Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

By Susanne Dwyer

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. On Aug. 10, Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced the agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device. Charging cables are not interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children “12 years of age and younger,” its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint, including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16, and be labeled as such.

Remember:

  • Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.
  • Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.
  • Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

If you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

  • Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire;
  • Be present when products with batteries are charging;
  • Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping;
  • Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner; or
  • If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging; and
  • Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Relaxation Awaits: 2018 Best Places to Retire

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:

Are you getting ready to find your retirement paradise? There are a lot of things to consider before making the big move. Lucky for you, U.S. News & World Report just unveiled their 2018 Best Places to Retire list to help you make your decision.

These rankings reflect a number of factors that can affect your retirement, such as happiness, housing affordability, desirability, retiree taxes, the job market and healthcare quality. In order to narrow down the list, U.S. News & World Report surveyed pre-retirees (ages 45-59) and retirement-aged (ages 60-plus) individuals.

If an overall happy life is the most important to you, head on over to Sarasota, Fla. But if you need strong housing affordability, then maybe San Antonio, Texas is for you. Weigh out your pros and cons before making a decision.

Here are the top 10 retirement spots. Is your relaxing oasis on this list?

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mo.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

View the entire list on U.S. News & World Report.

View the methodology.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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With a little help, Houston plants can adapt to Indiana home

By By Kathy Huber Q: I am moving to Indiana in late spring, and I’d like your advice on taking some of my Houston plants.
I want to move some scadoxus from the ground to pots. When should I do this? I also have potted lycoris. What will their blooming behavior be in zone 5?
I’d like to pot up a small Rangoon creeper. How should I overwinter it, and how large must a potted creeper be in order to bloom?
Dave Sherron, Houston
A: Divide and transplant/pot the scadoxus, or blood lily, when the foliage has yellowed and is dying down, as the South African bulb goes dormant for the winter.
Blood lily produces softball-size orange-red blooms on tall stems in spring in Houston-area gardens. The lance-shaped foliage appears after the flowers.

From: Gardening

    

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Nancy Wey
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Give Your Home a Facelift: Home Improvement Projects for Less Than $500

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:

Home improvement doesn’t have to break the bank. You can freshen up the spaces in your home or investment property with a number of small projects that cost less than $500, and make you feel like you spent a lot more! Here are some basic ideas.

Paint Power
Painting is one of the cheapest and easiest home improvements to make. A fresh coat of paint will make any room look as good as new, which is sure to add value. Choose colors that are popular to give a more modern, up-to-date look, or stick to the neutral classic colors. At around $25 a gallon, paint is an inexpensive way to improve your home’s desirability and is something that just about any homeowner can tackle on their own. While you’re at it, look up—do you have that outdated popcorn ceiling? Scrape that texture away to get rid of the dated looking ceilings.

Borrow Ideas
Instead of hiring a designer who will inevitably give you a lot of expensive ideas, such as tearing down walls or pulling up perfectly good flooring, just copy what others have done. You can find all sorts of ideas in books and magazines and on interior decorating TV shows, Pinterest and other websites. To keep to a tight budget, pick projects that can be completed yourself.

Get an Energy Audit
Take advantage of your utility company’s free energy audits to determine which improvements could save you hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars in utility costs each year. Most local utility companies will come and inspect your house for free, and the improvements are generally going to have some sort of tax rebate. Having an energy-efficient home is a salable improvement, or, if you plan on staying in the home for the long haul, you can put the money saved toward a different home improvement.

Plant a Tree
Landscaping will improve the curb appeal of your home greatly. Trees provide shade to keep the harmful rays of the sun from bleaching out your paint or heating up the inside of the house. Mature landscaping is a huge plus when trying to sell a home and is frequently sought after. When choosing which species or varieties to plant, it is important to take into consideration the water and maintenance requirements of the plants. Purchasing drought-tolerant plants that are slow or moderate growers will save you hours of yard work and money in the long run. Keeping the yard well maintained will help keep the property looking nice and tidy without investing a huge amount of money.

Keep It Clean
Keeping a home clean and clutter-free will leave a good impression. Get rid of the things you don’t need and “travel light.” You’ll be happy if you ever decide to sell the home that you don’t have a bunch of extraneous stuff to haul around with you or decide what to do with when you are in the middle of moving. If you are selling, it’s often difficult to make the house sparkle from top to bottom, so hire a cleaning service to really give the home a thorough cleaning. It’s worth the money.

Fake the Footage
Houses are often analyzed by price per square foot to help determine if it’s a good deal or not, but the feel and layout of the home can make the house appear bigger than it really is. Keeping the rooms light and airy by choosing light paint, furniture and window coverings can create a feeling of extra space. Adding a large mirror can double the room’s size just by creating that mirror image. An uncluttered home will make the space look bigger and more open. Have a big garage sale to get rid of the unnecessary clutter and put that money towards other home improvements.

New Fixtures
Nothing dates a home like old fixtures. Replacing old lights, faucets, door handles, etc. with updated fixtures really can change the look and feel of a home. The cost of fixtures do add up quickly, so shop around and start with rooms that receive the most traffic, such as bathrooms, the family room and kitchen. Updating these core rooms in the home can give you the biggest impact for the money.

These small improvements can make your home more pleasant for everyday living and give you a feeling of confidence when sharing your space with guests. In addition, if you are planning to sell your home, putting the time and money into small improvements can increase the value and pay off big in the end—quite a bit more than $500!

Kaycee Wegener manages marketing and media relations for Rentec Direct and shares industry news, products and trends within the community.

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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
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4 Reasons Why Bamboo Is Taking Home Decor by Storm

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:

Homeowners are often looking for home improvement options that strike the right balance between affordability, functionality, aesthetics and eco-friendliness. Bamboo has been marketed as something of a panacea—a kind of wonder wood that checks all the boxes. Designers, contractors and consumers have all taken note, as bamboo has made its way into homes as flooring, walls, window treatments, furniture and more. Here are the properties that are making this popular material a go-to green choice for interior design materials.

Affordability
Bamboo is a readily available wood…except for the fact that bamboo isn’t a wood at all, but a grass! Therein lies the secret to bamboo’s ascendant success as a housing material: It grows like a weed because it essentially is one. At a maximum of three feet per day, it is, in fact, the fastest growing plant on Earth. This abundance means it’s an affordable and easily accessible choice in an increasing number of household design elements.

Versatility
Just the one word “bamboo” doesn’t do justice to the range of looks the material offers. It can vary greatly in shades and textures, making it a versatile option for decorators and designers. From the darkest darks to the palest natural shades, you can get just the right color to complement and accentuate the earth tones in your interior decor. (For example, a homeowner with dark hardwood floors can choose dark bamboo shades to tie the room together.) Just keep in mind that the color may change over time as the material ages, and tones may differ depending on where and when it was harvested (just as is the case with hardwood).

Indeed, bamboo window treatments are particularly popular, and they’re available in a variety of options ranging from Roman shades to woven blinds. Whatever style you go for, bamboo blinds can pull together a room’s earth tones into one elegantly cohesive package, while allowing natural sunlight to filter in. While bamboo on its own is not a black-out solution, you can add blackout liners to prevent any undesired light filtration.

Durability
Whether natural or manmade, few materials can match bamboo’s physical properties pound for pound. Because bamboo grows in wet, tropical climates, it is well-suited to resisting rain and wind. (East Asian cultures have made use of bamboo for centuries to build suspension bridges, huts, rafts and much more.) In fact, this unassuming reed beats out hardwood, brick and concrete alike in terms of compressive strength, while rivaling steel in tensile strength.

The result is a lightweight, flexible material that performs admirably in heavily-trafficked and humid areas of the home, making it a great option for floors and furniture in living areas, as well as window treatments in areas like the bathroom.

Interestingly, bamboo’s legendary durability persists even when it is broken down into its fibers. Rayon fabric, while luxuriously soft, is also incredibly strong. Add to that its natural anti-microbial properties, and you have a long-lasting material that is useful in a wide variety of textile applications.

Sustainability
As a growing number of homeowners look for eco-friendly materials in their decor, perhaps no single factor has contributed to bamboo’s modern vogue in interior design more than its sustainability. As it is a grass rather than a tree, it can grow to a harvestable size (often over 100 feet) in a matter of months. This is in stark contrast to the years of water, fertilizer and pesticide required by other timber woods. Additionally, bamboo can grow on steep slopes and depleted or abandoned agricultural lands that would otherwise go to waste.

The environmental benefits don’t stop there. Bamboo’s root systems are an effective reinforcement against soil erosion. Due to its fast-growing nature, bamboo farms that make responsible use of available land are an incredibly potent form of carbon sequestration. Finally, bamboo groves can produce up to 35 percent more oxygen than comparably sized forests.

Processing bamboo has made leaps and bounds in terms of eco-friendliness. While bamboo plywood has traditionally required formaldehyde in the production process, more and more researchers are finding breakthroughs that make durable and biodegradable glues an economic reality. It’s worth noting that most of the world’s bamboo timber is grown in China and India, and therefore requires international shipping, and not all companies conform to the greenest methods of production.

When you consider bamboo’s low carbon footprint along with its durability and lasting appeal, it’s no wonder that it’s made its way to homes in the form of furniture, window treatments, flooring and more. When you elect to adorn your home with this wonder wood (er, grass) you can rest easier knowing that a more beautiful home can be kind to Mother Earth and your bank account alike.

Katie Laird is the director of Social Marketing for Blinds.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

Infographic: Easing the Burden of Student Loan Debt

By Susanne Dwyer

student_loan_forgiveness_infog

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

Is your crippling student loan debt keeping you from becoming a homeowner? According to an article by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, “The Case for Student Loan Forgiveness,” student loan debt is one of the highest debt categories in the U.S., coming in second to only mortgage debt. Add up the debt from the 44-plus million borrowers in the U.S. and it comes out to a whopping $1.44 trillion, the article reports.

If you’ve experienced a hefty monthly student loan payment, then you’ll understand why borrowers are less likely to boost the economy. If all of your cash is going to bills and debt reduction, there’s no excess money to spend.

This loan debt can also delay important life events—such as getting married, having children and buying a house—by 19 to 46 percent. Many are having trouble affording these loan payments after paying for rent, gas and utilities. According to the article, 8 million borrowers defaulted on their student loans as of 2016.

Fortunately, there are some resources available that can ease the burden of student loan debt or erase it completely. Programs such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Perkins Loan Cancellation can help you if you work a non-profit, education or government job. If you don’t qualify for these, you can also apply for income-based repayment plans to lower your monthly loan payments or defer them for the time being.

The following infographic, provided by RefinanceStudentLoans.net, offers a breakdown of available student loan forgiveness and alternative repayment options.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@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 Make Buying a Beach House an Affordable Thing to Do

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:

The dream of purchasing a beach house is potentially one that you’ve had since you were a teenager or young adult; however, setting aside the money for this venture is an entirely different project. Instead of continuing to watch your dream shrink, consider some strategies for making a beach house a reality.

Look for Less Desirable Locations
In your view, any house on the beach is likely in a desirable location, but that really depends upon what the buyer is looking for. One thing that you should consider is how the school district can have a significant effect on the price of a house. If you are looking for a summer home or you may not have children, the quality of the school district may not affect you at all. As a result, you can buy in a community that has a school district of a lower quality, which will likely mean a lower price.

Research Seasonal Communities
When you’re looking to purchase a house, you might think you need to buy a place that is yours to visit throughout the year; however, that isn’t necessarily the case. You may be able to find a home in a community that is only open to residents for a set number of months per year. During the colder seasons, it may close down. Due to the fact that you’re unable to inhabit the house year-round, you may have a greater chance of procuring a lower price.

Rent the House
A beach house is a desirable location for many people, which provides you with the opportunity to rent it to them. You could rent your house out on AirBnB, for example. Some people decide to rent their houses out for the majority of the year and spend a short amount of vacation time there themselves, and others choose to just rent the house during peak seasons. You can decide what works for you.

Buy a Smaller House
In most cases, people looking to buy beach houses are not planning to live there during the entire year. As a result, you probably don’t need a prodigious beach house. Even when you want to make the beach house your full-time residence, ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to get a house on the beach. When you don’t intend to have children, one or two bedrooms in a house might be just right.

Thinking about buying a beach house might feel overwhelming to you because of the perceived costs; however, you can actually make this wish a reality.

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