Archive August 2015

When It Rains It Pours

No matter where you live, emergencies are bound to happen when you least expect them: the furnace brakes down, appliances stop working, the roof starts leaking or a window gets smashed. The costs for repairs can be tough to stomach, unless you have an emergency fund.

Setting up an emergency fund is easier than you think. These tips from Bankrate.com will help you handle unexpected surprises with ease.

*First, estimate how much money you might need for the fund. Experts suggest saving enough to cover four to seven months of expenses. Remember, this fund should not replace your entire income, and it should not be used to fund luxuries, like vacations, fancy new clothes or a new car (unless your existing one breaks down). ̈

*Keep funds accessible, but not so readily available that you are tempted to borrow from it. Set up an account separate from your regular checking account. Consider using Credit Unions, which allow customers to open accounts with smaller sums of cash, and online banks, so you can’t withdraw money from a storefront location.

*Set up automatic deposits or transfers, so you know for sure that money will be saved each month and the fund will grow steadily, with little effort on your part.

*Be sure to use the funds only for emergencies, such as replacing broken appliances, replacing the furnace or paying your regular monthly expenses after a job layoff or during a lengthy illness.

*Begin slowly. Start with a deposit of $50 from each paycheck, then increase it gradually with each job change or pay increase. Set aside a portion of commission checks and tax refund, too.

With these simple steps, you’ll have greater peace of mind, knowing you are prepared for any emergency.

CRS Your Home Newsletter, September/October 2015

10 Essential Supplies for DIY Movers

Moving can be a stressful time, especially if you’re taking the DIY route. Aside from the day-of essentials — coffee and donuts for you and your crew — you’ll want to gather these 10 must-have supplies ahead of time to make packing (and unpacking!) as smooth as possible. Most of these items can be ordered online or picked up at a local storage company, rental company or hardware store.

1. Boxes: Heavy-duty, wardrobe & specialty

When you’re doing all the heavy lifting yourself, it can be tempting to scrimp on boxes and ask for used ones from local stores. This is a time-consuming process, and you’re likely to get odd-shaped boxes or produce boxes without lids. While some hand-me-down boxes are fine, you’ll also want to invest in new heavy-duty boxes built for moving. Don’t forget to pick up specialty boxes for mirrors and artwork, and wardrobe boxes with hanging racks to make putting your closet back in order a snap.

2. Packing tape

Next, you’ll need packing tape, and lots of it. Packing tape can be expensive, but price indicates quality. Cheap tape is often flimsy and sticks to itself, requiring you to use more of it. Heavy-duty tape is a one-strip operation on the bottom and top of the box. Buy in bulk to get the best deal and avoid last-minute tape runs for expensive single rolls.

3. Moving blankets

These can be standard blue moving blankets or just ones that are on their way out anyway and that you won’t mind getting a few grease strains or tears. These are mostly to protect furniture from jostling and so you can stack boxes or more furniture on top. If you’re packing a car or pickup truck, blankets are also useful for lining the trunk or bed so you don’t leave stains or scratches. Moving blankets also can be taped around bannisters to avoid damaging them on moving day. The more blankets you have on hand the better, so ask friends or family if you need more, or hit up a thrift store.

4. Stretch plastic wrap

A roll of mover’s stretch plastic wrap that seals to itself can be a miracle-worker on moving day. Use it to bundle boxes together, keep plastic bins closed, hold rugs rolled, keep cabinet doors in place and so much more. The plastic wrap sticks only to itself and leaves no residue, so it’s a mover’s best friend.

5. Bubble wrap

Of course, bubble wrap is a must-have for any move and is particularly useful for keeping delicate plates and bowls secure inside boxes. Use small bubbles for more delicate items and larger bubbles for larger items. With bubble wrap and the next two items on this list, all of your fragile items will be well-protected.

6. Packing paper

Packing paper is a different animal than standard tissue paper or even brown paper used for mailing. This is a thin, flexible paper that is unbeatable for filling in boxes to keep items from shifting. You can use it much like bubble wrap for less-fragile items. The rule of thumb for moving is that nothing should move inside a box, so stuff packing paper to your heart’s content — or at least until nothing is rattling around anymore.

7. Paper towels

Paper towels are another essential tool to keep within arm’s reach during your move. Not only are they useful for spills and cleanup, but they also can be a packing tool. Stuffing paper towels inside fragile vases or mugs will help keep them protected. Place a paper towel between dishes when stacking to prevent scuffs and dings. The best part: You can collect all of the paper towels when you get to your new place and use them for cleaning.

8. Carpet protection

Most DIY movers won’t think of this one, but mover’s carpet protection film is a good investment. This is a different film than the stretch moving wrap and it won’t shift or drag on carpet or stairs. With the constant going in and out, carpet is sure to take a beating. If you add in a muddy, wet or snowy moving day, carpet protection is essential.

9. Easy moving sliders and/or a dolly

When you’re moving by yourself, those little disks that you place under furniture to move it across the floor without lifting can be a major back-saver. There are specific sliders for carpet and hard surfaces, so one set of each should make moving much easier. If you can borrow a dolly, this is an unbeatable combination. You’ll be able to make fewer trips and save yourself a lot of struggle.

10. Utility knives

A few high-quality utility knives within arms’ reach are a necessity. Brightly colored knives will be easy to find amidst the (hopefully organized) chaos.

Zillow.com, August 21, 2015

Lock It Up

With all the advancements in smart-home security technology and systems, some homeowners may overlook on of the most basic keys to home security — door locks and keys. According to This Old House, nearly 3 million U.S. homes are broken into each year. Locks have come a long way in terms of the protection they provide, and it’s a good time to examine some options for improving home security with a simple upgrade of door-lock hardware.

Determining what kind of exterior lock you need is the first step. Consider the pros and cons of various keyed-entry doorknobs, handle sets and dead bolts before you buy. All exterior doors need a dead bolt no matter what kind of knob or handle set you decide on. You can mount the dead bolt and doorknob together or separately, or purchase a set that includes both as one installation.

Exterior locks should be either Grade 1 or 2. Choose locksets with a dead-locking latch or bolt or dead bolts that include hardened pins. Install these with a heavy-duty plate and at least 3 inch screws. Prices for the locksets very from $25 to over $300 depending on quality, style and safety rating.

When shopping for a new lockset, keep in mind that you want to look for a dead bolt that will withstand door jimmying with a credit card or saw. According to a study by ComsumerReports.org, forcible entries such as door kick-ins are the most common type of home break in. The report also found that the majority of new smart-home locks that are opened by fingerprint, passcode or key failed their prying/wrenching test. Since technology isn’t necessarily the solution when it comes to home security, reinforcing doors with upgraded locks that feature good safety-rated parts will keep your home safe.

Your Home Newsletter, July/August 2015

 

Return on Improvement

Are you thinking about selling your home, or do you just want to spruce things up and don’t know where to start? If you’re working within a strict budget, the thought of remodeling your home can be daunting. It’s best to assess your needs and also educate yourself on current market trends before you get started.

The 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, produced by Remodeling magazine in cooperation with the National Association of REALTORS®, reports that large-scale jobs aren’t likely to return sellers their full cost. Instead, smaller replacement jobs tend to generate higher return than remodeling projects. The report uncovers that replacement projects showed an average return of 73.2 percent, while the cost-value ratio of remodeling projects showed an average rate of return of 60.8 percent.

Arming yourself with information like this is key before you invest in making improvements. Here are the five mid-range projects that are most likely to recoup the cost of investment.

Entry Door Replacement – 101.8%

Manufactured Stone Veneer – 92.2%

Garage Door Replacement – 88.4%

Siding Replacement, Vinyl – 80.7%

Deck Addition, Wood – 80.5%

Your Home Newsletter July/August 2015

 

Out With The Old

Homeowners depend on their kitchen appliances to run smoothly every day. But when the washing machine begins to overflow and the fridge won’t keep things cold, it might be tempting to replace the machines with newer models. Before shopping around, here are a few tips from retailers Lowe’s and Kellum Appliances to determine whether to repair or replace, keeping in mind age, repair costs and energy efficiency.

First check the owner’s manual. If the appliance is relatively new, the warranty should cover the cost of replacement parts. Contact the appliance manufacturer or retailer where the item was purchased. They may be able to diagnose the problem and offer solutions.

Next, figure the cost of repair and compare it to the cost of purchasing a new appliance. If the appliance is relatively new, replacing a part may be more practical than buying a new machine. But if the repair cost is more than half of the purchase price, replacement is a better option.

Many of today’s models with the ENERGY STAR label are more energy-efficient, so upgrading to a newer model will save more money in the long run. Replacing a dishwasher manufactured before 1994 will save more than 10 gallons of water per cycle and about $30 to $40 per year in utility bills, while ENERGY STAR washers use 37 percent less energy and more than 50 percent less water than standard models.

If finances dictate upgrading only one appliance, start with the refrigerator. Because it runs continuously every day, it uses more electricity than other appliances, so a replacement will see immediate savings in utility bills.

Your Home Newsletter, October 2012