Consumer Real Estate News

    • Screen-Free Art Projects for Curious Kids

      26 October 2020

      With many kids still at home and learning remotely—or for any kid who spends too many hours glued to a computer screen—here are five fun art projects using materials found in most homes that are guaranteed to get curious children offline and engaged in gratifying activity.  

      • Sidewalk Chalk Rainbows - Create a giant chalk rainbow in your driveway for walkers to enjoy and/or spell out hopeful messages on the sidewalk, such as, “We can do this,” “Love our community,” or “Stay strong,” decorated with colorful doodles.  
      • Painted Rocks - Take a walk around the neighborhood, or in your own backyard, and collect a few smooth rocks that fit in the palm of your child’s hand. Decorate them with tempera paint or paint pens, then leave them on your walking route as little fun treasures for others to find—or leave one or two on your neighbors’ doorsteps. It’s a great way to build a sense of community as we spend more time apart. 
      • Painting Unlimited - On cold or rainy days, lay out a sheet so the floor doesn’t get messy and break out the paint pens, markers or watercolor paints, along with a selection of supplies—paper cut into various sizes and shapes, like hearts or seasonal and holiday cutouts, and even gift boxes to be decorated as your little Picassos see fit.
      • Salt Painting - Create a ‘magical’ experience for little ones. Using any poster board, card stock or art paper you have on hand, squeeze on a design with white glue. Sprinkle with salt until the glue is totally covered. Tip to let the excess salt fall away. Then, dip a paintbrush into liquid watercolor paint and touch the brush gently to the salt-covered glue lines and watch the paint magically travel in both directions.
      • Paper Plate Art - Paper plates make great palettes for budding artists. Lay out a selection of colored markers, white glue, buttons, cotton balls and pasta in various shapes and let your kids’ imagination run wild.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 4 Elegant Surfaces to Improve Your Driveway

      26 October 2020

      Upgrading your driveway with a new material can be a quick and relatively easy way to improve the exterior of your home. From curb appeal to practicality, there are many benefits to be enjoyed. Asphalt and concrete are two of the most common options these days, but if you’re looking to set your home apart from the moment a potential buyer pulls into the driveway, here are several surfaces that are worthy of being used outside any luxury home. 

      Natural Stone Slabs
      Beautiful and long lasting, natural stone slabs are an excellent choice that can work with a variety of architectural styles. There are certain considerations to take into account when selecting the right type of stone, such as how slippery it gets when wet and its ability to endure freeze-thaw cycles. For this reason, travertine, bluestone and flagstone are solid options that will provide you with a beautiful driveway for years to come, as long as it’s installed properly.  

      Some materials have to be resurfaced every three to five years, but a brick driveway is likely to last at least 25 years. Although it’s one of the more expensive options, this classic style can instantly add endless charm and appeal to the outside of any home, making it a sound investment. 

      There are plenty of elegant options when it comes to picking out the type of gravel for your driveway, like pea stone or bluestone, but for environmentally conscious homeowners, you can feel good about going with the one that’s locally available. If you love the look but you’re worried about the general upkeep and having to regularly lay more gravel every couple of years, then you can always go with the “tar and chip” method, where the gravel is sealed in place. 

      If you’re looking for a surface that checks all the boxes—aesthetically pleasing, long lasting and low maintenance—you simply can’t go wrong with pavers. With many different patterns, textures and colors to choose from, you can get just the right look to upgrade the outside of any property.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Properly Powered: Tips for Proper Use of Battery-Operated Power Tools

      26 October 2020

      (Family Features) While battery-powered tools are convenient options for efficiently tackling projects both around the house and on the job site, contractors and DIYers alike still need to know how to safely operate and handle the tools. Another important safety aspect to keep in mind is battery selection.

      Lithium-ion batteries have become the industry-standard energy source for cordless power tools due to their energy storage capabilities, durability, versatility and portability. However, counterfeit batteries – third-party batteries which appear to be from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) – and knock-off batteries are surfacing in the marketplace at a lower cost than OEM batteries.

      These counterfeit and knock-off batteries have not been evaluated as a part of the tool, battery and charging system where an independent certification lab such as UL, CSA or ETL tests and evaluates the product for compliance with ANSI and internationally accepted safety standards. For cordless power tool “systems,” these standards evaluate the tool, battery and charger to ensure proper communication between those items and the ability to monitor and control critical functions, such as cell voltage balance,  power delivery and temperatures.

      Using a lithium-ion battery that is not specifically designed for a specific tool and charger system can result in poor performance, shorter life and damage to the tool and charger. This can also void a tool’s warranty or  cause a battery to fail, which may cause a fire or explosion that could lead to personal injury or property damage. Because some counterfeit and knock-off batteries can be difficult to distinguish from OEM, it is important to purchase batteries from authorized dealers and distributors. If you have questions about your battery being a genuine OEM product, contact the power tool manufacturer.

      In addition to the potential dangers of using unauthorized batteries, the higher energy potential in lithium-ion batteries, even OEM ones, can lead to potential damage when misused. Prior to operating a battery-powered tool, consider these tips for safe selection, use, transportation and disposal from the experts at the Power Tool Institute – the leading organization for power tool safety resources, information and education – and its members, who represent power tool brands.

      Selection and Use:

      • Batteries are not interchangeable, so it’s important to only use batteries and chargers from the original power tool manufacturer.
      • Never modify, disassemble or tamper with a battery. The performance of modified batteries can be unpredictable and dangerous.
      • Inspect batteries regularly for signs of damage, such as crushing, cuts,  punctures or  leaking fluids. If a battery is damaged, do not use it and contact the manufacturer.
      • Never immerse your tool, battery pack or charger in liquid or allow liquid to enter it.
      • Use and store your battery within the temperature limits stated by the manufacturer.
      • As a general practice, it is best to unplug battery chargers and remove battery packs when not in use.  Do not store batteries on their chargers.
      Transportation and Disposal:
      • Always transport and store lithium-ion batteries as instructed in the instruction manual.
      • Do not allow metal objects, such as keys, coins, screws and nails, to contact the battery terminals.
      • When disposing of a lithium-ion battery, take it to a local recycling center or place it in a receptacle designed for batteries. Throwing it in the trash or municipal recycling can pose a fire hazard.

      Find more information on safe battery use at, or visit for additional power tool safety and operation tips.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Organize Your Dresser Drawers

      23 October 2020

      Overstuffed and disorganized drawers can be frustrating, especially in the bedroom. Whether you're searching for the perfect top or hunting for a matching set of socks, it’s never easy finding a needle in the haystack, especially when the haystack is a pile of mismatched clothes. Learn how to properly organize your dresser drawers with these simple tips. 

      Start at Empty
      The first rule of decluttering is to clear the space of all items. Start by removing all of the clothing in each drawer. Starting with a blank canvas will help to not only organize, but decide whether or not you want each item in a drawer, on a hanger or in a donation box.

      Declutter and Donate
      Now that you have emptied your dresser drawers, it’s time for the hard part—deciding what to keep and what to let go of. There are many ways people navigate this process, but one in particular comes to mind. Do you wear it? Look at each piece and determine whether or not you’ve worn it in the last year. If yes, place it into your keep pile. If not, set aside for donation.

      Categorize Clothing
      Once you have decided which items you are keeping, it’s time to separate them into groups. Socks and underwear can usually share a drawer, so these can be designated as one category. Next, divide your tops into tank tops, t-shirts, long sleeve shirts and sweaters. Even take an extra step further and group them by color. The more specific you get with your categorizing, the easier it will be to find the item you want in the shortest amount of time.

      Hang Bulky Items
      Folding up a bulky sweatshirt or jeans can take up a lot of room in one single drawer. Consider hanging these items or adding a shelving unit into your closet to create more space. Even utilize the space under your bed for oversized clothing. 

      Rotate Seasonally
      If you live in an area where the weather changes seasonally, consider storing out-of-season items in another area of the home. This will make it easier to navigate your clothing without digging in drawers and creating a mess. If you have an unused suitcase in your closet or storage bins in your basement or garage, utilize them. As the seasons change, swap out clothing you won’t wear for clothing that is seasonally appropriate.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Pros and Cons of Buying a House With a Fireplace

      23 October 2020

      Many people love the idea of relaxing in front of a fireplace on a cold winter night. The sight, smell and sound of a fire can create a relaxing ambience. While the idea of having a home with a fireplace may be appealing, the reality does not always live up to people’s expectations. The amount of heat given off, the amount of work required and the cost depends on the type of fireplace.

      Wood Fireplace
      A wood fireplace can create a cozy atmosphere. If the power goes out, a wood fireplace can continue to heat your home. It can also provide light and a way to cook during a power outage.

      Since most of the heat produced by burning wood escapes through the chimney, a wood fireplace is not very energy efficient. A fireplace insert can increase the amount of heat that stays in the house. If the damper doesn’t close enough, the house may have drafts, which can result in high utility bills.

      Embers from a fire can spread and cause nearby objects to catch fire. Curious children and pets can be seriously injured if they get too close. If you buy a house with a wood fireplace, you will need to stay close by to prevent accidents.

      Smoke from a wood fireplace can release pollutants into the atmosphere. A fireplace can also release carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases inside the house.

      Because of the risks and the amount of work involved, many people who buy a house with a wood fireplace only use it occasionally. The costs of cleaning, maintenance and wood may not make owning a house with a wood fireplace cost effective. 

      Gas Fireplace
      With a gas fireplace, you can simply press a button and instantly enjoy a cozy fire. If the house has more than one gas fireplace, you can heat only the room where you are, rather than the entire house, to save money. The fireplace can provide heat even if you lose power. 

      A gas fireplace won’t produce the aroma and crackling sounds of a wood fire. On the other hand, gas fireplaces are easier to maintain than wood-burning ones. There is no ash or soot to clean, but the fireplace should still be inspected every year. 

      Electric Fireplace
      An electric fireplace can provide heat and light and can be used even in a small space. It can be expensive to use, however, and it won’t work during a power outage. An electric fireplace also does not look realistic.

      Should You Buy a House With a Fireplace?
      Many people search for a new home with a fireplace, then find that they don’t use it as much as they thought they would and realize that they spent a lot more than they expected to maintain it. If you’re thinking about buying a house with a fireplace, be realistic about how much you would use it and consider the costs and safety issues to decide whether it would be worth it.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.