Consumer Real Estate News

    • Fix That Leaky Faucet

      25 September 2020

      The dripping of water from a faulty faucet isn’t really loud, but it can be so annoying that it seems deafening. Plus, every drip is a reminder that you’re wasting water, and money, which can make sleeping even more difficult.

      Luckily, fixing a leaky faucet is often an easy job that just about anyone can do. Here’s how:

      Turn off the Water
      Underneath your sink is a valve that brings water to your faucet. Turn it to the right to stop the supply of water. If by some chance there isn’t a valve here, turn off the water for the entire house.

      Remove the Handle
      Start by taking off decorative parts of knobs, which you can do with a flat-head screwdriver. Then, use a screwdriver to remove the screw underneath the cover. If the screw is behind the handle, use a hex key or Allen wrench to remove it.

      Take Out the Cartridge
      The cartridge is a part of your faucet that turns with the handle, thus controlling the flow of water. You can loosen it with a crescent wrench. Some faucets may require the use of a specialized tool to loosen the cartridge. Check your owner’s manual. If you no longer have it,  you can likely find information about your faucet model online.

      Install the New Cartridge
      Replacing the O-ring and washer may make the repair, but keep in mind that the new O-ring or washer needs to be a precise fit. Or, you can replace the cartridge itself. To buy the right cartridge, you should know the faucet’s manufacturer and model number. You can also bring your old cartridge to a home repair store.

      Reassemble the Faucet
      Tighten the packing nut with a crescent, but don’t make it too tight. Then put back the handle. Turn the water for the faucet back on and test the faucet, both hot and cold water, for a few minutes each.

      If, as you go along, you discover a different problem, or making this repair doesn’t end the leak, it may be time to call in a professional.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Build Heart-Healthy Behaviors for Preschoolers at Home

      25 September 2020

      (Family Features) A pressing concern like a global pandemic can quickly overshadow other important health challenges facing families. One is the issue of childhood obesity, a problem the slower pace of life brought on by COVID-19 could exacerbate.

      Numerous cardiovascular and mental health risks are associated with childhood obesity, and many experts expect to see increases in both mental health challenges and obesity as a result of COVID-19.

      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity impacts 40 percent of children between the ages of 2-5, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, asthma and depression. 

      Data from a study published in the “Early Childhood Education Journal” from the American Heart Association shows children diagnosed as overweight between 7-13 years old may develop heart disease as early as age 25. However, preventative steps taken in early childhood can help reduce this risk. 

      Keeping young children healthy while at home during the pandemic requires extra attention to their nutrition, physical activity and screen time. Programs like the American Heart Association’s Healthy Way to Grow, a national, science-based, early childhood technical assistance program, provide educational resources to help communities, educators and caregivers improve practices and policies for obesity prevention. 

      These tips from the program can help early childhood professionals and caregivers promote best practices into the daily lives of children.

      Less than 1 percent of children have ideal diets, and under 10 percent have reasonably healthy diets, according to the American Heart Association. On any given day, 27 percent of 2- and 3-year-olds don’t eat a vegetable; among those who do, fried potatoes, which are high in fat and lower in nutrients, are most common. In fact, data shows kids eat less nutritious foods up to age 19.

      Children should consume a variety of foods daily, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairies, lean vegetable or animal protein and fish. At the same time, kids should minimize trans fats, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sweetened beverages. 

      Consistently timed meals and pairing new foods with choices they already enjoy are two ways to help form healthy habits. Be aware that healthy choices should apply throughout the day, not only for meals but also snacks and beverages. Eating together as a family provides an opportunity to model healthy eating and encourage children to try new foods. Also make water available and accessible to children throughout the day.

      For infants, feeding provides nutrition for their physical and mental growth. Healthy babies usually double their birth weight between 4-5 months of age. Infants and children with congenital heart disease and congestive heart failure or cyanosis (blueness) tend to gain weight slower. An 8-ounce-1-pound gain in a month may be an acceptable weight gain for a baby with a heart defect.

      Physical Activity
      Only about 20 percent of kids perform enough activity to meet physical activity recommendations. Whether you’re working with children in a childcare setting or at home, look for ways to incorporate lesson plans that offer learning experiences about healthy eating and physical activity, and ensure the daily schedule includes ample active playtime.

      The Healthy Way to Grow program recommends all children, including infants, have at least two outdoor active play times daily, weather and air quality permitting. Toddlers should engage in 60-90 minutes while 120 minutes of daily active play is recommended for preschoolers. Half the time should be structured and led by a teacher or caregiver while the remaining playtime should be unstructured and up to the child.

      Learn more about protecting the health and wellness of children in your home and community at

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Mortgage Options for Low-Income Homebuyers

      25 September 2020

      Buying a house is challenging for many people. If your annual earnings are low, it may be difficult or impossible to save a substantial amount of money for a down payment. If you have existing loans or credit cards, your debt-to-income ratio may be too high to qualify for most mortgages. Fortunately, there are several programs that might be able to help you achieve your dream of owning a home.

      Federal Programs to Help Low-Income Borrowers
      A loan through the Federal Housing Administration requires just 3.5 percent down. The down payment can be made with funds received as a gift. FHA has lower credit score requirements and less stringent rules on debt-to-income ratio than conventional lenders. The borrower can have a co-signer and the seller can pay some or all of the closing costs.

      Both Fannie Mae’s HomeReady program and Freddie Mac’s Home Possible Advantage program require just 3 percent down. The borrower doesn’t have to personally contribute any money toward a down payment; it can come from a grant, loan or gift. In addition, the seller can pay up to 3 percent of the purchase price in closing costs and the borrower can qualify for a discount on mortgage insurance. 

      The Department of Agriculture has a home loan program to help low-to-moderate income borrowers purchase houses in designated rural areas. The USDA offers two programs for borrowers with different income levels. No down payment is required.

      The Department of Veterans Affairs offers loans that can be particularly beneficial to low-income borrowers since there is no down payment or mortgage insurance required. The program doesn’t have a minimum credit score, but lenders can set their own minimums. The VA has more lenient rules on debt-to-income ratio than conventional lenders. The seller can pay up to 4 percent of the purchase price to cover the buyer’s closing costs. 

      The Good Neighbor Next Door Program lets teachers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians buy Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosure properties at half-price. The discount is a second mortgage that doesn’t require any payment, as long as the borrower lives in the house for at least three years.

      Other Forms of Assistance
      Some city, county and state housing finance agencies issue mortgage credit certificates. Borrowers who meet income guidelines can receive a tax credit equal to a percentage of the mortgage interest. That credit can be added to qualifying income, which allows a lender to approve a higher mortgage amount than the borrower would have otherwise been able to obtain.

      Some government agencies, employers and charitable organizations offer down payment assistance through grants or loans. Programs may have income limits, or they may help borrowers buy homes in “underserved” or “redevelopment” areas, no matter their income. 

      Ask If You’re Eligible 
      Several programs are designed specifically for people who have low incomes and want to buy a home. If you need help, research these programs to find out if you’re eligible or ask your real estate agent for guidance.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Kid-Friendly Recipes for At-Home Learning

      24 September 2020

      (Family Features) During a school year that’s sure to be a new experience for students and parents alike, many of the everyday necessities, like eating breakfast and lunch, remain. However, this year, many little learners will be enjoying their lunches from the comfort and safety of home rather than at school, meaning moms and dads are back in charge of keeping the kitchen running throughout the day. 

      According to a survey conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Sabra, 74 percent of caregivers expect this school year to be more chaotic than ever and 64percent of moms and dads complain they are dreading becoming the “lunch lady” at home. 

      You can improve those school day blues with quick, kid-friendly recipes that refuel children for their educational explorations. By providing a steady stream of balanced meals and snacks made with wholesome ingredients, you can feel good about boosting your at-home students’ learning capabilities even during these tricky times. 
      In the morning, try starting with this Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Toast recipe from Tabitha Brown, the actress and vegan foodie known as “America's Mom.” Sliced banana powers this breakfast with the rich, decadent taste of Sabra Dark Chocolate Dessert Dip & Spread to thrill chocolate lovers for a combination of flavors kids love.

      For a lunchtime solution with easy prep and quick cleanup, a Hummus Flatbread Pizza takes just 10-15 minutes to make. Made with easy-to-find ingredients you can keep on-hand like pizza sauce and hummus, simply top with sweet favorites like pineapple for a fun boost for long days of learning.   

      To find more at-home recipe inspiration, visit 

      Hummus Flatbread Pizza
      Recipe courtesy of Tabitha Brown
      Prep time: 10-15 minutes
      Yield: 1 flatbread

      • 4 teaspoons pizza sauce 
      • 1 rectangular flatbread
      • 3 tablespoons Sabra Classic Hummus
      • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, divided
      • 1/3 cup pineapple tidbits or fresh pineapple pieces
      • strawberries
      • chopped romaine lettuce
      • English cucumber slices
      • Preheat the oven to 500 F.
      Brush pizza sauce to edges of flatbread. Swirl to spread hummus to edges of flatbread. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder over flatbread. If using canned pineapple tidbits, drain and pat dry with a paper towel. Add pineapple tidbits to flatbread and sprinkle with remaining garlic powder. 

      Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until flatbread is light golden brown.

      Cool and cut flatbread. Serve with strawberries and mix chopped romaine lettuce and English cucumber slices for simple salad.

      Chocolate Banana Cinnamon Toast
      Recipe courtesy of Tabitha Brown
      Prep time: 10-15 minutes
      Yield: 2 pieces toast
      • 2 slices cinnamon raisin bread
      • 3 tablespoons Sabra Dark Chocolate Dessert Dip & Spread
      • 6 banana slices, plus additional for serving (optional)
      • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon powder
      • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
      • fresh strawberries (optional)
      • powdered sugar
      • Toast bread to desired doneness.
      Using a spoon, swirl to spread 1 1/2 tablespoons chocolate spread on each slice of toast.

      Add banana slices to one slice of toast and sprinkle with cinnamon.

      Top with a second slice of toast.

      Slice in half diagonally. Add to the plate with extra sliced banana and fresh strawberries, if desired. Drizzle toast with maple syrup and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • When Refinancing Your Mortgage Might Be a Bad Idea

      24 September 2020

      Refinancing your mortgage could help you lock in a lower interest rate, reduce your monthly payments, pay off your loan early or access equity to make home repairs or pay other bills. Despite all these potential benefits, refinancing isn’t the right choice for everyone.

      Would You Get Approved for a New Loan?
      If you submit a mortgage refinance application, the lender will consider your credit. If your credit scores are low, you might not qualify for a competitive interest rate. You would be better off focusing on paying bills on time and lowering your credit card balances to boost your scores before trying to refinance your mortgage. Even bumping your credit scores up by a handful of points might put you in a tier that would make you eligible for a lower interest rate.

      A lender will also consider the amount of equity you have in your home. You might have trouble qualifying for a conventional refinance if you have less than 20 percent equity, although you could be eligible to refinance through a government program. Tapping into your home equity could be risky. If you couldn’t afford the loan payments, you might lose your house.

      Would You Save Money?
      If you can’t afford to pay for closing costs, refinancing might not be a smart move. Even if you could roll them into the loan balance, that would reduce your equity and increase your monthly payments.

      Think about how long you plan to stay in your home. Refinancing might give you lower monthly payments, but it could take several years to break even. You can find the break-even point by dividing the closing costs by the amount you would save each month. That will tell you the number of months you would have to stay in the house after refinancing to recoup the closing costs. If you expect to move before then, refinancing wouldn’t benefit you financially.

      Sometimes a refinance lowers monthly payments by extending the term of the loan. In the early years of a mortgage, most of the payments go toward interest. If you refinanced and extended your loan term, the monthly payments for your new loan would also go primarily toward interest at the beginning. That means you could pay interest twice on the bulk of your principal.

      Some mortgages have a prepayment penalty or a charge that applies if the borrower pays off the loan early or refinances. Rules enacted in 2014 limited the circumstances in which lenders could charge prepayment penalties, but they don’t apply to mortgages that were issued before then. If your loan has a prepayment penalty, figure out how much you would owe and whether refinancing would be worthwhile.

      Consider All the Financial Ramifications
      Refinancing can be a way to save a significant amount of money on a home loan, but it doesn’t work out that way for everyone, since many individual factors come into play. Talk to a mortgage professional to decide what’s right for you.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.