Consumer Real Estate News

  • 5 Steps to Saving Money Easily

    23 May 2018

    (Family Features)—Saving money. It's one of the most challenging tasks people face month after month, year after year; however, a few simple rules and free personal finance apps can make it easier for you to stay on top of your spending and saving habits.

    Consider these simple steps for building up your savings and net worth:

    Track Your Spending Habits
    If you think you're spending more than you should, but aren't sure exactly where to start trimming expenses, it can be a good idea to self-audit and see exactly where your money is going. There are multiple websites that can help you connect your accounts in one place and track your spending.

    Use Peer Pressure to Your Advantage
    Contrary to conventional wisdom, peer pressure doesn't always have to be a bad thing. In fact, according to research conducted by the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland, peer pressure can actually help you cut back on unnecessary spending. The researchers studied the spending habits of people using a personal finance website called Status Money and found that users who learned they were spending more than their peers reduced their spending by an average of 23 percent.  

    Identify Problem Areas
    Maybe the newest pair of sneakers on the market have to be yours, or perhaps dining out with friends is just too tantalizing. Once you've compared your spending with peers, you can find out if you're splurging a little too much. Try not to completely deprive yourself of your favorite hobbies or activities, though. See what's a reasonable budget for you then cut back on things you can live without.

    Set a (Logical) Budget
    While it sounds simple to create a budget for each month's expenses, it can actually be pretty hard. Rather than expelling time and effort aiming for a goal that isn't realistic, use online tools to help set a benchmark that's achievable month-to-month. For example, Status Money can help you set reasonable spending limits and automatically predict your future spending to alert you before you hit or exceed your budget.

    Negotiate and Change Financial Providers
    Always be open to deals and financial products that are better suited to your personal situation. Switching providers or negotiating prices can often save you money. You can bargain on everything from a cable bill to purchasing a vehicle—even small savings can add up over time.

    Saving money can be a challenge for people in all walks of life, but creating a plan can help you change the outlook of your financial life for the better. Visit StatusMoney.com to learn how much you can save.

    Source: Status Money

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Get Involved in the Game of Chess

    23 May 2018

    (Family Features)—Chess, once a game considered to be reserved for the affluent and older men, is creating a cooler image with a younger demographic. The ancient game has seen a rising level of involvement among young people in the U.S., and there's even a growing interest in watching tournaments, where big money is at stake.

    Youth who are interested in taking up the game can find plenty of inspirational role models; three of the top 10 players in the world are from the U.S., which is now host to some of the most prestigious chess events in the world, including the U.S. and U.S. Women's Chess Championships, the U.S. Junior Championship and U.S. Girls' Junior Championship and the Sinquefield Cup.

    If you're interested in taking up the game on your own, or sharing the experience with a young player, here are some tips to get started.

    Practice at Home
    As the saying goes, the best place to begin is the beginning, and with chess, that means taking time to understand the game. Grow familiar with the chess board and pieces, as well as the rules and basic strategy. Practicing at home with friends and family can build a foundation for learning more complex gameplay down the road.

    Learn About Its History
    The origins of chess date back as far as 1,500 years, and for young players, the ability to take an active part in a piece of history can hold an element of fascination on its own. One way to explore the game's history is to visit the World Chess Hall of Fame in the U.S. Chess capital, St. Louis, which currently features a series of exhibitions that highlight the connections between chess, art, culture and history. Plan your visit at worldchesshof.org.

    Encourage Friends to Take Interest
    Chess provides a unique dynamic for a pair of players to converse and bond over the love of the game while developing a mutual respect for one another. Encourage your young player to invite friends to play, and to develop peer relationships through a shared interest in chess.

    Follow Tips From the Pros
    For those unfamiliar with the game, keeping tabs on elite players who have perfected it not only gives kids insight on high-level strategy; it offers inspirational role models.  

    "One of the most important things for a young player to remember is that chess isn't just about planning your own openings and moves," says grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, who is currently the No. 1 U.S. player and the first American to challenge for an undisputed World Chess Championship since 1972. "You also have to be conscious of your opponents and their vantage point on the game. That awareness of others is actually a lesson that applies to life in general."

    Join a Chess Club
    Interaction with players of all levels is not only a fun way to build relationships with those who share a love of chess; it's a great opportunity to meet fellow players who are eager to trade tips or simply pull up a chair and enjoy a game. Many clubs offer other resources, as well.

    "Introducing a child to chess is a true gift," Caruana says. "There are so many advantages, from cognitive to social to even financial rewards for students who embrace the game and excel."

    Sources: Saint Louis Chess Club and World Chess Hall of Fame

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Selling a Luxury Home? Forget Staging, 'White Box' Instead

    23 May 2018

    In high-end luxury markets like New York City and Los Angeles, turns out less is often more. Instead of maximizing luxe features like state-of-the-art kitchens and top-dollar fixtures and moldings, sellers are stripping their pads down to bare bones and commanding a higher sales price in the process.

    According to a recent article on CNBC.com, the trend is called "white boxing," and it's all the rage among the ultra-affluent who often buy a luxury property only to gut it and redo it in the style that suits their unique design taste and lifestyle. For luxury buyers—who place high value on personalizing a home and making it their own—it's much more appealing to buy a space that's already stripped, as it saves them the time and expense of doing so on their own.

    Buying a white-boxed property also makes luxury clientele feel better, too, says one Beverly Hills real estate expert, as tearing out existing features and appliances isn't the most environmentally-friendly course of action. The stripped property can also have the benefit of appearing brand-new in cases where the existing design and features were dated.

    White-boxed properties are the ultimate blank canvas for today's luxury buyer, who often favors "designer-ready " over  "move-in ready," and for architects and interior designers working with buyers, it's a huge boon, allowing work to proceed in a much more efficient manner—stripped properties easily lend themselves to computer-generated designs and virtual renderings.

    Depending on trends in your area, if you're putting a luxury property on the market, talk to your real estate professional to see if white boxing might be a strategy that will work for you.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Why Staying Home May Be Your Best Vacation Yet

    23 May 2018

    Ever come back from a vacation feeling like you need a vacation? Unfortunately, thanks to the stress of crowded airports, long road trips, packed sightseeing schedules and uncomfortable hotel beds (or worse, a tent/sleeping bag combo!), you can often return from a trip exhausted and feeling like you didn't relax at all.

    That's why a staycation may be just what the doctor ordered for your next vacation. The biggest risk in taking a staycation is that you won't fully separate from work or the daily chores of home, so an effective staycation means a complete avoidance of email and laundry. Once you make that commitment, you're on your way to rest and relaxation.

    Here are some great ways to make your staycation the best vacation ever:

    Make an itinerary. Come up with well-defined activities for your staycation, so you don't waste the days away on the couch. Even simple activities like having a backyard cookout by the pool will do the trick. The idea is to partake in activities that are relaxing and vacation-oriented.

    Go somewhere you've never been. No matter where you live, there are definitely places nearby where you've never been, from museums to beaches to state parks. This is your chance to be a tourist in your own backyard.

    Eat out. One of the best parts of any vacation is the lack of cooking, so try out those restaurants you've been meaning to get to and pack picnic lunches for a hike. Just remember: No grocery shopping allowed on vacation!

    See a show. Spend a night or two on the town and take in a play or concert. Get tickets in advance so that these outings are part of the plan.

    Read a good book...or golf, bike or paint—whatever your favorite relaxing hobby is that you never have time to pursue during your day-to-day life.

    Sticking to the above activities and staying away from work and chores will make for a great, relaxing vacation while never having to worry about a baggage charge or a flight delay.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Consumers Demand Improved Indoor Air Quality

    22 May 2018

    A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS)—a collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Harvard Kennedy School—states that today's homeowners want to take greater action to address healthy-home issues; however, they face obstacles such as lack of trustworthy, clear, and actionable information. In a related blog, report co-author Mariel Wolfson says the housing industry must do better demonstrating and responding to consumer demand.

    Wolfson discovered that:

    - Nearly one in four households in a JCHS survey had some concern about health-related issues in their homes; more than 20 percent acknowledged uncertainty about whether their homes might contain health risks.

    - Nearly half of American homeowners responding to the survey have some level of interest in healthy-home issues.
    - Sixty percent had already taken action—even if minor—to create a healthier indoor environment at home.
    Wolfson says data proves consumers want their homes to contain fewer toxic materials and have good indoor environmental quality overall, but they need trustworthy expertise, services and information from the industry.

    Building professionals who have relevant expertise—which includes knowledge of healthier/non-toxic materials and practices—have a distinct competitive advantage when working with individual homeowners and owners of multifamily buildings.

    If you are a homeowner looking to integrate more indoor air quality (IAQ) features into an existing home, or are planning to build one and want to maximize air quality features, Wolfson says, there are a growing number of initiatives that work to help building professionals develop this expertise.

    She advises consumers to steer prospective contractors or builders toward resources such as HealthyHousingSolutions.com, which offers training courses, as well as the  National Center for Healthy Housing; the Healthy Building Network; the Perkins and Will Transparency project; and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative.

    Wolfson also notes that the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) strategy for action is another valuable resource.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.