Richard Parke
Richard Parke

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Just Say No to Used Furniture

September 4, 2015 1:37 am

For college students, the temptation to re-use another’s furniture is considerable – it’s free! But bringing used furniture into your apartment can also invite unwanted guests: bed bugs.

According to Jonathan Boyar, owner of pest management firm Ecologic Entomology, all used furniture is suspect and should be avoided. Bugs can hide in crevices deep inside the furniture that are not easily inspected.

Store-bought insecticides and home remedies, Boyar says, almost never eliminate bed bug infestations in the home or on infested furniture. Those products can actually make the problem worse by spreading the bugs out into areas where they don’t normally exist, making the eventual remedial process even more difficult.

If you suspect a problem in your apartment, contact your landlord as soon as possible to have the issue assessed, advises Boyar. The problem may not be limited to just one apartment and the landlord may need to inspect all abutting units or every unit in the building. Pest control companies need the consent of the property owner to perform treatments in their building.

Source: Ecologic Entomology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Remain Below 4 Percent

September 4, 2015 1:37 am

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) recently averaged 3.89 percent with an average 0.6 point, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The rate, a slight nose up, comes amid volatile market activity and “essentially no new information,” says Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti.

“The 30-year mortgage rate increased 5 basis points, but don’t read too much into that,” Becketti says. “The Fed took great pains at the Jackson Hole conference to keep all their options open and to avoid talking too much – or too little – of the situation in China and the volatility in global equity markets.”

The 15-year FRM averaged 3.09 percent with an average 0.6 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.93 percent with an average 0.4 point, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.62 percent with an average 0.3 point.

Source: Freddie Mac

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Travel Trends to Expect This Labor Day

September 3, 2015 1:37 am

Leave it to the last minute. According to a recent Expedia.com® report, one-fifth of Labor Day travelers this year booked travel accommodations in July – late by most booking standards. In addition, many travelers, late bookers or not, are headed overseas for a last-weekend-of-summer getaway.

International hot spots for Labor Day include:

• London
• Barcelona
• Florence
• Paris
• Rome

"The favorable exchange rates we've seen this summer are a welcome relief for travelers looking to experience Europe," says Expedia Senior Editor Ingrid Belobradic. "Coupled with the already great promotions available, we're seeing opportunities for strong savings this Labor Day across international and domestic destinations."

Source: Expedia.com

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5 Ways to Ready Your Hardscapes for Fall

September 3, 2015 1:37 am

When designing an outdoor space, start from the ground up.

According to the experts at Belgard® Hardscapes, homeowners can enjoy their patio, poolscape or driveway well into the fall season with a few key upgrades:

• Install a fireplace or fire pit as part of a backyard space to serve as a much-loved gathering spot and a complementing, permanent part of an overall outdoor living design.

• Explore large-format pavers for a natural stone look that mimics the appearance and texture of slate, flagstone or hand-chiseled rock.

• Take advantage of modular units like grill islands, brick ovens or wood boxes to create a customized outdoor space.

• Plant fall perennials that bloom during the season, including tall grasses, mums and certain varieties of hydrangeas.

• Define a space and add extra seating with built-in seat walls and add ottomans, throw pillows and stools to create an inviting outdoor setting.

Source: Belgard® Hardscapes

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6 Fall Lawn Care Tips by Zone

September 3, 2015 1:37 am

As summer transitions to fall, your lawn will begin to store moisture and nutrients in preparation for the upcoming winter. As a homeowner, there are a few steps you can take now to help your lawn in the process, according to Grass Seed USA, a national coalition of academic turf specialists and grass seed farmers.

"September is the best time to prepare your lawn for the dormant winter months," says Grass Seed USA Executive Director Bryan Ostlund. "This time of year, simple lawn care chores such as reseeding, weeding and aerating will help your grass immensely."

The United States can be roughly divided into three grass-growing zones:

• Warm Zone
• Cool Zone
• Transition Zone


If you live in the Warm Zone, few winterization measures are needed and new warm-season lawns are best planted in the late spring or early summer. One option you may want to consider is overseeding, or adding cool-season grass seed over your warm-season turf. The cool-season grass will thrive until the warm-season grass turns green again in the spring, giving you a lush lawn year-round.

Homeowners in the Cool Zone and Transition Zone should take similar steps to prepare their lawns for winter, including:

• Adding seed to thicken an existing lawn;


If your lawn is looking thin or if you need to fill in some bare patches, now is the time to reseed. Talk to a turf specialist at a garden shop or university extension agent to find out what type of seed is best for your lawn conditions. Spread the seed over your existing lawn and then water lightly and regularly, making sure the reseeded areas stay moist until the new grass grows in. Transition Zone homeowners with warm-season grasses also have the option of overseeding their lawns to keep them green through the winter.

• Dethatching;

A certain amount of thatch – the tightly packed layer of organic matter between the grass blades and the soil surface – can benefit your lawn, but if the layer exceeds half an inch, it can keep moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil and can harbor fungus and insect pests. If your lawn needs to be dethatched, you can rent a vertical mower or hire a professional to do the job for you.

• Aerating;

Older or heavily trafficked lawns can suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines will pull small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water, nutrients and oxygen into the soil. You can rent an aerator or hire a professional to aerate your lawn for you.

• Raising your mower blades;

Let your grass grow a bit taller in the fall, usually between one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half inches. If you cut it too short, you'll severely limit its ability to make and store food for growth in the spring. If the grass is too long it can become matted, which leads to problems as well.

• Winterizing your irrigation system.

If you live in an area where the frost level extends below the depth of your irrigation pipes, be sure to shut off the water to the irrigation system and drain all the pipes before the first freeze.

Source: Grass Seed USA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Ways to Save on Bank Costs

September 2, 2015 1:33 am

Did you know the majority of Americans spend more money on milk than they do on banking? According to a recent American Bankers Association (ABA) survey, nearly three-quarters of bank customers spend $3 or less in monthly banking fees, and approximately 60 percent pay nothing at all for banking services.

“We’ve seen tremendous innovations to bank services over the last decade that have allowed our customers to bank in the way that is most convenient for them and at little or no cost,” says ABA Senior Vice President and Deputy Chief Counsel, Consumer Protection and payments Nessa Feddis. “Today’s consumers have become adept at using the many options that may allow them to bank for free, whether it’s maintaining a minimum balance, opting for direct deposit or using ATMs owned by their bank.”

To cut banking costs, the ABA recommends bank customers do the following:

• Utilize free checking and savings accounts. Many banks still offer them, especially if you maintain a minimum balance. Shop your own bank first.

• Utilize direct deposit. Many checking accounts are free when you use direct deposit.

• Keep a minimum balance. Consider keeping a small amount to pad your account. This helps to avoid monthly fees and accidental overdrafts.

• Take advantage of college partnerships with banks. College students may find special checking account deals at banks with which their college has a partnership.

• Keep multiple accounts at your bank. Many banks seek the entire customer relationship and may offer free service if you maintain both checking and savings accounts with them.

• Use your bank’s ATMs and reduce the use of foreign ATMs. Avoid fees by using ATMs owned by or affiliated with your bank. If you must use an ATM not affiliated with your bank, take out larger withdrawals to avoid having to go back multiple times. Consider the cash-back option at the grocery store.

• Don’t spend more money than you have. Keep track of transactions and account balances to avoid overdraft fees, which is easier to do with features such as mobile banking apps.

• Sign up for email or text alerts. Ask for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level.

Source: ABA

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Gardeners: Don't Fear Fall Frost

September 2, 2015 1:33 am

(BPT) - As summer winds down and frost threatens, even avid gardeners may be tempted to pack up their trowels and call it a season. You may think it's better to leave the victory garden gracefully than risk the disappointment of watching crops wither in chilly temperatures. But fear of frost and failure don't have to stop you from enjoying a fruitful fall garden. With the right plant choices and a few tricks, producing a hefty harvest can be easy.

Frost occurs when temperatures drop enough to condense and freeze the moisture in the air. In fall, when air temperatures sink, it's common to find frost layering the ground, leaves and crops. Frost may occur frequently in the fall before the ground really becomes frozen. This is known as a hard freeze.

While a hard freeze generally heralds the end of the growing season and frost can harm warm weather crops like oranges, some veggies actually do very well - and taste better - when nipped by frost. By stocking your fall garden with frost-loving varieties, you can ensure your garden remains victorious and bountiful right up to the first hard freeze. Not sure when the hard freeze will occur in your region? Check out the USDA’s Freeze Map.

When you consider the many advantages of fall gardening, frost shouldn't be feared. Cooler temperatures mean you'll have a more comfortable experience while working in the garden, and you'll have fewer insect pests and weeds to deal with.

To start, clear out the remnants of summer plantings and debris and get the ground ready for fall favorites like spinach, cabbage, collards and kale. These hearty, leafy vegetables actually like the chill weather and can stand up to some frost. Certain root veggies, such as radishes and turnips, also do well in cooler temperatures.

When planning your fall garden, time is of the essence. Start with well-established, vigorous plants, which not only see faster growth, but ensure strength during unexpected or extreme temperature variations. Remember to choose short-season varieties that will produce quicker in fall's shorter growing season.

Even though your fall vegetables might be able to handle the cold, you may want an extra layer of protection for unseasonably cool nights. Choose a location for your garden that gets plenty of sun, especially in the morning when you'll want plants to quickly shake off overnight chill. Planting in a raised bed also helps insulate plants and their tender roots from ground freezes. Container gardens are also great for fall; when a severe frost or hard freeze threatens, you can bring plants inside overnight for protection.

Sometimes you may want to cover plants against extreme cold. One option is a cold frame. Typically constructed of wood and glass or plastic, the frame sits over plants like a portable mini greenhouse. You can build your own - an online search will yield plenty of how-to plans - or purchase a prefabricated one. For less severe situations, simply turning a pot or bucket upside down over tender young plants can be enough to shield them from cold.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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12 Inspiring Fall and Winter Color Trends

September 2, 2015 1:33 am

Global color authority Pantone recently released its forecast of autumn and winter color palettes, emphasizing a “mixology of real and unreal.” For homeowners, this forecast can inform seasonal design inspiration when transitioning a home’s decor from summer to autumn and autumn to winter.

Black
- Newly appreciated as a prestige color, black is the pulsating force behind Pantone’s forecast and the perfect canvas on which other colors are revealed.

White
- Appearing in cool and warm guises, white is important because of its properties, as opposed to its actual color.

Grays - Essential to the palette, grays stretch across a variety of hues, warm and natural, muted and hard.

Green - Green can go in two directions: the first more yellowish and olive oil-led; the second cooler, sometimes glassy, but also more mineral, cool and Nordic.

Yellow - Reminding us of light and radiance, yellows are important because of their warming presence and their effects on surface and texture.

Orange - Now suffused with spicy hues, shades in the orange family display influences of caramel, cinnamon and saffron.

Purple - Penetrating all levels of design, purples in a variety of berry colors are now a lifestyle as opposed to a fashion shade.

Blue - Becoming more sophisticated, blues move away from the more classic indigo shades to those that are infused with gray or green.

Brown - From nutmeg and tan to the red-infused wine-y browns, the browns continue to be very important across all materials and surfaces.

Red
- A safe option for those looking to add bright color, red is a well-received and well-understood pop color that can be combined in new ways.

Pastels - Pastel shades leap from nuanced neutrals to stronger and more assertive colors.

Metallics - Metallics are as pragmatic as they are decorative, combining light or texture to enhance, bring movement and dimension.

Source: Pantone

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Finance 101: Tips for College Freshmen

September 1, 2015 1:33 am

Did you know college graduates with a bachelor’s degree pay an average $350 a month in loans over 18 years? With stats like those, college freshmen can’t afford not to prioritize personal finance while pursuing a higher education.

“With the soaring price of college tuition, it is important for all incoming students to consider their finances prior to their fall arrival,” says Steven Trumble, President and CEO of the national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC). “You would not believe how many students are graduating with an absurd amount of debt with no plan on how to pay it.”

To avoid graduating with excessive debt, the ACCC recommends adopting a money-saving mentality with these tips.

• Create a budget and stick to it! Budgeting is a great way to curb your expenses and avoid credit card debt. Try using a budgeting worksheet for students to compare and contrast your total income and expenses to get a realistic budgeting plan.



• Knowing that a need is something you have to have and a want is something you would like to have can help you save money in the long run. Decide which items are needs and which are wants and try to purchase wants as few times as possible.



• Fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. Things change in a year, so be sure to fill out the FAFSA on a yearly basis to see what types of financial aid you qualify for.



• Bear in mind some financial aid packages will require you to maintain a certain grade point average in order to keep it every year. If you are given an opportunity to get a Work-Study job, do some research on campus and take full advantage. Most importantly, make sure you understand the terms of repayment upon graduation.



• The college bookstore is notorious for being the most expensive place to purchase books. Consider renting or buying your textbooks from places like the library, Amazon or Chegg. At the end of each semester, sell back your books to recoup some of the cost.

• Join a bank that is near campus as well as your hometown to avoid surcharges while at school. Keep in mind there are many banks that will offer free savings and checking accounts to college students, which helps to avoid fees.

• Understand your financial situation. More often than not, students graduate and are shocked with the amount they have in student loans. Make sure you are aware of how much school costs each year, what your parents are willing to cover, what you are expected to cover and annual living expenses.

• Charging items when you are short on cash can be tempting, but by limiting yourself to one or two credit cards, you can keep track of your spending and minimize your debt. Make sure that you are only charging items that you can afford.

Source: ACCC

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Freddie Mac: Housing Market Further Stabilizes

September 1, 2015 1:33 am

In more encouraging news for housing, Freddie Mac recently reported two additional states and four additional metro areas have entered “stable” territory–a promising sign of a normalizing market. According to Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®), Arkansas and Tennessee are in stable range, as well as the Omaha, Neb., Scranton, Pa., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Madison, Wis., metro areas.



Housing nationally stands at 80.3 on the MiMi, which indicates an outer stable range. Earlier this summer, 45 of the 50 states and 95 of the 100 metro areas were showing improvement. Based on the MiMi, the market has improved 5.41 percent in the last year.



“Housing markets are the strongest they’ve been in years with the National MiMi above 80 for the first time since 2008. Nationally, all MiMi indicators are heading in the right direction,” says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. “Robust homebuyer demand has put total home sales on pace for the best year since 2007 and look for that trend to continue as the MiMi purchase applications indicator remains on the upswing.”


Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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