Returning Users
Email Quick and Easy Sign Up

My Blog

Property Tax Primer: Is Your Assessment Correct?

December 25, 2015 3:15 am

There are millions of articles out there on the best ways to prepare your home for sale. But what about preparing to stay, and dealing with a reassessment or revaluation that may be inaccurately boosting your local property taxes?

For some answers, I turned to Vision Government Solutions, a supplier of land management software technology and services to local government organizations, enabling efficient assessment, billing, collections, mapping, and permitting.

According to Vision, the following four questions and accompanying information can help you to decide if your assessment is correct.

1) Can I sell my property for that amount?

The first thing that you should do is ask yourself if you could sell the property for approximately that amount.

2) Do assessment officials have the correct information on my property?

You can review the information that the assessing department has collected on your property to make sure the data is accurate either online, or at your local assessor's office. While reviewing your property, make sure that all measurements on the sketch are accurate. Note that all measurements are taken from the exterior. You should also check the land size and interior data to ensure accuracy.

3) How much are similar properties in my neighborhood selling for?

If your city or town has property information available on the Internet, you can do a sales search by going to the appropriate website. Make sure that you choose recent sales that are similar to your own property. For instance, if you owned a 2,000 square foot colonial that is assessed for $350,000 and has one-half acre of land, you would fill out the choices as shown below.

4) How much have similar properties in my neighborhood been assessed for?

If you do not have any recent sales activity in your local area, you can look up the assessed value of similar parcels that are located near your property. Be aware that what may appear to be a similar parcel may in fact be very different from your property.

Whether it's just a few, or hundreds of dollars in taxes saved, it often pays to confirm the agency handling your property information has the most accurate and up-to-date data.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Are You Ready for Winter's Worst?

December 25, 2015 3:15 am

As sure as winter follows fall, winter storms aren't far behind, either. Take time to review a number of important reminders to keep you, your family and home safe during winter storms. Let's review a handy pre-storm prep list recently released by the multi-state utility Eversource Energy:

During/After a Storm

- Be attentive to severe weather warnings.

- Leave your home if authorities order an evacuation, especially if your home is in an area that floods easily.
In frigid weather, if your power is likely to be out for more than a few days, you may want to call your plumber and ask about draining your home’s water pipes so they don’t freeze and burst.

- Your automobile is a good place to charge your cell phone or stay warm during a storm, as long as you keep it well ventilated and don’t go to sleep while the motor is running.

- You can always cook outside on a grill or camping cook-stove. However, never bring grills inside!

- Foods in your refrigerator and freezer should be consumed quickly, particularly in the event of a potentially lengthy outage, before they have a chance to spoil. If the temperature is cold enough outside, food can always be placed in a cooler outside to prevent it from spoiling.

- If you don’t have surge protectors or suppressors, unplug your sensitive equipment. Voltage irregularities can occur for any number of reasons during or after a storm, especially if there has been damage on or near your home. The safest thing to do is to unplug any sensitive electrical devices (TV, VCR, stereo, microwave, computer, answering machine, garage door opener, etc.).

- After a storm, Eversource advises you to stay away from downed wires and trees that might have wires caught in them. Report any downed wire you may see to your local electric utility or call 911 Assume all downed wires are “live” and stay away.

- Stay clear of all fallen tree limbs and electrical wires as well as anything they are touching such as puddles and metal fences.

- If you’re in a vehicle and downed wires are on the car or across the road, stay in your car until emergency crews arrive to handle the energized wires.

- It is safe to use a cell phone while inside your car.

- Don't drive over downed lines, and if a downed line is in or near water, keep your distance from the water, even a little puddle.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Home for the Holidays: Travelers Top 100 Million in Record-Breaking Year

December 24, 2015 3:15 am

For the first time on record, the number of year-end holiday travelers will top 100 million, with nearly one in three expected to travel during the peak period of Wednesday, December 23 to Sunday, January 3, AAA estimates.

“The holidays are a time for joining with friends and family, and the record number of people traveling this holiday should make for a joyous travel season,” says AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney. “Rising incomes and low gas prices are helping to fill stockings, and more people than ever will choose to spend those savings on travel this year.”

How will the masses migrate? Most will make the journey by car, with more than 90 million set to drive to their respective destinations. Just below 6 million travelers will fly, and slightly more than 3 million travelers will use other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is expected to fall below $2 by Christmas.

Source: AAA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

6 Tips for a Greener Christmas

December 24, 2015 3:15 am

Friends and family are what make the holiday season great. You can make it even better by reducing waste as often as possible during your celebrations. Reduction and reuse are the most effective ways you can preserve natural resources, protect the environment and save money, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To green your holidays this year, take a cue from EPA guidelines:

• Bring your own reusable bag when shopping for gifts. Buy items made with minimal packaging and recycled content.

• Wrap gifts in recycled or reused paper. Consider gifts that don’t use much wrapping, such as gift cards or concert tickets.

• Package baked goods in reusable or recyclable containers as gifts.

• Use reusable plates, glasses and silverware at parties. Make sure guests know where your recycling bin is for cans, bottles or other recyclable items they use.

• Share leftover food with family and friends. Donate untouched leftovers to a food bank or homeless shelter.

• After the party, fill the dishwasher completely before running it. You’ll save water and energy by running fewer cycles.

Source: EPA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Insurance Makes for a Happier Holiday

December 24, 2015 3:15 am

The holidays can be a joyous occasion, especially if you’re a new homeowner. The season can be marred by disaster, however, if insurance considerations are not taken. Having the right insurance coverage as a homeowner can greatly reduce these hazards, say the experts at the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

December, for example, is the peak month for fires caused by candles. Christmas tree-related fires, while not as common as candle fires, are much more likely, as well. Fire, smoke and water damage are covered under homeowners and renters insurance policies. To avoid incident, take care when decorating for the holidays not to put decorations too close to a heat source, and never leave the stove unattended while cooking. Always be sure to have smoke alarms in working condition.

December is also one of the most common months in which burglaries occur. Personal possessions are covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies—even holiday gifts stored in your car!

If you're traveling over the holidays, have mail and packages picked up or held by the post office, use automatic timers to turn lights on and off at appropriate times and have a dependable neighbor check on the house periodically to help mitigate the chance of disaster. Additionally, consider making your home more secure with dead-bolt locks, window grates and smoke/fire/burglar alarms. Keep in mind most insurers provide discounts for devices that make a home safer.

Online shopping can also present danger in the form of identity theft. Many standard homeowners insurance policies now include identity theft coverage, and most homeowners and renters policies provide some coverage for stolen cash or unauthorized use of your credit card.

To protect yourself, shop at reputable stores and check your credit card statements regularly, and if you find anything unusual, report it to your credit card company immediately. If your wallet is either lost or stolen, contact the police and your credit card company as soon as you can. 

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

4 Healthy Habits to Adopt ahead of the Holidays

December 23, 2015 3:15 am

(Family Features)—With so many social events that revolve around food, it can be challenging to make healthy choices. To keep your diet in check, take time to establish a plan ahead of social gatherings, says nationally recognized nutrition and wellness expert Mitzi Dulan.

“Whether you are hosting an event or attending someone else's celebration, planning ahead can help you stay on track,” says Dulan, a registered dietitian. “Having quick and simple strategies and recipes on hand makes it easy to eat well and keep you feeling great.”

Your plan should include:

Loving what you eat. Be mindful of the food you eat and make every bite count. Enjoying each delicious taste will make it easier to stick to a sensible eating plan. For the foods you do love, look for ways to make them better for you. For example, if pizza is your weakness, substitute a lower-calorie crust and choose toppings that help counteract added fat and calories.

Not skipping meals. Although skipping breakfast may seem like a good way to cut calories, it's a plan that can actually backfire, making you hungrier as the day wears on, and more likely to overeat or sneak unhealthy snacks. Start each day with a well-rounded breakfast to fuel your body. Apply a similar approach to events later in the day, as well. You may be tempted to skip a meal so you can enjoy the treats at a party, but chances are you'll end up overdoing it with high-calorie indulgences, so make sure you fuel up ahead of time.

Eating smaller portions. When you simply must indulge, go ahead, but to do so in moderation. One clever way to keep your portions small: use a tablespoon, not a serving spoon to dish out portions. Eat slowly so your body has time to tell your brain you're full.

Getting your fill in healthy ways. Overeating often comes down to a very basic cause: hunger. Becoming more conscious of how you answer your hunger will help you stay on track. Drinking water before and during events will help to fill you up so you are less likely to consume excess calories. Snacking throughout the day can also help keep hunger at bay; several small, healthy snacks, such as a handful of nuts or trail mix, can help keep you feeling full.

Source: Flatout Flatbread

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Have You Ticked the Boxes on this Holiday Safety Checklist?

December 23, 2015 3:15 am

While it’s no secret traffic incidents spike during holiday travel periods, it is lesser known that a majority of accidents occur in the homes of those celebrating locally, too. Whether you’re hosting holiday celebrations at home or heading to a party elsewhere, it’s important to remain vigilant about safety amid the festivities, urges the National Safety Council (NSC). Tips to consider include:

• Never use lighted candles near trees or boughs.

• Add an extra barrier to fireplaces, as glass panels can reach several hundred degrees within minutes.

• When cooking, wash hands, the sink, utensils and anything else that touches raw meat, and only use sharp knives.

• Make sure your fire extinguisher is up-to-date and your smoke detector batteries are new.

• Gift safely. Understand the dangers associated with coin lithium batteries, which come inside many toys, TV remote controls, watches and even musical holiday cards.

• Be aware of how much alcohol you are serving, and make sure party guests who are drinking have alternative transportation.

• Buckle up, even on short drives.

• Never use a cell phone behind the wheel, even hands-free.

• Safeguard medications from teens and young children while visiting others or hosting guests in your home.

Source: NSC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

2016's Top Paint Color Palettes for the Home

December 23, 2015 3:15 am

New Year, new color.

Nothing transforms the look of a room like a new coat of paint—especially when the color is both on-trend and timeless.

“We believe a fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest ways for people to change their homes for the better,” says Valspar Color Strategist Sue Kim. “But with so many colors to consider, it’s nice to have a little help on the often stressful color selection journey—even when looking for the right shade of white. Choosing a white for doors, trim, ceilings or even a wall can sometimes be harder than choosing a color, so we are simplifying that this year by highlighting four of our most popular."

These varying degrees of white complement Valspar’s color palette picks for 2016, which are:

“Comfort Zone” – Busyness has replaced leisure as a status symbol. Schedules are filled to the brim, we’re all constantly plugged in, and lines are blurred between work and leisure. This palette offers an antidote to this fast-paced lifestyle, with a selection of soft, calm colors, such as fallow brown and powder blue, that balance and restore the mind, body and spirit.

“These muted mid-tones counter-balance busy living are perfect for creating a restful, yet stimulating environment to unwind, relax and recharge,” says Kim. A chalky white blends quietly with these comfy colors.

“Simply Perfect” – The movement toward simplified living inspired this palette of versatile, stylish grays, such as dim gray and silver, that work well in any setting.

“There’s no question that gray is the dominate shade of the decade and today’s default neutral,” Kim says. A clean white is the perfect accent for any of these go-to grays.

“You Do You” – Different is the new normal. Going against the grain is encouraged and applauded, often with the phrase “you do you.” It’s a mantra leading to this trend palette of expressive and uplifting zingy brights, including coral pink, bondi blue and arylide yellow.

“Generations Y and Z are fueling a broader acceptance of individuality, challenging stereotypes and standards of beauty,” says Kim. “These confident, inspired hues encourage you to express yourself in a full color anywhere you’d like whether it be a full room, an accent wall, trim or furniture.” A pure white anchors the boldness of these brights.

“Good Company” – Most of us have high demands for transparency, integrity and authenticity—the fair trade movement and farm-to-table organic food trend are prime examples. This trend is interpreted in this palette, a collection of rich, familiar and enduring artisanal shades, such as camel brown and viridian, inspired by heritage and handcrafted products and materials.

“These deep, pigmented colors evoke a connection to our heritage. We trust the tried-and-true and that is why they are so welcome in our homes today,” says Kim. A linen white embraces the natural richness of these tones.

Source: Valspar

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

The Top 10 Scams of 2015

December 22, 2015 3:12 am

Varied and sophisticated, schemes by con artists have become more common than ever—and the most popular type this year were tax scams, according to the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) list of Top 10 Scams in 2015. Tax scams garnered more than 2,400 complaints this year from individuals duped by fraudsters posing as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or the Canadian Revenue Agency.

The scenario plays out like this: You receive a phone call from someone who claims to be with the IRS or the CRA. They claim you owe money in back taxes and will be arrested or face legal consequences if you do not pay (usually by wire or prepaid debit card). The caller ID is spoofed to appear to be a government agency or the police.

Debt collection scams, which entail a phone call from someone claiming you have unpaid debt, came in second on the list. The caller will usually threaten wage garnishments, law suits or even jail time if you do not pay immediately.

Third on the list were scams linked to sweepstakes, prizes or gifts, which involve a phone call, letter or email claiming you’ve won a prize in a sweepstakes. In order to receive the prize, you are instructed to send a fee to cover expenses associated with delivery, processing or insurance.

“Scammers are all basically imposters,” says Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Three of the top four scams reported to us are those that scare people with threats of arrest, lawsuits or other frightening actions. Scammers are pretending to be government agents, lawyers, debt collectors and police officers. They engage directly with you, so your best bet to avoid being scammed is to stop engaging, hang up the phone, delete the email and shut the door.”

Rounding out the top 10 list of scams are:

Tech Support Scams – You are contacted by “technicians” claiming to have detected a virus or security threat on your computer, and, for a fee, can log in and correct the problem remotely. These callers are actually hackers trying to steal money or sensitive computer passwords, or damage computers with malicious software.

Government Grant Scams – You receive a phone call, email or letter informing you that you’ve qualified for a government grant. In order to receive the grant, however, you are instructed to send money as a processing or a delivery fee, usually by wire transfer or prepaid debit card.

Advance Fee Loan Scams – While searching for loan information, you see an enticing ad and click through to the website. You fill out an application and soon receive an email or phone call advising that you are approved for the loan, but you must first send a processing fee, security deposit or insurance. You pay the “fee,” but never see the loan.

Credit Card Scams – The scammer pretends to be from your bank or credit card issuer, and they claim that you are now eligible for a lower interest rate, or that they need to verify a recent transaction. The consumer provides the scammer with their credit card number and security code to “verify” their identity.

Work-from-Home Scams – While looking for a job online, you answer an ad for making big bucks while working from home. The job may be stuffing envelopes, posting advertisements, or shipping packages. You could have your identity stolen when you fill out the employment forms, or even end up handling stolen merchandise.

Fake Check or Money Order Scams – This can happen any time someone is paying you for goods or services, even when you are selling something online. You receive a check in the mail that is larger than the amount owed, and you are asked to deposit the check and wire the difference. The check is a fake and when it bounces, you’re out the money.

Lottery Scams – You receive a call, letter, or email advising that you have won a large amount of money in a foreign lottery, but you have to pay upfront for taxes and fees. Such lotteries are illegal. Sometimes you may be sent a check as partial payment, but the check will be counterfeit.

To ward off these types of scams and others, the BBB recommends the following tips:

• Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
• Take time to research the organization.
• Never provide your personal information to people you do not know.
• Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
• Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
• Never send money for an emergency situation unless you can verify the emergency.

Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

5 Ways to Switch Up Seasonal Décor

December 22, 2015 3:12 am

Looking to liven up the décor in your home? Beat the winter doldrums?  Tie in signs of the season? How about all three?

“Winter is a season that naturally contains an abundance of inspiring color and décor, from the bold colors in a lit fireplace to the frosty weather outside,” says Nathan Fischer, Orange Country, Calif.-based design expert for Ace Hardware. “Our color and décor trends this season aim to bring all of the best elements of winter into your home.”

Those trends include warm colors, such as Venetian red and tango pink, paired with cool tones, like ghost white and slate gray. Décor in line with the season, says Fischer, includes the following:

• Wood, metal and woven textures combined with complementary cool tones

• Light, airy drapes hung just below the ceiling line

• Strategically placed pillows in a variety of patterns but with similar color palettes

• Vintage mirrors in unexpected places, like behind the sofa

• Continued color palettes in adjoining spaces, such as in an entryway and hallway 

Source: Ace Hardware 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: