Green Cleaning with First Preston HT

First Preston HTGoing green is certainly not a new term, especially when it comes to cleaning products.  Green cleaning products are made without toxic chemicals and environmentally harmful ingredients, making them safe for humans and our furry friends.  The average household contains around 62 toxic chemicals according to environmental experts.  Many people are making the switch in their homes to these safer products but what’s really lurking in your conventional household cleaners? Your First Preston HT team did the dirty work and we found what’s hiding in conventional cleaners and offer some green cleaning options.

1. Ammonia –found in polishing agents, glass, and window cleaners.  It keeps surfaces free from streaks. Ammonia is a strong irritant that can lead to chronic bronchitis and asthma from frequent exposure.  Individuals already diagnosed with asthma or elderly people are at higher risk of symptoms.

Green Choice:  Use toothpaste for polishing silver and vodka for any metal or mirrored surfaces to create a nice shine.  Also check out natural cleaners at your local Whole Foods or other natural grocery store.

2. Phthalates – found in several household products with added fragrance (i.e. air fresheners and hand soaps) that increase their flexibility, transparency and longevity.  Look for these abbreviations: DBP, DEP, BzBP, and DMP.  This ingredient doesn’t have to be listed by law so if you see the word “fragrance” on the label it’s safe to assume this means that phthalates is present.

Phthalates are endocrine (hormone) disruptors which have been linked to low testosterone levels in men, interference with normal brain function, and could result in Autism, Breast Cancer, Testicular cancer and reduced sperm counts.

Green Choice:  Opt for fragrance free or products that use organic essential oils.

3. Triclosan – found in liquid dishwashing cleaners as well as antibacterial hand soaps is an aggressive antibacterial compound.  Scientific evidence has documented its adverse health effects, including endocrine function particularly to the thyroid, and skin irritation.  Some reports have even shown that these antibacterial products are no more effective than regular soaps.

Green Choice:  Avoid products labeled “antibacterial” and look for a hand sanitizer with natural ingredients that are alcohol-based.

First Preston HT4. 2-Butoxyethanol – found in multi-purpose cleaners including window and kitchen cleaners.  This chemical gives products a sweet smell and is not required by law to be listed on the product’s ingredient list.  Exposure to this can cause sore throats.  If you are cleaning in a confined area you can be exposed to levels that are higher than the workplace safety standards according to the EPA.  High exposure can contribute to narcosis, server liver and kidney damage, and pulmonary edema.

Green Choice:  Use diluted vinegar with newspaper to clean mirrors and windows or opt for making your own at DIY – home cleaner using baking soda, vinegar and essential oils.

5. Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) – found in many soaps and detergents including shampoo, hand cream, toothpaste and cleaners.  This chemical helps to break down surface tension in water.   SLS has been known to cause skin inflammation and might mimic estrogens, cause hair loss, damage teeth and could lead to cancer.

Green Choice:  Opt for organic or natural cleaning products like Mrs. Meyer’s or Method which is carried at most home retailers and grocery stores.

Making the switch to green cleaning products isn’t just helpful to the environment; it’s good for you, your children and your pets.  It’s important to be an informed consumer.  While these green cleaning products can cost more they can be worth it in the end.  You can even make your own cleaning products from items you probably already have in your kitchen cabinets for budget friendly cleaning solutions.

First Preston HT hopes you found these tidbits useful to keeping your home a safe, clean, and happy place.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Your Mortgage and Your Retirement | First Preston HT

Senior couple at new home. Retirement security concept.It’s not uncommon to hear homeowners say one of their financial priorities is to pay off their mortgage as quickly as possible.  The First Preston HT Blog team hears this topic discussed all the time from people in their early 30’s to those nearing retirement.  The thought of being debt free and owning your home free and clear brings a sense of security and comfort.

The financial crisis that began in 2008 is still fresh on our minds and has led many people to approach their finances, including their mortgage, with a more conservative nature, think along the lines of “pay off all debts and save, save, save.”  This seems like fairly logical and prudent advice.

But the decision to refinance into a short-term loan or make extra mortgage payments might not be the best advice for everyone.  If you are nearing retirement and don’t have an adequate amount in your retirement funds, directing your money into an illiquid asset (your house) might be a bad decision.  Here are a few points to consider before choosing to pay off your mortgage as quickly as possible.

Do you have enough money in savings?
  It’s very important to have an emergency fund that can cover three to six months’ worth of living expenses.  Earlier data from indicates that only 38% of Americans have enough money in savings to pay for unexpected expenses.  This is a goal that everyone should work toward regardless of whether you are a recent college graduate or nearing retirement.  If an emergency occurred like losing your job or needing a serious surgery, your home equity can’t pay these bills.

First Preston HTDo you have “bad debt?” You have probably heard the terms good debt and bad debt in regards to your credit score.  Bad debt includes high interest credit card balances.  Pay off these balances to keep from paying the attached high interest rates.  This will get you one step closer to achieving your debt free goals.  As a bonus, your credit score should improve which will be helpful if you do decide to refinance to a shorter term loan.

Are you maxing out contributions to your retirement accounts?  If you are just starting out in your career it’s a great idea to begin contributing a portion of your monthly earnings First Preston HTto a retirement account.  The power of compounding rate of return should not be underestimated!  For those closer to retirement, specifically if you are 50 or older, the IRS allows what they call “catch up contributions” to be made to your IRA and 401(k).  These contributions are also tax free unless you have Roth accounts these funds are directed to.

If you have a solid emergency fund, have paid off all your bad debt and are maxing out our retirement contributions then you might consider paying off your mortgage in a shorter time frame.  If you don’t consider yourself financially savvy, seek financial advice from a profession who can  look at your personal financial situation offer customized advice.

First Preston HT hopes you found this information useful and that it will encourage you to plan for your financial future.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Remodeling Goes Digital |First Preston HT

Digital Tablet With Diy ToolsHome renovation is booming based on recent retail sales reports that show strong performance for retail home improvement companies such as Home Depot.   Here at First Preston HT and Castle Peak Homes, we know a thing or two about remodeling and what an undertaking it can be, especially if it’s your first time.  There are some new websites that are promising to help make your home project less of a hassle.

Remodeling companies and professionals are hopping on the digital bandwagon in hopes of reaching those that prefer to do things via their smart phone or tablet.  Architects, contractors, plumbers, design-build firms, as well as product manufactures are starting to offer their services on sites like Houzz, Porch, Remodelaholic, DIY Network and HGTV.   While this is an extra cost for these service providers, it appears to be paying off.

Houzz is a website and mobile app for home remodeling and design that brings together homeowners and home professionals.  The website offers consumers beautiful photos of homes by room for design inspiration, a professional service locator, a way to buy home furnishings and advice on remolding.   If you are thinking about remodeling and looking for tips or inspiration, this is a great place to start.

luxury kitchen with new cabinets and slate floorPorch is another online company that helps connect homeowners with local professionals.  It also provides a free resource, the Porch Home and Neighborhood Report, for understanding the remodeling and project history of a specific home as well as neighborhood data on completed projects.  This report is offered for any active listing on  Like Houzz, they too provide lots of inspirational photos of impressive renovations which include project cost and the professionals that completed the project.

Remodelaholic (the name speaks for itself) features guest bloggers that touch on topics addressing DIY projects that homeowners can tackle themselves to save money as well as other homestead areas of interest.

DIY Network and HGTV, both cable network channels, provide resources for how-to and DIY projects as well as photos of remodels and videos providing tips and advice.  In case you haven’t caught them on TV while channel surfing, they also air several different television shows that focus around remodeling and DIY projects in and around the home.

Try utilizing one or more of these resources for your next home remodel.  We hope it inspires you and makes the process enjoyable. For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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First Preston HT Summer Vacation Savings Tips

First Preston HTIt’s about that time of year when we start dreaming about escaping the confines of a cubicle or classroom for a much needed summer vacation.  If you are like me or some of our First Preston HT team members, you’ve been daydreaming about it since the cold winter months.  Whether you plan to travel with your family, friends, or go it solo, a great summer vacation can leave you with great memories that last a lifetime.  However, it can also put a dent in your wallet quickly if you haven’t saved up in advance.

Summer vacations are meant to leave us feeling rested, relaxed and refreshed.  No one wants to come home from a nice trip and then stress about the money that was just spent.   Whether you are planning a low budget weekend getaway or a luxurious week-long retreat who doesn’t like to save money or get a great deal?  Here are a few tips to help your dollar stretch farther this summer.

  1. First Preston HTTravel during Off-Peak Times – Airfare during peak summer months and summer holidays can increase by more than 50%. Book your travel plans for before June 20 which marks the official start to summer.  Airlines, hotels, and cruises tend to raise their prices during this time.  Check out mobile apps like Kayak or OnTheFly (an ITA Software by Google) to help locate the best price fairs and set price watch alerts.  If you do have to travel during the peak season, book flights for arrival and departure during the week which tend to cost less than flights during the weekend.  Tuesdays still tend to be the best day to purchase airfare too!
  2. Forego the Hotel Room – In recent years, travelers have shifted away from staying at hotels and have taken to a new trend – vacation rentals.  While this might sound more expensive it can actually save quite a bit of money, especially if you are traveling with friends or extended family.  Additionally, renting a house or condo usually provides access to a full kitchen giving the option to cook some of your meals instead of eating out at expensive restaurants. Check out for rentals across 190 countries.  You might even consider listing your home on a vacation rental site like this to earn extra cash while away on vacation.
  3. Set and Stick to a Budget – It can be hard to do if caught up in the moment while on vacation but it’s important to stick to a planned budget to keep from experiencing potential buyer’s remorse later.  There are mobile apps that can help, including SmartyPig and  Start setting aside travel funds early.
  4. First Preston HTThe More, the Merrier – Invite more friends or family to join the trip and split the cost among everyone.  This can save lots of money on the hotel or vacation rental and also makes for more fun!  This has always been one of my favorite money saving travel tips, go with friends no matter what the time of year.
  5. Pre-plan Meals – Dinning out on vacation can be one of the largest expenses incurred once arriving to your destination.  If your accommodations allow for it, cook a few meals instead of eating out.  Locate the nearest local farmers market First Preston HTor grocery store before arriving and plan to make a visit once you get settled.  It is also a big money saver to buy wine or other adult beverages at the store instead of paying premium mark ups while out and about.
  6. Check your Rewards – Most travelers have a frequent flyer mile programs, hotel points and credit card rewards.  Before deciding on your summer vacation destination, review all your reward programs to identify any special deals that would allow you to cash in points.  If you are not a member of any rewards program, now is a great time to start.  Next time you stay at a hotel or fly, ask a representative for information about joining their loyalty program and sign up.  Preferred customers sometimes receive special perks.

Whether you have planned a summer vacation far away from home or have decided to enjoy a staycation, First Preston HT hopes you enjoy your time relaxing and enjoying quality time with your loved ones.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Tips for Selling Your House (Part II) | First Preston HT

20150417rs.bigstock-Happy-Mixed-Race-Couple-in-Fro-80861894Part I of this blog post from the First Preston HT team focused on how to help increase the value of a house through maintenance, landscaping and lite remodeling before selling it.

In Part II, we address the choices a seller has when putting their home up for sale and other things to consider before it hits the market.  First Preston HT knows buying and selling a house will be one of the largest financial decisions a person makes in their lifetime and we want to help you feel knowledgeable about this topic to enable you make educated decisions.

  1. Hire an Agent or Sell It Yourself – A real estate agent can handle the marketing of a property and also determine the best selling price of a house. However, this service doesn’t come free and will cost around 5-6% of the selling price.  Selling the property yourself will save the commission but the seller may miss out on the experience and added services that a real estate agent brings to the table.  First Preston HT offers a great option that avoids the high commission charges while still providing some of the assistance and experience of an agent for a flat fee.
  1. Pre-listing Inspection – Opting to have a home pre-inspected before listing can save lots of time by identifying potential problems with the house that a buyer would later find during the inspection period. This allows the seller a chance to fix them before listing the house to hopefully make the closing process seamless and easy.
  1. Set a Price – It’s important the seller decide whether they want to sell quickly or wait for the best offer. A real estate agent can provide a market analysis to help in this step.  If the seller doesn’t have an agent, they can look at comparable real estate listings in the area to help determine a price.  An appraiser could also be hired to complete an analysis of the house.
  1. 20150417rs.bigstock-Living-Room-With-Lighting-Scon-6459101Get it Ready to Show – This includes cleaning and tidying the house as well as staging to make it look appealing to potential buyers. It can be hard to keep the home looking clean for potential showings, especially with kids and toys, but it is an important tip that might help get the house sold quickly.

First Preston HT hopes this information leaves you feeling well-informed about the several options and choices available when listing a home for sale.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Spring Cleaning Checklist | First Preston HT

Spring Cleaning Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Clouds,Whether you look forward to Spring Cleaning with excitement each year or dread thinking about, it’s time to dust of your gloves, and grab a spray bottle for Spring Cleaning with the First Preston HT team!  For homeowners and renters alike, it’s important to keep your home free from built up dirt and dust.  Taking the time to Spring Clean can not only de-clutter your home but your mind as well once it is finished.

The list of chores to complete can seem daunting for many, especial for those with tight schedules.  If your time limited and you might want to hire a house cleaning service to take care of all the dirty work for you.  For those who are more money conscientious or just like to tackle D.I.Y. projects, Maratha Stewart provides this great Spring Cleaning Checklist for your convenience.  Her list guides you through each room of most homes and I have provided a few favorites below.

Housewife holding bucket with cleaning equipment on color backgrThe Kitchen: Dust refrigerator coils – Make sure to turn off power at the power source. Coils are usually located at the bottom of the refrigerator, under the grill. Clean coils with the crevice attachment of a vacuum or a specialty refrigerator-coil brush.  Defrost the freezer – Turn off the power at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Empty out the freezer’s contents and then wipe the interior clean with a mixture of 2 tablespoons baking soda per 1 quart hot water.

The Bathrooms: Discard expired cosmetics and beauty products – Place these items in a trash bag and keep it out of reach from children and animals.  Update FIRST-AID KIT – In addition to bandages and ointments, the kit should contain a list of emergency numbers, particularly the one of the nearest poison-control center.

A Genuine Box of used items ready for a garage sale, Yard Sale,The Closets: Replace cool -weather clothing with warm -weather clothing – Clean garments before storing them in zippered sweater or blanket bags to keep moths out.  Donate apparel you no longer use – Various charities are more than happy to take old clothing off your hands and may even send a truck to pick it up. Be sure to ask for a receipt for tax purposes.

Outdoor Spaces: Clean Porch Ceilings and Walls – Sweep out cobwebs and debris with a broom, and wash walls with an all-purpose cleaner and water using a polyester sponge.  Scrub decks, patios, driveways, and walkways – Treat mildew spots with a combination of 1 part oxygen bleach to 3 parts water and use a deck brush.  Wash outdoor furniture – Most materials, including aluminum, plastic, wood, and wicker, can handle a solution of mild dish-washing liquid and water and a soft-bristle brush.  Inspect light fixtures – Wash covers and check for damaged connections and wires.

The entire checklist is quite thorough so it might be helpful to divided the list up by room and spread out the Spring Cleaning over a few weekends.  First Preston HT wishes you happy spring cleaning! For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Tips for Selling Your House | First Preston HT

20150330rs.bigstock-Cozy-house-with-beautiful-land-84075557First Preston HT knows that deciding to put your house on the market can be a daunting task.  There is a lot that usually needs to be done before potential buyers come for a tour.  It’s a great time to be a seller in this housing market.  If you are selling, that means you’re most likely buying too and don’t want to over spend on getting your property looking its best for listing.  Making some smaller updates to your home can help you bring a higher selling price without making a large dent on your wallet.  So how can you squeeze the most value out of your home?  Here are a few tips from First Preston HT.

  1. Create more space by knocking out a non-load bearing wall. Buyers want wide open floor plans that make the house feel more spacious.    This will cost you around $2,500 but can really make a big impact on the selling price.  If you just moved into a home with a closed off floor plan, it might be a good idea to go ahead and do this so you can enjoy the benefits a more open floor plan before selling it years later.  If it’s a load bearing wall that will have to be knocked out, this will cost you more around the $10,000 range.
  2. Prune, trim back limbs and landscape your home to make it look more appealing. Landscaping is one of the top three investments that can bring the biggest return when looking to sell your house.  Spending around $400-500 on this can reap returns of four times your investment.  Consider the type of climate you live in and choose plants, trees, bushes, and flowers that will thrive without requiring a lot of extra maintenance.
  3. 20150330rs.bigstock-Man-Caulking-Window-6193157Don’t put off maintenance or repairs that your home is in need of.  This can greatly affect the value of your property when inspectors are evaluating it’s condition.  Make sure water drips are repaired, fix leaky windows, and replace rusty rain gutters.  Keep up with this type maintenance on a yearly basis so these repairs don’t build up and turn into bigger issues down the road.
  4. 20150330rs.bigstock-Living-Room-With-Stone-Firepla-6882470Update the floors. Hardwoods have been popular over the past several years as people are tearing up old carpets.  This update doesn’t have to cost a lot of money either.  Spending an extra $600-$900 on updated floors and can increases your home value by $2,000.  Hardwood surfaces are easier to keep clean and don’t trap dirt or stain like most carpet can.  Other types of hard surfaces that homeowners are installing include concrete, tile, bamboo and laminate.
  5. Update those bathrooms. This also can be done inexpensively by updating the sink and shower hardware.  Try using metal fixtures as mentioned in last week’s blog post for a trendy vibe.  Deep clean the shower, apply fresh caulk where needed and get rid of the frosted glass shower door with clear glass for a more updated look.
  6. Repaint and touch-up walls. While a lot of homebuyers will change the paint colors after they purchase a home to fit their color scheme, walls with chips or marks from wear and tear leave your home looking unkempt.  Fix paint chips or scratches with left over stored paint.  If you have any walls painted a bold color like red, blue or yellow, repaint these to a neutral tone.  Bold colors can have a negative impact on potential homebuyers that might not share the same taste in décor.

As home buying and selling season is around the corner, First Preston HT hopes you find these tips helpful if you are planning to sell your house soon.  For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Home Décor Trends from First Preston HT

Spring is officially here and it’s time to give your home a fresh update in addition to a deep spring cleaning.  Your home should reflect your personality and also be a retreat from your busy day-to-day life.  If you come home to a dull, cluttered space it can keep you from relaxing and enjoying those quite moments from the hustle and bustle.  Here are some top 2015 home decor trends from First Preston HT to help spruce up you home.

20150323b.bigstock-Side-Table-and-classy-lamp-44510758Go for the Gold!  Swap old stainless steel kitchen or bathroom fixtures for those with gold or bronze finishes.  This will instantly update the room with a touch of luxury and sophistication.  This decor trend can spill into the bedrooms and living room by updating table or floor lamps that feature gold metal bases, drawer knobs and cabinet pulls, gold brushed picture frames or accessories.  You can even mix metals of gold and silver for a polished look.  Keep in mind these shouldn’t over power the room but add a nice finishing touch.

Wallpaper has made a huge comeback and it’s not that drab floral pattern you are imagining from the 80’s or 90’s.  Top design companies are creating really bright, bold, fun prints that can really add pizzazz to rooms both large and small.  Aside from prints and colors that pack a punch, textured wallpaper is also becoming popular and can add to the room’s overall ambiance.  Don’t think you have to paper the whole room; choosing just one wall can be enough to achieve the look you are going for without over doing it.

The Deep Blue – decorating with blue accents has become really popular lately.  This color has many different shades.   Blue tends to be a calming color and can add drama when painted on the walls of a room.  This could be a good color choice for guest bedrooms, or the master bedroom.  Think of adding pops of this color in unsuspecting ways: royal blue chandelier, sapphire glass coffee table, navy suede sofa,  or sea blue floor rugs.

You don’t have to implement a total overhaul to reap the benefits of a fresh space either.  Switching out accent pillows, duvet covers and sheets, flowers, and accessories can make a huge impact while making not a huge an impact on your wallet.

These are just a few trends in decor this year brought to you by First Preston HT.  We hope you get inspired to update your space in a way that leaves you feeling at home.   For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Luck of the Irish Recipes From First Preston HT

St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the most widely known patron saint of Ireland. However, most of us think of green beer, parades and the luck of the Irish.  Whether you are hosting a party or attending one, here are some St. Patrick’s Day recipes from First Preston HT.

First-Preston-HTIf you are looking for an easy, healthy spread, you’re in luck.  Try this Ombre Veggie Tray featuring some of my favorite crunchy greens.  Whip up some Pesto Hummus to serve with the veggies and some pita chips.

For those with a sweet tooth, bake up these Guinness Chocolate Brownies that will be sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Looking for something a little lighter and green in color?  Check out this Key Lime Pie that was featured on Oprah.

No St. Patty’s Day is complete without the green beer which requires few drops of green food coloring to your favorite beer.  If you’re out of luck and don’t have any food coloring on hand, just enjoy the Guinness that’s left over from the Guinness brownies.  Most importantly, don’t forget to wear green!

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Hopefully you enjoy these holiday recipes from First Preston HT. For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Down Payment – Why Size Matters

House and Money with Pad of Paper and PenWhether you are a first-time home buyer or a seasoned vet, a down payment is typically required by the lender.  The amount required can range between 3-20% of the final sales price on the property.  So how much should you put down and what will that mean for your monthly mortgage payments?

A larger down payment can benefit you in several ways.  As the size of a down payment increases, the overall monthly amount due will decrease because less money is borrowed.  The size of the down payment will also determine the types of mortgages you are eligible to apply for.  For example, if you are only able to put down 5% you will be limited in the loans you qualify for as well as the number of banks that will loan to you.  Additionally, a higher interest rate might apply.

There are several mortgage calculators available online that calculate the monthly mortgage payment based off the price of the home, interest rate and down payment amount, like this one on Zillow.

For information on effective ways to manage institutional and individual portfolios nationwide, or to shop for real estate visit First Preston HT. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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