Lafayette Real Estate News

    Classic French Ratatouille
    Classic French recipes such as this ratatouille seem intimidating because they require specific techniques, but that?s what makes a good cook. Perhaps you don?t try this mid-week because it requires a whole lot of chopping, but ratatouille is a great Sunday afternoon recipe listening to great music and maybe even having a glass of wine?or two.While it?s considered a summer dish found throughout the Mediterranean coast, it?s also great in colder weather because it?s warm and comforting without the heaviness of braised meats or stews.Plus it?s a one-pot recipe, so if you?re a lazy dishwasher like I am, it makes Sunday evenings so much better!You can eat ratatouille on its own as a side dish, but it?s so versatile in other dishes. You can add it to pasta, or top it with an egg. It?s also amazing on great French bread. Pair it with a glass of your favorite red wine.INGREDIENTTS 34 oz fresh tomato sauce 20 basil leaves 1 large red pepper, sliced in rings 1 medium red onion, sliced in rings 1 yellow zucchini, sliced in rings 1 green zucchini, sliced in rings 1 eggplant, sliced in rings 1 tomato, sliced 2 tablespoons olive oil 1.5 tablespoons dry oregano salt and pepper INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 350 °F Spread ¾ of tomato sauce into a pan that will fit all of your vegetables. Begin to layer vegetables (i.e. tomato, then zucchini, then pepper) in a clockwise rotation beginning in the center and moving outward. Don't worry about the order of the vegetables as you'll have more slices of some things than others. Fill in any gaps between the vegetables with remaining tomato sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and dry oregano. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered for one hour. Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    The Obstacle in Our Path
    In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. He then hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the he laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.The peasant learned what many of us never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve!Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    The Best Mulch Types
    Why Mulch?Spreading mulch over your garden soil is the best way to save time and energy in your yard. Mulch helps the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility. Shredded Bark Shredded bark is one of the most common and least expensive types of mulch. It comes from a variety of sources, including cedar trees. Shredded bark is one of the best mulch types to use on slopes and it breaks down relatively slowly. Some shredded-bark products are byproducts from other industries; they're considered environmentally friendly. Check the mulch packaging for more information. Mulch tip: Shredded bark can take up some nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes. If you have poor soil, adding some organic fertilizer to the soil can help keep your plants healthy.Leaves Save money by shredding fallen leaves in your yard and using them to as mulch to cover the soil. Fallen leaves break down quickly (often in less than a year), but should be shredded before use to prevent them from matting down. Fallen leaves are commonly used as mulch in winter.Grass Clippings Another type of mulch you can make for free, grass clippings break down fast but add nitrogen to the soil as they do. It's best to use grass clippings in thin layers or to let the grass dry before spreading it as a mulch -- otherwise it starts to stink and rot as it decomposes. Here's a hint: Avoid using grass clippings if your lawn is chemically treated, especially if you use it in vegetable gardens. The chemicals may harm your desirable garden plants.Straw Straw mulch has a beautiful golden color that looks great in the garden. It's also a bit slower to break down than leaves or grass clippings. Mulch tip: Make sure the straw is free of weed seeds, otherwise it can cause more weeds than it prevents. (Oat straw is often particularly weedy.) Compost Compost looks like soil, except it's darker, so it really sets off plants well. This mulch material breaks down quickly but adds to your soil structure the fastest. Plus, it's inexpensive; you can create your own rich compost for free. Many municipalities give away compost, as well.Pine Needle Mulch Pine needles add a delicate, fine texture to plantings. They hold in place well, making them useful on slopes, and they're relatively slow to break down. If you continuously use pine needles as mulch, they may increase the acidity of your soil. This makes them ideal for use with acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, and some types of conifers.Pine Bark Nuggets Pine bark nuggets are slower to break down than shredded bark, but they don't stay in place as well. They're not a good mulch choice for slopes or other areas where they may be washed away by heavy rain. Pine bark nuggets are available in a variety of sizes; the bigger the nugget, the longer it lasts.Wood Chips You can often get wood chips for free from local tree trimmers, though the trimmers will usually ask you to haul the chips yourself. Wood chips, especially when they're freshly made, can take up a fair amount of nitrogen from the soil. They can be acidic and lower your soil's pH, as well. Mulch tip: If you get wood chips from a local source, check if the tree had poison ivy on it. Working with wood chips that contain poison ivy can cause skin irritation. Also: Wood chips from walnut trees may contain natural chemicals that inhibit the growth of many garden plants.Cocoa Hull Mulch Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most beautiful types of mulch, thanks to its fine texture and rich color. And many gardeners appreciate its delightful chocolate fragrance. Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most expensive mulch types, though. It decomposes slowly, and unlike most mulch types, it doesn't fade with time. It's a great mulch for small-leafed plants such as herbs where the shells are easy to work around. In areas with hot, humid weather, mold may grow on its surface. Cocoa hull mulch is poisonous to dogs and cats if they eat it. Here's a hint: Because cocoa hulls are light, they can blow away unless you spray them down well with water after you first spread them.Gravel or River RockBecause they're inorganic materials, gravel and river rock don't break down in the landscape, so they don't need to be reapplied every year. However, it also means they don't improve your soil over time. Here's a hint: It can be very difficult to remove gravel or river rock mulch if you ever change your mind. They can make it more difficult to plant in or divide perennials.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Can You Really Afford to Buy a House?
    The scenario: Your landlord keeps hiking up your rent, and you?re tired of reworking your budget to accommodate the other areas of your life ? or worse, searching for a new rental. You want to invest in a home for sale, but you?re not sure if now is the right time.There are two likely reasons for your hesitation: time and money. Deciding if you should rent or buy can be determined in part by your commitment to an area ? you could have legitimate concerns about job relocation or you may wonder if the space you can afford now will be flexible enough that you won?t grow out of it just a few years down the road. And on an economic level, perhaps you?re not sure you can afford all the costs that a down payment, mortgage, and home maintenance entail.The first step? Do some homework. Consider these questions to help you decide if the answer to ?Can I afford a house?? is yes.Should you buy before home prices climb higher?In most parts of the U.S., home prices have been climbing steadily for the past few years. Does this mean you should rush to lock in the current prices before they rise even higher? The best answer: not necessarily. Do what?s right for you. If you?re planning to stay in one spot for a decade or more, short-term fluctuations in the house?s underlying value shouldn?t make a difference. After all, the primary purpose of a home is to provide a place to live, coupled with an opportunity to grow equity over time. Don?t over-analyze the market when deciding to buy a house. If the time is right for you, there?s no reason to wait.Do you have a 20% down payment?One of the major factors in determining if the time is right to buy a house: whether you have the finances to purchase one. Many lenders require a 20% down payment before they?ll grant you a mortgage. If you can?t come up with such a hefty down payment, it?s possible to secure a loan, but you?ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, to make up the difference.PMI rates vary from lender to lender but generally cost 0.05% to 1% of the total loan amount. At 0.05%, you?ll pay $41.50 per month for every $100,000 worth of loan that you carry. If you?re holding an FHA-insured loan, you pay two different mortgage insurance premiums. The upfront premium is 1.75% of your loan size, and it will be added to your borrowed amount (thus increasing your monthly costs). You?ll also pay a second premium, which is assessed annually and billed monthly. This second fee, often known as monthly mortgage insurance, will cost 1.3% annually if you carry a 30-year mortgage and put down at least 5%.The bottom line? Not having a 20% down payment on hand can be a very expensive proposition. If you borrow $200,000, for example, and you?re charged 1% PMI, you?ll hand over $166 per month ? not an insignificant sum.Can you budget for recurring monthly expenses?Your mortgage payment is the heftiest of all monthly payments. It comprises four items: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. (Together, these are known as PITI.) If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your principal and interest will remain a flat monthly fee, regardless of what?s happening in the overall economy. However, your taxes and insurance may change, so even with a fixed-rate mortgage, your payment could fluctuate. Taxes are set by your county government and are based on its assessment of your property, so this expense is subject to increase at any point ? either if your county reassesses your home at a higher value or if your local government decides to boost its tax rates.Ask yourself: Do you have the space in your budget to accommodate that type of tax increase? If your budget is so tight that this will cause you to miss payments, you?re probably not in a strong enough position (right now) to buy a home. Likewise, you might decide to buy a home in a community that?s governed by a homeowners? association, or HOA. This HOA can assess mandatory ?dues? and put a lien on your house if you don?t pay the bill. And the HOA can decide to raise its dues at any point. Do you have enough wiggle room in your budget to accommodate a fee hike?Do you have savings for maintenance and repairs?Your mortgage isn?t the only housing expense you?ll need to meet in your budget. When you move from a rental to a home, you have new responsibilities (and the related costs), such as cleaning the gutters, replacing or repairing the roof, fixing and maintaining the HVAC, refinishing the floors, hiring a plumber, installing a new dishwasher, and repairing a broken garbage disposal.As a very broad rule of thumb, you should budget 1% of the home?s purchase price annually for repairs and maintenance. For example: If your home is worth $300,000, set aside $3,000 per year, or $250 per month. You probably won?t spend this amount each month. Some months, you?ll spend zero. But another month, you may need to replace every window in your home ? and could rack up a $7,500 bill.How long will you stay in your home?Buying and selling a home incurs thousands in closing costs ? including inspections, title insurance, transfer tax, attorney fees, and real estate commissions. If you?re going to hold on to your home for several years, those costs will spread themselves out over time. But if you might be selling your home after two or three years, those costs (in addition to property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage interest, and maintenance) might add up to more than what you would have paid in rent.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    The Elephant Rope
    As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. ?Well,? trainer said, ?when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it?s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.?The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn?t, they were stuck right where they were.Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Salmon and Summer Veggies
    This salmon is packed with flavor, full of nutritious ingredients, it?s easy to make and clean up is a breeze! I love cooking with ingredients that are in season, and we all know this summer everyone will be overflowing with an abundance of zucchini, squash and fresh from the vine tomatoes, so why not make a dish that combines all of those?This recipe can also easily be made on the grill!Pair it with a glass of Pinot Noir.INGREDIENTS 4 (5 - 6 oz) skinless salmon fillets 2 small zucchini sliced into half moons 2 small yellow squash sliced into half moons 2 shallots, 1 thinly sliced and 1 chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided Salt and black pepper 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 2 large Roma tomatoes, diced 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried) 3/4 tsp dried oregano 1/2 tsp dried marjoram DIRECTIONS Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 sheets of aluminum foil into 17-inch lengths. Toss zucchini, squash, sliced shallot and garlic together with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and divide among 4 sheets of foil, placing veggies in center of foil. Brush salmon fillets with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, season bottom side with salt and pepper then place one fillet over each layer of veggies on foil. Drizzle lemon juice over salmon and season top with salt and pepper. Toss together tomatoes, remaining diced shallot, thyme, oregano and marjoram with remaining 1 1/2 tsp olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture over salmon fillets. Wrap sides of foil inward then fold up ends to seal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until salmon has cooked through, about 25 - 30 minutes (cook time may vary based on thickness of salmon fillets). Carefully open foil packets and serve warm. Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    Performing Proper Backups: The 3-2-1 Rule
    In the IT world, some rules are always changing.  It?s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.The 3-2-1 backup rule can help you overcome nearly any failure scenario if you follow it. It implies that you should:Despite the 3-2-1 backup rule?s simplicity, many people continue to ignore it and lose their data because they were unprepared for a disaster. Many lessons were learned after disasters such as 9/11 ? some companies from the World Trade Center stored their offsite backups in the SAME OFFICE buildings and lost all of their company data in a few short hours.Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is easy! Here?s how it works:1. Have at least 3 copies of your dataBy three copies, I mean your original data and two backups. It?s obvious that the more copies of your data you make, the less risk you have of losing everything.One backup is good, just not good enough. If you have only one additional copy of your data, AT LEAST make sure it?s located in a different physical location from the original (and as far away as possible!).2. Keep these backups on 2 different mediaHaving several backups of your data and keeping them in the same place is NOT logical. Why? Because a common failure will affect all devices. The 3-2-1 backup rule urges you to keep backups on a wide range of different mediums: tapes, USB drives, CDs, external and internal hard drives, etc. 3. Store 1 backup offsiteOffsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster. Using a cloud service also satisfies this requirement.How do you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule?There are lots of ways! For instance, you can just set up a reminder on your calendar and then copy your data manually according to the 3-2-1 rule. There are also a number of easy-to-use applications which will automatically create your backups and ALSO follow the 3-2-1 backup rule by storing them in specified offsite locations.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    May: The Best Month to Sell Your Home
    Just as TV shows have a prime time, so does the real estate market. And that time is now.Spring is busy ticking off the season?s milestones: We?re watching the cherry blossoms, celebrating Mother?s Day, and tossing graduation caps. Another item you may want to add to your list? Putting your home up for sale ? specifically in May, when homes often sell faster, and for a bit more than the national average.But why is May the best time to sell a house? Read on to find out why it?s such a magical month for home sales.1. The timing aligns with the new school yearIf they intend to move, families really want to close on a new home before the end of summer. Why? Changing school districts after the school year starts is no picnic for anyone. If you take the month of May to search for a home, you can be closed in July or August, which gives you a little time to settle in before school.2. Buyers are getting seriousWhen the spring housing season begins, typically right after Presidents Day in mid-February, many buyers feel as if they have plenty of time to find their perfect home and perfectly time their summer move. So they might bid more aggressively and offer less than asking price. If no sellers bite, though, by the time May rolls around, these same buyers may relent to submitting more competitive offers in the hopes of finally sealing the deal.Remember, though, that May is typically a seller?s market. When buyers are just starting to look at this point, they are excited and have not experienced the agony of defeat by being outbid once, twice, or three times ? at which point deal fatigue sets in. After missing several deals, buyers begin to feel as if they are settling and then begin to think that it would be better to just wait. As we move into late June and early July, in addition to being weary of looking, buyers make house hunting less of a focus for this year and more of one for next year.3. The weather is beautifulPeople normally discuss the weather for two reasons: When there?s a huge weather event or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, or when they have nothing else to talk about. But there?s actually a third reason: Weather plays an important role for home sellers and their open houses. Lovely weather also means lovely homes. Your home will look its best in the spring as flowers start blooming and the lawn is green.4. People haven?t left yet for summer vacationIf you?re selling to a clientele that typically ?summers? elsewhere (lucky ducks!), you need to catch them while they?re still around. The wealthier buyers are back in the city in May. But if you wait until July to list your home, you?ve lost those buyers to the Hamptons until after Labor Day.5. Tax refunds are burning a hole in buyers? pocketsScraping up money for a down payment and closing costs can be quite a formidable undertaking. After filing your taxes, you have a clearer picture of your financial situation. So when you get that big refund from Uncle Sam (if you?re lucky), you might be in a better financial situation to buy. Or if you owe, you at least have that expense out of the way. And sellers take note: You might want to use your tax refund to make repairs and get the home ready to sell.6. The mood is just rightJust as Goldilocks had to have everything ?just right,? home selling has its sweet spot too. In May, most people are home from the spring break vacations they took in April, schools are still in session, taxes have been paid (or extensions filed!), flowers are in bloom, and everything looks fresh and new. Everyone is in the home-buying mood.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Preventing Bitter Cucumbers
    It's the rare gardener who hasn't experienced growing a bitter cucumber. Few things are as frustrating as tending your vegetables all season long, only to finally harvest them and  find out they don't taste very good, when you get them to the table. Cucumbers are know for being prolific, sometimes to the extreme. But what good is a bounty of cucumbers if they aren't edible?Unfortunately you can't tell if a cucumber is becoming bitter, while it is still growing and there's something you can do about it. That's why it is so important to take some preemptive steps to keep them from becoming bitter int he first place.Preventing Bitter CucumbersCultivated cucumbers all contain cucurbitacin B and cucurbitacin C, compounds that are supposed to make their leaves less tasty to munching animals. These compounds are usually confined to the leaves, stems and roots of the plants, where humans don't notice them. It's when they move into the fruits that we start detecting a bitter taste.Usually it is not the whole fruit that turns bitter. More commonly, the bitterness will be concentrated at the stem end and the area right under the skin.There is still some disagreement about what causes the bitterness to spread into the fruits, but it seems to point to some type of stress while the cucumbers are growing. So although we cannot correct the problem after the fact, we can try and avoid the following 3 growing conditions that are potential culprits of bitter cucumbers.Dry Conditions: Long periods of hot, dry weather can contribute to bitter cucumbers. There?s not much you can do to control the heat, but keeping your cucumbers well watered will help offset the bitterness. Give them at least an inch of water per week, more during extreme dry spells, and mulch the area around the roots, at planting time.Lean Soil: Another factor in bitter cucumbers is lean soil and a general lack of nutrients. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and a soil rich in organic matter will go a long way toward producing less stressed, better tasting cucumbers. If your soil is less than ideal, give your cucumbers a little fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.Lack of Sun: Overcast areas, like the Pacific Northwest, have reported bitter cucumbers due to lack of sun. Again, you can't control the hours the sun will shine, but you can plant in a spot that gets as much sun as nature will allow. If it's cool and damp, as well as overcast, growing your cucumbers under cover, like a poly tunnel, will amplify the available heat and light. So even though cucumber plants grow rather easily and you can get a prodigious harvest from a couple of plants, to get quality as well as quantity you still need to provide them with good growing conditions: plenty of sunshine, regular watering and rich soil.Finally, look for varieties that are well suited to your area that are labeled ?non-bitter'. Some reliable varieties are: ?Armenian', ?Diva', ?Eversweet' (any variety with "sweet" in the name), ?Improved Long Green' and ?Lemon'.As with all plants, edible or otherwise, the real trick to healthy, productive plants is to research what growing conditions the plant prefers and doing your best to provide them. Even a few days of stress can cause a ripple effect of damage. Ornamental plants will probably recover, but you only get one chance to get it right with vegetables and other edible plants. That's why it is so important to put some though into choosing both your growing site and your vegetable varieties. Here are some more tips for growing healthy cucumber plants in your home garden. What to Do with Bitter CucumbersIf you find yourself with bitter cucumbers, don't automatically reach for the compost bucket. Peeling the fruit should improve the flavor. Then try a slice toward the center of the cucumber and see if it is sweeter. You should be able to salvage more than enough for a salad.And as soon as you notice a bitter cucumber, take the precautions above to ensure the rest of your harvest doesn't suffer the same fate.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Staging Your Home for a Quick Sale
    When real estate agents talk about staging your home, they're referring to a method of decorating that is designed to showcase the home's best assets, impress buyers and sell quickly for the highest possible price.Because not all sellers stage their homes, especially homes in lower price ranges, you'll be at an advantage if you do. Read on to find out how.Why Home Staging Is ImportantAlthough staging is optional, it really shouldn't be. When you're dealing with such a significant financial transaction, you don't want to be lazy and settle for a lower selling price or a longer marketing period than you have to.Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake. Potential buyers aren't just looking for a structure to inhabit ? they're looking to fulfill their dreams and improve their lifestyles. Staging helps sell those dreams and creates a more emotional purchase that can generate more money for the seller.Home staging is also beneficial because potential buyers don't want to see work that needs to be done upon moving into the home. For every problem they see, they'll deduct its cost from their offering price. If they see too many problems, they'll pass altogether.Staging How ToWhile there are plenty of room-specific staging tips, if you're on a limited budget, it's best to focus on big-picture improvements and on the areas that will make the biggest difference in your home's selling price.These include the exterior and entryway (both heavily impact a buyers' first impressions), the living room, kitchens and bathrooms, the master bedroom and outdoor living space, such as a back patio. The following techniques can and should be employed in as many rooms of the house as you can afford and have time for:CleanIn the kitchen, potential buyers love to see new appliances that come with the home, but if you can't do that, make the ones you have spotless. No one wants to see splattered spaghetti sauce, films of grease or piles of crumbs in their potential new home. Likewise, make sure your bathroom sparkles, from the corners of the tub to the sink drain to that spot behind the toilet you don't think anyone can see. Your goal should be to make everything look new.Declutter There are two major problems with clutter. One is that it distracts buyers from your home's features. The other is that it makes it seem like the home doesn't have enough storage space. Put away knickknacks. Keep in mind that buyers will be interested in your closet space, so tossing everything into the closet to hide it away may not be the best strategy.DepersonalizeBuyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove all the family photos, items with family members' names on them and refrigerator art. Also make sure to put away all the toys and anything else that is highly indicative of the home's current inhabitants.Remove OdorsPets, kids, what you ate for dinner last night, a mildew-covered bathroom and many other conditions can make your home smell. You are probably immune to your home's smell, so you'll need to have a friend or neighbor help you out with this one. Inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors and giving it an inviting aroma include baking cinnamon-coated apples in the oven, burning vanilla-scented candles, or throwing some slice-and-bake cookies in the oven. It's also a good idea to grind half a lemon in the garbage disposal to remove sink odors. While you could use a spray to deodorize your home, it might give it a cheap, institutional bathroom smell, which is hardly the image you're going for. If you're a smoker and you normally smoke indoors, start limiting your smoking to outside the home and take extra steps to deodorize indoors. Finally, don't forget to take out the trash.Define RoomsMake sure each room has a single, defined purpose. Also make sure that every space within every room has a purpose so that buyers will see how to maximize the home's square footage. If you have a finished attic, make it an office. A finished basement can become an entertainment room, and a junk room can be transformed into a guest bedroom. Even if the buyer won't want to use the room for the same purpose, the important thing is for them to see that every inch of the home is usable space. This includes alcoves, window seats, corners, breakfast nooks and so on.Wallpaper/PaintIt is unlikely that a potential buyer will like your wallpaper. Your best bet is to tear it down and paint the walls instead. Don't even think about painting over the wallpaper ? it will look shabby and send red flags for the buyer about all the work he or she will have to do later.Custom paint colors are the same way. You may love your orange bathroom, but people's tastes in colors are very specific and highly personal. While you might think that white walls would be ideal because they create a blank slate that allows buyers to envision their own décor and gives them an easy starting point, it's actually better to paint your home with warm, neutral colors that appeal to the masses and project the homey image you're trying to sell.FlooringNo one wants to live with dirty, stained carpet, especially when someone else made it that way. Linoleum is passé and looks cheap. Though pricey, hardwood floors add value and elegance to a home. They are also low-maintenance, provide great long-term value and are perfect for buyers with allergies. In other words, they appeal to almost everyone, and if not, they're easily carpeted over by the buyer and preserved for the next owner.In kitchens and bathrooms, go with ceramic tile or stone if you can afford it. If not, use high-quality vinyl tiles that mimic their more expensive counterparts. If you can't afford to do that, stick to common areas like the living room, dining room and kitchen. Bathrooms should make the cut too because they have relatively little floor area and therefore won't be too expensive to upgrade.LightingTake advantage of your home's natural light. Open all curtains and blinds when showing your home. Add supplemental lighting where necessary. Outdated or broken light fixtures can be cheaply and easily replaced. If you think your existing fixtures are fine, make sure to dust them, clean off any grime and empty out the dead bugs.FurnitureMake sure furniture is the right size for the room, and don't clutter a room with too much furniture. Furniture that's too big will make a room look small, while too little or too small furniture can make a space feel cold. Don't use cheap college furniture, either. You don't have to pay a lot of money to switch out your existing furniture and you may even be able to rent it, but the furniture should look nice, new, expensive and inviting. You'll also want to arrange the furniture in a way that makes each room feel spacious yet homey. In the living room, for example, seating should be set up in a way that creates a gathering area around the fireplace.Walls and CeilingsCracks in the walls or ceiling are a red flag to buyers as they may indicate foundation problems. If your home does have foundation problems, you will need to either fix them or alert potential buyers to the problem. That said, a fix would be better in terms of getting the home sold. If the foundation only looks bad, but has been deemed sound by an inspector, repair the cracks so you don't scare off buyers for no good reason.ExteriorYour home's exterior will be the first impression buyers get and may even determine their interest in viewing the inside. Make sure your lawn, hedges, trees and other plants are well-maintained and neatly pruned and eliminate any weeds. To brighten windows, wash them well, and consider adding flower boxes to brighten them up further. If you can, power wash your home's exterior ? it can make it look almost freshly painted but with less effort and expense. Make sure the sidewalk leading up to the house is clear and clean, and purchase new doormats for the front and back doors. If you have a pool, showcase it by making sure it's crystal clear. Creating some sort of outdoor living space in the backyard, such as a deck or patio with outdoor furniture, is another way to use the exterior of your home to its greatest advantage.Last TouchesJust before any open house or showing, make sure that your staging efforts go the full mile with a few last-minute touches that will make the home seem warm and inviting. These include fresh flowers, letting fresh air into the house for at least ten minutes beforehand so it isn't stuffy, adding a pleasant scent as discussed earlier, and putting new, plush, nicely folded towels in the bathrooms.Bottom LineEven if you have plenty of cash, don't put too much money into the staging process. You want to emphasize the home's best features, but keep in mind that what sells the home and what will make the home usable for the buyer are not necessarily the same thing. Overall, to get the most bang for your buck, your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Beer and Honey BBQ Chicken Skewers
    We've been dying to fire up the grill, and now that it's finally warmed up I've been searching for and trying out new summer recipes. This recipe for beer and honey BBQ chicken skewers was one of the first that I tried out, and it's been one of my favorites so far! They're incredibly delicious and perfect for a weekend or even a busy week night. Just prepare the night before, let marinate overnight and grill when ready. INGREDIENTS3 cloves garlic, minced ¾ cup beer ? cup honey 1 tsp red pepper flakes 1 tsp Dijon mustard ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce 1 tbsp olive oil 4 chicken breasts, cut into small cubes cilantro for garnishINSTRUCTIONSCut chicken in small pieces, about 1½ inch cubes. In a medium bowl whisk all the ingredients together. Add chicken; there should be enough marinade to cover the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge. Let it marinate for at least 2 hours to 24 hours. Fire up the grill. Thread chicken on skewers, about 5 pieces per skewer. Do not throw away the leftover marinade. Place chicken skewers on grill and turn every couple minutes or so, at the same time brushing some of the leftover marinade over the chicken. Grill until chicken is cooked through. Garnish with cilantro and serve.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    10 Best Ad Blockers and Privacy Extensions
    Online advertising can be a divisive thing. On the one hand, ads support the free content model of the internet, with advertising subsidizing many of our favorite websites. On the other hand, badly designed or intrusive adds can be disruptive to say the least, and cookies and similar advertising trackers raise privacy concerns. This is where ad blockers and anti-tracking software come in, allowing users to block irritating ads, save bandwidth and opt out of intrusive marketing systems. Check out our favorite ad blocking extensions and apps to take control of your browsing experience.NOTE: While ad and script blockers remove annoying and potentially malicious ads from Web pages, they may also block legitimate content. Using a blocker prevents the online publications you visit from earning the revenue they need to continue serving you. Robust antivirus software can protect against most forms of malvertising without blocking content.AdBlock Plus (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Edge)AdBlock Plus (ABP) is among the most popular adblockers, with versions available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and a new version just released for Microsoft Edge. ABP features a quick setup, loading preset filter lists that allow users to quickly block most ads, as well as the option to filter malware and social media buttons. Savvy users can chose additional block lists as well as set custom filters or whitelists. AdBlock Plus allows what it calls "non-intrusive advertising" through filters, which may irk some users, though this can be disabled in settings.AdBlock (Chrome, Opera, Safari, Edge)AdBlock (no relation to AdBlock Plus) is the other major adblocker extension of note, available for users of Chrome, Opera and Safari. AdBlock uses a series of filter lists to automatically block ad content coming from known ad servers and providers. Users can stick with the default block lists, subscribe to additional ones, or even create their own, as well as whitelist given sites or content. As the most downloaded Chrome and Safari extension, AdBlock has the trust of many users worldwide.BluHell Firewall (Firefox)Bluhell Firewall is an extremely resource light ad-blocking and privacy tool that provides solid performance in a tiny package. Clocking in at approximately 30KB (as opposed to other adblockers in the 100s of KBs) in size, Bluhell Firewall still delivers some impressive adblocking. Rather than rely on long blocking lists, Bluhell instead works around seven hard-coded rules that still manages to block thousands of common advertising domains. While the extension's performance impact is minimal, it also features minimal customization, with only an on/off toggle. The minimal performance impact also makes it ideal for Firefox on Android.HTTPS Everywhere (Chrome, Firefox, Opera)HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension available in Chrome, Firefox and Opera that is produced as part of a collaboration between the Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. HTTPS Everywhere helps encrypt your online browsing and communications by rewriting HTTP link requests to HTTPS when within a whitelist of sites that support HTTPS. This means that when an SSL secured version of the site exists (https) then HTTPS Everywhere automatically redirects you to the secured version of a website that you're accessing.NoScript (Firefox)NoScript blocks Java, JavaScript and other plugins that can be used as advertising, or malware attack vectors. Showing up as a small button on the bottom right of your Firefox window, NoScript can be set to block scripts globally, selectively, or even let particular sites through on a permanent or temporary basis, as well as whitelist sites or providers. High customizability and great features make NoScript a great security and adblocking tool, whether alone, or in combination with other adblockers. Note that NoScript can break some site functionality.ScriptSafe (Chrome)ScriptSafe is a Chrome tool inspired by the likes of NoScript in order to provide a similar scriptblocking functionality to Chrome users. Unfortunately, due to technical details in Chrome's design, ScriptSafe and similar programs can't quite match the functionality of NoScript on Firefox. Still, the people behind ScriptSafe make a good effort, allowing users to block set different levels of blocking, blacklist or whitelist domains, and more.Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome)Another popular extension with adblocking functionality is Flashblock (Firefox, Chrome), a content filtering extension that blocks Flash, Silverlight, HTML5 video, and similar content from being played. Flashblock leaves placeholder elements that users can click on to selectively play particular elements or videos. As many of the more intrusive ads that use video, music, or sound effects rely on Flash and similar tools, Flashblock can reduce the irritation involved in surfing ad-heavy sites, whether used alone, or with other extensions.Disconnect (Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari) From straight up adblockers, we turn now to other tools that can disable or log Web cookies, tracking pixels, and other tools that online advertisers can use to track and target your online habits. Disconnect is a powerful browser add-on for Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari that allows users to see advertising, analytics, and social media tracking cookies, with the option of disabling them globally or selectively. This useful tool includes whitelists, blacklists, tracking visualizations and more. DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) DoNotTrackMe (Firefox, Chrome, Safari) allows users to detect and disable tracking cookies and other Web code used by advertisers, analytics groups, and social media to track you online. This provides the dual function of securing your privacy and potentially reducing targeted advertising, as well as reducing bandwidth used when accessing websites. Besides making blocking tracking, DoNotTrackMe also allows users to create disposable email addresses and phone numbers in order to further foil tracking. Ghostery (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari) Another cookie and tracking blocker, Ghostery is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari. Like previous programs, Ghostery helps users spot and block advertising and social media trackers. Where Ghostery stands out is its large database and its ability to link you to the privacy policies and opt-out options of many tracking and ad companies the tool spots. Featuring great detection, blocking of scripts, elements and cookies, and opt-out options, Ghostery is an impressive tracking blocker.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    Dig a Little Deeper
    There's a California gold rush story that tells of two brothers who sold all they had and went prospecting for gold. They discovered a vein of the shining ore, staked a claim, and proceeded to get down to the serious business of getting the gold ore of the mine.All went well at first, but then a strange thing happened. The vein of gold had disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there.The brothers continued to pick away, but without success. Finally, they gave up in disgust. They sold their equipment and claim rights for a few hundred dollars and took the train back home.Now, the man who bought the claim hired an engineer to examine the rock strata of the mine. The engineer advised him to continue digging in the same spot where the former owners had left off. And three feet deeper, the new owner struck gold!A little more persistence and the two brothers would have been millionaires themselves.There is gold in you, too. Do you need to dig a little deeper?Happy Monday!Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Planting an Herbal Tea Garden
    An herbal tea garden is a great way to grow the herbs and plants to create your own custom tea mixes. Having fresh straight from your garden herbs for brewing tea is not only convenient, but it also ensures that you are using herbs that are free of pesticides and herbicides. Whatever reason you have for growing herbs to use in teas? health or simply because you enjoy the taste of tea? being able to create the exact combination you want for a cup of tea is such a pleasure.Considerations When Planting an Herbal Tea GardenPlanting an herbal tea garden is as hard as choosing the type of tea you want to drink. If you like to enjoy a variety of teas, then a wide variety of herbs needs to be planted. If you are growing for a specific tea, or want to grow herbs that aid with a specific health issue, then the garden won?t need to be as big or include as many plants.Decide on the Types of Tea WantedIf you generally enjoy tea, then you want to grow an herb garden filled with a wide variety of teas that can all be combined or used in a variety of combinations to create the perfect tea for your mood. Growing herbs that you can brew into teas that will help ease a specific condition that you need help with will call for less space, but smart planning when it comes to including enough of each plant in order to ensure that you are able to enjoy homegrown tea from the garden all summer long. Find out which herbs help with the specific health needs you have, and then choose one or two additional two or three herbs that pair well with those herbs to make a tea that you can enjoy.Designing the GardenDecide if you are going to be planting in a garden bed or potted containers. If you are going to be growing specific tea combinations, a couple potted containers that grow all the herbs you need can be sufficient. An herbal tea garden that is going to include the ability to grow as many tea combinations as possible, you are going to need more space and should prepare and entire bed. Remember that most herbs, including those that are used in herbal teas, prefer well drained, nutrient poor soil that is not disturbed with tilling, but gets good aeration.Choosing and Pairing HerbsChoosing the herbs that you want starts with your personal preferences, but to get you started, here are some of the best herbs for teas. They are also the most widely used herbs for teas, and many of them pair well with one or another, or are packed with flavor that can be combined with whatever herbal tea you want to drink for health. Chamomile and Lemon Balm are the two most common herbs grown for tea, and both can be added to any light or bitter herbal tea combinations to give them a bright flavor. Coriander and Fennel are grown for the interesting flavor that their leaves give otherwise dull tea combinations. Bee Balm and Betony are added for their milder flavor notes. Catnip and Mint can be added individually or in combination to give tea a strong herbal mint flavor.Another interesting herb to grow for tea include leaves, which are hard to find for tea because they are so often sprayed with a lot of pesticides. Roses are considered herb plants and a couple low growing bushes, or climbing vines placed in the back of the garden are enough to provide you with enough rose hips that can be gathered and dried.Gathering and UseThe benefit of growing your own herbal tea ingredients is being able to use fresh herbs for the teas, but you can gather the herbs a couple times throughout the season and dry them to use as needed. Wait till plants have budded and then collect leaves and flowers. If drying, lay them out flat on a clean counter or shelf where they can remain undisturbed for a few days. Every once in a while, turn stems and leaves over to make sure that they are being air dried completely. Store in a sealed bag or container and combine with other herbal tea ingredients as you go. By drying as many of the herbs as you can from your garden, you can create dozens of flavor combinations all summer and winter long.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Mother's Day Gifts that Don't Cost A Thing
    You can?t deny that moms deserve a day to be celebrated, but every year Mother?s Day somehow creeps up on kids of all ages much quicker than anticipated. Sending a bouquet of flowers can get to be a bit repetitive and at times, it can be tough to scramble enough money together for a decent gift. Most moms are low maintenance ? they?re not looking for something flashy or expensive, they simply want to feel appreciated for all their effort and hard work raising you. Here are 16 gift ideas that are completely free of cost but will still make your mother feel valued on her special day. 1. Wash and clean out her car.We spend a lot of time in our cars, so make sure her vehicle is a sanctuary.2. Make her a home-cooked meal.You can do a classic breakfast in bed, an effortless dinner or an extravagant dessert. 3. Ask her to to something outdoors and active.Go for a walk, run or bike ride. Just being outside makes you healthier, and research has proven that exercise is more fun when it?s done with someone else.4. Do the laundry.She kept your clothes clean for how many years? Now is your chance to repay the favor. 5. Accept her friend request.If you haven?t already, just let the woman have a glimpse into your personal life. It won?t kill you. 6. Send her a photo montage.Collect as many nostalgic pictures as you can and create a collage that you can email to her or post to Facebook.7. Volunteer together.There are surprising mental and physical benefits to volunteering, one of which is extending your life. So you could argue that it would be helping your mom live longer.8. Create an epic Spotify playlist.And perhaps have an even more epic dance party. Here are a couple to get you started.9. Pledge to finally quit that bad habit she hates.Ban texting and driving or biting your nails from your routine forever ? it will give her some peace of mind. 10. Plan a movie night.There are plenty of movies about motherhood, or keep it simple with one of your all-time favorite films. You may have to splurge for some popcorn. 11. Give her a homemade scrub.Most of the ingredients in these DIY scrubs are handy in your kitchen.12. Make her some IOU coupons.These coupons are easily printable and allow you to slowly pay her back for all the time she has spent taking care of you.13. Give her your copy of your favorite book.Write an inscription on the first few pages as to why she?d love it too.14. Hand over your Amazon Prime, Netflix, or HBO GO password. ...assuming you aren?t using your parents? account in the first place.15. Treat her to a Starbucks Frappuccino at happy hour.Frappuccinos are half off though May 10 ? so if you were heading that way, it?s essentially buy one, get one free. 16. Thank her for all that she?s done for you and kindly remind her that you love her.Enough said. Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    Rayne Frog Festival
    Hop on over to Rayne, Louisiana next weekend for a toad-ally fun and exciting time!The annual Rayne Frog Festival will be held Wednesday, May 11th through Saturday, May 14th at the Frog Festival Pavilion and Grounds in Rayne.What does the Frog Festival celebrate, exactly? It all began with the Weill brothers, who in the late 1800s started a lucrative business exporting frog legs to world renowned restaurants from New York to France. On all of their invoices they wrote: "Rayne, Louisiana, Frog Capital of the World".The frog leg industry experienced a sharp decline in the 1970s, but the people of Rayne were reluctant to lose the title of Frog Capital of the World. In response to the industry's decline, the first annual Rayne Frog Festival was held in 1973, preserving the town's recognition.Each year since then, Rayne has celebrated the impact of the frog leg industry on its town with a four day festival full of music, delicious foods and drinks, carnival rides, signature events such as frog racing and jumping, pageants, an arts and crafts show, and a Grand Parade.So join in on the celebration; you're in for an un-frog-ettable weekend!Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Tax Implications of Selling a Home
    Selling your home can be an exciting and challenging experience, particularly if you?re attempting to simultaneous settle on one house and purchase another.The numbers spinning through your head at this point include principal and interest payments, closing costs, down payment funds and moving costs. Unless you happen to be making this move right around April 15, when federal income taxes are on everyone?s mind, you may not have given much thought to taxes on the sale of your home. In most cases, that?s okay, because for the vast majority of people no taxes are due on a home sale.Taxes and Home SellersFederal tax law allows home sellers a tax exclusion on the capital gains from the sale as long as they meet certain criteria, the most important of which is that the home must be the primary residence for at least two of the previous five years. Single taxpayers can exclude a profit of up to $250,000, and married taxpayers who file joint returns can exclude a profit of up to $500,000.  You can use this exclusion more than once in your lifetime as long as you haven?t taken the exclusion within the past two years for another house.The Internal Revenue Service spells out certain circumstances in which you can take the exclusion on your profit, even if you don?t meet the two-year requirement. If you couldn?t live in the house because you?re divorced or your spouse died, or if you were deployed overseas by the military or by the U.S. Foreign Service, you may still be able to qualify for the full exclusion.A partial exclusion may be possible if you sold your house before two years of residency due to a job loss or transfer, illness or because of other unforeseen circumstances, such as a divorce or multiple births from a single pregnancy.Consult with a tax professional to determine your eligibility for the exclusion.Calculating Your Tax BillIf you?re certain that you?re not required to pay taxes on the sale of your home because you meet the exclusion eligibility requirements, then you aren?t required to report the sale of your home on your federal tax return.If you do have to pay taxes, you and your tax professional will need to calculate the adjusted basis of the house. The adjusted basis is the original price of your home, plus capital improvements, minus any depreciation. Capital improvements mean things like adding a deck or finishing a basement or remodeling your kitchen, not routine maintenance. Depreciation refers to tax credits you took such as for a home office, a first-time home buyer tax credit, or a credit for energy-efficient improvements.Your taxes will be based on the calculation of the sales price of the home, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. Some examples of deductible closing costs include the real estate broker?s commission, title insurance, legal fees, administrative costs and any inspection fees paid by you instead of the buyer. If you made any home improvements specifically in order to sell your home, such as new landscaping or repairs or replacing the carpet in some rooms, you can deduct those costs ? as long as you did them within 90 days before the sale.You may also be able to deduct moving costs from your tax bill if you?re moving at least 50 miles because of a job change.While these are potential tax implications of selling your home, you should always consult a tax professional to make sure you are meeting current IRS requirements.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Easy Chicken Enchilada Casserole
    Are you looking forward to celebrating Cinco de Mayo but just don't have enough time to throw a full-blown fiesta? Then I've found the perfect recipe for you! With only four ingredients, you can throw together the perfect Mexican dish - even the kids can follow the simple directions. If you'd like to add more ingredients or toppings, it's incredibly easy to customize! Serve this spicy, cheesy, sinfully delicious casserole with a side of chips and salsa or queso and pair it with a cool, crisp Rosé.  INGREDIENTS 1 14 oz jar or can enchilada sauce 2 to 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 6 corn tortillas, 6 inch each 2 chicken breastsINSTRUCTIONSCut each chicken breast in about 3 pieces so that it cooks faster and put it in a small pot. Pour enchilada sauce over it and cook covered on low to medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. Remove chicken from the pot and shred with two forks. Preheat oven to 375 °F. Start layering the casserole. Start with about ¼ cup of the leftover enchilada sauce over the bottom of a baking dish. Place 2 tortillas on the bottom, top with ? of the chicken and ? of the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with ? of the cheese and repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes uncovered, until bubbly and cheese has melted and started to brown on top. Serve warm.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival
    It's no surprise that Louisiana is by far the largest producer of crawfish in the United States.  In fact, the Crawfish Capital of the World is nestled right in the heart of Acadiana.  Breaux Bridge, Louisiana was given the title in 1959 by Governor Earl K. Long.  Each year since then, Breaux Bridge and all of Acadiana have celebrated the success of the crawfish industry in Louisiana at the Annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival!The festival is one of the biggest parties in Cajun Country, receiving around 30,000 attendees each year.  This year's installment will be held next weekend, May 6th through May 8th, and is expected to be a huge turnout as always.Can you guess what's on the menu?  That's right: crawfish, crawfish, and even more crawfish!  And it'll be available in every imaginable form - fried, boiled, in an étouffée, bisque, boudin, pie or jambalaya, and crawdogs, along with other Cajun favorites.  (Other foods will also be available, but who goes to the Crawfish Festival and doesn't eat crawfish?!)The annual crawfish eating contest will be held for those who have major appetites for the mudbugs.  If you'd rather not eat the crawfish, you can enter one in the crawfish race instead!  In addition to all the food is the crawfish étouffée cook-off, where contestants cook up their best étouffée recipes in hopes of winning the title of Cook-off Champion.  Patrons will be able to sample the entries after judging!There will be enough live and local music to go around all weekend, provided by 30 Cajun, Zydeco, and Swamp Pop band on three different stages.  So put on your dancing shoes, especially if you plan on competing in the Cajun and Zydeco dance contests!Kids of all ages will love experiencing the fun and exciting carnival rides and games, all safely enclosed in a fenced-in area.  A highlight of the weekend is the Festival Parade, honoring the festival royalty and featuring festive floats and energetic music performances.Be sure to check out all the arts and crafts booths for unique and creative items, ranging from clothing and accessories to wood work and furniture!  Official Crawfish Festival merchandise will also be available for purchase.If crawfish has a special place in your heart, you won't want to miss out on the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival, a weekend full of fun for the whole family!Visit the event's website for the full weekend schedule, lineup, and more general information.  Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    5 Tips to Secure a Successful Short Sale
    Short sales have become the only way out for some sellers who owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth. For struggling borrowers, it's a chance to avoid foreclosure.While helpful, short sales can be stressful, time-consuming and may lead to harsh consequences if not done properly.Many sellers think the biggest challenge they face in a short sale is persuading the lender to take a haircut and allow the property to sell for less than the mortgage balance. That's only the first step.Here are five tips you must know when short selling your home.Choose an agent experienced in short salesIf you needed heart surgery, would you put your life in the hands of a surgeon whose first surgery would be on you? Probably not.The same applies to your financial life. Hire a real estate agent experienced in short sales.Ads of real estate agents who claim to be short-sale specialists are widespread these days. But some of these agents have closed only a handful of short-sale deals. Many have taken short-sale courses and are certified in selling distressed properties. That's not enough; certifications help, but nothing counts more than experience.Interview agents, ask how many short sales they've closed and ask to talk to some of their clients.A short sale is a time-consuming transaction and can take months to close. You want an agent who will stay on top of the game until the deal is closed.Understand potential consequences of short saleUnderwater sellers are so anxious to get rid of their mortgage payments, they often don't think about what comes after the sale. Then, months or even years later, they receive a collection letter for the difference between what the house sold for and what was owed on the mortgage.Laws vary by state, but many states allow lenders to go after that balance once a short sale or foreclosure is completed. That's why it's crucial for borrowers to understand whether the lender agrees to waive the deficiency, or the balance that will be left on the loan after the sale. This needs to be discussed verbally and represented in documents. It shouldn't come as a surprise.One way to avoid a deficiency judgment is to do the short sale through the Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives program, or HAFA. Lenders who approve short sales through this federal program have to release the borrower from a potential deficiency judgment.Lenders are not obligated to approve HAFA short sales. They may choose to do the short sale based on their own internal rules and the guidelines set by loan investors. In that case, it's really up to the lender to decide whether it will pursue the deficiency against the borrower.You can negotiate your way out of deficiencyWhen negotiating a short sale, many lenders don't voluntarily offer to release you of liability on the remaining balance of your loan - at least not for free. But you can ask to negotiate a waiver.Some lenders may ask you to sign a promissory note for at least a small portion of the balance, usually cents on the dollar, or they may ask for a lump sum. Sellers often are outraged when first presented this settlement offer; they sometimes forget they actually borrowed that money.In many cases, it is usually worth paying upfront to avoid future headaches. There is a price attached to the waiver of deficiency, but most of them are very tiny.Talk to an attorneyReal estate agents who are experienced in short sales can coordinate the transaction with the bank and tell you what to expect of the process, but remember they are not lawyers.Most of the people who do short sales are doing it through the Realtors or people who claim to be short-sales specialists. But there are many issues that borrowers need to discuss that cannot be discussed with a short-sale specialist.Those issues range from potential tax implications to protecting other assets the borrower may own if the lender tries to collect the balance of the loan in the future.If you don't understand the contract you are signing or the potential consequences of a short sale, you should consult with a lawyer.Keep up with HOA paymentsIf you are thinking about short selling your home, don't stop paying your homeowners association dues. The fees can turn into a snowball and kill the sale, even if the buyer is willing to pay for the delinquent dues at closing.In short sales, there are a few problems that money cannot fix. In a regular sale or even with foreclosures, the seller or the bank pays any past dues owed to the HOA at closing so the buyer gets clear title of the property. But in a short sale, the seller's lender wants to get every penny out of the transaction.Plus, you want to make sure the association is able to maintain the common areas so your house is sellable. A short-sale property needs to be maintained. The power needs to be on; the grass needs to be cut. You don't want your home to look like a foreclosure.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    How to Manage Startup Programs in Windows 10
    When you start your computer, Windows isn't the only program that loads. For instance, you may have noticed icons in the notification area (also known as the system tray) in the far-right portion of the taskbar. These icons often represent programs that start when the system starts. You also may have seen certain programs, such as software for syncing your phone or MP3 player, launching themselves along with Windows. Additionally, some applications begin running silently in the background every time you boot the PC.All of these automatically opening programs consume system memory, and can drag down performance. Fortunately, managing startup programs isn't difficult; by taking a few steps, you can find out what is running on your computer and disable the items you don't need.Method 1: Configure a Program DirectlyIf you've noticed a program starting automatically, and you want the behavior to stop, sometimes the easiest solution is to explore the program's settings directly.1. Open the program.2. Find the settings panel. Typically it will be available under a menu labeled Settings, Preferences, Options, or Tools.3. Find the option to disable the program from running at startup. The language for this type of option varies, but it should be easy to find if it exists.When you restart the computer, the program will no longer launch. You'll still be able to start it manually, so don't be deterred if the application asks you if you are sure you want to disable its automatic startup.Method 2: Use the Task ManagerThe Task Manager is a useful tool for understanding and controlling startup programs.1. Open the Task Manager by searching task manager in the search bar, right-clicking on the taskbar and selecting Task Manager, or holding Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard.3. Click the Startup tab. You'll see a list of programs that start when your computer starts.4. To stop a program from automatically launching when you boot the PC, right-click on the program and click disable, or click the disable button at the bottom of the window.5. Restart your computer to put any changes you've made into effect. You aren't required to restart your computer immediately, but no changes will be observed until you do.You may find that once you've disabled certain programs from opening at startup, your computer may startup significantly faster, depending on how many programs have been disabled.Warning: Use caution when disabling items in Task Manager. Many entries have names that aren't self-explanatory. Research each entry before disabling it; use the Web to search for the name of the entry, and to get an idea of its function. Without doing your homework, you could end up disabling an important application such as your antivirus program.Conversely, if you would like a particular program or set of programs to run at startup, simply follow the same directions as above, instead enabling the program to run at startup.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Spicy Shrimp and Grits Casserole
    As far as Southern comfort foods go, shrimp and grits is one of my favorites. That's why when I came across this spicy shrimp and grits casserole, I knew I had to share it! This recipe takes about 20 minutes of active cooking time, and the rest is done by the oven. If you're looking ahead to a super busy week, it can also be made ahead of time; it's even freezer-friendly!I hope you enjoy this spicy, cheesy, delicious shrimp and grits casserole as much as I did. Pair it with a glass of champagne.INGREDIENTS 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish 1 bunch scallions, chopped 1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained 2 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats (not instant) salt and pepper, to taste 12 ounces large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cooked 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled 1 large egg, beaten 1 1/4 cups shredded Gouda cheese, divided INSTRUCTIONS Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish. Set aside. Heat butter over medium-high heat. Add the scallion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Reduce heat to medium, cook 4-5 minutes or until beginning to soften. Stir in garlic, died tomatoes with chiles, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Slowly stir in grits. Stir continuously until mixture returns to a boil Reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in shrimp, bacon, egg, and 1 cup cheese. Transfer to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and bubbling. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News Thank you     

    How to Bounce Back From Failure
    Rejection is rough, no matter how you slice it. But it?s also an inescapable fact of life, and our ability to deal with failure and rejection has a hand in determining how successful and happy we are.Happiness isn?t the opposite of depression ? resilience is. Think of the people you most admire ? many of them didn?t get where they are just by sailing through life without any negative experiences or failures. Most of them distinguished themselves by their ability to get right back up every time they fall, a truism reflected in countless inspirational quotations on the power of perseverance. So how do resilient people differ from those who become paralyzed by every failure and setback?Here are seven habits of highly resilient people ? and ways that you can improve your own ability to cope with challenges.They fully experience both positive and negative emotions. Building resilience isn?t about blind optimism. Rather than looking only on the bright side and pushing away negative emotions, resilient people let themselves experience what they?re feeling in any given situation, whether it?s good or bad.The resilient person isn?t papering over the negative emotions, but instead letting them sit side by side with other feelings. So at the same time they?re feeling ?I?m sad about that,? they?re also prone to thinking, ?but I?m grateful about this.They?re realistically optimistic. Adopting an attitude of ?realistic optimism,? which combines the positive outlook of optimists with the critical thinking of pessimists, can boost happiness and resilience. Every time realistic optimists face an issue or a challenge or a problem, they won?t say ?I have no choice and this is the only thing I can do. They will be creative; they will have a plan A, plan B and plan C.They ?reject rejection.? Rejection chips away at our self-esteem and confidence, making us fall harder with each subsequent setback or failure. Rejection also steals our joy.But rejection is inevitable, and coping with it effectively is essential to becoming resilient. Choosing to reject rejection can ensure that you don?t become a prisoner of your own thoughts.It?s important to understand that everyone is in a different ?space? and, in some cases, no matter what you say or do, they will always reject you or your ideas. Taking this mindset helps you to not take the rejection personally.They build strong support systems. When you get knocked down hard, it?s important to have the resources to help you get back up again, which includes having people to lean on. Social support can actually boost resilience to stress.They notice (and appreciate) the little, positive things. Resilient people are good at tapping into their ?positivity ratio". This means that they notice and appreciate the little joys and victories ? which keeps them from feeling like ?everything? is going wrong. A three-to-one ratio of positive to negative experiences is ideal for building resilience and boosting happiness.They seek out opportunities for growth and learning. Resilient people seek out growth experiences that boost self-reliance and individual decision-making skills, which gives them confidence in their ability to bounce back from failure.As a sense of competence increases, individuals are better able to respond effectively in unfamiliar or challenging situations and persevere in the face of failures and challenges.Those who have mastered the art of resilience know that setbacks and challenges can be our most powerful learning opportunities. Some of the world?s most successful people have been fired from their jobs, and used the experience to learn something about themselves.They?re endlessly grateful. Gratitude is known to boost health and well-being ? and those who are thankful may enjoy better physical health and mood than those who focus on hassles and complaints.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Rice and Gravy Cook-Off
    If you grew up in South Louisiana, rice and gravy was (and still is) a popular dish. The simplicity of rice and gravy is what has always made it the perfect go-to dinner: savory gravy made from meat, poultry, or seafood poured atop a plate of steaming white rice. That's all it takes to satisfy a Cajun's appetite!If thinking about rice and gravy is making you hungry, you're in luck.  The Breaux Bridge Lions Club is hosting its annual Rice and Gravy Cookoff TODAY!  Locals have registered to put their rice and gravy to the test and are currently cooking up big batches for all attendees to sample from now until 6 PM.Head over to Parc du Pont in Breaux Bridge for all-you-can-eat rice and gravy and live music provided by Les Bons Sons, Nickeo's Crustacean's Band, and Brenda C & the Cajun Jammers.  There are also fun activities for the kids!  Tickets are $5 per entry.  The winners of each cookoff category (meat, poultry, and seafood) will be announced at 4 PM!Breaux Bridge Lions Club is part of a global service organization network whose mission is to provide community service and improve the lives of local youths, needy, and disabled.  Learn more about the organization here.Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

    Happy Earth Day!
    Today is Earth Day, a holiday dedicated to honoring the Earth and the concept of worldwide peace. Our world is big, blue, and beautiful - and it's the only one we have. If we all work together to respect and care for the Earth, we can achieve amazing things and leave our future generations with a healthier, more beautiful home.How do you celebrate Earth Day? Do you plant a tree? Make an extra effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Check out these fun and simple ways to celebrate Earth Day. Just imagine: if every person on the planet did just one of these activities, the Earth would instantly become a bit cleaner and a bit healthier.And remember that for us, every day is Earth Day, if you think about it. Don't limit your efforts to just one day - the more we practice sustainability, the better off our Earth will be!"Joyful joyful we adore our Earth in all its wondermentSimple gifts of nature that all join into a paradiseNow we must resolve to protect herShow her our love throughout all timeWith our gentle hand and touchWe make our home a newborn world"Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate NewsThank you     

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