What Wealthy Home Buyers Expect in a Luxury Home

A recent survey of luxury home owners and buyers by national real estate chain Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate reveals some interesting insight into what wealthy buyers want in a property. While most home buyers may not fit into the “wealthy” category, it is important to note that wealthy consumers are considered trend setters in most industries. A trend towards smaller, more tech-friendly homes will eventually trickle into an overall trend among home buyers outside the luxury market as well.

The survey found that luxury buyers are abandoning mega-mansions for smaller homes with cutting-edge technologies. 66% expressed a stronger desire for having a smart home than a green home while 87% said they would not even consider purchasing a home that isn’t tech-friendly. These buyers aren’t talking about just homes that are wired for high-speed internet or surround sound. They want features like key-less entry and the ability to manage their homes remotely, including controlling the climate, lighting, garage or security systems through their mobile devices.

And while everyone wants a spacious, functional kitchen, luxury buyers want an outdoor one. In fact, according to another survey by the National Association of Home Builders, nearly half of people looking at homes priced above $500,000 said they wanted an outdoor kitchen. Luxury home buyers also place a high value on outdoor amenities. A garden oasis, outdoor fireplace or fire pit, and a separate guest house outside of the main home top the list of must-have amenities.

Inside the home, Better Homes and Gardens found luxury buyers expect other amenities as well- like a climate-controlled wine cooler or a warming drawer. 42% of high-end buyers desire a wet bar and half said they want an exercise room.

Many wealthy buyers are willing to downsize to get these features, marking a new trend in the world of luxury real estate. Some 60% say they would rather have as many upgrades as they can afford in their home rather than greater space. 94% of luxury homebuyers surveyed said they would be willing to give up 1,000 square feet of living space from their next home in exchange for living in a better neighborhood and living in a house with character. Other features that people are looking for include more land, access to dining and entertainment, and a shorter commute.

5 Holiday Hosting Disasters and How to Avoid Them

buzz-holiday-hosting-disasters-veer_86cc6da21aa31a1e39a8b10c7e1579bd_3x2_jpg_300x200_q85Take a look at the most common things that can go wrong when you have guests and learn how to prevent them.

The day you’re expecting guests is a bad time to discover your oven isn’t working. Keep your appliances properly maintained and you’ll keep yourself a little more sane.

Imagine you’re preparing to host your annual holiday party, and you’re past the point of no return. The veggies and meats have been bought. Guests are already braving busy airports and crowded highways to get to your home—and then your oven won’t turn on. Your home-cooked meal has quickly turned into a microwave dinner.

That’s just one of many hosting nightmares that can end your holiday party before it even begins. Thankfully, some of the most damaging mishaps easily can be avoided. We collected five of the most prevalent issues and give you preventative tips to keep your holiday party on track.

Problem: The oven doesn’t heat

For any holiday occasion, the oven is the most important appliance in your house. If it fails to work, the centerpiece of your meal could go from roasted beef, ham, duck, or Tofurky to Peking Duck from the local Chinese takeout joint.

How to avoid:

  • There are any number of reasons a stove can break, but one common cause of disaster is easy to prevent. Don’t self-clean your oven until AFTER the holidays. You risk blowing a fuse or a thermostat, and tracking down an oven technician around the holidays can be tough.

Problem: The kitchen sink clogs

The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for plumbers. The prime cause of this clog-a-thon is the mistreatment of drains when cooking holiday feasts. We hope your Thanksgiving went well, and that you avoid clog-a-thons for the rest of the holidays.

How to avoid:

  • Fats and cooking oils can solidify in your pipes, so never dispose of them in your kitchen sink.
  • If you have a garbage disposal, make sure it’s running before anything goes in it, and never feed it any stringy, fibrous, or starchy foods like poultry skins or potato peels.
  • To fix, don’t rely on chemical drain-clearing products that can harm your pipes. Use a snake instead, available for $15 at your local hardware store. Best to keep one on hand.

Problem: The heat goes out

As the party’s host, you’re supposed to hang guests’ coats—not apologize to them for having to keep them on. A lack of heat can stop a holiday party dead in its tracks.

How to avoid:

  • The key to avoiding freezing your party to a standstill is regular maintenance of your HVAC. Every 90 days, a new one-inch pleated furnace filter should be installed. If you haven’t done it in a while, now’s a good time to replace it.
  • Also inspect insulation on refrigerant lines that are leading into your house. Replace them if they’re missing or damaged.

Problem: The toilet stops up

Toilets have a way of clogging up at the worst times, such as during parties and when you have overnight guests. This is especially true if you have a low-flow toilet from the early 1990s.

How to avoid:

  • Don’t flush anything other than sewage and toilet paper down the toilet. And there’s nothing wrong with putting up a polite note to remind your guests to do the same.

Problem: The fridge doesn’t cool

Without a properly functioning refrigerator, your meat could get contaminated, your dairy-based treats could go sour, and you may not be able to save your yummy leftovers. To avoid discovering a warm fridge after it’s too late, take these simple precautions.

How to avoid:

  • Get a thermometer for your refrigerator to make sure each shelf stays below 40 degrees and you can be aware of any temperature changes.
  • Also make sure the condenser coils located on the back of the unit or beneath it are free to breathe. Coils blocked from circulating air by cereal boxes atop the fridge, or dirtied by dust or pet hair can prevent a fridge from keeping cool.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/home-thoughts/holiday-hosting-tips/#ixzz2jmf69HrT

Holiday Decorating Ideas for Your Mantel

red-carnation-wreaths-above-mantel-Better-Homes-GardensBetter Homes and Garden Magazine is always a helpful spot for decorating ideas. With the cool, sometimes dreary weather of winter, the fireplace can easily become the centerpiece of any gathering. Is yours looking a little dreary itself?

Bring style to your fireplace with these mantel decorating and arranging ideas. Spruce up your mantel with stylish lighting and fabulous accessories to transform it into an instant focal point. Start with an eye-catching work of art. Place in the center of the mantel. Next, add lamps or sconces to each side of the mantel to create symmetrical balance and provide a soft, candle-like glow. Choose fixtures with colorful bases for a splash of contrast. Add an additional layer of shapely appeal with a collection of small decorative items. These stunning brass urns echo the look of the lamps. Sprinkle a handful of smaller items throughout the display to create balance and harmony. Now, you have an eye-catching focal point that reflects your personal style.

Just in time for the holidays, showcase your mantel with these gorgeous holiday decorating ideas for your fireplace. From garlands to candles, we help you set the Christmas mood. Easy holiday mantel decorating ideas. Idea 1: Cozy. Place tulips in bucket and add vintage stars. Line up mismatched stockings. Idea 2: Crafty. Make felt trees. Hang homemade stockings. Idea 3: Colorful. Wrap faux presents for wall and mantel. Stack ornaments in vases . Idea 4: Traditional. Hang green garland and red stockings. Make a wreath with carnations. Add a bow. Idea 5: Inexpensive. Stack knickknacks on mantel. Tie on ribbon garland.

Refresh Your Entryway!

101632741.jpg.rendition.pWhat’s the first thing you, your guests, and potential home buyers see when they enter your home? Your entryway! The entryway is almost important as curb appeal for the atmosphere it creates and first impression it gives.

Give your house a grand entrance with an open, inviting entryway that warmly welcomes. Check out these fresh ideas for your entryway from Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

Report: Atlanta has Nation’s Most Affordable Housing

HousingGrowth-081213*304Personal incomes aren’t growing quick enough nationally to keep up with rising home prices, but Atlanta is the nation’s most affordable housing market, a new report from Interest.com says.

On average, home prices rose nearly 16 percent over the past year in the top 25 U.S. cities, while incomes rose by only about 3 percent.

On top of that, the national average for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.7 percent to 4.43 percent. That alone added $84.50 to the monthly payment on a $200,000 mortgage, Interest.com said.

Atlanta is the most affordable market, meaning a median-income household here exceeds the amount required to purchase a median-priced home by 25 percent. The city managed to stay on top despite a nearly 39 percent jump in the median home price, from $103,200 to 143,300.

In addition, the city has a household income of $54,628, about 6 percent higher than the median national income, as well as lower-than-average property taxes and modest insurance costs.

“Atlanta is so affordable because we have no natural boundaries, unlike most cities, which gives us an unlimited supply of land, and because this land is less expensive and houses are less expensive,” said Nancy See, president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, in a statement.

Read the original article at http://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/news/2013/10/23/report-atlanta-has-nations-most.html or more here.

7 Ways to Feel Like a Local

textimagecomp.img.image.pngJust moved to town and feel completely lost? Follow these tips from MyMove.com and you’ll be feeling like a local in no time!

There’s nothing quite like moving to a new city to make you feel like the ultimate outsider. Not only is every face you encounter a complete stranger, but you also have to put serious thought and effort into doing something as mundane as finding a good cup of coffee. The sooner you assimilate the better. Here are the top seven tips for adjusting to a new neighborhood.

1. Go Exploring
There may be no better way to really get to know a new city or neighborhood than by actually hitting the street and driving around until you’ve oriented yourself. Don’t be afraid to get lost—unless you were born with some innate ability to navigate without losing your bearings, you probably will, several times. One of the keys to ensuring your endeavor has the makings of an adventure instead of a nightmare is to start early, and have a full tank of gas.

Also, don’t limit yourself to exploring from behind the wheel. Get yourself to the downtown area and walk around to get a feel of your new surroundings.

2. Subscribe to the Local Paper
Although your past reading habits and a desire for the familiar may tempt you to maintain a subscription to your old newspaper, one of the most effective ways of learning about your new neighborhood is by reading all about the local happenings and newsworthy issues that have a direct effect on you as a resident. A local newspaper is also a good resource to find information on local events that could give a needed boost to your social life.

3. Watch Local News
If you’re a newshound in the habit of switching back and forth between national news channels, put your passions on a different track by tuning into the local news station. This is one of the quickest ways to educate yourself on the topics that your fellow residents are most concerned with, and to introduce you to local ways and customs.

4. Rub Elbows
Get out and mingle with the people that make up your new community. If you’re not into the bar scene, go to the local community center and find information on clubs and other activities that interest you. Joining a local gym is another great way to meet people in your immediate area who also share your same lifestyle. If you’re a churchgoer, it’s easy to find people who share your values by attending church or synagogue in your new neighborhood.

5. Attend City Council Meetings
You don’t have to run for office or belong to a special interest group to sit in on city council meetings. This is a great way for you to get involved in the decisions that impact your new community, and to surround yourself with likeminded people.

6. Get Involved with Your Child’s School
If you have children, it’s important to facilitate their adaptation to their new environment by enrolling them in extracurricular clubs and sports. Volunteering to help at your child’s school will also introduce you to other parents and is a great way to make new friends.

7. Don’t Look Back
Moving to a new city can bring about feelings of homesickness, even if you weren’t necessarily all that attached to your old city. In order to ensure that you carve out a successful existence for yourself, it’s important to embrace your new setting and resist comparing it with what you’ve grown accustomed to. Look on it as the exciting adventure that it is, and soon you’ll have no reason to view your move as anything but a positive life-changing decision.

There’s Still Time to Get Up to a $500 Tax Credit!

UnknownHomeowners still have time this year to rack up a $200-$500 federal tax credit on new windows and doors and other home improvements, according to consumer website HouseLogic. The key is ensuring you install products that fit the Feds’ exacting standards.


Replace Your Front Door

Replacing your front door can pay for itself by increasing your home’s value, according to Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report.

What’s more, if you choose an energy-efficient exterior door, you may qualify for a tax credit that can save you up to $500 as well as trim up to 10% off your energy bills. (With utility bills averaging $2,200 annually, that’s a savings of as much as $220.)

But how do you know which door is right for you? Make your decision by comparing the three main materials available for exterior doors: steel, fiberglass and wood. Read more at http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/windows-doors/exterior-door-installation-options/.


Insulate Your Home

Whether it’s summer heat or winter cold, insulation makes your house a lot more livable. If you add insulation before the end of the year, you’ll be eligible to collect a $500 energy tax credit.

Tax credit limits and deadlines:

  • 10% of expenditures, up to $500 for the year, for all energy improvements combined. It’s a lifetime credit.
  • Insulation must have been installed by Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Save receipts and labels for Uncle Sam.

Adding insulation is a relatively affordable home improvement project, and the savings can be felt almost immediately. Some DIYers can even tackle the project themselves over a weekend. The Energy Star site is your safest bet for information on how to get the credit. Energy Star has been pretty flexible on what it allows for this credit. Products that reduce air leaks also qualify. Installation isn’t covered, though. Don’t rely solely on contractors who may not know the details or who promise their products will get the credit in order to make a sale. Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/tax-credits/tax-credits-adding-or-replacing-insulation/#ixzz2jmkG2rlA


Install a More Efficient Water Heater

Doing the dishes, taking a shower, or cleaning your clothes — you need hot water and lots of it. The government understood, and offers an energy tax credit for adding a more efficient hot water heater to your home.

Tax credit limits and deadlines:

  • You must have installed the water heater by Dec. 31, 2013.
  • 10% of expenditures, up to $300, for a non-solar water heater, including installation. (You can spend a lifetime total of 10% of expenditures up to $500 for all approved energy purchases combined. If you already claimed energy tax credits up to this limit, you’re done.)
  • Save receipts and labels for Uncle Sam.

There are many different kinds of hot water heaters, so the Energy Star site is a good bet for info. It’s very specific on what is and is not credit-eligible. For instance, it must have a thermal efficiency of at least 90%. Read more at http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/tax-credits/tax-credits-non-solar-water-heaters/#ixzz2jmlEWAKH

Get That New Roof You’ve Been Needing
If you added a heat-efficient metal or asphalt roof to your house, you’ll be better equipped to fight August’s heat. And since the government extended the energy tax credit for existing homes, you may be able to claim the $500 energy tax credit by filing IRS Form 5695 with your return.Tax credit limits and deadlines:

  • 10% of expenditures, up to a lifetime $500, for all energy improvements combined.
  • A relevant roof must have been installed by Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Save receipts and labels.
  • For roofs, installation isn’t covered.

See Energy Star for guidelines on what exactly is covered. It’s your safest bet for information on how to get the credit. Be warned that not all roofs, not even all roofs with the Energy Star seal, will qualify. Only specially manufactured roofs, as listed on the Energy Star site, are eligible. Read more at http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/tax-credits/tax-credits-replacing-your-roof/#ixzz2jmlYPvpV


Home Safe Home for the Holidays

New-Year-Fir-Tree-Christmas-Decoration-Christmas-Wreath-Wreath-Door-480x360’Tis the season for merriment, goodwill, family gatherings — and home accidents. Before guests arrive, here are 12 safety tips to protect your holiday cheer.

You could be spending a lot of time this holiday season in a particularly dangerous place: your home.

While most of us assume our own home is safe (in one survey, 90% thought so), it’s still where the great bulk of injuries occur. Each year in the U.S., an average of 21 million doctor visits and 20,000 deaths are chalked up to home accidents. That doesn’t even take into account the millions of bumps and strains that go untreated.

And all the holiday hoopla can make things worse: December is the deadliest month for electrical fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

“The holidays are a time of year where you’re just going to be stressed out and tired and distracted, and sometimes there might be a little holiday cheer involved,” says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing home accidents. “These are all the kinds of things that conspire to make safety drift out of mind.” (Bing: Find more holiday home-safety tips)

The No. 1 home-accident killer overall? Falls, followed by poisoning, fire, choking and, lastly, drowning.

“The good news is these accidents are very preventable,” Appy says. “Think about the most important things, which are how to keep your loved ones safe and happy, and there are very easy ways to do that.”

So, the experts say, take a moment now to put safety at the top of your holiday list and prepare your home intelligently. Here are 12 things to check around the house before the guests arrive and the punch bowl gets put out:

1. Be wary of cheap lights and check those cords
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 12,500 people end up at hospital emergency rooms each year with decorating-related injuries. About 5,000 of those are electrical shocks or burns. Some cases, such as when ladders or light strings touch live wires, are fatal.

Preferably before you string up the lights on the tree or on your roof, check all the electrical and extension cords. Toss any that are frayed or cracked (don’t wrap with electrical tape). Buy only cords that have been tested by an independent laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory, and that are clearly marked with the manufacturer’s name and product information.

An influx of counterfeit electrical equipment has entered the country lately, says the Electrical Safety Foundation International, a Virginia-based nonprofit. The products may contain a phony UL tag, but they have not been tested and may not be safe.

Christopher Lindsay, the ESFI’s director of programs, recommends buying only from reputable hardware stores and avoiding online bargains or deep-discount retailers. “If the bargain is too good to be true with an electrical product, be very wary, be very wary,” he says. “Unfortunately, these can have potentially deadly complications.”

2. Buy cool tree lights
LEDs (light-emitting diodes), those nifty-looking little lights a lot of towns are using now, aren’t just cool for the environment — they use 90% less energy — they’re also cool for boughs.

The bulbs simply don’t produce heat buildup. And because they use less electrical current, it’s safe to string together as many strands as you might need.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 250 home fires a year began with Christmas trees between 2003 and 2007, causing, on average, 14 deaths, 26 injuries and $13.8 million in property damage.

3. Don’t overburden electrical sockets; use proper outdoor lights
Old homes sometimes lack enough electrical outlets to meet modern gadgetry needs, and people improvise by treating electrical plugs as if they are Legos, stacking them every which way. This is not a good practice, experts say.

To prevent overheating, plug in no more than one extension cord per socket and string no more than three sets of traditional lights together. There’s no universally accepted number of cords per outlet or means to gauge electrical current levels, so that puts your home at the mercy of common sense. If outlets or power strips are hot to the touch, emit a smell or trip fuses, shut things down and cut back on the juice.

Better yet, expand your capability, Lindsay says. Preferably you’d do this before the holiday crush sets in, but if you’ve already decked your home, have an electrician modify the wiring before next year’s festivities. “There are ways you can get your home to match your energy needs,” Lindsay says. Any cost will be less than the cost of a fire.

Outside, note the condition of electrical wires before carrying and bumping ladders around. Big jolts can kill instantly; smaller ones cause falls.

Outdoor cords must be labeled for outdoor use, and should be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter, a device that cuts off the current if a leak is detected. These cost a few dollars and can plug directly into an outlet. They also save lives, Lindsay says.

Without one, a damaged wire can transfer electricity into water or metal. “If for some reason the wire is damaged and electricity is leaking, that could make the whole drain pipe live,” he says. “Anything metal that it touches is live, including the decoration itself.”

4. Clean furnaces and stoves
If you didn’t get around to these pre-winter fixes, why not use extra holiday warmth as an excuse to do it now? Heating-equipment fires are the leading cause of fire deaths in this country. In 2008, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 2,650 people were killed in house fires.

If you haven’t had your annual inspection by a chimney sweep or furnace repairman, do get it now.

Clean dust buildup from dryer hoses, as well as lint from the dryer itself with each load.

Clean cooking appliances, particularly any grease buildup that could make a spark in a busy kitchen suddenly worse. Cooking accidents are the leading cause of home fires.

About 250 people a year are killed by appliance-related electrocution, Lindsay says. For more holiday electrical tips, see the ESFI’s homesafety.org. To see how prepared you are in the event of a fire, check this online fire quiz at Liberty Mutual’s befiresmart.com.

5. Clear ice dams from gutters; clear walks
Planning on having guests? Or spending more time trudging to and from and around the house? Load up on whatever gravel and rock salt you might need, and clear the walkways and gutters to prevent ice buildup.

You don’t want people injured, clearly, and you also don’t want to be found negligent. Laws vary by state, but generally homeowners are expected to take reasonable measures to maintain a safe environment. Snow may be a natural event; however, falling ice chunks resulting from gutters that you’ve failed to clear are not.

“Negligence can be an accident, but you can still be found liable if you fail to act as a reasonable person would,” says Maureen Lane, an insurance defense lawyer at the Boston firm Melick, Porter & Shea. “For example, if people come across your threshold all the time and you still string a cord across there,” you could be held liable.

In Massachusetts, a jury can divvy up the costs based on what percentage of negligence each party exhibited. In other words, don’t expect your guests to sidestep badly placed stuff or dodge falling decorations.

6. Evaluate your homeowner’s insurance
Speaking of clumsy guests, the party season is a good time to check just what your homeowner’s insurance does — and does not — cover if someone injures himself on your property.


Surveys by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners indicate that people often don’t understand their own policies. Ask: What are your damage limits? Does your policy include liability and medical payments coverage?

“Unfortunately, after an accident people realize the limits of the policy, and it’s often too late,” says Michael McRaith, director of insurance for the state of Illinois.

The same holds for renters. The landlord’s homeowner’s insurance isn’t going to cover a renter’s personal belongings or defend against a renter’s negligence. If you’re hosting a party or having guests, talk to the landlord’s insurance company and consider buying your own insurance.

It’s also possible to buy temporary special-event coverage. For some standard guidelines on homeowner’s insurance, see this brochure from the Insurance Information Institute.

7. Fall-proof the house
Appy, of the Home Safety Council, recalls one Christmas when a visiting older relative navigating a dark hallway fell down the stairs. She suffered only a strain, “but it could have been so much worse,” Appy says. “It was dark, she wasn’t at [her] home, she got up to go to the bathroom … we didn’t think about this, but there was no nightlight there. She got disoriented.”

Take extra care if you are expecting older guests, as falls are the leading cause of home fatalities.

Clear stairs, hallways and doorways of clutter. Consider installing railings along the stairs and grab bars in the bath.

“You can make some environmental changes that will really make your home safer,” Appy says.

8. Child-proof the house
Take the same cautious approach if children are expected, particularly if your house is not already child-proofed and relatives might be celebrating or preoccupied.

Most importantly, Appy says, put poisonous materials out of reach. Any supplies with words such as “caution,” “danger” or “warning” should be behind child-proof doors. Also, tinsel and decorations can choke small children with grabby fingers.

Learn about the safety hazards of rooms where small children will be sleeping, and how to keep toddlers out of bathrooms. For more information, see the room-by-room virtual safety tour at MySafeHome.org.

9. Check your smoke and CO detectors
Most residential fires start where everything’s cookin’, in the kitchen. Don’t start roasting if you haven’t verified the smoke detectors are installed correctly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, and there should be a detector on every floor outside bedrooms.

Homes should also have a carbon monoxide (CO) detector on each floor. Carbon monoxide, which can leak from dirty or malfunctioning heating equipment, is odorless and lethal.

If any of this sounds redundant, consider this: A recent survey by the National Fire Protection Association and the American Red Cross found:

  • 48% of Americans plan to use alternative heating sources this winter to reduce their fuel bills;
  • 36% of people with fireplaces reported they never cleaned or inspected their chimneys;
  • 23% did not consider it essential to make sure someone is home when food is cooking on the stove;
  • Half did not have a CO alarm; and
  • 26% did not have a fire extinguisher in their home.

“Too many people are lackadaisical about fire these days,” says Jim Burns, past president of the National Association of State Fire Marshals. About 3,500 people die in fires every year in this country.

Space heaters account for three-quarters of the heating-fire deaths. Whether saving on heating oil or warming up a basement guest room, make sure to buy a new model with an automatic shut-off. Keep it three feet away from objects and never leave it unattended. For more, see these NFPA heating safety tips.

10. Get to know your fire extinguishers
“What happens around the holidays is you have a convergence of things that creates a fire risk,” says Lorraine Carli, an NFPA spokeswoman. “There are a lot of things occurring around a small period of time.”

Make sure you’ve got fire extinguishers near heating sources and passageways. The NFPA recommends at least one extinguisher per floor. Make sure family members know how to use them (and what not to do, such as not putting water on a grease fire).

For more, see this guide from the NFPA, and these product tips from Underwriters Laboratories.

11. Plan for partiers before the party
Hosts are responsible for their guests, not only morally but legally. In some states, hosts who have served alcohol can be held liable for the actions their guests take later.

Before you get sidetracked by the hors d’oeuvres planning, take a minute to review how the courts in your state can hold you responsible should a guest get a DUI on his way home from your party, and what your homeowner’s insurance will cover. It could serve as the extra motivation to keep any impaired guests off the road and may save lives.

SocialHostLiability.org, a private law firm’s site, has links to research and laws regarding the legal responsibility of hosts who serve alcohol. And Mothers Against Drunk Driving has tips on dealing with intoxicated guests.

12. Lock the doors; store the goods.
Thieves aren’t always so dumb, and they can be easily enticed by the sight of big boxes through the window. So, when you’re away from home for a while, do the usual: Put lights on timers; have a neighbor shovel the walk and pick up the mail; avoid displaying gifts in front windows; and always lock up.

While homeowner’s insurance policies cover theft, they typically carry a maximum. If need be, consider buying a personal articles policy to increase the limit, says Dick Luedke, a State Farm Insurance spokesman.


Source: http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=15994434&page=3

5 Easy DIY Weekend Projects Under $300

Just another weekend? Not if you take advantage with one or more of these 5 great projects you can easily pull off for under $300.

Project #1: Add a garden arbor entry.

The setup: Install an eye-catching portal to your garden with a freestanding arbor. It’ll look great at the end of a garden path or framing a grassy area between planting beds.

Specs and cost: Garden arbors can be priced up to thousands of dollars, but you can find nice-looking kits in redwood, cedar, and vinyl at your local home improvement or garden center for $200-$300. Typical sizes are about 7 feet high and 3-4 feet wide. You’ll have to assemble the kit yourself.

Screwdriver; cordless drill/driver; hammer; tape measure. Kits come pre-cut and pre-drilled for easy assembly, and usually include screws. If fasteners aren’t included, check the materials list before you leave the store.

Time: 3-5 hours

Project #2: Install a window awning.

The setup: Summer is super, but too much sunlight from south- and west-facing windows can heat up your interiors and make your AC work overtime. Beat that heat and save energy by using an awning to stop harsh sunlight before it enters your house.

Specs and cost: Residential awnings come in many sizes and colors. Some are plastic or aluminum, but most are made with weatherproof fabrics. They’re engineered for wind resistance, and some are retractable. A 4-foot-wide awning with a 2.5-foot projection is $150-$250.

Tools: Cordless drill/driver; adjustable wrench; tape measure; level. You can install an awning on any siding surface, but you’ll need a hammer drill to drill holes in brick. To prevent leaks, fill any drilled holes with silicone sealant before you install screws and bolts.

: 3-4 hours

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 8.04.18 AM

Project # 3: Screen off your air conditioner from view.

The setup: Air conditioning is great, but air conditioner condensers are ugly. Up your curb appeal quotient by hiding your AC condenser or heat pump unit with a simple screen.

Specs and costs: An AC screen is typically 3-sided, about 40 inches high, and freestanding — you’ll want to be able to move it easily when it comes time to service your HVAC. For about $100, you can make a screen yourself using weather-resistant cedar or pressure-treated wood to build 3 frames, and filling each frame with plastic or pressure-treated lattice.

Or, buy pre-made fencing panels. A 38-by-38-inch plastic fencing panel is about $50.

Tools: Hammer; saw; cordless drill/driver; measuring tape; galvanized wood screws.

Time: Build it yourself in 4-6 hours. Install pre-made fencing in 1-2 hours.

Project # 4: Add garage storage.

The setup: Shopping for garage storage solutions is definitely a kid-in-the-candy-store experience. There are so many cool shelves, hooks, and hangers available that you’ll need to prioritize your needs. Take stock of long-handled landscape tools, bikes, paint supplies, ladders, and odd ducks, such as that kayak. Measure your available space so you’ll have a rough idea of where everything goes.

Specs and cost: Set your under-$300 budget, grab a cart, and get shopping. Many storage systems are made to be hung on drywall, but hooks and heavy items should be fastened directly to studs. Use a stud finder ($20) to locate solid framing.

If your garage is unfinished, add strips of wood horizontally across studs so you’ll have something to fasten your storage goodies to. An 8-foot-long 2-by-4 is about $2.50.

Tools: Cordless drill/driver; hammer; level; measuring tape; screws and nails.

Time: This is a simple project, but not a fast one. Figure 6-10 hours to get everything where you want it, plus shopping. But, oh the fun in putting everything in its place!

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Project #5: Edging your garden.

The setup: Edging is a great way to define your planting beds, corral garden mulch, and to separate your lawn from your garden or patio.

Specs and cost: Wood and metal edging looks like tiny fencing; they’re 4-6 inches high. Some include spikes that hold the edging in position; other types must be partially buried. Cost is $1-$5 per foot.

Plastic edging can be molded and colored to mimic brick, wood, and stone. About $20 for 10 feet.

Concrete edging blocks are smooth, or textured to resemble stone. $15-$25 for 10 feet.

Real stone edging is installed flush with the surrounding grade in a shallow trench on a bed of sand, so digging is required. Stone is sold by the ton and prices vary by region. You’ll need about one-third of a ton of flagstone to make an 8-inch-wide edging 50 feet long, costing $150-$200.

Tools: Shovel; wheelbarrow; tin snips (for cutting plastic edging); work gloves.

Time: Pre-made edging will take 2-3 hours for 50 feet; stone will take 6-10 hours.

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Introducing… BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY HomeServices

-1On December 10th, our company will be adopting the new Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand.  We are excited to begin this new chapter for our company and this conversion will bring many advantages for our agents and their clients.
This year, we also celebrate 50 years of serving the needs of our clients in the Greater Metro Atlanta area.  During that time, we have operated as Crest Realty, Merrill Lynch Realty, Prudential Atlanta Realty and Prudential Georgia Realty.  Though the name has changed, our commitment to deliver exceptional real estate services has not.  In the last five years, our company has been consistently ranked as the #1 real estate company with more homes sold than any other brokerage.  Now that our company is part of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies, we thought it might be helpful to get to know more about our new organization.
  • According to the Forbes Global 2000 list, Berkshire Hathaway is the 8th largest public company in the world.  The company is led by Chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett who is often referred to as “the Oracle of Omaha” for his keen insight on business matters.
  • The Berkshire Hathaway approach is to acquire companies with great brands, great products and strong leadership, then grow and build value over long periods of time.
  •  Berkshire Hathaway owns and operates approximately 100 companies and employs approximately 300,000 people. Company holdings include major brands like GEICO, Fruit of the Loom, Dairy Queen, Benjamin Moore, Helzberg Diamonds, NetJets, Heinz, MidAmerican Energy and Shaw Industries which is located in Dalton, Georgia.
  • Berkshire Hathaway has major stock positions in companies like Wells Fargo (8.7%), American Express (13.7%), IBM (6%) and Coca-Cola (8.9%).
  • Berkshire Hathaway was named the No. 1 company in Barron’s annual ranking of the world’s 100 most respected companies.

Being part of such a large and successful organization gives us many advantages.  For example, our listing clients will benefit from an unprecedented level of exposure.  Look for more details and exciting news as we move closer to our big announcement on December 10th.

We look forward to leveraging the Power of Berkshire Hathaway to deliver even more advantages for our clients and customers.  Contact us at info@petersenpartners.com or visit www.PetersenPartners.com to learn more.