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

Summer Boredom Setting In? 5 Ideas for Stay-at-Home Kids

August 4, 2016 1:49 am


Nothing strikes dread into a mother’s heart like kids home for the summer wailing, “We have nothing to do!”

Busy moms can keep little ones occupied with some shrewd pre-planning. WorkAtHomeMoms.com, an online resource for mothers on a schedule, suggests stockpiling a grab bag full of books, coloring books, puzzles and other inexpensive toys to draw from when boredom sets in.

The website also offers five ideas for keeping stay-at-home kids in the 6-12 age range involved:

Create a Comic – Provide materials for a comic book: paper, markers, colored pencils and a stapler. Ask each child to dream up an original comic book character—a bratty kid, a superhero, or a favorite animal—and star him or her in a homemade comic book.

Have Some Retro Fun – Teach your children a few of the old-fashioned games you played when you were a kid: jacks, hopscotch, marbles, jump rope or lawn croquet. You can even plan an Olympics-type competition, moving from one to the next.

Let ‘Em Make Lunch – Divide lunchtime chores according to age. Children can make simple sandwiches and no-bake cookies and pack them into a picnic basket, along with plates, napkins and plastic forks. At lunchtime, the whole family can picnic in the backyard or at a local park.

Plan a Game Day Marathon – Start with age-appropriate puzzles, followed by a series of card games like Crazy Eights, Go Fish, and Old Maid. Finish with a favorite board game or two. Keep track of the time, and the child or team who finishes first gets to choose what’s for dinner.

Put on a Show – Discuss ideas in advance—perhaps a fairy tale—then let the children do it all: write the script, put together the costumes and stage set, and rehearse and act out the parts. Parents become the audience (friends and neighbors optional!), with dessert for all after the show.

For more ideas for summer and beyond, visit WorkAtHomeMoms.com.
 

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Swim Season: 5 Tips to 'Pool Safely'

August 4, 2016 1:49 am


Pools, though a pastime at home, present a danger to children with limited swimming abilities.

Though the number of fatal child pool drownings has dropped significantly in the years since the inception of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Pool Safely campaign (PoolSafely.gov), parents and caregivers must continue to remain vigilant when children are in or near a pool at home.

To do so, the CPSC recommends:

• Learning how to swim, and teaching your child how to swim;

• Learning CPR, for both children and adults;

• Installing a four-sided fence around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate;

• Installing federally-compliant drain covers; and

• Assigning supervisory duties to a “Water Watcher,” or a person who will remain alert and on guard while children are swimming.

For more pool safety tips, visit PoolSafely.gov.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
 

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20 Must-See International Destinations

August 3, 2016 1:49 am


After the recession left many without the means to take a trip, a lot of us have found the wherewithal to travel again—and most of us are turning our eyes to must-see destinations abroad, according to a recent survey by Travel Leaders Group.

“Overall, we can confidently say that the demand for leisure travel is still very strong,” said Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, in a statement. “Our survey also revealed that more than nine out of 10 will take the same number, or more, leisure trips in 2016.”

Travel Leaders Group ranked the top 20 international destinations, based on ratings by those surveyed. These must-see stops are:

1. Venice, Italy
2. Florence, Italy
3. Rome, Italy
4. London, England
5. Dublin, Ireland
6. Paris, France
7. Europe (River Cruise)
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Europe (Mediterranean Cruise)
10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
11. Caribbean (Cruise)
12. Europe (Baltic Cruise)
13. Aruba
14. Cabo San Lucas/Los Cabos, Mexico
15. Playa del Carmen/Riviera Maya, Mexico
16. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
17. Montego Bay, Jamaica
18. Cancun, Mexico
19. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
20. Mexico (Cruise)

Source: Travel Leaders Group
 

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Credit-Confused? What to Know About Your Score

August 3, 2016 1:49 am

 
Credit-confused? You’re not alone. Most of us have trouble understanding the impact some actions may have on our credit scores, though many of us do know the basics.

Just half of those surveyed recently by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions know that their lender must inform them about the lender’s use of a credit score in the mortgage application process, for instance, and less than half of those surveyed wrongly believe that marital status is a factor in the calculation of credit scores.

Many of us also underestimate the consequences of a low credit score, the survey found: only one-fifth of those surveyed know a low score can increase the cost of a loan.

Some of us are even in the dark when it comes to non-creditor use of our credit scores. Half of those surveyed did not know that utility companies may factor scores into the decision on the initial deposit for service, and one-third did not know that home insurance providers and landlords might also factor scores into their decisions.

“The good news is that consumers understand the basics of credit scores, such as the importance of making loan payments on time,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director, in a statement. “The bad news is that this knowledge is limited and, each year, can cost them hundreds of dollars in fees on services and additional interest on consumer loans.”

In addition to making loan payments consistently and on time, checking credit report(s), keeping credit card balances low and refraining from opening new credit accounts are all credit-wise actions, according to CFA.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

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Survey: Owners, Renters Say Housing Solid

August 3, 2016 1:49 am


Homeowners and renters feel positive about homeownership, expressing confidence in a market that has made encouraging strides so far this year.

The majority of households, according to the recently released SCE Housing Survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, perceive housing as a “good financial investment.” Of the renters surveyed, approximately three-quarters (74.1 percent) would rather own than rent, and close to one-fifth (17.5 percent) believe obtaining a mortgage would be “easy.” Both renters and homeowners perceive mortgage rates lower than they did last year, at an average 4.7 percent.

Most homeowners and renters surveyed expect home prices to rise in the next year, but to a declining degree: 3.3 percent. Rent raises are expected to remain steady during that same period.

Of the homeowners surveyed, the probability that they’ll purchase a home within the next three years rose to 63 percent; the probability that the renters surveyed will purchase a home grew to nearly 50 percent.

If you are a homeowner planning to purchase a new home, or a renter planning to purchase a home for the first time, contact a real estate professional for more information.

Source: New York Federal Reserve
 

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The Most Common Mistakes Job Seekers Make—and How to Avoid Them

August 2, 2016 1:49 am


Anyone who’s braved the job market knows how difficult the application process can be. One mistake, and the effort is wasted.

CareerBuilder®’s Chief Human Resources Officer Rosemary Haefner says most mistakes are avoidable.

“Workers realize that the job market is stronger than it has been over the last eight years, and technology is allowing them to pursue new opportunities faster and more efficiently than ever,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder, in a statement. “But, just because they are able to submit an application easier, doesn't mean candidates can skip basic steps—or requirements—like submitting a cover letter or customizing their résumés. These items get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, and leaving them out of the process can hurt a job seeker's chances of securing a new job.”

One common mistake, according to Haefner, is not customizing a résumé for each prospective employer. Employers can spot all-purpose résumés a mile away—tailoring your résumé to match key words in the job description can make all the difference.

Another mistake job seekers regularly make is not personalizing the application. Haefner says applying directly to the hiring manager not only increases your chances of being noticed, but also shows you’ve gone the extra step and invested time getting to know the company.

Job seekers are also often caught not including cover letter with the application. Cover letters are an opportunity that should not be squandered, Haefner says. A letter allows you to introduce yourself, as well as sell your experience and skills beyond what’s presented in your résumé.

Many job seekers are guilty of not following up with an employer after applying, Haefner adds. This mistake can be significant—often, a hiring manager is overwhelmed by applications, and following up is the only way to ensure they’ve received and considered yours.

One of the most egregious mistakes, Haefner says, is not sending a thank-you note after an interview. Most hiring managers expect a thank-you in some form or another—forgoing this action will not go unnoticed.

Job seekers must take extra care when it comes to all aspects of the hiring process, Haefner concludes. Begin by avoiding the most common mistakes!

Source: CareerBuilder®
 

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5 Tips for a Cooler Home

August 2, 2016 1:49 am


Relief from the heat can be hard to come by in August, when the mercury tends to rise to uncomfortably high temperatures. In times like these, many homeowners consume excess energy, and incur higher-than-normal costs.

“People have the power to lower energy costs even on the hottest days of the year,” says Brian Rich, chief information officer and senior vice president of Customer Experience of Consumers Energy.

One of the simplest ways to do that, Rich says, is to raise the air conditioning thermostat by a few degrees when the house is unoccupied. When members of the household are home, Rich recommends keeping the temperature at a constant 78 degrees.

Consider cooling only areas that see use, Rich adds. Keep all doors and registers in these rooms closed—doing so will not only prevent cool air from escaping, but also keep the air conditioning unit from consuming too much energy.

Closing window treatments during the daytime is also wise. Rich says blocking the rays of the sun when they’re at their strongest noticeably cools the home, and also spares the air conditioning unit the power needed to cool a sun-filled house.

Avoid using heat-producing appliances, as well, Rich says, especially at peak temperatures during the day. This includes the stove and the dryer.

Lastly, consider having your air conditioning unit tuned up. At minimum, clean the filter regularly, Rich advises.

Source: Consumers Energy
 

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10 Stress-Less Tips for a Move

August 2, 2016 1:49 am


(BPT)—Do you know upwards of 15 million people move during peak real estate season?

Moving is an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming. Take the stress out of the process with these tips, courtesy of Penske Truck Rental:

1. Prepare to pack. Save time by ordering moving supplies, such as boxes, bubble wrap, labels and tape in advance online.

2. Purge. Less is more when it comes to moving. Donate, sell or toss items that you no longer use, rather than pack them.

3. Reserve a truck early. Reserve a moving truck at least two weeks ahead of your move. Allow 150 cubic feet of truck space for each fully-furnished.

4. Pack smart. Start the packing process by boxing up out-of-season and non-essential items. Leave a box open, if necessary—it's easier to tape a box shut on moving day than it is to pack it at the last minute.

5. Label well. Labeling can save you hours of unpacking. Begin by labeling each box with the room it belongs in, followed by details about the contents, such as “fragile.” (Bonus Tip: Keep boxes from the same room grouped together on the truck.)

6. Transfer services. Contact your service and utility providers to discontinue cable, gas, electricity, refuse collection and water. Schedule the cut-off for a day or two after your move, in case there is a delay due to unforeseen circumstances.

7. Pick up the truck the night before. Pick up your truck rental the evening before the move to save time on moving day. Get familiarized with the vehicle and verify the best driving directions to your new home.

8. Start early. Depart early in the morning to avoid traffic and allow extra time to unload at your new home.

9. Drive wise. Moving trucks require more distance to stop. Be aware of low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs. Park only in well-lit areas, and keep the rear door padlocked and the passenger compartment doors locked.

10. Keep important items on-hand. Pack a road trip bag to keep your phone, paperwork, credit cards, identification, a set of clothes, beverages and snacks close at hand while you drive.

Source: Penske Truck Rental (PenskeTruckRental.com)
 

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Are You Guilty of 'Phubbing?'

August 1, 2016 1:49 am


“Phubbing,” or choosing to interact with a smartphone instead of a person, is all but accepted. Millennials “phub” more often than most—though it may not be intentional.

“Compared to older generations, millennials feel much more pressure to respond immediately to text messages and instant messages,” said Felice Gabriel Miller, founder and president of Delvv®, a mobile app developer, in a release. “In the space between true smartphone addicts and regular users, there are probably a lot of people who use their smartphone excessively just to avoid the social consequences of disconnecting. This helps explain why people 'phub' (i.e., phone snub) in social settings where they know they shouldn't.”

Seventy-nine percent of millennials recently surveyed by Delvv respond to text messages within 15 minutes, compared to 56 percent of Gen X-ers and 46 percent of baby boomers. Forty-nine percent of the millennials surveyed respond to instant messages within 15 minutes—a contrast to baby boomers, 29 percent of whom respond to instant messages within 24 hours.

Most survey respondents (68 percent) believe that someone who is eating dinner with company should not look at a text message—“phub”—until after the meal.

The “phub” phenomenon speaks to the attachment most have to their smartphones—49 percent of those surveyed would rather give up sweets for one month than switch to a dumbphone.

When was the last time you “phubbed?”

Source: Delvv®
 

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It's High Time for High-Tech Homes

August 1, 2016 1:49 am


More houses are turning into high-tech hubs of connectivity and convenience. Technology, in fact, has become one of the improvements most requested by homeowners, reports the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA).

According to Matt Sneller, owner of Sneller Custom Homes and Remodeling in Spring, Texas, a low-voltage cabling and wiring infrastructure is the core of a connected home. The infrastructure supports everything from the alarm and audio systems to the HVAC and telephone.

Cameras are also a component in the connected home, says Bill Riley, owner of Bicycle Bungalows in Houston, Texas. Riley reports more of his clients are replacing costly security systems and monitoring services with self-controlled cameras.

LED lights are another sought-after, high-tech feature, due to their energy efficiency. Sneller recommends consulting with a cool lighting system company that offers products with geo-fencing technology, as well as smartphone control capability.

Appliance manufacturers have also joined the connected home club, now producing apps that allow homeowners to wirelessly control their appliances, and even take stock of the items within them, adds Riley.

According to Rob Douglass, owner of Texas Custom Patios, no high-tech home is complete without a connection to the outside. Douglass suggests installing a universal system that controls both indoor and outdoor features, such as a flat-screen television or surround-sound.

Source: Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association (GHBA)
 

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