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Home Staging Worth the Money, Effort? Yes.

Nearly every home seller hopes to get their property sold quickly and at top dollar.

Staging may be just the thing to help in that quest, according to the National Association of REALTORS’® 2017 Profile of Home Staging (http://bit.ly/2tGmtXe).

Using things like furniture, color, lighting, and accent pieces, professional stagers transform for-sale homes from ho-hum to oh-ah and work to make a property appeal to the largest number of prospective buyers

And their work has an impact: 39 percent of sellers’ agents said that staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time the home is on the market, according to NAR’s report.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

 

Additional findings include:

  • The most commonly staged spaces include the living room (83 percent), kitchen (76 percent), master bedroom (69 percent), and dining room (66 percent).

  • Staging the living room was found to be most important to buyers (55 percent), followed by staging the master bedroom (51%), and the kitchen (41 percent).

  • Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for buyers to visualize a property as a future home.

 

6 Superb Ways to Curb Costs


Many bills are the result of long-term habits. After years of raising children and working full time, it’s easy for old patterns to continue unchallenged. That’s why a comprehensive bill review is the first step for revealing expenses that are no longer necessary—as well as discovering more attractive andaffordable options (aimed at Americans), including:

 

1. TWO CARS?

 

When both spouses were working full time and getting children to different events, two cars may have been a requirement. Once scheduling demands change, however, the need for two (or more) vehicles probably no longer exists.

 

Compare the costs – Encourage your clients to examine what they paid over the past year for maintenance and repairs—particularly if they own older cars—to determine if it would be more cost effective to sell one (or more) cars, or perhaps even to buy a new (or newer) car. Why not own a nicer car if it ends up costing less?

 

Consider other options – Traditionally, public transit was not considered very glamorous, but the eco-friendly and green movements have changed many people’s views, while technology now offers attractive alternatives for those who don’t want to rely on taxicab prices. Some large cities have senior-specific transportation options, and services like Lyft and Uber are becoming more popular, even in less populated areas.

 

 2. CUT THE CABLE

 

With the improvement of online streaming options, many people have decided they prefer selecting what they want to view (often avoiding commercials) over enduring whatever is available on cable (plus the wasted time flipping channels, trying to find something worth watching).

 

Several low-cost paid streaming services offer extensive on-demand programming options, (Netflix, Amazon Video, Showtime, HBO Now etc.) while many familiar television channels (including the major networks, popular cable stations and news channels) stream their content free of charge.

 

While it’s increasingly popular to view this content on a desktop, laptop or mobile device, it’s just as easy to attach a small, inexpensive device (like Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Nexus Player) to stream online content, via Wi-Fi, directly to your television.

 

In addition to giving you TV access to streaming services (like Netflix and Hulu) these devices alsomake it simple to enjoy web-only content, like YouTube. Some of the best YouTube channels include: The Paramount Vault, Timeless Classic Movies and other collections of movies from the silver screen era as well as more modern films.

 

Add another small investment in an over-the-air antenna and you’ll be able to tune in local hi-definition channels for no monthly fee. Cable and satellite services, and their often-exorbitant monthly fees are becoming a thing of the past for many households, and seniors are no exception.

 

3. OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND?

 

For years, many people have dutifully paid monthly storage unit fees. Now is the time to eliminate this expensive albatross. Sort through and toss what’s not needed, re-home what’s going to the kids, and donate (and take the tax credit for) things that are no longer useful.

 

I can help you tackle this project by sharing a list of local downsizing specialists, Ebay valets (ebay.com/s/valet) and people who specialize in helping sell unneeded and unwanted stuff. It shouldn’t cost anything other than a percentage of the sales price to use these services.

 

4. PRESCRIPTION SAVINGS

 

Often, prescription drugs are both necessary and expensive. Despite this, most people simply select a pharmacy and stick with it, even though drug prices can vary dramatically—a missed opportunity to save hundreds of dollars a year (or more).

 

I encourage you to comparison shop. Take a list of all prescriptions to each local pharmacy and ask for itemized price quotes. You can also check local prices using online tools like WebMD.com/rx or GoodRx.com. Even with insurance, it’s sometimes cheaper to pay out of pocket than the “co-pay” on certain drugs. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask about discounts for cash payments.

 

Online pharmacies – Another option is to comparison shop for mail-order drugs. This has the added bonus of automatically delivering monthly meds without the hassle of picking them up! Online shoppers need to be sure the quality of the pharmacy they select is assured. Start by visiting PharmacyChecker.com.

 

5. SAVVY SHOPPING

 

Major sales aren’t limited to Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Every year, various big-ticket items are often discounted seasonally, including: Cars – current inventory goes on sale right before or after the newest models arrive in the fall.

 

Computers – late March/early April (new models rolling out) and August/September (back to school).

 

Large appliances – September/October (new models rolling out). Be sure to ask for free delivery, hookup and old appliance disposal. Refrigerators are cheapest in May.

 

Televisions – Thanksgiving weekend and January (or early February) when old models are cleared out and new ones arrive in time for the Super Bowl.

 

Outdoor – lawnmowers in April and after Labor Day (clearance), along with grills; patio furniture in October/November.

 

Mattresses – Memorial Day weekend sales (negotiate for even-lower-than-advertised prices)

 

6. OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO SAVE

 

Amazon has become many online shoppers’ go-to source, but do you know about several sites that track Amazon’s prices? Use CamelCamelCamel.com or Keepa.com to viewprice history charts and set up price drop alerts to save on purchases.

 

Even with great deals, however, remember to keep the focus on “living large”—in other words, using your time and energy to buy only what you need at the best possible prices!

 



CUT ENERGY SPENDING


When you’re living on a fixed or low income, counts and you look at all of your spending to see where you can save. The little things do count.

One way to reduce expenses is by slashing spending on utility costs.

Maybe you’ve looked into ways to save energy and found that the upfront costs for some projects are too much to afford.

It might be worth a second look, especially when you consider some of the free services available through utility companies and through other affordable weatherization programs specifically designed for seniors and for those with low incomes.

For instance, low-income renters and homeowners in British Columbia have access to an array of free products and services that may include faucet aerators, water-saving showerheads, water heater pipe wrap, and door weather-stripping. In addition, some houses could qualify for more upgrades, including ENERGY STAR® refrigerators, wall, attic, and crawlspace insulation, and high-efficiency gas furnaces.

See: http://www.bchydro.com/powersmart/residential/ps_low_income/energy_conservation.html

Prince Edward Island residents who have total household incomes of $35,000 or less can tap Home Energy Low-Income Program (HELP). Among the program’s free services are caulking and weather-stripping on windows and doors, gaskets on electrical fixtures and the installation of a programmable thermostat, up to four compact fluorescent lamps, and a low-flow showerhead.

For more information on HELP program services, see http://www.gov.pe.ca/oee/residential

If you’re skeptical about whether small changes can have an impact on savings, consider these four energy-saving tips from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Newfoundland Power

  1. 1.     A 13 watt compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) can replace a 60 watt incandescent and it will last up to eight times as long. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs and save $35 over the life of each bulb.
  2. 2.     Install a motion detector or timer on exterior lighting. Reducing the number of hours that four 100-watt floodlights are on each night from 12 to five hours could reduce energy costs by about $2 per week or $104 per year.
  3. 3.     Wash laundry in cold water. A typical family could save about $72 a year by switching from hot to cold water.
  4. 4.     Save about 10% of your hot water usage by insulating the hot water pipe leading from your water heater with pipe insulation.

For more ways to save on energy, see: http://takechargenl.ca/saving-tips/

Each province has its own rebates, incentives and free programs. Find services specific to your province at: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/funding/efficiency/4947



FALL FACTS


Fall – as in tripping, not autumn – statistics and their impact on older adults are daunting. 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 20 to 30 percent of seniors experience one or more falls each year and they’re the leading cause of injury among older Canadians.

In fact, falls cause 85 percent of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations and 95 percent of all hip fractures.

See the full statistics in an infographic here: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/seniors-aines/publications/public/injury-blessure/seniors_falls-chutes_aines/assets/pdf/infographic-infographie2_2015-eng.pdf

If you’re concerned about falling or if a loved one is in danger of falling, consider assessing the potential factors, whether they stem from muscle weakness, chronic health conditions, inappropriate footwear, poor eyesight, or in-home dangers.

Here’s a room-by-room checklist to identify the dangers lurking at home and ways to minimize risk. www.preventfalls.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SOYF_HomeSafetyChecklist.pdf

Find other fall prevention resources and organizations at: www.canadianfallprevention.ca/links/partners/



Home upgrades that yield top returns


The 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is out.

The annual study (http://www.remodeling.hw.net/benchmarks/cost-vs-value/the-2015-cost-vs-value-report_o), done by Remodeling magazine in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine, looks at how much of your investment you can expect to recoup on renovation projects when you sell. 

As in previous years, the data is sliced in various ways. For instance, you can get

a big picture by looking at national data. Or you can see the data broken down by geographic area and look at midrange and upscale projects’ standings nationally and by geographic area.

If you have a second home in the United States or you’re thinking about buying one, look to the study to get a sense of the most valuable upgrades you can make. 

The study is also valuable if you’re buying and you want to make apples-to-apples comparisons of prospective homes’ features.

Here are some key results from the study.

Top 5 Midrange Projects (national averages in terms of cost recouped)

  1. Entry door replacement (101.8%)
  2. Manufactured stone veneer (92.2%)
  3. Garage door replacement (88.4%)
  4. Siding replacement, vinyl (80.7%)
  5. Deck (wood) addition (80.5%)

Top 5 Upscale Projects (national averages in terms of costs recouped)

  1.       Siding (fiber-cement) replacement (84.3%)
  2.       Garage door replacement (82.5%)
  3.       Siding (foam-backed vinyl replacement) (77.6%)
  4.       Window (vinyl) replacement (74.9%)
  5.       Window (wood) replacement (71.9%)


Top 10 Rightsizing Tips


Start with the easy stuff.

  1. Eliminate anything that’s broken, damaged or no longer wanted. Then, go to the out-of-the-way spaces like attics, crawlspaces and garages. Making progress in “easier” areas will build momentum to go through the harder-to-decide areas.

     

  2. Ask yourself, “If this disappeared tomorrow, would I run out and replace it?”

    If you wouldn’t miss it or need to replace it, it’s probably not worth keeping.

     

  3. Don’t be a storage unit for others.

    If friends or relatives have left things for you to store, it’s time to ask them to pick them up – or arrange to have them shipped. You may need to be tough and set a firm deadline, after which you will donate the items.

     

  4. Ask for help.

    Although you can do much of this work on your own, a family member, a good friend, or even a professional organizer can help make the job more manageable.

     

  5. Decide what’s really important.

    Pretend you are moving overseas and the number of items you can take will be severely limited and it will cost a small fortune to ship things. What items belong on your list? These are the tings that matter the most to you.

     

  6. Is this something from a lifestyle you no longer have or want?

    For example, if you have three cabinets full of plastic containers, but only cook for one or two people, you probably can lose a few plastic sets – and dishes, pots & pans, etc.

     

  7. Schedule a regular time each week – or several days per week – to work on rightsizing.

    Realize that rightsizing is a life-changing marathon, not a sprint. You didn’t accumulate everything overnight and you won’t sort it all out overnight either.

     

  8. Value what you keep.

    The fewer things you keep, the more you will treasure and enjoy what you have, instead of tucking them away in a closet or stacked among dozens of other things. These are the few, meaningful items worth having in your personal space.

     

  9. Prevent new collections from forming.

    Instead of material gifts, ask people to spoil you by sharing time, enjoying new experiences and indulging in luxuries (spa certificates, imported chocolate, a musical or other theatre production, gift certificates for dinner out, etc.) – the things you love and want, but don’t always buy for yourself.

     

  10. Use age to your advantage.

    Now is a great time to “gift” items you “eventually” want family members to have. Take a photo (preferably a digital one) of them holding the special item and create a digital scrapbook of ‘next generation’ memories…making your special people happy and freeing yourself of extra stuff that you have been charged with keeping for posterity,



SPRING IS COMING!


Declutter, prepare your house for spring selling season

January is the month when talk turns to resolutions, and magazines and newspapers give readers tips and resources.

So here it is.

Decluttering the home often ranks right up there with diets and health on New Year’s resolutions lists.

This online resource (www.home-storage-solutions-101.com/declutter.html) can help you in your quest for that Zen living environment.

The site offers that classic approach of setting a timer and suggesting that you deal with stuff in a given space for a set amount of time.

Somehow its methods do the trick for some chronically disorganized folks.

For one, the site provides a calendar of daily to-dos and how-tos for the year.

So, for instance, during January there’s a mission each week—kitchen counters,

kitchen cabinets and drawers, pantry, and refrigerator and freezer.

 

Each day of the week is devoted to an activity associated with that mission, whether that entails purging the junk drawer or making an inventory of the freezer and pantry.

 

If your kitchen spaces are in good shape, you can skip ahead to other months and find help with dealing with dining rooms, bedrooms and paper clutter.

 

Especially if you’re preparing your house for sale this spring or later in the year, this daily decluttering strategy will get your spaces in shape slowly and steadily and without panic.

You can sign up to get weekly reminders or join the Declutter 365 Facebook Group for daily reminders; you can find tips on specific problem areas –the dresser, the nightstand or the bathroom counter; and  you can print out monthly calendars, as well as checklists, inventory sheets and password organizzer forms.





DECLUTTER TIME!


Tender, Loving Care of Your Home’s Value

Spring cleaning usually means scrubbing walls, washing curtains, and so forth. Add a few extra tasks – purging, decluttering, and organizing – to your spring cleaning routine to make your efforts pay off for the long term.

For one, a big purge helps you live better today and prepare your house for the market if downsizing is in your future. Decluttering can be daunting physically and emotionally, especially when you’re already stressed about selling a family home, so some advance footwork could ease your life later on. Moreover, by eliminating clutter, especially papers and clothes on the floor, you eliminate fall hazards and create a safer house.

For some, tidying up just doesn’t come naturally. But if you’re committed to making a dent in your piles of stuff and need help, look to some online programs and step-by-step help. You’re likely to find methods that fit your personality and style. Here are some starting points.

www.Messies.com– The Messies Anonymous site features both free and for-sale decluttering and home organization advice and offers up two—the Mt. Vernon and Mt. Vesuvius—methods of cleaning.

The former is a methodical, marathon approach, requiring you to do three to seven tasks each day. Through those tasks, a tidier space and new habits eventually emerge. Then your job is just maintaining the new habits.

The Mt. Vesuvius method is more of a big dump that entails loading the stuff into labeled boxes and then dealing with the items box by box.

See messies.com’s six-week program at, http://messies.com/images/simplesixweeksrev.pdf and look at the site organizer’s blog, http://theorganizerlady.blogspot.com/ for reminders, quotes, questions, and habits of the day.

* www.Zenhabits.net– This site feels like something geared to those who are more advanced in the decluttering process.

Think minimalism. If that’s your goal, do head here.

It takes a philosophical approach to creating a minimalist environment and Zenhabits also addresses issues – rethinking your whole life -- that go well beyond just your physical space.

See: http://zenhabits.net/archives and http://zenhabits.net/a-guide-to-creating-a-minimalist-home.

* www.FlyLady.net– Flylady has a folksy, practical tone and delivers a comprehensive, long-term strategy for organization and cleanliness.

FlyLady’s philosophy: “Your home did not get dirty in one day, and it will not get clean in a day either.” As such, the information is organized so that you can choose your own pace and not get completely overwhelmed. You can do a 15-minute-a-day route, pick one task a day (you can sign up for daily e-mails), or speed walk through your house and dump 27 items into the trash at a time.

The foundation of FlyLady’s approach is “establishing little habits that string together into simple routines to help your day run on automatic pilot.”

Thus, one daily task for everyone entails cleaning your sink. It’s a way for you to develop one regular habit and also see evidence—a small clean, gleaming space—that you’re making progress. To a naturally neat person, it may seem ridiculous. For a messy person, it can provide hope and a sense of accomplishment.

FlyLady’s Home Maintenance Control Journal is especially helpful if you’re getting your house ready for sale. It asks you to pretend that you’re a real estate professional who is walking through your house and assessing what needs to be done.

You end up with a list of items that need fixing, cleaning, painting, replacing, and so forth. By completing those upgrades, you end up with a cleaner, tidier, better environment for living and a house that is more ready to put on the market.  As FlyLady puts it, it’s “tender loving care of your home’s value.”

Designers and home organizers often recommend looking at magazines and websites for design inspiration and as a way to envision your ideal space.

So check out http://www.remodelista.com/issue/8/17/north-country  The issue is focused on Canadian design.

Here are some articles where you can find more decluttering and downsizing advice.

http://www.canadianliving.com/health/mind_and_spirit/6_ways_to_clean_up_your_home_life.php

http://www.carp.ca/2014/04/15/spring-downsizing-tips/

http://www.chatelaine.com/tag/declutter/

http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/earthwatch-the-green-approach-to-organizing-and-decluttering/



Weatherize your home - save money!


Weatherize your home, save now

A terrific way to make a dent in that retirement gap is by modifying some habits and slashing your energy consumption.

Sure, you could do a top-to-bottom home upgrade and incorporate the most cutting edge efficiency features. But, again, small changes  can yield long-term savings. Many are cheap and painless. Here are five.

1.Fuel savings. The site http://www.fueleconomy.gov offers tips on making your car operate efficiently as possible, including:

  • Emptying your car trunk. Every extra 100 pounds in your car can reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2%. Roof racks reduce aerodynamic drag and kick up fuel costs. A loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel economy by 5%. 
  • Sticking to the speed limit. Consider that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is equivalent to paying an extra $0.24 per gallon for gas.

2. Holiday lights.Those tiny twinkling lights seem innocuous, but they do chew up energy. As you do your holiday decorating, keep in mind that replacing old strings of lights with light emitting diodes (LEDs) can save money.

According to NSTAR, a Massachusetts-based utility company, opting for ten strings of mini-LED lights instead of to ten strings of standard mini-lights can save you nearly $12 in energy costs in just a month. For more information, see NSTAR’s comparison of holiday lights at http://www.nstaronline.com/residential/energy_efficiency/holiday-lights.asp.

3. Water heating. Warming up water is the second largest energy expense in most homes and it typically accounts for about 18% of utility bills. Three free or almost-free ways to reduce your bill this season include:

  • Setting the water heater’s thermostat to 120°F.
  • Using less water by taking shorter showers, using low-flow showerheads, installing aerators on kitchen and bathroom faucets, and washing clothes in cold water. For more water-saving tips, see http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/reduce-hot-water-use-energy-savings.
  • Insulating your water heater. The cost of a water heating insulating blanket kit is less than $30. For most, a DIY installation takes less than two 

4. Weather stripping and caulking. So they’re not the most glamorous projects, but spending a couple hours caulking (here’s a step-by-step how-to, http://energy.gov/energysaver/projects/savings-project-how-seal-air-leaks-caulk) will seal up air leaks, such as those around window and door frames. And doing some weather stripping projects can cut drafts, making your house cozier and your winter energy bills a little less pricey.

5. Vampire power. Those glowing lights from appliances and devices – your TV, DVR and microwave – that aren’t in use constantly suck small bits of power, known as vampire or phantom power, and cost you money every single month. The simplest way to reduce such waste is by plugging equipment into power strips that can be turned off with a single switch.

Also disconnect cell phone and other battery chargers because they chew up energy even when they’re not powering up devices. 

For more about standby power, see http://www.standby.lbl.gov/faq.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57Ctkd0Lwac

 



LET IT GO! - A guide to decluttering


START DOWNSIZING NOW...

Clothing, Furniture, Bedding, Kitchen Supplies and Toys

  • Consignment Shops: I love consignment shops, primarily because they specialize in vintage clothing, but also because they'll take some of my better-quality items, clothes that I may have worn only a few times, and offer a discount or money in exchange for selling the item. Many will only pay you once the items have been sold, while others offer you cash up front.
  • Thrift Shops and Non-profit Stores: These include charities such as Salvation Army, Good Will, etc... Many smaller non-profit agencies also have their own storefronts with the profits going back into the community. They also work with local shelters to help ensure people receive proper clothing and supplies. Check your local directory for complete listings.
  • Shelters and Support Agencies: Most of our household items, in particular clothing and bedding, is given to local shelters and other support agencies that work with individuals to help them get back on their feet. Again, check your local directory for a community organization that could use the donation.

Books, Magazines and Office Supplies

  • Used book stores: Many will take slightly-worn books, often in exchange for cash or books. If you're moving, you probably don't want more books, so look for a second-hand shop that will pay you for your beloved reads. Sometimes they'll also take magazines if they're popular reads and are not necessarily time-sensitive, ie., news magazines.
  • Libraries and Literacy Groups: While your public library may not take your used books, they may ask you to donate them to a local literacy group, one that is often run through the library services. I know some of our books have found their way to some rural areas where the local library is not as well funded or equipped. Ask your librarian. They're always helpful in finding good homes for well-loved books and sometimes magazines as well.
  • Shelters and other Support Services: Many shelters have in-house libraries that often act as a resource for residents and the local neighborhood. Many people are unable to access the library if they don't have a permanent address, so a shelter bookshelf is often their only resource for books and magazines. Again, call some of the area non-profit support groups and ask what their needs are and which items you'd be donating.
  • Schools and Daycare Centers: Your child's school may be well equipped, but unfortunately, not all schools are - some will definitely welcome slightly-used books as long as they are appropriate for their attending students. Magazines are also sometimes welcomed, particularly in the younger grades where they are often used for crafts. This is also true of some local daycare centers.
  • Office Supplies: Whenever we move, there are always extra office supplies that aren't worth the cost of moving; copy paper or boxes of crayons that have been barely used. All of these items can always be used by any non-profit, with school supplies being most welcomed at schools, daycare centers, community centers and family shelters.

Computers and Electronics

  • Thrift Stores and Non-profit Shops: Again, many thrift stores and non-profit shops will accept working computers and electronic equipment. Just make sure that the pieces do work and that you've erased the hard drives of any personal information.
  • Schools and Community Centers: Used computer equipment is often welcomed at local schools or community centers either for in-house use or for a local family or student who may benefit from the equipment. Often times if I'm not sure where to start to find someone who could use a piece of equipment, I start at my local community center. They can usually put you in touch with an organization or individual in need.
  • Non-profit Agencies and Shelters: Many non-profit agencies specialize in helping families get back on their feet, which may include setting up a household. A computer or stereo or television is always welcomed. There are also some non-profits that specialize in repairing broken equipment then shipping the items to areas where electronics are needed; some ship to needy families in the region while others ship overseas. Cell phones, computers and radios are often required and many times can be donated as is, although it's always a generous idea to offer to assist in paying for any parts required. We did this recently with an older computer which required another motherboard, but otherwise was in good working condition. We paid the non-profit for a new motherboard and the computer was sent to a family in the northern region who required one for their 12 year old son. It's a small price to pay to have a large piece of equipment recycled so it doesn't end up in the landfill - at least not yet.

Specialty Items

  • Many of us have specialty items that are sometimes hard to find homes for; we've always had companion animals so our collection of cat kennels, bowls, brushes and other items seem to pile up over time. Each time we move, we reassess our needs and donate any extra equipment to our local animal shelter or rescue organization. Again, when finding a specialized non-profit, just make sure the equipment is in good working order, that it's clean and that you know it will be used. The same should apply to other items such as baby equipment and supplies.

So, just remember that if you have something that you think someone else could use, find a home for it instead of throwing it away.  Not only are you helping someone who may be in need, but you are also limiting your impact on the enviornment and making a better world for all of us.