Consumer Real Estate News

    • Smart Clicks: How to Shop Online Like a Pro

      25 February 2021

      (Family Features) Over the past year, online shopping has become the norm for all kinds of purchases, from groceries and household essentials to gifts and clothing.

      Shopping for clothes and other items from the comfort of your home has multiple advantages, including the convenience to shop on your own schedule and the ability to do more thorough research to get the best prices before you buy. However, if you’re not used to doing it, shopping online for items you typically purchase at brick and mortar stores can be daunting.

      To make your online shopping experiences more efficient and successful, consider these tips from Kellie Brown, fashion influencer and author of the “And I Get Dressed” blog. 

      Look Around for Good Deals
      If you have your eye on a particular item, shop around on multiple sites for it. Prices can vary from one website to another, and you could be missing out on big savings by not doing your research. When you’re comparing items, be sure to pay attention to details. Verify model or style numbers, colors and other specifics to ensure you’re comparing apples to apples. 

      Ultimately, you may find the same item with a slight difference that you’re willing to accept for a better price. Be sure you’re checking diligently so you have all the data you need to make a well-informed decision. 
      Doing research online may also help you locate discount codes that can help bring down the price if you buy from a specific online retailer.

      Know Your Measurements
      Clothing is one category that shoppers either love or hate to buy online. Brown sees one distinct advantage: skipping the fitting room.

      “Shopping for clothes online can seem daunting, but one of the biggest perks is being able to avoid the dreaded dressing room experience,” Brown said. “I hate the process of waiting in line, the overhead lighting, wonky mirrors and having to evaluate clothing in a flash.”

      Buying online lets you ditch the fitting room in favor of the comfort of your own home, where you can take time to consider your new garments in private.

      Brown cautions that the first rule of shopping for clothes online is recognizing sizing isn’t always universal. For example, a size 18 from one store may fit completely different at another store. If you know your measurements, you can compare those with the listed size chart. That way, you can select the best size for specific brands or products. 

      Use the Right Credit Card
      Joining a store’s loyalty program can be advantageous if you are a frequent shopper at a specific brand or retailer. Also, it’s important to realize not all credit cards are the same, and some offer rewards for online shopping, including cash back.

      “The most versatile option is a card that adapts with your spending, such as the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card that lets you earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice,” Brown said. “Hint: Online shopping is one of those categories. The rewards don’t expire, and if you are a Preferred Rewards member, you could boost your rewards by 25-75%, which means you could earn up to 5.25% cash back on your transactions. These rewards can be redeemed into your savings account as money for future shopping.”

      Double Check Return and Exchange Policies
      Make sure you know the return policy of the retailer you’re shopping with to ensure your return or exchange will be accepted, if necessary. Being an avid online shopper, Brown offers a few important tips for dealing with items that may need returned. 

      Many stores won’t accept open packages or clothing with tags removed, so be sure you know the guidelines before tearing into your packages when they arrive. 

      You should also check whether you can return items to a local store, if there’s one available, or if you’ll have to ship a return, and find out who is responsible for return shipping costs.

      It’s also important to be conscious of timing since most retailers have specific rules about how long you have to return an item. Some use the order date as the starting point while others use the delivery date. Especially with shipping delays that may occur, be clear on dates before you order. Many stores offer extended returns windows, but it’s still smart to know the expectations up front.

      Online shopping can save you valuable time and money, especially when you’re smart about your purchases.

      Find more information at

      Stay Safe Online
      Online shopping offers plenty of benefits but being cautious with your credit card information and banking information can help you avoid certain risks. Consider these tips from Better Money Habits, Bank of America’s free financial education platform, to help you protect your finances while shopping online. 

      Use powerful passwords: Avoid the temptation to set a password you can remember easily and instead use something a little more complex that would be hard for others to guess or hack. Use a distinct password for each online account so you don’t make multiple accounts vulnerable if your personal information does get stolen. Also change your passwords periodically for added security.

      Look for the lock: If you're shopping online, be sure the address begins with https. The “S” tells you the site is secure, and don't forget to look for the little lock icon in the browser before you enter any payment information.

      Secure your networks: Whether using your home Wi-Fi, a mobile device while on the go or a public computer, you need to take steps to secure your info. Start by password protecting your home's network. When you log in to any financial account while away from home, like at a coffee shop or restaurant, don't do so on an open network. If you're using a shared computer, be sure to clear all your personal information when you log out.

      Set up notifications: One easy way to keep an eye on your credit card information is to sign up for mobile or email alerts with your bank. This way, each time your card is used, you receive a notification. Plus, your bank may be able to notify you of any suspicious activity.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Top Office Meal Prep Tips You Need

      25 February 2021

      Whether you’re heading to the office or telecommuting, social distancing regulations have ensured that lunch time isn’t the same as it used to be. Gone is the group rendezvous with coworkers at your local taco stand, and in its place is an opportunity to begin a new habit. These easy meal prep tips will get you started.

      Start With a Protein. Ensure there is enough protein in each meal to keep you satiated—after all, you won’t save time or money if you end up visiting the vending machine for snacks throughout the day. Avoid this by starting with a protein base to plan a nutrient-dense lunch. Choose an animal-based protein such as chicken or beef, or opt for a plant-based alternative like lentils or chickpeas.

      Mix and Match Your Sides. A few simple sides such as rice, steamed or sauteed greens, sweet potato or quinoa can all be mixed and matched with the protein source of your choice to create new and unique dishes. Make a couple larger batches of two or three sides to mix and match with your protein options for the week.

      Swap Out Sauces and Spices. If you force yourself to eat unseasoned rice and chicken for lunch, you’re going to be pining for those street tacos more than ever. To keep your meals interesting and appealing, swap out spices and sauces for added variety. Taco seasoning with chicken and rice proves to be an excellent base to a taco bowl, while adding pesto to that same chicken the next day can create a hearty and completely different meal using the same protein base.

      Meal prep doesn’t have to be complicated or boring. Finding a happy medium simply requires getting creative with your sauces and sides to add variety while ensuring an easy week ahead. Whether you’re heading into work in-person, or you’re facing back-to-back Zoom meetings, there’s nothing better than having a delicious home-cooked meal waiting for you at lunchtime. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Keep Your Hardwood Floors Looking Their Best

      25 February 2021

      It’s no secret that hardwood floors can completely transform a living space. They create a warm, rich aesthetic and, over time, will develop a beautiful patina that provides character throughout the home. Although they’re long-lasting, properly maintaining wood floors does require some work on your end. If you want to keep your hardwoods at their absolute best, here are a few tips to ensure they stay in tip-top shape.

      Shoes Off
      Taking your shoes off at the door makes it far easier to keep your home clean and your floors will certainly thank you for it. When dirt gets tracked into the house, it can cause undue wear and tear on the wood’s finish and all it takes is a pebble stuck in your shoe to create a scratch. While it’s possible to remove scuffs by hand, they’re far less likely to occur once you implement a “no shoes in the house” policy. 

      Cleaning Routine
      It’s helpful to have a cleaning schedule to ensure that your floors are properly cared for. Regularly going over them with a dust mop to remove dirt and grime is important and every week or so they should be vacuumed (on a hardwood floor setting) for a deeper clean. Additionally, gentle cleaning products specifically designed for hardwoods can be applied every couple of months.

      Furniture Pads
      There’s nothing worse than moving a piece of furniture only to see that it’s damaged your floors with an unsightly ring imprint. The reality, though, is that even the hardest of hardwoods can get marked up by furniture. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use furniture pads and create a layer of protection to prevent any scratches that can occur when rearranging furniture or simply through everyday use.

      Refinish and Recoat
      For long term care, hardwood floors should usually be recoated with a fresh layer of finish every couple of years in order to maintain their luster and keep them well protected. In the event that your floors have deep scratches that go into the actual wood, then they may need to be sanded down and completely refinished, which is a more significant undertaking than simply recoating them.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Get Rid of Bad Smells in a Home

      24 February 2021

      Whether you’ve just moved into a new home, or you’re noticing an unwelcome smell has developed since you’ve arrived, there are some steps you can take to make your nose feel more comfortable.

      Identify the Source
      Bad smells come in all varieties and need to be treated differently to ensure they stay away. Save yourself time and frustration by taking a moment to identify the smell before you begin home remedies in earnest.

      Remedies to Common Household Smells

      • Pet Smells. Whether caused by pet dander or pet urine, a smelly pet can quickly translate to a smelly home. Ensure your pet is cleaned regularly and, if necessary, keep your pet off specific furniture or carpeting, or cover those areas with washable items. For any carpeting already affected by pet dander smells, try using a carpet freshener or baking soda mixture and vacuum off the residue. For pet urine, use an enzymatic spray and carpet cleaner. You may need to call in a professional or replace the carpeting if the stains are too prominent.
      • Strong Food Odors. Spices and strong food odors can linger long after the meal is gone. For rancid food or refuse smells, clean and remove the residue from any affected areas. For strong spices or curry smells, if the home is new and the previous owners cooked with spices often, some soft surfaces may need to be replaced or professionally cleaned. The walls may need to be repainted for the smell to be permanently reduced.
      • Smoke Smells. A robust approach is needed for smoke smells in a home. Soft items including blinds, HVAC filters and even smoke detectors will need to be replaced. Professional cleaning is advisable due to the risk of thirdhand smoke, and odor-removing paint and primer may be required.

      Bad Smell Prevention
      To prevent lingering odors, keep regular deep cleaning on your to-do list. Odor removal is easier the sooner bad smells are addressed. When cooking with spices, be sure to use the kitchen fan to keep air circulating, ensure dishes are properly and promptly cleaned, and keep an eye on pets and children to ensure that urine or other odor-causing stains do not go unnoticed.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Wood Heat Safety Tips for Your Home

      24 February 2021

      As the cold seasons of fall, winter and even chilly spring come along, many homeowners breathe a sigh of relief as the threat of wildfire diminishes. However, fire risks are present in any season. If you have wood heat in your home, be sure to take note of these important maintenance and use tips to ensure that your family is as safe as possible.

      Flue fires in dirty chimneys are not uncommon, and when a flue fire’s flames or embers escape into the attic, walls or ceilings throughout the entire home can become compromised. 

      Follow these basic tips to prevent a flue fire:

      • Have your flue cleaned and inspected by a professional chimney sweep. Creosote buildup is extremely flammable, and some is impossible to clean except by a certified chimney sweep.
      • Ensure the installation of a cap with a screen on the top of the flue. This will serve to reduce embers from landing on the roof, and will prevent birds, squirrels and leaves from entering.
      • Because fire can escape through cracks and holes in brick and mortar chimneys, avoid using these unless a "sleeve" or metal pipe is properly installed.
      • Burn only seasoned hardwood that is clean and dry, and avoid evergreen wood that contains pitch, sap or resins.
      • Smoke contributes to creosote buildup. Reduce the presence of buildup by keeping dampers open to promote a clean, hot fire with less smoke. Burn hot, bright fires and use smaller fires in milder weather.
      • Call 911 if you suspect a flue fire. Firefighters will come out and search for flames or embers that may have spread into the attic, walls or ceiling. 
      Some additional safety tips regarding using wood heat:
      • Clean the stove often and always dispose of the ashes in a safe, non-flammable location.
      • Ensure that working smoke alarms are installed near the sleeping areas. Keep them far enough away from the stove to prevent false alarms when smoke escapes after the stove door is opened.
      • Never use flammable liquids to start a fire in the stove. This can cause severe injury, death and even the loss of homes.
      Keeping your home safe and warm during the chilly months is easy if you stay on top of maintenance, prevent safety hazards and always look to professional help when needed.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.