unit for wear and tear; remove multiport valve.
• Disconnect pump/filter unit if possible and store where they will not freeze. If not possible, then securely cover unit.
• Drag out and inspect water bags, sand bags or milk jugs, and fill them.
• For vinyl lined pools, reduce the chance of ice damage to your liner by floating several LARGE pieces of styrofoam in the pool.
• Roll the cover out over the pool and weight it down securely. During the fall season and before the winter hits, it is a good idea to pump off excess water from the cover. The cover will collect leaves and water and generally be a mess in the spring regardless, but you will reduce the time spent opening the pool and extend the life of the cover by keeping the junk off of it.

If you live in a warm weather climate and will not be using your pool during the winter months, reduce your maintenance schedule, since the temperature will still be high enough to promote bacteria and algae growth. Follow the same preliminary steps as above, and gradually reduce your filtering times.

Source: www.thefunplace.com

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Measures for Avoiding Petty Theft While Traveling

August 29, 2012 3:12 am

Thanks in part to a global recession, small crime is on the rise. Petty theft, such as pick-pocketing, is particularly prevalent at the moment. While travelers should still feel safe in tourist-friendly destinations, it’s important to be aware of the problem to avoid becoming a victim. Nothing ruins a vacation faster than having your possessions stolen.

According to The New York Times, the U.S. State Department reported 60,984 passport thefts last year alone. It’s important to know what to do in these situations. Here is what you can do to avoiding falling prey while traveling:

• Keep passports as close to your body as possible.
• Credit cards and cash should be split between traveling parties.
• Don’t bring more cash than you need.
• Utilize hotel safes while at the beach or pool.
• If you’re going to an all-inclusive vacation where everything is prepaid, just bring a few dollars and a credit card.

Even the most careful traveler can be the victim of petty theft. Experienced travelers recommend taking the following actions to deal with passport theft and other petty crimes while traveling abroad:

• Keep a copy of your passport at home.
• File a police report as soon as a theft occurs.
• Bring ID copy and police report to the U.S. Consulate for an emergency replacement.
• Cancel all credit cards.
• If you have an American Express card, they offer a Global Assist® Service including passport assistance and emergency cash.

Source: AllInclusive.co

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Tips for Taxpayers to Gain Relief During the Summer

August 29, 2012 3:12 am

Throughout its many years of existence, the IRS has earned its stripes as the most rigorous, relentless and ruthless collection agency in America. While most taxpayers and tax preparers focus on the mid-April deadline for filing income tax returns, the IRS doesn't take a holiday for the rest of the calendar year. In fact, summertime is a prime time for taxpayers to remain financially diligent to maximize tax-debt relief in the short and long term—particularly for those who still owe back taxes to the IRS.

For taxpayers looking to make progress on their IRS tax debt during the summer, the number one priority is to pay the tax debt by basically any means necessary—even if it means getting a loan or paying with a credit card. Owing a loan agency or a bank is a far lesser evil than owing the IRS. If paying taxes now is not an option, ask for additional time to make a full payment, or request a payment plan or an installment agreement, which allows taxpayers to make partial payments over time. To apply for an installment agreement, taxpayers must fill out and submit IRS Form 9465; taxpayers can apply online. (Before beginning the installment agreement process to alleviate tax debt, understand that while it may seem like a simple application process, the IRS is looking for taxpayers to meet certain qualifications to participate.)

In addition to double-checking their withholding on W-4 forms, taxpayers can rectify their IRS tax debt by pursuing programs including the Offer in Compromise, which allows qualifying taxpayers to settle their debt for less than the full obligation, as well as the Fresh Start initiative, which allows individuals and small businesses the opportunity to pay delinquent taxes without paying additional penalties. However, proceed with extreme caution before applying to any of these IRS programs or accepting an agreement. Perhaps the best way taxpayers can accomplish this goal is to seek the assistance of a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist who is a CPA, tax attorney, or enrolled agent specifically trained in tax problem resolution.

For more information, visit www.taxresolution.com/blog.

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7 Simple Steps to Healthy Eyes

August 28, 2012 3:12 am

Whether a person is suffering from vision ailments or has 20/20 eye sight, there are plenty of things one can do to ensure a set of healthy eyes. Regardless of age or gender, patients can maintain healthy eyes and severely lower risk of disease or declining vision with just a little precaution. Broken down into seven simple steps, here is what you can do to achieve and maintain a healthy set of eyes:

1) Wear sunglasses. Wearing sunglasses blocks out UV radiation. UV radiation due to sunlight exposure is a known culprit for both macular degeneration and pterygium.

2) The 20/20/20 rule. After every 20 minutes of computer or other close work, look beyond 20 feet, for at least 20 seconds. This will relax the eye muscles and prevent a spasm. This will also allow blinking, which spreads tears and avoids dryness. According to NPR, more than two-thirds of working Americans use a computer at work, and 84% of them say it is essential for their jobs. By following this simple step Americans can help maintain quality eyesight and avoid dryness.

3) Wash your eyes. At the end of the day, take a clean cup and fill it with cool water, then begin to wash your eyes with it. This washes away allergens from the eyes.

4) Do not rub eyes. Rubbing can cause astigmatism, dryness and scratches to the retina. This may also lead to a release of chemical mediators which will cause continual and more intensive itching. This step is especially stressed after undergoing any sort of eye procedure.

5) A Vitamin A rich diet. This includes; almonds and yellow fruit such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach and liver (pate). Doing so will help promote quality vision through an individual’s lifetime.

6) Wear eye protection. Before participating in yard work, drilling, welding, or other metal work, make sure to wear clear protective glasses. A growing number of on-site job accidents occur due to lack of proper eye ware. Make sure you have adequate protection before partaking in any hazardous, dusty, or intensive activity.

7) Exercise regularly. There is nothing quite like getting oxygen to the eye, and exercise stimulates all muscles, including the eye muscles.

Following these tips will help patients maintain healthy eyes, lower the risk of disease, and help prolong quality vision for a lifetime.

Source: Dr. Rajesh Khanna

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