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Which Filter to Use?

August 26, 2014

iStock_000012737667Small250.jpgA dirty air filter decreases the effectiveness of your HVAC system because it inhibits airflow and allows dirt, dust, pollen and other materials to blow through the system.

The challenge is how often it should be changed to keep the system working efficiently and extend the equipment life. Too often and you’re wasting money and not often enough and your increasing the operating and maintenance costs.

Fiberglass panel filters are inexpensive and easy to find but they’re not very efficient and they allow most dust to pass through. They were popular years ago but there are much better products available currently.

Pleated air filters are available in MERV ratings from 5 to 12. As these filters collect dirt and other particles, they become less efficient to the point of impacting air flow. Allergy sufferers can benefit from this type of filter. These should be changed every two to three months based on local conditions.

HEPA filters stand for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance. They are very efficient and more expensive than previously described filters. Since they are very efficient, they require changing more frequently; possibly, every month.

Electrostatic air filters are permanent and washable. They generally cost more initially but the savings will be based on how long they last. This type does not add to landfill issues or produce ozone.

Improperly maintained filters will lower the quality of the air in the home, have a negative impact on air flow, cause it to use more electricity and eventually require maintenance to the systems.

In an attempt to easily comparing filters, a rating system was created called MERV, an acronym for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The rating from 1 to 16 indicates the efficiency of a filter based on standards set by ASHRAE. Higher ratings indicate a greater percentage of particles are being captured in the filter.

To create a system to remind you when to change your filters, set a reminder on your electronic calendar to recur for whatever frequency you determine is best for you. Be sure to keep a supply of filters on hand to be ready to change them out when the time comes.

How’s Your Memory?

August 19, 2014

home inventory3.pngHow old is your bedroom furniture and what did you pay for it? Don’t know? That’s okay, let’s try an easier question. When did you buy the TV in your family room and is it a plasma, LCD or a LED?

Whether you are the victim of a burglary, a fire or a tornado, most people are comforted they have insurance to cover the losses. However, unless you’ve filed a claim, you may not be familiar with the procedures.

The adjustor will want to know the date and how the loss occurred. Assuming you have contents coverage, the claim for personal belongings is separate from damage to the home.

You’ll be asked to provide proof of purchase, like receipts or cancelled checks, or a current inventory. If they’re not available, you can reconstruct an inventory from memory. The challenge is trying to remember things you may not have used for years and may not miss for years more.

Relying on memory can be a very expensive alternative. A prudent homeowner will create a home inventory with pictures or videos while all of their belongings are in the home and they can see them.

Download a home inventory to make your project a little easier.

Letter From The Heart…

August 18, 2014


Last month I wrote about getting a convertible, red sports car. Actually, it was a metaphor for what has become known as a “mid-life crisis.” Quite a few of you responded to my “mid-life” event of running the Mount Marathon race over the fourth of July in Seward. All sent positive “you get ‘em girl” type comments which are greatly appreciated. Nobody commented that it was any kind of a mid-crisis going on: just a challenge which is exactly what it was. I wanted to challenge myself against an obstacle: in this case the mountain.

Then while I was down there I heard a lot of references to a “bucket list.” This list refers to doing a list of things before you “kick the bucket” or die. While there is such a list in the back of my mind, I assure you crawling up a loose shale mountain in seventy degree heat INS’T ON IT! No this wasn’t a check mark in a box like seeing the Great Wall of China or climbing the Eiffel Tower. This was a challenge just to see if I could do it. I had quite a bit of positive training with my friends Alex, Krystal and Laura, so I felt I was ready. If I didn’t feel that way I told Dave I would drop out to which he lovingly responded “Yeah, right.”

Well I did make it and I feel I have accomplished what I came down to Seward to do. Was my time great…no. Did I stop and have to rest a few times…yes. Would I do it again? Maybe with a nod and a wink toward no.

I don’t buy all that “life is short” stuff. Life may seem shorter when you’re doing something yes but it’s the same twenty-four for everyone. However, that said, I tend agree with Jack London (the writer of Call of the Wild) who once said “I would rather be ashes than dust.” Yes, I do agree with that.

…and thanks to John at TSS Photography for the great finish line picture.

Reverse Mortgage

August 12, 2014

With all of the encouragement from celebrity spokespersons like Fred Thompson, Robert Wagner and Henry Winkler, there is a growing awareness of reverse mortgages. The fact is that our population is getting older and more than 25 million homeowners meet the age requirement.

39095344-small250.jpgA reverse mortgage will allow homeowners age 62 or older currently living in their home to tap into their equity. The amount available is determined by the borrower’s age, the home’s current value and current interest rates. The loan proceeds can be received in a single, lump-sum or periodic payments. The closing costs can be paid in cash or rolled into the loan amount.

There are no payments on a reverse mortgage but the homeowner is still responsible for property taxes, insurance, maintenance and other home costs.

When the borrower dies, moves or fails to fulfill the terms of the loan, the lender is paid from the sale of the home. The borrower or their estate is not responsible for more than the proceeds of the sale. However, if the proceeds are greater than the amount owed to the lender, the remainder goes to the homeowner or their heirs.

Unlike normal mortgage requirements, the borrower’s income and credit are not used to determine the amount of the loan. The homeowner must occupy the home as their principal residence and it must be free and clear of encumbrances or have substantial equity.

Reverse mortgages are an opportunity to generate income or funds for capital expenditures but they can pose risks to homeowners. HUD, the largest insurer of reverse mortgages, is concerned about misleading or deceptive program descriptions encouraging borrowers to obtain HUD reverse mortgages also known as the HECM (Home Equity Conversion Mortgage). As of June 18, 2014, FHA will only insure fixed rate reverse mortgages where the homeowner is limited to a single, full draw made at closing.

A reverse mortgage, like any financial decision involving a home, is an important decision that deserves careful consideration, due diligence and expert advice.

For more information, check out The National Association of REALTORS® Field Guide to Reverse Mortgages, FAQs about HUD’s Reverse Mortgages and Reverse Mortgages – Alternative Home Equity Funding by Real Estate Center at Texas A & M.

The Boys & The Bea…

August 8, 2014

Shadow: Hey, ever notice how bi-pedals often don’t finish their sentences? I mean take Mom and Dave for instance. Here they are having a perfectly good conversation, perhaps about me, and then one of them wanders off into the place where our beds become new, or the room with all the water and the other one is left wondering ( or in some cases not wondering) if they’re still in a conversation. My guess? No.

Rudy: Now that you mention it I remember it often when Mom would say something like “Honey bun ( I love when she calls him that) it’s your turn I believe to …” and off she goes into some room, leaving honey bun to conversationally fend for himself. LET ME FINISH IT FOR YOU!!…feed the children! Put it all together: It’s time for us to eat. We don’t care who does the deed but that it gets done! Sheeesssh.

Kovu: Being unable to hear anything but my own thoughts these days I have little recognition of what you speak. I can speak body language and I can tell that when the two come back together with something lame like “what happened?” Dave’s favorite phrase. Followed by “nothing happened” from Mom. Then she or he starts the whole conversation over again. What a waste.

Sara: I’m all over the feed us from my Rudy bro. The rest of it is usually something that doesn’t concern me, like “Sara get off the …” Sara will you just come…” Sara, what are you barking…?” You know that kind of mindless drivel. I just don’t concern myself with it unless the words “food” or “let’s go” are involved and “Let’s go get the food!” Better yet.

Nook: I really never was in a position to comment as I only usually saw either Dave or Mom but rarely at the same time. Dave would say something like “want treats?” and I would answer in the affirmative and that would be that. I always wanted a walk so he really didn’t have to finish that which really isn’t a sentence anyway. “Walkie?” Uh…yeah.

Scooter Bob: “Don’t you think you should…” has got to be my all time favorite. It could apply to so many things and Dave just wanders off, comes back and says something lame like “did you say something?”

Usually it’s something he doesn’t want to do anyway, so I have to give him credit. If Mom doesn’t repeat it then the tree in the forest made no sound. He doesn’t have to do what he didn’t hear. If Mom repeats it then there are usually a whole lot more words than originally stated. Amazing what one learns sitting in this bedroom of mine with a great view. I hope they don’t read this. I’m new here and would not want to get into trouble so mums the word eh?.

If they ask us about our comments we’ll just reply “what happened?” Works for Dave…sometimes.

How Was It Measured?

August 5, 2014

iStock_000013045174Small 250.jpgIn an attempt to compare homes, one of the common denominators has been price per square foot. It seems like a fairly, straight forward method but there are differences in the way homes are measured.

The first assumption that has to be made is that the comparable homes are similar in size, location, condition and amenities. Obviously, a variance in any of these things affects the price per square foot which will not give you a fair comparison.

The second critical area is that the square footage is correct. The three most common sources for the square footage are from the builder or original plans, an appraisal or the tax assessor. The problem is that none of sources are infallible and errors can always be made.

Still another issue that causes confusion is what is included in measuring square footage. It is commonly accepted to measure the outside of the dwelling but then, do you include porches and patios? Do you give any value for the garage, storage or other areas that are not covered by air-conditioning?

Then, there’s the subject of basements. Many local areas don’t include anything below the grade in the square footage calculation but almost everyone agrees that the finish of the basement area could add significant value to the property.

Accurate square footage matters because it is used to value homes that both buyers and sellers base their decisions upon.

Let’s say that an appraiser measures a home with 2,800 square feet and values it at $275,000 making the price per square foot to be $98.21. If the assessor reports there are 2,650 square feet in the dwelling and the owner believes based on the builder, there is 2,975 square feet, you can see the challenge.

If the property sold for the $275,000, based on the assessor’s measurements, it sold for $103.77 per square foot and by the owner’s measurements, it sold for $92.44 per square foot. Depending on which price per square foot was used for a comparable, valuing another property with similar square footage could have a $30,000 difference.

The solution to the dilemma is to dig a little deeper into where the numbers come from and not to take the square footage at “face value”. It is important to recognize that there are differences in the way square footage is handled.

Cashew Turkey Salad Sandwich…

August 4, 2014

Healthy Back to School Sandwich Perfect for Kids!

I came across this delicious Cashew Turkey Salad Sandwich recipe that is packed with taste and protein. Kids will just gobble this up come lunchtime.

Cashew Turkey Salad Sandwich


Total Time: Prep/Total Time: 15 min.

Makes: 4 servings



  • 1-1/2 cups cubed cooked turkey breast
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced celery
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted cashews
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat plain yogurt
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 8 slices pumpernickel bread



  • In a small bowl, combine the turkey, celery, apricots, cashews and onion. Combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, salt and pepper; add to turkey mixture and stir to coat.
  • Place a lettuce leaf on half of the bread slices; top each with 1/2 cup turkey salad and remaining bread.

Yield: 4 servings.
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