Summer Pool Maintenance 101

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Laying poolside is the quintessential way to spend a scorching summer day. It’s easy to imagine the fun that comes with owning a pool—floating in a tube on Caribbean blue waters, family poolside volleyball, romantic moonlit dips—without considering the responsibility that comes with it.

The truth is, owning a pool requires regular upkeep and maintenance: weekly vacuuming, chemical testing, and inspecting various filters, pumps, heaters, and more. By understanding the cost of owning a pool and how to properly care for it, you can learn to avoid the common and costly mistakes that take the fun out of pool ownership.

Here are six easy ways to keep your pool party-ready this summer:

  1. Know Your Chemicals
    An under-maintained pool doesn’t just look gross; it can also contain E. coli and other dangerous bacteria. On the flip side, over-chlorinating can cause swimming pool rash and eye irritation.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a chemist to maintain proper chemical levels in your pool. Using chlorine and pH testing strips to clean your pool is straightforward with modern testing kits.

The colors on a testing kit chart represent your pH level, which tells you if you added too much or not enough chlorine. The ideal amount of chlorine and pH is:

  • a free chlorine concentration of at least 1 ppm; and
  • pH 7.2–7.8

If your pool doesn’t match these standards, simply adjust the chemicals or water levels.

Test your pool’s chemical levels at least once a week to keep maintenance work low and the water ready for swimming.

  1. Practice Quick, Daily Pool Cleaning
    Pool cleaning is just like house cleaning—doing little chores everyday can prevent a cleaning disaster at the end of the week.

One of the easiest (but most important) pool maintenance chores is skimming the top of the pool every day for leaves, bugs, and dirt. This helps your water circulate correctly and keeps you from having to add chlorine too often, improving pool feel and aesthetics.

Make sure to clean out the strainer basket and scrub the sides of the pool with a brush or pumice stone about once a week to prevent algae buildup. These tiny chores go a long way in keeping your pool clear and bacteria free.

  1. Learn to Use Your Pool Vacuum
    How often you have to vacuum depends on how vigilant you are about daily skimming, since dirt and leaves left on the surface eventually sink to the bottom.

Pool vacuums come in a wide variety of styles and prices, from largely automated robotic cleaners to handheld systems with telescopic poles.

Vacuuming the pool can require a little bit of work to set up, but it is a key ingredient to a healthy pool. The process can be about as fast and simple as vacuuming a carpet indoors once you’re familiar with the equipment.

  1. Shock Your Pool Twice a Season
    Shocking your pool can sound scary, but all it means is adding a high volume of chemicals all at once in order to “shock” the system and kill bacteria. You only have to shock your pool about twice a season to counteract contamination.

For safety, make sure to wear protective eye goggles and rubber gloves when shocking the pool. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • Use one pound of shock per 10,000 gallons of water.
  • Dissolve one pound of shock solution in a five-gallon bucket of warm water before adding it to the pool.
  • Once the shock is dissolved, slowly pour the solution around the pool.
  • Shocking the pool works best at evenings or night. Not only can sunlight dissolve some chemicals and make them less effective, but the chlorine levels can balance out while you’re sleeping.

Just be sure to wait until chlorine levels are back to normal (anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours, depending on the kind of shock you used) before going for a swim or you risk serious skin irritation.

  1. Check Your Water Level
    Everyday summer play can cause major fluctuations in your pool’s water level. The perfect water level is halfway up the skimmer line.

If your water level gets too low it could reduce safety and ruin your pool’s pump. Adding water is easy: just grab a hose and fill it up. Be careful not to overfill your pool, though. Renting a pump to lower the water level can be labor intensive and expensive.

  1. Call in the Pros
    With the above tips, you can take care of most summer pool maintenance by yourself. But, a pool is still a complex system—chemicals, heaters, filters, pipes—and sometimes even the savviest pool owners need an expert opinion.

Getting a yearly checkup by an expert to make sure all your equipment is working will save you money and keep your pool operating all summer long.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Avocado: A True Game-Changer for Real Estate

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Who knew that creamy, verdant avocados could make or break one’s future in real estate?

According to Australian developer Tim Gurner, (who is 35 and worth half a billion dollars, nbd) millennials are poor and unable to buy homes because of their infatuation with the single-seeded berry (yes, it’s technically a fruit—The More You Know!)

On a recent episode of Australia’s “60 Minutes,” he said: “When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”

I would propose that maybe only millionaires would pay $19 for guac, but I digress.

Also noteworthy, Gurner was handed $34,000 from his grandfather at the age of 19, which led to his early success in real estate, and he wants to chastise me for my love of guacamole!? Get outta here. What does he think? That if I was given free money, I would’ve bought 22,667 avocados instead of investing it? (Actually, that sounds like a pretty OK investment, if you ask me.)

Snarks aside, Australian real estate company Ray White is latching on to the avocado craze and offering buyers a delicious deal: free avocado toast for 12 months is up for grabs for anyone willing to shell out for a new two- or three-bedroom townhouse in Queensland.

Now, millennials can save their pennies for a townhouse and guacamole in one fell swoop! If you’re an avocado aficionado, you’d better get that passport renewed ASAP: the deal expires June 30.

What a time to be alive.

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at nick@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How to Get a Better Deal on TV Service Without Cutting the Cord

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Although the idea of cutting the cord on expensive cable or satellite TV costs sounds amazingly liberating, the unfortunate truth is that this would mean losing access to some of your favorite shows and channels. Even if you could find most of your shows on Netflix, could you really stand to wait several additional months to find out what’s happening on Jane the Virgin or New Girl? If not, there’s still a way to cut the cost of your current TV service without cutting the cord.

Here are five simple steps you can take to negotiate with your current TV service provider for a lower monthly payment.

  1. Get to know your current contract.
    Whether we choose to admit it or not, most of us don’t fully understand the ins and outs of the contracts we sign with service providers. Ignorance might seem like bliss for a while, but when the price starts to go up after a certain period of time, you might wish you would have read the contract with your TV service provider before signing.

If you didn’t understand your contract before you signed up for service, it’s not too late to change the price! Dig into your contract and figure out what it entails. Be sure to read each detail so you won’t be surprised when the company representative you speak to brings up each stipulation. Knowing exactly what your current contract entails will help you build a stronger argument for negotiating a lower price and different terms later on.

  1. Search for better deals.
    The next step is to find out what kind of deals are out there that you’re not taking advantage of. All providers will run special pricing on certain packages from time to time. Finding out what deals your provider is running can help you identify a number you should negotiate for and provide proof for your negotiation.

You can use deal sites for specific providers or online coupon code aggregators to find the lowest prices offered for packages from your provider. Do a little digging on sites like these to find the lowest prices and make note of them. Be sure to save the exact URL for where you found the deals so that you can pull up all of the information you might need later on when you are speaking with your cable or satellite company.

  1. Know your stuff.
    Customer service representatives are more likely to win a negotiation with consumers who haven’t done their research. This is because they usually have counter arguments in their back pocket that help them get a leg up on callers.

Understand prices for specific channels and add-ons. If you have internet service through your TV service provider, brush up on average costs for the speed you’re currently paying for, and maybe even run a speed test to find out if you are actually getting the speed you’ve been promised.

Knowing enough about your TV and internet service to have an informed conversation with your provider will help you come in with a stronger argument for a lower rate—not to mention, you might find out that you’re actually overpaying for a specific package or speed you’re currently getting, which will give you another bargaining chip.

  1. Pick up the phone.
    This tip is simple, but also arguably one of the most important parts of negotiating for a lower monthly bill: pick up the phone. It might be easier and perhaps more efficient to send an email or engage in an online chat with a representative, but your negotiation will be far stronger over the phone.

During your call, make it clear that the possibility of cancelling your account is on the table and be persistent in your request for the lowest advertised rate. Explain your situation and let the representative know that you will need a bill reduction in order to keep your account open. They will likely try to offer you some freebies like free HBO for a few months or a year of the NFL Sunday Ticket, but don’t let up. Keep your eye on the prize of negotiating for a lower monthly bill, as this will be more valuable to you in the long run.

  1. Solidify your agreement.
    Once you’ve come to an agreement with your TV service provider, don’t just assume that your next bill will reflect the changes you’ve requested. Ask for a specific date for when this will go into effect and review the terms you’ve agreed upon one more time. Be sure to write these terms down so that you have a crystal-clear understanding of what your contract entails before you hang up.

To be extra sure your lower rate has been settled, financial pros recommend calling back to speak with a different representative to make sure they also see the changes that have been made to your account.

Few things are more frustrating than paying large bills at the end of the month. Although the hefty cable or satellite bill you’re currently getting at the end of the month might make cutting the cord seem more appealing, you don’t have to cut ties with your favorite programming to lower the bill. Hopefully this five-step process can help you pick up the negotiating skills you need to see a nice reduction on your next cable bill.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post How to Get a Better Deal on TV Service Without Cutting the Cord appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Free Report: The Power of Real Estate IRA Investments

By Susanne Dwyer

Entrust clients have a long track record—35 years—of investing in real estate using their tax-advantaged retirement savings accounts. Part of our mission is to educate investors, and our new real estate report is a prime example of that effort. The report’s detailed analysis of both purchases and sales data is a valuable tool for investors, financial and retirement advisors, and real estate professionals.

For example, we now know that real estate investment using self-directed accounts is catching on in new parts of the country. In 2016, Missouri made its first appearance among the top five states where Entrust clients bought property. On the sales side, Tennessee and New Mexico broke into the top five.

Single and multifamily properties continued to be the preferred type of property bought (78 percent) and sold (71 percent). Because rental revenue is often a goal of real estate investors, the report also contains insights into the national rental market, courtesy of Zillow.

You can use a Traditional or Roth self-directed IRA to invest in real estate, and most clients choose one of those two vehicles—although in 2016, we noticed a growing number of clients using Individual 401(k) accounts for their real estate investments.

You’ll find more useful information and interesting insights when you download your FREE copy of Entrust’s 2017 Real Estate Investor Market Research Report.

For more information, please visit www.theentrustgroup.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Free Report: The Power of Real Estate IRA Investments appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Remax Real Estate Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

7 Steps to Stress-Free Spring Cleaning

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Congratulations: you’re still in time for some spring cleaning!

Was that a groan?

Come on! There’s still weeks left before the end of the season, which means you can still to get your act together and whip your house into shape.

Spring cleaning is a hassle, you say?

Yeah, it is.

If all you’re going to do is dust and scrape, store and organize, then for sure, the finished product won’t be as enticing. Who cares about a clean kitchen? It’s just going to get dirty the next time you don’t get take out.

Then again, what if we turned spring cleaning into a whole journey? Cleaning can do great things for your stress levels, just as not cleaning can drive you crazy. I’m not making this up! Ask the good people of Psychology Today. They know what I’m talking about.

Trust me: if you follow this simple checklist, you’ll not only wind up with an impeccable house, but also with lifted spirits and an augmented sense of worth. Money back guaranteed! (Good thing this advice is free.)

Who’s ready for some spring cleaning?

Set the scene. A surefire way of knowing that you grew up in a Latin American or Hispanic household was the sound of music roaring across the living room while the house was getting cleaned. It’s the same concept as a “workout playlist.” You need music you can dance to, sing along to, or even cry to if that’s the kind of purifying cleaning experience you want to have. (In college, my roommates and I used to blast Disney soundtracks. We surely got down to business to defeat the grime, if you know what I mean.)

Enlist help. I don’t know how big your house is—maybe you live in a shoebox like me, or you live in a mansion bigger than Selena Gomez’s. No matter how big or small, cleaning with company is always better than cleaning alone. In some cases (like Selena’s), cleaning by yourself is simply not possible, so gather the able children, your partner, your roommate, your dog if you’ve trained him well, or just trick your friends into visiting you for a cleaning frenzy. (Once you’ve trapped them, you can offer to return the favor if you want to be a decent person).

Have an action plan. Divvying up work is good. “You take the bathroom; I’ll take the kitchen” kind of thing.

Beyond that, you need more aspirational plans. Once you clean x, y, and z, what are things going to look like? If you’re going to go through all the trouble of deep-cleaning your whole house, take advantage of the hassle to retouch, redo, or reorganize anything that had been bothering you throughout the year. Perhaps your shelving unit is falling apart, or you’ve discovered the well-intended storage drawer has gotten a bit out of control. Invest in cheap dividers for your drawers, or ingenious storage boxes or hangers to keep everything organized. Carpe diem, my cleaning friends!

Don’t take long breaks. Feed yourself, for sure, but don’t watch an episode of Twin Peaks while you’re at it. The minute you relax, all the motivation will leave your body, leaving you with a half-destroyed room. To make matters worse, it’ll only look like it was on its way to being organized to you—everyone else will think you’ve gone a little crazy with the experimental feng shui. Stay hydrated and well fed, and take it easy to not over-exhaust yourself, but be relentless with your mission.

If it takes more than a day, it takes more than a day. This goes hand in hand with having an action plan. Don’t dismantle every room in your house at the same time. Go room by room (or several rooms if each person is taking on one). It’ll be much better if you have half a clean house than a completely destroyed house that is driving you crazy until the next weekend.

Continue envisioning the big prize. Again, aiming for “just cleaning” won’t be enough to carry you through the whole ordeal. You might reach the finish line, but you won’t really feel the payoff. Keep the “before” image close to your heart, and continue picturing the “after” look in your mind’s eye.

Celebrate when you finish. Pat yourself on the back—you just cleaned a whole house! Let yourself enjoy that comfort. Take a hot shower in your pristine bathtub, snuggle in bed with your clean sheets, order takeout and eat at your polished kitchen island. Congrats—you’ve just earned yourself another year of kicking back and letting the house suffer what it may suffer. We’ll see you again next spring.

Housecall is filled with useful tips and guides to help you make the most of your spring cleaning. Check out our Life@Home and DIY Ninja verticals for more ideas!

Gabrielle van Welie is RISMedia’s editorial intern.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 7 Steps to Stress-Free Spring Cleaning appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

10 Ways to Save on Utility Bills This Summer

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Now that the weather is beginning to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about ways to save on utility bills and energy costs before you’re shocked by your first big bill this summer. Luckily, there are many steps you can take to prepare your home (and your wallet) for the summer heat without sacrificing comfort. So, before you crank up the AC, take a look at our top ways to save on utility bills this summer. Your budget will thank you!

1. Get Your HVAC System Ready
Is there anything worse than a broken HVAC system in the summer? The good news is you can avoid this nightmare by taking precautions and getting your HVAC ready for summer. First, you’ll want to clean or change the air filters, as dirty or clogged filters force your air conditioning system to work much harder, which in turn causes more wear and tear in the long run. You’ll also want to inspect your outdoor unit for any visible signs of damage such as warped panels, torn insulation or rust. In the colder months, small animals may nest inside the insulation so you’ll want to inspect the inside, as well. Taking these steps to ensure your AC unit is working efficiently will help keep your energy bills low this summer.

2. Clean Air Filters and Vents
Many homeowners make the mistake of closing off vents in rooms that are not being used, but closing vents causes more pressure in the ducts causing your air conditioner to work much harder. Before you turn the AC on this summer, open all the vents and give them a nice cleaning.

3. Keep Blinds Closed
Did you know that keeping your blinds closed during the day can drastically reduce the heat in your home? Keeping them open causes a greenhouse like effect—sunlight and heat pour in all day and can’t get out, making your home much warmer and causing your air conditioning to work overtime, which, in turn, will spike up your power bill.

4. Lower Your Utility Rates
Do you live in a deregulated energy region? If so, you have the power to choose your energy provider and can shop around for the lowest energy rates. If you haven’t researched your options in a while, summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your current energy provider and find out if there is a cheaper rate out there. Many deregulated energy providers offer special promotions in the summer, like “free nights,” so you should definitely check out what else is out there. To see if you live in a deregulated area, just enter your address here.

5. Time Your Thermostat
If you want to be cost-conscious this summer, you shouldn’t blast your air conditioning at all hours of the day. A lower temperature setting at night and a higher setting during the day is recommended for optimal cost savings. If you’re forgetful or aren’t always around to change it, we recommend installing a programmable thermostat that allows you to schedule your temperature changes even when you aren’t home.

6. Switch to LED Bulbs
While incandescent light bulbs are cheap, they use more energy and produce quite a bit of heat compared to LED bulbs. LED bulbs tend to be a little more expensive than incandescent lights, but they last longer, produce less heat and create great energy savings in the long run. So, consider making the switch the LED lights, at least in the rooms you use most, to help lower your utility bills this summer.

7. Buy a Water Cistern
If you don’t know, a water cistern is a device that captures rain water and stores it for you to use to water your garden or lawn, to wash your car, etc. Your water bill can get out of hand in the summer as you spend more time outdoors, so a water cistern is a great investment if you want to keep your garden and lawn green all summer long without paying for extra water use.

8. Use Your Ceiling Fan
In the warmer months, you should run your ceiling fans counter-clockwise. Since heat rises, the counter-clockwise motion will help pull the cold air up toward the ceiling. Running your ceiling fan efficiently will help cool your rooms, allowing you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature, ultimately reducing your power bill.

9. Invest in Smart Power Strips
Connecting multiple appliances to a smart power strip that can be turned off with only one flip of a switch at night when the devices aren’t being used is a quick and easy way to help reduce energy waste. When you don’t have to unplug all your devices individually, saving energy suddenly becomes much easier!

10. Don’t Use an Irrigation Schedule
Irrigation schedules, or timers that you can set to schedule when your garden or lawn will be watered, sound nice in theory, but they actually produce quite a bit of water waste. You can’t control when it rains, and you may not be home to stop your irrigation system from going off when it does. Watering manually may seem like a chore, but when you think about all the money you can save from reducing water waste, manual watering becomes more appealing.

Don’t let the first utility bills of summer sneak up on you. Be proactive and implement our tips. We promise they’ll help you save big on your utility bills this summer!

Rob Caiello is vice president of Marketing at Allconnect. Since 1998, Allconnect has simplified and expedited the purchase and set-up of home utilities and services (like internet, TV, and electricity) for millions of movers relocating across the United States.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post 10 Ways to Save on Utility Bills This Summer appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Nature Lovers: 6 Towns for True Outdoorists

By Susanne Dwyer

Prince William Sound is a sound of the Gulf of Alaska on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its largest port is Valdez.

If you’re a nature lover, then you probably want to live somewhere where Mother Nature is knocking at your door. Of course, there is an allure to the high-rise skylines of big cities and all of the perks that come with them, but for some folks, it’s not the bright lights that entice them, but the endless opportunities that await them in the wild.

Many people have predetermined places where they’ve dreamed of living for their entire life, and then there are people who have absolutely no idea at all. If you find yourself in the latter of the two categories, then consider this list. Allow your imagination to run wild and really try to envision living in some of these spectacular outdoor-centric towns from all around the nation. These places are known to quench the insatiable thirst of all outdoorists who, above all else, crave proximity to Mother Nature, adventure and the peace that comes with living wild and free.

Move On Up in Billings, Mont.
Tell your kids to pick their new passion. It can be rock climbing, mountain biking or anything in between, because in Billings, Mont., you’ll have access to all of it. If you love steep inclines and summit vistas that stretch for miles, then Billings is the place for you. This town gives off a rather laid back vibe, but it won’t take long to realize what a strong sense of community it offers, as well. Many of the people who have lived in Billings their entire lives are ranchers and farmers—you know, the salt of the earth kind of folk—and they love their town and all it has to offer.

If you plan on visiting Billings before you buy, we suggest bringing along some climbing gear or renting while you’re there, so you can get a little taste of adventure while you are getting a feel for the place.

Become One With the Last Frontier in Valdez, Alaska
Do you have a desire to spend your afternoons skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountaineering, fishing or even going on some extreme hunting trips? Enter Valdez.

This small town is home to 4,000 individuals and is one of the most important fishing and freight ports in the state, so you’ll always have fresh seafood. The best thing about Valdez is the winter—that is to say, if you like the winter. We’re talking snow, and lots of it. Valdez is rated the snowiest town in the U.S., even though their winters don’t get quite as cold as other similar climates in Alaska.

Be careful visiting Alaska, because there is a good chance you’ll never want to hop on a plane back down to the lower 48. Yet, if you do visit before you buy, there is one thing you should absolutely bring, especially if you’re visiting before the warmer weather rolls through. You’re going to need to bring a down jacket—I mean real down and real heavy.

A parka is a must and, if you’re a lady, we would actually suggest a down skirt. They are incredibly warm and an extremely popular fashion item up north.

Bend, Ore.: It’s Kind of a Big Deal

Prince William Sound is a sound of the Gulf of Alaska on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its largest port is Valdez.If you’ve never been to Bend, Ore., you have no way of fully grasping just how awesome it is. Do you like to camp? If not, don’t worry, that will change. Before you know it, you’ll be addicted to camping and want to spend every day outside in the sun and every night under the stars.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised when the winter months roll around. The weather cools off and snow falls, but that’s about all that will change. You’ll likely still want to spend every day outside snow camping, skiing, snowboarding, climbing, snowshoeing or just hiking through the enchanting wilderness.

If you plan to visit Bend, make sure you bring a camera. There is a reason Bend was rated one of the top 10 places to live by Men’s Journal. It’s truly gorgeous and there are endless outdoor activities available to the people living here. For your visit, you might want to bring a detailed map so you can circle all the super cool places you visit, from the parts of town you might like living in to all the hip breweries and restaurants you don’t want to forget about on your next visit.

Be a Beach Bum in Kauai, Hawaii

stunning aerial view of na pali coast at kauai island, hawaii from helicopter

Somewhere along the line people forgot that lounging on the beach is actually an outdoorsy thing to do, even if you have a drink in your hand. On Kauai, you get all the delights of true island life without all the touristy backlash. You can really let your hair down and become one with this place. Learn to surf and I guarantee you’ll never want to leave.

If you plan a trip to visit Kauai to see if it’s the spot for you, then please heed this one bit of advice: bring practically nothing. Seriously, keep your carry on limited to the essentials. You’re going to be in your swimsuit the majority of the time, anyway. You’ll get the true experience of this place if you visit with a minimalist perspective and a decent pair of flip flops.

Duluth, Minn.: Not Just a Trading Co.
This little town has witnessed a rise in popularity over the years simply because it offers up a little bit of everything: canoeing, kayaking, biking, hiking, sailing, fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding and rock climbing, to name a few. The size of its community is small, but the sense of adventure looms large and you’ll never run out of stuff to do. During the summer months, there isn’t a single weekend where an event isn’t being hosted in town, pulling in thousands of tourists from across the nation.

Duluth is a true gateway to exploration and outdoorsy fun, especially because it sits on the edge of Lake Superior, so there are plenty of water sports to take advantage of. If you want to visit and feel out this buzzing little port town, be sure to book a hotel room and plan to visit when you can catch a free concert, touring show or theater performance during your stay.

Wow Factor of Wausau, Wis.
This little Wisconsin town has a few secrets up its sleeve that make it quite the interesting place to live. First, because there is a ski hill in town, you can enjoy delightful alpine skiing during the winter months. Second, you can spend your summer going on whitewater rafting trips. And thirdly, because the roots of this town are very much steeped in German and European culture, you have lots of beer to pick from, and most Wausau bakeries have warm, gooey Nutella-drizzled breakfast croissants at the ready on a daily basis.

If you want to plan your trip to Wausau and you’re a big fan of hunting, Wisconsin offers plenty of opportunities to hunt various types of game; if you plan your trip during the right time of year, you’ll get to hear the gobblers going off during your visit. I advise bringing along a turkey call so you can get some practice in before next year’s season!

It’s a big step to move your family, but it’s well worth it if you are surrounded by the scenery and activities you love. Sure, some of these towns are a little off the beaten path, but they serve as major gateways to vast outdoor opportunities. Plus, these tight-knit communities make for strong friendships, great schools, and happy dispositions, even if you have to start online shopping more. It’s worth it.

Casea Peterson is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist for businesses in the outdoor industry.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Nature Lovers: 6 Towns for True Outdoorists appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

6 Tips to Spring Clean Your Bills

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Ah, spring. A time of renewal. A time to put out the old and bring in the new. Many people have spring cleaning rituals they go through each year, tidying up their homes and cycling out old stuff that doesn’t get used. Why not do the same for your bills?

Spring cleaning your bills can be as simple as turning the thermostat up a few degrees to save on electricity or switching cable providers. Let’s look at a few great ways to get those monthly bills down.

1. Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
Heating and air conditioning can be a major source of wasted electricity. Programmable thermostats can help keep your home at the right temperature when you’re there and reduce energy use when you’re not. They’re also just plain convenient.

Max Robinson, a writer for Turnbull & Scott Heating, says, “Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day.”

You could also take it a step further and go for a smart thermostat that learns your temperature preferences and automatically adjusts when you’re away from home. These thermostats may save you quite a bit in monthly energy use, though some models are a bit pricey up front.

2. Keep Your Fridge Running at Peak Performance
Refrigerators and freezers are another big source of energy use. To curb that waste, make sure to keep the doors open for the shortest amount of time possible and always double-check that you’ve closed them completely. It’s easy to have something inside the fridge prevent the door from sealing, which can lead to a lot of wasted electricity as the appliance struggles to keep your food cold.

Lauren Haynes, a home cleaning expert at Star Domestic Cleaners, has a few more tips: “Regular defrosting is a must, as well as avoiding putting hot food in it or exposing the appliance to a direct sunlight…These things will help your fridge or freezer maintain [a consistent] temperature, which will lead to smoother energy-efficient work regardless of the season.”

3. Shop Around for Cheaper Energy Providers
If you happen to live in a deregulated area, you may have a choice of several different energy providers, so shop around. Don’t stick with a company simply because you’ve always used it—you could save a significant amount of money every month after a switch.

“You can easily save 25 percent or more on your monthly energy costs just by shopping electric suppliers,” says Kelly Bedrich, co-founder of ElectricityPlans.com. “Customers can reduce their rates from as much as 15 cents/kWh to as little as 7 cents/kWh. Changing electricity providers requires almost no effort and zero change in lifestyle.”

You can’t go wrong with this one. Again, though, only certain areas will be eligible. Check out this map of deregulated states to see if this is an option for you.

4. Negotiate a Lower Rate on Your Cable Bill
If you like your cable provider but wish the prices were just a little lower, you’ll love this tip. Many people never think to negotiate with their current cable company, but it’s always worth trying.

“Nowadays, with competition from other cable, satellite, and fiber providers—as well as consumers being able to cut the cord and leave cable altogether—providers are needing to be more accommodating,” says Rob Caiello, vice president of Marketing at Allconnect. “When it comes to negotiating a cable bill, a kind request will go a long way in helping you get a better deal…The representatives usually have more flexibility than they initially let on.”

5. Switch to a Different TV Provider
If your cable company just won’t budge on pricing, it might be time to consider switching. No matter where you live, there will almost always be another option for getting television. Many people don’t realize that satellite TV providers aren’t as tied to the boundaries drawn up by cable monopolies. These providers can often get you service even in remote or very rural areas that only have one main cable provider.

“You’d really be surprised how much you can save by shopping around, especially if you let the representative know that you’re looking at competitors,” says Paul McHardy, a representative from USDish. “And, often, you don’t have to give up any of your favorite channels in the switch. Although there may be slight programming differences, most providers will have the most common channels covered.”

6. Cancel Unused Subscriptions
Many of us have old subscriptions we no longer need. Maybe you get a magazine every month and immediately toss it. Or maybe you subscribed to a service like Hulu to watch one show and just never canceled. These unused subscriptions could be adding up to a big expense.

“People spend an average of $512 a year on unwanted subscriptions, often because they don’t even realize they’re signed up to those services,” according to a representative from Truebill. That’s a big chunk of change. As part of your spring cleaning, look at the services you subscribe to and decide which ones you really want to keep.

These tips will get you off to a great start with spring cleaning your bills and getting your expenses under control. Make it a regular part of your spring routine and see just how much you can save.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How-To Guide: Kitchen Appliance Care

By Susanne Dwyer

Your kitchen appliances may just be the most used in the house—make sure you’re giving them the TLC they need in order to keep them running efficiently!

Microwave

  • Keep it clean.Whether you realize it or not, food and liquids spread across the inside of the unit and actually absorb heat later on, leading to burns and damaging the inside of the machine. By periodically wiping down the inside of the microwave, you can prevent that from happening and lengthen the lifespan of your appliance.

Oven/Stop Top

  • Clean the hood!Locate your vent hood’s filters and remove them from the vent hood. Fill your sink or a large basin with hot water and a large squirt of degreasing soap and several shakes of baking powder. Add your stove hood filters to the soapy water and allow them to soak for about 10 minutes. Next, remove the vent hood filters from the water and use your sponge to remove the rest of the debris. Once your filters are clean, let them air dry, and after they’re fully dry, put the filters back into the vent hood.
  • Check your oven’s control panel.Be sure to test all the buttons on your key pad control panels—even the ones you don’t use every day. And, avoid using sopping wet sponges or rags to clean your appliance’s keypad control panels. You may be slowly damaging the control panels on your appliances during your routine cleaning, which could eventually short-circuit the panel.
  • Don’t forget the seal.If your oven door doesn’t seal properly, you could be losing over 70 percent of its heat. Inspect the seal for breaks, tears or abnormalities and look for possible leaks. If you spot a problem, replace the seal, which is available for purchase at most home improvement stores.

Refrigerator

  • Organize and optimize.A clean, tidy refrigerator and an organized freezer will help with airflow and keep your fridge running efficiently. Foods that can safely freeze should go closer to the back of the refrigerator, where the cold air duct is located. Place foods that should not freeze closer to the door, where the air will be warmer.
  • Clean the coils!Keeping coils free of dust, debris, and pet hair really does help the refrigerator operate more smoothly and efficiently. You can purchase a special coil-cleaning tool for the job, but a vacuum cleaner attachment or a stiff brush can also do the trick. Just run the vacuum or brush over and under the coils, removing dust as you go. The coils should be cleaned in this manner once or twice a year and more often if you have pets that shed.

Dishwasher

  • Prevent a flooded kitchen. Check for deterioration in the rubber seals around your dishwasher—a minor crack can quickly lead to flooded kitchen.

For more information, please visit www.ahs.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

Florida Friendly to First-Time Buyers, According to Zillow

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow_Buyers

First-time homebuyers up against high prices this spring could have a better chance of staying in-budget in the Sunshine State, where homes are still relatively affordable, according to a recent Zillow analysis. Orlando and Tampa took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, in order, in its ranking of the best housing markets for first-timers, considering median home values and home value forecasts, as well as inventory, price reductions and time it takes to break even on a home purchase.

Why is the Theme Park Capital of the World tops? The median home value in Orlando is $202,900, with a forecasted appreciation rate of 3.8 percent. Supply stands at 10,344, with prices cut on 17.4 percent of listings. The time it will take to break even is one year and 11 months—all factors that, combined, make for first-time homebuyer-friendly conditions.

Keeping out of the red is a challenge for first-time homebuyers, who, according to the 2016 Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends, are more likely to go over budget than others.

“As millennials reach the typical home-buying age, they are coming into a tough housing market with low inventory and lots of competition,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “These markets have more favorable conditions for first-time buyers to become homeowners. More challenging metros aren’t out of reach for new buyers, but they should be prepared to face a more competitive buying environment.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

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The post Florida Friendly to First-Time Buyers, According to Zillow appeared first on RISMedia.

From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893