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

Fight the Flu in the New Year with These Tips

November 18, 2011 9:32 pm

Every year, Americans stock up on lemon tea, vitamin C, and herbal remedies to brace for another long flu season. But what really works? Protecting yourself (and your friends, family and community) from influenza is as easy as taking these three simple steps:

1. Get a flu shot.
Two-thirds of Americans plan to get the flu vaccine this year, but following through on this pledge can be difficult. Be sure to make an appointment and get your shot so you’re ready to take on the season.

2. Stop the spread of germs. Common-sense germ precautions are one of the most powerful steps you can take to stop the flu in its tracks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this means washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; avoiding close contact with sick people; and limiting contact with healthy people if you fall ill.

3. Seek help if you are under the weather
. If you do become sick, it's important to see your doctor right away. Although many people think of the flu as just a nuisance illness, it can be very serious -- especially for the very young, the elderly, and anyone with a weak immune system. Every year, the flu is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and countless hours of lost work.

For more information, visit

Is There a Difference Between an Interior Designer and Decorator?

November 18, 2011 9:32 pm

Some use the terms interior designer and interior decorator interchangeably. However, in general, designers tend to produce more drawn information and plans, whereas decorators are more associated with personal presentations to clients on space planning, furnishings, palette, and finishes, often in residential settings and sometimes including drawings. Clearly, there is a broad area of overlap.

Interior design is a multi–faceted profession whereby creative and technical solutions are applied within a structure to enhance interior environments. Clients are often corporate committees or executive boards, but can also be homeowners.

Interior decoration can also be complex, depending upon the size and variety of building interiors to be considered. Many accomplished interior decorators have some form of interior design training, up to and including a degree, but because of state regulation, local habits, or a preference for residential design work, consider themselves to be "decorators."

Interior decorating typically involves space planning, color palette, floor and wall surfaces, window treatments, furniture, accessories and lighting—particularly for residential applications. It also incorporates elements of functionality and utility, as well as aesthetics.

Thus, residential designers and decorators often are involved with selling appropriate style and home furnishings rather than specifications and drawn plans for commercial spaces. The career focus is largely a matter of preference or interest, as is the nomenclature (unless regulated by the state).

Can a decorator do residential interior design? And vice-versa? Absolutely. With the broad overlap, it happens all the time. The practitioner needs mainly to be conversant with local rules and regulations.

Currently, only three states in the U.S. regulate the practice of interior design, although several have title acts covering who can refer to or advertise themselves as "registered" or "certified" interior designers—but those titling laws are completely voluntary and do not limit anyone's ability to work as an interior designer.

Homeowners are encouraged to seek out experience, competence, and personal compatibility to find the best design practitioner for themselves through webs searches, referrals, portfolio review, and personal interview—regardless of the nomenclature each professional applies to themselves.

For more information, please visit

How to Avoid Winter Driving Dangers

November 17, 2011 9:30 pm

When snow and ice create dangerous conditions that can make driving a challenge, it’s important to be prepared and take extra precautions behind the wheel. Driving more carefully in winter weather will ensure drivers get to their destination safely and keep their car insurance rates down. 

Slow Down, Be Careful
The simplest way to stay safe on winter roads is to drive slower than normal and with extra caution. Adjust driving speed to account for low visibility or slick conditions on the road. Remember to allow more braking time by following other cars at a larger distance than required on dry roads. The greater the speed, the more stopping distance that is required, and on icy and snowy roads this distance grows even more. Even if the driver is doing the speed limit, police can still give out tickets for driving too fast for the current road conditions. 

Avoid over-steering by responding to a skid in a careful and controlled fashion. Although the instinct can be to panic, staying calm and keeping control of the car will help avoid an accident. 

Watch For Pedestrians and Parked Cars
Especially in low visibility conditions when it is snowing and blowing, it’s important to keep an eye out for people and things you might not be able to see in the snow. Not every winter accident involves two vehicles. Single vehicle collisions with parked cars, or striking road signs and other objects are very common when visibility is poor and snow hides them. These accidents may have a big impact on your insurance rates. 

Watch carefully for: 

• Pedestrians crossing streets, especially at night
• Parked cars that might be hidden by snow
• Garbage cans and other objects that might be on the road
• Road signs (especially at street corners), where braking can lead to skidding 

Remember that no matter what the road conditions, an accident in which a driver strikes an inanimate object or pedestrian is usually the driver’s responsibility. Drivers may be found at fault in the insurance claim even if situations where ice or snow is a factor. 

Check the Conditions
Before heading out on the road, check the weather report and local road condition reports. Knowing what to expect on the road ahead means being prepared to respond to the conditions. Consider skipping the trip if conditions are bad and it is not necessary; it might better to stay home. 


Easy Ways to Make Your Pet Part of the Holiday Fun

November 17, 2011 9:30 pm

With 118.2 million pet-owning households, according to the latest survey by the American Pet Products Association, many families will invite their four-legged family members to participate in the holiday festivities. Whether it’s lighting the menorah or decorating the Christmas tree, every family has their own customs that make the holidays special. Here are some easy ways to incorporate pets into the family traditions this season. 

Counting Down the Days: Buy your pet a 12 Days of X-Mas calendar at your local pet store. These calendars give pets a toy or tasty treat during the 12 days leading up to Christmas. This durable calendar counts down the days to the big day and lets pets join in the advent calendar fun. 

Dressed to the Nines: The holidays mean plenty of parties and shopping for the perfect party dress or festive Santa tie. Dressing the part is now more fun for cats. Holiday cat ties give your feline friend a comfortable, yet festive accessory for the holidays. The festive bow tie features Christmas colors in a hip checkered design so cats look their best this holiday. 

Delicious Dinner: The National Turkey Federation estimates that Americans eat 18 pounds of turkey a year, 33% of which is consumed during the holidays. Whether the family is feasting on a turkey dinner or delicious latkes, food is always part of the holiday celebration. Let pets safely join in and give them a special treat this holiday. People food is for people, but you can purchase holiday dinners specifically for dogs providing them with their own turkey dinner packed with wholesome ingredients that won’t ruin their diet. Now they can truly be a true part of the family dinner. 

Giving and Getting Holiday Toys: A 2010 MSNBC report estimated that Americans spent $584.3 billion during the holidays. Giving and getting presents is one of the most popular holiday traditions. When waking up on Christmas morning, make sure cats and dogs have a little something under the tree. Make Hanukkah's eight crazy nights a little crazier with Hanukkah-themed pet toys from the same collection. These classy and classic holiday toys make the perfect gift for the family pet or a fantastic “thank you” to a pet-loving holiday party host or hostess. 

Photos with Santa: Taking photos with Santa is a time old tradition. Luckily, pet parents won’t have to stand in line at the mall to let the family pet share in the fun. Petco stores nationwide will be offering pet photos with Santa on December 3 and 10, 2011. 

For more information, visit

Appraisal Institute Calls for Transparency on Home Buyers' Forms

November 17, 2011 9:30 pm

Saying that consumers deserve to know what they’re paying for, the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers called on the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to require more transparency on home buyers’ forms. 

The Appraisal Institute, in a joint letter with the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers, asked the CFPB to separate appraisal fees from administration and processing fees on the settlement forms that consumers receive when purchasing a home. Created by Congress, the CFPB oversees consumer disclosure laws and is authorized to develop new forms to inform consumers of charges assessed in processing mortgage loans. 

“We see no consumer benefit with continuing to bundle two separate services and not fully disclosing such information to borrowers,” the letter said. “We urge the CFPB to revise these forms with a separate line for Appraisal Management (or management fees in total) as Congress authorized last year when it enacted the Dodd-Frank Act.” 

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, signed into law by President Obama in July 2010, authorized the CFPB to separate appraisal and appraisal management fees to consumers on the HUD-1 settlement statement, the standard form used in the United States to itemize services and fees charged to the borrower by the lender or broker when applying for a loan for the purpose of purchasing or refinancing real estate. 

However, the proposed form issued for comment by the CFPB still combines appraisal and appraisal management fees. (Management fees are those charged by an appraisal management company for administrative services; the appraisal fee refers to the actual cost of the appraisal itself.) 

In their letter, the Appraisal Institute and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers cited recent research from the National Association of REALTORS® that said borrowers are paying more for appraisal fees than they recently did, but noted that appraisers report their fees have been reduced by as much as 40 percent. This is because banks have passed through backroom administration expenses on the backs of consumers. 

“The CFPB … has a unique opportunity to improve transparency for borrowers by requiring full disclosure of costs incurred for appraisal services and costs for appraisal management services,” the letter said, adding “…we believe that consumers deserve to know who is providing services relative to their loan and how much was paid. This is the spirit of transparency and the core presumption with development of a consumer disclosure form.” 

To read the Appraisal Institute’s and American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, go to

Tips for Selling Your Home During the Winter

November 16, 2011 9:30 pm

With the rush of the holidays comes a slower-paced season for housing. Fear not, however! While there is typically less inventory around during the winter months, sellers have a unique opportunity to stand-out from their competition and truly shine. With the right staging and finesse, you can increase your chances of landing a sale and for the price you're looking for.

Don't neglect the basics. Just because the weather is colder doesn't mean you should neglect the outside of your home or the yard around it. Clean up the lawn in the fall to prepare for winter showings. If there are any repairs necessary for the outside of the house—roofing problems, a new paint job, etc.—plan ahead to complete these tasks before showing the home. Exterior curb appeal still counts for buyers rushing for the warmth of indoors.

Take advantage of a seasonal interior. Make the inside of your home feel as warm as possible. Crank up the heat or start a fire in the fireplace. The goal is to paint a picture for buyers to see themselves living in your home. Maximize the space of each room by cleaning up clutter or rearranging the furniture. Do anything and everything to make it feel warm and inviting.

Make sure to keep the home's paths clear. It may seem obvious, but it is crucially important to keep your walkways and driveway clear of snow, ice or debris. For homeowners who have already vacated, this may be a challenging aspect of the home-selling process. Keep in mind that many buyers and agents may not want to deal with a home that's difficult to get into.

Light it up. Make sure all of the home's lights are on. If the home is being showed during the day, open the curtains and let the natural light shine through. Make the home look as bright as possible and worry about the electricity bill later.

Keep holiday décor conservative. Although you will be tempted to make your home stand out, keep decorations in check and don't overdue it on outdoor lighting. Avoid overly religious decorations as to not offend anyone.

If your home is properly staged, fixed-up and ready to go, you won't suffer from a drought of interested buyers. Always putting your best foot forward is the best strategy to have no matter what the season.

Source: Associated Press

Wealth Gap for Young Households Growing

November 16, 2011 9:30 pm

The Pew Research Center recently published interesting findings concerning the wealth of households by age. Using government data, the authors of the report noted the following conclusions about the generational distribution of wealth and the ongoing crisis in housing:

• Households headed by adults 65 and older were 42% wealthier in 2009 relative to same-aged households in 1984
• Households headed by adults 35 and younger were 68% poorer in 2009 relative to same-aged households in 1984

As a result of these changes, the wealth gap between older and younger households has grown substantially. In 1984, the wealth ratio between households 65 and older and households 35 and younger stood at 10-to-1. In 2009, this ratio had grown to 47-to-1.

The authors of the report explain the primary cause:

Housing has been the main driver of these divergent wealth trends. Rising home equity has been the linchpin of the higher wealth of older households in 2009 compared with their counterparts in 1984. Declining home equity has been one factor in the lower wealth held by young households in 2009 compared with their counterparts in 1984.

Moreover, the authors make similar claims we have touched upon regarding the long-run demographic impact of the ongoing crisis in housing:

For the young, these long-term changes include delayed entry into the labor market and delays in marriage—two markers of adulthood traditionally linked to income growth and wealth accumulation.

Digging into the findings, the authors emphasize how important housing wealth is to older homeowners. If you exclude housing equity, the net worth of households headed by individuals 65 and older would have been 33% lower in 2009 than their counterparts in 1984, instead of 42% higher as it now stands.

For young households, there is no such difference. If you ignore housing equity, such households would be 66% poorer than their 1984 counterparts, instead of 68% poorer when one factors in home equity. So the growing gap in wealth between young and old is primarily due to the fact that older households strongly benefited from homeownership, despite recent price declines.

Taking all forms of wealth into consideration, from 2005 to 2009, according to the Pew estimates, household net worth for all households fell 28%. However, the Great Recession has been particularly hard on younger households, who form the majority of first-time home buyers. Household net worth for those younger than 35 has fallen 55%. For those 35 to 44, net worth has fallen 49%. For those 65 and older, net worth has declined only 6%.

The Pew Research findings concerning wealth and age have a direct impact for understanding housing demand. The Great Recession has clearly taken a toll on household balance sheets, and particularly on the wealth of those age classes that constitute the majority of would-be home buyers. This economic consequence, along with job market uncertainty, is the reason for pent-up housing demand. And policy proposals that would place homeownership further out-of-reach of today’s emerging households and aspiring members of the middle class will have long-run impacts on both demography and household wealth.

For more information, visit NAHB's Eye on Housing blog at

Protect Your Belongings with Self-Storage Insurance

November 16, 2011 9:30 pm

Whether you're in between moves or simply need the extra space, self-storage is a fantastic option for those who find they need to temporarily unload some personal belongings. To further protect your property, renters should look into and purchase storage insurance. At some facilities, it may not be an option. However, if you are not required to purchase it and think that your property is automatically safe, think again. Most times, if your property is worth seeking extra storage space for, it's worth insuring.

According to, renters generally have three different options in terms of insurance:

1) Some homeowner's or renter's insurance may allow for additional coverage for your storage unit, however, you must check with the facility to ensure that they accept this type of coverage. When you go to rent your unit, proof of insurance will be required by the storage facility. Make sure to have that on hand.

2) Facilities may offer their own insurance premium ranging from $2,500 to $5,000. Although there may or may not be a deductible, rates may be higher and coverage lower compared to insuring through your homeowner's or renter's policy. Be sure to inquire about what types of damages are covered and if any items are excluded from the policy.

3) Independent self-storage insurance may be your best bet. Outside insurance companies may have a partnership with particular storage facilities, but oftentimes they operate independently. This type of insurance will insure higher-valued items and may protect against damage that other policies may not cover.

Though prices per plan vary, insurance typically runs $8 for $2,000 coverage; $12 for $3,000 coverage; and $20 for $5,000 coverage. Some providers may even provide coverage for 50% in case of burglary. (Taking pictures of all your items in the storage unit is highly recommended. If items are damaged during a burglary, snap photos of them as well along with a broken lock or a damaged door).

As always, it's best to understand whatever policy you sign up for. Make sure you acquire all of the details at the time of signing so that you can be prepared and knowledgeable in the worst case scenario that you need to put a claim in.

Tips for a Happy and Efficient Move

November 15, 2011 3:26 pm

One can never have enough moving tips. For those preparing to pack up their belongings and head to a new home, efficiency and ease are as important as ever. Although moving can be an exciting time, it can also be somewhat nerve-racking.

To make your move run smoothly, heed the following recommendations whether you are a homeowner or a renter:

1. Get rid of clutter. Two months before the date of the move, go through every room in the house and decide what items should not be moved. Donate or sell any clothes, furniture, or other items that are unwanted.

2. Start searching online for a moving company, if desired. There are many companies to choose from, so be sure to find a quality company and book early. Read as many reviews as possible and learn from others' mistakes.

3. Cancel and order utilities. Contact telephone, electric, gas, water, and other services to inform them of the move. By planning ahead, extra charges can be avoided and moving into a new home will be smoother.

4. Pack smart. Plan ahead when packing and use a moving checklist to stay on track. Get all the supplies beforehand, such as bubble wrap, boxes, tape and markers. Label boxes in detail with the room they go to and the contents. Pack unneeded items first and the most used items last. Have a couple of boxes of essentials that are easily accessible, which can include an alarm clock, change of clothes, toiletries, coffee maker, etc.

5. Safety first. Whether you are hiring a professional company or going at it solo, be sure to keep walkways clear, remove rugs, tripping hazards and low-hanging items. Ensure young children have a care provider and pets are kept safely away from loading and unloading areas.

6. Know what not to pack. Items such as pesticides, paint thinner, lighter fluid, and other dangerous chemicals should not be packed by professionals or in a moving truck. Valuables, irreplaceable items and important documents should be kept safe with the homeowner and moved in the truck cab, car or shipped with a tracking number.

7. Smile! This time can be more exciting than stressful with a positive attitude and a bit of preparation. Try not to stress and enjoy the excitement of your new neighborhood.

For more information, visit

How to Prevent Fatal Home Accidents

November 15, 2011 3:26 pm

Is your home safe? Believe it or not, the leading cause for a trip to the emergency room is an unintentional home accident or injury. In fact, according to the Home Safety Council, the leading causes of unintentional home injury and death in the United States are falls, poisoning, fire/burns, and drowning.
Protecting your family and making your home safer is top priority. Prevent accidents, serious injuries, pinpoint potential hazards, and decrease the likelihood of potential home disasters by having the right safety equipment on hand.

The leading cause of accidental death in the United States is carbon monoxide poisoning. Produced by everyday home appliances like water heaters, charcoal grills and propane stoves, this odorless, tasteless and colorless gas sends more than 15,000 Americans to the emergency room each year. Those exposed to carbon monoxide are typically misdiagnosed because they experience flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, headache and fatigue. The best way to protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning is a carbon monoxide alarm, and at just under $20, it won't break the bank.

Every 150 minutes, someone dies from a fire-related injury in the U.S. The number one cause of death, however, is actually from smoke inhalation and toxic gases, not burns. That means having a smoke alarm in your home is essential, especially considering that four out of 10 home-fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms. Battery operated, super affordable and designed to protect your family from smoke inhalation and accidental fires, it's a must-have home safety item. If you have a large house, consider putting a smoke detector in each room for maximum security.

The third major cause of home-related injuries and death in the U.S. is unintentional slip-and-fall accidents. In fact, accidental falls are the number one cause of injury-related death for those 60 and up. Luckily, you can prevent accidental falls by eliminating tripping hazards (like electrical cords and rugs) and installing snazzy night-lights in dark areas, especially near stairs and hallways. A motion activated night-light is highly recommended, as it automatically turns on in a dark room when motion is detected. No switching or fumbling in the dark is required.

Many fatal home accidents can be prevented. Spend some time going over how you can keep your family safe and be sure to have the proper equipment on hand to do so.