Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Making a career move? Consider the insurance field

(BPT) - Looking to start your career or change your current one? As you contemplate your next career move, there's one industry that might not be on your radar: insurance.

"The insurance industry usually isn't what people think of when they're planning their careers or considering totally different jobs," says Charles Valinotti, Head of Underwriting & Product with insurer QBE. "In fact, most people who work in the insurance field will tell you they fell into it by accident."

Falling into an insurance career can be a good thing, according to CareerCast's Jobs Rated Report. Of 200 jobs, actuary ranked No. 1 as the best job of the year. An actuary works for insurance companies and other businesses that manage financial risk. Actuaries use statistics and study uncertain future events - such as accidents and property loss from natural disasters - to set insurance premiums and reserves for paying claims.

Two other insurance jobs ranked among the top 100. Underwriter landed in the 74th position, and insurance agent 78th.

CareerCast's job ratings are based on factors including income and income growth potential, hiring outlook and physical demands.

Actuaries, underwriters and agents aren't the only insurance industry jobs available to those exploring employment opportunities. "We take great people and give them great careers," Valinotti says. "In addition to providing training and professional development, we help open doors and challenge people. No other industry does it as well."

Insurance companies see the possibilities in all job candidates, he says, regardless of their education level, college major or experience.

"We look for smart people who show they can learn," Valinotti says. "Those who are articulate, adaptable and good communicators would fit well in the insurance field."

Insurance has long battled the perception that its jobs are boring or focused solely on sales and claims. Not so, says Valinotti. For example:

Jobs from A to Z - Many college degrees and skills lend themselves well to an insurance career. Your degree in finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, law, IT - even forestry - can land you a challenging position in the insurance field. In addition, job experience and special skills - such as chef, pilot and animal lover - can go a long way in supporting insurance customers' businesses that include restaurants, airports and pet stores.

A plethora of career paths - Once people have insurance experience under their belts, the sky's the limit for jumping into other careers the industry has to offer. Valinotti says many insurance employees get their feet wet, then move into other positions to become adjusters, field investigators, product marketers, project managers and loss control consultants. "There are hundreds of different job titles and responsibilities in insurance," he says. "Most people have no idea what's available."

Internships - Even if you don't see yourself in an insurance career, an insurance-related internship is a great way to try out the industry, use your skills and gain exposure to different business experiences. The knowledge you gain might land you in a career you wouldn't have otherwise considered.

And, along with its wide array of career possibilities, the insurance industry provides something many others do not - stability. "The need for insurance is not going away. People continue to have lives and property and they have to protect it," Valinotti says. "A career in insurance allows you to help people when they need it most."

Courtesy of BPT

Beyond white: Hot color trends for the kitchen and bath

(BPT) - So many of us love the rich colors featured in kitchen and bath magazines, but when it comes to selecting colors for our own homes, we tend to play it safe. It's time to be bold and get out of the color comfort zone. Whether it's a vibrant backsplash, playful shade on the wall, or a new sink color that pops with personality, today's hot color trends are anything but boring.

Consider these top five color trends for kitchen and bath spaces:

1. Gray reigns king

The NKBA Trends Report names gray the coveted color of the year. According to the report, use of gray color schemes in both kitchens and baths has dramatically increased, particularly over the past year. The hue is currently used in 55 percent of kitchens and 56 percent of bathrooms.

"I regularly work gray into my projects because it instantly elevates the design and adds depth to the palette," says senior interior designer Travis Rotelli, who works at the Kohler Design Center in Kohler, Wis. "I love incorporating it with Kohler enameled cast iron sink - there are five different shades of gray to choose from, which makes it easy to find one to complement the other colors in the space and then echo that shade through the backsplash tile or paint color."

2. Bold and beautiful hues

Neutrals are classic, but pops of strategically placed color add life to kitchen and baths. "Emerald and varying shades of green are hot pops of colors, and the color will be all about cobalt," states Rotelli. While he says "it" hues are fun, he encourages homeowners to identify colors they personally enjoy. "We all have one color we're always drawn to; the one that repeats in our wardrobes and home decor. That is the color to use as an accent in the kitchen or bath. Color trends come and go, but one that resonates with your design aesthetic and reflects you as an individual you'll always love," Rotelli says.

3. Evolve from white

Neutral no longer simply means white. Homeowners are eagerly embracing other colors in place of white, like Dune from Kohler, available for sinks, baths, shower bases and toilets. "Dune is a subtle balance of beige and gray that brings a cool tone to the space - a true neutral that works well in place of white and adds a nuance of sophistication to the room's color palette," says Rotelli.

4. Colors that evoke emotion

"Color psychology is a powerful thing," Rotelli says; restaurants use appetizing hues to stimulate hunger, and stores harness its influence in hopes that you'll shop more. "Certain colors can evoke certain emotions throughout the home, as well." Homeowners who keep the emotional aspect of color in mind during the design process reap the reward of a truly personalized space. "Blues and greens are popular bathroom choices for good reason: both evoke a soothing sense of calm and healing." When it comes to kitchens, Rotelli says people are often drawn to colors from their past, because it evokes fond memories from their childhood.

5. Unexpected color

When it comes to color, sometimes you need to break the rules. Some of the best kitchen and bath designs incorporate color in unexpected ways. Remodeling projects provide the perfect opportunity to incorporate color beyond a fresh coat of paint or new window treatments. "Glass tile in kitchens or baths make it easy to introduce new color and texture," Rotelli says. For those looking to create a more cultivated color scheme and palette, he also suggests thinking outside the box by considering a new faucet finish or incorporating new materials, such as metal. "I always encourage clients to have a little fun in the bathroom, and the sink provides a perfect opportunity, whether it's a cast iron sink in a bright color, or a vessel sink that serves as functional art and a focal point for the space."

If you're ready for color, but still feel a little unsure, Rotelli has one final piece of advice: "When you do select a color, bring samples, swatches and chips home. Let them sit in the space and observe them at different times of the day. Materials can look much different in your home than how they appear under the bright lights of a showroom," he says.

Courtesy of BPT

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Baby boomers - More active than ever with no plans of slowing down

Baby%20boomers%20-%20More%20active%20than%20ever%20with%20no%20plans%20of%20slowing%20down Baby boomers are emerging as one of the largest generations, and nearly 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 years old every single day over the next 19 years. As a generation that refuses to compromise, baby boomers are reshaping everyone's view of aging because they are living healthier, more active lifestyles and have no intention of slowing down.

Despite their active lifestyles, many baby boomers and non-boomers alike live with bladder control issues - also known as incontinence - a common condition affecting approximately 56 million Americans. It is a condition that can take away one's sense of normalcy, cause embarrassment and diminish confidence. Bladder control issues are caused by a variety of circumstances, including weak bladder muscles, pregnancy and childbirth in women, complications from surgery or serious conditions like strokes and prostate cancer in men.

Recognizing that people want incontinence products that are discreet and help them live their life to the fullest, the Depend brand has launched the new Real Fit for Men and Silhouette for Women absorbent briefs. These new Depend products look, fit and feel just like real underwear while featuring a sleek, ultra smooth fit.

The Depend brand is inviting people across the country to try the new Real Fit for Men and Silhouette for Women briefs through "The Great American Try On" challenge. Men and women can experience the new products for themselves and just see how great the fit really is. Popular celebrities and athletes have even joined "The Great American Try On" challenge for a good cause.

Actress Lisa Rinna, supported by her husband Harry Hamlin, wore the new Silhouette for Women briefs to show that you can wear the clothes you love and feel confident while wearing the briefs. Pro football stars Clay Matthews, Wes Welker and DeMarcus Ware wore the new Real Fit for Men briefs to prove to men that they can maintain their active lifestyle. For their participation, the Depend brand made donations to both Dress for Success Worldwide and The V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Learn more about "The Great American Try On" challenge by visiting www.TheGreatAmericanTryOn.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Educate yourself before starting the path to a new career

Educate%20yourself%20before%20starting%20the%20path%20to%20a%20new%20career If you're looking to start a career - whether it's because you're just beginning your journey as a working adult or because you're ready for a change in life - you should know that the process is much larger than just getting a degree and looking for a job.

A career involves knowing your interests in a particular industry or area, knowing what to expect as far as compensation and responsibility and researching what tools and knowledge you will need to be an asset for companies in that industry. It's wise to begin your pursuit by educating yourself on what careers are in demand and what skills you need to enter those careers.

"Job seekers and students seeking a degree to build their skills need to take control of their careers," says Abby Kohut, a human resources executive, recruiter and author of "Absolutely Abby's 101 Job Search Secrets." "They need to understand the connection between their education and a meaningful career by becoming more informed about where their interests lie, what jobs are in demand and what education is needed to gain the skills that today's employers demand."

Here are few simple steps that can help get you started:

1. Understand your interests - Some colleges and universities offer prospective and current students complimentary self-assessment options to help determine careers that fit their interests. For example, University of Phoenix offers Phoenix Career Services, a comprehensive suite of tools and services specifically designed to help prospective and current students make informed decisions regarding their career paths and educational needs. And the Career Interest Profiler helps students to identify professional interests in several areas, allowing them to plan ahead for paths of study.

2. Understand employer needs - Knowing what jobs will keep your interest going strong is a good start, but it's also important to learn what employers need from workers in that field so you can take the right college courses and learn the appropriate skills. You also should learn what jobs are in demand in your field of interest, so you can assess whether your career of choice offers room to enter and grow. University of Phoenix's Job Market Research Tool helps potential and existing students learn the demand and typical salary information in the current market.

3. Understand educational needs - Starting a new career often involves the need to return to school for a new degree so you can be more competitive when entering the job market. My Career Plan is a personalized roadmap that University of Phoenix students incorporate into their academic journey so they are developing the competencies that employers are seeking in the workforce today. And career preparation tools provide students with resume, cover letter and interview development services so they can put the best foot forward while job searching.

4. Understand your financial responsibilities - Schools will provide information on financial obligations and options, helping potential students determine if starting or going back to school is a viable option at the moment. Having a clear picture of the total cost and anticipated timing for paying off a college expense can help you set a budget as you pursue your new career goals. University of Phoenix, for instance, offers a complimentary Financial Plan designed to help prospective students estimate tuition and fees for their entire degree program and build a personal plan for how they will pay for it.

A new career is an exciting opportunity, and can provide a new look on life from income to social connections and even where you live. Just be sure to educate yourself before you jump into schooling so you can prepare yourself for the perfect career.

Courtesy of BPT

Simple water-saving tips can have a big impact on your wallet

The average household spends as much as $500 per year on its water and sewer bill, but by making just a few simple changes to use water more efficiently, you could save approximately $170 per year and help the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

From replacing inefficient appliances, to taking small steps at home to eliminate water waste, you can make a huge dent in your water usage and save some cash. Here are some easy tips to follow:

Bathroom blunders

Did you know toilets are the single largest water-user in a home? A leaky toilet can waste 200 gallons of water per day, and it is estimated that nearly 20 percent of all toilets leak, reports the EPA. Slow leaks can go undetected for years, but there is an easy way to check yours at home.

Start by adding a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If you have a leak, you'll start to see that color come through in the bowl within 15 minutes. Flush immediately after you're done so you don't stain the porcelain. If you can't fix the leak, consider purchasing a high-efficient toilet like the Kohler Persuade two-piece toilet.

What makes this toilet so efficient is Dual Flush technology, which includes a 1.6-gallon flush and an eco-friendly .8-gallon flush option. The Persuade toilet can save as much as 6,000 gallons of water annually over a traditional 1.6-gallon toilet.

Kitchen conundrums

Have a leaky faucet in your kitchen? According to the EPA, a drip rate of just one drip per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water per year. So even if it seems like a small leak, it could be costing you big time. Many faucets can be easily tightened and fixed to eliminate leaks - otherwise, consider installing a new WaterSense-labeled faucet.

Dishwashers can be another huge water drain. Remember to only run loads when the dishwasher is full, or invest in a dishwasher with a half-load cycle option, like most of the new Bosch dishwashers. Use this cycle or the express wash when washing small, lightly soiled loads. The auto wash programs use sensors to dramatically reduce energy and water consumption every time.

Lawn leaks

Having a green, lush yard is something to be proud of, but if you're not watering the smart way, you could be letting your money evaporate into thin air. The average single-family suburban home uses at least 30 percent of its water for outdoor irrigation and as much as 70 percent in dry climates.

If you want an efficient home, consider some smart-watering techniques. Start by only watering your lawn or garden during cool morning hours to reduce evaporation. If you use a sprinkler, make sure it's positioned correctly and not watering the street or driveway.

If you do plant a garden, only select plants appropriate for your region's climate. Native plants can be a great option because they often require little additional water since they grow naturally in your area. Group plants together based on their water needs.

For more smart tips about reducing water waste in your home, visit www.lowes.com/efficienthome . Remember that saving water can be easy, and you're sure to love the extra savings in your wallet too.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

On the move? Use these packing tips and tricks

(BPT) - Let's face it - moving is hard. Along with the stress of leaving a familiar place and adapting to new surroundings, moving means packing, loading, transporting, unloading and unpacking everything you own - as well as everything you forgot you owned.

While relocation may never be completely carefree, there are ways to ease the anxiety. A well-thought-out approach to boxing up belongings can help simplify the moving process and bring you one step closer to making your new house a home.

* Box it up. To be prepared for packing, seek out a large quantity of clean, sturdy containers in a variety of shapes and sizes. When selecting boxes, you may choose to purchase new ones, helping to ensure they can withstand the rigors of moving. You can also purchase dividers, which come in handy for packing glasses and other small, fragile items. No matter what you are using, remember not to over-pack. As a general rule, heavier items should be placed into smaller boxes to avoid too much strain on the box (and your back).

* Leave it. The easiest packing is no packing at all. Moving is the perfect time to clear the clutter out of your life. Before boxing up your belongings, decide what to keep. Clothing and housewares in good shape can be donated, and broken or unused old items can be tossed or given to someone who can repurpose them.

* Mind the supplies. The right tools can go a long way toward easing the moving process. Pick up plenty of quality wrapping material, like Bubble Wrap Brand cushioning, as well as strong packaging tape to help make boxing up your belongings a painless process. Don't get caught up in common frustrations that cause stress and waste time, such as tape that constantly tear or splits or struggling to find the tape end. Choose a quality tape, like Duck brand EZ Start packaging tape (packagingtape.com), for your moving needs; the brand's Frustration Free special release technology ensures that you never lose the tape end. And EZ Start unrolls smoothly and easily, without splitting or tearing.

* Organize and prioritize. Pack from room to room and label boxes based on box contents, where boxes will be unpacked in the new location and priority. EZ Start packaging tape provides a solution here, too - with different prints to choose from, boxes can be organized and prioritized according to the particular design used.

* Get help. Be organized to help the entire moving day run smoothly, so that your volunteers aren't waiting around for a job to do. Providing tasty snacks and drinks is a thoughtful way to say thank you, as are gift cards for coffee, movie theaters or their favorite stores.

* Pack a survival kit. Moving can be exhausting, and an all-day move may not wrap up until late in the evening. Don't spend your first night in your new home unpacking. Instead, pack a survival kit or an "Open Me First" box with essentials to get you through that first night. Make sure to include some fun items, such as your favorite movie or a batch of brownies, to reward yourself for a hard day's work.

Moving day may never rival a beach vacation, but these simple tips can make it a lot less stressful and help you enjoy your new home faster and easier.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

River cruising: An easy way to explore and experience Europe

(BPT) - Europe is a popular destination for international travelers looking to visit the world's great capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam and Prague; to experience European culture; and to explore charming small towns. But planning a European trip can be daunting because it involves a lot of research to decide where to go, how to get there, and what to see. River cruising offers an excellent solution to this travel challenge for these reasons:

* See Europe's great cities: Many of Europe's greatest cities such as Budapest, Paris, Vienna and Prague developed along the rivers because of the easy means of transportation and trade, as well as access to fresh water. That's why river cruises can easily access so many of Europe's cosmopolitan cities, and even quaint towns and villages which developed along the river banks. Sleek, intimate ships hosting only about 200 passengers are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, and often can dock right in the heart of town so passengers can walk right off and start exploring.

* Immerse in the culture: In addition to being able to explore a new city each day of the cruise, river cruising allows travelers to develop a deep understanding of the cultures they explore. For example, Viking Cruises - the largest river cruise line - has launched 10 new river cruise ships this year alone and includes a "Cultural Curriculum" on all itineraries. This Culture Curriculum offers passengers language lessons, demonstrations of regional cooking and crafts, visits to local marketplaces and privileged access to cultural treasures. Whether privately touring the ancestral home of Prague's Prince Lobkowicz, or providing guided tours with the best English-speaking local guides, Viking Cruises offers many ways to get up close with local culture on their cruises.

* Explore alone or with a knowledgeable guide: River cruise travelers have the option to explore destinations on their own or with a local guide on a group tour. This flexibility gives passengers a chance to experience the local culture as they wish. For travelers with specific interests, Viking Cruises offers a complimentary concierge to help connect travelers with local treasures like a decadent chocolatier or reservations at local restaurants.

* Pack and unpack just once but see multiple destinations: River cruising gives passengers the freedom to travel without the hassle of changing hotels, packing and unpacking multiple times, or finding transportation. These smooth-sailing cruises are the fastest-growing travel segment also because the views along the river are ever-changing, providing a relaxing and highly scenic way to travel, and there's never any seasickness as can happen on an ocean cruise.

Because river cruising creates so many opportunities to visit different destinations on a relaxing, scenic vacation, it's easy to understand why these cruises are growing in popularity. Start planning your river cruise today and begin daydreaming about all the sites you're going to see and different cultures you can experience.

Courtesy of BPT

How do you get people to come to your party? It's all in the invitations

How%20to%20get%20people%20to%20come%20to%20your%20party It's a story that's been told a thousand times. You're throwing a reception and need to purchase some generic invitations, but you've passed the six week mark. Ms. Emily Post recommends to send them in the mail to your potential guests. Once inside your nearest invitations retail location, you browse the aisles and get a sinking feeling when you realize that nothing truly fits your needs and you're too late to customize something.
Or, perhaps you are a business owner seeking to retain your patrons by hosting a series of events and private parties to show appreciation for their business. You also have very limited time to dedicate to the creation of an invitation from the ground up, but you'd like to have something tangible to send to your customers.
Here are some tips for meeting your invitation needs:
* When designing your invitation, first and foremost, you want to ensure that your guests have a clear understanding of when and where the event will be. It's imperative that you allow enough time in your party planning to give those invited plenty of time to respond and reserve space in their calendars. If you find the date of your event quickly creeping up and you haven't finalized anything aside from the date itself, a save-the-date may be a good option for you. It serves as a courtesy by notifying guests to reserve the day, and lets them know more details will follow.
* If you are hosting your event in a remote location, be sure to include directions and look into getting a group discount on hotel accommodations for out-of-town visitors. Integrating this information into the invitation will assist attendees in making the ultimate decision as to whether or not to attend your event. Additionally, when giving the location, state whether it's outside or inside so guests can plan their attire. If you plan on holding your event on a boat, airplane or other vehicle, provide ample notice to your attendees. You should also feature the reason you're hosting the event prominently on the invitation itself. For instance, if you're hosting a gala to celebrate the election of a new president for your company, then attendees will know it's more formal than a birthday party for a child.
* The design, color and paper quality selection also play an integral role in grabbing your invitees' attention and getting them to commit to attend. This is why it is so important to take advantage of an invitation vendor who can accommodate your customization needs, with styles available in full color, in a matte, glossy or even linen finish and matching envelopes to complement your masterpiece. Be sure to include a way for your guests to RSVP. A low-cost option is to provide a phone number or email address where guests can leave their responses. If you want to be slightly more formal, include a response card with a pre-printed, postage-paid return address envelope with your invitations.
* Finally, it's important to remember to stamp those invitations and RSVP envelopes. Otherwise, the chances of you getting RSVPs will be slim to none. Following these simple tips will help you create the perfect invitation for your next big event.

Courtesy of BPT

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Before 2014, Find Your WHY

At a recent Chamber of Commerce event, a fellow board member was raving about a new book he was reading. He said it was one of those books that “haunts” you. I knew exactly what he meant. There are several books that hold that distinction in my library. The book he described was, Start with Why by Stuart Sinek. Since I read it, it has transformed my perspective…it influences many of my decisions, it will appear out of no where, it quietly reminds…it haunts.

Jim Collins Good to Great and Built to Last are 2 books that compare similar companies in the same industries. Collins looks at why some companies have success while other achieve greatness. Similarly, Start with Why compares several companies/leaders to their peers: Wright Brothers, Apple, Martin Luther King, and Southwest Airlines. These amazing innovators/leaders/companies all had something in common. They had a strong WHY.

He uses the example of Apple versus Dell. Companies understand WHAT they do. On the surface, Apple and Dell make computer electronics. Additionally, they understand HOW they do it. They have employees, factories, supply chains, distribution points and marketing. They also have the same access to talent and resources.

So….WHY do customers line up days in advance to get the latest iPhone? WHY are people more intrigued by the Apple Keynotes than the State of the Union? Conversely, WHY can’t you name Dell’s latest MP3? WHY wouldn’t you book an appointment weeks in advance to visit a Dell Store?

Many times, we assume that there is some inherent market advantage that leads to a company becoming great.

Assumption 1: First to market

Assumption 2: Technological/Talent advantage

Assumption 3: Price advantage

Assumption 4: Service advantage

Apple has/had none of these. 1. Most of their successful products were already available in the marketplace. 2. Most of the technology was already available. 3. Apple is very expensive and isn’t known for their Door Buster Deals. 4. You have to book an appointment sometimes weeks in advance to “visit” a store.

So…WHY are companies/leaders/ideas like Southwest, Martin Luther King, Apple and the Wright Brothers the first names in their fields? They were able to harness the power of WHY. Martin Luther King didn’t have a Strategic Plan, he had a DREAM. The Wright Brothers put together a team that wanted to achieve flight while their much more talented counter parts were busy in-fighting over who would take the fame and glory. Southwest Airlines became an employee first company and revolutionized the industry, while others (TED, iJet) have tried and failed to copy.

The Golden Triangle is an important structure in companies that understand their WHY. In the Golden Triangle, you start with the WHY (instead of What or How). Why is an emotional questions. Physiologically, the core of decisions are made emotionally. For instance, think of some of the biggest “life” decisions you have made. There is a lot of emotion that went into that decision. Yes you can rationalize the decision with logic, however logic is powerless without emotion. (We make decision with emotion, then rationalize with logic. Not the other way around)
Your WHY is embedded in emotion. It is a feeling. When you have a strong attachment and understanding of that feeling, the what and how become easy. At RE/MAX Realty Centre, our why is “To Improve the Lives of Our Associates”. Every decision, addition, change is hammered out against the anvil we call our WHY.

This time of the year, many business start looking forward to business planning for 2014. I would encourage you to add a special goal for the new year. Find your WHY.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five steps to create a customized outdoor living space with railing

(BPT) - Railing can upgrade any deck from drab to fab - adding style, as well as safety and support. In fact, it's often the one element that truly sets your outdoor living space apart from others in the neighborhood. Here are five steps to create the perfect perimeter for your deck.

1. Find ideas at your fingertips - From contemporary to classic, you can choose from a multitude of modular railing options in a variety of colors and materials to give your outdoor living space a dose of personality. Use the new Railing Configurator on the Trex Color Visualizer iPad app to experiment with more than 1,200 design combinations. Available for free in the Apple iTunes store, the app allows you to virtually mix and match posts, caps, rails and balusters, as well as change the backdrop to emulate your own outdoor living environment. Save images of your favorite designs and automatically generate a list of materials to make the purchase process easier.

2. Select low maintenance materials - When choosing railing, demand the same durability and high performance that you expect from your decking, so that you'll be able to spend more time relaxing on (rather than maintaining) your outdoor living space. Unlike wood, composite railing won't warp, rot or splinter and never needs sanding, staining or painting - even after years of exposure to the elements. In fact, it washes clean with only soap and water.- -

3. Preserve a picturesque view - Whether your deck looks out over a tranquil lake, a dramatic mountain range or just a meticulously landscaped backyard, the proper railing makes it possible to fully enjoy your vantage point. With its sleek and unobtrusive appearance, Trex Reveal Aluminum Railing maximizes scenic views by spanning long lengths for panoramic sightlines. Available in three neutral colors - charcoal black, bronze and classic white - Trex Reveal can be customized to suit the taste of any homeowner with two baluster options (square and round) and two post choices (aluminum and composite).

-"In addition to highlighting the beauty of your outdoor surroundings, aluminum railing offers unparalleled strength and features a powder coating that resists corrosion and color fading," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex, the world's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing. "For ultimate peace of mind, Trex Reveal is also backed by a 25-year limited warranty." For more outdoor living tips and ideas, visit www.trex.com.

4. Look to regional style trends - While personal taste is the biggest influencer when selecting railing for an outdoor living space, many homeowners look to the architectural styles of their particular regions for inspiration. For instance, on the East Coast, traditional colonial style balusters and crown profile railings remain most popular. However, West Coast homeowners tend to prefer sleek and streamlined railing components - including handrails and bottom rails with more contemporary beveled shapes. To learn about trends specific to your area, flip through a locally published home improvement or home decor magazine.--

5. Lighten up - Enhance the beauty of your railing and lengthen the time you can spend enjoying your deck with outdoor lighting that may be installed on rails and post caps. Not only will lighting set the mood for evening cocktail parties and al fresco dinners, but it also will add safety and security. Consider LED dimmable options to maximize energy efficiency.

Courtesy of BPT

Monday, November 18, 2013

RE/MAX Realty Centre v. the Competition

With over 37% growth in 2013 over last year, RE/MAX Realty Centre continues to prove why clients, customers, and the top agents in the industry are attracted to the company. If you want to put the power of RE/MAX Realty Centre please visit us at www.Realty-MD.com.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The do's and don'ts to selling your products online

(BPT) - Many small business owners are hopeful that offering their products online will increase their bottom line. But the digital marketplace is increasingly crowded and it can be hard to stand out from the pack. The good news is that being a small business can actually give you an edge over bigger brands - if you know how to use your size to your advantage. Here are the do's and don'ts you need to take your business to the next level:

Don't build your own online shopping platform. While you may believe that having your own website will attract new shoppers, website development and maintenance is expensive and time consuming. Unless your brand already has the visibility needed to attract consumers without advertising or marketing, traffic to the site will be hard to generate.

Don't expect your products to sell on a large online marketplace. While big online marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay, attract a high volume of online shoppers, unless customers are searching specifically for your brand or chance across your products via search, they will likely never see your products.

Do partner with a retail platform that can help you engage with your customers. OpenSky.com is a new and free social shopping marketplace dedicated to building the businesses of small merchants. OpenSky.com will provide you with your own customized online store, a new business toolkit including tips and support, and a built-in community of more than 2.5 million engaged social shoppers, enabling you to foster one-on-one connections and market your goods directly to them. Because they're already pre-disposed to shop, a follower of your brand on OpenSky is 27 times more likely to buy than a Facebook fan. These engaged followers lead to more sales with less cost to you. Best of all? It's incredibly easy. To begin, visit www.OpenSky.com/marketplace to learn more and join this fast-growing network of brands and customers.

Do market your products in a one-of-a-kind way. Create eye-catching content, making sure all your photos are high quality and shot in their best light.

Do establish yourself as an authority. Consider creating tips, recipes or behind-the-scene snippets. If your products are naturally-sourced, why not share photos from the beautiful hike that provided your inspiration for it? Sharing relevant and relatable content will keep your customers coming back.

Do use your size to your advantage. While big retailers are busy playing the price-cutting game, you can work smartly to connect with a community of loyal followers who really appreciate what you do. Harness the personal relationships you've made with customers through social platforms where you can strengthen connections by sharing product news, relevant content and personal reminders about new items you think they'll enjoy. Remember that what makes your small business special is your customers' opportunity to feel a personal connection with you, the entrepreneur and your passion - your product.

Do start now. While selling online may seem overwhelming, following these easy steps will help you make others fall in love with your brand.

Courtesy of BPT

Tips for meeting your financial goals this year

As with any other goal, the key to achieving your financial goals is laying out a process that will ultimately lead you to success.

If you've set yearly financial goals in the past, but have failed to achieve them, now is a great time to re-evaluate your process. And don't let past failures discourage you, because you are not alone - only 12 percent of consumers reached their financial goals in this year, according to a recent Zogby IBOPE survey commissioned by TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting companies.

"Now is the perfect time to appraise your current financial situation and make goals for where you want to be," says Heather Battison, TransUnion's senior director responsible for consumer education.

So what can you do to ensure financial success in the coming year? TransUnion offers five tips for planning and achieving your goals:

* Check your credit reports every three months. Monitoring your credit can help you recognize bad financial habits, like making late payments, which can affect credit score. Regularly checking your credit report is also a way to protect yourself against identity theft. If you ever run into a situation where you suspect identity theft, TransUnion provides a guide for what to do next.

* Check for accuracy. Make sure the information on your credit reports is up-to-date and reflects your current credit history. Give yourself at least 30 days to resolve any issues. Online dispute forms are available at TransUnion.com.

* Know your score. Your credit score helps determine your interest rates on credit purchases. A healthier credit score can help you receive the best interest rate, ultimately putting more money in your pocket as your work toward achieving your financial goals.

* Create a monthly spending plan and stick to it. Breaking down your spending habits into smaller and more manageable increments can help you achieve your financial goals. Through breaking it down by month, you can also set aside a fixed amount each month to deal with unexpected financial emergencies that may come up later in the year. If you don't have to spend this reserve fund, you can treat it as a year-end bonus, or, even better - put it toward next year's goals.

* Take additional measures to minimize your exposure to identity theft. In addition to frequently checking your credit, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert you whenever something changes in your report.

Setting yourself up for a successful financial year means developing plans now that you can execute as the year goes on. Additional planning tools to help you understand your credit information, manage your debt load, protect your identity and help you achieve your financial goals can be found TransUnion.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clarksburg, MD Real Estate Report October 2013

Here is the Clarksburg (zipcode 20871) Area supply and demand chart for October2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month. Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

Clarksburg's absorption rate dropped below 20%. Some of this is a factor of the government shutdown and a seasonal slowing. New home inventory has also played a major role in the Clarksburg market. As we get closer to the end of the year I anticipate the absorption rate to hold steady.

If you are interested in learning more about this great market, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October 2013 17.6% absorption rate

October 2012 19.1% absorption rate

October 2011 10.4% absorption

Monday, November 11, 2013

Olney Real Estate Reports October 2013

Here is the Olney, Brookeville, Ashton, and Sandy Spring Area supply and demand chart forOctober2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month.Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

We have seen a clear change in the marketplace from the spring. Bidding wars are no longer the norm, however well price/good condition homes are selling quickly. The government shutdown along with the time of the has made the market "feel" very slow, however the 22.3% absorption rate is very strong (25.5% county wide).

If you are interested in learning more about this great market, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October2013 22.3% absorption rate

October 2012 10.6% absorption rate

October2011 10.9% absorption

Montgomery County Real Estate Report October 2013

Here is the Montgomery County, MD supply and demand chart forOctober 2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month. We are tracking the Under Contracts for a very specific reason. Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

The government shutdown greatly impactedthe Montgomery County real estate market for the short term. However, once the shutdown was over, we saw interest in the real estate bounce back. At 25% absorption, the market is still moving along a brisk pace. We will see some seasonal slowing of the market as Nov/Dec approaches.

If you are interested in learning if the market is moving in your direction, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October2013 25.5% absorption rate

October 2012 21.6% absorption rate

October 2011 15.3% absorption

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Massage tips to help ease your over-active muscles

(BPT) - Living an active lifestyle is being embraced by both young and old - helping to keep bodies healthy and fit. Whether you're trying a new sport or simply pushing yourself to the next level in your workout routine, you may experience aches and pain in muscles. Did you know massage therapy can help to alleviate discomfort naturally? Here are some- tips for achieving a great massage therapy experience.

"It's important to remember that increasing activity can take a toll on our bodies," says DeJuan Williams, massage therapy lead instructor at Everest College - St. Louis. "While there are many ways to ensure that our muscles, bones and joints stay healthy and injury-free, massage therapy is a great way to decrease stress, improve circulation and minimize fatigue."

Williams offers these tips for achieving the best massage therapy experience:

Start slowly. If you've been less active, give your body time to adjust and ease into more outdoor activities. "Having patience with your body can help minimize soreness," says Williams. "You may experience some discomfort after resuming strenuous outdoor activities, but massage therapy can play a role in providing comfort after an intense day."-

Find the right professional.Once you've decided to begin massage therapy, find a professional therapist who is licensed, insured and has academic credentials. "Reading online reviews and getting personal recommendations from friends are great sources," says Williams.

Ensure compatibility. At your first appointment, have a list of questions ready to determine if you're compatible with the massage therapist. "Ask them before you begin, to ensure you're comfortable with the therapist," says Williams. "You should also disclose any current health issues you're facing, in order to have the safest, most effective session." -

Customize your therapy. Discuss with the therapist any massage preferences you have, including depth of pressure, room temperature and music. "During the massage, feel free to speak up and let the therapist know if you'd like to adjust any aspects of the therapy," says Williams.

Relax and enjoy. The key to getting all the benefits of a massage is to relax your body and mind. Stopping or limiting your breathing during a massage can cause you to become tense and potentially hinder the effectiveness of your massage. "Especially if a particular muscle or joint area is sensitive from recent outdoor activity, try to breathe normally," says Williams. "Massages should never hurt, so be sure to communicate any discomfort immediately."

Stay hydrated, stay healthy. Making sure you're hydrated can help you to feel better pre- and post-massage. "Always drink extra fluids before and after massages to ensure that your muscles are hydrated, and to help flush toxins from the body," says Williams. "Just as it's important to be disciplined with a steady workout regimen, a consistent massage therapy plan can boost your overall health and keep you feeling great."

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Driving student interest in STEM subjects helps foster innovation for the future

In a world that is defined by rapid change - particularly in technology - there are concerns that students today won't be prepared for the challenges of the future. Of all U.S. high school students who graduated last year, only 45 percent were ready for college-level math and 30 percent for science, according to ACT, a college-entrance testing agency. As jobs increasingly require proficiency or expertise in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math), it's more important than ever that children are inspired to explore these subjects and understand their real impact on our everyday lives.

STEM drives an incredible number of the innovations we see today, from the fastest jet planes to the cars in our driveways to the televisions in our living rooms. Even the video and computer games that children and teenagers turn to for entertainment are based on STEM.

However, interest among students in these important subjects is lagging. And with the extraordinary number of careers and opportunities for growth in STEM fields, many organizations in both the private and public sectors are taking action to bolster student interest and enthusiasm in this area. Samsung, for example, is working to make STEM fun and exciting with their STEM education program called Solve for Tomorrow. It's a national contest that encourages teachers and students to creatively use STEM to explore and improve their local environment and community.

Our goal is to raise awareness and interest in STEM subjects, while providing teachers and students with the resources they need to innovate and grow, says David Steel, executive vice president of corporate strategy for Samsung Electronics North America.

We as a nation need to make STEM education a top priority, says Betsy Landers, President of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), who joined as a program partner this year. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014 require significant mathematics or science preparation. It is clear that making STEM education a priority is important, for our nation's short and long-term future. We commend Samsung for their efforts in making a difference in the education and lives of children.

As the world continues to change in unexpected ways, the demand for technological developments will only increase. By equipping students of today with knowledge and interest in STEM subjects, we're fostering the innovators of tomorrow.

Courtesy of BPT

Tips to improve your indoor air quality

(BPT) - You pride yourself on keeping a clean home. The laundry is washed, the dishes are dry and the den where the children built their pillow fort has been restored to sanity. You've been vigilant about cleaning up the messes you can see, but what about the messes you can't? What are you doing to improve the air quality in your home?

You may not think about the air quality in your home because the problem isn't visible, but that doesn't stop dust, dander or chemicals from polluting your air. Everyday living generates up to 40 pounds of dust in a six-room house every year, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association.

Taking steps to clean the air in your home will do more than just improve air quality; it will also save you money. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted because contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work inefficiently, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you're interested in improving the air quality in your home and saving money while you do it, here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.

Hire a professional to clean your most important asset

Your heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system literally takes air in and breathes air out. Because of this, keeping your HVAC system and your ducts clean is the most important thing you can do to improve your home's air quality. "If your ducts look dirty, they probably are," is NADCA's advice to consumers.

Have your system serviced by a certified technician. This will not only improve the quality of the air in your home, it will allow your heating and cooling system to run more efficiently, saving you money on energy bills.

Make sure to hire a NADCA-certified technician. All members have certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) on staff and they are required to further their education by attending seminars and to adhere to the NADCA code of ethics.

Encourage ventilation

Today's newer homes are built air tight, making ventilation difficult. The simplest way to encourage ventilation is to simply open windows. In the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan to stop steam from collecting dirt and keeping it in the bathroom. In the kitchen, place any appliance that creates steam or oily vapor under the stove hood. Finally, make sure vents on the outside of your home are not blocked by leaves or snow as season dictates.

Prevent mold

Mold can be one of the most harmful contaminators of air quality. You'll find mold in areas where moisture and poor ventilation come together. Vacuum rear grills on appliances like your fridge and freezer to improve ventilation and empty and clean any drip trays to eliminate mold. If you have a leaky pipe in your home make sure it is addressed. Take a tour outside and trim any bushes or shrubs that have grown too close as that proximity can lead to mold and algae.

Replace filters and screens

In the warmer months, clean the area around your air conditioner and repair any vermin screens on your chimney flues that may be damaged. During the cooler months, remove screens from any window that may trap condensation and make sure to change your furnace filter monthly.

Keeping the air in your home clean is just as important as washing the dishes or cleaning the clothes. The first step is to have your heating and cooling systems serviced by a NADCA technician. Once that is complete, follow these tips to maintain your air quality. To learn more about NADCA and how you can benefit from an HVAC cleaning, visit nadca.com/en/faq.

Courtesy of BPT

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What lies beneath your dream home? New homeowners skip sewer line inspections

What%20lies%20beneath In a buyer-friendly market, home shoppers can be pretty particular in their search for a dream home. Increasingly, buyers are seeking flawless, move-in ready homes, and while traditional home inspections are a must-have, something equally important lurking beneath homes often goes overlooked.
A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and is regularly waived in the purchasing process. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Buyers should reconsider including this important step before they sign a deal.
If a problem occurs, a sewer line replacement costs at least $4,500, but prices vary widely and costs increase dramatically by region, depending on depth and length of the underground pipes and if street repairs become part of the issue.
Experts at Roto-Rooter, North America's largest provider of plumbing repair and drain cleaning services, encounter this scenario far too often. Consumers, who just signed the dotted line on their dream home, soon find that they're trapped in an expensive plumbing nightmare.
"Just a couple of years after purchasing our home, we had a $15,000 sewer line disaster in our lap," says Jennifer Schappacher of Cincinnati. "The sewer line clogs began not long after we moved in, but as they became more frequent we had Roto-Rooter inspect the line with a video camera and only then did we realize the pipe had offset sections and a partial collapse that was causing sewage to back up into our house."
The Schappachers looked at only a few houses before deciding on one in a quiet shady neighborhood. It was charming with large, mature trees that shaded the entire street. But since the house was built in 1959, its concrete and clay underground sewer pipes were vulnerable to heavy root intrusion from the big trees. As those roots entered the pipe joints in search of water, they pushed the pipes apart and allowed surrounding soil to spill into the pipe, narrowing a 6 inch diameter pipe to just 1 inch in some sections.
Generally, a plumber can complete a sewer line camera inspection for $250 to $550, depending on the region. While not cheap, it's a relatively small price to pay when buying a home, especially if it helps a buyer avoid thousands of dollars in unforeseen repair bills.
To avoid unexpected and costly plumbing problems, the experts at Roto-Rooter recommend having a plumber conduct a video camera sewer line inspection, in addition to a standard home inspection, before buyers purchase a home. The process involves passing a waterproof fiber optic video camera through the pipe. The specialized cameras are equipped with bright LED lights so the inspection will reveal any cracks, breaks, offset or collapsed sections of pipe. The plumber will often provide a DVD copy of the inspection as part of the service.
"Sewer inspection camera equipment is expensive and often is only utilized by well-equipped plumbing companies, but the video inspection service itself is easy to complete and well worth the extra step," says Roto-Rooter master plumber Larry Rothman.
Root growth is the most common cause of sewer line damage and is often responsible for blockages and separated pipe sections. Outdated and eroding pipe materials are also a common culprit in sewer line deterioration. Older pipes are much more susceptible to root intrusion than new plastic pipe.
Inspections are especially important if:
* The home is 20 years or older.
* There are mature trees around the property.
* The home has been vacant for a period of time.
* The concrete surrounding the home is cracked or raised.
* There is considerable visible root growth in the yard.
Many homeowners, especially new homeowners, do not know or think about their home plumbing. For seasonal maintenance tips and general information, visit Roto-Rooter's plumbing basics section online at www.rotorooter.com/plumbing-basics.

Courtesy of BPT

Blog Archive