Margot Aronson Sells Homes, Realtor®, ABR, ASR, CDPE
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Don't Get Taken to the Cleaners by Your House Cleaner

July 22, 2015 1:18 am

The home cleaning industry is rife with companies that outsource work to contract laborers in an effort to control expenses and maximize shareholder earnings. This type of business model puts the homeowner at risk. Why?

Home cleaning companies using contract labor do not have to provide workers compensation. While it assumed the contractor maintains his or her own policies, many gamble against the odds of injury on the job.

“In the unfortunate event that injury does occur, contract cleaning workers may seek (and get) medical reimbursement from the owners of the home they were cleaning when the injury took place,” says Maid Brigade President Bart Puett.

Homeowners may also be liable for Social Security, Medicare and unemployment taxes and penalties for the contract workers who do not make accurate and timely payments to the IRS themselves. Since the contract worker is not employed by the housecleaning company that dispatched them, the IRS may deem that the homeowner is the employer of that cleaner, and therefore responsible for these taxes.

Though the risk of finding a surprise tax bill in the mailbox is slim for most homeowners who hire cleaning help, it is best not to take chances.

When hiring a cleaning company, do your homework. “Homeowners should do their due diligence before hiring a house cleaner or professional cleaning service,” says Ernie Hartong, CEO of the Association for Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI). “To avoid the pitfalls that can occur when someone is working in your home, ask to see a copy of the company's business license and insurance policy before hiring. A professional company should gladly provide these to any consumer who asks."

Source: Maid Brigade

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You Prepared for Emergencies while Traveling?

July 21, 2015 1:15 am

Does your health insurance cover incidents while traveling abroad? Depending on your domestic healthcare provider, specific plan and area of travel, medical coverage can vary widely. According to the InsureMyTrip.com, travelers should be familiar with any limitations on domestic health insurance policies while out of the country.

In most cases, InsureMyTrip says, there are gaps in coverage. The U.S. State department estimates very few domestic heath insurance companies will pay for a medical evacuation back to the United States, which can easily cost up to $100,000 or more, depending on the condition and location of the patient. Unless an individual has a supplemental plan (like Medicare Advantage or Medigap, Medicare does not cover travelers outside of the U.S.

Travel insurance can act as supplemental or primary coverage for emergency medical care (when a traveler requires a doctor or hospital visit while traveling abroad), emergency evacuation (when a traveler requires transportation to another medical facility, or back home for further care), and 24/7 emergency assistance (when a traveler needs help with a medical or safety-related issue, needs to find a doctor or hospital, or requires translation services).

Some travel insurance policies also cover pre-existing medical conditions. Most travel insurance providers offer two types of plans:

1. Comprehensive Travel Insurance
– Offers the most protection for travelers. Provides a variety of benefits, including trip cancellation, trip interruption, emergency medical evacuation or coverage, 24/7 emergency assistance and baggage protection.

Example: For a $5,000 two-week vacation to Aruba, a comprehensive travel insurance plan will cost a couple in their fifties around $200. This includes a $50,000 medical limit and $250,000 for medical evacuation.

2. Travel Medical Insurance
--- Provides emergency medical coverage, 24/7 emergency assistance and emergency medical evacuation coverage. Trip cancellation is typically not included.

Example: For the same trip to Aruba, a travel medical insurance plan will cost a couple in their fifties around $80. This includes a $50,000 medical limit with a $250 deductible and $500,000 medical evacuation.


Both comprehensive and travel medical insurance plans are a valued supplement while traveling overseas, offsetting possible coverage gaps in some domestic health insurance plans.

Source: InsureMyTrip

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Study: Monthly Utilities Average Less Than $150

July 21, 2015 1:15 am

Despite an unchanged average monthly bill, more individuals expressed price satisfaction with their utility companies in a recent J.D. Power study, potentially reflective of an increase in confidence related to household income. Another contributing factor, the study found, may be less exposure to information regarding rate increases.

According to the study, the average monthly utility bill comes in at $132 per month.

Utility companies have stepped up service efforts as of late, primarily in power outage situations. Study participants cited an increase in proactive communication, including the cause of the outage, the number of customers impacted and more accurate restoration estimates, on the part of their respective utility providers.

Source: J.D. Power

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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An Architect's Disaster Safety Checklist

July 21, 2015 1:15 am

In the eyes of an architect, preparing your residence for a natural disaster requires a thorough understanding of the home’s structure. If you don’t know details relating to the construction of your home, the American Institute of Architects Disaster Assistance Committee recommends following this checklist:

1. Document your home before disaster strikes. Take photos of the inside and outside of your property and share with your insurance company prior to a natural disaster.

2. Become familiar with your home’s history. Seek out details like the age of your home, the type of framing used in construction, how recently the roof has been repaired or replaced, etc. This information will help guide you on what design changes or updates should be made before a disaster.

3. Prioritize inexpensive fixes and phase repairs, maintenance and retrofits so they are manageable. Use wind-resistant nailing patterns to secure roof sheathing

4. Communicate your building performance goals. Make your desire for storm-resistant and resilient design elements known to your contractor or architect from the outset of a project and include site selection, program and building life cycle in your conversations. Make sure that you are comfortable with their expertise in this area before proceeding with work.

5. Designate a safe room within your home
for certain hazards including tornadoes and earthquakes. Examples include a mud room, laundry room or even a powder room as space allows.

6. Design to meet your needs. Building codes are a life safety standard that affords minimal protection of property only. Hazardous conditions may not be up to date in local maps and regulations to reflect current realities and risk. A qualified architect can advise on additional measures to take.

Source: AIA.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways Students Can Avoid Borrower's Remorse

July 20, 2015 1:12 am

With no end in sight for tuition rate hikes, funding a higher education has become one of the most challenging financial issues for Americans. Students relying on loans have the added burden of paying off debt after graduation – and many aren’t even sure where to begin. To avoid borrower’s remorse, keep in mind these tips from the experts at Edvisors.com.

1. Exhaust free money first. By the time loans are repaid in full with any interest, it typically costs students about two dollars for every dollar they borrow. Rely on free aid first, such as grants, scholarships and education tax benefits. Consider earned income, such as student employment, education awards for volunteer service, employer tuition assistance or military student aid as options, as well. If you must borrow, consider a short-term tuition installment plan, instead of long-term debt.

2. Avoid taking on too much debt.
Families should only take on as much debt as they can afford to repay student loans in ten years or less. A good rule of thumb is to keep student loan debt at graduation less than the student’s expected annual starting salary – ideally, a lot less.

3. Borrow federal student loans before private ones. Always borrow federal student loans first because the loans are less expensive, more available and have better repayment terms and conditions than private student loans.

4. Know the difference between fixed and variable interest rates. Fixed interest rates remain unchanged for the life of the loan, while variable interest rates may change periodically. Even if the interest rate on a variable-rate loan is initially lower than the interest rate on a fixed-rate loan, the variable-rate loan may ultimately be more expensive if the interest rate increases significantly over the life of the loan.

5. Understand the consequences of cosigning. Cosigning a loan may help the borrower qualify for a loan and may reduce the interest rate. But, a cosigner is also a co-borrower, equally obligated to repay the debt. The cosigned loan will be reported on the credit history of both the borrower and cosigner. This may affect the cosigner’s ability to qualify for other debt, especially if the borrower is late with a payment or defaults on the loan.

Source: Edvisors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Credit Seekers See More Approvals, Fewer Rejections

July 20, 2015 1:12 am

As the economy continues to stabilize, more Americans are experiencing improvement in credit application rates and credit rejection rates, including those of mortgages and mortgage refinances, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. According to the Bank’s recent SCE Credit Access Survey, there are now more successful applicants and fewer rejected and discouraged credit seekers. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents who were credit applicants in the last 12 months were granted credit; a mere 8.1 percent applied and were rejected. Approximately five percent of survey respondents were too discouraged to apply, despite indicating a need for credit.

Application rates increased slightly for all credit types: mortgage, mortgage refinance, credit card, credit card limit increase and auto loan. The most noticeable increase was seen in those aged 40 or younger.

In addition, survey respondents reporting a voluntary credit account closing or credit limit reduction in the past 12 months dropped to 13 percent. Involuntary (lender-initiated) credit account closings or credit limit reductions remained within the 3-4 percent range seen at the onset of the recovery.

Survey respondents indicating the likelihood of applying for a mortgage in the next 12 months increased to record highs. The likelihood of a credit application being rejected, conditional on applying, fell for mortgages and increased slightly for mortgage refinances.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Hottest Trends in Tile

July 20, 2015 1:12 am

(BPT) - New designs, styles and technologies are making tile the most versatile and accessible flooring material in homes today. Whether tiling up a wall or carrying tile throughout the home, builders, designers and homeowners are thinking outside the box when it comes to this trend, says The Tile Shop, purveyor of tile and natural stone at more than 100 retail showrooms across the country.

"Tile has always been durable and easy to maintain," says Kevin McDaniel of The Tile Shop. "Tile has a long lifespan and classic good looks, making it a favorite flooring of choice wherever homeowners need a floor material that's both practical and beautiful. Even more design options are available now, making tile a smart floor surface in virtually any room of the home."

If you’re thinking of renovating your home, McDaniel suggests incorporating some of the hottest trends in tile, such as:

Rustic, Real Wood - Many of the larger-format, faux wood tiles mimic the look of real hardwood floors. Less expensive and more durable than real wood, these tile floors are practical yet beautiful choices for active households with children and pets. Details evoke the character of real wood, right down to the nails.

"Rustic faux wood is making a huge splash because of its warm, earthy coloring and unusual time-worn finishes such as aged paint, a finish hard to achieve with real wood. I foresee it continuing to be a very popular design trend," McDaniel says.

Longer Planks - While standard square tile sizes will always have their place in home decor, rectangular tiles - otherwise known as planks - are gaining popularity. New 12-by-24-inch tiles are ideal in bathrooms and 6-by-36-inch tiles or 8-inch by 8-feet planks (often in wood-grained looks) are a favorite for living areas.

"Using longer planks can help smaller spaces look larger, and create an appealing consistency across multiple rooms," says McDaniel. "While consumers may be familiar with traditional tile shapes such as square or hexagon, these longer tiles offer exciting new design flexibility."

Poured Concrete - While concrete is a trendy design material right now, it's not practical for every household or application. New tile styles create the look of poured or stained concrete at a fraction of the cost, and with all the durability, versatility and ease associated with tile. Tile options range from long rectangular 8-by-18-inch or 12-by-24-inch planks to 18-by-18-inch squares. Tiles are rectified (the edge is cut completely straight) and grout joints are very narrow to create the look of seamless concrete.

Heated Floors - While heated floors were once a luxury option for homeowners, they're becoming increasingly mainstream. Tile lends itself to radiant heat beneath the floor. Some retailers, including The Tile Shop, carry thermostats to control the heated floor.

High-Contrast Grout
- Using a high-contrast grout color can make the floor pop, and it's a tactic that works well with mosaic designs. Choosing the right grout color is just as important as the tile you select. Also popular is the concept of mosaic designs that mimic an area rug within a larger section of tile flooring and create the look of custom art within the floor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Check out my Fan Page: Margot Aronson, Realtor

July 18, 2015 3:54 pm

Looking for inspiring pictures, great ideas and practical information PLUS MLS access??? Then check out my fan page, Margot Aronson, Realtor.  Feel free to like and share with your facebook friends. When looking for help, contact me directly. 

Enjoy my page and the special features! 

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10 Ways to Guarantee a Returned Security Deposit

July 17, 2015 1:09 am

(Family Features) Moving out of a rental home or apartment often unveils inevitable wear-and-tear from living in the space. What can be even more challenging is restoring the rental to its original condition in order to get your security deposit back.

Before paying professional handymen and cleaning services for repairs, there are several areas you can address on your own. "Do-it-yourself projects and repairs don't have to be overwhelming or require paid professionals," says PrettyHandyGirl.com blogger Brittany Bailey. "All it takes is the right tools and a boost of confidence to DIY your rental to tip-top condition."

Bailey recommends these 10 tips for repairing minor damages.

1. Allow fresh air to circulate through the space by opening windows for as long as possible and using exhaust fans while cleaning.

2. Clean garbage disposal blades and freshen the drain by placing a few pieces of lemon peels in the garbage disposal and running water as you turn it on.

3. Patch small holes and cracks with spackle or putty to ensure a smooth finish.

4. Paint walls back to their original color and use blue painter's tape to avoid splashing color on your trim and baseboards.

5. Tackle scuff marks and wall stains without sprays or cleaners by using an erasing pad and water to gently buff away dirt and residue.

6. Lift carpet stains by creating a homemade cleaner using dishwashing liquid, white vinegar, water and baking soda.

7. Fill mild scratches and hide blemishes on laminate countertops by using color-matched repair pens.

8. Get rid of tough stains on kitchen surfaces with nail polish remover on a clean white rag and gently scrub surfaces. (Be sure to test a small area before taking on the entire surface.)

9. Leave on good terms with the landlord by taking out trash and cleaning as much as possible once all your belongings are packed away.

10. Stick around for the move-out inspection and confirm with the landlord when you can expect to receive your security deposit.

Source: 3mdiy.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homebuyers Today Reap Rewards Quickly

July 17, 2015 1:09 am

Though some homebuyers who bought 10 years ago have not broke even on their investment, buyers today can break even in two years or less, according to a recent Zillow® analysis. Nationally, homebuyers today can break even in an average of 1.9 years.

"It's very clear that when it comes to maximizing gains from an investment in real estate, timing really does matter a great deal," says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. "However, timing isn't everything, and trying to time the market perfectly is incredibly difficult, even for professionals.

“There are any number of factors to consider when purchasing a home, only one of which is the potential for financial gain,” Humphries adds. “Potential buyers should always place their personal needs and their family's needs first, and make the decision to buy only when they are ready to make a significant investment of both their time and money. Just because the math might say to buy or rent in a given area, personal preferences and situations vary greatly, and there is no one answer that is right for everybody."

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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