If You’re A First Time Home Buyer, This Primer Can Help

Finally ready to own instead of rent? Welcome to the club.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, first-time homebuyers last year made 38 percent of all U.S. single-family home purchases – the biggest share since 2000 – and the 2.07 million new or existing houses they bought ended up being 7 percent more than in 2016, Bloomberg.com reports.

But the market for house-hunting newbies has changed drastically from that most recent high mark of nearly two decades ago. Read on.

Three Reasons Why You Probably Shouldn’t Install Your Own Roof

Think you’re up to the challenge of taking on the fourth most dangerous job in America? If you decide to install your own roof, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even police officers have less chance of dying on the job than professional roofers do. And yet countless DIYers risk their lives every year just to try to save some money.

“There’s no better way to meet an orthopedic surgeon – or an undertaker – than by spending an extended amount of time on your roof,” cautions PopularMechanics.com. “One small slip or misstep, and it’s a long way down.”

More Buyers in The Market Means Certain Home Upgrades Can Pay Off

Don’t think of Millennials as just the early adopters of Uber. Think of them as the next generation of home buyers.

The newly released U.S. home ownership rate rose last year for the first time in just over a dozen years (it’s at 64.2 percent). This is driven mainly by the desire to own versus rent by the under-35 crowd who, to date, have been hesitant to commit for both financial and personal reasons.

With More Buyers Out There, These Home Upgrades Can Really Pay Off

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – It’s time to stop thinking of Millennials as totally uninterested in owning anything just because they were early adopters of Uber.The newly released U.S. home ownership rate rose in 2017 for the first time in 13 years – it now stands at 64.2 percent – driven mainly by a shift towards owning over renting by the under-age 35 crowd who’d been wary of committing for both financial and personal reasons."This is happening because young households are buying homes. Full stop," Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at home listings provider Trulia, told the Wall Street Journal.They’re not the only purchasers, of course. Which means if you’re looking to sell your house now or in the not too distant future, you might want to check out this generational roadmap to four upgrades experts say are worth it to help attract potential buyers.* Cross-generational: a new steel door. The only thing that beat it on Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2017 was loose-fill attic insulation, but this project – with a 90.7% return on investment – speaks directly to the report’s main takeaway: "Curb appeal projects, by and large, generated higher returns on investment than work done inside the home."Plus, as far as Millennials go, while their ideal interiors may differ from older generations – for example, they prefer open floor plans and hardwood floors – Architectural Digest says they’re still into "traditional exteriors."* Millennials: smart-home tech. Yes, there are Boomers and Generation Xers who are super tech savvy, but Millennials especially crave homes that allow them to control their heating, air-conditioning, home security, and lighting systems from their phones."They want to use their brains for other things, not for remembering whether they adjusted the heat or closed the garage door," Angie’s List stressed.* Cross-generational: a new roof. It’s the ultimate curb appeal enhancer and a perennial Remodeling magazine A-lister, with Credit.com having observed that "buyers pay a premium for one already in place."So if the first thing prospects notice even before exiting their cars looks like something out of "Twister," you’ve got a problem."It’s a huge turn-off," said Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, New Jersey, "and makes buyers of all ages predisposed to find even more things they don’t like."If your roof does need replacing, those particularly interested in targeting Millennials might want to consider the very affordable Sienna line of diamond-shaped shingles from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, since they capture that generation’s sensibilities."They pick up on key Millennial style trends of natural, clean materials, clean lines, and the integration of artistic elements," said Leslie Franklin, executive director of residential marketing at GAF.* Millennials: all-new appliances. Realtors will tell you that major kitchen (and bath) upgrades aren’t generally worth their high costs, in terms of return on investment, since prospective buyers’ tastes can clash with yours.However, Millennials do love, love, love all-new stainless steel appliances. So much so that what RealtyTimes.com called "an astonishing majority of 75 percent" of respondents in a recent survey chose to spend their hypothetical home buying budgets on them. 

These 4 Tips Can Cut Your Home Energy Bills in Winter

You know it’s cold outside when Florida gets snow.

Which is exactly how 2018 began, thanks to a “bomb cyclone” that slammed the East Coast with heavy snow and temperature. Meanwhile, Embarrass, Minnesota won the unofficial title of “The Last Place in the Freezing Midwest You’d Want to Go Skinny Dipping” by hitting a low of 45 degrees below zero on New Year’s Eve.

While you’re imagining the heating bills in Embarrass (and with winter not yet over), the following tips might help you lower your own energy costs.

Is A Debt-Free Life Possible?

(NewsUSA) – Leslie Balfaqih couldn’t believe how much money she and her husband wasted every month. "Our financial life was a mess," Leslie says from her home in Florida."To say we were disorganized is putting it mildly."Like so many Americans, they didn’t have a plan for their money.The problem is often not how much money a family makes, but that they have no idea what they’re spending it on. Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Worse, most feel it will always be that way. But it doesn’t have to be.Financial experts agree that the best way to break the vicious cycle of scrambling to make ends meet is by having a written budget and sticking to it. Leslie heard about a website, EveryDollar.com and the EveryDollar budgeting app that makes it simple to create a budget, manage money, and track spending. They signed up, set up their budget, and they’ve stuck to it for years. "We paid off $165,000 in debt since we got started. Now we’re in a position to be completely debt-free, including our house and rental property, in the next three years."The "B" word has gotten a bad rap. Budgeting sounds hard. It sounds restricting. Frankly, it sounds boring. But people who’ve made budgeting the center of their financial behavior have discovered quite the opposite. The technology behind apps like EveryDollar make budgeting easy. Rather than feeling restricted, they say it feels as if they have permission to spend – just not permission to waste.Sierra Schmidt was surprised by how much having a budget changed her attitude. She’s a single mother in Spokane, Washington, whose bills include daycare, rent, and student loans. "I felt so far behind every month, and things seemed hopeless," she says."Now, I keep track of every dollar, and the numbers are right in front of me. I’m getting ahead instead of falling behind. Every month I feel more confident that I can wipe out the debt that’s been so stressful."Sierra and Leslie empowered themselves to take control of their money. You can too. Creating a budget and sticking to it could change your life and help you take control of your money in the new year.EveryDollar is a free budget app that allows users to create customized monthly budgets, and seamlessly track expenses, income and savings from the convenience of their computer and phone. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices. EveryDollar launched in March 2015 and now has more than three million users.Learn more by visiting www.everydollar.com

Take Preventive Steps to Avoid Frozen Pipes

(NewsUSA) – Winter is officially upon us and that means many homeowners will be paying a hefty price for not protecting their property against frozen pipes.According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage and freezing is the second most common home insurance claim filed, with the average claim totaling $8,861. In fact, frozen pipes are a significant contributor to the more than $10 billion in annual insurance claims paid out due to plumbing leaks.Water’s power in both liquid and solid states can wreak havoc on the unprepared home, says Chuck DeSmet, founder of FloLogic, a plumbing leak detection auto water shutoff device."Water can unleash a double whammy where freezing causes a breakage and thawing causes destructive flood," DeSmet says."Water damage from frozen pipes not only destroys irreplaceable property, it can uproot families from their homes and cost them for years to come in higher insurance premiums."But frozen pipes and water leak damage are completely avoidable when homeowners follow some practical guidance, and with the help of technology designed to detect and arrest leaks automatically.Here’s a practical guide for avoiding frozen pipe damage this season:* Turn up the heat. Whether home or not, keep thermostats in the 55-60-degree range, or higher, to ensure pipes in basements and crawl spaces don’t freeze up. For extreme cold protection, opening sink cabinets is advised to expose pipes to additional warmth.* Insulate. Pipe insulation wraps will increase resistance to freezing ambient temperatures, while insulating structure cracks and openings will help keep the environment surrounding your pipes at a safe temperature. To avoid exposure to deep freezes, a UL-listed heat tape or cable wrapped around pipes will electronically generate warmth to prevent freezing.* Inspect and update. Be sure outdoor hoses are removed from spigots. Periodically replace supply hoses to washers and toilets – a primary cause of water leaks beyond frozen pipes.* Let it trickle. When temperatures are especially frigid on homes with exposure, leave faucets open to a steady drip or trickle. The constant flow will help prevent freezing, but also wastes water.* Install leak control technology. Leak detecting smart water valves, like the one offered by FloLogic (www.flologic.com) will flag a broken pipe leak anywhere in a plumbing supply and automatically shut off the water before the ice dam completely melts. FloLogic qualifies many for insurance discounts, since it virtually eliminates the risk of catastrophic water damage year-round.* Shut it down. If you don’t have a leak detection auto shutoff device, the most prudent protection when you’re away is shutting off the water supply and draining pipes. Even a small two drips-per-second leak from a cracked pipe will produce 77 gallons in a week – enough to cause costly damage.With greater knowledge and adoption of leak control technologies, reduced damage from frozen and broken pipes stands to benefit everyone, according to DeSmet."When insurance companies pay to repair leak damage, it indirectly costs every policy holder," DeSmet says. "Simple preventive measures and leak control technologies will help spare us all."For more information, visit http://www.flologic.com

Hit Reset with a Kitchen Lighting Update

(NewsUSA) – Ready for a redo? Many homeowners resolve to kick-start a new year by making improvements to themselves as well as their home. When it comes to home renovations, the first place on which most people focus their attention is the kitchen.According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), popular trends in finish-outs and appliances are impacting kitchen lighting choices.In general, kitchen design is trending toward the contemporary side. Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends for Kichler Lighting, explains that homeowners with previously traditional taste are looking for more transitional products, while transitional homeowners are moving toward a soft contemporary décor.And many of those with existing soft contemporary furnishings are switching to a more austere contemporary solution.Countertops Impact Lighting: While granite is still used in entry- and mid-level homes, most highest-end countertops are now quartz-based, particularly with a matte finish, also sometimes called suede, honed or leathered. The matte-finish trend alleviates the tricky business of providing adequate illumination in kitchens without causing glare from glossy countertops that have been popular for the past decade.Dark Appliances Require More Light: The use of black stainless appliances is on the rise, which eliminates unsightly fingerprints, but creates the need for additional light in the surrounding space. "Black stainless has lower reflectance than white or stainless steel appliances, making the room appear darker," says Dross. "The trend toward more involved backsplash materials makes lighting even more important."Taller Ceilings Mean Taller Fixtures: Over the past 15 or so years, ceiling heights have become higher with 9 feet becoming the accepted minimum height. It is now common for North American homes to have ceilings 10 to 12 feet high. That means taller sconces and taller chandeliers are necessary to fill the additional space."In addition to taller ceilings, center islands are now substantially bigger than in the past," says Dross. "That means the tiny, mini-pendants that were all the rage a few years ago are disappearing. Kitchens demand larger, taller pendants."Before jumping into a kitchen renovation, it is best to design a lighting plan to make sure your fixtures are the right size and style for your new space. A professional lighting consultant at your local ALA-member showroom can work with you to develop a plan and provide the most-up-to-date lighting styles and technology. To find a list of nearby ALA showrooms, go online to americanlightingassoc.com

Brighten Up Your New Year with These Lighting Trends

(NewsUSA) – The beginning of a new year is an opportunity for a fresh start for your home.One easy change that will make a big impact is a lighting update. Simply changing a fixture – a chandelier, a few pendants or even just a table lamp – can give a room a whole new look. So whether you are considering a minor update or a major renovation, stay on top of the latest lighting trends with a few tips from the American Lighting Association (ALA).Mix and MatchYour home is a reflection of your style and personality. Create your own look by bringing in fixtures of various styles and finishes."One of today’s popular design trends encourages individuals to create unique lighting designs by mixing and matching their favorite fixtures within the same space," says Jennifer Kis, director of marketing communications for Progress Lighting. "There is no need to feel limited by fixtures, or even finishes, in one particular collection. Coordinating complementary pieces creates a cohesive feel to the home, while also reinforcing your design style."Lighting manufacturers are making it easier for homeowners to select fixtures that work well together by offering collections that feature details and finishes that are complementary to a range of fixture families.Bring the Outside InLook outside for inspiration. Using interior design elements in outdoor spaces has been popular in recent years. But gaining popularity lately is the idea of incorporating exterior fixtures with inside décor."We have seen a lot of creative ways designers are using a variety of exterior lanterns inside," says Kis. "Nature-inspired elements and outdoor wall sconces or hanging lanterns that are traditionally used to enhance curb appeal can also be ideal when incorporated into interior design schemes within the home."Pendants are PerfectFor versatility and compatibility, opt for pendants. Available in a seemingly infinite array of shapes, colors, sizes, finishes and materials, pendants are more popular than ever. These adaptable fixtures can be hung in groupings of two, three, four or more, depending on a particular space and need. Pendants can serve as overall task or ambient lighting, as well as add visual interest and beauty to the overall décor.For more information, and to find a list of local ALA-member lighting showrooms where you can see the latest fixture styles and talk with a professional lightingconsultant, go online to americanlightingassoc.com

Seasonal Workers Could See Major Boon from 2017 Holiday Hiring

’Tis the season for holiday hiring.

Early predictions indicate a holly, jolly Christmas for retailers, with total sales expected to grow as much as 4.5 percent versus last year’s 3.6 percent. To help, according to the National Retail Federation, 500,000 to 550,000 season workers will need to be hired.

And while some companies are making it attractive to apply, there are still some things that applicants need to be aware of:

• The economy may not be your friend. Rather than hire a slew of temps, some employers such as Walmart are offering extra hours to existing workers.