Consumer Real Estate News

    • Heat Wave: Protecting Your Outside Plants

      15 July 2019

      Garden lovers have often spent sweltering summers staring at the brown and withered landscape plants that bloomed with so much promise just a month or two earlier. How do you save your gorgeous landscaping if you're facing an extended heatwave?  

      Eddie Powell at the University of Florida IFAS Extension offers a few tips to homeowners subject to periods of high heat:
      - Plants grown with the correctly applied rate of nutrients will tolerate hotter temperatures better and recover from wilt injury faster than plants grown with little to no nutrients. 
      - If high heat is predicted, Powell recommends watering vegetable garden plants early in the day to help protect them. He says well-watered soil will stay cooler than a dry soil and keep plants hydrated. 
      - Beware however, because saturated soil conditions can damage the root systems of most plants over a few days, so make sure the ground is well-drained.
       
      Melissa G. Womack of the Agriculture and Natural Resources department at the University of California  suggests the following:
      - Avoid fertilizing plants or trees during hot summer months. She says when a fertilizer is applied, especially one that is high in nitrogen, a plant is triggered to produce more green growth — demanding more water and nutrient needs. 
      - When temperatures get extreme, having a good layer of mulch prevents soil from heating up excessively and losing water to evaporation. Womack says to apply 4 inches of a medium shred bark mulch to insulate the soil. 
      - During extreme heat, Womack also suggests relocating any exposed potted plants to a shaded area.

      Rebecca Latta Consulting of Southern California tells her clients that the following heat tolerant species from South America and the Sonoran desert serve sun drenched properties well:

      - Tipu
      - Mesquite
      - Desert willow
      - Velvet ash
      - Pinyon pine
      - California juniper
      - Red willow
      - Desert apricot 
      - Cypress

      Latta also advises weeding out understory competition such as ivy, creeping fig and vincathat can sap vital  water and nutrients away from trees and shrubs.

      Finally, Greg Seaman at learn.eartheasy.com says during a heat wave, use light colored mulches will reflect the sunlight and help maintain cooler surface soil conditions. And leave your grass taller than usual to benefit the soil by helping to retain moisture. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Aging in Place: Bathrooms

      15 July 2019

      Many of us plan to grow old in our homes, also known as "aging in place," and some of us have family members currently doing just that. So how can you make sure your home stays safe as you age? Let's look at one room that is home to a large majority of slips and falls: the bathroom.

      "Bathrooms can be very dangerous for people who have difficulties with mobility," says Ted Puzio, owner of Southern Trust Home Services. "Luckily, there are steps you can take as a homeowner to make them safer for your friends and family members."

      Puzio suggests the following adjustments for those wanting to increase the safety of their home restrooms:

      Consider installing a walk-in shower. By removing any hurdles your loved one might have to step over in order to bathe, you significantly reduce the risk of throwing them off balance.

      Equip showers and surrounding walls with sturdy grab bars. Giving seniors something to hold on to while they bathe can help them maintain their center of gravity, making a fall less likely. You may even want to consider adding a shower chair as well.  

      Install faucets that are easy for seniors to turn. Struggling with a faucet can also lead to seniors getting thrown off balance. Consider faucets that are easy to use, like a lever faucet.

      Invest in handheld shower wands instead of an anchored showerhead. Handheld shower wands are flexible and never require reaching or straining in order to make adjustments. Try to find one with a convenient on/off button so your loved one can easily use it from a single position.

      Consider raised-height toilet models. There are lots of ADA-approved toilet options that will lessen the chance of a harsh fall. Try to find one that's a comfortable height for the senior members of your household.

      Source: southerntrusthomeservices.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Lower Your Energy Bills This Summer with These Tips

      15 July 2019

      Home feeling hot but worried about breaking the bank with sky-high cooling bills? You're not alone.

      "A lot of people expect their utility bills to soar this summer, but that doesn't have to be the case," says Tommy Webber, owner of T.Webber Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric. "And that doesn't mean you have to suffer through the season, either. There are reliable methods for cooling your home besides simply blasting the AC, and while they might take a little planning or practice, they'll keep your energy consumption down and also keep you comfortable."

      Below are five suggestions Webber recommends to lower your utility bill without cranking the thermostat:  

      Turn on your fans. Using electric fans lets you keep the thermostat at a higher temperature and still stay comfortable. Experts say a fan can make up to a four-degree difference. Remember not to let fans run if no one is in the room.

      Turn off the oven. The oven can raise the temperature of your kitchen up to 10 degrees. Plan meals that don't require the oven, like salads and leftovers, or use the stovetop instead.

      Check the AC. An air conditioner that runs well uses a lot less energy than one that needs a new air filter or cleaned-out coils. If it's time to replace your unit, look for a more energy-efficient model. Even if it costs a little more, it will offer significant savings in the long run.

      Install a smart thermostat. You'll be able to program the most efficient settings for morning, evening and night with different settings for weekends and weekdays. You can also adjust the temperature remotely, even if you're on vacation.

      Unplug electronics and small appliances. That charger sucks up electricity even when it's not connected to your device, and so do TVs, lamps, toasters and microwaves. Electronics and appliances also generate heat, so unplug them when they're not in use for both savings and comfort.

      Source: T.Webber Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Keep Your Car Safe from Theft This Summer

      12 July 2019

      A stolen car can be financially and emotionally devastating, and an easy way to ruin your summer plans. To help, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) offers the following four "layers of protection" to guard against vehicle theft all summer long.

      Common Sense — the common sense approach to protection is the easiest and most cost-effective way to thwart would-be thieves. You should always:
      - Remove your keys from the ignition
      - Lock your doors /close your windows
      - Park in a well-lit area

      Warning Device — the second layer of protection is a visible or audible device which alerts thieves that your vehicle is protected. Popular devices include:
      - Audible alarms
      - Steering column collars
      - Steering wheel/brake pedal lock
      - Brake locks
      - Wheel locks
      - Theft deterrent decals
      - Identification markers in or on vehicle
      - VIN etching
      - Micro dot marking

      Immobilizing Device — the third layer of protection is a device that prevents thieves from bypassing your ignition and hot-wiring the vehicle. Some electronic devices have computer chips in ignition keys. Other devices inhibit the flow of electricity or fuel to the engine until a hidden switch or button is activated. Some examples are:
      - Smart keys
      - Fuse cut-offs
      - Kill switches
      - Starter, ignition, and fuel pump disablers
      - Wireless ignition authentication

      Tracking Device — the final layer of protection is a tracking device that emits a signal to police or a monitoring station when the vehicle is stolen. Tracking devices are very effective in helping authorities recover stolen vehicles. Some systems employ "telematics," which combine GPS and wireless technologies to allow remote monitoring of a vehicle. If the vehicle is moved, the system will alert the owner and the vehicle can be tracked via computer.

      Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 5 Tips for Capturing Purr-fect Pictures of Your Cat

      12 July 2019

      (Family Features)--Cats are naturally curious, and while that can make them entertaining and engaging pets, it doesn't always lead to the best photos. While getting a perfect pet pic is hard enough, a frisky, playful or defiant cat can make a photo op nearly impossible.

      These tips, captured by the pet experts at the TEMPTATIONS™ brand during recent CatCon in Pasadena, Calif., can help you capture the best photos of your furry feline friends.

      Forget the Flash. Classic portrait photography rules also apply to feline photography, especially when it comes to lighting. Beware of your camera's flash, as it could distract or frighten your cat. Plus, it might lead to red eyes in photos. Disabling your camera's shutter sound, if possible, can also help minimize distracting noises during your photo shoots.

      Capture Your Cat's Attention. Getting your cat to look where you want him or her to may be easier than you think. A simple shake of a bag of treats can get your cat to turn his or her head to the irresistible treats, allowing you to capture a photo with an attentive cat. This trick also works if you need to coax your kitty out of a hiding spot. Just one shake should have your cat come running.

      Play on Your Cat's Personality. Instead of a stiff, staged photo, capture your cat's personality by setting up a playtime photo shoot. Your pet will have fun while you take candid pictures that show his or her unique, playful personality. It helps to know your cat's tendencies well when planning a photo shoot. Some cats have more energy to play earlier in the day, while others might behave better after expelling some energy with more rigorous playtime.

      Discover Different Angles. Try taking pictures at your cat's eye level. Whether he or she is crouching and preparing for the pounce or curiously swatting at a toy, capturing his or her face and eyes can help create captivating photos and memories of lovable kitty expressions. Plus, taking photos from a distance may cause your cat to lose focus and interest.

      Find a Friend. A simple but often overlooked tip is to enlist a friend. Having an assistant photographer during your shoot can allow one of you to use props, shake a bag of treats, change scenery and direct your cat while the other focuses on snapping the best shots.

      Source: TEMPTATIONS Cat Treats Family Features Editorial Syndicate

      Published with permission from RISMedia.