Chicago Cubs Baseball: Live Near Wrigley Field for $2.4M

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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For $2.4 million, you could live within five blocks of Wrigley Field and be near one of the greatest baseball parks in the country. You might not have any money left over for Chicago Cubs tickets, which are the most expensive in Major League Baseball. But if you do get tickets, at least you'll be saving money by being able to walk to the stadium and not having to pay for gas, parking or public transportation.

Here are two homes for sale at $2.4 million each to put you within walking distance of Cubs games. If the price is too steep, then at least go visit Wrigley Field and enjoy the ivy-covered outfield walls. You might want to grow some ivy outside on the walls of these homes, too:
The home at 3741 Lakewood Ave. for $2,499,000 is about a five-block walk to Wrigley Field. The home was built this year and has five bedrooms and four-and-a-half bathrooms. This greystone has beautiful wide-plank hardwood flooring throughout and applied moldings with oversize crowns, giving it a modern, elegant look.

It has a chef's kitchen with walnut cabinets, European-style appliances, handmade backsplash tile over the stove, and Miele built-in coffee system. The master suite has custom mosaic tiling in the bathroom. The third floor has a guest suite, library and deck. The lower level is expansive with a great media room. It also has a three-car garage.

Comparable homes in the neighborhood have an average list price of $2,407,841.

The other home is directly west of Wrigley Field, only a four-block walk. While both homes are stunning, this home at 3616 N. Wayne Ave. looks more elegant, and is a slightly better deal at $2,495,900. The home has five bedrooms and 6.1 bathrooms.

It has a gourmet kitchen, two dishwashers, four en suite bedrooms on the second floor, wood-paneled room, wine cellar, wet bar with dishwasher, central vacuum unit, two laundry rooms, media room with dropdown 9-foot screen, and mudroom with built-ins. There's also an en suite that can be used as a guest area. The radiant heated garage will hold three cars. There's also a penthouse with a roof deck and bonus room.

Find more great homes in Chicago at AOL Real Estate.


Want to learn more about home buying and home finance? If so, you won't want to miss
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What Works Now: Smart Moves When Buying a Home,"
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Real Estate Fraud: Why Is It Becoming More Common?

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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Fraud, or at least charges of fraud, just keep on coming in the mortgage and real estate world, leaving homebuyers wondering where the oversight is. The criminal courts are getting busier, hearing cases against the employees and executives of the same companies that are supposed to be helping homebuyers.

Why is there now so much corruption in the mortgage industry? It's an issue that Congress is looking into. The federal government currently is expanding its oversight of the banking system and financial markets, the entities that helped cause the recession.

Here are three of the more prominent recent examples:
1. Mortgage fraud alleged
Last week a federal grand jury indicted the head of what was once among the largest privately held mortgage lending companies for allegedly scheming to steal over half a billion dollars from the government's Troubled Assets Relief Program.
The indictment alleges that Lee Bentley Farkas and his co-conspirators carried out the scheme at their company. The attempt to get TARP funds was just one part of a scheme that was "truly stunning in its scale and complexity" and that resulted in losses of more than $1.9 billion, Lanny Breuer, the Justice Department's assistant attorney general for the criminal division, told a news conference.

2. Real estate fraud

A real estate broker from Chico, Calif., lost her license and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for illegally diverting home construction funds after helping an unlicensed building contractor get $625,000 in construction loans. The felony charge against Linda Elaine Myers was reduced to a misdemeanor after she repaid $5,285 to the main victim, according to a story in the Chico Enterprise Record.

3. More mortgage fraud
Ten people were indicted last week by a federal grand jury in California and charged with conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud, mail fraud and providing false statements in mortgage applications to federally backed banks. They were involved in companies in which mortgage lenders were given inaccurate information about the income of homebuyers or the value of homes, resulting in more than $5.5 million in losses to lenders and the foreclosure of at least 28 properties. In New Jersey, a woman is accused of running a $45 million Ponzi scheme, allegedl raising millions of dollars for real estate investments which she then gambled away.

Why are these cases cropping up now?

The collapse of the housing bubble, which led to the recession, can partly be blamed on the mortgage industry getting too greedy. Crooks, just like businesspeople, go where the money is, and with millions of dollars going into and out of homes, the chance was there for fraud to develop.

Much of the federal crackdown on mortgage fraud comes from the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently announced it arrested 500 people for mortgage fraud.

Some of the cases across the country affect individual homeowners. The newspaper account of the Chico case reports that Damon Fadale, an unlicensed building contractor who retained Myers to oversee home construction loans, previously was sentenced to 180 days in jail in the same case. Fadale allegedly obtained construction loans for $300,000 and $325,000 from two individuals to build separate homes for them. Both of the transactions were brokered through Myers, who received fees totaling about $13,000 to administer the loans.

After the two lots were purchased, Myers wrote additional checks to Fadale to obtain building and septic permits, and to cover foundation work and other facets of the ridge developments, But, according to the prosecutor, she didn't verify that building permits had been issued or that the work actually was actually being done.

The real estate broker admitted paying a relative, who owed her back rent, about $3,500 to perform some work on one of the lots, receiving more than $2,900 from him to cover the rental debt.

Myers' attorney, Philip Heithecker, told the paper that she previously had never administered a construction loan and was "clearly over her head."

Heithecker added a court motion to reduce the charge against Myers, explaining: "Fadale ripped everyone off; my client was scrambling to protect the properties and wind things up."

Want to learn more about home buying and home finance? If so, you won't want to miss
our online discussion with industry experts,
What Works Now: Smart Moves When Buying a Home,"
created by AOL Real Estate in participation with Bank of America Home Loans.
Watch it now on AOL Real Estate


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D.C. Nationals Baseball: Live Near Stadium and See Strasburg Pitch, $649K

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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There are fewer than a dozen homes for sale within walking distance of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., but if you want to buy a home with the quickest walk to the baseball stadium, you're going to have to come up with $649,000 or more for a condo in the Capitol Quarter.

Public transportation to the ballpark is popular, so if you find another home to buy nearby, getting to the stadium shouldn't be difficult. But for my money, I'll take the two bedroom, two-and-a-half bath condo at 1020 4th St., SE, with 1,535 square feet -- more than many single-family homes -- that's selling for $651,500, and enjoy the approximately six-block walk to hopefully see rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg pitch.

The only difficulty, however, is that the condo isn't built yet. Interested buyers should contact the builder, who has priced the condos from $649,000 to $829,000. You might not get in to see Strasburg this year, but hopefully by opening day next year, you'll be in and can see the stadium lights at night.
The new neighborhood, being built by the developer EYA, is in its second phase of construction. It has 208 townhomes along seven city blocks. The builder's website says that the "mixed-income community will include market rate homes, workforce homes and affordable rental homes."

The floor plans show that the two-story townhouse that I have my eye on has covered parking and a large garage, a big master suite with walk-in closets and private bath, and another bedroom at the other end with its own bathroom.

The second floor has an optional deck off the living room, which has an optional gas fireplace and optional built-ins, adding up to a lot of options for buyers of this yet-to-be-built home. The dining room is in the center of the second floor, next to the stairway, with the kitchen and breakfast area following. Beyond that is a third bedroom, although it's unclear if the room is part of the unit for sale at the lower price, and a loft beside more stairs, and a roof terrace at the end of the unit.

Features include the town homes being built to standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council for being more environmentally friendly and energy efficient than typical new homes.

Along with being close to the baseball stadium, Capitol Quarter is a short walk to the Navy Yard and Capitol South Metro stations, 8th Street shopping, Barrack's Row, Eastern Market, and Capitol Hill.

Similar homes in the neighborhood have an average for-sale price of $829,219.

Find more great homes in Washington, D.C. at AOL Real Estate.


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Author James Patterson Sells Palm Beach Home, $10M

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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It's no mystery why suspense author James Patterson is moving to another oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. He recently sold his previous Palm Beach house for $10.3 million -- perhaps another sign that the real estate market is moving again as another celebrity sells his home.

Patterson, whose latest novel is "Swimsuit" and who also wrote "Along Came a Spider" along with 18 other consecutive No.1 New York Times bestsellers, bought the Everglades Island home at 686 Island Drive for $5.2 million in 1999. That makes its selling price almost double what he paid.

Was it worth all that scratch?
The 11,000-square-foot home has five bedrooms; seven-and-a-half bathrooms; a terrace surrounding a heated pool and spa and a built-in barbecue. The property also has 136 feet of frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway, which includes a dock with a boat lift.

Patterson isn't getting as much for property as he had hoped, however. It was listed for $14.95 million, and has a market value of $11.83 million. With closing costs, the total on the sale was $11 million. Still, not a bad take in the troubled Florida market.

His new home, according to the Palm Beach Post, is a 21,000-square-foot estate at 710 Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach. He bought the oceanfront mansion on two acres last year for $17.4 million, a better deal than the old one per square foot. It is next to an estate once owned by John Lennon. Patterson's new neighbors include Ivana Trump, who owns a home two lots north.

Homes for sale are rare along the stretch of Ocean Boulevard where Patterson's new home is located. But only three homes back from the ocean, on Via Del Lago, one is selling for $12.7 million. It has seven bedrooms, eight full baths and two half ones in 9,271 square feet, making it slightly smaller than the famed author's house and without a direct ocean view. But the Mediterranean-style home with guest house is still beautiful.

When it comes to real estate, clearly Patterson has a clue: You don't need to be real estate sleuth to figure out that the Via Del Lago home is not as good a deal as Patterson's pad.

Find other great homes for sale in Palm Beach, Florida, at AOL Real Estate.


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Rapper Chamillionaire Loses Houston Home to Foreclosure

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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At least rapper Chamillionaire isn't changing his name to Cha-"thousand"-aire. The Houston native is getting out of a mortgage for a $2 million home there by not making payments on the mansion and letting it go into foreclosure. The trend of walking away from a mortgage in the down market is hitting even millionaire musicians.

His song "Houston Got a Problem" takes on new meaning.

His decision to go into foreclosure on the 7,583-square-foot mansion that he bought in 2006 was a business decision and not because of "financial negligence or anything like that," he told TMZ, despite carrying multiple mortgages for himself and others.
"This house was my most expensive mortgage," he told TMZ. But "when the market went down ... the house ended up being worth nothing ... I decided to just let it go and give it back to the bank. It wasn't a situation where they came and took it from me. I just didn't feel like it was a good business investment to keep paying that much mortgage for a house that I'm never at."

Foreclosed homes are a common sight across America, and some foreclosed homeowners live in their homes for free for a year before being evicted.

Chamillionaire, whose real name is Hakeem Seriki, said he's in good financial shape and still has his cars. However, the website Sickhop reports that the rapper owes the IRS $184,000 in 2007 taxes.

Seriki seems to have some business sense, at least in his ability to make money. He co-owns Houston-based auto dealer Fly Rydes, a tour bus company and his record label, Chamillitary Entertainment. In 2009, he and Quincy Jones III launched the Global Innovation Tournament at Stanford University's Memorial Auditorium, as part of the school's "Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders" seminar series.

Investing in a $2 million mansion might have looked like a wise investment four years ago, and Seriki can always find plenty of similar homes in Houston if he's looking for another one.

For example, the lakefront home at 2310 Bayou Mist Court, with 8,134 square feet, five bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms. It's selling for $1,985,000 and has a formal living room with fireplace; a formal dining room; a library; a large, open kitchen/breakfast/family room (with another fireplace); a bonus room (or theater room) downstairs; a large game room and computer alcove upstairs; and a covered pavilion (also with a fireplace).

See more homes in Houston, Texas, and elsewhere at AOL Real Estate.


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Silicon Valley Market Heats Up: House-Hunting Tips for Everywhere

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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The housing market in California's Silicon Valley is beginning to rebound. And while it certainly isn't as hot and heavy as it was in the dot-com boom with multiple offers as high as the sky, local real estate agents say competition is starting again among homebuyers, especially on the lower end of the market.

HousingWatch has a hunch that house-hunting tips that apply to California's Silicon Valley, one of the most rollicking, high-stakes housing markets in the country, should work in other, slowly awakening real estate markets. With that in mind, we spoke with a few Silicon Valley real estate professionals to get some ideas of what is important to keep in mind when getting ready to buy your next home: #plain_module { width: 590px; height:222px; border: none; float:left; margin:0px; font-size:12px;} #plain_module img {border:none; width: 13px; height:14; border: 0px; margin:0px; } #plain_module .mini_main { margin: 0px; padding:0px; width:585px; height:220px; repeat scroll 0 0} #plain_module .mini_item_header {padding:10px 0px; margin: 0px 0px; font-size:16px; color: #555555; border-bottom:1px dotted #CCCCCC;} #plain_module .mini_item {padding:5px 0px; margin: 0px 0px;} #plain_module a { color: #49A3CA; text-decoration:none; } #plain_module a:hover { color: #F98419; text-decoration:underline;} span.gray {color:#949494;} .mini_main li{list-style-type: none;background-image: url(;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-position: 0 1px;padding-left: 10px;}
Do Your Homework

Nearly half of the homes sold in Santa Clara County, Calif., in May sold for more than their asking prices, according to a San Jose Mercury News story. Homes priced the lowest and in the best condition in a neighborhood are most likely to get multiple bids, according to Realtors. Bank-owned foreclosed homes are also getting many bids.

Scott Bruno, a Silicon Valley Realtor since 2005, told HousingWatch that he's seeing more competition in the lower end of the housing market, under $500,000. "The competition is fierce," said Bruno, adding there are almost 20 to 50 offers on bank-owned homes because they're priced so far below market value and comparable homes.

"You need to do your homework. You need to know the real value of it," he says of foreclosures.

In Campbell, Calif., where property values are driven by quality of schools, Realtor Dianne Chandler of Alain Pinel Realtors in Los Gatos says that she recently had 10 offers in two days for a home she listed for $425,000. The 1,400-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms sold for $460,000. Chandler also said that she had six offers in two days for a Cupertino condo listed for $450,000 and sold it for $460,000. However, homes listed for $2 million and more aren't getting many multiple bids, she says.

Get Your Credit in Order

Much more documentation is required by lenders to get a loan now than three years ago. Tax records are verified with the IRS, and other checks are made, such as on employment and credit.

"The days of the stated income and all that have pretty much gone away, for good reason," Bruno says. Instead of taking 30 days to close a loan, 45 days is now common, he says.

Bruno said he warns his buyers not to use their credit cards in the 45 days or so before closing, because mortgage lenders can do last-minute credit checks and pull the loan on the day before closing. He said he's seen people buy a washer and dryer set ahead of moving in, only to have it kill their credit score and mess up their debt ratio and cause the home loan to fall through.

Pursue Short Sales With Caution

Buying a home from a seller who owes more to the bank than the home is worth takes more time, from six weeks to six months, because different banks have different policies on what they will accept, says Dale Warfel, a San Jose real estate agent who specializes in short sales.

Half of the market in Silicon Valley is short sales, whereas two years ago it was very rare to have one, adds Scott Bruno

Delays can come because sellers have a second mortgage and need a second approval, there are liens against the property for unpaid property taxes, and slow responses from banks.

Beware Low Appraisals

New rules on how housing appraisals are done have made it more difficult to get high ones, Bruno says. Instead of buyers' agents contacting the appraisers, lenders are in charge and the appraisals can come in lower than the buyer's offer. That can make it difficult to get the loan, and can require extra cash to make the deal, or re-negotiating with the seller.

High-Tech House-Hunting Tools Help

While it isn't unique to Silicon Valley, high-tech methods for finding a home are expected in the nation's Internet mecca. Chandler says her office provides virtual tours of every home it sells, and has its agents on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week via e-mail and cellphone for client access.
"We are more high-tech here because we have to be," she says. "Because that's our clientele -- high-tech clients."

On AOL Real Estate: How Much Can You Buy for Your Money


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San Francisco Home Prices Rebound; What $685K Can Buy You

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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The housing market is bouncing back in San Francisco, where sales of houses and condominiums jumped 50 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier. Improving technology stocks and a limited housing supply are credited with the increase.

And not just more homes were sold, but at higher prices, with the median price rising 5.4 percent to $685,000. The city and the metro area have ranked first or second among the most expensive U.S. housing markets for 19 of the past 20 years, as homebuyers flock there for its weather and high quality of life.

But how much home can the median price of $685,000 buy in San Francisco? For about $680,000 there are plenty of foreclosures to choose from, many near the border of Daly City. Most are near the edges of the city, but a few are near its center. Here are three San Francisco homes for sale in different parts of the city that are worth taking a look at, and are all in good neighborhoods:
Home #1

At 60 Rausch St. you get two bedrooms and two bathrooms in a 1365-square-foot condo for the exact median price in San Francisco: $685,000. Of the homes available at this price or lower, this looks to be in the best neighborhood. It's south of Market Street and you can walk to AT&T Park: It's about a 20-minute stroll to the stadium where baseball's Giants play.

Rausch Street is wide and tree-lined, with ample parking and easy access to all freeway entrances, public transit and vibrant nightlife. It's just blocks from renowned restaurants including Rocco's Cafe, Triptych and my favorite, LuLu. Shops such as Harvest Urban Market, Whole Foods and Costco are also nearby. The condo is within walking distance (although some of it is uphill) to many San Francisco attractions.

The two-story condo has an open first-floor kitchen and living room, and a stairway leading up to a room and a walkway that overlooks the first floor. It has radiant heating.

Comparable homes have sold for $704,000, making the price of this condo a bit of a deal.

Home #2

For $679,000, this condo at 1013 Cabrillo St. is a deal when compared to other homes in the area. It's in a great location -- across from Golden Gate Park, a green swath that stretches in a long rectangle from Ocean Beach.

The newly-converted condo is a classic 1915 Edwardian flat in a two-unit building. It has one bedroom and one bathroom. According to the real estate agent from Coldwell Banker, the flat has been restored with an eye toward maintaining abundant period details, including decorative fireplaces, built-in cabinets, glass-paned pocket doors, bay windows with seats, box-beam and coved ceilings, hardwood floors and wainscoting. Included are laundry facilities, a sunny garden, deeded storage and upgraded electrical and lighting.

The average sold price for a similar home in the neighborhood is $843,000.

Home #3

This four-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,800 square feet is at 861 University St., and at $679,500 is one of the biggest homes available near the median price. That's probably because it's so far outside of the center of the city. But it's still in a great neighborhood, across from John McLaren Park, and has views of the bay.

It has a living room, one full bathroom, family room with deck, and a kitchen on its main level. Its two side-by-side garages have storage, and there's a large garden with a pond. Comparable homes have sold for an average of $522,000.

See more great San Francisco homes for sale at AOL Real Estate.


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Dallas Home for Sale: University Park Colonial for Just Under $1M

Your Housing Watch - Mon, 07/08/2013 - 11:51

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With the average home in the desirable Dallas, Texas, suburb of University Park selling for more than $1 million, finding a deal can be difficult.

This house at 4508 Stanhope St. in University Park is only $1 under $1 million -- listed at $999,999 -- but it's still a worthy home to buy with plenty of room in a great neighborhood.

I've written before about University Park, a city with 23,324 residents that has a small-town feel while being close to Dallas and its big-city attractions. The area is also home to Southern Methodist University.
The Stanhope Street home is about three blocks south of Germany Park, a popular Dallas landmark with a running track and tennis courts. The two-story, four-bedroom, four-bath home has 3,150 square feet and was built in 1945.

It has a remodeled kitchen that opens to a family room overlooking a large backyard. The kitchen has white cabinets with Viking, Sub Zero and Bosch appliances. A dining island sits in the center, with a bigger dining area at one end.

The baths are done in restorative finish. All of the bedrooms are upstairs and the master suite has a sitting area with a large bath and walk-in closets.

Comparable homes in the neighborhood have an average asking price of $933,799, meaning there are homes of similar size listed for less money, so if you're interested in this one be sure to offer less than the asking price. But for my money, this home on Stanhope Street is worthy of an offer. From the immaculate rooms to the beautiful kitchen, I can see why it's only $1 under $1 million.

See more great homes in the University Park area of Dallas, Texas, at AOL Real Estate.


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How Much Certification Do You Need - Sat, 07/06/2013 - 14:09
Certification and levels thereof are one of the most frequently discussed issues in thermography. With few standards addressing certification, purchasers of infrared inspection services and thermographers often ask, “How much certification is necessary?”

Surprise: New garage door tops list of high-impact, affordable home improvements

ARA Content - Free Online Content - Wed, 07/03/2013 - 04:00

(BPT) - You’ve finally scraped together some money to improve the looks of your house.

Problem: Every project costs too much or produces a minor improvement.

Solution: A stunning new garage door. A front-facing garage door packs a big punch and dramatically improves the curb appeal of the entire home.

That’s one of the big revelations from the 2012-2013 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine. In the report, a garage door replacement again ranked in the top three in “cost recouped” on a list of 35 common home remodeling projects.

Siding replacement and a deck addition also ranked at the top, but they can cost $10,000 to $15,000. An upscale garage door often costs less than $3,000.

The project that pays for itself

“No other exterior home project transforms such a large space at such minimal cost and time,” says Tom Wadsworth, long-time editor of a garage door trade magazine. Since a home’s garage doors can take up more than a third of the front elevation of the home, a new garage door can make a big difference.

And a stylish new garage door can actually pay for itself, according to a Stratamark Research survey. When nationwide real estate agents were shown before and after photos of houses with new upscale garage doors, they increased the list price of the home anywhere from 1 to 4 percent. That means a $2,000 garage door investment could increase the sale value of your home by as much as $8,000 if you’re selling a $200,000 home.

Making a difference

Brad and Jenny Considine recently moved from the Midwest to a nice home outside Baltimore. They had a budget for making improvements, but they had a tough time prioritizing which job should come first. They were glad they chose the garage doors because “the change was dramatic,” says Brad.

After his new wood carriage-style garage doors were installed earlier this year replacing two standard-issue builder-grade garage doors, he was ecstatic. “The doors went from being an embarrassing part of the home to having neighbors coming over and asking me about them. I was amazed at how much they improved the entire house.”

Maximizing design

The Considines’ new carriage-style doors had windows that matched the style of windows on the house. That’s a key design tip when buying a new garage door.

“The most stunning doors integrate with the design of the home,” says Wadsworth. “Look for colors, lines and shapes that match other exterior components.”

The styles of today’s garage doors have advanced far beyond the all-too-common rows of rectangles. New doors also feature appealing designs, striking colors, rich finishes and decorative window options that can flatter any home.

To get a taste of the latest innovations, Wadsworth urges homeowners to go to , a non-commercial website developed by the garage door industry. The site includes before and after photos and displays many styles introduced in recent years.

Not a DIY project

One word of caution. Don’t try to install a garage door yourself. “Your garage door system is under high tension that can cause severe injury or even death if improperly installed,” says Wadsworth. Plus, an experienced installer knows how to install the door for correct balance, maximum energy efficiency, smooth operation, low noise and longest life.’s ZIP code search function can also point you to qualified professionals in your area.

Using Ultrasound and Infrared Technologies for Metal-Clad Switchgear Inspections - Sun, 06/30/2013 - 14:03
Ultrasound and infrared technologies are a perfect match when conducting inspections of switchgear over 1000 volts. At this voltage class and higher, thermal anomalies as well as corona and tracking conditions can occur, all of which threaten the reliability of the equipment being inspected.

Using Tmax Corrected Formula to Prioritize Electrical Exceptions - Sat, 06/29/2013 - 14:42
For decades, temperature measurement has been used to gauge the operating condition of electrical components. With this Tip, we explore an alternative to the traditional Delta T method of prioritizing exceptions during infrared inspections of electrical distribution systems.

Testo Announces Winner of $6,000 Contractor Giveaway - Sat, 06/29/2013 - 13:54
Sparta, NJ (June 28, 2013) – Mr. Ron Dech of Castle Air Conditioning & Heating Co., Easton, Pennsylvania, was recently named winner of Testo's $6,000 "Ultimate Contractor Collection Giveaway".

The best kind of home improvements: high-impact, low-maintenance

ARA Content - Free Online Content - Thu, 06/27/2013 - 04:00

(BPT) - Yes, everyone knows making home improvements is a worthy investment in your greatest material asset. Sure you want every improvement job done well with top-notch end results. But when all is said and done, do you really want to have to put a lot of effort and money into maintaining those improvements? For most people – whether they’ll admit it or not – the answer is “no.”

The best home improvements are the ones that not only enhance your home’s value and livability, but also require little work from you afterward to keep them looking great and functioning well. If you’re looking for high-impact, low-maintenance home improvements, consider these popular projects:

No-leak skylights

When it comes to an improvement that brightens your home, enhances its indoor air quality and boosts energy-efficiency, skylights deliver. Unfortunately, early skylights had a reputation for being leaky – a problem that simply doesn’t occur with modern, no leak, energy-efficient skylights like those made by Velux America. Pre-engineered flashing kits (the metal shield that surrounds any opening in a wall or roof) work with all types of roofs, from shingles to metal, to ensure a properly installed skylight won’t leak.

Need further low-maintenance points to make the case for adding a skylight? Not only do modern skylights keep water out, they’re energy efficient as well. Energy Star-qualified, no leak solar-powered fresh air skylights, like those from Velux, deliver fresh air through cost-effective passive ventilation. Adding remote-controlled, solar-powered blinds allows you to easily open or close a fresh air skylight and shade it when the sun hits that part of the roof, boosting the skylight’s energy efficiency by 39 percent. Keep the shade open during cold weather to admit warmth and reduce heating costs. A 30 percent federal tax credit on both products and installation costs makes a skylight project even more appealing. Visit for a tax calculator to show your savings for a new installation or replacement skylights and a skylight planner app to show exactly how skylights and blinds will look in any area of your home.

Lighting upgrade

Older light fixtures not only look dated, they often use outdated, inefficient bulbs and are lacking in the energy-efficient emphasis that comes with newer fixtures. Upgrading lighting throughout your home is a great way to ensure you won’t have to think about it again any time soon.

If a total lighting redesign is out of the question, you can still make your existing light fixtures lower maintenance simply by swapping out old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer, electricity-sipping versions. Options like CFLs and LEDs provide all the light of incandescents while using a fraction of the energy. says Energy Star-rated LEDs use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer. Imagine the time, hassle and money you’ll save not having to replace bulbs constantly – especially in lights that get a lot of use, like porch lights, or that are hard to reach, like the chandelier in your two-story entryway.

Vinyl siding

Wood, fiber cement, stucco, brick – there are nearly as many types of exterior siding as there are colors to paint it. When it comes to low- or no-maintenance siding, vinyl remains the gold standard. In fact, more new homes are built using vinyl siding than any other type of siding product, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute.

While early versions of vinyl siding introduced in the 1950s earned criticism for being less lovely than wood, even those less sophisticated versions had staying power; it’s possible to find homes in use today sporting vinyl siding that was added to the house in the 1970s or even earlier.

Vinyl siding never needs to be painted, and when properly installed provides exceptional shielding from the elements. New technology has made modern vinyl siding look better and last longer without fading issues associated with older versions of vinyl. It requires basic cleaning, and overall maintenance demands are much less than other types of siding. Visit to learn more.

Affiliate Marketing – How to Turn Your Website into a Profit Center - Sun, 06/23/2013 - 13:15
As the worldwide web has matured, websites have become a business necessity filling a key role in the marketing, promotion, and sales of many companies. In addition to direct sales, websites can generate additional revenue through a concept known as affiliate marketing.
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