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Tom's Blog

Tips to Spruce Up Your Home with Paint

March 22, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011--Many homeowners are planning spring improvement projects and often at the top of the list is exterior painting. Debbie Zimmer with the Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute offers these four simple and economical steps:

1. Prepare the Surface. Before you begin painting, make sure the surface is clean and sound. Even the best quality paints will fail if they are applied to a poorly prepared surface. First, remove any mildew with a solution of one part bleach to three parts water then rinse with clean water. Wear eye and skin protection, and protect nearby plantings.

Next, make sure the surface is free of any loose, flaking or peeling paint. This may require scraping and sanding. Also, sand any glossy areas to dull them. Power wash the entire surface to remove dirt and chalk, rinse with clean water. Finally, prime any bare areas with a top quality exterior primer.

2. Use the Right Tools and Brushes. Good quality rollers and brushes last longer and help a job move along more quickly. They also apply the paint more heavily and smoothly, which helps with long-term durability. Choose brushes that are well balanced, and have tightly packed bristles that are tapered up to the center of the brush

3. Paint in the Right Weather Conditions. Ideally, you should paint when the temperature is between 60-85 degrees F, and when there is little or no wind. Avoid painting in direct sunshine, as this can cause the paint to dry too quickly and even to blister. In addition, if the temperature is predicted to drop below the paint manufacturer's recommendation for minimum application temperature in the next day or two, you might want to consider postponing your project.

4. Use the Right Paint for the Job. Choose a paint that is designed for the job you're doing. In most cases, a 100% acrylic latex paint will be the best choice. These paints adhere better, are more flexible, and last longer than ordinary paints. Using a lower quality paint just to save a few dollars will end up costing you more in the long run, as you will have to repaint much sooner than if you used a top quality product.

One very important thing to remember is never to use an interior paint for an exterior job. Manufacturers formulate paints for use either inside or out. Paints contain specific ingredients that all play a role in the durability and final appearance. These ingredients include pigments, binders, additives and the carrier or liquid portion.

The pigments provide the whiteness, darkness and color to the paint or other coating. In addition, they impart the opacity and hiding power required. Pigments are dry powders (not dyes); liquid colorants used in the stores contain pigment powders dispersed in a liquid.

The binder is the component that "binds," or ties together the particles of pigment, hopefully in a tough, durable film. The binder also provides the adhesion of the film, and influences almost all paint properties. Generally, the binder alone dries to a clear, glossy usually colorless film.

Additives are low-level ingredients included in the paint formulation, and put in the product in the factory, not point of sale additives that are purchased in the paint store, home center or other outlets. These affect certain properties such as thickness of the paint, mildew resistance and bubble breaking.

The liquid proportion is water and affects how heavily the paint will tend to apply, and how thick the paint film will be when it dries. This is an important aspect of the overall quality of the product.

How thick the dry film is will affect many of the paints durability and appearance properties including:

crack resistance


sheen uniformity

ease of touch-up

mildew resistance

Finally, it is important to apply the paint at its recommended spread rate; and not to thin the paint with additional liquid because this reduces the solids content and can compromise quality and performance.

When tackling your next exterior paint project, follow these steps to achieve that long-lasting and attractive paint job you have always wanted.

Tags: News

Spring Cleaning and Safety Handling Hazardous Materials

March 22, 2011 1:31 pm

By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-Since spring cleaning time is just around the corner, it's important to get a handle on any hazardous household cleaning, automotive and gardening chemicals you may have stored on your property. According to the St. Louis County Health District, you can tell if a product is hazardous by reading the label. Look for "signal words" such as:

- Poison: highly toxic.

- Danger: extremely flammable, corrosive or highly toxic.

- Warning: moderately toxic or product has lesser hazards.

- Caution: slightly toxic or product has lesser hazards.

Also, look on labels for information on health effects and safety precautions. Always try to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals. Reading labels will help identify the least toxic product for the job at hand. Once identified, you need to decide on the safest way to handle those products. Unusable or unwanted portions of hazardous products become household hazardous waste.

Generally, it's best to avoid creating hazardous waste in the first place. Buy safer alternatives, buy only what you need so you won't have leftovers, use up or share leftovers with others or recycle them.

Here are some general tips if you do have to store household hazardous chemicals, or waste that will be disposed of during designated community hazardous waste collection programs:

- Store products in original containers with labels marked with product contents.

- Lids should be kept tightly closed.

- Write the date or purchase on products to keep track of their age.

- Always store your hazardous products far away from children and pets.

- Never dump any kind of household hazardous waste down storm drains, ditches or waterways.

- Store products in containers intended for that purpose (for example, do not store gasoline in a container previously used for kerosene).

- Store all products in cool, dry areas with adequate ventilation.

- Do not eat, drink or smoke while handling household chemicals.

- Wear the right kind of gloves for effective protection against household chemicals. Solvents, acids and bases may be absorbed through or deteriorate regular latex gloves.

Don't forget, the improper handling and storage of hazardous chemicals can be a disaster waiting to happen. So use these helpful tips to identify and manage these substances with care.

Tags: News

Freddie Mac Announces K-011 Offering of $1 Billion in Multifamily Securities

March 22, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 22, 2011-- Freddie Mac announced a new offering of Structured Pass-Through Certificates ("K Certificates"), multifamily mortgage-backed securities. The company expects to offer approximately $1 billion in K Certificates ("K-011 Certificates"), which are expected to price the week of March 21, 2011, and settle on or about March 31, 2011.

The K-011 Certificates will be offered to the market by a syndicate of dealers led by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch as Co-Lead Managers and Joint Bookrunners for the transaction. Barclays Capital Inc., Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated and Wells Fargo Securities LLC have been named as Co-Managers for the transaction. The K-011 Certificates are backed by 76 recently originated multifamily mortgages and are guaranteed by Freddie Mac.

"As the third Freddie Mac K-Deal of the year, K-011 demonstrates our commitment to maintaining periodic issuance throughout the year," says David Brickman, Freddie Mac vice president of Multifamily CMBS Capital Markets.

K Certificates provide Freddie Mac with an efficient vehicle to securitize multifamily loans. The certificates provide investors with stable cash flows, structured credit enhancement and the Freddie Mac guarantee.

The preliminary offering circular supplement relating to the K-011 Certificates can be found at

Tags: News

Proactive Packing Tips

March 21, 2011 1:31 pm

By Joe Cooke, RISMedia Columnist

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-"The biggest mistake people make in moving? They pack boxes too heavy," says Kay Lynn Clay, Business Development Manager for nation-wide moving company U-Pack. "Don't load more than 50 pounds into any one box, and make sure that the weight is evenly distributed."

Clay recommends using strong containers that are in good condition and can be secured tightly with twine or strapping tape. A good tape dispenser is a worthy investment, and if you can, buy special moving boxes. If you can't afford to buy boxes, your real estate agent may know of someone who just moved into a new home and who can give you boxes. Even so, you may want to purchase special boxes for dishes, wardrobe, and other unique or valuable items.

Also, it's easy to get in a hurry and ignore or forget to label some boxes. Keep a felt-tipped pen in your pocket at all times, and have a couple of extras around just in case you lose one. Label each box with its contents, which room it should go in, whether it is fragile, and whether it should be loaded last so as to be unloaded first.

Cushion contents with newspaper or other packing material to prevent breakage. Use newsprint paper or tissue paper for items that might be soiled by newspaper. Towels and cloth napkins are great for wrapping fragile items. Items like dishes should be packed on edge, rather than stacked one on top of each other.

Books and magazines can be a problem because of their small size. Don't pack too many books in one box they can be extremely heavy. Pack books tightly in small boxes. Alternate bindings and wrap valuable books separately.

Also, think ahead when you make a major electronics purchase. "Make sure you save the boxes for your high-end electronics, like your flat screen TV, computers and home theater system," says Clay. Knock the boxes down if you have to and store them somewhere, but keep the packing materials as well. The best way to move your valuable electronic items is in the original boxes.

Tags: News

A New Buying Landscape for First-Time Buyers

March 21, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011--New buyers accumulate approximately 29% of home sales in today's market, down from 40% of sales in past years. Although many first-timers have taken advantage of this unique market, some buyers are now finding that the rules have changed, altering buying habits and attitudes toward the home buying experience. Now is still a great time to buy, however, buyers should keep the following in mind when entering the house-hunting process.

Putting more money down is more important than ever. It's still possible to make a down payment of less than 5%, but it's smarter not to if you have the financial means. Insurance fees on government-insured mortgages are continually rising, having doubled in the last seven months. The difference in cash for a $300,000 mortgage could be as high as $30,000 without a healthy down payment.

Saving a substantial down payment may be challenging for first-time buyers, especially in larger city markets. If you're having trouble coming up with a feasible amount, look into various state offerings and other options (gifts from family or a co-owning agreement) that may be able to help you along the way.

Commit to staying for 10 years or more. The days of flipping homes are long behind us. Buying a house is now a long-term investment and living in your home for a decade or longer is definitely the way to go. In today's market, it may take buyers longer to recoup costs. By staying for a longer period of time, you're also allowing the market some time to further recover, while waiting for house values to increase as well. Serious buyers should be prepared to be in it for the long haul.

Be prepared to act fast and have plenty of competition. According to the National Association of REALTORS , about 32% of purchases were made in cash in the month of January. Competition from international buyers, investors and more, may give first-time buyers a run for their money...literally. What first-timer buyers can do: demand less. Though it is never recommended that you give up your right for a home inspection or appraisal, the less you demand (repairs, closing cost coverage, etc), the more enticing your offer will be to sellers, compared to offers that come with a large to-do list.

Buyers can still benefit from great interest rates and low prices, but it's important to be aware of what is happening in the market and adjust your buying strategies accordingly.

Sources: NAR, SmartMoney

Tags: News

Builder Confidence Edges Up in March 2011

March 21, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 21, 2011-After four consecutive months hovering at the same low level, builder confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes improved by a single point in March 2011, rising to 17 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI). This is the highest level the HMI has reached since May 2010, when the survey period corresponded with the final days of the federal home buyer tax credit program.

"Builders are cautiously looking forward to the spring home-buying season in hopes that improving economic conditions will help bring more buyers to the table," said NAHB Chairman Bob Nielsen, a home builder from Reno, Nev.

"While many home buyers are still holding off on making a purchase, builders did indicate slightly increased optimism about the future with a two-point gain in the HMI component gauging sales expectations for the next six months," added NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "In fact, prevailing indicators portend some improvement in the overall economy, which should generate modest housing market gains later this year."

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for more than 20 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores from each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good than poor.

Two out of three of the HMI's component indexes held unchanged in March, including the component gauging current sales conditions (holding at 17) and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers (holding at 12). Meanwhile, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months rose two points in March to 27, its highest level since May 2010.

For more information, visit

Tags: News

Helpful Hints for Protecting Wood Floors

March 18, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 18, 2011--Wet footprints, spills from family gatherings, and stains from excited pets can take their toll on wood floors. Daniel Praz, CEO of Mr. Sandless, a non-sanding wood refinisher, offers the following tips on how to protect wood floors:

Pets: Pet urine will eat the floor's finish, and if unattended, will continue to eat through the whole board, turning it dark.

House Guests: Heavy foot traffic, spilled drinks, and ground-in dirt left by party-goers and house guests can age wood floors. Use area mats at entryways, especially in bad weather. Clean up spills with a damp cloth or mop and never over-wet the floor. Run a dry mop over the floor in line with the boards, not against the grain. Dry mopping is the best way to prevent floor damage because it removes gritty dirt that dulls the finish.

Rock Salt: Rock salt and other snow melting products can ruin a floor's finish, leave a film, or cause spotting. Avoid placing rock salt at entryways where it can be tracked into the house or have guests remove shoes before entering.

As Praz says, "How they are cared for determines the lifetime of wood floors."

Tags: News

Easy Ways to Tackle Interior Project Planning

March 18, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 18, 2011--Home remodeling and redecorating can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it can also be an awful lot of hard work. Among the many areas of focus for project work are stages of planning, getting any required licenses or permits, interviewing subcontractors and getting proposals with bids, looking over materials and making selections and making sure the entire project is on track and remains that way through completion. And many people find enjoyment as well as fulfillment with making material selections: choosing just the right color combinations and patterns, the best products and service for the budget and top quality providers to help build your projects. Consider the following suggestions when planning your interior project plans:

1) Budgeting Basics--Start by seeing if you have to completely remodel or if perhaps your can redecorate instead, and save money and time. Because remodeling often means ripping apart old structures and then building new ones; like for extra space for a new window or set of shelves or a new room, ceiling or floor. However, with redecorating, you can frequently add simple new structures to those in your existing environment like a new bookcase, new curtains and plush carpeting, or new textured ceiling paint with all paper plus new hanging pictures and plush cushions.

2) Contractors, Invoices, Project Materials and More-Next, you will have a lot of decisions to make: which project materials to buy, which vendors to use, which subcontractors to hire, how to agree to payments, how to handle problems and other important issues and emergencies along the way, etc. So start a project notebook with an accompanying folder specifically for this project. Keep all important documents, receipts, bids, business cards, designs, paint colors, fabric swatches and other info there, to ensure that everything is in one place.

3) Project Parts - Some areas of your project may have sub-categories or basic design elements that will involve work with different areas of focus for each part. For example, you may be remodeling one floor, so you'll have several main areas of focus under this heading like: bedroom walls, hallway and bedroom floors, all window treatments, upgraded lighting and new wood furniture. Use dividers in your notebook, extra folders or extra see-through sleeved pocket folders that fit into your binder to handle these separate areas of focus, so you can concentrate on specific tasks within each area.

With the proper planning, you can choose the easiest and most affordable redecorating or remodeling options that best suit your home's needs.


Tags: News

Optimistic Outlook for Multifamily Development, NAHB Indices Show

March 18, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 18, 2011-Two quarterly indices produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) indicate a return to healthy market conditions for both new and existing apartment and condominium buildings.

The Multifamily Production Index (MPI), which tracks developer sentiment about new construction on a scale of 1 to 100, is at 40.8-up more than five full points since the previous quarter and the highest number since the fourth quarter of 2006.

The MPI component tracking developers' perception of market-rate rental properties is at 51.7-the first time this component of the index has been above 50 since the second quarter of 2007.

The index and all of its components are scaled so that any number over 50 indicates more respondents report conditions are improving than report conditions are getting worse.

The Multifamily Vacancy Index (MVI) shows similar reason for optimism, declining to 33.3, which is the smallest number since the third quarter of 2006-and half of what it was a year and a half ago. Smaller numbers indicate fewer vacancies.

Historically, the MPI and MVI have performed well as leading indicators of U.S. Census figures for multifamily starts and vacancy rates, providing information on likely movement in the Census figures one to three quarters in advance.

"The renewed optimism evident in this index indicates that developers are beginning to increase production in order to meet pent-up demand," said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. "However, the lack of construction financing constrains their ability to do so at levels sufficient to meet that demand."

"Apartment developers are happy to be back in the business of building new rental apartment homes. The lack of adequate new supply, however, will put inflationary pressure on apartment rents for the next few years," said Charles Brindell, Chairman of NAHB's Multifamily Leadership Board and Chairman and CEO of Mill Creek Residential Trust. "We are already seeing increasing rents in several markets across the country."

For more information, visit

Tags: News

10 Foreclosure Avoidance Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

March 17, 2011 1:31 pm

RISMEDIA, March 17, 2011-The word foreclosure is being heard in just about every area of the country. Here are 10 suggestions to help you avoid foreclosure, both now and in the future.

1. Don't ignore the problem. The further behind you become, the harder it will be to reinstate your loan and the more likely that you will lose your home. If you are behind on your mortgage payments or have received notice that you are behind in payments, you need to contact your lender quickly and ask to speak with a loss mitigator. Typically, your lender will mail you a "loan workout" package. This package contains information, forms and instructions. If you want to be considered for assistance you must complete the forms fully and truthfully and return them to your lender quickly. Your lender will review the complete package before talking about a solution with you.

2. A smart simultaneous step is to contact a HUD-approved local nonprofit counseling agency that may be aware of programs that could help you, may have personal knowledge of your lender's flexibility in terms of available options, and may know the best person to contact with your lender. To find one-click, HUD-approved housing counseling agencies or call HUD at (800) 569-4287 on weekdays. Time is of the essence, so don't let this step slow the process more than a few days.

3. At the same time, find out what your home is worth so you will know how much equity you have (or if it's worth less than the mortgage balance). There are online home valuation tools on, Trulia, and several other websites, but an experienced and knowledgeable local real estate agent's written market valuation is likely to be more accurate and will be helpful in discussing options with lenders. Modifications, forbearance and recasting are all possible if you have sufficient equity in your home, and if you have sufficient equity, selling the home if necessary may not be the worst idea if home values are dropping.

4. Avoid fee-based for-profit mortgage prevention companies or counseling agencies - many are rip-offs that provide few if any meaningful services for distressed homeowners, and you can get quality counseling for free. Also be wary of investors who advertise offers of immediate cash for your home. Many of them are also unethical or outright crooks, seeking to strip home equity through a variety of techniques. If any firm claims they can stop your foreclosure immediately if you sign a document appointing them to act on your behalf, you may well be signing over the title to your property. Never sign any legal document without reading and understanding all the terms and getting professional advice from an attorney or a trusted real estate professional, or a HUD-approved housing counselor.

5. Know your mortgage rights. Find your loan documents and read them so you know what your lender may do if you can't make your payments. Learn about the foreclosure laws and timeframes in your state (as every state is different) by contacting the State Government Housing Office.

6. Foreclosures are expensive for lenders, so they are usually willing to listen to reasonable ideas that can reduce their potential losses, such as restructuring the loan at lower rates or accepting a "short sale," which occurs when the lender agrees to let the owner sell the home for less than the mortgage balance, and agrees to forgive the shortfall and not downgrade the homeowner's credit. Your willingness to cooperate is a negotiating tool if your suggestions are likely to be less expensive than a foreclosure action.

7. Bankruptcy is an option, particularly if your lender is inflexible or your mortgage is on a second home or a rental property. Bankruptcy judges can reduce debts and modify interest rates on commercial loans, second home mortgages, and investment property mortgages when it is in the best interest of both parties. Unfortunately, they have no such latitude with the mortgage on your primary residence, but if your mortgage lender is inflexible, bankruptcy proceedings may be the wisest choice.

8. Even if you are current on your mortgage payments but have an adjustable loan, thoroughly review your mortgage documents, even if your reset date is many months in the future. Check the reset interest rate or formula for determining the reset rate and any future rate resets, and see if there are mortgage prepayment penalties.

9. If you think you could have trouble keeping up with the new payments on an adjustable mortgage, consider refinancing into a fixed rate mortgage if possible. Some lenders may be willing to forgive all or part of a prepayment penalty if that payment presents a problem and you qualify for their fixed rate product.

10. Don't assume that you are immune to a foreclosure in the future. Don't assume that a mortgage lender's underwriting process will assure that you'll not be approved for an unaffordable mortgage in the future. When lenders discovered that they could package and very profitably sell risky loans to investors, they became way less focused on responsible underwriting because they weren't at risk if they sold the loans. Sound underwriting practices began to deteriorate, eventually causing the current mortgage meltdown. This could happen again. In the future, you need to consider the total amount of likely monthly payments, including taxes and insurance, and be comfortable in your own mind that you can handle those payments. Adjustable rate loans are risky because you can't control the future interest rate at the time they will be adjusted, so you need to assume the worst (in other words, a substantially higher index interest rate when they adjust) in deciding whether they will still be affordable.

For more information, visit

Tags: News

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