5 Crucial Cold Weather Tips for Preparing Your House for Winter

It’s best to winterize your pipes before the snow sets in. But don’t fret if you forgot — there are still ways to help keep pipes from bursting, like running your faucets and opening cabinet doors. Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Our winterizing your home checklist will help you keep your house cozy and safe from winter’s frigid assault.

Preparing your house for winter may not be on the top of your to-do list right now. After all, most of us wouldn’t rather spend their down time doing home maintenance tasks when they could be enjoying the fall foliage, going apple picking, or sipping pumpkin-spiced lattes instead of winterizing their house. But, here’s the reality: you can’t procrastinate if you want your home to be fully prepared for the winter elements.

Indeed, cold weather, ice, and snow can do real damage to your home — unless you take the time to prepare it before the winter chill takes hold. Completing this checklist will effectively winterize your home — and make your abode a lot more enjoyable when the thermometer dips.

Insulate Windows

Winter drafts can drive up your energy bill — and detract from the cozy vibe you want inside your home when it’s cold outside — if your windows have any air leaks. But by reducing drafts you can lower your home’s energy costs by up to 20% per year, according to the U.S. Energy Department, while also making your living space more comfortable.

Here are five simple solutions (all under $8!) that will allow you to insulate your windows quickly:

  1. V-seal weather stripping. Add this plastic weather stripping along the sides of the sashes. Windows can open and shut evenly with the V-seal in place. (Pro tip: Weather stripping also works wonders on doors.)
  2. Rope caulk. This soft, sticky stuff can be molded to fill the gap — and the caulk removes easily at the end of the cold season.
  3. Shrink film. Applied with double-sided tape, this clear plastic sheeting shrinks drum-tight when heated with a hair dryer. The film seals off drafts and captures an insulating buffer of air. Use rubbing alcohol to help release the tape in the spring to avoid stripping off any paint.
  4. Nail polish. If carefully applied, clear polish fills the crack almost invisibly. Once hardened, it will stabilize the glass until you can replace it in the spring.
  5. Draft snake. If the bottom of your window is letting in cold air, buy a foam-and-fabric draft snake kit. Cut the 36-inch foam tube provided to length and slip the washable cover over it. Then place the snake on the sill, and shut the window on to seal the deal.

Trim Tree Branches

The last thing you need is a winter storm loosing the wrath of that mighty tree whose branches are angling over your roof. Not to mention, overhanding limbs can cause excess water to seep into cracks in your home’s roof or siding, which is why you want to make sure any tree limbs or branches surrounding your home are at least 3 feet away from the house.

Inspect Your Fireplace

A visual inspection, both inside and outside your home, can ensure that your wood-burning fireplace is in good shape (read: safe) for the burning season.

During an outdoor inspection, make sure:

  • A chimney cap is present and in good condition.
  • There is no bird nest or debris buildup on the cap.
  • There are no tree limbs above or near the chimney.
  • The mortar and bricks on the chimney aren’t crumbling or missing.
  • The chimney rises at least 2 feet above where it exits the roof.
  • The chimney crown — the sloping cement shoulders at the top of the chimney — is beveled, which helps air flow.
  • The flue liner is visible above the chimney crown.
  • The chimney is plumb and not leaning to one side or the other.·
  • The roof flashing is tight against the chimney.

Inside your home, confirm that:

  • The flue damper opens, closes, and seals properly.
  • There are no combustible materials, such as animal nests, or other foreign objects in the flue.
  • The fireplace surround, hearth, and firebox have no cracked bricks or missing mortar.

If you spot any damage, order a professional fireplace and chimney inspection. An inspection costs, on average, between $79 and $500, depending on whether you’re ordering a level-one or level-two inspection.

Gas fireplaces require less maintenance, but you should still:

  • Inspect the glass doors for cracks or latch issues.
  • Check that the gas logs are in the proper position.
  • Turn gas off at the shut-off valve and test the igniter.
  • Ignite the fire and look for clogged burner holes. If present, turn off gas and clear obstructions with a pin or needle.

Check the Roof

You certainly don’t want to find out you have a leaky roof after the first snow hits. A roof inspection can help you spot any potential issues.

Squeamish about heights? Don’t worry — you can do a thorough inspection from the ground using a pair of binoculars.

Work your way around your house, looking for these defects:

  • Cracked caulk or rust spots on flashing.
  • Shingles that are buckling, curling, or blistering.
  • Missing or broken shingles.
  • Cracked and worn rubber boots around vent pipes.
  • Masses of moss and lichen, which could signal the roof is decaying underneath. Black algae stains are just cosmetic.

Some roofing fixes are easy to do yourself, such as repairing shingles or calking flashing, if you’re comfortable working on a roof. If you’re not, you’ll want to consult a specialized roof inspector. Be prepared to pay between $119 and $296 for a standard roof inspection.

Clear Out Gutters and Downspouts

Clogged rain gutters or downspouts can damage your home’s foundation or cause ice dams, which can lead to expensive repairs. So, after the leaves have fallen, clean your gutters to remove leaves, twigs, and gunk. Also, make sure the gutters aren’t sagging and trapping water, tighten gutter hangers and downspout brackets, and replace any worn or damaged materials.

Documents You Need for Mortgage Pre-Approval: A Checklist for Each Type of Loan

Whether you’re self-employed or applying for an FHA or USDA loan, here’s the pre-approval paperwork you need.

If you’re serious about buying a home, getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a critical step. It’s also a tedious one. Lenders seem to want a mountain of documents and have so many requirements.

Yet the payoff is worth it. Most agents recommend mortgage pre-approval because it strengthens your offer. Sellers like to know the buyer already has financing secured.

Plus, you’re going to need that same hefty stack of paperwork for your official mortgage application once you’ve got a contract on a home, so you’re really knocking out two tasks at once.

To help, we’ve created a documents checklist for each type of mortgage pre-approval. Warning: Some lists are longer than others:

Conventional Loan Documents

If you’re employed and get regular paychecks, plus a W-2 every year, and you’re not going through FHA, USDA, or an incentive-buying program, these are the documents you need to apply for mortgage pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

FHA Loan Documents

If you’re applying for mortgage pre-approval with the Federal Housing Administration, you’ll need these documents:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
      1. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Closing disclosure (or HUD-1 if the sale took place before Oct. 3, 2015) for previous purchase
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

Documents For Buying an Investment Property

If you’re buying a property you plan to rent, these are the documents you should have in hand to apply for pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement on any recent home sales
    2. Recent mortgage statements on all properties you own
    3. Proof of insurance for all properties you own
    4. Current leases for all rental properties you own
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable

Self-Employed or Business-Owner Mortgage Documents

If you’re self-employed or own a business, these are the documents you need for the mortgage pre-approval process:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two 1099s
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
    3. Last two years’ Corporate, S-Corp, LLC, or partnership tax returns
    4. Last two years’ 1099s, if applicable
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    5. Last two months’ profit-and-loss statements (you can put one together in about five minutes)
    6. Balance sheet, if applicable (rules vary by state)
    7. Current business license

VA Loan Documents

If you’re seeking pre-approval for a Veteran’s Administration home loan, these are the documents you will need:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    4. Certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Veteran’s Administration, which may require one or more of these documents, depending on your situation:
      • Form DD-214, certificate of release or discharge
      • Statement of service from the adjutant, personnel office, commander, or higher headquarters if still on active duty
      • Form 26-1817 or form 21-534 for surviving spouses, plus form 1300, report of casualty, or death certificate

USDA Loan Documents

If you’re applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture Loan, you’ll need these documents to seek pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
    5. Form 410-4: Uniform Residential Loan Application, filled out by applicant(s)
    6. Form 3550-4: Employment & Asset Certification, a separate form filled out and signed by each applicant
    7. Form 3550-1: Authorization to Release Information, a separate form filled out and signed by each applicant and each adult household member
    8. Form 4506-T: Request for Transcript of Tax Return, a separate form filled out by each applicant
    9. Documentation of child care expenses for dependents 12 or younger, if applicable
    10. Life insurance policy
    11. For any household member who is a full-time student 18 years of age or older, a current school transcript
    12. Annual medical expenses for applicants 62 years of age or older, or with a disability (to be considered for a deduction in household income)
    13. A written explanation of two years of employment history, including an explanation of gaps

Job-Based Incentive Loan Documents

Incentive-based programs — such as Good Neighbor Next Door, which provide mortgage assistance for public servants such as teachers, firefighters, police officers — have their own criteria. If you’re seeking one of these mortgages, you will need these documents for pre-approval:

  • Identification (one of these, which you will need to show in person)
    1. Driver’s license
    2. Passport
    3. Other state- or federal-issued ID
  • Income
    1. Pay stubs for the last 30 days, if applicable
    2. Last two federal tax returns
    3. Last two W-2s or 1099s, if applicable
    4. Proof of any additional income (second jobs, social security, alimony, etc.)
  • Accounts
    1. Last two statements on all bank accounts — be sure to include all pages, even blank ones
    2. Statements for all investment and/or retirement accounts
  • Property
    1. Settlement statement from previous home sale, if applicable
  • Additional documents
    1. Contact information for your landlord(s) for the last two years, if applicable
    2. Divorce decree, separation agreement, and/or property settlement agreement, if applicable
    3. Gift letter if a family member is helping with down payment (lender will have form)
    4. A letter of explanation (LOE) for late payments, collections, judgments, or other derogatory items in your credit history, if applicable
Article by KELLEY WALTERS

The Only 6 Things You Need to Throw a Holiday Party at Home

fortyforks/iStock

Pulling off a holiday party at home can seem stressful, but it’s made infinitely easier if you remove a few things from the equation. Namely, the dining table and chairs. Oh—and nix the forks and knives.

No, we’re not suggesting people sit on the floor and eat with their hands. Instead, skip the sit-down affair and host a cocktail party with a few key essentials, including the right glassware and serving pieces, so your soiree is headache-free.

Your first step in this party process is to clear some space in your coat closet or designate a spot for guests to put their things (a guest bedroom works here).

“There’s nothing worse than having people drape their jackets over the backs of your sofa and chairs, because it takes away from the beautiful event you’ve set up,” says Roxy Te, CEO and founder of Society Social.

Next up, pull out (or pick up) the following items to outfit your bar and kitchen. Then, plan to serve your party bites on a buffet—a good use for your dining table. This option is more affordable, and it gives you the chance to style a pretty vignette or centerpiece, notes Te.

Make serving guests at your fete easier with these choices—and you’ll have more fun at your own party.

1. All-purpose wine glass

Sturdy, stemless wine glasses for the win!Crate&Barrel

Nope, most of the time, you don’t need red and white wine stemware—and a simple glass like this one ($3, Crate&Barrel) can even hold a mixed drink. “Unless you’re serving champagne, try using one round wine glass as your all-purpose go-to at a cocktail party,” says Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs Caterers. And a stem-free option is less likely to break when you pop it in the dishwasher.

2. Paper napkins

Go for the funniest napkins you can find.Sur La Table

Cloth napkins are lovely—at Christmas and Easter—but paper is your pal at a casual drinks party.

“I definitely recommend paper napkins for cocktails and small bites, and suggest five per person on average,” says Correale. Pick goofy sayings in bright and cheery colors, and your little stacks will become part of your party decor ($7, Sur La Table).

3. Pitcher

Martinis or Manhattans? Either will stir up nicely here.Macy’s

Everyone wants a Negroni, but mixing them up individually is a pain. Don’t get stuck playing bartender, warns Te.

“Stock up with what you need, and serve the classics or a signature cocktail,” she says.

Making a pitcher of spiked punch ahead saves time and makes pouring a breeze, especially in this gorgeous vessel with dragonflies ($62, Macy’s).

4. Platters

This rustic platter is actually lightweight melamine.Williams Sonoma

Rather than put out a bunch of small bowls for snacks, choose larger serving pieces for your buffet.

Just be sure to skip heavy stoneware and go for a melamine platter like this one ($25, Williams Sonoma), which comes in four fun colors. And using platters for parties is on trend, says Te.

“I’ve been pulling inspiration from grazing boards, because these bountiful spreads are visually striking, and they allow guests to mingle and encourage seconds and thirds.”

5. Cakestand

This minty green stand is well-priced for a two-piece set.Walmart

Along with your platters, you’ll want to create height on your buffet—and that’s where cakestands come in ($25, Walmart). By interspersing stands with plates below them, you’ll double your offerings and create visual interest too.

6. 3-tier server

This space-saver is ideal on a cocktail party buffetAmazon

A little tower like this tiered piece ($25, Amazon) is a nice way to serve a tiny sweet at the end of your party. Arrange it ahead of time, and then place it in the middle of your buffet when the savory foods have disappeared.

Article by Jennifer Kelly Geddes

What’s Good For Us Is Good for Our Pets

American Kennel Club

As the bond between people and their pets continues to grow stronger, it’s no wonder that key lifestyle trends are trickling down to our furry friends, as well. In a recent survey commissioned by the Michelson Found Animals Foundation, a survey of 1,000 dog and cat owners found that as humans become more tech-connected and embrace alternative health practices and diets, they’re getting their pets on board with these same practices.

Smart pets. Intrigued by pet technology and its ability to give pet parents a better grasp on a pet’s health and wellness, many are gravitating toward features such as nutrition apps (47 percent), vet telemedicine (46 percent) and fitness trackers (31 percent) to help maintain their pet’s health. More than half (53 percent) are interested in getting a pet tracking device or a microchip (52 percent) and four in 10 (40 percent) are interested in pet monitoring cameras. With one in four pet parents admitting they spend more on tech for their pets than for themselves, the future of pet tech is very bright. In fact, more than half (56 percent) of pet parents say they have special tech just for their pet.

Alternative treatments. Pet owners who have tried alternative therapies themselves are likely to use them on their pets, as well. Of those who have used alternative treatments like hemp-based products, 74 percent have also used them on their pets. More than a quarter of pets (26 percent) have experienced mobility-related therapies like massage, physical therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture.

Clean eating. As people’s growing awareness of the effect the food they eat has on health and wellness leads them to try new diets and eating plans, it’s trickling down to their pet’s diet, as well. Of those surveyed, 45 percent admit to personally following a diet, and 70 percent of those admit to putting their pet on a special diet too; for example, almost half of pet parents who eat organic also feed their pets organic (47 percent vs. 12 percent average).

Quick DIY Upgrades That Can Boost Your Home’s Value

Whether you’re getting ready to sell your home, or you simply want it to look its best, check out these quick, inexpensive, and often do-it-yourself upgrades that personal finance editors at Bankrate.com suggest will do the job without putting you in the poorhouse:

Start with curb appeal. It provides the first impression of your home. Keep the lawns mowed, the shrubbery trimmed and the walkway clear. Adding potted plants to the front porch and/or putting in a weekend to add a colorful flower bed can be well worth the cost in curb appeal.

Spiff up the entry. If you can’t afford a new front door, put a fresh coat of paint on the existing one. Add a handsome, substantial-looking handle and lock set, because a nice, big piece of hardware on your front door adds a look of solidity to any home.

Make your kitchen cook. For a few hundred dollars, you can replace the kitchen faucet set, add new cabinet door handles and update old lighting fixtures with brighter, more energy-efficient ones. If the budget can handle it, think about replacing or re-facing old cabinet doors, or giving the old ones a coat of paint.

Give appliances a facelift. If your appliances don’t match, check with the manufacturers. You may be able to order and easily install new face panels. Buff up the bath. Simple things like a new toilet seat or a pedestal sink can make a big difference. A bathtub renewal or re-grouting doesn’t cost much, and DIY floor replacement is a snap today with easy to-apply vinyl tiles.

Look underfoot. Professional carpet cleaning is a good investment, but think about replacing your worn carpeting or adding area rugs to update the look. Or, if the budget will allow, consider replacing that old carpeting with wood or look-alike flooring.

Let in the light. Take advantage of natural light by opening or removing heavy draperies. Replace outdated light fixtures with attractive new ones, perhaps one with fan blades in the kitchen

Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole

Thanksgiving Leftover Casserole combines all the flavors of the big meal in a simple, easy to make, never dried out dish. This is the best way to use up those leftovers!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400-degrees.
  • Combine turkey and cranberry sauce and spread evenly on the bottom of a 9×13 glass baking dish.
  • Evenly press on leftover mashed potatoes and sprinkle corn over the top.
  • Mix together milk and leftover gravy and spread evenly over potatoes and corn.
  • Sprinkle on leftover stuffing and lightly drizzle chicken broth over the top (this will keep the stuffing from drying out).
  • Cover with tin foil and bake at 400-degrees for appx. 35-40 minutes or until heated through.
Recipe by Erica Walker

How Long Does Underwriting Take—and Can You Speed It Up?

echoevg/iStock

How long does underwriting take? Underwriting—the process by which mortgage lenders verify your assets, and check your credit scores and tax returns before you get a home loan—can take as little as two to three days. Typically, though, it takes over a week for a loan officer or lender to complete.

Underwriting happens after the down payment is made, but right before you close on a house. That means that the timing of this home loan process can be crucial, particularly if you want to move in by a certain date.

But make no mistake: Underwriting is unavoidable. All loans and loan applications go through an underwriting process before the mortgage lender can promise you the funds for a purchase.

While you might have daily contact with your mortgage officer or bank lender, the underwriting process is long, seemingly mysterious, and potentially stressful.

Sadly, mortgage underwriting is not automated. Here’s why the underwriting process takes so long, and some suggestions on how to speed it up.

What is underwriting?

After the down payment is in place, it’s time for the next step. It would be nice if your loan lender could just stamp you as “pre-approved,” but the process isn’t automated in that way.

Your mortgage officer or loan officer typically reviews the buyers’ tax forms, pay stubs, bankruptcies, debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, liens on any property you own, and other basic documents, before issuing buyers a pre-qualification.

Underwriting for a home loan takes a fine-toothed comb through every form, deposit, and credit report, to ensure your creditworthiness. An underwriter’s job is to make sure you meet the lender’s guidelines, confirming and assessing your DTI and credit.

Most of the mortgage loan process is relatively transparent, but underwriting takes place behind closed doors. Someone at the bank, or a lender, will relay any requests for documents (like more W-2 forms, credit reports, or info related to your self-employed status) or further explanations.

Some borrowers have golden records, while others require a deeper dive, for additional information about your credit history.

What does an underwriter look at?

The specific documents needed for your loan application will vary based on the type of loan you are receiving from your lender or underwriter (an FHA loan, for example, often requires more paperwork). Expect to provide your tax returns, credit score, W-2s, bank statements, and pay stubs as part of mortgage underwriting.

You can also expect to send additional documentation every time an underwriter or lender has a question. For instance, your bank statement might show a recent $2,000 deposit.

You know it’s a birthday gift from your dear grandmother, but the underwriter doesn’t. You will probably have to write a letter of explanation for your lender detailing that it is a gift.

Underwriting can be frustrating, because the questions seem obvious. Don’t worry—many underwriters and lenders find this mortgage loan process frustrating, too.

“The banks also give almost no room for underwriters to make exceptions using their judgment,” says Emily Rees, a former underwriter. “Underwriters are terrified of getting a loan audited and having a bad score, so they frequently will overask for documentation to cover their behinds, rather than stand confident in a decision and moving on.”

How to speed up underwriting

The best way to speed up the process is to make sure your paperwork for the lender or underwriter is complete, which should allow your loan to sail through in as little as two to three days—if you’re lucky, even in a single day.

But if more documents are required—as is true for the vast majority of loans, even for those people who have a perfect credit score—expect to wait at least a week for the underwriter to issue a “conditional approval.”

Although the underwriting process can be frustrating, just know that you’re near the finish line (at least you came up with the down payment). If the underwriter wants only a few additional documents, you should be close to final approval and maybe conditionally approved!

Article by Jamie Wiebe

7 Home Loans for Teachers (and How to Apply for Them)

photo: Monashee Frantz/Getty Images
house outline: Greg Chow

People, we have a crisis on our hands: a teacher crisis. One reason for the squeeze: real estate. Rising housing costs and interest rates can prevent teachers from getting a mortgage and living in the districts they serve, creating a lack of teachers everywhere, from Seattle to San Francisco, to Virginia’s Fairfax County.

But did you know that several organizations and lenders offer home loans and mortgage help for eligible teachers? Below are seven programs and lenders that can help teachers get funding for a home.

1. Good Neighbor Next Door

Developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, this program was created for eligible teachers and other civil servants, including firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical technicians.

It offers a 50% discount on HUD-owned homes located in “revitalization areas”—regions with high foreclosure rates and low homeownership—nationwide.

Here’s the catch: Applicants are not permitted to own a home already. They must also commit to using their new house as a primary residence for three years—if they don’t, they will be required to pay the full cost. See homes available through the loan program at HUDHomes.

2. HUD Teacher Next Door

HUD’s Teacher Next Doorconnects educators to a wide variety of home loans and down payment help for teachers—including Good Neighbor Next Door—helping applicants find local programs and organizations that reduce mortgage rates and closing costs and provide down payment rebates.

Housing in this HUD program isn’t restricted to federally designated revitalization areas, and there are no residency requirements.

3. Educator Mortgage Program

Mortgage bank and lender Supreme Lending’s Educator Mortgage Program offers up to $800 in loan discounts on closing costs and real estate agent fees on home loans for teachers, as well as a speedy loan turnaround and a $400 donation to the school program of their choice.

Available for all teachers and school district employees, the program requires a minimum credit score of 620, but it doesn’t discriminate based upon previous bankruptcy or foreclosure.

4. Homes for Heroes

Intended for firefighters and military veterans as well as teachers, this program discounts 25% of your real estate agent’s fee when buying and selling, as long as you use an agent or broker who has signed up as a program affiliate.

Applicants also receive reduced closing and home inspection fees.

5. Community lending programs for educators

Through a partnership with the United Federation of Teachers, educators may receive a loan through the Union Assist Program at ICC Mortgage. The loan program offers zero or reduced interest, lower fees for processing or underwriting, as well as financing discounts.

6. Home loans for teachers at the local level

For Californians working in an underperforming school, the Extra Credit Home Purchase Program can provide mortgage tax credits to reduce the total they owe to the federal government. Participants must be first-time buyers and meet income and home price limits, which vary by county.

In Baltimore, the Housing Authority offers $5,000 toward a qualifying down payment on home loans for teachers, and the Texas State Affordable Housing Corp. offers fixed-rate Teacher Home Loans and down payment assistance grants.

Many states offer similar home loans, help with down payments, and mortgage assistance for teacher programs. In many cases, Teacher Next Door can connect qualified buyers with the appropriate grants, or you can search for home loans for teacher programs in your state.

7. Teacher-specific housing

In some areas, housing designed or earmarked for teachers is available. North Carolina teachers in Dare County can sign up for DARE, affordable housing complexes rented at below-market rates.

For New York City residents, Teacher Space New York connects teachers with affordable housing, based on income. And in Baltimore, Union Mill, an “urban oasis for teachers and nonprofits,” offers up to a $600 rent discount for teachers.

Your local school district or teachers union should have more information about available educator-only housing.

Article by Jamie Wiebe

Service Dogs 101—Everything You Need to Know

A blind man and his golden retriever dog are outdoors on a sunny day. The service dog is helping his owner move around.

Our dogs are integral to our daily lives They follow our commands, work with us in various capacities, and act as faithful companions Dog ownership has increased dramatically over the last 100 years, and todaydogs as companions and working partners are valued by more than 80 million U.S. owners.  

Studies have shown that dogs provide health benefits, and can increase fitness, lower stress, and improve happinessService dogs encompass all of these abilities, combined with training to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities. During the last decade, the use of service dogs has rapidly expanded.   

Aservice dogs have become more commonplace, however, so too have problems that can result from lack of understanding about service dog training, working functions, and access to public facilities In response, AKC Government Relations is working with members of Congress, regulatory agencies, leading service dog trainers and providers, and transportation/hospitality industry groups to find ways to address these issues.   

The benefits service dogs can provide also continue to expand.  In the 1920s, a service dog was a Seeing Eye Dog and a Seeing Eye Dog meant a German Shepherd Dog.  In 2019, service dogs are trained from among many different breeds, and perform an amazing variety of tasks to assist disabled individuals.

What Is a Service Dog?

A service dog helps a person with a disability lead a more independent life. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.”   

“Disability” is defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, including people with history of such an impairment, and people perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. 

A service dog is trained to take a specific action whenever required, to assist a person with their disability. The task the dog performs is directly related to their person’s disability.  

For example, guide dogs help blind and visually impaired individuals navigate their environments. Hearing dogs help alert deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to important sounds. Mobility dogs assist individuals who use wheelchairs, walking devices, and who have balance issues.  Medical alert dogs might also signal the onset of a medical issue such as a seizure or low blood sugaralert the user to the presence of allergens, and myriad other functions.   

Psychiatric service dogs assist individuals with disabilities such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, and other conditions.  Examples of work performed by psychiatric service dogs could include entering a dark room and turning on a light to mitigate stress-inducing conditioninterrupting repetitive behaviorsand reminding a person to take medication.   

The ADA considers service dogs to be primarily working animals that are not considered pets.  

 

Common Service Dog Breeds

Service dogs can range from very small to very large. The dog must be of a size to comfortably and effectively execute the tasks needed to help mitigate a disability. For example, a Papillon is not an appropriate choice to pull a wheelchair, but could make an excellent hearing dog. 

Breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Bernese Mountain Dogs possess the height and strength to provide mobility assistance, while Poodles, which come in ToyMiniature, and Standard varieties, are particularly versatile.  A Toy Poodle puppy can begin early scent training games in preparation for the work of alerting on blood sugar variations, while a larger Standard Poodle puppy may learn to activate light switches and carry objects.   

The most common breeds trained as guide dogs are Labrador RetrieversGolden Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs.   

Canine Companions for Independence, Inc. (CCI) maintains breeding program of Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. CCI states, Breeder dogs and their puppies are the foundation of our organization.”  

The predictability of dogs in a breeding program yields improved results. According to CCI, “Our breeding program staff checks each dog’s temperament, trainability, health, physical attributes, littermate trends and the production history of the dam and sire. Only then are the best of the best chosen.”  

NEADS World Class Service Dogs maintains a breeding program and also obtains puppies that are sold or donated by purebred breeders. Using primarily Labrador Retrievers, NEADS “works closely with reputable breeders to determine whether their puppies are appropriate for our program based on the temperament, health and behavioral history of both the dam and the sire.”  NEADS also selects alert, high-energy dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups as candidates for training as hearing dogs. 

Regardless of breed or mix, the best service dogs are handler-focused, desensitized to distractions, and highly trained to reliably perform specific tasks. They are not easily diverted from their tasks at home or in public and remain attentive and responsive their owners while working. 

Is A Dog in a Vest a Service Dog?

Although some service dogs may wear vests, special harnesses, collars or tags, the ADA does not require service dogs to wear vests or display identification.  Conversely, many dogs that do wear ID vests or tags specifically are not actual service dogs.   

For example, emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. But, because these dogs are not trained to perform a specific job or task for a person with a disability, they do not qualify as service dogs under the ADA.   

The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section, “If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.” 

ESAs are not allowed access to public facilities under the ADA.  However, some state and local governments have enacted laws that allow owners to take ESAs into public places. ESA owners are urged to check with their state, county, and city governments for current information on permitted and disallowed public access for ESAs.     

Owners of ESAs may be eligible for access to housing that is not otherwise available to pet dog owners, and travelers may be permitted bring ESAs into the cabins on commercial flights under specified conditions.  The requirements for access to housing and air travel for ESAs can vary by location and destination, and these rules are subject to change.     

Therapy dogs provide opportunities for pettingaffection, and interaction in a variety of settings on a volunteer basis. Therapy dogs and their owners bring cheer and comfort to hospital patients, assisted living center residents, stressed travelers in airports, college students during exams, and in other situation where friendly, well-trained dogs are welcome.  Therapy dogs are also used to relieve stress and bring comfort to victims of traumatic events or disasters.  Many groups that train therapy dogs or that take dogs on pet therapy visits have matching ID tags, collars, or vests.   

Therapy dogs are not defined as service dogs under the ADA, do not receive access to public facilities, are not eligible for special housing accommodations, and do not receive special cabin access on commercial flights.   

Service dog close-up

Courthouse dogs are another category of dogs that sometimes wear vests or display other ID, but are not service dogs. Several states have enacted measures that allow a child or vulnerable person to be accompanied by a courthouse, facility, or therapy dog during trial proceedings.  The rules and requirements for use of these dogs vary by state, and additional states are considering enacting similar laws.  Courtroom dogs are not protected under the ADA and are not eligible for special housing accommodations or cabin access on commercial flights. 

Where to Find a Service Dog

Professional service dog training organizations and individuals who train service dogs are located throughout the U.S.  They work to train dogs to perform a skill or skills specific to a handler’s disability.  As part of their training, service dogs are taught public access skills, such as house training, settling quietly at the handler’s side in public, and remaining under control in a variety of settings   

Professional service dog trainers have high standards for their dogs, and the drop-out rates for service dog candidates can run as high as 50 to 70 percent.  Fortunately, there are often long lists of available homes for dogs that don’t make the cut. 

Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations train service dogs.  The cost of training a service dog can exceed $25,000.  This may include training for the person with a disability who receives the dog and periodic follow-up training for the dog to ensure working reliability.  Some organizations provide service dogs to disabled individuals at no cost or may offer financial aid for people who need, but cannot afford, a service dog.  Other organizations may charge fees for a trained dog. 

Persons with disabilities and those acting on their behalf are encouraged work with an experienced, reputable service dog organization or trainer.  Carefully check out the organization, ask for recommendations, and make an informed decision before investing funds or time to acquire a trained service dog.  

How to Train Your Own Service Dog

 The ADA does not require service dogs to be professionally trained.  Individuals with disabilities have the right to train a service dog themselves and are not required to use a professional service dog trainer or training program. 

A service dog candidate should: 

  • Be calm, especially in unfamiliar settings 
  • Be alert, but not reactive 
  • Have a willingness to please 
  • Be able to learn and retain information  
  • Be capable of being socialized to many different situations and environments 
  • Be reliable in performing repetitive tasks 

Individuals who wish to train their own service dogs should first work with their candidate dog on foundation skills. Start with house training, which should include eliminating on command in different locations. Socialize the dog with the objective of having it remain on task in the presence of unfamiliar people, places, sights, sounds, scents, and other animals.  Teach the dog to focus on the handler and ignore distractions. The AKC Canine Good Citizen program can provide guidelines and benchmarks for foundation skills.  

In addition to socialization and basic obedience training, a service dog must be trained to perform work or specific tasks to assist with a disability. 

Under ADA rules, in situations where it is not obvious that a dog is a service animal, only two questions may be asked: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? 

The reply to question (2) must affirm that the service dog has been trained to take specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. 

Teddie, a Labrador Retriever owned by Krystal Greco of North East, Md., won the 2016 ACE Award for Service. Teddie assisted Krystal, who is paralyzed from the waist down, at home and at her part-time job.

The Epidemic of Fake Service Dogs

Federal laws provide special accommodations to the disabled and limit the questions that may be asked about disabilities.  Unfortunately, too often these laws are abused by people who fraudulently misrepresent their dogs as service animals.  

This harms the truly disabled, confuses the public, and affects the reputation of legitimate service dog users Even worse, a poorly-trained fake service animal can be a danger to the public and to real service dogs.  In response to this growing problemthe American Kennel Club in 2015 issued a policy position statement on Misuse of Service Dogs.   

In 2016, the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans created “CGC Plus”, a minimum standard for training and behavior for the service dogs their members provide to veterans. CGC Plus requires dogs to pass the AKC Canine Good CitizenCommunity Canine, and Urban CGC tests, plus demonstrate proficiency in performing three randomly selected specific services for a disabled person.  The 2016 federal PAWS bill incorporated the AKC CGC into service dog requirements for Veterans’ Administration-funded dog.   

State and local governments continue to introduce and pass laws that make it an offense to misrepresent a service animal.  In 2018, 48 measures were introduced to address fake service animals.

The AKC also workwith the American Service Dog Access Coalition, a charitable not-for-profit organization comprised of major service dog groups, service dog access providers, advocates for the disabled, service dog trainers, and policymakers seeking to improve access for legitimate service dog teams while incentivizing high quality behavioral standards for all service dogs, and educating the public about the crime of service dog fraud.      

Service dogs are more than pets, and more than companions.  The important work they do enhances independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities, and improves the everyday lives of thousands of people across the country.

Article by By Jen Karetnick

It’s Move-In Day! Homeless Veterans Arrive At Their Village Of Tiny Homes

One of the most marginalized groups within many societies are military veterans. The ex-servicemen and sometimes women are often forgotten after dedicating their life to their country.

Many of which due to various circumstances are unable to reintegrate back into society and live a normal life as a result of their war experiences. Subsequently, the Canadian city of Toronto, in addressing this grave issue, has built a tiny house village that will facilitate Canadian veterans. In the town of Calgary lies the recently built village that is set to receive its first new tenants. The Homes for Heroes Foundation is responsible for this noble project which will be dedicated to struggling ex-servicemen/women through house provision.

The tiny home village built for homeless veterans in Calgary, Alberta.

According to a veteran support worker, Don Mcleod, the objective is to unite veterans with other fellow servicemen/women, so that they are able to interact and provide support for each other. Once found, Mcleod states that the veterans will be housed and given the opportunity to participate in programs that will beneficial to their lives. Mcleod reports that he had carried out an interview with approximately sixteen veterans as of now. He went on to further state majority of these servicemen have experienced mental health, financial and substance abuse difficulties.

Each unit is named for a fallen soldier, and includes a kitchen, bathroom, murphy bed and a deck.

The ultimate objective of the program, according to Don Mcleod, is to provide a safe place to stay, sleep and work together collectively in moving their live forward. The program will serve as a transition for the veterans as they venture back into independent living within the wider society. Response to the tiny community has been tremendous according to Mcleod, stating that the project has been backed and supported by many organizations, for example, the local food bank and also the Veterans Affairs that have stepped up in providing assistance to the program.

Mcleod believes as a result of the large support from som many different organizations, he is optimistic that the project will be a complete success. He elaborated that the veterans will be able to stay in the village as long as they need but ultimately his personal goal to rehabilitate the ex-servicemen/women back into the wider society within a two-year time frame. He hopes that each veteran in the program will be able to live independently after completing the project.

Source: www.ctvnews.ca/…

5 Surprising Financial Lessons I Learned About Paying for My First Home

aydinmutlu/iStock; realtor.com

I pride myself on being pretty financially savvy—after all, I’m a personal finance writer. I’m well versed in best practices for saving and spending, the ins and outs of HSAs and IRAs, and the basics of investing.

But when it came time to buy my first house, I had to put my ego aside: I was way out of my depth as I navigated the world of mortgages, closing costs, and escrow.

While all of the Budgeting 101 basics still apply to purchasing a home—top tip: Don’t buy anything you can’t afford!—some aspects of the process can come as a surprise to first-time buyers.

Gearing up to buy a house of your own? Get acquainted with these five lessons that I learned the hard way before you start shopping. Then, you’ll be ahead of the curve when it comes time to make an offer on your ideal home.

1. Don’t be fooled by your mortgage pre-approval amount

One of the first steps on the road to homeownership was requesting a mortgage pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender. I was shocked when my husband and I received a letter with a much higher number than we had ever considered spending.

The lender thought we could afford a house that cost how much?!

I quickly learned that a pre-approval letter is just assurance from a lender that the buyer is in good financial standing to take on a mortgage of a certain size. Lenders evaluate your financial history to come up with a pre-approval amount. Don’t confuse that number, though, with your actual budget for buying a house. In other words, just because you’re pre-approved for up to, say, $300,000, doesn’t mean a $300,000 mortgage will fit in your budget.

For us, we knew we didn’t want to stretch ourselves thin with a heftier mortgage, even if we were technically approved to take one out.

2. Closing costs can add up—and be complicated

Closing costs include out-of-pocket expenses like title insurance, notary fees, and the cost of the deed—and they can add up quickly. So when we made an offer on our house, we decided to ask for a credit from the sellers toward our closing costs—a common practice in which, typically, the seller advances an amount in cash that’s then tacked on to the purchase price. But I was surprised when our Realtor® urged us not to ask for too much from the sellers at closing.

“Some loan programs only allow a certain percentage of the sale price to given to the buyer as a credit,” says Joe DiRosa, a real estate agent with RealtyTopia in Pennsylvania.

That means that if you’re offering $200,000 for a house and your lender only allows you to accept 2% in closing costs, you shouldn’t ask for $5,000—that would be $1,000 down the drain, since you can only accept up to $4,000 in credit. Before you make an offer, ask your lender if your loan institutes a limit on closing cost credits.

3. PMI isn’t actually the devil

Private mortgage insurance—PMI for short—is at once a blessing and a curse. Lenders typically require it of buyers who are putting down less than 20% on their mortgage. This puts homeownership within reach for more people, but it also means an additional monthly payment that doesn’t add to the new owner’s equity.

For that reason, PMI sometimes gets a bad rap—better to shell out the necessary down payment cash (if you can) than waste your money on insurance, right? But in some cases, it’s in your best interest to put less money down and pay the PMI.

That was the case for my husband and me. We decided to hold on to some of the cash we would have put toward a 20% down payment and use that money to renovate our home and pay off other debts with higher interest rates. Our PMI payment has been manageable—we pay about $75 a month—and it’s worth it to keep our money in our bank account, where we can use it for projects like replacing the roof, renovating bathrooms, and creating a master suite.

4. You might have to make escrow payments

“Escrow” was a foreign word to me before buying a house. (Confession: I still picture a crow every time I hear it.)

Because we took out a loan with PMI, we were required to pay into an escrow account for our property taxes and home insurance. Escrow simply refers to the separate account where that money is held; basically, our lender sets aside the money for taxes and insurance, which acts as a safety net to ensure that we sock away enough money for those expenses.

While it’s nice to know we’re saving enough for taxes and insurance by paying into escrow, it’s also frustrating for control freaks like my husband and me, who would rather manage our money ourselves—preferably by putting that cash into a high-yield savings account where it can accrue interest. We’re looking forward to canceling our escrow payments as soon as we’ve built up enough equity in our home to remove PMI.

5. You need to budget for surprises (and your own mistakes)

During our home inspection, the inspector ran the dishwasher to make sure it worked—all good. Then, the day after we moved in, we loaded the dishwasher, hit “Start”—and it was dead. After flicking the electrical circuits on and off to no avail, we finally accepted that we would need to replace the dishwasher sooner than we had bargained for.

Several hundred dollars later, we learned that dishwashers are required to have their own wall switch, per local code. It turned out the old dishwasher wasn’t broken after all—the switch was just turned off.

All we could do was laugh, too slap-happy and exhausted from renovating to beat ourselves up much about the mistake. At least we planned to replace the dishwasher sooner or later, and we had enough savings to endure the blow. But the incident was a reminder that costly surprises (and stupid mistakes) are inevitable when you’re new to homeownership—and even when you’re not.

Article by Lauren Sieben

8 Thanksgiving Home Decorations That Are Anything but Cliche

No surprise here: Thanksgiving decor can veer into tacky territory just as quickly as any other holiday furnishings. But if you just can’t get down with the blow-up turkeys, Pilgrim hat motifs, and faux foliage (the real deal is right outside!), you’re not alone. We love the idea of skipping the novelty items in favor of more authentic pieces that’ll feel fresh this fall and carry over into winter.

“For Thanksgiving, I like to decorate for the season, not the actual holiday, as it reduces the stress of pulling out a lot of stuff and then having to put it away a few days later,” says Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP. That means seeking out natural elements such as real pumpkins, gourds, and branches.

Jamie Novak, an organizing guru and author of “Keep This Toss That,” reaches for timeless items like tartan fabrics, all-white decor, and the scents of the season (think cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove) in candles and potpourri.

As for where to focus your decorating efforts, experts say to stick with the main living spaces, entryway, and—of course—the dining room, where many of the holiday festivities will take place.

Ready to start shopping? Here are eight stylish Thanksgiving decor options to add to your home.

1. Metal lanterns

It’s decor and a light—in one!Pier 1

Lanterns are chic accessories that work with your decor year-round, so you won’t have to pack this one up with your other holiday decorations. Don’t limit yourself to candles, either.

Fill these ($12.99 to $69.95, Pier 1) with autumnal favorites like brown, orange, and yellow leaves, fall berries, or twinkle lights, and place them on your tabletop or front porch.

2. Herbal wreath

Lavender, sage, thyme, and bay leaves give off an autumnal scent.Williams Sonoma

This isn’t your typical holiday wreath—and that’s why we love it!

Filled with dried seasonal herbs like marjoram, thyme and sage, fresh bay leaves, and delicate pepperberries, this wreath ($60, Williams-Sonoma) will make a statement on your front door.

Looking to make a colorful statement inside the home? Try hanging it in front of a mirror, on a banister, or over the fireplace mantel.

3. Wooden bowl

This trough can hold a loaf of bread at dinner or greenery as a centerpiece.Crate&Barrel

Beyond holding all the delicious side dishes you and your guests cook up for your Thanksgiving feast, wooden bowls like this one ($129, CrateandBarrel) can be used throughout the house.

This long one is an ideal vessel for fresh fruit or holiday decorations—or leave it empty to showcase the natural wood grain.

4. Glass hurricane vase

Glass hurricanes can be used inside and outside the home.Wayfair

Set the mood with classic—and versatile—glass hurricane containers ($32, Wayfair). Place pillar candles inside them to illuminate your living room, or fill them with seasonal ephemera like pine cones, walnuts, or cranberry branches.

5. Rustic chargers

Rough-hewn chargers lend a natural feel to the holiday table.Wayfair

Drew Henry, founder of Design Dudes, likes to use natural-edge wood chargers ($188 for a set of 4, Wayfair) to accent china dishes on a holiday table.

“I’ll also gather some small twigs from the yard, bundle them with twine, and add a name card to complete the place setting,” he says.

6. Mini wool pumpkins

8ct Mini Harvest Wool Pumpkins/Gourds-Spritz Target

 

As fall rolls around and temperatures drop, try incorporating wool and other similarly cozy fabrics into your table designs and around the house.

“These wool gourds are great for adding different colors and textures to your look,” Henry says.

Try this eight-piece set on your mantel or buffet ($6 for eight, Target).

7. Birch candleholders

Whether flameless or the real deal, birch bark candles bring nature inside.World Market

Henry is also a fan of this type of candle ($16, Amazon) in a table centerpiece because it lends height to the table and brings home a woodsy aesthetic. Don’t worry, the “flame” is an LED light. There’s also a more slender, refined version ($26.99, Amazon).

8. Plaid blankets

This pick hits the trifecta: soft, warm, and machine-washable.LLBean

Changing out your throw blankets is an easy way to usher in the cold season. A wool plaid blanket ($139, L.L. Bean) is a chic addition to the back of a couch or guest bed. This selection comes in two options: large checks or a gray plaid with red and green, which could slide easily into Christmastime.

Article by Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Thanksgiving Pet Safety

Thanksgiving is a special holiday that brings together family and friends, but it also can carry some hazards for pets. Holiday food needs to be kept away from pets, and pet owners who travel need to either transport their pets safely or find safe accommodations for them at home. Follow these tips to keep your pets healthy and safe during the holiday.

Poison Risks

Overindulging in the family feast can be unhealthy for humans, but even worse for pets: Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract. And holiday sweets can contain ingredients that are poisonous to pets.

  • Keep the feast on the table—not under it.  Eating turkey or turkey skin – sometimes even a small amount – can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest, and many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets – including onions, raisins and grapes. If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, make or buy a treat that is made just for them.
  • No pie or other desserts for your pooch. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, even though many dogs find it tempting and will sniff it out and eat it. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – also can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats.
  • Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.
  • Put the trash away where your pets can’t find it.  A turkey carcass sitting out on the carving table, or left in a trash container that is open or easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of turkey carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).
  • Be careful with decorative plants. Don’t forget that some flowers and festive plants can be toxic to pets. These include amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, Sweet William, some ferns, hydrangeas and more. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but the safest route is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.
  • Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Precautions for Parties

If you’re hosting a party or overnight visitors, plan ahead to keep your pets safe and make the experience less stressful for everyone.

  • Visitors can upset your pets. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or in crowds, and Thanksgiving often means many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. If you know your dog or cat is nervous when people visit your home, put him/her in another room or a crate with a favorite toy. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.
    Learn about dog bite prevention.
    • If any of your guests have compromised immune systems (due to pregnancy, some diseases, or medications or treatments that suppress the immune system), make sure they’re aware of the pets (especially exotic pets) in your home so they can take extra precautions to protect themselves.
    • If you have exotic pets, remember that some people are uncomfortable around them and that these pets may be more easily stressed by the festivities. Keep exotic pets safely away from the hubbub of the holiday.
  • Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost.
  • Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.
    Learn more about microchips.
  • Watch your pets around festive decorations. Special holiday displays or candles are attractive to pets as well as people. Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle; it could result in a fire. And pine cones, needles and other decorations can cause intestinal blockages or even perforate an animal’s intestine if eaten.

Travel Concerns

Whether you take your pets with you or leave them behind, take these precautions to safeguard them when traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday or at any other time of the year.

Your pet needs a health certificate from your veterinarian if you’re traveling across state lines or international borders, whether by air or car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states.
Learn more about health certificates.

Never leave pets alone in vehicles, even for a short time, regardless of the weather.

Pets should always be safely restrained in vehicles. This means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. This helps protect your pets if you brake or swerve suddenly, or get in an accident; keeps them away from potentially poisonous food or other items you are transporting; prevents them from causing dangerous distractions for the driver; and can prevent small animals from getting trapped in small spaces. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
Learn more about properly restraining pets in vehicles.

Talk with your veterinarian if you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you. Air travel can put pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.

Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items. Refer to our Traveling with Your Pet FAQ for a more complete list.

Are you considering boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Food Safety

Don’t forget to protect your family and loved ones from foodborne illnesses while cooking your Thanksgiving meal. Hand washing, and safe food handling and preparation, are important to make sure your holiday is a happy one. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tips for handling, thawing and cooking turkey, as well as saving your leftovers.

Published by the AVMA

The One Thing Home Sellers Forget to Hide Before an Open House

fstop123/iStock

When getting ready to sell your house, there’s a lot to worry about—home staging, repairs, keeping rooms tidy for home tours, and more. But there’s also one important thing that many sellers forget to do: hide their prescription drugs.

Sorry to break it to you, but some “buyers” touring your home might just be rooting around for valuables, and you might be surprised by which medications fit the bill.

Here’s what sellers need to know about the risks of prescription drugs at open houses, and how to keep all of their belongings safe.

Which drugs to hide during an open house

When preparing for an open house, plenty of homeowners put away their expensive jewelry, electronics, and checkbooks. But prescription drugs often get overlooked since they’re generally tucked away in medicine cabinets and drawers.

Although the painkiller OxyContin may be the most commonly abused prescription drug (and at highest risk for theft), also high on the list are attention deficit disorder medications like Concerta and Adderall, depression and anxiety medications like Zoloft and Xanax, and sleep aids like Ambien.

Plus, prescriptions aren’t the only drugs that could get swiped for recreational use. For example, over-the-counter cough suppressants (e.g., NyQuil) can be abused by being mixed with alcohol or other drugs. And sinus medications containing pseudoephedrine, like Sudafed, can be used to make meth. Even the heartburn medication Prilosec has been known to be abused due to the euphoric effect it has when taken with methadone.

Make sure these, and all other medications, are removed from your medicine cabinet. Even if a medication seems innocuous, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to keep your belongings safe

If you’re getting ready to show your home, walk around the house thinking like a stranger. What’s easy to pick up? What might be easy to sell? This is a great guideline for medications, but also for hiding anyvaluables in your home. Think about wine, perfume bottles, expensive lotions, even your designer tie collection.

Since it can be hard to know what thieves are looking for, try walking around the house with a real estate agent to make sure you’ve noticed everything. Make sure you don’t leave your checkbook in an unlocked drawer; and hide your laptop, tablet, and cellphone.

The safe way to discard old pills

After a good sweep of your medicine cabinet, you might find yourself with a few bottles of pills you don’t need anymore. While your instinct might be to simply trash them before an open house, there’s a better way to dispose of them.

Many homeowners are making use of Deterra bags, and other drug-deactivation systems, to safely dispose of medications. Deterra bags work by using an activated carbon pod, which, when mixed with warm water, absorbs the active ingredients in pills, patches, and liquids, rendering the drugs inactive.

“We’re giving them to agents to give to homeowners when they’re buying or selling homes,” says former Nevada Realtors president Heidi Kasama, a supporter of RALI, the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative.

According to Nevada Business, RALI partners are distributing 500,000 pouches to residents of Nevada. Many other supporters of the initiative have had the opportunity to pass them out as well.

If you don’t have access to a drug-deactivation bag, there are other ways to dispose of your unused medications. Drugs can be flushed down the toilet, but only if they are on the FDA’s flush list. If they are not on the list, the FDA recommends mixing the drugs with an unappealing substance like cat litter or dirt, putting the mixture in a sealed plastic bag, and throwing it away in the trash.

The FDA also states that it’s important to make sure you scratch out the information (like your name and what drug you were prescribed) on the prescription bottle.

If flushing and throwing medications away are not possible, you can always turn unused drugs into your nearest drug take-back location.

Why ‘hidden’ isn’t always ‘safe’

Once you’ve found everything of value, you may be wondering what to do with it. Your first instinct might be to hide valuables in a closet or in a drawer, but buyers often look in closets (to see how much storage space there is) and they can easily open drawers.

“When I tell owners to put valuables away, I recommend to not hide them in some obvious place, but put some thought into it, or put items in a safe,” Kasama says.

But if you don’t have a safe, you might consider locking valuables in a desk drawer, buying a large (and heavy) trunk with a lock to store your valuables, or even putting them in the trunk of your car. If you have friends or family you trust living nearby, you might even ask if you can store a few boxes of your most precious items there.

Ask your real estate agent to keep an eye on buyers

Even if you think you’ve cleared out all your valuables, it’s still important to watch potential buyers in your house.

Of course, most of the time, the homeowner will be away when the house is being shown, so make sure your real estate agent is keeping an eye out for you.

Allison Jung, a real estate agent in Las Vegas, says she finds power in numbers when it comes to preventing theft in open houses.

“I have another agent, escrow or lender partner attend the open house with me,” Jung explains. “That way we can station ourselves in different parts of the house to keep an eye on things.”

Kasama says she’s always on the lookout for suspicious activity.

“We had a showing once, and four people came in,” she recalls. “They immediately split up and took off in two directions and didn’t seem to want to listen to anything about the house. A big red flag. We called after them and said they had to all stay together and we would tour them through the house. They left very shortly after that, which tells me they were not there to look at the house.”

Article by Jillian Pretzel

10 Sanity-Saving Thanksgiving Tips, Tricks and Hacks

Check out 10 easy ways to save money, time and energy this Thanksgiving.

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Your Unexpected Thanksgiving Toolkit

This year is going to be different. You’ve decided on the menu two weeks before the big day, convinced your Aunt Charlotte that you really can live without her famous oyster green bean casserole and remembered to ask your sister to bring her big coffee urn. But no matter how well you plan, you know some problem is going to pop up. No biggie, we say. Here are 10 tricks for tackling everything from “Yikes, who borrowed my fat separator?” to “Where am I going to put everything?” Let the holidays commence!

Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Ice Chest As a Fridge

In the lead-up to the big feast, refrigerator real estate is precious. Clear out those space-hogging bottles of dressing and pickles, and stow them in the garage in a cooler filled with ice packs. Other genius plays with this wonder box: Use it to brine your turkey overnight (make sure to add plenty of ice). Or treat it like a warming drawer — it’s insulated, after all. Line it with aluminum foil, add some folded towels and fill it with hot dishes as they come out of the oven. (Employ common sense here and don’t melt your cooler.)
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Pennies As Pie Weights

To prevent your pie shell from puffing up during parbaking, experts recommend filling the bottom with pie weights, but you can also use dried beans, uncooked rice, gravel — even screws or pennies (just line the dough with foil first).
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Aluminum Foil As a Roasting Rack

The point of a rack is to hold your bird above the pan so heat can circulate evenly. Who says it has to be made of wire or cost a lot of money? If you don’t have the store-bought variety, crumple some sheets of foil into thick ropes and wrap them in coils on the bottom of your pan. Or go biodegradable and place the bird on a bed of halved onions, carrots and celery.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Slow Cooker As Mashed Potato Keeper

The only thing worse than lumpy mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving is cold, gluey ones. To keep your spuds warm when every burner of your stovetop is in use, butter your slow-cooker insert, add a little heavy cream and spoon in the potatoes. Set the temp to low and stir every hour or so to keep your potatoes smooth and silky.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Measuring Cup As a Fat Separator

The secret to great gravy is skimmed — not greasy — pan drippings. If you’re without a fat separator, pour your drippings into a large heatproof measuring cup and pop it in the freezer. As the drippings cool, the fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to skim off with a spoon.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Thermos As a Gravy Warmer

If it works for minestrone, it’ll work for your bourbon gravy. Decant to a gravy boat just before serving.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Salad Bar As a Sous Chef

Shave hours off your prep time by picking up ingredients from the supermarket salad bar that are already cleaned and ready to go — think chopped onions, trimmed beans, sliced bell peppers, hard-boiled eggs and even crumbled bacon.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Kitchen Cabinets As a Cookbook Stand

Minimize clutter in the kitchen, eliminate flipping back and forth, and protect that fancy computer tablet that you just know is going to get damaged in the cooking chaos by making copies and printouts of the recipes you’ll be cooking for the feast. Then, on game day, take a note from FN food stylists and tape them at eye level to the doors of your kitchen cabinets. They’ll be easy to read and follow, and you can make notes on the fly — and even arrange them in order of your cooking prep.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Chicken Broth As a Turkey Reviver

Overcooked the bird? Before you spirit that platter of dried-out breast meat to the table, drizzle it with a little warm chicken broth. It’ll help moisten the meat and add flavor. This is also a good trick for perking up slices that have gone from room temp to cold.
Photo By: Renee Comet ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Corkscrew As a Guest Deflector

To keep well-meaning family and friends out of the kitchen during the final flurry of cooking, come up with a few tasks they can do to help. Opening the wine, filling water glasses (which you have placed outside of the kitchen), hanging coats and herding children will all be appreciated — and will guarantee you time to focus when you need it most.

Buying a House After Bankruptcy? How Long to Wait and What to Do

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Securing a home loan and buying a house after bankruptcy may sound like an impossible feat. Blame it on all those Monopoly games, but bankruptcy has a very bad rap, painting the filer as someone who should never be loaned money.

The reality is that of the 800,000 Americans who file for bankruptcy every year, most are well-intentioned, responsible people. Life has thrown them a curveball, however, that has left them struggling to pay off their past debts.

Sometimes, filing for bankruptcy is the only way out of a crushing financial situation, and taking this step can really help cash-strapped individuals get back on their feet.

And yes, many go on to buy a home eventually, despite the challenging credit score that results from bankruptcy. But how? Being aware of what a lender expects after a bankruptcy will help you navigate the mortgage application process efficiently and effectively.

Here are the steps on buying a house after bankruptcy, and the top things you need to know.

Types of bankruptcy: The best and the worst

There are two ways to file: Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. With Chapter 7 bankruptcy, filers are typically released from their obligation to pay back unsecured debt—think credit cards, medical bills, or loans extended without collateral.

With Chapter 13 bankruptcy, filers have to pay back their debt. However, the debt is reorganized and a new repayment schedule established that makes monthly payments more affordable.

Since Chapter 13 filers are still paying back their debts, mortgage lenders generally look more favorably on these consumers than those who file for Chapter 7, says David Carey, vice president and residential lending manager at New York’s Tompkins Mahopac Bank.

A bankruptcy attorney can help determine if Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 makes the most sense for your specific situation. Unfortunately, both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies will adversely affect credit scores. But don’t give up, hopeful home buyer.

How long after bankruptcy should you wait before buying a house?

Most people applying for a loan will need to wait two years after bankruptcy before lenders will consider their loan application. That said, it could be up to a four-year ban, depending on the individual and type of loan. This is because lenders have different “seasoning” requirements, which is a specified amount of time that needs to pass.

Fannie Mae, for example, has a minimum two-year ban on borrowers who have filed for bankruptcy, says David Reiss, professor of law and academic programs director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.

The FHA loan, on the other hand, has a minimum one-year ban in place after a bankruptcy. These bans, or seasoning periods, are typically shorter with government-backed loans (such as FHA or VA loans) than with conventional loans.

The time is measured starting from the date of discharge or dismissal of the bankruptcy action. Generally, the more time between debt discharge and the loan application, the less risky a once-bankrupt borrower looks in the eyes of a mortgage lender.

How to reestablish credit after bankruptcy

Once the bankruptcy process is over, reestablishing and maintaining creditworthiness is key to your financial health. Lenders will be looking for zero delinquencies postbankruptcy.

While you work to build new credit, don’t go overboard opening an extensive number of accounts, as this will work against you, advises Carey. Usually, opening just a couple of revolving credit lines and paying them in a timely manner over the course of 12 months helps to increase credit scores back to an acceptable level.

What to do before you apply for a mortgage

Before you apply for a mortgage loan, check your credit score by getting copies of your three main credit reports, which detail the financial transactions (and transgressions) from your past. You will want to check these credit reports for errors, such as a credit issue that you resolved but that is not reflected in your report.

“In some postbankruptcy cases, errors continue to report negatively on credit reports,” says Carey.

These mistakes will drag down your overall credit score and reduce your chances of getting approved for the mortgage. So if you spot mistakes on your credit reports, work with the credit bureaus to correct the information they include. This can boost your credit score significantly, and may even tip the scales on your home loan approval. Mortgage lenders want to see any movement from bad credit to good credit, so don’t leave any of your hard-earned progress on the table.

Buying a house after bankruptcy: Ways to woo a lender

To start the mortgage process, lenders require a detailed letter explaining why you needed to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 in the first place. Ideally, the bankruptcy would have been caused by an extenuating circumstance beyond your control—such as the death of an income-contributing spouse, the loss of employment, or a serious illness.

In other words: A lender likes to see that you were hit with hard times that had a significant negative impact on your expenses or income, and made it impossible to meet your financial obligations.

What a lender won’t want to see is someone with a die-hard shopping habit or a lackadaisical attitude toward paying credit cards on time. If that’s you, you’ll have to prove you’ve changed.

Whatever the reason you filed for bankruptcy, lenders will need to properly document your extenuating circumstances, so be prepared to provide proof detailing your life event.

Medical bills, a doctor’s note, a death certificate, or severance paperwork are all acceptable evidence that prove to lenders that you are a safe bet worthy of a home loan.

Article by Margaret Heidenry

Veterans Day Discounts 2019, Free Meals, Resources Exclusive to Veterans

Veterans Day 2019 is on Monday, Nov. 11th, 2019. This Veterans Day discounts list will continue to be updated as we learn of more nationally available Veterans Day discounts, meals, or other ways businesses and organizations want to give back to Veterans. These Veterans Day discounts, free meals and other programs are being shared so that Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors are aware of all resources available to them.

Veterans Day discounts and meals at restaurants

Hometown Buffet – November 11, 2019
Active duty, reserve, or retired military personnel in uniform or with a valid ID receive 15% discount on Military Mondays (Every Monday including Memorial Day) at Hometown Buffet. Be sure to ask your server for more details. Visit the BJs Wholesale website for details. http://www.hometownbuffet.com/military/

Old Country Buffett – November 11, 2019
Active duty, reserve, or retired military personnel in uniform or with a valid ID receive 15% discount on Military Mondays (Every Monday including Memorial Day) with up to four members of the family at Old Country Buffett. Be sure to ask your server for more details. Visit the BJs Wholesale website for details. http://www.oldcountrybuffet.com/military-2/

Applebee’s – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active-duty military receive a free meal from a limited menu at participating Applebee’s on November 11. Dine-in only. Visit the Applebee’s website for details.

Chili’s Grill & Bar – November 11, 2019
All Veterans and active duty military personnel can get a free meal on Veteran’s Day Monday, November 11, 2019, at all participating Chili’s Grill and Bar restaurants. Please call ahead to your local Chili’s restaurant if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day meals. Visit the Chili’s website for details. https://www.chilis.com/restaurant-events/veterans-day

Baker’s Square – November 11, 2019
All Veterans and active duty service members receive a free meal on Veteran’s Day (November 11, 2019) from Baker’s Square. Visit the Baker’s Square website for details.

54th Street Grill and Bar – November 11, 2019
Veterans + Active Duty military personnel who dine inside a 54th Street Grill and Bar  receive a free entrée up to $12 on Veteran’s Day (11-11-2019). Visit the 54th Street Grill and Bar website for details.

Golden Corral – November 11, 2019
Military Veterans, retirees, and active duty members are being offered a free sit-in “thank you” dinner on Monday, November 11, 2019, from 5pm -9pm. For more details visit the Golden Corral website. https://www.goldencorral.com/military-appreciation/

Red Robin – November 11, 2019
Veteran’s and Active Duty Military are being offered a free dine-in Red’s Tavern Double Burger and Bottomless Steak Fries on Veteran’s Day, 11/11/2019. Visit the Red Robin website for details.

Mission BBQ November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty members will receive a free sandwich and slice of cake (while supplies lasts) at Mission BBQ on Veteran’s Day, 11/11/2019. Visit the Mission BBQ website for details.

O’Charley’s Restaurant November 11, 2019
Veterans of the armed forces and/or officers still serving, you can enjoy a free meal at O’Charley’s this Veterans Day, with several fan favorites from the restaurant’s menu to choose from. Visit the O’Charley’s website for details.

Grub Burger November 11, 2019
Veterans and active military members can get a free meal at a Grub Burger Bar location on Saturday, November 11, for Veterans Day. Visit the Grub Burger website for details.

IHOP – November 11, 2019
All Active duty and Retired Veterans in observance of Veteran’s Day, November 11, are invited to come in to IHOP and enjoy a “free” breakfast. Visit the IHOP website for details. https://www.operationmilitarykids.org/ihop-military-discount/

Lucille’s BBQ  – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military will enjoy a complimentary dessert with proof of service on November 11. Visit the Lucille’s BBQ website for details. https://www.lucillesbbq.com/promos/military-family-month

Fogo De Chao –  November 8-11, 2019
Veterans and active duty personnel receive discounts on November 8-11, which includes 50% towards their meal at Fogo De Chao, in addition up to three of their guests enjoy 10% off. Visit the Fogo-De-Chao website for details.

Texas Road House – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active military receive a free lunch on November 11, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at all Texas Roadhouse locations. Visit the Texas Road House website for details.

TGI Fridays – November 11, 2019
Military guests with a valid military ID will be treated to a free lunch menu item up to $12 on November 11, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. These guests also will receive a $5 coupon for their next meal at Fridays. Call your local TGI Fridays for details.

Subway – November 11, 2019
Military Veterans with a valid ID are being offered a free six-inch sub on November 11 at select locations. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

Outback – November 11, 2019
Veterans with a military ID can get a free Bloomin’ Onion and non-alcoholic beverage on November 11, and 20 percent off their check Nov. 12 to Dec. 31. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

BJs Restaurant Brewhouse – November 11, 2019
Military and Veteran’s with a valid ID are being offered a free entree up to $14.95 and a free Dr. Pepper beverage on November 11. Call your local BJs Restaurant Brewhouse for details. https://www.bjsrestaurants.com/VeteransDay

Bandanas BBQ Restaurant – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military are being offered a free meal on November 11. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

Manhattan Bagel Company – November 11, 2019
All active, former and retired military personnel with valid identification are invited to enjoy a free bagel and cream cheese at Manhattan Bagel Company’s participating locations on Veterans Day November 11.  No additional purchase is required. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

Houlihan’s – November 11, 2019:
All military members – both active-duty and Veterans – will receive a free and complimentary meal on Veterans Day. Guests must come with proof of duty by an I.D., photo in uniform, earning receipt or any other form of proof. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

Bombshells Restaurant & Bar – November 11, 2019
Veteran’s families and active service members receive free meals at Bombshells Restaurant & Bar on November 11 from 11 AM – 2 AM.  Please call ahead to your local Bombshell’s restaurant if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day meals.

California Pizza Kitchen– November 11, 2019
Veterans and active U.S. military members with proof of service have an invitation to enjoy a complimentary meal from CPK’s Veterans Day menu at all participating California Pizza Kitchen locations nationwide. Please call ahead to your local California Pizza Kitchen if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day meal.

The Chop House – November 11, 2019
Veterans receive a 50% discount with a valid military ID on November 11. This does not apply to alcoholic beverages. Please call ahead to your local Chop House if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Cici’s Pizza – November 11, 2019
All active duty or retired military with a valid military ID are being offered a free pizza buffet on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Cicis Pizza if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Connors Steak & Seafood – November 11, 2019
Veterans with a valid military ID receive a 50% discount on November 11. This offer does not apply to alcoholic beverages. Please call ahead to your local Connors Steak & Seafood if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Cotton Patch Cafe – November 11, 2019
All Veterans and active military members are being offered a free Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken Fried Chicken with a drink on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Cotton patch café if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Famous Dave’s – November 11, 2019
Military personnel and Veterans are being offered a free meal on November 11th at participating locations only. Proof of military service is required. Please call ahead to your local Famous Dave’s if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Farmer Boys – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid proof of service get a free cheese cheeseburger on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Farmer Boys if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid proof of service get a free lunch or dinner entree on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Firebirds Wood Fired Grill if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Fired Pie – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid proof of service or are in uniform on receive a free entree November 11 for Veterans Day. Please call ahead to your local Fired pie if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Joe’s Crab Shack – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid ID will enjoy 20 percent off on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Joe’s Crab Shack if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Little Caesars Pizza – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid ID will receive a free $5 hot-n-ready lunch combo.On November 11, from 11am to 2pm. Please call ahead to your local Little Caesars Pizza if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Logan’s Roadhouse – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid proof of service will receive a free American Roadhouse Meal on Veterans Day. Please call ahead to your local Logan’s Roadhouse if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Luna Grill – November 11, 2019
Veterans, military service men and women with valid proof of service will receive their choice of a complimentary meal when they purchase a meal from November 9-11. Please call ahead to your local Luna Grill if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Menchie’s – November 11, 2019
Veterans, military service men and women with valid proof of service will receive the first 6 ounces of frozen yogurt free on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Menchie’s if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt – November 11, 2019
Retired and active duty military with valid proof of service will receive a free froyo at participating locations on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Sonny’s BBQ – November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid ID will receive a free Pulled or Sliced Pork Big Deal combo (photos here); dine-in only.

Veterans Day discounts at grocery stores

BJs Wholesale – November 11, 2019
Active duty military personnel and Veterans receive discounts on November 11, 2019, at BJs wholesale, which include 30% off standard membership fees. Additional incentives like extra money off coupons are occasionally offered for new members. Visit the BJs Wholesale website for details.

Publix – November 11, 2019
Veterans, active military, and their families receive 10% off purchases on November 11, 2019. Exceptions apply. Must show Veteran or military ID, discharge documents, or driver’s license with Veteran designation. https://ww4.publix.com/pages/veterans-day-discount 

Hy-Vee November 11, 2019
Veterans and active duty military with valid ID receive a free breakfast buffet during regular breakfast hours from 6am to 11 am on November 11. Please call ahead to your local Hy-Vee if you have any questions about your Veteran’s Day Discount.

Veterans Day discounts for haircuts

Great Clips – November 11, 2019
Veterans and current military members can visit a U.S. Great Clips salon on November 11 to receive either a free haircut that day or the free haircut card to use at a later date. Visit the Great Clips website for details. Visit the Great Clips website for details.

Sport Clips – November 11, 2019
Some locations will be offering free haircuts on November 11. Visit the Sports Clips website for details.

SmartStyle Hair SalonsNovember 11, 2019
Current or former military members, and veterans are being offered a 10% discount off any services and professional products on November 11. Please show proof of service to receive this special discount at participating salons. Walk-ins welcome. No double discounts. Discount may vary per location. Visit the SmartStyle website for details.

Veterans Day health

American Family CareNovember 11, 2019
Veterans are being offered free flu shots on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11. Veterans interested in obtaining a free flu shot are encouraged to visit AFCUrgentCare.com to find the nearest American Family Care. Visit the American Family Care website for details. (Reminder, Veterans receiving health care at VA are eligible for Free flu shots at your local Walgreens)

True Rest Float Spa – November 11, 2019
Free True Rest Float Spa 60-minute float session for active duty military and Veterans.Visit the True Rest website for details.

Veterans Day discounts in retail

The Home Depot – November 11, 2019
Veterans are being offered a 10% military discount on in-store purchases on select items. All veterans are eligible for this discount during the Veterans Day weekend. Visit the Home Depot website for details.

Walgreens – November 8-11, 2019
20% off for military, Veterans and their families. Walgreens also provides free flu shots for VA-enrolled Veterans. Visit the Walgreens website for details.

Rack Room Shoes – November 11, 2019
United States Military and families with a valid ID receive 10% off your entire purchase on November 11. In store only. Visit the Rack Room website for details. https://www.rackroomshoes.com/military-discount

Dollar General – November 11, 2019
Veterans and families receive an 11 % discount on qualifying items in store and online. See website for details.

Rack Room Shoes – November 11, 2019
United States Military and families with a valid ID receive 10% off your entire purchase on November 11. In store only. Visit the Rack Room website for details. https://www.rackroomshoes.com/military-discount

Living Spaces – November 4-24, 2019
For every purchase of a select Revive product, Living Spaces will donate a mattress to a Veteran. Qualifying Revive products range from select mattresses to adjustable bases. Learn more: https://www.livingspaces.com/event/buy-one-give-one/veterans

Kohls – November 11, 2019
Kohl’s is offering double its military discount for Veterans Day, increasing it from 15% to 30%.

Bed Bath and Beyond – November  9-11, 2019
Military guests with a valid military ID or Bed Bath and Beyond VetRewards Card will receive 25% off your entire in store shopping cart from November 9-11, 2019. Call or visit your nearest location for details.

LLBean – November 8-11, 2019
25% off for Veterans for online and in store orders. Verify with LLBean.

Veterans Day Discounts on travel

La Quinta – November 11, 2019
Veterans and their families who book and stay at La Quinta hotels in the U.S. and Canada can take advantage of the 15% off military discount in light of Veterans Day on November 11. Visit the La Quinta website to book.

Legoland – November 11, 2019
Each U.S. service member on Monday, November 11, can receive a free American flag wristband and flyer (describing the discounts and events of the day) at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort ticket window. A wristband entitles the wearer to the special discounts on November 11 only. Visit the LEGOLAND Florida Resort website for details.

Harley Davidson MuseumNovember 11, 2019
All active military, Veterans and their families can gain free Museum entry into the Davidson Museum with valid Military or Veterans ID for 1 additional adult and up to 4 children 18 years old or younger On November 9-11. Visit the Harley-Davidson Museum website for details.

National Parks – November 11, 2019
Over 100 national parks will waive admission fees on November 11, 2019, in honor of Veterans Day. Contact your local park for information.(Disabled Veterans eligible for free National Park Service Lifetime Access Pass)

Six Flags Over Georgia (Austell, Georgia) – November 9-10, 2019
Veterans and disabled Veterans will receive one free admission ticket to Six Flags Over Georgia with a valid Military ID card or DD214 and can purchase an unlimited amount of additional tickets for family members or friends at 50% off plus tax per ticket.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Vallejo, California) November 9-11, 2019
Proud to offer active military members, Veterans & first responders free admission when visiting during Heroes Days. Additionally each eligible hero may also bring up to three guests for half price each plus city fee. All participants must present proper First Responder ID, Military ID, or DD-214 at time of purchase.

Six Flags Great America (Chicago, Illinois) November 9-10, 2019
On November 9 & 10, all active members and Veterans of service will receive free admission to Six Flags Great America. All you need to do is bring your proof of service to the park to receive a free, complimentary ticket for access. Also offering discounts on up to four companions.

Grace for Vets – November 11, 2019
Veterans and service personnel are being offered a free car wash on November 11, 2019. by Grace for Vets. They are a non-profit organization who has gotten together over 1,500 independent car washes in four countries, to offer this service. Visit the Grace for Vets website for details http://graceforvets.org/

Free Veterans Day Burger Meal in Airports – November 11, 2019
On Monday, November 11, U.S. active-duty military and military Veterans with ID can enjoy a complimentary Pimento Cheeseburger* while they dine-in at more than 70 participating HMSHost airport restaurants. Participating free burger locations here: http://bit.ly/FoodFightForVeterans2019

KGB Espionage Museum – November11, 2019
Instead of the usual price of $22 for adults and $17 for seniors, all Veterans will only pay $13.

Reminder to Motorists: Deer More Common on Roads in Fall

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage county urges drivers to slow down and stay alert to avoid deer-vehicle collisions this fall, when the animals’ breeding season increases the risk of accidents.
“Deer-vehicle collisions increase dramatically between October and December as deer cross roads and highways more frequently in search of mates,” said District ecologist Brian Kraskiewicz. “Drivers should be especially careful around forest preserves or wooded areas.”
According to State Farm Insurance, Illinois ranked 32nd in the nation for deer-vehicle accidents in 2018. A driver in the state had a 1-in-200 chance of having a collision, a drop of 1.9% over 2017. Most deer-vehicle accidents in the U.S. occur in October, November and December, but there are ways to lower the risk.
● Reduce your speed and watch for deer on the edge of the road, especially at dawn and dusk. They’re common along woods, fields, fencerows and waterways, but you can encounter them almost anywhere.
● If you see a deer cross safely in front of your car, slow down and expect more to follow. Deer often travel in groups.
● Make note of where you’ve seen deer before.
● Be careful when going around curves or when approaching favored deer crossings.
● Don’t assume that a deer in the road will run off as you approach. They may bolt or quickly change direction without warning.
● Don’t use your horn unless it looks like you are going to collide with a deer. Distant noise may confuse the deer. Close noise may produce an extra burst of speed from the animal, but there is no way to predict how a deer will respond.
● Heed deer-warning signs. They are placed in areas where deer-auto collisions are likely to occur.
● Do not swerve to avoid deer — it could result in a more severe crash. Slow to a stop and wait. Flash your headlights to encourage the animals to move.
If an accident does occur, drivers and passengers should not attempt to remove dead or injured deer from busy roads. Instead, contact local law enforcement for help. Illinois law requires drivers to report to police any deer-related accident with more than $1,500 in damage.

How to Calculate Property Tax Without Losing Your Marbles

Aslan Alphan/iStock

Need to know how to estimate your property tax? You’ve come to the right place! Most people know that homeownership requires coughing up copious amounts of money. There’s your mortgage, of course, but the costs hardly end there. You will also have to pay property tax.

If you already own a home, you can look at how your tax is calculated on the most current property tax statement. If you’re considering buying a home, look on the real estate listing for assessment and tax information, or go to the county website to find out the annual property tax.

Be aware that property taxes can change. The assessed value of your house can go up or down, depending on the local real estate market. Your assessment can go up or down depending on changes you make to your house; for example, if you make additions to your property, or even build a new house on land. And the tax rate can change, depending on your local government.

Even though the government sends you a tax bill every year and tells you how much you owe in property taxes, it’s important to know how that tax is calculated.

How to calculate property tax

There are a number of factors that come into play when calculating property taxes, from your property’s assessed value to the mill levy (tax rate) in your area. Here’s how to calculate property tax so you don’t end up blindsided by this hefty homeowner expense.

What is a home’s fair market value?

The market value of a home is basically the amount a knowledgeable buyer would pay a knowledgeable seller for a property, assuming an arm’s-length transaction and no pressure on either party to buy or sell. When a property sells to an unrelated party, the sales price is generally assumed to be the fair value of the property.

What is a home’s assessed value?

One factor that affects your property taxes is how much your property is worth. You probably have a good understanding of your home’s market value—the amount of money a buyer would (hopefully) pay for your place. (You could also enter your address in a home value estimator to get a ballpark figure.)

Still, tax municipalities use a slightly different number; it’s called your home’s assessed value.

Tax assessors can calculate a home’s new assessed value as often as once per year. They also may adjust information when a property is sold, bought, built, or renovated, by examining the permits and paperwork filed with the local municipality.

They’ll look at basic features of your home (like the acreage, square footage, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms), the purchase price when it changes hands, and comparisons with similar properties nearby.

Sometimes a home’s assessed value will be strikingly similar to its fair market value—but that’s not always the case, particularly in heated markets. In general, you can expect your home’s assessed value to amount to about 80% to 90% of its market value. You can check your local assessor or municipality’s website, or call the tax office for a more exact figure for your home. You can also search by state, county, and ZIP code on publicrecords.netronline.com.

If you believe the assessor has placed too high a value on your home, you can challenge the calculation of your home’s value for tax purposes. You don’t need to hire someone to help you reduce your property tax bill. As a homeowner, you may be able to show how you determine that your assessed value is out of line.

What is taxable value?

The taxable value of your house is the value of the property according to your assessment, minus any adjustments such as exemption amounts.

What’s a mill levy?

In addition to knowing your home’s assessed value, you will need to know another number, known as a mill levy. That’s the tax assessment rate for real estate in your area. The tax rate varies greatly based on the public amenities offered and revenue required by local government. If you have a public school, police force, full-time fire department, desirable school districts, and plenty of playgrounds and parks, your property tax rates will be higher than a town without them. (Hey, you get what you’re taxed for!)

Your area’s property tax levy can be found on your local tax assessor or municipality website, and it’s typically represented as a percentage—like 4%. To estimate your real estate taxes, you merely multiply your home’s assessed value by the levy. So if your home is worth $200,000 and your property tax rate is 4%, you’ll pay about $8,000 in taxes per year.

Where to find property taxes

Thankfully, in many cases, you may not have to calculate your own property taxes. You can often find the exact amount (or a ballpark figure) you’ll pay on listings at realtor.com®, or else you can enter a home’s location and price into an online home affordability calculator, which will not only estimate your yearly taxes but also how much you can anticipate paying for your mortgage, home insurance, and other expenses.

Article by Jamie Wiebe

Pumpkin Sage Pasta

1 of 4 Ways To Use Canned Pumpkin by Crystal Hatch

Ingredients

for 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil, of preference
  • ½ white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 ½ cups almond milk
  • 15 oz pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ box whole wheat pasta, cooked

Preparation

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried sage and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the almond milk, pumpkin puree, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Heat through.
  3. Add the cooked pasta and and stir to coat.
  4. Serve warm.
  5. Enjoy!

Nutrition Info

Calories 113

Fat 4g

Carbs 17g

Fiber 3g 

Sugar 4g

Protein 2g