Seller and Buyer Tips

    • How to Care for Carpet If You Have Pets

      23 July 2021

      If you have one or more pets, you probably struggle to keep your home looking and smelling clean. Fur and pet dander can easily cling to carpets. Pets can spread dirt that they bring in from outdoors and leave waste on the floor, plus untrimmed nails can snag on even the shortest carpet fibers. Here are some ways you can prevent damage from your pets to your carpet and keep your home clean.

      Vacuum and Clean Carpets Regularly
      When you own pets, frequent vacuuming is essential. How often you should vacuum will depend on the number and types of pets you have and how much they shed. Vacuuming once or twice a week may be sufficient, or you may need to vacuum every day to pick up all the hair that your pets shed. Vacuum furniture, too, so dirt and hair don’t get transferred to carpets.

      You may want to use a powder that you can sprinkle on carpets before you vacuum. A powder designed especially for pets can help remove pet dander that’s stuck to carpet fibers and get a deeper clean. 

      Even with frequent vacuuming, your carpets can benefit from an occasional deep cleaning. Steam cleaning can pull up pet dander that’s embedded deep in carpet fibers.

      Prevent Messes or Clean Them Up Promptly
      The more you can prevent spills and stains, the easier it will be to keep your home clean. If you have a pet that goes outdoors, have them re-enter the house in an area that isn’t carpeted. Train your pet to let you wipe their feet before they go to another part of the house, avoiding tracking in dirt, pollen and other things, like sticks or grass, that you don’t want all over the carpets. 

      If a pet leaves waste of any kind on a carpet, clean it up as soon as you see it. Use paper towels to absorb moisture, then apply a product that’s designed to remove stains from carpet. Follow the directions on the bottle or can. You may need to let the product sit on the stained area for a few minutes and then remove it in a particular way, by scrubbing with a brush or blotting with a paper towel.

      Be sure to brush your pets regularly so their hair doesn’t get shed and wind up all over your carpets. If you have dogs, bathe them regularly or take them to a groomer.

      Trim Their Nails
      It’s not just dirt and fur that you need to worry about. If your pets have long nails, they can accidentally scratch carpets when they’re running around and playing. They may also scratch carpets intentionally to try to shorten their nails. 

      Trim their claws on a regular basis. If they get agitated, consider scheduling appointments with a groomer or veterinarian who is accustomed to working with anxious pets and knows how to keep them calm.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Navigate the Homeowners Insurance Claims Process

      23 July 2021

      If your house gets damaged by a covered peril and the cost of repairs is significantly higher than your deductible, you will most likely decide to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company. Before you do so, it’s important to know what to expect and how to handle each step.

      Understand Your Coverage
      Before you submit a claim, read through your insurance policy to make sure that your loss will be covered. Pay attention to the list of exclusions. If your home was damaged by something that is specifically excluded, your claim will be denied. The insurance company may also refuse to pay if the damage was caused or made worse by lack of maintenance.

      Make sure that you know if you’re covered for replacement cost or actual cash value, and that you understand the difference. Check your policy for additional coverage, like other accommodations, for example, if your home is uninhabitable.

      Report Damage to the Insurance Company
      If the damage to your home is serious and you decide to file a claim, get in touch with your homeowners insurance company as soon as possible. A representative will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. 

      For instance, the company may ask you to take photos and/or videos to document the damage, but may instruct you not to have any repairs made and not to throw away any damaged belongings until an insurance adjuster conducts an inspection. The insurance company, however, may ask you to take steps to prevent further damage, such as covering a hole in the roof with a tarp. A representative can also explain how to get an estimate and submit it to the insurance company.

      Keep Detailed Records
      Get your claim number and the adjuster’s name and contact information. Every time you contact the insurance company, document it. Record the date and time of the communication, the person you spoke to, left a message for or emailed, and what was discussed in every conversation. Those notes may be helpful if there is a dispute or misunderstanding at any point in the process.

      Provide Necessary Information, But Don’t Share too Much
      Answer any questions honestly, but don’t volunteer information that isn’t requested. An insurance company is in business to earn a profit. The less it pays out in claims, the more money it will keep. Watch what you say and how you say it so you don’t give the company a reason to pay out less than you’re entitled to or to deny your claim altogether.

      Get the Compensation You Deserve
      You don’t have to accept the insurance company’s first offer. If you disagree with the amount, or if the insurer refuses to pay for something that you believe should be covered, you have the right to appeal the decision. You also have the right to seek help from a public insurance adjuster or an attorney.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Things You May Be Doing That Are Hurting Your Credit Scores

      23 July 2021

      Your credit scores are based on several factors, including your credit card balances, the amount of credit you have available, your payment history and the length of your credit history. You may not realize how some actions or mistakes can impact your credit scores.

      Carrying High Balances or Using a High Percentage of Your Available Credit
      Having high credit card balances can be problematic. You may struggle to cover your monthly payments and interest charges can cause the balances to keep growing. 

      A high balance can also cause you to have a high credit utilization ratio, or percentage of available credit you’re using. When that ratio creeps up, your credit scores can go down. You should aim to keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%. Transferring all your balances to one card may make it easier to handle your monthly payments and help you qualify for a lower interest rate, but it can also have a negative impact on your credit scores. 

      Closing an Account You Have Paid Off
      When you pay off a credit card, you may feel so relieved to have a zero balance that you decide to close the account. That can be a mistake, however. Your remaining balances on other cards will remain the same, but closing the account you’ve paid off will reduce your total amount of available credit and cause your credit utilization ratio to rise. 

      The length of your credit history is an important factor used to determine credit scores. If the account you pay off is one that you’ve had for a long time, closing it can shorten the average age of your accounts and cause your credit scores to dip.

      Making Late Payments
      If you make a payment 30 or more days late, the company will report it to the credit bureaus and your scores can take a hit. This applies to credit card payments, loan payments, utility bills and other obligations. 

      Set up autopay or set reminders to make sure you don’t miss a payment. If you experience financial hardship and think you won’t be able to pay a bill on time, contact the company before you miss a payment. If you’re proactive, the business will be more likely to work with you.

      Applying for New Credit
      When you apply for a new credit card or loan, the company will conduct a hard inquiry to check your credit, which will cause your credit scores to fall a bit. That may not be a big deal, but applying for new credit with multiple companies in a short period of time can create problems. 

      Protect Your Credit
      It’s important to know the factors that influence credit scores so you can avoid making these common mistakes. That will allow you to keep your credit in good shape so you can qualify for a loan or credit card when you need it most.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Clean Your Cell Phone

      22 July 2021

      It’s almost impossible to avoid germs. Whether you are grabbing a door handle or flipping a switch in your own home, or pushing the buttons on a public elevator, bacteria lives on each and every surface. Of course, washing your hands regularly can help keep these germs at bay, but there are other items that you may forget to clean that can carry and spread bacteria. 

      Your cell phone, for example, travels with you everywhere you go. You place it down on tables and countertops, and hold it in your hands and close to your mouth. But how often are you really cleaning it? In a study conducted by Harvard Health, 24% of Americans disinfect their phones less than once per year. Though this doesn’t need to be a daily task, and because your cell phone is host to plenty of germs, it’s important to keep it clean. 

      A good cleaning doesn’t take much time, and you likely have all of the right materials to stave off germs right at home. Here are step-by-step instructions to properly clean your cell phone. 

      Step 1: Remove Case and Power Down Device
      Unplug your phone from the charger and remove any headphones or other cords, and turn it off. To ensure a deep clean, remove the case and set aside to clean separately before you put it back onto your device. 

      Step 2: Wipe Down With a Microfiber Cloth
      Using a clean microfiber cloth, gently polish off your phone, removing any smudges, dirt and dust. Due to the friction between the cloth and the glass surface of your screen, this will help to remove germs. Avoid paper towels or old washcloths, as they will not absorb grease or dirt particles. 

      Step 3: Disinfect With Spray or Wipes
      Wipe down your polished phone with either a disinfecting wipe or a one-to-one mix of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol to remove any germs and bacteria. If you choose to use spray, be sure to spray onto a new, clean microfiber towel and wipe all around the phone. Be sure to clean the front, back and side of the phone, avoiding plug ports.

      Step 4: Clean Out Small Areas With a Q-Tip
      The small areas on your phone, such as the space around your camera lens, attachment ports or buttons often have build-up of grime and grease. Gently use a dry, clean cotton swab to clean these areas. Do not spray with cleaner, as this can damage the ports. Once any build-up is removed, wipe down the surrounding area with your cloth again. 

      Step 5: Allow the Phone to Air Dry 
      Most disinfectants work best when left on the surface for 10 minutes. Once you finish wiping down your phone, allow it to air dry. If after 10 minutes, the phone is still wet, gently dry with a new, clean microfiber cloth. 

      Step 6: Clean Your Phone Case
      Repeat the same cleaning process to your phone case, especially the outer side, as this is what sits on most surfaces and in your hands. For silicone cases, completely submerge and wash in a warm water solution with a light dish soap. Use a microfiber cloth to gently scrub any textured edges. Rinse well and air dry. For a plastic cover, follow steps 1-5. Be sure that your case is completely dry before reinserting your phone.

      Again, you don’t have to follow this cleaning process daily, but you should deep clean your phone once every week to fend off germs and bacteria. Be cautious of the surface that you touch or leave your phone sitting on, and keep a clean microfiber cloth at your desk, in your purse or in your car for a quick and easy way to maintain a clean, grime-free phone.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Family Meals That Deliver Flavor and Nutrition

      22 July 2021

      (Family Features) As kids and parents return to busy schedules full of sports, homework and weeknight activities, building a plan for nutritious and easy meals can be challenging. Piecing together a menu that fuels active minds without spending hours in the kitchen is a common goal for many families. 

      These recipes require minimal prep and call for on-hand ingredients like dairy food favorites that provide nutrients people of all ages need to grow and maintain strong bodies and minds. 

      Whether you enjoy it together in the morning before getting the day started or mix it up with breakfast for dinner, this Sustainable Frittata is called “sustainable” because you can use leftover cheeses, veggies, ham, sausage and more to recycle ingredients you already have on hand. For a customizable kid-pleaser, turn to Chopped Chicken Taco Salad and garnish with your family’s favorite toppings. 

      Visit milkmeansmore.org to find more recipes perfect for bringing loved ones together. 

      Chopped Chicken Taco Salad
      Recipe courtesy of Megan Gundy of “What Megan’s Making” on behalf of Milk Means More
      Prep time: 15 minutes
      Cook time: 15 minutes
      Servings: 4

      Dressing:
      1 cup plain Greek yogurt
      1/3 cup buttermilk, plus additional (optional)
      1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice, plus additional (optional)
      3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
      2 tablespoons taco seasoning

      Salad: 
      2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
      2 tablespoons taco seasoning
      2 tablespoons olive oil
      1 head leaf lettuce, chopped
      1 avocado, chopped into bite-sized pieces
      1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
      1 cup corn
      1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, chopped
      1 cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack or Mexican)
      tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips, for topping

      To make dressing: In a small bowl, stir yogurt, buttermilk, lime juice, cilantro and taco seasoning until combined. Taste and adjust lime juice and cilantro as needed. If dressing is too thick, add buttermilk one teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

      To make salad: Season chicken on both sides with taco seasoning. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add chicken to pan and cook on both sides until outside is golden brown and chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and slice into strips.

      On a large platter, heap chopped lettuce. Sprinkle chicken over top. Add avocado, beans, corn, tomatoes and shredded cheese. Drizzle dressing on top and sprinkle with tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips. 

      Sustainable Frittata
      Recipe courtesy of Jenn Fillenworth of “Jenny With the Good Eats” on behalf of Milk Means More
      Prep time: 5 minutes
      Cook time: 20 minutes
      Servings: 8

      12 eggs, beaten
      1/4 cup whole milk, half and half or heavy cream
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      2 cups shredded cheese, any variety 
      3 cups assorted cooked vegetables and pre-cooked meats
      fresh herbs, for garnish (optional)

      Preheat the oven to 450 F.

      Preheat cast-iron pan or oven-safe skillet over medium heat.

      In a large bowl, mix eggs, milk and salt then add shredded cheese.

      Add cooked vegetables and meats to the pan to reheat. Once vegetables have softened, add egg mixture to the pan and scramble. Let sit over medium heat for one minute.

      Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes. Frittata is done when eggs have set. Remove from the oven and top with fresh herbs. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.