Real Estate Tips

    • How to Redesign Your Dining Room

      13 April 2021

      If you’re unhappy with the current layout and furnishings in your dining room, or if you would just like to switch things up, you have many options. Think about how you typically use the room, any problems you have encountered with its design, and ways to make it more functional and attractive.

      How Do You Use the Dining Room?
      Some families think of the dining room as a place to host formal gatherings and want its design to reflect that purpose. Others use the dining room on a regular basis for ordinary family meals and want a space that is functional and that has a relaxed atmosphere. 

      If you use the dining room for daily family dinners, choose a table that’s large enough for your immediate family and guests. If you use the room only for holiday gatherings and other special events, a long table that can accommodate a large group may be the best choice. If you would prefer to seat guests in smaller groups to promote more intimate conversations, two or more smaller tables can make that possible.

      If the dining room is typically used for formal occasions, you may want to include a cabinet to store dishes and silverware. A table to place food and beverages can help you minimize trips back and forth to the kitchen.

      Where Do You Want People to Focus Their Attention?
      If you have a beautiful table, you may want that to be the first thing that guests notice when they enter the dining room. You may prefer to have their eyes drawn instead to a painting, a light fixture, a rug, a fireplace or patterned wallpaper. Figure out what you want the dining room’s focal point to be and base its design around that. 

      Choose furnishings and decorative pieces that reflect your personality. Look for objects that are unique or that have a personal story behind them so they can help you and your guests break the ice.

      Your dining room should reflect who you are and how you want your guests to feel. Don’t be afraid to experiment with custom pieces, mismatched furniture and less traditional colors, patterns and textures. Select light fixtures that will provide adequate illumination, capture people’s attention and add a sense of style to the dining room.

      Get Help From an Interior Designer
      If you’re feeling overwhelmed and struggling to make decisions, a professional can help. An interior designer can listen to your goals, present a wide range of options that you may or may not have considered and help you choose pieces that will give you the dining room you want without breaking your budget.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Kid-Friendly Ways to Learn About World History

      13 April 2021

      (Family Features) Building an appreciation for history is one way to help kids understand and connect with the world around them. History not only shows how people lived long ago, but it also gives clues about how society evolved into what it is today.

      From playing games and visiting museums to exploring cultural heritage sites virtually, there’s no shortage of ways to engage kids in fun history lessons.

      Historical Literature
      From traditional bound books to digital formats, there’s a practically endless list of titles dedicated to historical people, places and events. If your child has an interest in a particular topic, consider starting with an age-appropriate non-fiction book that gives a high-level perspective of the topic. Then delve deeper by looking into biographies about the people involved and even related fictional tales to build knowledge and a broader perspective.

      Movies or Theater
      Like books, there are hundreds of options for historically themed movies and theatrical productions. All you need to do is pick a topic or era. It can also be fun to look at how different movies depict the same historical topic at different points in time. Watching different genres can help give a fuller picture of an event or topic. Informative documentaries and entertaining historical dramas are also options for looking into the past.

      Virtual Tours
      Another way to look at history is through visiting historical destinations with cultural significance. Travel isn’t always practical, but you can go nearly anywhere in the world with a virtual tour where you can move around sites and monuments to see the details up close. An option like Flyover Zone’s app-based tours even take you a step beyond seeing the monuments as they look today. You can see ruins as they are today and beautiful virtual reconstructions of how they originally looked. 

      One example is “Baalbek Reborn,” a tour of Baalbek, a World Heritage Site in Lebanon, that dates back thousands of years. With this free virtual tour, you can explore the ancient city of Heliopolis, meaning “City of the Sun,” in Roman times. Experts from the German Archaeological Institute who explored the site guide you through the tour and show you treasures that have been compared to some of Rome’s most impressive landmarks.

      Online Classes
      Numerous organizations offer online classes that let you learn about a wide range of historical subjects. Some may offer credit toward a diploma or college degree, but many are simply for the joy of learning. Check with your local library and search the internet for options. Many classes are offered for free and, in most cases, available to do at your own pace in spare time.

      Cultural Events
      Events that celebrate cultural heritage provide a unique look at history and the way it influences modern times. These celebrations often include a well-rounded sampling of everything from traditions to culinary and artistic styles. You can find lectures, demonstrations, performances, sampling and more as you explore the diverse aspects of almost any chosen culture.

      Historical Games
      Play is an important way kids learn, and historical games can provide insight to the past. While some are more historically accurate than others, games set in a historic time period can provide insight about the scenery, lifestyle and customs of the era. Historic video and board games can even pique an interest in learning more about history through other methods.

      Museum Exploration
      Collections of actual artifacts (or replicas) in museums can bring history to life in a tangible way. Especially for younger children, understanding historical details can be difficult. However, seeing museum displays about the kinds of homes or dishes or utensils a historic family used lets kids connect a visual reference with stories they’ve heard, lending a greater sense of reality.

      Find more opportunities to immerse your family in history at

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Before You Retire?

      13 April 2021

      Your mortgage is probably your largest monthly expense. When you retire, you will have to get by on a fixed income. Eliminating your home loan payments before you stop working can make it easier to make ends meet after you retire. Before you decide to put extra money toward your mortgage, however, take a careful look at your entire financial picture to figure out if that’s the best option.

      Reasons to Pay off Your Mortgage Early
      The average homeowner spends tens of thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a mortgage. Paying off the loan early can dramatically reduce the total amount you will spend on interest.

      Many people find it difficult to adjust to living on a fixed income after they retire and realize that they underestimated their costs or didn’t save enough. Not having to worry about monthly home loan payments when you’re no longer working can give you peace of mind.  

      When to Focus on Retirement First
      If you started saving for retirement late, or haven’t saved as much as you would like, you may be better off putting more money in your retirement account than paying off your mortgage faster. A retirement account will benefit from compound interest. While it’s true that paying off your mortgage early can save you thousands of dollars in interest, the amount you can gain by investing in a retirement account may be greater. 

      Compare the average rate of return on your retirement investments to the interest rate on your mortgage. If the percentage you can earn by investing in an IRA or a 401(k) is larger than the percentage you can save on mortgage interest, focusing on retirement first may pay off more in the long run.  

      If your mortgage has a prepayment penalty, paying it off early can cost you money. The amount of a penalty may significantly reduce any benefit you could get by making extra loan payments. 

      If you don’t spend enough on mortgage interest to itemize your tax deductions, you may be better off putting money into your retirement account. Some types of retirement accounts will allow you to defer paying taxes on money you contribute, which can help you financially right now.

      Consider Doing Both
      Another possibility is to pay down your mortgage while also beefing up your retirement savings. Chipping away at your loan balance with extra payments can reduce the amount of money you will have to spend on interest and help you pay off the loan earlier. Making even modest payments above the amount required can result in substantial savings, while leaving room in your budget to contribute to your retirement account.

      What Should You Do?
      There is not one answer that applies to everyone in every situation. Carefully consider your mortgage balance and interest rate, how much you already have saved for retirement, your return on investment and when you plan to stop working. A financial advisor can help you choose the best option for your circumstances.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

      12 April 2021

      (Family Features) As Americans continue to spend more time at home, it’s important to support the health and comfort of those living spaces. Regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is an important step, but one often overlooked aspect of a home’s health and comfort is its air quality.

      Proactively addressing potential air quality issues can result in cleaner air and more comfortable living. There are multiple factors that may affect your home’s air quality. 

      • Indoor particulate matter consists of the visible and invisible airborne particles in the air that can enter your nose and lungs, some triggering allergies, asthma and other potential health problems.
      • Carbon monoxide, sometimes called the “silent killer,” is a colorless, odorless gas that can build up to dangerous levels if not properly ventilated, causing headaches, drowsiness and, in some cases, death.
      • Too much humidity can encourage the growth of bacteria and mold. Too little humidity can dry out your skin and wood furniture.
      • Volatile organic compounds are emitted by everything from household cleaners and paint to new furniture and dry-cleaned clothing. These compounds can have an adverse impact on your short- and long-term health, so proper ventilation is essential.
      • The level of air pollution in your community can affect your indoor air quality since opening a door or window brings that air indoors.
      If you’re unsure about your home’s unique air quality needs, you may benefit from a tool like Carrier’s “Improve My Air” quiz, which was designed to help homeowners and renters determine which indoor air quality solution is a good fit for their spaces. You can also take steps to improve the indoor air quality of your home with these practical tips.

      Change your filters. Clean filters support your heating and cooling system’s ability to operate efficiently.
      Control humidity levels. When the air is too damp, the chance of bacteria and mold growth is higher, but when it’s too dry, your skin, lungs and furniture may feel the impact. Many experts recommend a humidity level of 40-50% for optimal air quality.

      Invest in an air purifier. An air purifier is a simple way to improve your indoor air quality. Carrier has just introduced a new room air purifier that doesn’t require professional installation, making it an easy and portable solution for both homeowners and people renting their spaces. The purifier comes in two sizes and is powerful enough to purify the air in rooms up 550 square feet. Its high-performance fan and high-efficiency filtration system capture airborne pollutants and its 360-degree design filters air from multiple angles while easy-to-change filters make it a low-maintenance solution for busy households.

      Strategically place greenery. Plants are natural air filters, so placing a few indoor plants around your living space may help improve your indoor air quality while also enhancing your home’s decor. Small plants like ferns and lilies are among the best options for pulling contaminants from the air.

      Find more solutions for improving your home’s indoor air quality, and take the “Improve My Air” quiz, at

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Should You Refinance Your Mortgage to Consolidate Credit Card Debt?

      12 April 2021

      If you’re carrying balances on multiple credit cards with high interest rates and struggling to keep up with the bills, you may be thinking about consolidating your debts to lower your monthly payments. Refinancing your mortgage can help you access cash and save money, but it’s important to understand the risks involved.

      How Can Refinancing Your Mortgage Help You Manage Credit Card Bills?
      If you decide on a cash-out refinance, you will be able to access a portion of your home equity (generally no more than 80-90%) and use that cash to pay off your credit card balances. You will take out a new loan that will include your outstanding mortgage principal, plus the amount of home equity you used, and will make one monthly payment that will be applied to the entire debt.

      Credit cards typically have interest rates that are much higher than the interest rates on home loans. Refinancing your mortgage can allow you to lower the interest rate on your credit card debt and potentially save thousands of dollars in interest.

      What Are the Pros and Cons of Refinancing? 
      Refinancing your mortgage and rolling your credit card balances into the loan can significantly reduce your interest rates on credit card debt. That means you’ll pay less money toward interest each month and more toward principal, which can help you pay off the debt faster. 

      You will have to pay closing costs, which may be several thousand dollars, if you refinance. Weigh that against the amount you would save in interest to figure out if refinancing would be worth it.

      If you have a conventional mortgage, your lender will require you to carry private mortgage insurance if you have less than 20 percent equity. If you don’t currently pay for PMI but you borrow a large chunk of money from home equity, you may fall below the 20% threshold and have to purchase PMI, which may cost hundreds of dollars per month. That additional expense can negate some of the benefits of refinancing and consolidating credit card debt.

      Think about why you got into trouble with credit cards in the first place. If you have a habit of overspending, you may continue to do so even after refinancing. You may wipe out your credit card balances, only to find yourself swimming in debt again in a matter of months. 

      If that happens, you may struggle to keep up with your higher mortgage payments and new credit card bills. If you don’t pay your mortgage on time, you may lose your house in foreclosure.

      Should You Refinance?
      Make sure that you could afford higher mortgage payments and that you wouldn’t rack up new debt and put yourself in an even worse situation.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.