Avoid a Do-Over: Pick a Kitchen Paint You’ll Love

Here’s the scoop on what paint is best for your kitchen cabinets and walls.

Life is messy, and much of it happens in the kitchen. This is where you simmer your nana’s famous tomato sauce for hours, adorning your wall with red splatters. And after a cookie-making session with the kids, it’s where you scrub away sticky fingerprints from cabinet doors.

Your kitchen cabinets and walls take a lot of abuse. Choosing the right paintcan mean they’ll always look great, even after the umpteenth scrubbing. Choosing the wrong paint can mean the opposite — you could actually wash away the paint along with the grime.

Scott Specker, who owns Five Star Painting of Suwanee in Cumming, Ga., has seen his fair share of issues caused by the wrong paint. Picking a poor paint product, he says, can leave you with only two options: Paint or stain all over again, or deal with the ugly. Ugh.

Don’t force yourself into a re-do. Here’s how to make the right decision at the outset for a more functional kitchen.

Embrace the Sheen

You might love the pristine look of flat paint (and sure, it makes a gorgeous backdrop for your family room or bedroom). But when it comes time to coat your kitchen, select a finish that is both easy to clean and tough enough to handle repeated scrubbing. That means getting shiny.

High-gloss or semi-gloss paint is ideal for any spots that might get splattered, sprayed, or spilled on, like above (or in lieu of) your backsplash, behind your trash can, or everywhere if you love bringing spaghetti sauce to a rolling boil. Glossier finishes also protect your walls from water and grease, which will “bubble up and not absorb into the paint” upon contact, says Specker. “Wipe it off, and you won’t have any leftover stains.”

If you’re insistent on the flat look for your kitchen, there are specialty (read: pricey) paints out there that offer easy cleaning. Specker recommends Benjamin Moore’s Aura to give your kitchen walls that high-style matte finish — as long as you’re willing to spend $70 a gallon.

The Best Paint for Kitchen Cabinets

  • Choose a paint that hardens when it dries.
  • Oil paint is an affordable choice, but a major hassle.
  • There are water-based paint alternatives, but they are pricey.

“Because cabinets open and close, receiving a lot more traffic overall than a wall, you’ll want to use a paint that hardens,” Specker says.

Many pros recommend using an oil-based paint, which cures to a harder surface, preventing damage and mess. Buyer beware: Oils can be a wee smelly and do take forever to dry.

But once again, paint industry innovations provide a (spendy) alternative. Specker recommends either Benjamin Moore Advance, which costs about $50 per gallon, or Sherwin-Williams ProClassic for about $67 a gallon, which dry hard and durable without the smell and wait of oil-based paints.

Shine Those Baseboards

A glossy finish isn’t just for kitchen cabinets — it’s for your kitchen baseboards, too, says Specker.

Baseboards suffer a ton of damage, from muddy scuffs after your daughter’s soccer games to dirt, dust, and crumbs knocked off the countertops during cooking. Your kitchen already takes long enough to clean. Why add an extra half-hour hunched over the baseboards?

Don’t Forget the Ceiling

The one surface in the kitchen where you want to avoid glossy paint is the ceiling. Ceilings love to crack and settle, so cover up those inconsistencies with some (yes, now you have permission) flat paint. The less reflective the surface, the less obvious those cracks will look from the ground. Glossy paints will actually emphasize these errors and problem spots.

Flat finish bonus: Between their cracks and the fact that you’re working in the most awkward position ever, ceilings can be super hard to paint, even for experts. So no worries if you don’t do a perfect job. A flat finish “really does hide a lot of imperfections and irregularities,” Specker says. Why, thank you, paint.

Zap Those Microbes Away

Sad kitchen irony: The room you want to be the freest from dangerous microbes is naturally prone to them. From the mold danger zones around your sink, inside cabinets, and along the walls, to all the food-borne, sneeze-borne, and spill-borne opportunities for bacteria to get out of control, your kitchen can be a wee bit scary on the microscopic level.

Lucky for you, there are paints to help. Rust-Oleum makes a “mold and mildew-proof” paint for about $27 a gallon that can protect those mold danger zones. You can fight those nasty germs with Sherwin-Williams’ Paint Shield, which costs about $85 per gallon. Unlike other microbial paints, this formulation is EPA-certified to kill more than 99.9% of surface bacteria in less than two hours, including E. coli and staph.

Although not everyone needs an antimicrobial paint, if you’ve battled kitchen mold in the past, have an illness-prone family, or just really love knowing every surface is as safe as possible at all times, these products were made for you.

Article by JAMIE WIEBE

Yes, Pets Can Find Their Way Home—but You Can Help them

When a dog named Hank navigated 11 miles home over two days to his foster owner in Memphis, TN, recently, it had many of us thinking, “Awww, isn’t that sweet,” and marveling anew at the navigational powers of pets. How do these animals—without maps, GPS monitors, or the ability to ask for directions—find their way home?

Hank is hardly a fluke, either. In 2013, a cat traversed 200 miles over two months to reach its old stomping grounds. Meanwhile, seabirds and tortoises travel entire hemispheres when they migrate to the same old nesting areas season after season. As for how they do it, it depends on the species.

Cats, for instance, rely on magnetic fields, orienting themselves along the Earth’s north-south poles much like a compass, according to scientists interviewed by Time magazine.

Meanwhile, dogs lean heavily on their sense of smell. Had Hank walked those 11 miles, he could have just followed his scent trail home, Bonnie Beaver, executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, told Time. Or, if a dog were taken by car, as Hank was, it might rely on overlapping circles of familiar scents.

Does that mean you need to make a Costco run for loads of air fresheners? Not so much. The pup might pick up a whiff of a dog it knows, which leads it to a well-known tree or trash can.

How to keep your pets safe at home

While the power of pets to return to their owners’ arms may be astonishing, scientists point out that we shouldn’t overestimate their abilities, either. Dogs like Hank make the news; hundreds more don’t because, well, they stay lost.

In other words, pet owners should continue doing what they can to keep their furry friends from wandering off. That means keeping your cats indoors, installing sturdy fences for dogs, and outfitting all animals with a collar and ID tag. Even high-tech pet microchips will run you only $25 to $50, and could be worth the peace of mind of knowing that these four-legged members of the family have a built-in ID. Because after all, even if Fido or Fluffy can find their way home, why not make it a little easier on them?

 | Nov 10, 2015

How to Remove Stains From Marble Counters and Floors

To celebrate our first night in our new home, we ordered a feast of Chinese food. The next morning, to our horror, we found a huge stain on our kitchen’s marble counter where the moo goo gai pan had seeped out of its cardboard container into the stone. We went into a frenzy to try to find out how to remove stains from marble.

I know I’m not alone here. Even though marble counters and floors look like they can withstand whatever a cook can throw at them, these surfaces in fact are extremely porous and can soak up liquids. If it’s just water, it usually dries without a problem. But if you leave wine or grease spills on marble, you’ll have to deal with a stain.

The good news is that whatever goes in can come out, says Mark Meriaux, accreditation and technical manager of MIA + BSI: The Natural Stone Institute, based in Oberlin, OH. “But sometimes it takes a long time.”

Classic Paleo Turkey Burgers (Healthy & Low Carb)

Cookouts just wouldn’t be the same without a good burger. But burgers shouldn’t be reserved only for summer picnics; they also make an easy go-to dinner during the week. Discover a healthier, leaner burger recipe with these filling and tasty turkey burgers.

Obviously within the Paleo diet, the main omission when it comes to burgers is the bready bun. But I want to show that Paleo burgers do not have to be boring pieces of meat covered in ketchup. There are plenty of flavorful options for Paleo burgers that will make you forget the bun.

Turkey burgers are a slightly healthier option for weeknight dinners. Turkey burgers have an advantage over beef burgers in that they are a little lower in calories and fat. Ground turkey breast is the leanest option. I recommend avoiding the flavored or pre-seasoned burgers that are sometimes at the store, which can be loaded with sodium. Making your own turkey burgers right at home is easy and quick.

This recipe is a great opportunity to pile on the veggies. Spinach, tomatoes, and onions all make great accompaniments to turkey burgers. Grilled onions or mushrooms can add a delicious layer of flavor. Serve avocado on the side for creaminess, or it’s really easy to stir together an aioli to top the burger. I made a garlic aioli with a little parsley mixed in.

My favorite aspect of turkey burgers is their quick cooking time. Dinner can be ready in twenty minutes. They can be thrown on the grill or cooked on a grill pan if you are cooking indoors (like me). Serve the burgers on a bed of greens and tomatoes, or wrapped in lettuce. Perhaps add a side of sweet potato fries for a complete and healthy meal.

Classic Paleo Turkey Burgers

Ingredients
  1. 1 lb. ground turkey
  2. 1 tsp onion powder
  3. 1 tsp paprika
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  6. 1/2 tsp coriander
  7. Pinch of cayenne
  8. 2 green onions, chopped
  9. 1 tomato, sliced
  10. 2 cups fresh spinach or arugula
  11. 1 avocado, sliced
Instructions
  1. Add the ground turkey, onion powder, paprika, salt, pepper, coriander, cayenne, and green onions to a large bowl and stir to combine. Use your hands to form into burger patties.
  2. Heat the grill to medium-high heat and cook the burgers for 5-6 minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Serve the burgers over sliced tomato, spinach, and avocado.
Notes
  1. Servings: 4-6 burgers
  2. Difficulty: Easy
By Rebecca Bohl (PaleoGrubs.com)

What Happens to the Mortgage When Your House Burns Down

If your house goes up in flames, does your obligation to pay your mortgage go with it?

Borrowers are bound by the promissory note they sign at the closing of a home purchase or refinance to make monthly mortgage payments. Even the total loss of the mortgaged property doesn’t relieve borrowers of this obligation. A mortgage also requires the borrower to give prompt notice to both the lender and the insurance carrier in the event of a loss.

“Lenders want to help, and they can be very flexible,” says Mike Zarro, executive vice president of mortgage operations at SunTrust Mortgage in Richmond, Va. “They have procedures and programs in place to help clients transition from a disaster back into normalcy.” Lenders may suspend mortgage installments or late payments for a limited period or even stop foreclosure activity altogether, particularly in areas subject to a federal disaster declaration. But, Mr. Zarro adds, “at the end of the day, the obligation to continue paying the mortgage still exists.”

A standard Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac mortgage form—also used for most jumbo loans, Mr. Zarro says—requires the borrower to repair or restore the property, if economically feasible, unless the lender and borrower otherwise agree in writing. That means that borrowers who walk away from their home in the event of a casualty or natural disaster run the risk of defaulting on their mortgage. But other options might be available, particularly for those with jumbo mortgages, since the loans are not subject to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines.

For borrowers who plan to rebuild, insurance proceeds are generally held in escrow by the lender or loan servicer and disbursed according to a schedule as construction progresses. Sometimes that leads to tension, either between the homeowner and the insurance company, which might dispute the extent of the loss, or between the homeowner and the mortgage lender over the disbursement schedule. An independent adjuster can help smooth things out with the insurance company, and an attorney might be able to help borrowers negotiate with the lender.

A standard homeowners-insurance policy will also cover the replacement of personal belongings as well as additional living expenses if it’s not possible to live in a house that has been extensively damaged, according to Jeanne M. Salvatore, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, a trade-industry group.

But jumbo borrowers, or those with substantial savings or low mortgage balances, may opt to pay off the mortgage directly.

“If the client does not want to rebuild or just wants to satisfy the mortgage, they can pay the mortgage in full, and we would release the insurance proceeds back to them,” Mr. Zarro says. “Or, some lenders may allow you to refinance by doing a home-equity loan on the land or what residual structure remains.”

Borrowers who live in developments with homeowners associations may also be required by the association to rebuild the house, as may some local governments.

 | Jan 11, 2017

What Not to Do as a New Homeowner

Avoid these easy-to-prevent mistakes that could cost you big time.

We know so well the thrill of owning your own house — but don’t let the excitement cause you to overlook the basics. We’ve gathered up a half dozen classic boo-boos new homeowners often commit — and give you some insight on why each is critically important to avoid.

1. Not Knowing Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

Water from a burst or broken plumbing pipe can spew dozens of gallons into your home’s interior in a matter of minutes, soaking everything in sight — including drywall, flooring, and valuables. In fact, water damage is one of the most common of all household insurance claims.

Quick-twitch reaction is needed to stave off a major bummer. Before disaster hits, find your water shutoff valve, which will be located where a water main enters your house. Make sure everyone knows where it’s located and how to close the valve. A little penetrating oil on the valve stem makes sure it’ll work when you need it to.

2. Not Calling 811 Before Digging a Hole

Ah, spring! You’re so ready to dig into your new yard and plant bushes and build that fence. But don’t — not until you’ve dialed 811, the national dig-safely hotline. The hotline will contact all your local utilities who will then come to your property — often within a day — to mark the location of underground pipes, cables, and wires.

This free service keeps you safe and helps avoid costly repairs. In many states, calling 811 is the law, so you’ll also avoid fines.

3. Not Checking the Slope of Foundation Soil

The ground around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over 10 feet. Why? To make sure that water from rain and melting snow doesn’t soak the soil around your foundation walls, building up pressure that can cause leaks and crack your foundation, leading to mega-expensive repairs.

This kind of water damage doesn’t happen overnight — it’s accumulative — so the sooner you get after it, the better (and smarter) you’ll be. While you’re at it, make sure downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house.

4. Not Knowing the Depth of Attic Insulation

This goes hand-in-hand with not knowing where your attic access is located, so let’s start there. Find the ceiling hatch, typically a square area framed with molding in a hallway or closet ceiling. Push the hatch cover straight up. Get a ladder and check out the depth of the insulation. If you can see the tops of joists, you definitely don’t have enough.

The recommended insulation for most attics is about R-38 or 10 to 14 inches deep, depending on the type of insulation you choose. BTW, is your hatch insulated, too? Use 4-inch-thick foam board glued to the top.

5. Carelessly Drilling into Walls

Hanging shelves, closet systems, and artwork means drilling into your walls — but do you know what’s back there? Hidden inside your walls are plumbing pipes, ductwork, wires, and cables.

You can check for some stuff with a stud sensor — a $25 battery-operated tool that detects changes in density to sniff out studs, cables, and ducts.

But stud sensors aren’t foolproof. Protect yourself by drilling only 1¼ inches deep max — enough to clear drywall and plaster but not deep enough to reach most wires and pipes.

Household wiring runs horizontally from outlet to outlet about 8 inches to 2 feet from the floor, so that’s a no-drill zone. Stay clear of vertical locations above and below wall switches — wiring runs along studs to reach switches.

6. Cutting Down a Tree

The risk isn’t worth it. Even small trees can fall awkwardly, damaging your house, property, or your neighbor’s property. In some locales, you have to obtain a permit first. Cutting down a tree is an art that’s best left to a professional tree service.

Plus, trees help preserve property values and provide shade that cuts energy bills. So think twice before going all Paul Bunyan.

Article written by JOHN RIHA

7 Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Dog or Cat

Every home contains a variety of everyday items and substances that can be dangerous or even fatal if ingested by dogs and cats. You can protect your pet’s health by becoming aware of the most common health hazards found in many pet-owning households.

Many foods are perfectly safe for humans, but could be harmful or potentially deadly to pets. To be safe, keep the following food items out of your pet’s menu:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Fatty foods
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast dough
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Salt
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Any products containing xylitol (an artificial sweetener)

Always keep garbage out of a pet’s reach, as rotting food contains molds or bacteria that could cause food poisoning.

What to do if your pet is poisoned

Don’t wait! Time is critical for successfully treating accidental poisoning. Pick up the phone and call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-426-4435; a consultation fee may apply). Be prepared to provide your pet’s breed, age, weight and any symptoms. Keep the product container with you to assist in identification so the appropriate treatment recommendations can be made.

Master the Open Storage Trend with Tips that Mix Function and Style

Have you dedicated time to perfecting the decor of your home, but don’t know how to incorporate necessary storage areas? We have the solution for you! These tips will show you how to mix functionality, hospitality, and design seamlessly through the art of open storage. Learn how to keep necessary items in easily accessed areas, all while not disrupting the decorative flow of the room. Organization has finally been made stylish!


Tips for Successful Open Storage Solutions
The key to making organization and storage work for each room in your home is by considering it part of your decorating process. Don’t look at the containers as a nuisance to the flow of the room, but rather make it an integral part of the design! This will lead to interesting ideas for storage that are far from boring. It is important to make sure the items you are placing within these units make sense with the rest of the room; you wouldn’t keep blankets in the dining room! Also, don’t try to cram too much into one room. Retain open space by utilizing each room in your storage plan, and watch your rooms become enhanced.

Within Arm’s Reach:
Deciding between open storage and storing it away? If you use an item on a weekly basis, it’s perfect to be stored on an open shelf. If the item is used only sparingly, store it away in a cabinet or closet. Regular usage will help keep dust at bay, and will look functional rather than unkempt.

Consider It Part of Your Decor:
Create visual interest by mixing colors and patterns, materials and textures, and even varying heights and shapes. If your open storage look is not well designed, it’ll look like the inside of a cabinet—uninteresting. The key is to lead with function, but follow closely with design.

Make Sense of It:
Open storage works best when your shelving sticks to a common theme. Your dining area storage may contain glasses, wine, and other entertaining necessities, but these items could look out of place in the living room, just as blankets and books would look silly close to the dinner table. Stick to a theme, and keep it close to where it will be used.

Think Minimalist:
Don’t overdo it. Use open storage sparingly to keep it clean and modern rather than cluttered. Contain scattered items within a tray, and keep repetitive items (such as glasses or rolled blankets) within neat rows or stacks. Even though some items may look random, everything should be purposeful to remain pretty.

Enhance Your Hot Chocolate with Minty Marshmallows

Is there any food combination more delectable than chocolate and mint? The mixing of chocolate’s richness with the cool, fresh taste of mint is a match made in heaven, making it a popular pairing in candy, cakes, and ice cream, among other sweets.

And with this recipe for minty marshmallows, you can now can add your own touch of mint to wintertime’s most popular beverage, hot chocolate. You’ll be amazed at how satisfying it is when these marshmallows’ flavor melts into the chocolate flavor.

Note: The recipe below calls for peppermint and red food coloring, but these can be replaced with another mint flavor and color to suit your tastes.

Servings: 24 marshmallows


Ingredients:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 (¼-ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 15 drops red food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray, and dust the bottom with about ½ cup confectioners’ sugar.
  2. Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, and ½ cup of water in a bowl, and microwave on high for 12 minutes, stopping to stir halfway through.
  3. Combine the remaining water in a mixing bowl with the gelatin, let sit for 5 minutes, and gradually beat hot syrup mixture into the mixing bowl.
  4. Beat for 8 minutes on medium-low. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat for an additional 10-12 minutes or until mixture is fluffy, shiny, and three times larger.
  5. Mix in the extract, and spread marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan.
  6. Add food coloring to the top of the marshmallow, and swirl with toothpick. Sift about 2 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar to cover the top.
  7. Let stand at room temperature overnight, or refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Cut marshmallows into bite-size squares, or use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes. Toss on the remaining confectioners’ sugar to coat.

 

5 Real Estate Trends That Will Shape 2017

We won’t pretend to know everything that 2017 will bring—heck, 2016 sure surprised us—but we’re pretty certain there will be changes. A lot of them.

We’ve seen interest rates jump since the election, a movement that’s likely to affect the youngest generation of home buyers.

Just like last year, realtor.com®‘s economic data team analyzed our market data and economic indicators to come up with a picture of the key housing trends for 2017. Interest rates have shot up 40 basis points, or 0.4 percentage points, since Trump’s election. And that’s significant, especially for first-time home buyers, including many millennials.

“With more than 95% of first-time home buyers dependent on financing their home purchase, and a majority of first-time buyers reporting one or more financial challenges, the uptick we’ve already seen may price some first-timers out of the market,” says Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke, who worked on the realtor.com 2017 housing forecast.

According to the forecast, the 2017 national real estate market is predicted to slow compared with the past two years, across the majority of economic indicators studied.  But maybe “slowdown” isn’t quite the right description.

“I would characterize our 2017 forecast as a moderation, as opposed to a slowdown,” says Smoke. “The pace of growth is still strong and, for pricing, still represents an above-average level of appreciation.”

Smoke says we’re mostly reverting to normal prices, after years of appreciation as the housing market recovered from its 2008 crash.

Recovery is good, but the flip side is that pricing is tougher for consumers, Smoke points out.

“Throw in higher mortgage rates, and it becomes more challenging to be able to afford homes compared to what it was over the course of this recovery,” he says.

Here are some of the key predictions for 2017:

1. Millennials and boomers will move markets

In 2017, the U.S. real estate market will be in the middle of two massive demographic waves that will power demand for at least the next 10 years.

Millennials and baby boomers, the two largest American generations in history, are both approaching life stages that typically motivate people to buy a home: marriage, having children, retirement, and becoming empty nesters.

Smoke predicts that millennials will make up 33% of buyers in 2017, lower than his original estimate due to those increasing interest rates.

2. Millennials will look to the Midwest

While the financial picture may look grim for our youngest home buyers, the Midwest, with its affordable cities, still looks good. We believe Midwestern cities will continue to beat the national average in terms of its proportion of millennial home buyers in 2017. Leading the pack are Madison, WI; Columbus, OH; Omaha, NE; Des Moines, IA; and Minneapolis.

“It’s easier for millennials to buy in more affordable markets like in the Midwest,” Smoke says. “We’re also seeing large numbers of millennials buying in Midwestern markets with or near big universities. So part of this is an effect of recent graduates with good jobs being able to settle down in these more affordable markets.”

3. Price appreciation will slow down

Nationally, home prices are forecast to slow to 3.9% growth year over year, from an estimated 4.9% in 2016.

“Prices are still likely to go up at an above-average pace as long as supply remains so tight,” Smoke says. “The inventory problem is not going away.”

Of the top 100 largest metros in the country, 26 markets are expected to see price acceleration of 1 percentage point or more, with Greensboro, NC; Akron, OH; and Baltimore experiencing the largest gains. Likewise, 46 markets are expected to see a slowdown in price growth of 1 percentage point or more, with Lakeland, FL; Durham, NC; and Jackson, MS, undergoing the biggest downshift.

4. Fewer homes, fast-moving markets

The inventory of homes available for sale is currently down an average of 11% year over year in the top 100 U.S. metropolitan markets—and the conditions limiting home supply are not expected to change in 2017. The median age of inventory, or the time it takes a home to sell, is currently 68 days in the top 100 metros, which is 14%, or 11 days, faster than the national average.

5. The West will lead the way

We’re expecting metropolitan markets in the West will see a price increase of 5.8% and sales increase of 4.7%, much higher than the U.S. overall. These markets also dominate the ranking of the realtor.com 2017 top housing markets (more on that tomorrow), making up five of the top 10 markets on the list: Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Riverside in California; Tucson, AZ; and Portland, OR.

This article was originally posted/written by Realtor.com

 

Strategies for Greener Living

Sure, you’ve heard about the effects some of our everyday habits have on the environment, whether it is driving our cars around town or heating every square inch of our homes. But did you know these “big” things make up only a relatively small piece of the overall carbon footprint impact?

Approximately forty-two percent of our society’s carbon emissions come from the products we use, and the raising or making, transporting, and disposing of the food we eat. Surprising, huh?

Fortunately, there are simple things we can easily do to help lessen our carbon footprint and, by extension, the effect on the environment. Give these easy eco-friendly ideas a try to not only live greener but to save money, too!

  • Paper or plastic? Neither: Rather, take reusable shopping bags with you when you head to the store. This will decrease energy use and also harmful emissions produced by manufacturing single-use shopping bags (paper or plastic).
  • Thirsty? BYOB: You may not think about it as you’re spending $1 for that bottle of water, but buying three bottles of water per day adds up to about $1,100 per year. Compare that with the roughly 50 cents it costs for the same amount of tap water, and it’s a no-brainer. But there’s more than a cost savings involved here: tap water uses one-thousandth of the energy needed to make the bottled variety.
  • Go vintage: Manufacturing, shipping, and disposal of new goods contributes to environmental pollution. Rather than only buying new things, rely on thrift stores, yard sales, and hand-me-downs. Not only is this better for the environment, but the thrill of the hunt is pretty fun, too!
  • Say goodbye to single-serve: Instead of purchasing chips or snacks in smaller, single-serve bags, purchase snacks in bulk and then divide them up in reusable containers to pack for lunches.
  • Look for plant-based green cleaners: Traditional cleaning products are not only harmful to the environment, they can add dangerous toxins to the air you breathe inside your home, as well. Look for eco-friendly, plant-based cleaners with a list of ingredients. Or, better yet, make your own green cleaners (link)!

  • Eat local: Consider shopping for produce at your local farmer’s market rather than the supermarket. Fruits and veggies sourced locally require less fuel for transportation, support nearby farmers, and are fresher, thanks to less travel time.
  • Cut back on meat: Raising livestock is resource-intensive and accounts for double the greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-free meals. Did you know incorporating one meat-free meal into your diet each week has the same environmental impact as driving a hybrid car?
  • Start a compost pile: Composting helps cut energy use and carbon emissions from processing waste. And, as a bonus, it creates dense, nutrient rich-soil perfect for feeding your garden. To help control the smell, consider collecting your compost in a closed container. Be sure to check your local regulations on compost guidelines.

  • Lighten up: Fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs create more light while also using less power. Replace old incandescent bulbs with newer, energy efficient bulbs to reduce your carbon footprint—and enjoy the savings.
  • Use ENERGY STAR® appliances: Energy Star is the EPA’s program that helps Americans save money and use less energy. Always look for appliances that bear the Energy Star seal, to lessen the negative effects on the environment. For instance, switching to an Energy Star-certified TV reduces carbon dioxide emissions by forty-six pounds over the lifetime of the product!
  • Insulate and seal your home: This will not only cut carbon emissions from the energy demand, but it will also help maintain comfortable temperatures in your home throughout the year—and helps lower your energy bill!

  • Take the bus: Public transit is more fuel-efficient than cars and is estimated to reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by thirty-seven million metric tons. Bonus: taking the bus also frees up your commute time to let you do something you enjoy, such as reading or catching up with your friends and family.
  • Walk or bike: Not only is this option eco-friendly, but it is better for your health, too! This green option burns 250 to 550 calories per hour and keeps exhaust-producing cars off the road. The Earth—and your waistline—will thank you.
  • Rethink air travel: Conduct business via phone or video conference. If long-distance travel is a must, consider going old school by taking the train to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
  • Explore the option of flex time: Check with your employer to see if you have the option of utilizing flex time. Some companies will let you work from home, either part-time or full-time, if they can see a benefit for the company, as well. By working from home, you will eliminate your commute altogether, leading to a positive impact on the environment.
  • Carpool: If flex time is not an option for you and you must go into the office, consider carpooling with coworkers who live nearby. This reduces the number of cars on the road, which will reduce the pollutants and emissions released into
    the air.

What changes will you make?
Incorporating small changes into your everyday life can add up to big changes for the environment. What changes on this list can you implement today for a better tomorrow?

3 Tips for Pet Owners When Purchasing a Home

When you treat your furry, feathered or scaly friend as a member of your family, it’s important to keep your pet’s needs in mind in any pending home purchase.

Ensuring whether local ordinances, regulations and neighborhood environment welcome pets will affect how well your beloved acclimates to your new home and how much freedom there is for his or her activities.

Here are some tips to help ensure your future home and neighborhood are pet-friendly:

1. Check local requirements
For any potential home purchase, familiarize yourself with city and county ordinances that are in place for health and safety reasons. Often, they require you to obey leash laws and clean up after your pet in public places. Noncompliance can result in a fine. Many communities are striving to create and maintain environmentally friendly and pet-friendly parks. Information on what pet parks and playgrounds exist in the area of a potential home should be available from the local parks and recreation department.

If you plan to house farm animal as a pet, such as a goat or a donkey, clarify the zoning regulations and ordinances with the proper officials. While house pets such as cats, dogs, birds, fish and rabbits are acceptable in most types of housing, there may be restrictions on the total number of animals allowed in a single dwelling.

2. Ask for apartment or HOA rules

While a single-family home is likely to provide your pet with the most freedom, a townhouse, apartment or condominium may be what fits your budget. For these options, check the townhouse or condo board rules and regulations for pets. Homeowners associations (HOAs) typically govern condos and townhouses with rules and bylaws for what’s allowed, disallowed and required. Some HOAs will allow pets but restrict them to certain areas on the property. You may face fines for violating the rules and bylaws.

3. Assess the home layout
Consider creature comforts inside and outside the home. Will your pet have enough yard our living space to live and play in without difficulty? Will your pet be happier with carpeting or tiled floors? Note whether the windows are at floor level, as your pet can accidentally run into them. Check the layout of the home and think about what would be needed to make your pet comfortable there. If your pet is older, stairs may be difficult and your pet could be confined to a single floor in the house.

Examine the outside of the home, too. Is there a doghouse or place for your pet to roam? Is the yard fenced? If you have a big, hairy dog, you might want a garden faucet to use when bathing your pet.

If a pet is a central part of your life, you will find personal enjoyment in your future house only if it accommodates the needs of your pet. As you consider the needs of your family, including pets, decide what you must have and what you can compromise on. You can also speak casually to potential neighbors to see if they are pet-friendly. After all, a happy pet makes a happy owner.

By 

7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

Follow these seven strategies to get the most financial gain on your kitchen remodel.

Homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project. And with good reason: Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.

A significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs may be recovered by the value the project brings to your home. A complete kitchen renovation with a national median cost of $60,000 recovers about 67% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to the “2015 Remodeling Impact Report” from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The project gets a big thumbs-up from homeowners, too. Those polled in the “Report” gave their new kitchen a Joy Score of 9.8 — a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling, with 10 being the highest rating and 1 the lowest.

To maximize your return on investment, follow these seven strategies to keep you on budget and help you make smart choices.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem will be minimized. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment.

Some tips on planning:

Study your existing kitchen: How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? It’s a common mistake many homeowners make: Buying the extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway. To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height, too.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets; counter heights that can adjust up or down; a wall oven instead of a range: These are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Expect fees around $50 to $150 per hour, or 5% to 15% of the total cost of the project.

2. Keep the Same Footprint

Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.

So if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

3. Get Real About Appliances

It’s easy to get carried away when planning your new kitchen. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

Appliances are essentially tools used to cook and store food. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be about the tools, but the design and functionality of the entire kitchen.

So unless you’re an exceptional cook who cooks a lot, concentrate your dollars on long-term features that add value, such as cabinets and flooring.

Then choose appliances made by trusted brands that have high marks in online reviews and Consumer Reports.

4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lighting

Lighting can make a world of difference in a kitchen. It can make it look larger and brighter. And it will help you work safely and efficiently. You should have two different types of lighting in your kitchen:

Task Lighting: Under-cabinet lighting should be on your must-do list, since cabinets create such dark work areas. And since you’re remodeling, there won’t be a better time to hard-wire your lights. (Here’s more about under-cabinet lights.) Plan for at least two fixtures per task area to eliminate shadows. Pendant lights are good for islands and other counters without low cabinets. Recessed lights and track lights work well over sinks and general prep areas with no cabinets overhead.

Ambient lighting: Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights create overall lighting in your kitchen. Include dimmer switches to control intensity and mood.

5. Be Quality-Conscious

Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains, and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they’ll look great for a long time.

And if you’re planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.

6. Add Storage, Not Space

Storage will never go out of style, but if you’re sticking with the same footprint, here are a couple of ideas to add more:

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops.

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors; hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack; and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

7. Communicate Clearly With Your Remodelers

Establishing a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project:

Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boom box noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.

Be kind: Offer refreshments (a little hospitality can go a long way), give praise when warranted, and resist pestering them with conversation, jokes, and questions when they are working. They’ll work better when refreshed and allowed to concentrate on work.

CHICKEN MEATBALLS WITH MARINARA SAUCE

Nothing really sounds quite as Paleo-friendly then meatballs, right? Unfortunately, traditional meatball recipes nearly always contain a very non-Paleo ingredient – breadcrumbs. In order for meatballs to retain their shape while cooking, some kind of bonding ingredient (usually breadcrumbs or some variant) is needed. This recipe substitutes almond meal (aka almond flour) in place of a traditional grain-based bonder so that you can enjoy meatballs while not turning away from your Paleo diet.

One important thing to note about this recipe is that it does not include your ingredients for marinara sauce, just that you’ll need about 2 – 3 cups of it. You can always grab an off-the-shelf sauce for the quickest prep time (after carefully reading through your ingredients list first); but, if you have more time, consider prepping your own sauce in advance. Homemade marinara sauce made from fresh tomatoes is the kind of thing you can make in batches and freeze for later – a great way to save time on nights where you just need to get something on the table.

If you are hoping to go for a Paleo spaghetti and meatballs dish (probably the most kid-friendly and inexpensive bet), you can pair these meatballs with your choice of zoodles. But your options aren’t limited to just a spaghetti substitute! Try serving these meatballs atop a plate of this scrumptious Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini dish, or as part of a kabob recipe like these Tomato and Mushrooms skewers to build some versatility into your meal plan.

Chicken Meatballs with Marinara Sauce Recipe

Serves:  4     Prep:  15     Cook: 20 min

Protein:  38grams  Fat:  22grams  Carbs: 15grams

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground chicken or turkey;
  • 1 egg, beaten;
  • 1/4 cup almond meal;
  • 1 garlic clove, minced;
  • 1 tsp. dried basil;
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano;
  • Fresh basil;
  • 2 to 3 cups marinara sauce;
  • Cooking fat;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;

Preparation

  1. In a bowl, combine chicken or turkey with egg, almond meal, garlic, dried basil, and dried oregano; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Scoop and form the meatballs with your hands (to avoid stickiness, rub your hands with olive oil).
  3. Melt some cooking fat in a skillet over high-heat.
  4. Brown the meatballs in batches on all sides, 1 to 2 minutes per side.
  5. Lower heat to medium and add all the meatballs to the skillet; pour the marinara sauce over the meatballs.
  6. Cover and simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
  7. Serve topped with fresh basil.

 

How Much Are Closing Costs? What Home Buyers and Sellers Can Expect

Closing costs are the fees paid to third parties that help facilitate the sale of a home, and they vary widely by location. But as a rule, you can estimate that they typically total 2% to 7% of the home’s purchase price. So on a $250,000 home, your closing costs would amount to anywhere from $5,000 to $17,500. Yep that’s one heck of a wide range. More on that below.

Both buyers and sellers typically pitch in on closing costs, but buyers shoulder the lion’s share of the load (3% to 4% of the home’s price) compared with sellers (1% to 3%). And while some closing costs must be paid before the home is officially sold (e.g., the home inspection fee when the service is rendered), most are paid at the end when you close on the home and the keys exchange hands.

How much are closing costs for buyers?

Home buyers pay the majority of closing costs since many of these fees are associated with the mortgage.

“If you’re paying cash for a property, there are still a few closing costs, but they are significantly less,” says Cara Ameer, a Realtor® in Ponte Vedra, FL. Here are some of the fees home buyers should brace themselves to pay:

  • A loan origination fee, which lenders charge for processing the paperwork for your loan.
  • A fee for running your credit report.
  • A fee for the underwriter, who assesses your credit worthiness.
  • A fee for the appraisal of the home you hope to own to make sure its value matches the size of the loan you want.
  • A fee for the home inspection, which checks the home for potential problems from cracks in the foundation to a leaky roof.
  • A fee for a title search to unearth any liens on the property that could interfere with your ownership of it.
  • A survey fee if it’s a single-family home or townhome (but not condos)
  • Taxes, also called stamp taxes, on the money you’ve borrowed for your home loan.

How much are closing costs for sellers?

Here are the closing costs that sellers are typically responsible for:

  • A closing fee, paid to the title company or attorney’s office where everyone meets to close on the home.
  • Taxes on the home sale.
  • A fee for an attorney, if the home seller has one.
  • A fee for transferring the title to the new owner.

 

While this doesn’t seem like much compared with what home buyers have to cough up, keep in mind that sellers typically pay all real estate agents’ commissions, which amount to 4% to 7% of the home’s sales price. So, no one sneaks through a home closing scot-free.

Why closing costs vary

The reason for the huge disparity in closing costs boils down to the fact that different states and municipalities have different legal requirements—and fees—for the sale of a home.

“If you live in a jurisdiction with high title insurance premiums and property transfer taxes, they can really add up,” says David Reiss, research director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “New York City, for instance, has something called a mansion tax, which adds a 1% tax to sales that exceed $1 million. And then there are the surprise expenses that can crop up like so-called ‘flip taxes’ that condos charge sellers.”

To estimate your closing costs, plug your numbers into an online closing costs calculator, or ask your Realtor, lender, or mortgage broker for a more accurate estimate. Then, at least three days before closing, the lender is required by federal law to send buyers a closing disclosure that outlines those costs once again. (Meanwhile sellers should receive similar documents from their Realtor outlining their own costs.)

Word to the wise: “Before you close, make sure to review these documents to see if the numbers line up to what you were originally quoted,” says Ameer. Errors can and do creep in, and since you’re already ponying up so much cash, it pays, literally, to eyeball those numbers one last time before the big day.

Judy Dutton is a senior editor at realtor.com covering news and advice about home buying, selling, decorating, and everything in between (judy.dutton@move.com).

7 Organizing Strategies to Be More Productive When You Work From Home

Tips to create a home office space that makes the most of your time.

Working from home is the dream, isn’t it? No more long commute (or drama from your cubicle mate). It’s so much easier to be productive, right?

But then … something happens. Your Netflix queue beckons. You can’t unsee that pile of dirty laundry. Your fluffy bed seduces you into taking a two-hour siesta.

Now you’re behind and working weekends to catch up. You need help. You need an organized workspace. “It really allows you to focus on what’s important,” says Calabasas, Calif.-based organizer Lori Gersh.

Here’s how to fix your home work space to pump up your productivity:

1. Purge First

Sure, shopping for organizers is fun. They don’t call it “retail therapy” for nothing. But to create a system primed for maximum output, you first should soldier through the task of ditching paperwork and office supplies that clutter rather than help, and, most importantly, finding homes for all things unrelated to work (well, except for a sentimental photo or two — and plants; plants are good). Consider it boot camp to get your work life in shape. Plus, the more open and organized your space is, the easier it’ll be to focus.

2. Create a Work Hub — Even if Space Is Minimal

A separate room with only one function — work — is ideal, but so is a beachfront address. Just because you don’t have a spare room doesn’t mean you can’t have an “office.” You can easily create one.

A small desk and storage ottoman for files and supplies may be all you need.

Or a small coat closet could be repurposed if you need something more substantial. Relocate the coats and jackets to hooks in your entry or move them to other closets, and convert that closet into a work nook with a built-in tabletop and floating shelves.

But if you work from a multi-purpose space like the kitchen table, or prefer to roam from table to couch, it’s a bit more of a challenge — but still solvable.

Try a rolling cart loaded with your work supplies. “It helps you focus because you have things right where you need them,” says New York City organizer Stephanie Shalofsky. (There’s a ton of sizes and configurations to choose from, and most are less than $100.) Then simply roll it out of sight when company comes.

3. Use Vertical Space to Organize

It’s surprising how often wall space is overlooked as an organizing solution. When everything you need is right there on your wall and easy to find, your productivity jumps.

Buy ready-to-hang cubbies, or create your own system, and hang them just as you would a collection of pictures. Some other ideas:

  • Use a pegboard to store supplies such as scissors, calendars, and notes.
  • Stow files in magazine holders mounted to the walls.
  • Hang a shoe organizer with clear sleeves to keep supplies such as pens in plain sight (this will work on a rolling cart, too, if you cut it to fit).

4. Separate Household Files From Work Files

If you do business and household duties from the same space, you need separate systems to help you stay focused, Shalofsky says. This is super easy to do. You just need to commit to do it:

  • Keep two different calendars and to-do lists.
  • Use different drawers, cabinets, shelves, or file bins.

Then keep those household files out of sight when you’re working. Just like seeing a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, seeing bills waiting to be paid can entice your mind to wander.

5. Turn Away From Temptation

For most home-based workers, the comfort of home is the prime saboteur of productivity. Is your workspace in sight of distractions, such as your TV, or the dining room you still haven’t finished painting? “If it doesn’t have to do with your business, it will clog up your space and your head,” Gersh says.

If you have to work from the kitchen table, choose a seat facing a wall or window rather than the sink or stove.

If there’s no place to set up shop other than next to the TV, sit with your back toward it. If that’s not possible, think about hiding your TV, literally. You can disguise it behind a painting or mirror. That creates a barrier, forcing you to actively choose watching TV over doing business.

Or, if space permits, position a freestanding bookshelf or screen between your work space and household distractions.

Here’s a nice little bonus: These tactics also have the added benefit of putting your work out of sight when you’re ready to relax at home.

6. Set Boundaries on Browsing

OK, this is a challenge even people stuck in the office face: A little bit of Facebook browsing here and a few minutes of online shopping there is all too tempting. But it’s even worse when you work from home because your boss can’t see you.

But it’s your home. Your castle. Where you ARE the boss.

With that mindset, think about creating some accountability for yourself. Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Create a different browser profile for work use, so your favorite bookmarks aren’t beckoning during office hours.

2. Enlist the aid of an online tool, such as Focus or Freedom, which can keep you in check by blocking access to sites that’ll suck you in (ahem, Pinterest) when you’re working.

You just might boost your productivity enough to take Friday afternoon off. So maybe you’ll get to finish painting the dining room after all, and still have the weekend off to enjoy it. How sweet is that?

7. Tidy Up Before Clocking Out

When you work from home, there’s no cleaning crew to spruce up your space after hours, and no peer pressure to maintain a somewhat-orderly space. So although it’s tempting to let it be, take just a few moments to toss unnecessary paperwork, remove trash, and make sure your work space is ready for work in the a.m. By clearing the way today, you’ll hit the ground running tomorrow.

Congratulations. You’re now living the work-at-home dream!

6 Heroic Pets That Went All Out Guarding Their Homes

Pets aren’t just beloved members of the family—they can also serve as the ultimate clawed, fanged, taloned, and hoofed home protectors.

Yes, that’s right: Canines are far from the only (or even best) watchdogs in town. Cats, pigs, ferrets, and even birds have proved their worth keeping homes and their inhabitants safe from fire, poisonous gas, bullets, and even bears.

While pets can’t always save a place single-handedly (or -pawedly), having them is good not just for the soul, but for our property, too.

Polly is a hero

Parrots can do much more than mimic human speech with disturbing (and highly annoying) accuracy, as evidenced by a parrot named Pearly.

In 2014, after a fire started in the laundry room of its owner’s home in Fort Lauderdale, FL, this Indian ringneck parrot actually beat the smoke detectors as an alarm (birds are extremely sensitive to fumes). Even though Pearly couldn’t leave its cage, the bird flapped and squawked until the owners woke up and called the fire department, avoiding major damage to the house.

Maybe now the entire family will come to love, or at least appreciate, the 3-year-old bird.

“My children never liked the bird and [my fiancé] Dave doesn’t like the bird either, so now maybe the bird will be [seen] in a better light,” homeowner Laurajean Nisel told ABC News Local10.

Three legs of fury

What has three legs and takes bullets to stop a robbery? That would be Levi, an affectionate 15-year-old pit bull in Janesville, WI.

During a home invasion in January, when a robber threatened Darcy Cherry and her boyfriend with a gun, the brave dog put himself between his owner and her assailant and got shot. Luckily, the bullet only grazed his head and lodged in his shoulder. But the dog did his job: The robber fled, empty-handed.

It wasn’t Levi’s first brush with the criminal element: A couple of years earlier, he had been dognapped. And did we mention that he had lost his leg after a hiking accident?! This dog has either the best luck or the worst. But suffice it to say, his owners feel very lucky to have him.

Super pig

Most people don’t take pigs for pets, but science has shown that, as far as animals go, pigs have pretty high IQs. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that a sweet-hearted swine named Lucky in Mt. Carmel, IL, saved an entire family from a fire in their trailer in June 2014.

“He jumped down, hit the bedroom door, jumped back up, hit the bed, and rooted me really hard. When I sat up, the room was really smoky,” owner Ina Farler told NBC News. She, her two grandchildren, and Lucky escaped the blaze. That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.

You rescue me, I’ll rescue you

A couple of years ago, Craig Jeeves rescued a stray cat named Sally. Well, Sally returned the favor and rescued the 49-year-old Australian right back: After a fire broke out in his home in September 2014, Sally woke Jeeves in time to escape the flames.

“She jumped on my head and was sort of, like, screaming at me,” Jeeves told On Demand News while he stood outside the blackened shell of his home. Fine, the home didn’t survive, but as long as these two have each other, we aren’t too worried.

Puppy battles a bear—and wins

Does a pint-size puppy stand a chance against a massive bear? It does if the pup in question is Coco, defending three sleeping kids.

After a black bear broke into Priscilla Epperson’s Gatlinburg, TN, house one evening in September 2014, it wandered into a bedroom where the tykes were snoozing. That’s when Coco went ballistic. Epperson, who was doing the laundry, went to see what the fuss was about.

Coco “had chased the bear outside and freaked it out. She was running so fast, it looked like the bear got confused and just took off running up the driveway,” Epperson told WRTV 6. “I’ve seen a million bears since I’ve been here, but I’ve never seen one run from a dog.”

The superior senses of Max

Somehow, dogs can tell when something’s wrong. In early March 2014, Max, a German shepherd from Novato, CA, dragged his 80-year-old owner into the hallway when a wall heater broke, pouring carbon monoxide and natural gas into the house. The owner, Jack Farrell, had succumbed to the fumes, but he was able to recover in the hall. He escaped, and Max got a whole lot of treats—as he should.

Big Banks Behind Growth in Home Flipping

Despite rising home prices, house flipping is still hot. And it’s the banks that are being credited as helping investors jump back in lately.

Banks are offering up greater financing vehicles for house flippers. Bank giants like Wells Fargo & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., for example, have extended credit lines to companies that specialize in lending to home flippers, The Wall Street Journal reports. J.P. Morgan reportedly is lending an estimated $60 million to 5 Arch Funding, a company that offers financing to home flippers in Irvine, Calif.

“The floodgates have opened,” Eduardo Axtle of Oakland, Calif., who has taken out about 50 home loans over the past five years.

In the first nine months of 2016, the number of investors who flipped a house reached the highest level since 2007. Further, about a third of the deals in the third quarter were financed.

Private lenders reportedly are even, in some cases, offering debt in excess of the value of the home (also known as a high loan-to-value ratio). Lenders reportedly also are loosening up their documentation rules. They may still require bank statements to get a loan but not a W-2 tax earnings statement. What’s more, home flippers are finding greater financing opportunities through online lenders, such as LendingHome Corp. and Asset Avenue Inc., or crowdfunding websites, such as Groundfloor Finance Inc.

DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2016

Pistachio Tiramisu Recipe

Tiramisu, meaning “pick me up” in Italian, has seen a rise and fall in popularity since its invention in the 1960s. Chopped judge, and one of New York’s favorite chefs, Marc Murphy, brings back the attention it deserves in his debut cookbook.

 


Ingredients

  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 16 ounces mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoons pistachio paste
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 2 cups brewed espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 24 ladyfingers
  • Pistachios, for garnish

Step 1: 
Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan. In a large bowl that will fit snugly over the saucepan, combine the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Place the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom does not touch the water, and cook, whisking continuously, until the sugar dissolves into the yolks and the mixture becomes thick and pale, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat. Whisk in the mascarpone and pistachio paste.

Step 2: 
In a medium bowl, combine the egg whites with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Using a hand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar, and raise the mixer speed to high. Whip the egg whites until they are glossy and form stiff peaks. Whisk half of the whipped egg whites into the mascarpone mixture to lighten it. Fold the remaining egg whites into the mixture until combined.

Step 3: 
In a small, shallow dish, combine the espresso and brandy, and swirl around. Dip each ladyfinger into the espresso mixture for just 5 seconds. (Letting the ladyfingers soak too long will cause them to fall apart.) Place the soaked ladyfingers over the bottom of a 9-inch square baking dish; you should be able to fit two rows of 6 ladyfingers on the bottom. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly over the ladyfingers. Arrange another layer of the soaked ladyfingers over the mascarpone, and top with the remaining mascarpone mixture. Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight. Decorate with pistachios before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings.

8 Hidden Costs When You Buy a Home

Now that you know what they are, you can plan ahead.

With your focus on building your down payment fund and figuring out what your mortgage payment will be, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller fees that come along with a home purchase. Here are eight and what they could cost you.

1. Home Inspection

A home inspection helps protect you from purchasing a home that could be a lemon. So you don’t want to forgo it. Your inspector isn’t required to be an expert in everything. If you suspect termites, asbestos, and foundational issues, for instance, you’ll need to hire a specialist.Inspectors will look for signs of structural issues, mold, and leaks; assess the condition of the roof, gutters, water heater, heating and cooling system; and more. Inspections cost between $300 and $500, and whether or not you end up purchasing the property, you still need to pay this fee.

2. Appraisal Fee

This appraisal report goes to your lender to assure it that the property is worth what you’re paying for it. This report worked in our favor a couple of years ago when our home came back appraised for $10,000 less than our bid; the sellers had to reduce their asking price in order to move forward. If you’re selling, review the appraisal thoroughly for any oddball numbers or descriptions that could affect the value of your home. An appraisal can take about 2 hours and costs between $200 and $425.

3. Application Fees

Before ever approving you for a loan, the lender is going to run your credit report and charge you an application fee, often lumping the credit report fee in with the application fee. This can run $75 to $300. Be sure to ask for a breakdown of the application fees to understand all costs.

4. Title Services

These fees cover a title search of the public records for the property you’re buying, notary fees for the person witnessing your signature on documents, government filing fees, and more. These can cost between $150 and $400, and it’s important to get a line item for each cost.

5. Lender’s Origination Fees

Your lender will charge you this upfront free for making the mortgage loan. This includes processing the loan application, underwriting the loan (researching whether to approve you), and funding the loan. These fees are quoted as a percentage of the total loan you’re taking out and generally range between 0.5 to 1.5%.

6. Survey Costs

This report ($150 to $400) confirms the property’s boundaries, outlining its major features and dimensions.

7. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

When you put down less than 20% on your new home, the lender requires that you purchase Your lender must cancel PMI once you reach 78% of your loan-to-value ratio or you have 22% equity. But you can petition to cancel early when your LTV hits 80%.Read More InCancel Your Private Mortgage Insurance PMI,  which is a policy that protects the lender from losing money if you end up in foreclosure. So PMI is a policy that you have to buy to protect the lender from you. PMI rates can vary from 0.3% to 1.5% of your original loan amount annually.

8. Tax Service Fee

This is the cost (about $50) to ensure that all property tax payments are up to date and that the payments you make are appropriately credited to the right home.

Always ask questions when it comes to understanding the fees you’re paying. If possible, print out documents and go through them with a highlighter to indicate any areas you have concerns about. Discuss them with your lender or real estate agent and determine if you can negotiate any of them down.

Don’t be afraid to price shop to ensure you’re getting the best value. Just because you’re spending hundreds of thousands on a home doesn’t mean you should be comfortable throwing thousands of dollars at fees.

This article was contributed by financial expert and blogger Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP, author, speaker, and founder of Workable Wealth. She provides financial coaching for individuals and couples in their 20s to 40s across the country, helping them make smart, educated choices with their money.