Bidet making headway in America’s bathrooms

Posted by at 8:44 am

Surveys today show Americans are open to all kinds of home innovation, and the bathroom is no exception. But acceptance of the bidet – the common personal cleaning fixture that graces commodes throughout much of Europe and Asia – has been a bit of a tough sell. It’s unquestioned that the quality of cleaning with a bidet fixture is superior to toilet paper alone, so why the American reluctance? One of the keys to selling a better toilet is marketing. And in America, talking about the best ways to clean up after the loo has always been a bit taboo. Many anthropologists believe American GIs coming back from World War II associated the bidet with bordellos visited overseas. Given America’s puritanical past, they may have been uncomfortable introducing the bidet to neighbors, afraid they might have to explain exactly where...
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Is a home warranty for you?

Posted by at 3:46 pm

Spend any amount of time watching television, and you’re likely to encounter a barrage of advertisements for home warranties. Well-written and engaging, the ads play on consumers’ well-founded fears of suddenly being faced with a major repair bill on an appliance or vital home system. Right after purchasing a home, a nominal monthly fee in exchange for peace of mind can be very enticing. Maybe you even know someone who saved plenty when their home warranty covered multiple breakdowns. Trouble is, home warranties often don’t deliver what’s expected. These “service contracts” cost $350 to $500 in premiums a year, but unlike insurance policies, don’t cover losses from theft, or catastrophes like floods or fires. The basic package usually covers breakdown of your plumbing, most kitchen appliances, water heater, heating and electrical components, sump pump and fans. Optional coverage is available...
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Escalating the situation

Posted by at 11:58 pm

In the increasingly vigorous – and competitive – real estate market, motivated homebuyers may want to consider an “automated” method for making bids on a property of particular interest. You can often match or beat offers that come in later than your own by including an “escalation clause.” Here’s how it works: Say you put in an offer of $260,000, and someone comes along later and offers $265,000. Your escalation clause might come with instructions to match it, or to offer $5,000 more than the highest offer, so your offer automatically goes up to $270,000. The escalation clause can also include a “cutoff” or a maximum amount you are willing to pay – say $275,000. If someone comes along and bids $280,000, you’re not going that high. In situations where a property is likely to see multiple offers and even...
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E-cycle to recycle your tech waste

Posted by at 3:17 pm

According to the Consumer Technology Association, the average American household owns 24 consumer electronics products at any given time. Replaced for upgrades on a regular basis, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns these products are also the fastest-growing component filling our nation’s landfills. And it’s like throwing away a gold mine. Seriously. Products like computers, TVs and cell phones contain precious metals like silver and gold, rare earth elements and other valuable materials like aluminum, copper and steel that could be extracted and reused. Cellphones by themselves represent a mountain of wasted resources. Only about 10 percent of discarded cell phones are actually recycled out of millions replaced each year. For every one million phones thrown away, 75 pounds of gold, 772 pounds of silver, 33 pounds of palladium and more than 35,000 pounds of copper goes in the trash...
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Manufacturing a new real estate market

Posted by at 9:44 am

Like tiny homes, manufactured homes are emerging as a possible solution to the current housing shortage. For those with low-to-moderate incomes, who don’t want to sleep in a tiny home bed that folds out of a closet just above the kitchen sink, the manufactured home might make a more palatable choice. Previously referred to as mobile homes, manufactured houses are built in a factory, and transported to a site on a flatbed truck – not to be confused with pre-fab homes, which are transported in pieces and mostly built on-site. New manufactured homes cost a median of $73,800, or about a quarter the cost of new homes nationally, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau. That might be just the remedy for first-time home shoppers who are having trouble saving up a down payment. But regulatory restrictions on zoning and...
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Tax Helpers for Last-Minute Filers

Posted by at 11:22 am

With tax time just a week away, there’s about a one-in-five chance you are one of the 40 million American taxpayers who haven’t yet filed. Never fear! Just like last 2017, 2018 contains some calendar quirks that give you a little extra time. Tax Day is April 17 in 2018 instead of April 15. Why? April 15 falls on a Sunday, and the Washington, D.C. holiday Emancipation Day is celebrated Monday, April 16, so the Internal Revenue Service’s main offices get that day off, too. That means everyone gets two extra days. If more time isn’t enough, The IRS has tax help, publications and information at www.irs.gov to help last-minute filers, including instructions on how to request an automatic six-month filing extension. Here’s another helper: You may not be aware, but the IRS website also provides free copies of your past returns. That’s great...
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Concentrate on the Positives

Posted by at 8:51 am

As America heads into the big spring selling season, all signs point to a robust housing market in 2018. Demand is high and homebuilders are upbeat. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) confidence gauge is at its highest level in 18 years. Record numbers of home shoppers are packing sales centers and open houses. The pace of annual construction spending soared to a record $1.257 trillion in November, and starts of single-family homes and building applications are the strongest in a decade. But will vigorous construction be enough to offset exceptionally weak inventory? With new and existing home sales skyrocketing, the national inventory is pegged at just 3.4 months, the shortest timeframe since 1999, and far short of the 6-month supply considered necessary for a healthy housing balance. Home builders say they’ll concentrate more on affordable housing in 2018, but...
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Taxing times for homeowners

Posted by at 11:43 am

  It’s that time of year again. Thick in the heart of the Holidays with the property taxes already paid, most of us are thoroughly spent…both physically and financially. Of course, it also means January, and the New Year, are right around the corner. It’s time to start thinking about paying federal taxes. With big changes for homeowners looming, why not consider hiring a professional to prepare your return? For some, the thought of spending money to do something they COULD do themselves is particularly painful. That’s why so many struggle to keep up on housework instead of hiring a maid, or try to maintain a sprawling yard and garden instead of hiring a landscaper. Many may manage to keep spotless houses and beautiful lawns. But taxes are not sweeping and mowing. Home ownership significantly changes most people’s deductions and other tax situations. Hiring an accountant to help...
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Homeownership’s value overrides divisiveness

Posted by at 1:06 pm

With some pretty big issues on the table for Congress in 2018, America may seem more politically divided than ever these days. But one shared value stretches across the nation—homeownership. There may be difference of opinion on things like healthcare, immigration and tax reform, but a strong majority of Americans agree home ownership is a financially sound decision –  an instrument for gaining long-term wealth while raising a family and making ties within the community. According to real estate website Zillow, 68.7 percent of Republicans and 65.1 percent of Democrats see homeownership as a crucial part of living the American Dream. Homeownership builds equity over time, providing financial security for families and individuals. With stable monthly payments, it’s easier for cash-conscious consumers to plan and budget. Potential tax savings can also offset homeownership costs. But the real “value” comes in...
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Seniors no longer a niche market

Posted by at 1:17 pm

Fueled by the baby-boomer generation, the population of Americans 65 and older is growing exponentially, and will become a major part of the housing and mortgage industries over the next several decades. According to the latest report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, one out of three U.S. households in 2035 will be headed by someone over 65. That’s an estimated 79 million people! Real estate agents and mortgage lenders who plan sales strategies with an eye on the aging will doubtlessly see more success. One unexpected backlash of the exodus to the suburbs over the last 40 years is the growing number of retirees realizing their neighborhoods no longer fit their needs. In a recent survey from Freddie Mac, seniors said they need major renovations in order to stay in their current homes as they age –...
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