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Updated: Saturday, August 23, 2014

How To Know If Youre That Neighbor... And What To Do About It

Everyone has that one neighbor. The one whos the last to know about the neighborhood garage sale. Whos left out of the weekly game of Bunco. But what if that neighboris you?

If youre being ignored, left out, avoided, or whispered about, you just might be. Doors slammed in your face may be another good indication. The good news is, there are steps you can take to remedy your reputation. You may not be able to undo whatever it is you did to become the neighborhood ninny, but maybe you can cultivate enough goodwill for a fresh start. Here are a few things to try.

Host an open house

Inviting people into your home may be all it takes to turn the corner. Hand-delivered invitations will provide an olive branch and welcoming touch for neighbors, and give you an opportunity to reach out personally. Letting people get to know you - or rediscover you - with a peek into your world may be all you need to undo a bad rep.

Organize a block party

An activity that invites participation and offers fun among the whole block is hard to resistespecially if you offer to provide a main course. Think burgers on the grill or bring in barbecue if you dont want to be stuck cooking when you could be mingling.

Kids lemonade stand

Yes, its cheap to use your kids...which is exactly why it may work. Even crusty old irritated neighbors have a hard time denying a kid a quarter for a refreshing drink. If youre there to supervise and offer a friendly smile and small talk, you have an "in" to start mending fences.

Actually mend fences

Do you have a neighbor who could use a hand with a fence that needs patching or a lawn that needs mowing? Go for it Do it yourself or help organize a neighborhood fix-it weekend. Helping out an older neighbor or a single parent is a great gesture.

Bake cookies for your neighbors and hand-deliver them in tins

Theyll only hate you until the first bite. Not a baker? Get some great recipes here.

Go seasonal

Use the time of the year to incite a little spirit among neighbors. Summer? Set up a giant inflatable waterside in the cul-de-sac and invite all the kids over for some fun. Back to school? Send out notes to all the neighbors with kids offering a top ten list of back to school tips, packaged cleverly with a pencil and eraser. On the precipice of winter? Dole out ice scrapers to everyone on the street. A little effort goes a long way.

Get in the holiday spirit

Pump up your holiday dcor. Being known as the house with all the festive decorations at Halloween and Christmas can help you go from neighbor non grata to neighbor need to go check out that house again.

For extra flair, show some warm holiday spirit by passing out holiday cookie kits to your neighbors. Need some more ideas for neighbor gifts during the holidays? Check out Pinterest.

When all else fails, move

Sometimes, neighborhood chemistry just isnt there. If you or your kids are being isolated, or worse, insulted, you might just want to go elsewhere. Being happy in your home may not be so happy if you cant enjoy your surroundings and be part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

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Homebuyers Advice: Are You Really Ready to Buy a Home?

Youve done the math. With the down payment youve saved, you can safely buy a home for less money than you could ever have as a renter.

Yet, you seem unable to make a commitment. Are you sure youre really ready to buy a home?

If you find yourself saying any of the following to family, friends, or your real estate agent, youre not ready.

"Ill know when I see the right place."

"I want to see what I can find on my own."

"Ill only buy if I can get a fantastic deal."

"Im waiting for interest rates to go down."

With houses for sale all over the place, you can easily find the right place, especially with your real estate agent screening houses for you. Prices are still lower than they were at the peak. Interest rates are still low. So what are you waiting for -- prices to rise more than they already have, for interest rates to go up? You get the idea.

Owning a home is a big responsibility, and the market has been volatile for years. If youre scared, thats understandable. So, maybe you need to examine your tolerance for risk.

Like the stock market or any other money investment, there is no sure thing, but there is plenty of evidence that returns are built over time. Youll eventually get your money back, or you might even make money on your home, if you:

1. Are realistic. A home should meet your needs for shelter and your familys activities. Dont expect your home to make you rich.

2. Buy within your means. Its no fun dreading your monthly mortgage payment.

3. Occupy your home long enough. It takes approximately four years just to get your closing costs back in equity.

4. Keep your home repaired and updated. If you have to sell quickly, youll get a better price if your home doesnt need work.

Currently, market conditions are in your favor. High inventories in most areas, lower prices than others have paid in the past and low mortgage interest rates combine to lower your risk.

In addition, you have all kinds of incentives, like the ability to buy with a federally subsidized or guaranteed loan, as well as income tax and capital gains benefits. And there are unexpected dividends - homeowners are automatically assumed to be more responsible than renters, which is why you get a discount on auto insurance if you own a home.

If youre really ready to buy a home, you take action to make a good deal happen. You get preapproved by a lender so youre ready to make an offer on a home within your means. You give your wish list to your real estate agent, attend open houses, search on the Internet, and tell friends and family what kind of home youre looking for. Everyone and everything is working in your favor to get you to your goal.

You find the home you want, and you put your money down and you close.

Thats ready.

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Agents: Too Many Apps? Get It Down To One With The Pinnum Deals App

Many major brands have been busy creating and publishing their own apps, and some consider it as important today as having a website since mobile has become the dominant force in marketing.

But, how does a small business include mobile as part of their marketing program?

And perhaps the bigger question is how many apps will the average consumer keep on their phone?

Personally, I have no intention of purchasing a 50GB phone to accommodate hundreds of apps. I maintain a select group of apps that I use regularly.

In the retail world there are hundreds of major brand apps such as Walmart, Sears, Target, Toys "R" Us, Kohls, and Best Buy to name just a few. Do I keep them all on my phone? Theres simply no way. Its far too much clutter.

I recently became aware of an app called pinnum. The pinnum app allows the consumer to have a single app that connects with multiple retailers like their favorite restaurant, clothing store, car wash, drycleaners or service company. With the pinnum app, each business receives a unique pinnum number, and when entered, the consumer sees their latest special offer. The app also displays dollar signs on the pinnum map, which displays the special offers that are near the users current location. Now thats really cool.

As an example, I frequent a local pizzeria. One day while eating there, the cashier pointed out a pinnum sign and offered me a 10 discount right on the spot if I downloaded the pinnum app and entered their pinnum number. The app size is so small it downloaded quickly. I created a simple login with my email address and password. After the initial set-up screen, the app displays a "deals page." All I had to do was enter their pinnum number and a special offer appeared instantly. The cashier explained that they would send me special pinnum offers from time to time. Since then, I have taken advantage of a "Buy one large pizza and get one free" offer during their slow hours. They even have a merchant account setup on the pinnum app so I was able to "Buy Now" and pick up my pizza on my way home from work.

But pinnum is more than a deals app. In looking closer, I found that the pinnum app is also a "Geo Social" app. It allowed me to create a private family group. I had my family download the app and added them to my group. So now Im able to see where they are at a moments notice, which gives me real peace of mind.

From what Ive learned, pinnum spent about 2 years putting the app together and they have just started reaching out to businesses. Im definitely looking forward to more of my favorite businesses getting on the pinnum app.

Celeste Giaimo Is a Columnist for Womens Voices Magazine.

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How To Make The Most Of Your Small Backyard

Deck Photo courtesy of Artisan Custom Carpentry

Small backyards can sometimes seem limiting in terms of what you can add to them. Dont be deterred though, as there is a plethora of ways to decorate it. Small backyards have many landscaping options to make them beautiful and open. Here are some ideas to help.

1. Install a deck.

Adding a deck is a quick, efficient and natural way to add on to a small backyard. It will also cost less than the national average if you have a small backyard. A deck is also good for adding two levels, which can be great if you want to have one for dining and another for plants. Its also a way to separate the yard from another type of space without taking up a lot of room. Pro tip: deck boards should be laid diagonally, not straight to optimize yard square footage.

2. Hang potted plants and boxed gardens.

If you want to save more ground space in the yard and still enjoy many flowers and shrubs, you can optimize the walls, roofs and windows of your home. By installing wooden shelves or hooks, you can hang flower boxes or potted plants. This will leave plenty of room in your garden for trees, a dining space, water features or other installations that might have been more difficult to fit in otherwise.

Hanging plants Photo courtesy of Stuber Land Design, Inc.

3. Use smaller furniture.

If you arent planning to hold huge parties in the backyard, then you should buy smaller furniture. Instead of couches, buy loveseats and chairs and rather than a long rectangular table, you might consider a circular table. By having smaller furniture on your deck, patio or in the backyard, there will be more space available for movement and other decor. You might also consider having an awning over the furniture, whether its a simple fabric awning or an extension of your roof, so you can enjoy the furniture during inclement weather.

Small furniture Photo courtesy of Saunders Designs

4. Keep it simple and clean.

While youre limited in square footage, this does not mean you should try and fit in every single flower, shrub and tree you can. Otherwise there will be overgrowth, and maintenance will be difficult. Instead, you should keep the landscape design simple. Focus on the essentials of the backyard: grass, some shrubs and flowers artfully placed throughout. You can organize it better by installing flower beds and potted plants for easier management.

Clean yard Photo courtesy of Able Landscaping

5. Go bold on the color scheme.

Although you have to be simple with what investments you make in the landscape, you can still be bold with the colors. Reds, blues, purples, oranges, yellows--the color scheme is endless. You want your small backyard to jump out to visitors and to you when walking out the back door. By having a rainbow of colors, the small backyard will look and feel like a heavenly garden even if its not the biggest one in the neighborhood.

Colors Photo courtesy of Design Green Landscapes

6. Erect fencing thats visual rather than private.

If you want to make your small backyard feel bigger without the square footage, then install a fence thats not private. Choose a design thats visual like lattice, picket or chain link with sunlight showing through to accent the yard. You might also consider materials like wood or vinyl to add to the natural appearance of the small yard. Local fencing contractors will be able to recommend the best materials and height for your needs.

Fencing Photo courtesy of Nova Landscape, Inc.
Andrea Davis is the editor for Home Advisor, which helps homeowners find home improvement professionals in their area at no charge to ensure the best service in the shortest amount of time.

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Steals amp; Deals: Clearance Sales

For much of the country, kids either just went back to school or are about to. And if you havent yet left your pound of flesh at Target or Walmart or Office Depot, well, that might be a good thing. TIME Magazine says you just may benefit from procrastinating this year. Were breaking it down in this weeks edition of Steals amp; Deals.

"If youve been a slacker thus far in rounding up your kids back-to-school supplies, theres good reason to keep on procrastinating," said TIME. "The simple reason why this is so is that very soon, almost every store will be putting kids scissors, notebooks, glue, pencils, and other back-to-school merchandise on clearance."

TIME noted that "many consumers are utilizing this strategy this summer, with data provided by the Integer Group that estimated that "more than half of shoppers wait until one to three weeks before school starts to buy school supplies, and that 36 of consumers wont do any back-to-school shopping at all, up from 31 who skipped back-to-school purchases last year."

Around Labor Day last year, many discounts on back to school items popped up at stores like Staples and Office Max, and its a safe bet that the same will be true this year.

"Clothing marketed for the back-to-school season will be deeply discounted starting around Labor Day as well if not sooner, in order to make space for the next big seasons for retailersHalloween and Christmas," said TIME.

Its already started at Target, where a few back to school items, like Sharpie Fine Tip Permanent Markers - 12ct, are on clearance. Normally priced at 16.44, they are now 50 percent off, or 8.22. A slew of clothes for boys and girls are also now on clearance.

Youll want to download Targets Cartwheel app for extra savings in store, including 20 percent off kids lunch kits, 20 percent off Crayola Disney crayons, and 20 percent off Expo dry erase kits.

And dont forget about Walmarts price match guarantee, which you can use to ensure you are getting the lowest price on the items you buy.

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How To Protect Yourself During a Move

"I cant wait to move"

How often do you hear someone say that? What they mean is they cant wait to be in their new place, all unpacked and organized and enjoying their new surroundings.

What they dont mean is, "I cant wait to spend a month packing up everything I own and hauling it into a truck were going to drive across country when Ive never driven anything larger than a mid-sized sedan, only to have to haul it all out, and into that new house. The new house that has two flights of stairs and narrow hallways. Dont get me started on unpacking boxes."

And what they REALLY dont mean is, "I cant wait for the movers to break a bunch of my things and lose a bunch of stuff." Pretty sure they also dont mean, "I cant wait for dishonest movers to delay my delivery and charge me quadruple my quote and then hold all my stuff hostage while I sit here helpless."

Think that could never happen to you?

"Last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks," said Consumer Reports. "One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didnt pay."

Added MarketWatch about the possibility of mover fraud: "Typically, a mover gives you an extremely low estimate over the phone or Internet without ever actually seeing what needs to be moved. You agree, they show up, load the truck with all your worldly possessions and then tell you it will actually cost a lot more. Then, they hold everything you own hostage on their truck until you cough up the extra cash."

Yes, moving can be fraught with challenge and frustration and even heartache. So how do you protect yourself? Here are some tips for a safe and fraud-free move.

Do your research

Proper preparation can help you ward off many of the issues that can turn a move into a nightmare, and thats starts with a healthy dose of research. You always want to ask for a referral rather than using an unknown. And not just anyone is qualified to give a referral, according to MSN.

"Ask your real-estate agent. The general consensus among moving professionals is that word of mouth is the best way to find a good mover," they said. "Real-estate agents know the ins and outs of the housing industry and are the most >

There are also websites dedicated to moving scams. "MovingScam.com maintains a black list," they said, as well as a "message board filled with consumer experiences, bad and good."

Verify licensing and look for complaints

MSN recommends people who are moving investigate the companies they are looking at using. Interstate movers must be licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

"Check with your areas Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed and whether there are >

Protect Your Move also provides info on whether a movers license is current "and if the company has ever had a federal complaint."

Watch out for the lowball bid

"You get what you paid for" is often a dangerous reality when it comes to moving. To protect yourself against unethical movers, get several estimates and make sure to weed out any that seem too low. Yes, the desire to save money is strong. But an unusually low bid is often a red flag.

"When shopping for movers, its best to get at least three estimates, " said MSN. "If youve got one thats really, really low compared to the other two, youre going to know somethings up."

Have a contingency plan

No matter how well you prepare, the unexpected can still happen. What if the truck doesnt show up on time? Are you prepared to live without your things for a few days, or longer? Make sure you pack a bag of essentials you can have with you while the rest of your stuff is stuck on the truck.

Protect yourself

The Better Business Bureau suggests paying a little extra for peace of mind.

"Consider accepting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can eliminate headaches after your move," they said. "Purchasing full replacement value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move."

For more information, visit Protect Your Move.

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Copyright©2014 Realty Times®.All Rights Reserved

Today's Real Estate News and Advice Updated: Saturday, August 23, 2014

Agents: Too Many Apps? Get It Down To One With The Pinnum Deals App
Many major brands have been busy creating and publishing their own apps, and some consider it a...
> Full Story

How To Make The Most Of Your Small Backyard
Deck Photo courtesy of Artisan Custom CarpentrySmall backyards can sometimes seem limiting in t...
> Full Story

Steals amp; Deals: Clearance Sales
For much of the country, kids either just went back to school or are about to. And if you haven...
> Full Story

Copyright © 2014 Realty Times®. All Rights Reserved