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Archive for February, 2013

Does Retirement Seem Attractive To You? Should You Retire?

Have you have reached retirement age and are contemplating whether to retire or not? Are you torn between retiring to your golden years or continuing to work for a few more? Here are a few tips to make your decision a WORKlittle less painful.

1. Consider Your Age

If you are in the 55 to 65 age range, retirement will already seem attractive to you. First of all consider your age. Realistically speaking, we only have limited number of years on this earth. Look at what you would still like to accomplish with those remaining years. Would you like to spend time going around the world? Or do you have any goals you wish to fulfill if it weren’t for the daily grind of work? If that is so then you can factor in these goals and lay out a time-table for your retirement and activities afterwards.

Another age-related issue to consider is your ‘actual age.’ You actual age is a INVEST WISELYmeasurement to verify how old your body really is. Have ever wondered why some people look about 5 years younger than they really are? This could be because their bodies really are of that age. The factors that determine this aging are genetics, health habits, diet and others. If you feel that your physical age is way beyond working, you may choose to retire.

2. Health

Is your health preventing you from being productive in the workforce? Or is your health making work more uncomfortable for you as time passes by? You may want to check with a doctor for a total health evaluation before considering continuing with work

3. Family

AHEADSome people will want to spend more time with their families as the twilight years approach. You may want to factor this into your decision to retire.

4. Finances

Will you be financially capable of sustaining your lifestyle well after retirement? If your retirement savings are not up to par with your spending lifestyle after retirement, you may want to stick it out with work for a little while longer. You also have to consider the fact that some retirement plans become more attractive if you HAPPYretire later. But if you have saved up enough finances to tide you over those needs and enough to cover unexpected expenses such as medical fees, etc. as well as expenses for your planned vacation trips and other goals, you will want to retire early.

Also consider the fact that many people who retire find out that life without an occupation will turn out to be very boring. You may want to keep in touch with your employer so that he or she may offer jobs that you can do on part-time basis such as consultancy, filling in for those on vacation, etc.

When You Are Going To place Your Home On The Market, The Garage: Storage or Mess?

When putting homes on the market, many people fail to prepare one room in their home. While not technically a “room” as such, the garage is a part of the home that is often overlooked….by sellers. Chances are that if you STORAGEhave been in your home for many years, you have collected a fair amount of “stuff.” Where does most of this surplus “stuff” end up? You guessed it, in the garage.

For most people the garage is a holding pen for years of accumulated clutter. Now this may not seem like a big deal, but when selling a home clutter can be a big problem. If you are one of those people who tend to be a bit of a pack-rat then cleaning outMORE STORAGE your garage will be a good project to undertake. Don’t forget that when your home is viewed, every room including the garage will be under scrutiny. Maybe its time to sort through the stuff and decide what is worth keeping.

Another aspect that is commonly overlooked in garages is the A MESSgeneral condition of the garage itself. Dingy walls and stained floors take away from the overall aesthetic quality of the home and buyers will notice this. Give the garage a coat of paint, or if you are really up to the task there are some amazing garage organization systems that improve the look and organization of garages a thousand fold. Prospective buyers will appreciate the added attention to the overall cleanliness of the home.

The Home Inspection Process, When They Are Required

When Home Inspection is required?
 
As a home buyer/seller or real estate professional, you have the right to know exactly what a typical real estate inspection is. The following information should give you a better understanding of exactly what your inspector HOME INSPECTIONshould or shouldn’t do for you during the course of a home inspection.
 
A home inspection is an independent visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a house of an apartment, including all sections from the roof down to the foundations. Having a home inspected is akin to giving it a physical check-up. If problems or symptoms are found, the home inspector may recommend further evaluation.
 
First and foremost, an inspection is a visual survey of those easily accessible areas that an inspector can clearly see. No destructive testing or dismantling is done during the course of an inspection, hence an inspector can only tell a client exactly what was clearly in evidence at the time and date of the inspection. The inspector eyes are not any better than the buyers, except that the inspector is trained to look for specific tell-tale signs and clues that may lead to the discovery of actual or potential defects or deficiencies.
 
Inspectors base their inspections on the current industry standards provided to them by their professional societies. These Standards tell what the inspector will and can do, as well as what the inspector will not do. INSPECTORMany inspectors give a copy of the standards to their clients. If your inspector has not given you a copy, ask for one, or go to the American Home Inspector Directory and look for your home inspectors association.
 
The Industry Standards clearly spell out specific areas in which the inspector must identify various defects and deficiencies, as well as identifying the specific systems, components and items that are being inspected. There are many excluded areas noted in the standards that the inspector does not have to report on, for example; private water and sewer systems, solar systems, security systems, etc.
 
The inspector is not limited by the standards and if the inspector wishes to include additional inspection services (typically for an extra fee) then he/she may perform as many specific inspection procedures as the client may request. Some of these additional services may include wood-boring insect inspection, radon testing, or a variety of environmental testing, etc.
 
Most home inspectors will not give definitive cost estimates for repairs and replacements since the costs can vary greatly from one contractor to another. Inspectors typically will tell clients to secure three reliable quotes from those contractors performing the type of repairs in question.
 
HOMELife expectancies are another area that most inspectors try not to get involved in. Every system and component in a building will have a typical life expectancy. Some items and units may well exceed those expected life spans, while others may fail much sooner than anticipated. An inspector may indicate to a client, general life expectancies, but should never give exact time spans for the above noted reasons.
 
The average time for an inspection on a typical 3-bedroom home usually takes 2 to 4 hours, depending upon the number of bathrooms, kitchens, fireplaces, attics, etc., that have to be inspected. Inspections that take less than two hours typically are considered strictly cursory, “walk-through” inspections and provide the client with less information than a full inspection.
Many inspectors belong to national inspection organizations such as ISHI, ASHI, and NAHI. These national organizations provide guidelines for inspectors to perform their inspections.
 
All inspectors provide clients with reports. The least desirable type of report would be an oral report, as they do not protect the client, and leave the inspector open for misinterpretation and liability. Written reports are far more desirable, and come in a variety of styles and formats.
 
The following are some of the more common types of written reports:COMPLETE
 
1. Checklist with comments
2. Rating System with comments
3. Narrative report with either a checklist or rating system
4. Pure Narrative report
 
Four key areas of most home/building inspections cover the exterior, the basement or crawl space areas, the attic or crawl space areas and the living areas. Inspectors typically will spend sufficient time in all of these areas to visually look for a host of red flags, telltale clues and signs or defects and deficiencies. As the inspector completes a system, major component or area, he/she will then discuss the findings with the clients, noting both the positive and negative features.
 
The inspected areas of a home/building will consist of all of the major visible and accessible electro-mechanical systems as well as the major visible and accessible structural systems and components of a building as they appeared and functioned at the time and date of the inspection.

Ask Experts For Advice When Re – Financing

Homeowners who are re-financing their home for the first time may need a great deal of advice to assist them during the process. While homeowner can certainly research the process of re-financing by themselves, this can be a cumbersome task which is difficult, if not impossible. While it might be possible for a homeowner to RATESeducate himself enough to make informed decisions, it is unreasonable to expect a homeowner to be up to date on the most current information in the re-financing industry. It would also not be reasonable for homeowners to learn enough to make a definite decision regarding re-financing. The homeowner may still require some direction regarding which options are best suited for the needs of the homeowner.

Fortunately there are two simple steps homeowners can take to tips the odds of obtaining the most favorable re-financing in their favor. These simple steps include consulting with friends and family members who have recently financed and turning to industry experts for assistance.

Consult Friends and Family when Re-FinancingREFINANCE

Believe it or not consulting with family and friends is one of the first steps a homeowner should take in the refinancing process. Those reading this article might be somewhat confused by this suggestion because in the previous section we stressed how it would be virtually impossible for a homeowner to thoroughly educate themselves on the re-financing process. Surely, we are not implying every homeowner has a friend or family member who is capable of given detailed financial advice in regard to re-financing. However, friends and family members can be helpful in a different capacity.

Friends and family members who recently re-financed their own home likely did a great deal of research and legwork before making their decision. They also likely formed useful opinions, either negative or positive, about the lender they used in the process. It is this information which can be very useful to homeowners who are considering their own re-financing. Homeowners can obtain information such as which lenders are currently offering the best rates as well as which lenders are easy to work with and responsive to the needs of the homeowners as well as which lenders do not take a vested interest in helping the homeowner to succeed.

SAVINGSAsk Experts for Advice when Re-Financing

One piece of advice which cannot be overlooked when re-financing a home, is asking an expert in the re-financing industry for advice. These experts may have costly consulting fees associated with their assistance but most homeowners would agree these fees are certainly worthwhile especially if the result in a significant cost savings for the homeowner.

We previously stressed how the issues associated with re-financing can be quite complex and difficult for those outside of the industry to fully understand, however, those in the industry spend their days devoted to learning more about re-financing, keeping up to date with changes in the industry as well as new developments and figuring out how to best serve the customers. All of these characteristics make it clear that MORTGAGEhomeowners should really consider employing the services of a financial planner with a great deal of experience in re-financing when they are making decisions regarding the best re-financing option for their situation.

Again, friends and family members who previously consulted with an industry professional can supply candid opinions about those they met. This can save the homeowner a great deal of time by eliminating potential candidates who friends and family members thought performed poorly.

Cheap Homes In A Good Neighborhood

When it comes to real estate, it’s really hard to beat a cheap home.  Cheap homes are very affordable, and ideal for those on a budget.  For real estate agents, these types of homes represent a way to buy a home at a low price, HOME SWEET HOMEbuild it up some more, then sale it for a large price.  Making money with real estate is easy to do – no matter how you look at it.

Although you can find cheap homes throughout the United States, some will obviously be better than others.  Some are in great neighborhoods, giving you plenty to see and plenty to do all around you.  On the other hand, most towns that offer the cheapest homes normally have a bad situation when it comes to the job market.  They can be great to retire to or settle down in if you own a business, although they aren’t great if you need a job.  Internet marketers and writers are finding these areas, are flocking to them at a very fast pace.

You can also save quite a bit of money by buying a home that is less expensive, but still fits your needs.  WhatHOME this means, is buying a home in the inexpensive areas of your town, or buying a home that is cheap in price.  You shouldn’t be focused on one type of home or neighborhood, but instead look at your available options and compare prices.

Keep in mind that buying cheap homes doesn’t necessarily mean buying a run down place or buying your home in a bad part of town.  You can get a cheap home in a great neighborhood, if you wait your options accordingly.  If you shop around and look at different areas, you might find yourself very surprised at just how many homes are available at cheap prices.

Before you purchase a home, you can save a lot of money if you know how to negotiate with the real estate agent.  Although a home may have a higher price than you are HOUSEwilling to pay, you can shave quite a bit of the price off through negotiating.  If you learn just a few of the simple techniques of negotiating, you can save a lot of money.  Each and every day, hundreds of people get cheap homes by negotiating with real estate agents.

In some cases, you can end up paying the full price of a home and still end up spending less than someone else might spend.  Although price has an impact, financing is also an area that can help to make a home more affordable.  If you get a low-interest rate, you’ll save a lot of money when you buy the home.  There are several ways that you can save money through your finance options, which is why you should always research what’s availablePOOL to you before you buy.

Before you decide to buy a home, you should always think things through and be sure to look around different areas and neighborhoods.  Even though there are many cheap homes out there, you can get just as good of a deal through negotiating.  Most cheap homes sell very quick, which is why you should always be on the lookout for one.  When you find a cheap home that fits your needs, you should act on it.  Contact the agent, take a tour of the home, then decide if the price and the features are indeed what you’ve been looking for.  If it isn’t – simply forget about the house and start looking for another one.

Maintenance on a Rental Property

Maintenance on a rental property can be a confusing issue. Renters may mistakenly assume all maintenance is the responsibility of the leasing agent and maintenance staff but this is usually not true. In many cases the CHECKLISTleasing agent and maintenance staff are responsible for maintaining the common areas and performing major repairs on the apartments but the renters do typically have some responsibilities. These responsibilities are often defined in the rental agreement and the renter should familiarize himself with this document to verify his rights if a dispute arises.

Renter Responsibilities

Typically renters have the responsibility of maintaining their apartment and the surrounding area. This may include the interior of the apartment as well as deck or patio space. However, maintenance of these areas applies to generally cleanliness only and not issues such as painting or repairs to the exterior or the interior of the apartment structure or the appliances within the apartment.

Additionally, renters are responsible for small repairs in their home. HANDYMANThis may include plunging a clogged toilet or changing a light bulb. However, if there are any duties a renter feels uncomfortable performing such as changing a light bulb in a high location, the renter should contact the maintenance staff for assistance.

Renters also have a responsibility to show common courtesy to other renters by not intentionally damaging or otherwise marring public areas. This includes vandalism, littering and even failure to pick up after dogs. Renters who fail to follow these rules of common courtesy may be subject to fines or other penalties according to the rental agreement.

Leasing Agent Responsibilities

The leasing agent and maintenance staff are generally held responsible for major items such as repairs to the exterior of the building, fixing appliances which are malfunctioning and dealing with plumbing issues such as leaky pipes. Additionally, the maintenance staff is responsible for intervening if the renter is having trouble with public utilities. Problem such as no hot water or heat to the apartment should be addressed by the maintenance staff in conjunction with the public utilities entity.

MAINTAINEDThe leasing agent and maintenance staff is also responsible for maintaining the common areas. This may include keeping grassy areas manicured and other common areas looking clean and attractive.

When the Leasing Agent is Not Taking Responsibility

As previously discussed, the leasing agent has certain responsibilities to perform tasks and address concerns and complaints by the renters. However, when the leasing agent is not fulfilling these responsibilities it could create a harmful living environment for the renter. For example hot water is required to adequately clean dishes. This is why there should always be hot water to the apartment. Additionally, in severely cold weather the inability to heat the apartment due to faulty utilities or windows which are not properly sealed can create a hazardous condition ROOFfor the renter.

Both of the examples mentioned above are situations in which the renter may put in a hazardous condition by the leasing agent’s negligence. In these situations the renter should contact the Department of Housing to determine the proper cause of action to take in this situation.

In some cases the renter may be informed the alleged transgression by the leasing agent is not actually his responsibility. However, in other situations the renter may be informed that the actions of the leasing agent are a serious violation of the rental agreement. In either case, the representative can provide information on how to proceed to achieve the desired results.

Home Buying Checklist – Paint and Stucco

Buying a home is a big investment. You should use a checklist when sizing up potential homes. In this article, we cover a home buying checklist for paint and stucco.

PAINTSPaint and Stucco

The exterior of a home typically makes the biggest impression when you first view a potential buying opportunity. Many homebuyers, however, often make the mistake of looking at color schemes as the principal issue. In truth, a close review of the exterior of the prospective home can tell you a lot about the quality of the structure.

A person selling a home is not stupid. Before putting a home on the market, they are going to take steps to spiff it out to raise buyer interest and the rate you are willing to pay. There is nothing HOMEdevious about such conduct. It is natural to want to put your best foot forward and a person selling a home isn’t going to act differently. This is why you want to take a close look at the exterior paint and stucco on a home.

1. The first thing to look for is peeling or flaking of paint on the exterior walls. If you see this in an obvious place on a wall, run for the hills because the house needs a total repaint. Typically, you are not going to find such obvious problems. Instead, you need to poke around behind bushes, up under roof overhangs and in nooks and crannies. If you find problems of this sort, it tends to mean the paint job on the home was not applied correctly. Once these problems start occurring, you can count on them getting worse over time.

ASSORTED COLORS 2. The second thing to look for is stains around perforations in the paint. For instance, look for an area where bolts or nails penetrate a painted surface. If you see rust around the hole, you may be seeing an indication of poor maintenance. Even worse, you may be seeing an indication of a water drainage problem. Investigate such occurrences very carefully.

3. With stucco homes, you are typically going to find some cracking do to earth movement and temperature changes. As long as these areas are relatively small, you shouldn’t have problems patching them for a nominal price. The bigger problem, however,HOUSE is if you find stains or soft spots on the bottom section of a stucco wall. This can mean there are problems with the drainage screen behind the stucco wall and water isn’t getting out. If water isn’t getting out, the stucco will continue to degrade and you may have a mold problem at some point. Both situations can be very expensive to fix.

When checking out perspective home buying opportunities, the exterior of the home should be looked at very closely. In this case, the merits of the home all come down to the details.

Atkins and Sugar Cravings, Keeping Your Blood Sugar Stable

Sugar is everywhere you look and it might pop up in some surprising places. Did you know that whole grain breads have at least one form of sugar in them? We have a national sweet tooth epidemic. Even if you don’t eat a lot of sugary treats you may experience intense sugar cravings in the first few weeks of the Atkins CAKEdiet. So many “healthy” carbohydrate foods have hidden sugars in them, your body may be experiencing withdrawal.

The problem with sugar is that your blood sugar is tied into your energy levels and your overall health. When your blood sugar is too low, you will experience intense cravings. High blood sugar is a result of eating high-sugar meals. When you eat concentrated sugar, your blood sugar will raise to high levels. Your pancreas think there is something wrong and then it secretes insulin to lower the blood sugar. As this happens more, you can create pre-diabetic conditions in your body as your pancreas becomes worn out and eventually cannot secrete insulin.

Fortunately, getting started on the Atkins diet plan can put a stop to this cycle. However, this doesn’t mean that sugar cravings go away automatically. Sugar products are everywhere and temptation is sometimes hard to fight.SUGAR

The best way to approach sugar cravings is with planning. If you maintain a balance of protein, fat and fiber in your daily diet you will prevent blood sugar drops that lead to sugar cravings. Also, do not go too long between meals without eating. Snacks are an important part of keeping your blood sugar stable. Have some handy snacks like cheese, nuts, seeds and boiled eggs on hand with you so you can quickly stabilize your blood sugar without turning to sweet treats.

Sugar cravings can also be a sign of a nutritional deficiency. When you are low on magnesium, you will crave chocolate and other sweets. Zinc and chromium can also stave off sugar cravings. If you aren’t taking a good multivitamin supplement with these minerals, start immediately. If you are and you are still experiencing cravings, consider trying additional supplements of these nutrients.

FRUITAnother tactic is to brush your teeth. Many Atkins dieters find that brushing their teeth or using Listerine breath strips can help with cravings. Both methods will numb your mouth and prevent you from wanting to eat. Drinking two large glasses of water can also help eliminate cravings. If your stomach is full, then you’ll be less likely to reach for a sugary treat.

Sometimes out of sight, out of mind is the best approach. If you find yourself overcome with cravings while you are at home, get outside and take a walk. The distraction will have you forgetting your sugar craving in no time. Calling a friend for support or logging into an Atkins support forum can also go a long way toward preventing you from succumbing to sugar cravings.NO SUGAR

Having a low-carb version of your favorite treat is another good idea. You are less likely to feel deprived if you can have a satisfying low carb treat. There are a wide variety of low-carb products available on the market that can beat your sweet tooth. Low-carb yogurt, chocolate, ice cream and candy can all help you stay on the Atkins plan and still get something sweet to eat.

Sugar cravings are a reality of following the Atkins plan, but the previous tips will help you overcome them and stay committed to your weight loss efforts.

Understanding Your Property Taxes, Determining Property Costs

Property taxes are decided collectively by school boards, town boards, legislators, and councils. The tax rate is set by collating the amount of funds an area needs. This is then divided that by the “total taxable” assessed TAXvalue of the area. The tax an individual pays is computed by multiplying the tax rate by the assessed value of your property and then deducting any applicable exceptions. Property taxes are at an all time high. Studies indicate that they have increased more than 35% in five years.

Property is assessed by determining property costs in any given area. Property is valued by studying: the current sale price of properties in the area, costs to be incurred to replace the property, potential realization of property if it is rented, sold, or gifted, and the historical value of a property.

There are a few ways in which you could save on taxes:PROPERTY TAX

1. Check if the state you reside in is offering any rebates.  For example, a money back rebate, energy rebate, capping of taxes, or home owners rebate where under certain conditions you may be eligible to claim a rebate.

2. Ensure that the property is assessed right. This will ensure that you do not have to pay excess taxes. Assert your right to check you assessment report ensure that there are no miscalculations, mistakes, or assumptions. If in any doubt, do put in an appeal. According to statistics almost 50% of the cases win some relief.

3. Check all exemptions allowed according to the law.

RECORD4. Buy property jointly with a partner or family member. This way both owners become eligible for tax rebates.

5. Check if your assessment is in according to other properties in your neighborhood. Check with the assessment office or with your neighbors themselves. It helps to know applicable laws. Use the help of a real estate professional to put together a file of properties similar to yours that have a lower assessment. Or, use the bank’s appraisal to support your case. Be sure that the case you gather together is water tight.

6. Use a property consultant to help you save taxes. Some charge a flat fee while others just a percentage of what you save. A professional will check how assessment is done and also if there are any loop holes you can use.

7. There is strength in numbers. Get together with other owners who are also checking or fighting assessments. Check on the National Taxpayers Union Website http://www.ntu.org   for your rights.

8. Ask you home loan provider whether you are eligible for refund of property taxes paid. Some agreements TAXEShave a provision for this. Many mortgages have automatic escrow of taxes. 

9. Even before you buy a home find out what the property taxes are in the area and what have been the increases in tax rates.

10. Be sure to read through assessment and tax manuals published by your local authorities. These will give a clear idea of what are the parameters used and what you must do to reduce or pay the correct property taxes.

In order to be money smart you need to get the help of an efficient and dedicated accountant, plan your tax liabilities well, known thoroughly all aspects of Property Tax. If you are prudent, you can benefit by using ways and means to cut your tax burden and liabilities.

In-Ground Pools: Your Cleaning Options

In-ground pools are one of the most popular pool styles in the United States.  If given the opportunity, many homeowners would prefer to have an in-ground pool, rather than an above ground pool. One of the many reasons why in-ground pools are preferred over above ground pools is because of their appearance. In-ground pools are more attractive than pools that stick out of the ground.  If the appearance of your pool is important, CLEANERyou will want to keep your pool cleaned.

To keep your in-ground pool clean, you will have to obtain the proper cleaning supplies and equipment.  If you have yet to purchase cleaning supplies for your pool, you may be unsure as to which type of cleaning supplies are best for your pool. Instead of just guessing, you are advised to familiarize yourself with all of the in-ground pool cleaning supplies that are currently available for sale.

When it comes to familiarizing yourself with in-ground pool cleaning supplies and equipment, you will have a number of different options.  Perhaps, one of the easiest ways to learn about well performing cleaning equipment and supplies is to speak to those that you know.  If you live in a warm area, it is likely that one of your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or relatives has a pool. If so, you may want to ask them about the cleaning supplies or equipment that they use. If you receive positive feedback or product recommendations, you may want to consider further examining those products.CLEAN

In addition to speaking to your friends, relatives, coworkers, or neighbors, you can also use the internet to familiarize yourself with in-ground pool cleaning supplies. In addition to visiting the online websites of multiple product manufacturers and pool supply stores, you may also want to look for online resources guides. There are a large number of online websites and resource guides that are aimed at assisting those with in-ground pools.  On these websites, you should be able to learn more about the cleaning supplies that are currently on the market. You may also be able to read product recommendations or warning from other pool owners.

Whichever search method you select, it is likely that you will hear VACof automatic pool cleaners and manual pool cleaners.  If you are looking to save time, you may want to examine automatic pool cleaners.  If you are looking for low-cost cleaning supplies or equipment, you may want to examine manual cleaners.  Before making a final decision, as to which type of pool cleaner you would like to purchase, you are advised to examine the advantages and disadvantages of each product.

As mentioned above, automatic pool cleaners are popular because they save time.  In most cases, automatic pool cleaners work without your assistance.  For instance, if you are using chemicals to clean your pool, automatic cleaners would require that you just pour the chemicals into your pool. If you were looking for cleaning equipment, such as a pool vacuum, many vacuums only require that you turn them on and then the vacuum will do the rest.  VACUUMHowever, it is important to be on the lookout for automatic pool vacuums that may require your assistance to operate. As previously mentioned, manual pool cleaners and cleaning supplies are ideal for those who are looking to save money. In most on and offline retail stores, you will find that manual cleaners and cleaning supplies cost less than those that are automatic. While it may take time to manually clean your in-ground pool, you can also make sure that it is done right, the first time. 

In addition to either purchasing manual cleaning supplies or automatic ones, you may want to consider purchasing both. In the event that your automatic cleaner does not work, you will have an extra alternative and visa versa.  Having a backup plan, when it comes to cleaning your in-ground pool, is the best way to ensure that you can swim anytime you want.