Winter Bird Feeding

If you live in an area that gets lots of ice and snow and the temperature falls below freezing, you may be astonished to learn what a huge difference you can make by feeding wild birds right in your own back yard. Winter can be a difficult time for birds, as they rely primarily on wild food sources for their survival. The bird’s natural food supplies can be depleted by winter storms, causing thousands of them to starve.  You can make a real contribution to the bird’s winter survival by putting bird feeders in your back yard.

It is also important to maintain a water supply for the birds during winter, both for drinking and the proper preening of feathers. To guarantee the bird’s access to water, it is important to keep your bird bath free of ice. You can do this several different ways. Rushing out with boiling water as ice forms, although effective, could become a never ending task.  A thermostatic immersion heater placed in the bird bath is a much easier way to keep the water from freezing. There is a wide range of heated bird baths and solar heated bird dishes you can purchase.  Even a heated dog bowl with stones placed in the bottom to adjust the depth of the water could be used.  The motion of a tennis ball added to a bird bath will help break up ice as it forms.  Just remember to never add chemicals to the water to prevent it from freezing as this can be deadly to our feathered friends.

It is relatively easy to plan for winter bird feeding. Keep an ample supply of large and small seeds and suet readily available. Don’t forget to keep the drinking water fresh as this is a valuable resource in the winter time for all birds.  Providing fresh food and water during the harsh winter will help some birds to survive and improve their chances of breeding.

Five Ways to Boost Your Immunity

In the colder months keeping the cold and flu bugs at bay can be a challenge. There are some simple steps you can take to help boost your immunity and keep you and your family healthy throughout the year.

Here are five simple strategies for staying healthy:

1. Hand washing

It is widely known that hand washing helps reduce the spread of germs. Send those germs right down the drain with frequent hand washing. If you can’t get to soap and water you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet will help keep your body in bug-battling form. Your mom wasn’t wrong when she told you to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  Load up on water, whole grains, and vitamins too. Don’t skip meals. When you skip a meal you miss out on much needed nutrients and that is a recipe to energy loss and illness.

3. Get Moving

Exercise boosts your energy along with your immunity.  Try to fit in at least 20 minutes of activity at least 3 times a week. If you can’t get out of the house try an exercise video or lots of household chores like laundry, sweeping and mopping. Even pop in some music and start dancing around the house; improving your mood can help influence your health too.

4. Catch some Zzzs

Sleep is essential for good health. A tired body is more susceptible to illness. If you are not sleeping well try to catch a nap or use relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and stretching. These techniques can help reduce fatigue and enhance energy.

5. Go to the Doctor

Regular checkups and regular screenings are important and will help keep you healthy. Make sure to get your yearly flu shot, exams and annual physical. If you get sick go to the doctor. Your doctor can help catch something quicker than waiting to find out if it is more serious than you thought.

 

Charitable Donations: Year End Financial Planning

Many of us try to reap the benefits of charitable donations as we head into the year-end.  Charitable donations are on the rise with more and more Americans giving to charity. While you probably do not donate to charity just for the potential tax deduction, it can be a bonus. You should always try to donate in a tax-efficient way.

Here are a few helpful hints regarding charitable gifts:

Make a plan: Make a consistent program so you can maximize your dollars.  Once your retirement funds are allocated and bills paid, hopefully you can find a way to give back to one of the millions of organizations and institutions in need of help.

Identify the source: Only donate to organizations with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status. These are the only deductions that are deductible on your tax return. Before you donate to a charity check to verify its 501(c)(3) status. You can research tax-exempt organizations on the National Center for Charitable Statistics website.

Whether you currently donate to your college or university or your favorite cancer research organization, now is a great time to consider charitable giving as part of your annual financial plan.  There are so many worthwhile causes in need of help, time, money and support.  If you are looking to make an impact (financial or personal) and need some guidance, I can help point you in the right direction.

If you are interested in learning more about getting your financial house in order and/or charitable giving please let me know so I can refer you to a local expert.

Happy tax planning!!!

Looking to Tackle a Project: Home Remodels to Avoid

If you are looking for ways to increase the value of your home, then there are some simple guidelines to follow, as well as a few projects you may want to consider avoiding altogether.  Depending on the region, a particular home remodel has the potential to make or break a potential sale.

Swimming Pools – Homes with swimming pools generally do better in the warmer states, where they can be seen as a welcome addition during the hottest months.  However, a home in New England that has a pool is increasingly likely to be viewed as a headache.  Maintenance costs, family safety, and seasonal accessibility make this addition one that is in reality more likely to hurt the chances of being able to sell your home quickly.  Not to say that you shouldn’t have a pool if you have your heart set on it.  Just don’t count on it making your house more appealing.  If you already have a pool, then try to sell your home in the spring or summer, when the pool is in use.  This will help potential buyers see the benefit of the addition, without reminding them of the headaches associated with upkeep.

Koi ponds and indoor aquariums – These items, while beloved to a homeowner, may turn off a buyer who isn’t interested in being a pet owner.  There aren’t a lot of uses for an aquarium installed in a wall for someone who doesn’t like the idea of having fish.  Similarly, koi ponds on the property have the capability of turning off an owner that doesn’t necessarily want to have a portion of their backyard dedicated to a project that they have no interest in taking over.

Converting garages and second bedrooms – While these renovations generally arise from necessity, they can hurt your resale value in the future.  Garage space is fairly desirable these days, and especially so in cold climates that deal with large amount of snow.  Converting a garage in New England isn’t generally a good idea unless you absolutely need the space.  This is also true in the cases of converting second and third bedrooms into office spaces.  While a new buyer may consider at a later date to convert an extra bedroom into an office space, they may not want to have the option forced on them.  Most of the time, a two-bedroom house with an office will remain on the market longer than a three-bedroom house.

Fireplaces – They can be beautiful, yes, but fireplaces are quickly falling out of favor with buyers, and are increasingly being seen as a messy addition to a home.  In 2009, a consumer preference survey from the Nation Association of Home Builders ranked fireplaces as No. 1 on a list of what NAR called “Home Fads That Are Falling Out of Style.”  Not to say that fireplaces don’t have a market.  Many people are still looking for homes that contain one or even two.  But installing a fireplace in an existing home can be very expensive, and the return on your investment wouldn’t be that great.

If you are planning to tackle a major project soon, please feel free to contact me so I can assist you in making the best choices for maximizing your home’s value.

No Need to be Cold- Tips for Keeping Your House Warm

With the winter months fast approaching, comes the increased concern on how to heat your home.  This typically leads to a search for the most cost effective way to keep your family warm.  Confirming that your heating system is in good working order, and the fuel necessary to run the system is in stock is just a start.  Keeping the heat in and the winter chill out is key to a warm and cozy home during the cold winter months.

Here are a few tips to help keep your house warm:

Reduce heat loss through windows by using window blinds or thick curtains that are thermal lined. Insulated drapes can also be placed over sliding doors as heat escapes and cold air enters through these large openings.  Check for drafts around the windows and doors and consider enclosing in plastic any area experiencing substantial heat loss.

Natural sunlight can be an important source of heat for your home.  As the sun comes up, open the window coverings and let the sun shine in!  You will soon feel the warmth of the sun filling the home.  Even windows that have been covered with a thin layer of clear protective plastic will allow the heat in.  As soon as the sun starts to set, close the blinds or curtains to retain the warmth.

The positioning of your furniture plays an important role in the heat flow throughout your home.  Avoid placing furnishings to close to the radiators as this obstructs the heat flow and reduces the effectiveness of the radiator.

Last but not least, be sure you have programmable thermostats so you can control the temperature even while you are out.  Maintaining a steady temperature is more cost effective than keeping your home cold during the day and blasting the heat when you get home.

Placing heat reflective aluminum foil behind radiators will help prevent heat loss through the walls.  The foil will reduce the amount of heat absorbed into the walls and improves circulation.  Heat reflective foil is available at your local hardware or home improvement store. A good quality kitchen foil can also be used, however, it may not hold up as well or be as effective as the professional product.

According to the National Energy Foundation (NEF), floors that are not insulated can account for up to 10% of heat loss. Placing a carpet or rug on the bare floor would help minimize the loss.  Warm floors go a long way in the overall comfort of a room.

Hopefully one or more of these helpful hints will help keep you warm this winter.

 

Should I Buy a House ?

Owning a house gives you a sense of fulfillment, and helps boost your self-esteem. It is a long term investment and should not be taken lightly. The present state of your finances is possibly the single most important factor when contemplating home ownership.  Before you start shopping for a house, take into consideration the following factors.

Have you set aside enough money for the down payment?  The amount you need varies based on the price of the home and percentage required by your lender.  Zero down mortgages are possible, however the interest rate is typically very high increasing the amount paid out over the life of the loan. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is typically required for this type of loan, again increasing your monthly payment.

How high of a mortgage payment can you afford to make ?  If you opt for a fixed rate, your payment would remain consistent throughout the period of the loan. This type of loan is favorable for future financial planning.   Adjustable rate mortgages make it a bit trickier to predict your monthly payments based on the fluctuating interest rate throughout the duration of the loan.  This type of loan could be risky if interest rates rise and your payments increase significantly higher than anticipated.

The security of your financial future is paramount when acquiring a mortgage loan.  You would not want to enter into this long term investment without stable employment and a definite career path.  Most banks and lending companies require a borrower to have been with the same employer for at least 2 years before considering a loan of this nature. Secure financial footing is key when applying for a mortgage loan.

When determining your readiness to purchase a home, your credit score is as important as your finances. If you have a low credit score, you’ll attract a higher lending rate. This implies an increase in the amount paid back to the lender over the duration of the loan. An excellent credit score of 720 or above attracts the best interest rates and repayment terms. If your credit score is too low, improve it by:

  • Becoming Debt Free
  • Removing all inaccuracies from your credit report
  • Making all monthly payments in a timely manner — eliminating late payments
  • Avoid applying for new loans and opening credit accounts

The commitment of home ownership comes with financial responsibilities beyond the monthly mortgage payment. Be certain to consider additional expenses such as property tax, utility bills, and home maintenance costs when calculating your budget.  Carefully weigh out all the factors to ensure you will be comfortable with your monthly payments allowing you to enjoy your new home for years to come.

Full Disclosure: What You Need To Tell Buyers About Your Home – Sell – realtor.com

Realtor.com provides some sage advice for Sellers.  These tips are ever  more important in competitive markets, like ours.  It is vital  that sellers provide their agents and prospective buyers with the right information about the property.  If you have questions about the process, please get in touch with me.

 

Full Disclosure: What You Need To Tell Buyers About Your Home – Sell – realtor.com.

What Is Feng Shui? | Tips from the Pros at Real Simple

As our Spring market is about to unfold, here are a few ways you can spruce up your space- whether or not you plan to make a move!  Spring cleaning?  A few tips for making your space better. Or just need a little pick-me-up as Winter lags a little longer?  Try a few of there to lift your spirits!

 

What Is Feng Shui? | Real Simple.

UPDATED: Barn Roof Collapse at Eastleigh Farm; Animals Trapped Inside – Police & Fire – Framingham, MA Patch

This seems like a great example of how local news can spread so fast- as of this morning the farm was bursting with donation of blankets, towels and other items.  They were so appreciative of the outpouring of support.  Sadly, 4 cows were still struggling as of earlier today, but they were optimistic that they’d be ok.  I hope to see more updates from our friend, Susan Petroni at Patch.

 

UPDATED: Barn Roof Collapse at Eastleigh Farm; Animals Trapped Inside – Police & Fire – Framingham, MA Patch.