REMAX 440/Central Blog

City vs. Suburbs: What’s Best for the Kids?

June 15, 2012 3:50 am

According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2000 and 2010, there has been a distinct shift in the population during the past decade. While the population of urban areas grew by 12.1 percent, the country’s population overall grew by only 9.7 percent during those same years, revealing a trend toward urban living.

With moving season in full swing, surveyed parents regarding their attitudes about raising kids in the city versus the suburbs to gauge their primary concerns and preferences. According to the survey, city life has its pluses and minuses when deciding where to settle.


For parents raising kids in the city, the question commonly arises – should we stay in the city, or should we go? Forty-two percent of survey respondents cited they have always lived in the city and are raising their kids there too, and 41.5 percent of respondents are equally dedicated to their suburban ties, choosing to remain in the suburbs to raise their families. Though, for those that did make a move when they had children, suburbia takes a marginal victory, as 10 percent of respondents cited a move from the city to the suburbs to raise their kids, while only 6.5 percent cited a move from the suburbs to the city to raise their kids.

When it comes to making the move to a big city, respondents agree that safety comes first with 82 percent of parents saying that a safe neighborhood is the most important determining factor when selecting an apartment or home in the city. In fact, over half, 56 percent, of survey respondents revealed that safety is their biggest concern when considering raising kids in the city. Forty-six percent of respondents agree that living in a suburb or smaller town when raising kids offers the advantage of a safer neighborhood when compared to raising them in the city.

Survey respondents did acknowledge there are some real advantages to raising kids in an urban environment. In fact, almost 40 percent of respondents believe that the access to diverse cultures—people, food, art and more—is the biggest advantage to living in a city compared with the suburbs, while 16 percent said that opportunities for a better education made city living more appealing. Additionally, another 12 percent of survey respondents felt that the diversity of a city population is more conducive to raising kids since there is a greater chance to find like-minded friends and a place to fit in. On the contrary, a little under one-third of respondents did answer that the big city life does not offer any advantages over suburban living.

One commonly perceived barrier that stands in the way of pursuing a city-centered life is cost of living; however, only about one in four respondents mentioned cost would be an issue when considering an urban move with the kids. Additionally, respondents weren’t too worried about the size of apartments and homes in the city, with only 9 percent of parents citing their biggest concern for city living being that they would not have enough space for their family.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Advice for Buying Your First Home

June 15, 2012 3:50 am

Today’s real estate market presents lots of great opportunities for first-time homebuyers. The home-buying process can be difficult to navigate, especially for newbies. Here are some great tips for new homebuyers from Andovers, Mass.-based real estate professional Peggy Patenaude:

• Get your (financial) house in order. Before you even begin your home search, make sure you check your credit scores on an online credit reporting site. Tackle any points of dispute and make sure your credit looks attractive to potential lenders. Then collect appropriate financial documents, including retroactive tax forms, bank statements, and pay stubs to submit to your lender. According to Patenaude, securing preapproval for a mortgage before you start your home search is the optimal path to take.

• Do the math. There's no sense playing a guessing game when it comes to what your mortgage payment will be, says Patenaude. Use an online mortgage calculator to help you determine whether you can comfortably afford your monthly payments. Be sure to factor in taxes for your area and homeowner's insurance. Most lenders recommend that your housing payments exceed no more than 30 percent of your total income.

• Do your research! Working with a professional real estate agent will enable you to learn the value of comparable homes in the areas you’re most interested. These "comps" will help reveal whether or not the home you are considering is priced fairly, explains Patenaude. 

• Plan for upfront costs. Your mortgage payment, taxes, and insurance are ongoing, but don't forget to factor in the costs you will pay when you close your sale. Many fees contribute to closing costs.

• Consult a REALTOR®. Ask trusted friends and local resources for recommendations of a REALTOR® who can guide you through your first-time buying experience. The expertise of a trusted real estate professional can be your greatest asset.

• Don't lose sight of the grand scheme of things. While homeownership is a great way to build wealth, you must be prepared for a variety of unforeseen expenses that crop up when you own a home. Patenaude advises that you make sure your income and savings can accommodate the unpredictable elements of homeownership.

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Make Driving More Budget-Friendly

June 14, 2012 3:50 am

According to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of vacationers planning to drive by car will alter their leisure plans because of gas prices. Rather than changing family vacation plans, AutoZone suggests motorists proactively maintain vehicles to ease the pain at the pump and get the most out of their gas tanks.

A few minutes of proactive maintenance, including checking and replacing oil and spark plugs at recommended intervals, can often improve fuel efficiency. Many motorists are unaware that simple routine maintenance can not only get you to your destination safely, but can help get the most out of your gas dollars.

To help motorists maximize their fuel economy on their summer road trips, AutoZone offers the following tips:
  • Switch to a synthetic motor oil. Consider changing to a quality, synthetic oil. For the everyday driver, such oils can deliver up to 2 percent fuel economy improvement.
  • Check and maintain all fluid levels, such as engine oil and transmission fluids. And be sure your antifreeze/coolant is up to the task for hot summer temperatures to prevent engines from overheating. Replace fluids if needed according to recommended service intervals.
  • Replace spark plugs, oxygen sensors and air filters as recommended. Spark plugs can affect fuel efficiency, emissions and economy. As spark plugs wear, they do not burn fuel as cleanly, which is why it is important to change spark plugs at the proper interval. Motorists should purchase the correct type of spark plugs and replace them at the interval recommended by the manufacturer. If the owner's manual has been lost, many websites, such as the National Car Care Council's website (, offer a recommended maintenance schedule for vehicles.
  • Replacing oxygen sensors can significantly improve gas mileage. Check and replace one-and two-wire sensors every 30,000-50,000 miles and every 60,000-100,000 miles for "heated" type oxygen sensors.
  • Replacing a clogged air filter can lead to increased performance and acceleration. Air filters should be checked at every oil change.
  • Be proactive. Proactive checks and preventative maintenance of critical engine components can be the difference between staying on the road and being stranded on the roadside.
  • Be prepared. Visit an automotive retailer to purchase a roadside emergency kit. Also keep items such as a tire pressure gauge, spare serpentine belt and jumper cables handy.
  • Extreme temperatures can mean battery failure. Corrosion caused by heat is the leading cause of battery failure, and batteries often do not give noticeable warning signs if they're about to fail. Retailers offer free battery testing in most states.
Source: AutoZone

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How to Spot Hidden Plumbing Problems in Your New Home

June 14, 2012 3:50 am

While homebuyers are often tempted to skip the sewer line inspection when purchasing their home, this can result in thousands of dollars worth of repair down the road. Veteran plumbing service Roto-Rooter offers the following suggestions for avoiding costly plumbing repairs:

Homebuyers should know that:

  • A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and is regularly waived in the purchasing process.
  • Responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality.
  • A plumber can complete a sewer line camera inspection for $250 to $550. While not cheap, it’s a relatively small price to pay when buying a home, especially if it helps a buyer avoid thousands of dollars in repairs down the road (anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the extent of repair required).
Sewer line inspections are particularly important when:
  • The home is 20 years or older.
  • There are mature trees around the property.
  • The home has been vacant for a period of time.
  • The concrete surrounding the home is cracked or raised.
  • There is considerable visible root growth in the yard.

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'Home Price Index' Shows Consecutive Months Increase

June 14, 2012 3:50 am

According to the monthly economic publication from CoreLogic, the housing market continues its gradual pace toward recovery. MarketPulse, compiled by CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Fleming and Senior Economist Sam Khater, provides insight into the current and future health of the U.S. economic climate with particular focus on housing and mortgage metrics.

Key findings in the June MarketPulse Report include:
  • The Home Price Index (HPI), including distressed sales, posted two consecutive months of year-over-year increases in April 2012, the first such increase since the summer of 2010 when the housing market was benefitting from tax credits.
  • Single-family construction activity increased 2.3 percent in April, and is up 25 percent over the last six months.
  • Months’ supply of unsold homes fell to just more than six months in April 2012 and is currently at the lowest level in more than five years.
  • As the flow of REOs has slowed over the last 18 months, negative equity has become a positive force in real estate markets by restricting supply in the face of increasing demand.
  • The housing market has transitioned from pricing dynamics driven by economic weakness and high shares of distressed sales to one of restricted supply, which will likely exist for some time to come—a reason for optimism in many hard hit markets.
  • Collateral credit standards are now more liberal than at any time in the past two decades when measured by the average combined loan-to-value ratio (CLTV) over time for purchase mortgage loans including first and junior liens.

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5 Sneaky Ways Your Neighbors Can Hurt You

June 14, 2012 3:50 am

Neighbors can be the greatest people in the world, or they can be your worst enemies. But the reality is that most neighbors fall somewhere in between -- yes, even if you think you love them. 

There are dozens of ways your neighbors can hurt you or your property value without ever letting it be known. That's not even including the usual ways, such as noise and failing to maintain their homes. Consider the following five examples. 

1. Using your Wi-Fi. If you haven't put a password on your Internet, do it now. If your neighbor logs onto your network and downloads child porn or copyrighted content, you may be on the hook. The authorities (and record companies) will force you to spend a lot of money explaining that it wasn't you. 

2. Stealing your land. Little known is the concept of adverse possession. If your neighbor plants bushes or erects a fence or driveway on your property, those few inches (or feet) will eventually become theirs. Be vigilant about property lines so your neighbors can't hurt you. 

3. Fences. In some jurisdictions, both neighbors are responsible for the upkeep of shared fences. If your neighbor isn't fulfilling his duty, you may end up paying for half a replacement fence. 

4. Bed bugs. This is one of the worst ways neighbors can hurt you. If you live in a condo, duplex or row house, they'll infest everything. And unfortunately, it's very hard to pinpoint their source, so everyone may end up being responsible for remediation. 

5. Trees. When a branch hangs over into your yard, the tree is technically encroaching upon your property. You arguably have a right -- and duty -- to cut some branches so the tree isn't so side-heavy. If you don't, and they fall and cause damage, the injured party may try to hold you responsible. Ouch. 


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What's a Dad Worth? More in 2012

June 13, 2012 2:16 am

With Father's Day right around the corner, recently released its yearly average for what stay-at-home and working dads would make if they were paid an annual salary for their work. And there's good news to report: Dad's getting a raise this year. surveyed more than 1,800 fathers to calculate Dad's earning power using its Dad Salary Wizard, an interactive tool allowing dads and their families to price the job of being a father. Dads reported which 10 jobs they spend the most time doing – from Computer Operator to Day Care Teacher to Facilities Manager – and how much time they spend doing each job. Using its extensive salary data, calculated Dad's earning power based on the national base salary of those jobs.

This year, determined that the average stay-at-home dad juggles a 52.9 hour work week. Taking into account overtime and using salary data provided by employers, an average stay-at-home dad's 2012 totally salary would be $61,814 - up from $60,127 in 2011.

Meanwhile, dads with jobs outside the home put in 32 hours of family work at home each week in addition to time spent on the job. A working dad's at-home 2012 salary would be $36,757 – up from $33,858 in 2011. A working dad's at-home salary should be combined with his actual work salary in order to determine his yearly compensation value.

"For any job, including being a father, it's important to understand the value of what you do – what employers will pay for your knowledge and skills," says Abby Euler, general manager at "We all know that you can't really put a value on the love and support dads give us, but it's a fun way to celebrate and recognize their hard work on Father's Day."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Understanding Travel Insurance

June 13, 2012 2:16 am

Travel insurance is protection against those unexpected bumps in your travel plans, and may be well worth considering now that hurricane season is underway. However, just like trying to buy homeowners insurance after the house is on fire, you can't buy travel insurance for a trip that's threatened by a tropical storm or hurricane that's been publicly named by the National Weather Service. That storm is now a 'known peril.'

"Trip cancellation and interruption protection, the most popular form of insurance coverage, is based on the occurrence of unforeseen events," says Jim Grace, president and CEO of "Once a storm has been publicly identified, it can only spell trouble for travelers without insurance protection. You need to purchase travel insurance coverage before a storm is predicted and named, not when it's bearing down on you or your intended destination."

The key is to plan ahead. Will you be traveling through or to a hurricane-prone region? Do you live in a hurricane zone where weather could prevent you from taking a trip to somewhere else?

Not all travel insurance policies are created equally. Coverage for weather-related trip cancellations and interruptions differs by insurance company and plan. The covered cancellation reasons can include:
  • Cancellation due to weather: when common carriers such as airlines and cruise lines cease service due to weather
  • Cancellation due to hurricane warning: cancellation of your trip if your destination is under a NOAA-issued hurricane warning
  • Destination made uninhabitable: if your hotel, resort, or vacation rental is devastated by a storm
  • Primary residence made uninhabitable: if your own home sustains destructive storm damage
  • Cancel For Any Reason: an optional benefit that allows you to choose whether or not to cancel.

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Be Prepared: 5 Things That Can Go Wrong with Your Real Estate Transaction

June 13, 2012 2:16 am

Buying a home is one of the most exciting times of a person’s life. However, it’s important to realize that any real estate transaction is a very intricate process fraught with many pitfalls along the way. As Lexington, Mass.-based REALTOR® Kristin Brown Orr explains, “Every sale is different, with different buyers, different sellers, and different intermediaries. It's no wonder people find the process so daunting with all of its legalities, documentation, and fine print.”

According to Orr, the more buyers understand the potential problems that can occur when buying a home, the more prepared they will be to protect their interests. To that end, Orr highlights five problems homebuyers need to be aware of…along with potential solutions:
  • Failed home inspection. If the home you are buying does not fair well upon inspection due to health or safety concerns like mold, radon, faulty electrical systems, or structural problems, the seller should fix these issues or extend you a credit or discount in the sale price so that you can have them fixed. If he refuses to do so, you have the right to back out of the sale and search for a new home.
  • Seller is poorly motivated to sell. If a seller's heart is not in a sale, he might be prone to missing or canceling appraisals and inspections – all of which could threaten your purchase.
  • Seller hasn't found a new home to move into. If a seller has trouble finding a replacement property and refuses to consider temporary arrangements, you might find yourself in a tricky timing situation – particularly if you have a closing date on the home you are leaving. Are you prepared to wait it out in temporary housing while you wait for the seller to move out?
  • Title issues. If your seller owes money on the property you are buying, either for repayment of a debt, failure to pay taxes, or because money is owed for repairs or work done on the property, creditors with an interest in that property may take out a lien, rendering the seller unable to sell until those debts are repaid. In the meantime, you won't be able to make the purchase.
  • Failure of the seller to make agreed upon repairs. If the seller has contractually promised to deliver the property to you in a certain condition and fails to deliver, you have the right to terminate the contract and back out of the sale if you are not prepared to accept the property as is. An alternative to this situation is to talk to your attorney about either requesting a sum of money to do the fixes yourself, or request a hold back.
“The concerns listed above may seem gloomy, but it's important to remember that most real estate transactions wrap up smoothly,” says Orr. “Being educated about the potential pitfalls will simply give you a leg up on any problems that may arise. Do your homework and beware of risks. Keep informed in order to safeguard against anything within your control and keep a watchful eye so that if something does go wrong, you can address it immediately and land yourself the home of your dreams.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Beware 'Crash Fitness' Injuries

June 12, 2012 2:10 am

As body-conscious consumers make their way to the gym to prep for sundresses and shorts, many will experience the unfortunate consequences of "crash fitness" – what happens at the gym when you try to do too much, too quickly – particularly after months of sedentary behavior. In order to help combat the uptick in pre-summer gym injuries, Gold's Gym and celebrity personal trainer Robert Reames, compiled the following top five injuries that people often succumb to while "crashing" at the gym and what you can do to prevent them:
  1. Shoulder/neck injuries: Due to today's volume of computer work, work in the seated position, driving and just overall poor posture, many people are naturally predisposed to shoulder and neck strain injuries. Poor posture combined with improper form at the gym can cause a quick unforeseen injury. Making a conscious effort to improve your posture is a step in the right direction!
  2. Lower back injuries: Gym-goers these days are often times hitting the gym too hard and too fast with little to no core-training or strength-training beforehand. Your core is your center and it comprises everything above your knees. Lifting too much too fast or using improper lifting technique can easily throw your back out. Check with a trainer if you are unsure of proper technique to maximize your workout while minimizing your chances for injury."
  3. Knee injuries: Many people who are looking to 'bulk up for summer' are lifting too much weight. They also have poor excessive range of motion or poor tracking at the knee joint. Begin slowly and focus on proper range of motion by not lifting too much weight all at once.
  4. Shin splints: Stretching plays a key role in avoiding shin splints. Proper stretching before a workout will help you elongate muscles, provide flexibility and promote healing after workouts are complete.
  5. Wrist injuries: Your wrist can be the weakest link of the chain and can compromise your large major muscle groups when working out. Improper stretching and 'overloading' weight can cause a wrist injury in a matter of moments. Take the weight 'slow and steady' and gradually add more weight to your exercises over an elongated period of time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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