Friday, May 29, 2009

Real Estate Corner…

Q. We’re thinking of buying a fixer-upper as an investment. What’s the best way to find a deal without being taken to the cleaners?

A. Many people make good money buying rundown properties, fixing them up, and reselling them for a profit.

The best strategy for finding a profitable fixer-upper is to find the least desirable house in the most desirable neighborhood. Then, examine whether the cost of fixing up the property to its full market value will yield a significant profit.

You can find a fixer-upper in most communities—even in more affluent neighborhoods. One of the best ways to find a fixer-upper is to ask a real estate agent. Most agents have one or two properties they don’t like to show. You also can look for advertisements with phrases like “handyman’s special,” “needs TLC,” “or earn your down payment.”

The most profitable fixer-uppers will only need minor repairs like inside and outside painting, new carpeting and flooring, new light fixtures, new kitchen cabinets, landscaping, or a thorough cleanup. Look at properties that can be bought at 20-30 percent below what the house will be worth after fixing it.

Avoid homes that have serious flaws like a sinking foundation, structural damage, serious termite infestation, or that need a new roof. Also, avoid fixer-uppers that don’t fit in their neighborhoods, such as a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house in a neighborhood of three and four bedroom homes.

To get an idea of the finished market value, look at comparable properties in good condition. To determine the cost of fixing any existing problems, hire a good inspector. A competent inspector can save you from making a bad investment. You can find one through the American Society of Home Inspectors’ website:

Steer Clear Of This Killer

Do you spend time around gas-burning motors, generators, stoves or heaters? If so, this little article may save your life! CO (or Carbon Monoxide) poisoning is responsible for thousands of deaths per year. And because the gas is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, many times the inflicted aren’t aware of their exposure. Yet it can kill in seconds. Generally, the initial symptoms of CO poisoning include the feeling of being intoxicated followed by nausea. Here are a few tips for keeping you and your family safe from CO poisoning:
 Buy one or more CO detectors for your home and install them according to product instructions,
 Never spend time around a running gas-burning auto, boat, generator, stove, or heater without adequate ventilation,
 If you feel you’ve been exposed to CO, immediately get into fresh air and seek medical assistance.

Privacy Facts…

• In big cities, Americans are photographed an average of 20 times a day.

• Everything you charge is in a database that police, among others, can look at.

• Your cell phone calls can be intercepted and eavesdroppers can crib your access numbers with police scanners.

• You are often being watched when you visit web sites. Servers know what you’re looking at, what you download, and how long you stay on a page.

• A political candidate’s career was destroyed when a newspaper published a list of all the videos he had ever rented.

• Your employer is allowed to read your e-mail.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Health Hazards…

Watch Out For These

Are you aware there may be hidden dangers lurking in your home? These little known health hazards could be causing you and your family health problems…and you may not know it. Here are six hazards you can avoid by eliminating them from your home, or being attentive to the potential danger:

1. Do not reuse plastic drinking water bottles. After exposure to air and mouth-borne bacteria, these bottles can contain enough bacteria to be a biohazard.
2. Throw out corroded aluminum cooking pans. Recent research has shown that foods cooked in these pans absorb toxic amounts of aluminum. This can result in kidney failure, affect brain function (possibly associated with Alzheimer’s disease), and possibly contribute to abnormal behavior.
3. Be careful using electric blankets, especially anyone with occlusive arterial disease (result of blockage in an artery). An electric blanket’s uncontrolled heat can cause gangrene by increasing metabolism, but not circulation.
4. Don’t take aspirin and Vitamin C together in heavy doses or long-term. This can lead to ulcers and gastritis.
5. Never burn or over-heat your food in the popular non-stick cookware. This can impart traces of toxic fluorocarbon resins to foods. Throw out pans if the non-stick surface becomes scratched or peels.
6. Use over-the-counter eye drops sparingly. They relieve redness by the action of constricting blood vessels in the eyes so they will look whiter. If drops are used frequently, they can develop permanent (and very red) varicose veins in the eyeball.

Strategies For Strengthening Your Family!

Is the quality of your family life important to you? According to a recent Harris poll, the majority of working men and women place the highest value on a work schedule providing plenty of time for family. We sure don’t need to look very far to discover the challenges families are facing today. The good news is there are quick and easy ways to strengthen your family and promote each other’s personal growth.

Here are 10 positive key strategies that you can use today to improve and strengthen your family now…and for years to come.

1. Make Family Your First Priority. Strong families spend lots of quality time together. We’ve all heard the well-known quote, “How do kids spell love?” T-I-M-E! Strong families spend lots of positive time working on family projects and playing together. And they enjoy being together too.

2. Appreciate One Other. Strong families appreciate each other’s unique qualities and contributions and express their feelings openly. Make a commitment to compliment each other at least once each day.

3. Foster Communication. Strong families listen to each other, respect each other’s opinions, and avoid interrupting. One of the most valuable ways to foster communication is by having at least one meal together each day. During the meal, make it a point to engage everyone on their daily experiences, discoveries, challenges and goals.

4. Strengthen Commitment. Strong families work together to solve their problems. They may not always agree, but they are willing and able to bring things out into the open and to talk about them.

5. Create Traditions. Strong families stay connected – another reason for having at least one meal together each day. Also, give your children the gift of friendship with their cousins, aunts, and uncles by keeping in touch regularly. You’ll be giving them happy memories and friendships to last a lifetime.

6. Set Rules and Expectations. Strong families set and put into practice clear guidelines and limitations. Family members take responsibility for their actions.
7. Support Each Other. Strong families support one another during challenging times. When family members feel valued by one another, they know they have someone they can turn to for support.

8. Identify Your Family’s Strengths. Have each family member write down something he/she likes about each family member (animals included!). Put them up on a bulletin board or refrigerator magnets for everyone to see.

9. Set Achievable Family Goals. Setting and achieving family goals, even if they are small, cultivates success and creates unity. Set goals together whether it’s saving for a family trip, a car, or a new home. The ideas are endless.

10. Strong Families Love Unconditionally. Strong families love with unconditional acceptance that builds strong heart and faith connections.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Friends—The Key To A Longer Life

According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, men who have lots of friends, social contacts, and relatives live longer, more satisfying lives. In a study of 28,000 men in their early 40s to late 70s, researchers found that men who were socially isolated loners were 20 percent more likely to die prematurely. The socially isolated group also was 53 percent more likely to die from heart related diseases and stroke. Unmarried men included in the study had markedly higher death rates than married men with a strong family support system did.

It appears that making friends and nurturing social relationships not only will make you healthier, but it could make you a lot happier too!

Kitchen Wisdom

• When freezing ahead for daily use, package food items in the measured amounts you will need for your daily recipes…less waste!
• If you have a fisherman in the family, or buy a quantity of bulk fish, here’s how to keep it from drying out and losing its flavor in the freezer: Clean and prepare the fish for cooking then layer fish in a loaf pan as tightly as possible. Pour cold water over it; be sure to cover the very top fish. Freeze. When frozen solid, run warm water over the pan to release the block of fish. Bag tightly and store in the freezer.
• A little vinegar kept boiling on the stove while cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli are boiling will prevent odor.
• In preparing greens for salads, never cut them! Tear them into pieces. Cutting bruises greens and makes them limp.
• Grease your spoon or cup when measuring syrup, molasses, or honey and the sticky foods will roll right off.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Six Top Job Networking Tips

Are you looking to enhance your career or make a job change that’ll get you on the road to success? Here are six surefire networking strategies:

1. Network frequently. Did you know that 48% of all jobs are obtained through referrals? It’s true. Networking is crucial to any job search.
2. Prepare a “20-second introduction” about you. Practice a mini introduction about you, your skills, and abilities…before attending a networking event.
3. Be open to everyone you meet. A chance meeting with a stranger on a plane, train, tennis court, or at a hotel conference, can pay off suddenly in a new job or a new business client. Talk to everyone you meet, hand out your business cards with your telephone number, address, and email address. Then, stay connected to those people!
4. Find out how you can contribute to a company that interests you. Do your homework and ask a lot of questions. Find out how you and your skills can best help the company.
5. Volunteer. Volunteering can help you build networking relationships, develop new skills, and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
6. Follow Up. Always send a thank you note to people who you meet and talk with at networking events. Thank them for their time and let them know about you and your skills and experience.

Helpful Tips When Traveling

You’ve booked your flight, you’re almost ready to go...but don’t leave without first reading some important “must knows” when traveling abroad in Third World countries:

1. Drink only bottled water or canned beverages. Don’t use ice! Also, dry off the outside of wet bottles and cans before using them.
2. Always brush your teeth with bottled water.
3. Be very careful about buying food or drinks from street vendors.
4. Be careful eating the food and water on your return flight.
5. Make sure you have medical coverage (travel insurance) when you are in foreign counties. Check to see what coverage is available. For more information go to

Having a Stroke?

How To Know If A Friend Or
Loved-One Is Having A Stroke

Would you be able to recognize if someone nearby was having a stroke? Here are three simple questions you can ask a person to determine whether he or she may be having a stroke:

1. Ask the person to smile.
2. Ask the person to raise both arms.
3. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence.

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms. Do Not Wait! A stroke victim may suffer brain damage if people nearby fail to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and act accordingly.

Researchers presenting their findings at the American Stroke Association’s meeting stated that widespread use of this test could help in the diagnosis and treatment of the stroke and prevent brain damage. For more information go to:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Filler Up With…Biogas?

The Los Angeles Times reports that an environmentally positive form of automotive fuel can now be made from municipal sewage, agricultural crop wastes and cow manure. “Biogas” is a compressed methane gas extracted from organic sources (such as cow manure).

The “Biogas” is purified and treated so it can serve as fuel in standard internal combustion engines. The fuel is a joint venture between Pasadena, CA non-profit that specializes in alternative transportation technologies and a Swedish business group that is testing the fuel. “Biogas” has been successfully powering cars and commercial trucks in Sweden for 3 years.

Web Sites To Make School Easier

If you have school-aged children, these web sites could be time and

1. Maps, maps and more maps – This National Geographic site has all the maps you’ll ever need for homework projects and reports.
2. All-purpose homework energizer- will answer questions on thousands of topics. It’s lots of fun to use and excellent for all grade levels.

Victim Of A “Staged” Car Accident?

From the crowded freeways to mall parking lots, con-artists are trying to swindle you into a costly accident that will impact your finances for years to come. With some awareness of the tricks they play, you can avoid these highway predators.

1. The classic “swoop and squat” maneuver. You are in tight traffic (slow morning commuter variety) suddenly a car passes you and cuts abruptly in front of the car you are following. This driver slams on his brakes and you rear-end his car. The best defense is to scan several cars ahead and keep a couple of car-lengths between you and those taillights in front of you.
2. The “drive-down” is commonly used in busy mall parking garages or merging freeway entrances. Another driver will wave you through and then punch the gas to ram into your vehicle. In the police report, the person claims they never waved you on and accuses you of reckless driving. To be safe, just surrender the right-of-way to the “wave-through” driver or be sure you have legal right-of-way.
3. Take special notice of erratic vehicles filled with riders. Predators love to get in staged accidents and file multiple claims. Always call the police if you get in an auto accident. A savvy habit is to carry a disposable camera in the glove compartment to photo-document any car damage or accident site.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Work From Home?

Have you ever wanted a job where you didn’t have to drive to work? No traffic. No commuting. Flexible hours. And no sharing office space with people you might not care to see everyday. Now more and more people are opting for working at home. With technological advances and computers, home offices make working at home more affordable for employers, and much more convenient for workers.

How do you know if working at home is for you? Two traits can help to make someone more successful at working outside the office. First, successful at home workers or telecommuters are self-starters who don’t need “hands-on” help from managers. Secondly, they need to be an organized person with good time management skills. So if you’re interested in what career opportunities lend themselves to working at home, here’s a list of the Top 10 Jobs for working from home:

1) Computer Programmer / IT Specialist; 2)Accountant / Financial Advisor; 3) Graphic Designer; 4)Web Site Designer / Web Developer; 5) Communications Specialist; 6)Medical Transcriptionist;
7) Real Estate Agent; 8) Sales Representative; 9) Market Researcher; and 10) Translation Specialist.

Trans Fats Just How Dangerous Are They?

It’s becoming one of the most frequently used ingredients in many foods...and it’s one of the most dangerous! Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated oils, are in everything from crackers, cake mixes, snack foods, cookies, breakfast cereals, microwave popcorn to french fries. Trans fats get their name from a distinct chemical structure. When manufacturers want a more solid, stable form of oil to make their products, they bubble hydrogen gas through vegetable oil. Sounds harmless? But what they are doing is changing the chemical structure of the fat.

Trans fats raise your level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and can also decrease your HDL, (the good cholesterol). Combined, these two effects put you at risk for developing heart disease. Trans fats also have been implicated in an increase risk of type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and other cancers, and aging, according to recent studies. But don’t despair, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to trans fat foods at your neighborhood health food store. Just be sure to always check the labels on all foods for this hidden danger.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What’s involved in a home inspection

Is it mandatory?
A. A home inspection is not mandatory when you purchase a house, but I recommend that you have any home you’re planning on buying inspected by a licensed inspector. In fact, I’d insist upon it.

A home inspector has the training and expertise to provide an objective opinion about the condition of the home. The inspector will carefully examine the home’s structure, roof, plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling system, and appliances. He or she will provide a written assessment of the house’s condition.

The inspection will tell you what repairs might need to be made before buying. The inspection can alert you to any serious problems the house may have—before you buy the house. There’s a period after a contract is accepted when you can have the inspection completed. Fees are paid to the inspector by the buyer.

If there are problems or repairs that need to made, you can request in writing during the specified period that these repairs be made as a condition of the sale. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home and need competent and caring representation, please call me at 206-226-0565.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Kids And Sports Injuries:

Try R.I.C.E.

Orthopedic surgeons are recommending RICE for an sports injury, but it may not be the rice you’re thinking of. If a player gets hurt, they advise RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.

Orthopedic surgeons are also recommending that you limit your child’s sports activities to one academic sport at a time. They have found that the incidence of injury when playing two sports is more than twice as high because children are more likely to be tired. They advise that, if your child can’t put weight on the area, to see a doctor.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Driving Tips In Bad Weather

Truck drivers know what to do when driving in rain and fog, but do you? First, make sure your windshield is clean. This will improve your windshield wipers effectiveness. Secondly, be aware that rain can cause serious problems after a period of dry weather. A slight drizzle combined with the oil on the road, can make the road as slick as ice.

Driving in fog can be the most hazardous because of its changeability. In dense fog, the American Truckers Association (ATA) recommends you pull off the road. If that’s not possible, adjust your speed to whatever vision you do have. Here are six tips when driving in fog:

1. Drive with headlights on low beam, whether it’s day or night.
2. Reduce your speed.
3. Roll down your windows to hear traffic you can’t see.
4. Use your defroster in addition to your wipers for maximum vision.
5. Use the right edge of the road as a guide. Be patient and don’t pass.
6. Never stop on the roadway when there is fog.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s research is a hot topic, and could have a big impact on your life. There’s an estimated 4.5 million cases in the U.S. reports the Alzheimer’s Association, and that number is growing. But there’s hope!

You may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by taking two important vitamins, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Vitamins C and E are the focus of many research studies, which indicate they may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that antioxidants may absorb damaging free radicals in the brain and prevent cell damage.

A Johns Hopkins study found that people taking both Vitamins C and E were 64% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease four years later. The recommended daily doses for Vitamin C are 500 to 1,500 mg, and 400 to 1,000 IU of Vitamin E daily. Be sure you check with your doctor to determine which dose is best for you.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Owning a Pet Help You Live Longer?

What would you say if you could buy a medicine that lowered your blood pressure, improved your cardiovascular health, reduced your anxiety and stress, and made you happy...everyday. Would you buy it?

We know how much love and affection pets can bring to our lives, but there’s more. Scientific studies have found that having a pet can significantly improve your health. Here are five ways pets can positively impact your health:

1. Heart Benefits. The American Journal of Cardiology reports pet owners are more likely to survive a heart attack than those who don’t own a pet. Another study found people who owned a dog were more likely to be alive one year after a heart attack than those who didn’t have a dog.

2. Lower Blood Pressure. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that pets help lower blood pressure (and heart rates). An American study found men who owned a cat had a lower resting heart rate and lower blood pressure than men who didn’t own a cat. And after a stressful event, their blood pressure returned to normal more quickly.

3. Mood Elevator. People, particularly seniors, who own pets are less likely to be depressed and lonely. Pets can provide companionship, humor, and add playfulness to our daily lives.

4. Kids and Health. Research presented at the 10th International Conference on Human Animal Interaction 2004 found that children who have pets have fewer sick days. They also reported that children who had pets had higher levels of self-esteem and functioned better emotionally. Research studies also found that children with pets coped better with divorce.

5. An Exercise Buddy. Dogs need regular exercise, which also gets their owners walking. This can improve their overall health. As an added benefit people improve their social network as they socialize their pet.

There is a word of caution, however. Owning a pet requires your time and a financial commitment. If you’re not ready for that responsibility, it’s best to hold off owning a pet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thinking of a remodel?

Complaints about home improvement contractors are one of the most frequent grievances received by the Better Business Bureau and the office of state attorneys general. So you are wise to ask this question. Here are five ways you can improve your chances of finding a reputable contractor:

1. Get referrals from other building professionals. Ask professionals who you know. For example, ask your plumber, roofer, painter for recommendations. Since they work with other contractors on other jobs, they know who’s good and who is not.

2. Get references. Get three customer references from the contractor for similar projects that were completed in the past two years. Check these references carefully, and maybe even see the work that was done. Ask them if they would hire the contractor again.

3. Check the contractor’s license, insurance, and permits. Make sure they are in order. Contact the Registrar of Contractors in your area.

4. Get a written cost estimate with specific details, schedule, and the projected completion date.

Get A Leaner Stomach

If you’re like most of us out there you’d like to lose a little around the middle. The easiest way to get rid of stomach fat is to reduce your carbohydrates. These are foods many of us love to consume: crackers, chips, white bread, cakes, cookies, candy, pizza.

But if you’re really serious about losing your belly, there are some easy ways to do it, and it doesn’t require medical intervention. First, start by eating lean meat (chicken, turkey, and seafood). Eliminate breads, pasta, rice, baked goods, candy and alcohol for two weeks, so you can train your body to live without the cravings. Limit fruits for the first two weeks, but you can eat lots of veggies.

At week three you can add a small serving of rice, pasta or bread two times a day. Continue to eliminate refined sugars from your diet. Next issue we’ll discuss where you go from here.

Lower Your LDL

Worried about your cholesterol? Researchers have found a way to easily reduce your LDL cholesterol by simply adding one key ingredient to your daily diet. What is this magic, secret ingredient that could change your life?

WALNUTS! Yes, just by eating 8-11 walnuts every day, you’ll lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 11 percent. And you can further reduce your LDL significantly by eating more fruits, vegetables, and olive oil.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Listing Overpriced?

Real Estate Corner…

Q. We’ve just listed our home for sale and we’ve agreed on a listing price. How do we know if our home is priced too high?

A. In a hot real estate market, an overpriced home may sell easily. However in a softer market, an overpriced home may sit on the market for months. How long is too long? Well, it depends on the specific market. In general, if a home is on the market more than 3 months with no serious buyer interest, it’s usually a sign of an overpriced home.

The first buzz of activity usually occurs in the first month a home is on the market. During that time, there’s lots of activity: scheduled showings, REALTOR® tours and open houses. If agent activity is slow, it may indicate that agents think the home is overpriced and not worth showing to their clients. If your home is on the market longer than 6 months, and you have no buyer interest, there is either something wrong with the home, or it’s overpriced.

What are the tell-tale signs that your home is overpriced? The first thing to examine is other properties in the neighborhood. If your home is priced well above these properties without some specific reason, it may signal a problem. Second, how long has your home been on the market? If it’s longer than 3 months with no buyer interest, it’s time to think about a serious price reduction.

Finally, if you priced your home by taking your purchase price and added the cost of any remodeling, you may be disappointed. The value of your home is not determined by how much you have invested into it, but what the market is willing to pay. Be careful not to get “upside down” on your home by spending beyond its market limit with remodeling improvements.

Unwanted Medication Dangers

Consumer ALERT:
There’s a danger lurking out there that most of us don’t even know about — and it’s drugs in our groundwater. Dumping unused medications down the toilet is causing dangerous traces of medications in water samples from 30 states, according to authorities for the U.S. Geological Survey. Putting them in the trash is the better place to dispose of unwanted medications.

Positive Thinking May Prevent A Cold!

Yes, people with a positive attitude and sunny outlook may get fewer colds! That’s according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers squirted the cold virus into the noses of happy and grouchy people. They found those with a positive outlook were able to immobilize the cold virus.

Here’s Important News about Vitamin E

Check with your doctor before taking Vitamin E supplements! A recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University concluded that high doses of Vitamin E may increase the risk of dying from heart disease.

Once thought to decrease heart disease and protect against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, thousands of people have been adding Vitamin E supplements to their daily regime. What should you know? The average person needs a minimum of 10 IU of Vitamin E daily, which you can obtain from foods like nuts, whole grains, spinach, or other green leafy vegetables.

What should you do? Check with your physician first before taking Vitamin E supplements. Warning: Never take more than 150 IU daily of Vitamin E.