Consumer Real Estate News

    • What You Need to Know About Cholesterol

      18 May 2022

      (Family Features) Understanding and improving cholesterol is important for people of all ages, including children and teens. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can help keep your heart healthy and lower your chances of getting heart disease or having a stroke.

      High cholesterol usually has no symptoms. In fact, about 38% of adults in the United States are diagnosed with high cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association. Understanding what cholesterol is, the role it plays, when to get screened and how to manage it are important aspects of protecting your overall health and prevent a heart attack or stroke.

      Understanding Cholesterol
      A waxy, fat-like substance created by the liver and consumed from meat, poultry and dairy products, cholesterol isn’t inherently bad for you. In fact, your body needs it to build cells and make vitamins and other hormones. However, too much cholesterol circulating in the blood can pose a problem.

      The two types of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is considered “bad,” and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which can be thought of as “good” cholesterol. Too much of the “bad” kind, or not enough of the “good,” increases the risk of cholesterol slowly building up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain.

      Cholesterol can join with other substances to form a thick, hard deposit on the inside of the arteries called plaque. This can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible – a condition known as atherosclerosis. If a blood clot forms, it may be more likely to get stuck in one of these narrowed arteries, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

      Understanding Risk
      Your body naturally produces all the LDL it needs. An unhealthy lifestyle can make your body produce more LDL than required. Behaviors that may negatively affect your cholesterol levels include lack of physical activity, obesity, eating an unhealthy diet and smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke.

      In addition to unhealthy habits, which are the cause of high LDL cholesterol for most people, some people inherit genes from their parents or grandparents – called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) – that cause them to have too much cholesterol and can lead to premature atherosclerotic heart disease. If you have a family history of FH or problems related to high cholesterol, it’s important to get your levels checked.

      Getting Cholesterol Checked
      Adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol and other traditional risk factors checked every 4-6 years as long as their risk remains low. After age 40, your health care professional will use an equation to calculate your 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke. People with cardiovascular disease, and those at elevated risk, may need their cholesterol and other risk factors assessed more often.

      Managing Cholesterol
      If you have high cholesterol, understanding your risk for heart disease and stroke is one of the most important things you can do, along with taking steps to lower your cholesterol.
      Often, simply changing certain behaviors can help bring your numbers into line. Eating a heart-healthy diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean or plant-based protein, fish and nuts while limiting red and processed meats, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages is one of the best ways to lower your cholesterol. While grocery shopping, look for the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark to help identify foods that can be part of an overall healthy eating pattern.

      Other lifestyle changes include losing weight, quitting smoking and becoming more physically active, as a sedentary lifestyle can lower HDL. To help lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure, experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week, such as walking, biking or swimming.

      For some people, lifestyle changes may prevent or manage unhealthy cholesterol levels. For others, medication may also be needed. Work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. If medication is required, be sure to take it as prescribed.

      Controlling your cholesterol may be easier than you think. Learn more about managing your cholesterol at heart.org/cholesterol.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • How to Design a Relaxing Home Yoga Studio

      18 May 2022

      As luxury homeowners increasingly seek out amenity-filled residences, interest in personal yoga studios is on the rise. After all, if you can’t make it to your favorite yoga class, there’s nothing better than having your own space to practice right at home. For those who want to relax the mind while getting in some exercise, here are several tips for designing a yoga studio right under your roof.

      Pick the Right Space
      Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding where to create your studio. Ideally, it will be somewhere that’s free from any distractions or background noises. A separate cottage or guest house can be great for this, but if that’s not possible, a quiet part of the home will do just fine. Additionally, large windows that allow natural light and frame a peaceful view can help take your studio to the next level.

      Focus on Design
      Often, a yoga studio has a minimalist feel, so you’ll want to focus on keeping it organized and decluttered above all else. A few houseplants and carefully chosen pieces of art could be all you need to create the right ambience. Also, be sure to pay attention to the color palette and try to decorate the studio with tones that you find soothing. 

      Consider Smart Tech
      For those who enjoy attending yoga classes with a professional instructor, you can get the same experience with smart fitness equipment like Tonal and Mirror. By installing this state-of-the-art equipment in your home, you can stream an endless selection of live and pre-recorded classes in your studio at any time.

      Embrace Imperfection
      While it’s easy to get caught up in creating an Instagram-worthy space, it’s important to remember that nothing is perfect. This is a room that should bring you a sense of peace and relaxation, so the last thing you should be doing is getting stressed over the design. Embracing the beauty of imperfection will help to ensure you get the most out of your yoga studio.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • What Is an Alt-A Mortgage?

      18 May 2022

      Lenders offer mortgages for borrowers with a wide range of financial circumstances. Between prime (highest-quality) and subprime (lowest-quality) home loans are a category called “Alt-A mortgages.” 

      The federal government sets guidelines for Qualified Mortgages that focus on a borrower’s ability to repay the loan. Alt-A mortgages generally don’t meet those criteria. They have more flexible guidelines that vary from lender to lender.

      How Are Requirements Different for Alt-A Loans?
      Lenders usually require borrowers to submit documents related to employment, income, assets and liabilities. With an Alt-A mortgage, a lender may require much less documentation. A borrower may not have to provide income tax returns, W-2s or employment verification. A lender may instead base its decision on information contained in bank statements.

      Some people who take out Alt-A mortgages have low credit scores and can’t qualify for prime mortgages. In other cases, Alt-A borrowers have good credit but have other issues that can make it difficult to get a prime loan, such as a limited credit history.

      Most mortgage lenders require a down payment. With Alt-A loans, borrowers may be able to put little or no money down. A lender may require a down payment for a borrower with a low credit score or lack of documented income, but may be more flexible on a down payment for a borrower with good credit and documented earnings.

      Lenders have limits regarding debt-to-income ratio, or the percentage of a borrower’s monthly income that can go toward debt payments. With Alt-A mortgages, lenders may be more flexible with DTI ratios. That can allow borrowers to qualify for loans they otherwise couldn’t get or to borrow more than they would otherwise be able to.

      After a bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale, a prospective homebuyer may have to wait a period of time before taking out a new prime mortgage. An Alt-A loan may be available sooner.

      Lenders often grant mortgages to borrowers who fall short or who are marginal in one area but who are well qualified in other ways. A loan may be classified as Alt-A if a borrower has multiple risk factors.

      Is an Alt-A Mortgage Right for You?
      A high loan-to-value ratio means that an Alt-A borrower will have little or no equity. That increases the risk to the lender since a homeowner who falls on hard times may decide to simply walk away. A high DTI ratio also makes an Alt-A loan risky for a lender since a borrower may be spread too thin and may be unable to keep up with mortgage payments.

      Since Alt-A loans are riskier for lenders than prime loans, and since Alt-A loans are not as widely available, lenders typically charge higher interest rates. If you can’t qualify for a prime mortgage, an Alt-A home loan may be a good alternative. If you keep up with your monthly payments, you may be able to refinance later to get a lower interest rate.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 6 Tips for Planning a Sweet Graduation Celebration

      17 May 2022

      (Family Features) When years of hitting the books lead to a hard-earned diploma, there’s just one thing left to do: celebrate the graduate with something sweet. A graduation is a major life milestone that deserves plenty of recognition, and a graduation party is a perfect way to celebrate the occasion with family and friends.

      Whether the party celebrates a recent grad or accepted student, you can make the moment all the more memorable with these planning tips and personalized party favors and customized gifts from M&M’S.

      Make a guest list. Deciding who you’d like to invite is a good starting place because it may influence several other choices you need to make down the road, like where you host the party and what you serve to eat and drink.

      Choose the place and time. Another decision you’ll need to make right away is where and when the party will be held. Having a rough idea of how many people will attend can help determine where to host the party, since you’ll want to have enough room for everyone to be comfortable. If you’re timing the celebration to coincide with a graduation ceremony, be sure to schedule your party so any guests who also plan to attend the ceremony can do both. Many families choose to hold open house-style parties for an extended period of time so people who have multiple graduation parties to attend can fit them all in.

      Plan your menu. The style, timing and duration of your party all influence what kind of food you serve. If your party overlaps a traditional mealtime, you may want to serve a full meal. However, if you’re hosting an open house format, keeping food fresh for an extended period can be a challenge. If you take care to keep chilled foods cold and heated foods warm, a buffet can allow guests to serve themselves as they wish. You may also find appetizers are easier to heat and replenish throughout the party. Don’t forget about dessert: A celebratory cake or tray of cupcakes are traditional ideas you can complement with other selections, such as candy bars to add colorful fun and variety to the party.

      Accommodate gifts. While common etiquette suggests a host should never expect them, most people do bring gifts to celebrate the graduate. You can set up an attractive gift table with a gift of your own to discretely show guests where to place gifts when they arrive, such as an M&M’S Occasion Bottle, which can be personalized to toast your grad with  up to three colors, text, clip art and photos. The bottle stands nearly a foot tall, so it makes for an eye-catching centerpiece at the gift table.

      Select entertainment. Often, there’s enough hustle and bustle at graduation parties that you don’t need to go overboard planning activities or entertainment. You might have some music playing at a moderate level so guests can still have casual conversations without yelling, and you may want to display a slideshow celebrating the graduate’s accomplishments along the way to this big day. Other fun ideas include photobooths with props, a signature frame for guests to sign and notecards for guests to offer their congratulations, advice or predictions for the graduate’s future.

      Organize party favors. One way to thank guests for honoring your graduate and inspire more moments of fun is by offering a favor that doubles as a memento of the event. For example, M&M’S Class of 2022 Graduation Favor Tins make for a perfect way to send guests home with a sweet reminder of the celebration. Each stylish tin can be customized with a lid design and message for guests and be filled with a delicious serving of personalized candies that match the party’s theme.

      For more colorful ideas, including customizable gifts and party favors for celebrating grads, check out the full 2022 Graduation Gift Guide at MMS.com.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Cheap Must-Haves to Make Laundry a Breeze

      17 May 2022

      Not many homeowners look forward to household chores, but there are few chores that feel quite as endless as laundry. If you dread this seemingly infinite task, there are a few tools that could make your laundry days a little easier. These inexpensive must-haves should be at the top of your shopping list if you want to make your next laundry day a breeze.

      Dryer Balls
      If you’re tired of dealing with messy fabric softener and loathe picking up the dozens of disposable dryer sheets that find their way into the folded laundry, dryer balls may be for you. A more eco-friendly option than dryer sheets, and a less messy option than fabric softener, wool dryer balls keep your clothes from sticking together and allow hot air to circulate more evenly and efficiently, reducing drying time. They are also ideal for fluffing down items. 

      Mesh Laundry Bag 
      Mesh laundry bags can solve a few laundry problems. If you’re losing your socks or find yourself replacing delicate undergarments after they’ve been destroyed by your washer’s agitator, a mesh laundry bag will be your best friend. Find them in multicolored packs and assign a color to each family member to ensure that no child ends up with their sibling’s socks. 

      Washing Machine Lint and Hair Catcher
      If you have pets or fuzzy clothes that seem to shed lint, a lint catcher in the washing machine can help tackle the problem before your clothes even make it to the dryer. These are truly a must-have if you find that your clothes come out of the dryer covered with more dog or cat hair than your lint catcher could take out.

      Dye Catcher Sheets
      No one wants to pull out their once white socks and discover that they’re now pink. Keep dye catcher sheets on-hand for loads that contain colorful new items that tend to bleed. Whether you’re washing your new red towels or some brand-new denim jeans, these sheets could be a lifesaver for the first few loads.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.