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06/08/2012 - Record-Setting Low Fixed Mortgage Rates Persist! - (RealtyTimes) Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, showing average fixed mortgage rates falling to new all-time record lows for the sixth consecutive week amid weak economic and job data helping to keep homebuyer affordability high.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.67 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending June 7, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.75 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.49 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.94 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.97 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.68 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, the same as last week. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.28 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.79 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.75 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.95 percent.
Attributed to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.
"Fixed mortgage rates reached new record lows for the sixth consecutive week as long-term Treasury bond yields declined further following downwardly revised economic growth and job creation data. Gross domestic product rose 1.9 percent in the first quarter, after originally being reported as 2.2 percent, led by gains in inventories, more government cutbacks and the slowest increase in corporate profits in over three years. In addition, the economy added 69,000 jobs in May, less than half of the market consensus forecast and revisions subtracted a total of 49,000 workers in March and April. Lastly, the unemployment rate ticked up from 8.1 percent in April to 8.2 percent."

Financial To Do List! - (RealtyTimes) Many of today's renters are looking for ways they can make the transition to homeowner. It's a great goal and dream to have! Homeownership comes with a long list of benefits. Studies have revealed that homeowners can expect high levels of stability and security, increased high school graduation rates, and an overall feeling of health and well-being.
Additionally, owning a home is a way to build long-term wealth. Renting is a one way road for your money. It goes out, but never comes back. When you own, though, you are paying towards an asset. You build equity over time and are also in line for some great tax credits, deductions, and rebates.
In order to get into the game, however, you must have all your financial ducks in a row. Homeownership is a large financial responsibility that isn't about risk taking. It's about saving money and changing your lifestyle in a way that will be positive before and after you purchase your home. Spending habits may need to change! If nothing else, you need to keep close tabs on purchases.
There are some incredible deals to be had on the market today. Interest rates are still near historic lows and should linger there for some time in the future. Home prices have adjusted back down to pre-boom pricing in many areas. So, in order to get your finances in order and join the ranks of homeowners, consider following this to do list.
• Fix that Credit Report/Score: You've been amassing a credit report for years now, ever since you started being a consumer. Your credit report is like a lender report card. It tells a lender what your spending habits have been (do you have lots of credit cards, how long do you keep loans open), what you owe, and if you pay things on time.
All of these factors come together to make a credit score. This number ranges from 300 to 850 and the higher the score the more likely you'll be approved for a loan and at a lower rate.
You should be sure to check out your credit report for errors and also as an honest look at what your spending really looks like. Changing spending habits now can translate to a higher score down the road.
• Audit your Expenses: You may think that you keep your spending in check, but until you track one month's spending you won't know the complete story. Keep track of all your spending for four weeks and evaluate this list at the end of the tracking period. Do you overspend on clothes, shopping, or dining out? Where do you have room for improvement?
• Create a Budget: Saving for a home and running a home are about keeping your expenses in check. By creating a budget you give yourself a game plan that all members of the household can refer to. Allot money for food, monthly bills, gas, dining out, and the other categories you think are important.
• Make Saving a Priority: When you're creating that budget you should be keeping savings in the back of your head. You should strive to save at least 10 percent of each payment if not more. This money will later be used for #5 on this list.
• Consider Downpayments and Closing Costs: You'll need to put down at least 20% of the purchase price of a home as a downpayment. How much this will be depends entirely on the total cost of your home. You'll also need money for closing costs, such as inspections, PMI, and land surveys.
Getting finances in order for a home purchase means taking an honest look at your spending and then revising your habits in order to save more and spend less. If you owe money or have blotches on your credit report, now is the time to make corrections. You can do it! Buying a home is a wonderful experience and sure to go well if your finances are healthy and ready for the purchase.

Yogurt Boosts Sex Drive and Enhances Fertility! - (Peak Health Advocate) Scientists uncover some unexpected benefits of yogurt.
Scientists examining the effects of yogurt on obesity have received some unanticipated findings in an investigation.
In their quest to explore the results of a Harvard study suggesting yogurt is superior to any other food in preventing age-related weight gain in mice, they discovered that aside from its slimming effect it might also enhance several aspects of sexuality and fertility. Additionally, the food may foster silky luxuriant hair, as the fur of the yogurt-fed mice was noticeably shinier, softer and thicker.
Cancer biologist Susan Erdman and evolutionary geneticist Eric Alm led the study's team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The subjects were 40 male mice and 40 female mice who were fed either a simulated junk food diet or standard mice meal. Researchers then added vanilla-flavored yogurt to the diets of half of each group.
The first surprising observation was that the fur of the yogurt-eating mice was amazingly shinny and had an active follicle density 10 times that of the other group. They were also slimmer, verifying earlier studies indicating the weight-related benefit of probiotics.
Next, the investigators noted the males had outward projected testes, which caused them to exhibit a certain "mouse swagger." Upon measurement, the testicles proved to be 5 percent heavier than the mice eating the standard diet and 15 percent heavier than the group eating the junk food diet.
These changes in sexual appearance translated into increased sexual function. The yogurt-fed males mated faster and produced more offspring, indicating physiological differences. An interesting benefit of the female mice on the yogurt-augmented diet was that they tended to be better mothers to their larger liters.
Alm attributes all these effects to the probiotics within the yogurt. The results could have implications for fertility, obesity and even hair health.

Which Berry is Best for Your Brain? - (Peak Health Advocate) Blueberries can delay onset of cognitive decline by more than two years.
A study published in the Annals of Neurology sheds new light on the notion that berries can help ward off cognitive decline and improve memory, suggesting there is a specific antioxidant you should be consuming.
Investigators examined data collected from the Nurses' Health Study and discovered that women who consumed a half cup of blueberries two or more times a week delayed cognitive decline by as much as 2.5 years.
While many fruits and vegetables contain similar protective antioxidants known as flavonoids, berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries and elderberries, contain a specific type of flavonoid called anthocyanidins.
Anthocyanidins can cross the blood-brain barrier, offering free-radical protection to parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Lead author of the study, Elizabeth Devore, an instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School noted, "Given that we know that fruits and vegetables are good for our health in general, our findings add to the idea that we should be consuming more, especially berries, as a way to help maintain memory in older ages."

Is Housing Slowly Turning to a Seller's Market? - (Daily Real Estate News) - It's been mostly a "buyer's market" in the majority of housing markets for the past few years, but more Americans are seeing home buyers' power in home sales and negotiations soon slipping away.
More Americans are reporting increased optimism when it comes to selling a home as prices take a gradual turn upward, according to a recent survey.
About 28 percent of Americans say it's a good time to sell now, inching up from 13 percent last quarter, according to a survey by Redfin of more than 1,200 potential buyers in 18 metro areas.
Nearly 60 percent of the survey's respondents say they think prices will rise this year, up from 34 percent last year.
Seventy-one percent of the respondents surveyed also said they are seeing more bidding wars and multiple bids on homes today, too.
Home buyers are increasingly being lured back to the housing market, according to several recent surveys. Many buyers say record-low interest rates and increased housing affordability has made buying more attractive. However, according to the Redfin survey, buyers also say the drop in inventory of homes for-sale is one reason to hold off on buying nowadays.

CoreLogic: Phoenix Leads the Nation in Home Value Gains! - (Phoenix Business Journal) - A new report released today by CoreLogic shows home values in metro Phoenix and across the state are surging at the fastest rate in the country.
Phoenix-area home values, including foreclosures and short-sales, jumped 11.3 percent in April from the same month last year, the CoreLogic report said. That was the biggest year-over-year gain of the 10 largest U.S. metros areas that CoreLogic examined -- and by a long shot.
The Dallas area was in second place with a 3.5 percent year-over-year growth in April, and was followed by the 2.8 percent rise in the Washington area, the report said. Home values in four of those 10 metropolitan areas -- Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Bernardino, Calif. -- fell in April.
Arizona home values, including distressed properties, also saw the biggest year-over-year gains of any state, the report said.
Home values within the Grand Canyon state grew 8.8 percent in April from the same month last year, followed by the District of Columbia and Florida, which saw gains of 6.4 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. Twenty states saw declines in year-over-year home values, the report said.
"Excluding distressed sales, home prices in March and April are improving at a rate not seen since late 2006 and appreciating at a faster rate than during the tax-credit boomlet in 2010," Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a statement. "Nationally, the supply of homes in current inventory is down to 6.5 months, a level not seen in more than five years, in part driven by the 'locked in' position of so many homeowners in negative equity."
The Phoenix housing market is somewhat of a poster child for that statement. Local home values, despite their nation-leading gains recently, are still struggling to make a full rebound from when they plummeted to all-time lows several years ago.

06/01/2012 - Rates Hit All-Time Record Lows, Again! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, fixed mortgage rates followed bond yields lower to new all-time record lows. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.75 percent setting a new all-time record low for the fifth consecutive week. The 15-year fixed averaged an unprecedented 2.97 percent bringing three of the four benchmark mortgage rates below 3 percent for the first time in Freddie Mac's weekly survey.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.75 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 31, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.78 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.55 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.97 percent with an average 0.7 point, down changed from last week when it averaged 3.04 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.74 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.83. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.75 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.13 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac:
"Market concerns over tensions in the Eurozone led to a decline in long-term Treasury bond yields helping to bring fixed mortgage rates to new record lows this week. Compared to a year ago, rates on 30-year fixed mortgage rates are almost 0.9 percentage points lower which translates into nearly $1,200 less in annual payments on a $200,000 loan. Meanwhile, the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city composite home price index (not seasonally adjusted) showed annual home-value gains in March in seven cities and a monthly gain in 12 cities."

ASU: Phoenix Home Values Up 25% From a Year Ago! - (Phoenix Business Journal) - A new housing report from Arizona State University released today shows the metro Phoenix housing market continues making strides toward recovery, yet is still tussling to regain its balance.
Median single-family home prices last month in Maricopa and Pinal counties were up 25 percent from the same time last year, while the average price per square foot also rose 16.5 percent, according to the study by Michael Orr, a real estate expert at ASU's W.P. Carey School of Business in Tempe.
For example, a home valued $112,000 in April 2011 was worth $140,000 by last month, the report said.
Certain areas of the Valley that took a particular beating during the recession, such as El Mirage, Glendale, Maricopa and Tolleson, are now seeing some of the greatest rebounds. The pricing boost also applies to condominiums and townhomes, Orr said in a statement, with their values up 23 percent year-over-year.
Although prices continue on the upswing, the "unusual lack of supply" of resales on the market is instigating a large imbalance of buyers and sellers, Orr said.
Total inventory in April dropped by more than half (or 56%) from last year's figures, and therefore played a major role in the 12 percent year-over-year decline home sales saw that same month.
"Demand remains strong in the market, as evidenced by multiple-bid situations for the majority of resale home listings," Orr said. "Most homes priced well are attracting multiple offers within a couple of days. Up to 20 or 30 offers for a home are becoming common, and often, many offers exceed the asking price."
And while metro Phoenix's foreclosures were down 62 percent from last April, the report said, "one note of concern" was the 4.7 percent increase in homeowners who received foreclosure notices from their mortgage lenders, Orr said. Banks, however, continue enticing struggling homeowners to short sale in lieu of foreclosure.

Fat Busting Power Salad That Screams Summer! - (Yolo Health - Allison Fox) - California Grilled Chicken Avocado and Mango Salad
Sweet champagne mangos pair superb with creamy haas avocados and grilled chicken for a sweet-savory salad to delight your taste buds. This meal is ready in minutes, perfect for a hot summer day or night!
I could live on a tropical island and never miss the fruit from the states.
When I was a kid, I spent many summers at my cousin's house in Puerto Rico and I remember the mango trees and mangoes all over her yard. I would pick them up and try to save them, but even I couldn't consume the overabundance of mangoes she had falling off those trees. Back then mangoes weren't as popular here in the states, but luckily today you can find them in every supermarket. I'm hoping one day guanabana (soursop) and guava will make it's way here too!
Have you seen the new Salanova butter lettuce from Dole, they come two in a container - simply cut the core off and you have baby lettuce!
For this salad I used the red butter variety, but you can use any baby lettuce, especially home grown if you have any in your garden!
For the dressing I kept it real simple, extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar which is naturally sweet and perfect on this salad. You can easily halve this recipe for 2 servings or double for 8. Enjoy and stay cool!
California Grilled Chicken Avocado and Mango Salad
Servings: 4 • Serving Size: 1/4th • Calories: 258 • Fat: 14.6 g • Protein: 20.7 g • Carb: 12.2 g • Fiber: 3.8 g • Sugar:6.2 g • Sodium: 62.2 mg (without salt)

Why You Should Walk For Exercise! - (Yolo HEalth) - You may think you are not capable of intense exercise, but you might be able to walk. Find out why walking is so great for you and how you can get started today! The details are right here!
Walking is simple, natural and a great way to get the 30 minutes or more of daily moderate exercise recommended by the National Institutes of Health. It's also easy, low-impact, convenient, burns calories and helps your heart. Find out how to start your own walking workout program to get healthy and get in shape...
Why Walk?
It may be hard to believe that something you've been doing since your first birthday is so good for you. But it's true: Walking is the ideal low-impact, moderate-intensity exercise.
Studies have shown that a regular walking workout has many benefits. It:
Lowers blood pressure. Healthy but sedentary volunteers reduced their blood pressure significantly by walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, three days a week, according to a 2007 Irish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. People who walked more daily had better insulin sensitivity than those who walked less, according to a 2011 Australian study.
Reduces risk of breast cancer. Women who walked briskly for just 1.25-2.5 hours per week were 18% less likely to develop the cancer than those who were sedentary, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Lowers risk of premature death. Mortality risk was 1.54 times higher for people who sat most of the day compared to those who walked briskly for 30 minutes five times a week, according to a 2009 Canadian study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
Improves cholesterol. Men who walked briskly regularly for 12 weeks had lower total cholesterol and higher HDL ("good") cholesterol levels than those who didn't, a 2008 British study published in Preventive Medicine found.
Boosts energy. The more people walk, the more energetic they feel throughout the day, according to a 2003 study at California State University, Long Beach.
Improves body composition. Walking 12 miles a week significantly decreased abdominal, waist and hip measurements, according to a 2004 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Get Equipped.
Fortunately, a walking workout requires little gear. But before you venture out, get comfortable clothing and supportive shoes.
Get Started.
If you're new to a walking exercise program, start slowly and keep the following tips in mind:
Warm up. Every walking workout should begin with a brief warm-up, including a few simple dynamic stretches that prepare the body for activity. Although walking primarily works the major muscles of the legs, don't forget to stretch your back, shoulders and arms.
Dynamic stretching involves active range-of-motion movements, such as arm circles and leg swings. They're a safe, effective way to increase body temperature, enhance joint flexibility and increase muscle elasticity.
Begin with short distances. Your first time out, move at a leisurely pace that feels comfortable, and walk for 5-15 minutes.
Each subsequent week, gradually increase your time or distance by 10%-20%, working up to 30-40 minutes per day.
If it's easier on your schedule or you suffer from joint pain, take a couple of shorter walks of 10-20 minutes instead of one long walk of 30-40 minutes.
Smaller periods of exercise throughout the day also may provide many of the same benefits of walking as one long continuous session - including improvements in aerobic fitness and even weight loss and maintenance, according to research.
People who exercised for just 10 minutes experienced positive metabolic changes that lasted more than an hour, according to a 2010 study by Harvard and MIT.

Luxury Homes Fetching Multiple Bids! - (Daily Real Estate News) - The housing recovery may be taking hold faster in luxury real estate. Several parts of the country are reporting bidding wars in wealthy pockets as buyers look to snag rising home prices and investors search for bargains.
Property sales of $1 million and higher soared 7.2 percent in March compared to a year earlier, according to National Association of REALTORS'® data.
Paul Bishop, NAR's vice president of research, told Bloomberg News that as the financial markets improve, demand for high-end homes is rising in the northeastern United States, such as in Boston and New York. Demand is also rising along the California coast and portions of the southern United States.
"There's an added degree of confidence in the future and that prices are likely going to go up," says Joyce Rey, with Coldwell Banker Previews International in Beverly Hills. "There is a definite change in consumer attitude."
Investors, looking to make a profit, are making purchases on high-end homes in many areas of the country in record numbers, with many of these speculative investors making cash-only deals.
Still, many real estate professionals report the high-end bracket could be doing even better if the inventory of homes listed for sale wasn't so tight.
"We could have twice as many sales if we had more inventory," Syd Leibovitch, president of Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills, told Bloomberg News.

05/25/2012 - Mortgage Refinances Increase as Mortgage Rates Hit New Lows! - (RealtyTimes) While some people wonder how far mortgage rates can drop, some are taking advantage of a good thing. Mortgage refinance applications increased 13.0% for the week ending May 11th according to the Mortgage Banker's Association's Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey. In fact, 74.9% of all mortgage applications were for refinancing existing mortgages. With government refinances up only 4%, HARP refinances represented 28% and the balance were for conventional mortgage refinances.'s survey of wholesale and direct lenders shows that all mortgage rates, except the jumbo 30 year fixed mortgage rate, dropped by .250% and have hit new lows. Current 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 3.375%, 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 2.750% and 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 2.125%, all available with 0.7 to 1% origination fee for borrowers who have maintained a history of good credit.
When mortgage rates fall, there are usually more borrowers possibly eligible for approval since a drop in rates can cause a decrease in debt to income ratios. HARP applicants continue to increase as more borrowers are learning of this unique opportunity to refinance, often without the need of an appraisal. HARP is fast becoming a very successful mortgage program by helping underwater borrowers refinance to the current record low mortgage rates.
While some borrowers have chosen to go to their original lender for help, many more borrowers are finding that an online inquiry for a HARP refinance is actually producing better results. This is quickly becoming the better way to obtain a Harp 2.0 refinance, as well as, a traditional mortgage refinance.
Current FHA 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 3.125%, FHA 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 2.625% and FHA 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 2.625%. FHA mortgages for home purchases are still a major choice for first time home buyers because of the low down payments and flexible guidelines. Even though FHA closing costs (APR) are high because of the upfront mortgage insurance premium and other FHA fees, FHA offers various mortgage programs and down payment options which makes a home purchase a little easier for new home buyers.
A popular FHA program, the FHA streamline refinance with no cash out, has always been known for its quick and easy process with no verifications or appraisal. Since there must be a 5% tangible benefit in regards to the proposed mortgage payment, many borrowers were not able to take advantage of this because of increases to the upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums.
To make this program more accessible to existing FHA borrowers, beginning June 11th, the FHA streamline refinance with no cash out will have reduced upfront and annual mortgage insurance premiums for FHA mortgages endorsed prior to June 1, 2009. It is expected that FHA will have a surge of refinance applications since it is estimated that millions of existing borrowers are eligible for this program. Borrowers have already been actively submitting online applications which is the easiest way to obtain this FHA refinance.
For high end borrowers, there has never been a better time for low jumbo mortgage rates. Current jumbo 30 year fixed mortgage rates are at 4.125%, jumbo 15 year fixed mortgage rates are at 3.125% and jumbo 5/1 adjustable mortgage rates are at 2.250%, all available with 0.7 to 1% origination fee to borrowers who have excellent credit and strong qualifications. Borrowers who have enough assets, steady employment and income are looking at historically low jumbo mortgage rates at this time. Because these are private loans that are held by lenders, borrowers must expect that guidelines are stricter in order to receive approval.
Euro zone financial troubles continue to keep mortgage rates down as investors looked to safer assets this past week. MBS prices (mortgage backed securities) did not have a significant rally, but moved enough to drop mortgage rates, which move in the opposite direction. Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market survey reported that mortgage rates hit record lows again. Housing Starts for April rose 3% which was better than forecasts, although Building Permits fell slightly. Jobless claims came in close to what was expected.
While investors are looking to U.S. data, the situation in Europe has had more of an impact on markets as everyone awaits to see the outcome and if Greece will exit the European Union. Furthermore, the G8 meeting this weekend has not produced any agreements or plans on how to fix this crisis. This week, key housing reports will be released here in the U.S. which may produce some major market movements. surveys more than two dozen wholesale and direct lenders' rate sheets to determine the most accurate mortgage rates available to well qualified consumers at a standard 0.7 to 1% point origination fee.

Phoenix Home Prices Post Gains in March! - (Phoenix Business Journal) - Recent reports that the Phoenix housing market is finally showing signs of a rebound were bolstered Wednesday with the release of the FNC Residential Price Index's latest home value figures.
Phoenix-area home prices in March, which is traditionally a strong sales month, were up about 1.4 percent from the month prior, tying with Detroit for the seventh-best month-to-month gains in the nation, according to the FNC report, which tracked 22 markets.
The national average growth from February to March was one-half percent.
For Phoenix, which was among the hardest hit cities by the housing bust, the month-over-month gains are positive indicators for both sellers and home buyers, who can still take advantage of record-low mortgage rates and relatively modest home prices.
However, the FNC report shows Phoenix still has a long way to go.
Valley home prices are still 58.5 percent below their peak six years ago. Only Las Vegas has seen steeper declines, at 62.5 percent, according to Wednesday's report. The two desert cities were among eight out of 22 markets whose homeowners have lost half or more of their peak market value.
In other metropolitan areas, Houston had the biggest month-over-month gains in March at 3 percent, which was followed by Nashville at 2.1 percent and Atlanta coming in at 2 percent.
Washington, however, fared the worst, the report said. Home values there in March declined by 1.7 percent. Eight markets posted price declines.

4 Tips for Making Your Barbecue Cancer-Free! - (Peak Health Advocate) - [How to reduce formation of dangerous carcinogens in barbecued meats!]
If barbecued meat only passes your lips during an occasional summer picnic, you really don't need to worry. But if you're like me, and you're longing to get the grill out of the shed by the end of March, or you live somewhere where you can barbecue all year long, and do, read on.
Scientists have discovered that meats that are cooked at high, dry heat (like barbecuing, pan-frying and broiling as opposed to stewing, roasting or baking at lower temperatures) form a carcinogen called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). The more well done the meat, the more HCAs it's likely to contain.
HCAs aren't found in the charred stuff you can scrape off, but develop inside the meat, due to an interaction between free amino acids and creatine.
Note: The charred stuff that forms on meat burned by flames from your barbecue should be scraped off and discarded. That char contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are also considered carcinogens.
Scientists from the National Cancer Institute agree that the risk of getting cancer from HCAs is nowhere near the risk of, say, getting cancer from smoking. So there's really no need to send your grill to a landfill. But there are some pretty simple things you can do to reduce the formation of HCAs or their effect, so you can check it off your "worry" list.
And if you buy delicious, lean, grass-fed beef like I do, which has more cancer-fighting CLA than your average red meat, it just makes sense to make the healthiest burgers and steaks you can.
So here are a few simple tips that can reduce the formation of HCAs and lessen their impact on your body:
1. Add ground fruit, like tart cherries or blueberries to you ground beef.
Studies have shown adding about 10 percent ground tart cherry significantly reduces the formation of HCAs. And you get a very juicy burger!
2. Marinate your meat.
It seems that keeping the meat moist, be it beef, chicken or pork, also decreases the formation of HCAs. In fact, researchers at California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found that even a quick dip in a marinade before grilling can reduce those HCAs by as much as 90 percent!
3. Round out your meal with fruits and veggies.
Fruit salads and leafy greens topped with your favorite garden veggies not only reduce the effects of HCAs, but create a much healthier meal all the way around. And don't be afraid to grill your veggies and fruits. They do not form HCAs.
4. Consider the lowly hot dog.
We know hot dogs are not generally the most healthful food, due to the preservatives and fillers they often contain, but the good news is, because the moisture is sealed in by their casing, they don't produce many HCAs. And you can even find all natural, grass-fed hot dogs now. Serve them with grilled peppers, corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes or whatever summer vegetables strike your fancy, and you can enjoy them occasionally, guilt-free.

Foreclosed Home Owners Find a Way to Buy Again! - (Daily Real Estate NEws) - Once-foreclosed home owners are slowly making a comeback in the housing market as some lenders give them a second chance at home ownership.
After defaulting on their home loans or doing a short sale on their previous homes in recent years, some home owners have found a way to buy again, Reuters News reports.
The Federal Housing Agency is the main way paving a comeback for these former home owners to buy again, according to Reuters' interviews with lenders and real estate professionals. FHA loans can be an option for some who defaulted on their mortgage or did a short sale. FHA borrowers usually need a credit score of at least 620 and a 3.5 percent down payment, which are lower requirements than most conventional mortgages.
"These are not mainstream programs geared for mainstream borrowers," Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at, told Reuters about former home owners using FHA-backed loans to get back into home ownership.
Still, home owners with mortgage defaults on their records often find its a long way to crawl back into the housing market. They must make big strides in boosting their credit scores after a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy.
"Most of the loans that are getting done are for people who have really rebuilt their credit," rank Donnelly, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., told Reuters. "They have to prove (to the lender that) it was something like a job loss that caused this and not chronic delinquency."
Lenders will take into consideration why the person lost their home previously, and they're much more likely to try again on a borrower who lost their home due to a job loss than a borrower who walked away on their prior home even though they could still afford the mortgage payments.

Americans Bought 3.3% More Homes in April! - (USA Today - Money) - Americans bought more new homes last month, the latest evidence that the U.S. housing market could be starting to recover.
New-home sales increased 3.3% in April from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Sales rose sharply in every region of the country but the South.
The gain pushed the annual sales pace to its second-highest level in two years. Economists were encouraged by the increase but cautioned that new homes are still selling at half the rate consistent with healthy markets.
The increase follows other reports this week that suggest steady improvement in housing. Sales of previously occupied homes rose to near a two-year high in April. And Toll Brothers, a key U.S. builder of luxury homes, reported that it returned to profitability in the second quarter.
A pickup in hiring, cheaper mortgages and lower home prices in most markets have made home buying more attractive.
"Housing could be a pleasant surprise this year," said Ellen Zentner, a senior economist at Nomura Securities. She said home construction would likely contribute to overall economic growth this year for the first time since 2005.
Sales of new homes rose 28% in April from March in the Midwest and the West, and 7.7% in the Northeast. Only in the South did sales fall, by 10.6%.
The median price rose to $235,700, a slight increase from March.
Toll Brothers said Wednesday that home deliveries and signed contracts on new homes rose in the quarter that ended April 30. Its shares rose more than 2%.
The homebuilder earned $16.9 million, or 10 cents per share, in the latest quarter. A year earlier it lost $20.8 million, or 12 cents per share.
On Tuesday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously owned homes increased 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million. That nearly matched January's sales pace of 4.63 million, which had been the best in two years.
Though new homes represent less than 20% of the housing market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to statistics compiled by the National Association of Home Builders.
Builders have grown more confident since last fall, in part because more people are expressing interest in buying a home. In May, builder optimism rose to the highest level in five years, according to a monthly index compiled by the builders' group.
Homebuilders reported improving sales and higher traffic from prospective buyers, the survey showed. A gauge measuring confidence in sales over the next six months also increased.
Recent job gains have likely made it easier for more Americans to purchase a home. Employers have added 1 million jobs in the past five months. And unemployment has dropped a fulL percentage point since August, from 9.1% to 8.1% in April.
Mortgage rates, meanwhile, have fallen to record lows, making home-buying more affordable. Still, many would-be buyers are having difficulty qualifying for home loans or can't afford larger down payments required by banks.
Builders still face a tough environment. They are struggling to compete with deeply discounted foreclosures and short sales - when lenders allow homes to be sold for less than what's owed on the mortgage.

Ideal Weight or Happy Weight? - (WebMD) - How much weight do you really need to lose?
Maybe you've been struggling -- without success -- to get down to the size you were in high school or on your wedding day. But do you really need to go that low? The truth, experts say, is that you can weigh more than your ideal weight and still be healthy (not to mention happy). If you're overweight, losing just 10% of your body weight is associated with a myriad of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar, and reducing your risk for heart disease. Not only that, experts say, but this kind of weight loss is easier to attain and maintain, setting you up for success in the long run.
Your Weight "Set Point"
Just as your body temperature is programmed to stay around 98.6 degrees, your body weight is naturally regulated to stay within a range of 10%-20%, says Thomas Wadden, PhD, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at University of Pennsylvania Medical School. This weight range is known as the "set point."
A complex set of hormones, chemicals, and hunger signals help your body naturally maintain your weight within this range, says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD.
It is not just a matter of genetics, though. Your eating and exercise habits can also help to determine your set point.
"Overeating swamps the internal regulatory system, and, as a result, the set point increases -- which is much easier to do than it is to lower it," says Wadden. The body adjusts to the higher weight and "resets" the set point to defend the new weight.
It is difficult, but not impossible, to set your range lower. "With changes in healthy eating and exercise behavior, you can lower your set point," says Blatner.
The 10% Solution to Weight Loss
A recent book, Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off, by George Blackburn, MD, suggests that maintaining a 10% loss for six months to a year helps your body adjust to the lower weight and thus reset the set point.
Wadden explains that when you lose large amounts of weight at once, you set up an internal struggle and hormones like ghrelin spike to make you hungrier as your body tries to defend its comfortable range.
Instead, experts recommend that you try losing 10% the old-fashioned way -- by slowly changing eating and exercise behaviors -- then maintain this new weight for a few months before trying to lose more. Not only will your body get the signal to lower its "set point," but you'll give yourself a chance to get used to new food choices, smaller portions, and regular exercise.
"When patients lose 10% it may not be the pant size they want, but they start to realize how a little weight loss impacts their health in very positive ways," says Blatner. "They feel better, sleep better, have more energy or less joint pain, and some people are able to reduce medications."


05/18/2012 - Mortgage Rates Fall to Another Record Low! - (Associated Press) WASHINGTON - Average rates for 30-year and 15-year fixed mortgages fell to record lows for a third straight week.
The steady decline has made home-buying and refinancing more affordable than ever for those who can qualify.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on 30-year loans dipped to 3.79%. That's down from 3.83% last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.
The 15-year mortgage, a popular option for refinancing, declined to 3.04%. That's down from last week's previous record of 3.05%.
Rates on 30-year loans have been below 4% since early December. But so far, those cheap rates haven't been enough to ignite home sales.
While sales of previously occupied homes picked up in January and February, they fell again in March and remain well below healthy levels.
Low mortgage rates have helped boost builder confidence, which rose in May to a five-year high. And home construction has improved in the past six months, a reflection of that increase in confidence.
Builders broke ground in April at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 717,000 homes, the government reported Wednesday. That nearly matches January's pace, which was the best since October 2008.
Construction rose for both single-family homes and apartments. And builders requested more permits to build single-family homes, a sign they expect more demand in the coming months.
Still, many would-be buyers can't qualify for loans or afford higher down payments required by banks.
In addition, home prices in many cities continue to fall. That has made those who can afford to buy uneasy about entering the market. And for those who are willing to brave the troubled market, many have already taken advantage of lower rates -- mortgage rates have been below 5% for more than a year.
Mortgage rates are lower because they tend to track the yield on 10-year Treasury notes. Slower U.S. job growth and uncertainty about how Europe will resolve its debt crisis have led investors to buy more Treasurys, which are considered safe investments. As demand for Treasurys increases, the yield falls.
To calculate its average rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week.
The average rage does not include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.
The average fee for 30-year loans was 0.7 last week, unchanged from the previous week. The fee on 15-year loans also was 0.7, the same as the previous week.
The average one-year adjustable rate was 2.78% last week, up from 2.73% the previous week. The fee on one-year adjustable rate mortgages was unchanged at 0.5.

A Buyer's Wish List! - (RealtyTimes) It's always good to have a map when you're traveling unfamiliar roads. It's easy to get lost or to make a wrong turn. Having a good map is doubly important when you are traversing the roads of real estate.
Having a real estate wish list ready before you venture into the market will help you avoid impulsive decisions, delayed decision making, and spending too much time looking at homes you'd never consider.
Everyone wants something a little different when it comes to their dream home. Some people must have beautiful hardwoods while others prefer carpet. Some buyers want a home in a great school district while older couples may prefer to be near their favorite restaurants or theaters.
Having a wish list is a great way to give your real estate agent a good idea of what you want. This will mean they can show you only the best homes for your needs.
What sort of items should you add to your wish list? Consider the following items:
• Home Type: Are you a condo, townhome, or single-family detached kind of buyer? There are great resources all over the web that can show you the pros and cons of each of these living situations. What's right for one buyer may not be right for another. Condos are great for those looking for low maintenance homes. A townhome can give you lots of space, but you better like stairs! Single-family homes comes in all shapes and sizes. What one are you looking for?
• School preferences: Do you have children or plan on having them in the near future? Many cities have excellent schools, while some districts have schools that require some scrunity.
• Neighborhoods: Whether you want a quiet suburban neighborhood or a bustling walkable downtown spot, there's something for everyone. Some people want to have a prestigious zipcode or a home in a gated community with a strict HOA. Do you want to stay in your current neighborhood or near family?
• Home Condition: Some buyers want a home that is move-in ready. They don't want to mess with messy repairs. Does this sound like you? Are you instead a buyer looking for a deal on a fabulous home that just needs a little work? A fixer-up might be more your speed.
• Architectural Style: Do you love the sprawling one floor plan of a Ranch style home? Does a charming French Country style home tickle your fancy? An easy way to learn more about home styles is to look at home plans online.
• Home Features: This is where you can really have some fun! Consider the following and what features are most important to you: garage, great room, formal dining room, mudroom, butler's pantry, home office/study, built-ins, master suite, first-floor master, wall-to-wall carpet, outdoor living space, stainless steel appliances, granite, and other finishes.
Once you've written out your wish list, give some real thought to what items you're willing to compromise on. You may prefer to have a corner lot, but if an otherwise perfect home comes along without the corner view would you be willing to put in an offer?
You may want a move-in ready home, but if you see a great home with a stellar price that needs an updated kitchen would you make a move?

Home Staging on a Budget! - (inmanNEWS) [Know which items to pack away and when to leave the shower curtain open]
I mentioned "home staging" to a single dad who asked about selling his home this spring. The rest of the men in the group looked at me as if I were from Mars.
"That's great for the high rollers -- the white wine and brie set," one of them said. "But what about people who serve hamburgers and beer, and not watercress sandwiches?"
Home staging is not reserved for the rich -- or for creative women. In fact, cleaning and clearing clutter are the two primary items on Pam Christensen's Inexpensive Staging Tips list for any market. And, guys, it doesn't take a genius woman to help you through the other tips on the list.
Christensen, founder and owner of Staging for Charisma LLC, said guys often forget that they are selling their space, not their stuff.
"There are some staging tips that apply no matter where you live," said Christensen, a licensed real estate instructor and certified staging trainer. "Some tips apply more if you are living on the East Coast than on the West Coast."
Guys, if you're thinking of selling your house or condo this spring, now is the time to prepare your home for sale. Why now? Well, it's the traditional selling season, which means that in most communities, recorded residence transfers are at a peak during June and July. Most of those sales are actually made 30 to 60 days earlier, and it takes time to complete the transaction. Think about the academic year. Many deals are made when the kids are in school, and moves are made when they get out.
What's the best way to make a deal happen? A fresh coat of paint, inside and outside, will do wonders to make your residence show its best and make buyers want to purchase it. If your home looks tired, prospective buyers either won't make a purchase offer or they will highly discount it to allow for the fix-up costs, especially painting. Most buyers want to purchase a residence in model-home condition, so all they have to do is turn the key in the front door and move in.
"White is out, designer neutrals are in," Christensen said. "So what the heck is a designer neutral? Beige, but if you're not careful, that beautiful beige that looked so fabulous on the brochure could look pink on your wall. Warm beiges like Sherwin Williams Practical Beige and Behr Brown Paper Bag are some of my favorites."
Christensen's other cheap staging tips:
Curb appeal is not dead: OK, nine times out of 10, the first impression of the home is the Internet, but that doesn't mean that curb appeal is out of vogue. The contrast between the chocolate brown bark and the bright green grass makes a striking first impression.
How to get rid of it: It's time to give away the purple cookie jar that you got from Aunt Mary for your 18th birthday, and anything else that you have been saving just in case you might need it someday. Divide everything into three stacks: The purple cookie jar and other things that you never use go directly to the garage sale or Goodwill. The second stack is the things you use but rarely, or they are seasonal and you won't need them while you are on the market. These are packed and stored. What's left can go back into the closets. Will people really look in the closets? Only if they want to buy the home.
Counter patrol: Small appliances like toasters can go into a cupboard. If you have an espresso machine and a coffee pot, choose which one you use the most and tuck the other away.
Bathroom essentials: For toiletries, buy a plastic tote that can come out in the morning and evening and be easily tucked under the sink during the day. Keep no more than one shampoo, one conditioner and one liquid soap in the tub or shower.
And what about that shower curtain? Open or closed? If you have just invested in a new tile tub surround, leave the shower curtain open to show it off.
Say welcome home: Buy a new, tasteful welcome mat for the front entry. It's best if it says "welcome." Adding a pot of blooming annuals by the front door if there's space also creates a friendly atmosphere.
Mirror, mirror on the wall: Place one in the entry or in one of the main living rooms. Mirrors help buyers see themselves in the home. They also help to make the room look larger and lighter. Check the reflection. Make sure you aren't reflecting a view that is less than attractive.
Less is more: You've heard it before, but it is really true. When staging a room in a home for sale, a few well-placed pieces of furniture are all that's needed to show the room at its best.

Builders Get More Confident About Improving Market! - (Daily Real Estate News) "Firming home values, improving employment, and low mortgage rates" are driving greater optimism over a recovery taking shape in the new-home market, says David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.
Builder confidence for the market of newly built single-family homes rose five points this month, posting its best reading since May of 2007, according to a measure of builder sentiment by NAHB/Wells Fargo. The index measures builder sentiment on sales conditions and expectations as well as buyer traffic.
"Builders in many markets are reporting that buyer traffic and sales have picked back up after a pause this April," says Barry Rutenberg, NAHB chairman. "It seems we have resumed the gradual upward trend in confidence that started at the beginning of this year, as stabilizing prices and excellent affordability encourage more people to pursue a new-home purchase."
Still, housing experts warn the new-home market still has a long way to go toward normalizing, based on historical trends. Builders say consumer access to credit, inaccurate appraisals, and the rise in materials costs for new construction continue to pose major challenges to the industry.
According to May's index, the largest gains in builder confidence occurred in the Northeast, followed by Midwest and South. The West posted a two-point decline in builder sentiment for May, according to the index.

Clean a Dirty Barbecue Grill Rack! - (Home and Garden) Fixes for getting your grill barbecue-ready in no time, ...from Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things.
Aluminum Foil
After the last steak is brought in, and while the coals are still red-hot, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the grill to burn off any remaining foodstuffs. The next time you use your barbecue, crumple up the foil and use it to easily scrub off the burned food before you start cooking.
Baking Soda
Keep your barbecue grill in top condition by making a soft paste of 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup water. Apply the paste with a wire brush and let dry for 15 minutes. Then wipe it down with a dry cloth and place the grill over the hot coals for at least 15 minutes to burn off any residue before placing any food on top.
Plastic Bags
That neighborhood barbecue was a blast, but your grill is a sorry mess now. Take the racks off and place them in a garbage bag. Spray oven cleaner on the grill and close up the bag. The next day, open the bag, making sure to keep your face away from the fumes. All that burned-on gunk should wipe right off.
Pots and Pans
You've got a big barbecue planned, and your grill is not big enough to handle all those burgers and dogs. Improvise an auxiliary grill by building a fire in an old, large pot. Cook on a cake rack placed over the pot. After you are finished, put the pot's cover on to choke out the fire and save the charcoal for another cookout.
To make a worn old barbecue grill look like new again, spray it liberally with WD-40, wait a few seconds, and scrub with a wire brush. Remember to use WD-40 only on a grill that is not in use and has cooled off.

4 Cheap Foods That May Build a Better Brain! - (MoneyTalksNews) Healthy "brain foods" don't have to cost you any more than you already spend at the grocery store - and they may save you money later by protecting your health!
It'll take more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away, but your diet can help keep disease at bay. It seems like almost every month a new scientific study shows the health benefits of certain foods.
The following foods have repeatedly been shown to be good "brain foods." They contain specific antioxidants and other nutrients that may protect our brains from the effects of aging, keeping our minds keen and our memories sharp for as long as possible. Best of all, they don't have to bust your grocery budget...
1. Berries
A study published last month in the Annals of Neurology is just the latest evidence of the health benefits of berries. This study found that eating more than one serving of blueberries a week and more than two servings of strawberries a week could delay cognitive aging - meaning a decline in skills like thinking, reasoning, and memory - by up to two and a half years.
Berries have a high level of antioxidants called anthocyanidins, which are unique in that they can cross the blood-brain barrier and tend to locate in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Raspberries, cherries, elderberries, red grapes, and concord grapes also contain anthocyanidins.
Shopping tip: Check your supermarket's or wholesale club's frozen isle for frozen berries, which are cheaper than fresh produce. I put frozen blueberries from BJ's Wholesale Club in my oatmeal. Frozen berries also make great smoothies: Just add yogurt, plus water or milk to make it thinner or ice to make it thicker.
2. Turmeric
Numerous studies suggest that this curry spice can slow the progression of Alzheimer's Disease, a degenerative brain disorder that leads to death. Turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin, which has been found to inhibit the growth of a type of plaque that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer's, according to Oregon State University.
Shopping tip: Think yellow. Turmeric may be in foods you already eat. My father, a cardiologist, eats liquid eggs from a carton. When I recently asked him why he switched from the AllWhites brand (which is 100 percent egg whites) to a supermarket house brand (which tries to resemble real eggs), he said he'd discovered that the supermarket brand contains turmeric - that's how they gave them a yellow color without adding yolk. Some mustard brands also contain turmeric.
3. Cold-water fish
Reinforcing existing evidence of the health benefits of fish, a UCLA study published in February showed that a diet poor in omega-3 fatty acids may cause the brain to age and literally shrink faster. This was especially true of the omega-3 called docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is found in fatty fish that live in cold waters: anchovy, bluefish, herring, mackerel, menhaden, mullet, salmon, sardines, sturgeon, trout, and tuna, says the National Institutes of Health. If you're a vegetarian, try seaweed instead.
Shopping tip: Don't forget to check your local wholesale club, where fresh cuts are usually cheaper than at the supermarket. And consider other forms. For example, frozen salmon burgers may be cheaper than fresh salmon, and canned tuna is cheaper than fresh tuna.
4. Avocados
If you don't like fish, don't worry. Avocados contain more omega-3's than any other fruit, according to UCLA's Brain Research Institute.
Shopping tip: Produce is cheapest when it's in season. In California, where 90 percent of U.S. avocados are grown, the season runs from March through September, according to the California Avocado Commission.

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05/11/2012 - Second Consecutive Week Of Record-Low Fixed Mortgage Rates! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the average fixed mortgage rates hit a new all-time record low for the second consecutive week as they followed bond yields lower. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has averaged below 4 percent all but one week since December 8, 2011, helping to keep homebuyer affordability high.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.83 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 10, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.84 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.63 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.05 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.07 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.82 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.81 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.85 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.73 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.70 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.11 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac:
"Following April's weaker than expected employment report, and the French and Greek election results raising concerns over the stability of the Euro currency zone, long-term Treasury bond yields declined allowing fixed mortgage rates to ease to new all-time record lows this week. The economy added just 115,000 jobs, below the market consensus forecast and less than in March. And although the unemployment rate declined, it reflected fewer people actively seeking jobs."

Consumer Bureau Proposes Mortgage Fee Limits! - (Daily Real Estate News) The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to issue new rules that would limit certain fees that lenders require consumers to pay when they purchase a home. Among these fees the agency hopes to ban would be a fee sometimes referred to as "origination points" that buyers pay at closing.
The agency is proposing a ban on mortgage companies from charging origination fees, which can fluctuate with a loans amount, The New York Times reports. The fees can often get confused with upfront discount points that borrowers often pay in order to obtain a lower interest rate on a loan.
The agency is also looking at implementing a new rule that would require lenders to offer a reduced interest rate when a borrower chooses to pay discount points on a loan upfront. Lenders would then be required to offer a loan option that does not include any points.
"Mortgages today often come with so many different types of fees and points that it can be hard to compare offers," Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer bureau, told The New York Times. "We want to bring greater transparency to the market so consumers can clearly see their options and choose the loan that is right for them."
The proposed rules will need to go up for public review and a special panel before being formally proposed this summer. The agency says that if the new rules win approval they hope the rules will take effect by January.

Protect Yourself from Alzheimer's Disease! - (Reader's Digest) Worried about Alzheimer's disease? Here, four simple steps that can stave off dementia and keep your memory strong.
If everyone in the United States added just one healthy habit, it might prevent or delay a million cases of Alzheimer's disease that would otherwise be expected to occur over five years, says psychiatrist Gary Small, MD, director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
1. Get some exercise.
Sure, that's always the Answer to Everything, but studies have shown that when couch potatoes start a fitness program, it's not just arm and leg muscles that bulk up; key portions of the brain do too. "You can build brain muscle," Dr. Small says. "You don't have to become a triathlete - park your car a bit of a distance from your destination. Take one flight of stairs. Start slowly and build up."
2. Stretch your mind.
Crossword puzzles get all the attention, but mental challenges of every sort appear to help ward off Alzheimer's, Dr. Small says. Take a class, or talk politics with a friend. As long as you avoid alienating each other, you'll reap double benefits, since studies suggest that having a network of friends can lower the risk of dementia by as much as 60 percent.
3. Feed your brain.
Want to keep all your marbles? Eat well, just not too much: "If you're overweight at midlife, it doubles your risk for dementia," Dr. Small says. "If you're obese, it quadruples it." A Mediterranean-style diet (heavy on produce, whole grains, and fish) is good because it lowers the risk of diabetes - and diabetes is a major risk factor for Alzheimer's.
4. Manage your stress.
One study found that people who were easily stressed were twice as likely as calmer sorts to develop Alzheimer's over about a five-year period. Meditation can help; studies show it can actually increase the size of parts of your brain that control memory. But so can tai chi, getting a massage, and taking an after-dinner walk with a friend. Whatever you do, don't stress about your Alzheimer's prevention plan, Dr. Small says. Little steps will take you a long way.
Some supplements may help ward off Alzheimer's disease.
What the doctor recommends:
Definitely take: A MULTIVITAMIN
"As we get older, we don't always absorb all the nutrients we need," Dr. Small says. "I see it as insurance."
Worth considering: FISH OIL
People who get lots of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. The supplement is safe (if you don't take megadoses) and relatively inexpensive.
Looks exciting: CURCUMIN
More research is needed, but this compound, found in turmeric, appears to lower levels of inflammation throughout the body - and, like fish oil, may prevent brain changes linked to Alzheimer's.

Five Musts Before You List Your Home! - (RealtyTimes) Deciding to list your home for sale is a momentous time. It means you will be moving on to a new stage of life, no matter if you're moving up or sizing down. Take a moment to look over these tips for what every seller should do before they put their home on the market.
• Organize Your Paperwork: Every homeowner should have a detailed list of all past repairs, updates, and upgrades they've made. This will help your agent know what should be mentioned on the MLS. Did you put on a new roof in 2010 or install a new water heater in 2009? These are great selling features because they mean less work in the future for the prospective buyer.
Also included in this list should be any home warranty information. These warranties will most likely transfer with title of the home.
• Get Ready to Declutter: Even before you've officially listed your home for sale you should start getting rid of things you don't need. Starting now will mean a more thorough and less rushed job of clearing things out.
Start with one closet and work your way through the entire home. Sort items to toss, keep, sell, and donate.
Having a yard sale is a wonderful way of making a little extra pocket change while reducing the amount of things you'll have in your home during showings and that you'll need to pack up and move. It's a win-win!
• Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More: Dirty homes are a real buyer turnoff. Now is a great time to wash down walls, spruce up paint, and give your entire home a thorough cleaning. Do your carpets need refreshing? Consider renting a carpet shampoo machine or hiring a professional carpet cleaning company to come in and revamp your carpets.
Chances are buyers will ask for this anyway come closing time. You'll beat them to the punch and have a shiny, sparkling home to show for it.
• Get an Inspection: Did you think inspections were only for buyers? Having a pre-sale inspection can mean identifying problem areas. Perhaps you're unaware that your foundation needs repair. This will severely affect your listing price. It's best to be prepared and realistic in today's market.
• Make Repairs or Get Estimates: Your inspection will likely leave you with a list of repairs, large and small, that need made. Keep in mind that prospective buyers will also get an inspection of your home and will find these same issues. Head them off at the pass and do some fixing up. You may wish to go ahead with large repairs. If not, be sure to at least get estimates so you are fully prepared for negotiations (you'll know what the real cost should be) or you can provide the estimates for buyers.
• Start Staging: Staging is like prepping your home for its first date. You want to have it clean and well-dressed. This means amping up curb appeal with neat landscaping, fresh paint, and flowers. It means rearranging furniture and removing clutter.
Congratulations on deciding to list your home for sale. Be proactive about making a good first step by following these tried and true tips.

The Benefits of Owning a Home! - (RealtyTimes) We all know the social benefits of owning a home. Homeownership gives family stability, creates lower high school dropout rates, and of course gives the opportunity to create meaningful and lasting relationships.
In addition to these great pluses, owning a home can be your largest financial asset.
First, you'll have access to homeowner tax breaks, which include the mortgage interest deduction (MID), property tax deduction, and credits for green-friendly updates to your home.
What all of these deductions mean is you can save money on your taxes each year. That's money back in your pocket. Additionally, the eco updates you do will save you money in the long run on operating costs of the house. Some of these great updates can include energy efficient windows and doors, and solar panels.
You may have heard that real estate is a good investment. You may also be wondering if that is still true when home values are declining. The truth is that real estate has always been a good "long-term" investment.
The fact that many people were making money by buying and selling real estate in the mid-2000's was more of a fluke than the norm. Twenty to fifty percent appreciation rates are not the norm. In general, during healthy economic times, appreciation averages four to six percent. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that from 1972 to 2005 appreciation averaged 6.5 percent.
Today's home prices are still declining, but financial experts predict this will abate in the next year or so and yearly appreciation rates will return.
As you begin to see appreciation, you'll start to earn equity. This is one of the biggest advantages homeownership has over renting. Renting means paying money to the landlord. Once that rent check is written that money is gone. As you pay your monthly mortgage payment you're building equity. You will one day soon owe less than the home is worth. The difference in between is equity.
Homeownership also gives you a certain financial freedom and stability. You can take out a home equity loan for improvements or if you need some cash. You can sell your home down the road and use those profits towards retirement, a dream home, or even a dream vacation.
Homeownership is a great way to introduce long term stability to your life, even in uncertain economic times. Today's historically low interest rates and low prices mean now is a great time to make an investment in your future.


05/04/2012 - Fixed Mortgage Rates Average New All-Time Record Lows! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, the average fixed mortgage rates found new all-time record lows, continuing to help keep homebuyer affordability high. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.84 percent, down from its previous all-time record low of 3.87 percent last registered on February 9, 2012. The 15-year fixed averaged 3.07 percent, also dropping below its previous all-time record low of 3.11 percent set April 12 of this year. The 1-year ARM also averaged a new all-time record low in the PMMS at 2.70 percent.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.84 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 3, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.88 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.71 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.07 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.12 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.89 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, unchanged from last week when it averaged 2.85 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.47 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.70 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.74 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.14 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac:
"Signs of slowing economic growth and inflation remaining subdued allowed yields on Treasury bonds to ease somewhat and brought most mortgage rates to new all-time record lows this week. Real Gross Domestic Product rose at an annualized rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of this year, down from the previous quarter of 3.0 percent and below the market consensus forecast of 2.5 percent. In addition, the 12-month growth in the core price index of personal consumption expenditures was 2.0 percent in March which matches the Federal Reserve's implied inflation target."

Is Housing as Cheap as It'll Ever Get?! - (Daily Real Estate News) Home buyers who want a bargain may want to act now because the housing market is in the midst of a turnaround, economists say.
Home prices have fallen and mortgage rates are hovering near record lows, pushing home affordability for the average family to record highs. Meanwhile, rents have been on the rise, making owning a home cheaper than renting in most areas of the country, according to recent surveys.
But the housing deals aren't expected to stick around much longer.
An improving job market, a decrease in the number of home owners falling behind on their mortgage, and an anticipated improvement in access to mortgages is expected to help home prices start bouncing back by next year, economists say.
Investors eyeing profits in rentals also have been snapping up bank-owned properties, which Clear Capital's Alex Villacorte attributes as helping to lead to an increase in prices on foreclosed properties. This "could have a significant impact on the market overall in terms of providing a rising floor to home values," Villacorte told CNNMoney.
Some areas are already seeing prices rise. In Phoenix, housing prices have already increased 8.4 percent during the three months ending April 30, and Miami saw prices bump up 4.6 percent quarter over quarter, according to Clear Capital data.
"Stuff I was selling six months ago for $60,000 to $80,000 is now $90,000 to $110,000," Tanya Marchiol, founder of Team Investments in Phoenix, told CNNMoney.
Loan Rates, Demand Predictions
Buyers may want to act more quickly because mortgage rates are expected to tick up slightly by the end of the year. The increase is being sparked by greater demand, says Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree. He predicts 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will inch up to 4.5 percent by the end of the year, which is still low, however, by historical standards.
The Mortgage Bankers Association is also predicting a big leap in mortgage loans next year. For this year, MBA estimates that buyers will take out loans totaling about $415 billion, but by 2013 that number is expected to nearly double to $706 billion.

3 Hot Tips To Defy Your Age! - (Yolo Health) (3 Ways to Beat Your Age - Tips on staying young from Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and Michael F. Roizen, M.D.)
A poor diet and couch-potato tendencies are two ways to accelerate aging-but they're not the only behaviors that can make you old beyond your years. In YOU: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty (Free Press), just out, Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., and Michael F. Roizen, M.D., discuss other "major agers" and ways to combat them. Here are three tips from the book to get you started.
1. Squelch stress.
They say: "Stress isn't just something you write off as a need for spa treatments; it's a major biological driver of aging."
Why? When stress hormones stay elevated for long periods, they can harm the immune system, increase risk of damage to arteries and set up a situation in which the body tends to hang on to body fat.
Try: Meditating, leaning on supportive friends, planning ahead, getting a pet.
2. Hit the sack.
They say: "...most of us don't get enough sleep, and that plays a significant role in our aging."
Why? Skimping on shut-eye leads to a weakened immune system, reduced mental response times and increased risk for heart disease.
Try: Avoiding "stimulating" activities and eating-particularly foods that contain caffeine-just before bed, eliminating sleep saboteurs (an aching back, allergies, etc.) with appropriate remedies.
3. Detoxify your world.
They say: "Now we are exposed to hundreds [of toxins] daily, which stress our systems and tax them as we age."
Why? Chronic exposure to chemicals and microorganisms (think: dust mites) can cause fatigue or "a general feeling of blahness" because they cause our liver and immune system to work harder at detoxifying the body. As a result, we're more prone to feeling the effects of aging.
Try: Switching to gentler cleaning products, removing your shoes when you enter the house (and wiping pets' paws when they do) to avoid tracking in pesticides, etc., and using dehumidifiers to reduce mold.

Revealed: The Tasty Snack That Is Great For Your Health! - (Yolo Health) Not much is written about health benefits of pistachios - although many people eat these delicious nuts. More attention seems to be paid to other nuts such as almonds or peanuts. Pistachios, however, are quite nutritious, it turns out. A recent study has found this healing food to be a nutrient-dense nut with a heart-healthy fatty-acid profile, as well as protein, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, tocopherols, and a number of phytochemicals. That's quite a list!
You might have noticed that pistachios have a unique green and purple hue to them. These colors are due to the presence of lutein and to pistachio's anthocyanin content.
According to the study (which reviewed the results from other clinical trials), among nuts, pistachios contain the highest levels of potassium, gamma-tocopherol (a type of vitamin E), vitamin K, phytosterols, and xanthophyll carotenoids. The study also mentions that no less than five published randomized cardiovascular trials have shown that pistachios promote heart-healthy blood lipid profiles. Other clinical studies suggest that pistachios help maintain healthy antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, glycemic control, and endothelial function.
One more point that was mentioned: when consumed in moderation, pistachios may help control body weight because of their satiation effects (i.e. their ability to make you feel full). Pistachios were also found to have a reduced net metabolizable energy content - meaning they are more readily turned into energy when digested instead of nutrients being lost due non-digestion.
One study with subjects in a weight-loss program demonstrated lower body mass index and triglyceride levels in individuals who consumed pistachios compared with those who consumed an isocaloric pretzel snack. Emerging research suggests that the addition of pistachios to high-glycemic meals may lower the overall post-meal glycemic response.
All in all, pistachios seemed to score very well when it came to nutrient content and health benefits. It's good health advice then to tell you to grab a handful for a snack. You'll get lots of nutrients, a bit of heart-healthy fat and some protein. And - you'll have a little more energy to burn during the day.

In a fire, earthquake, or other disaster, you could lose your house, cars, computers, other belongings like electronics, TVs, home theater systems, stereos, music, and even treasured family photos. When you attempt to replace those losses, it can be helpful if you can produce some documentation of what you owned-receipts, recent photographs, and when and where you purchased or obtained the more expensive items. Gathering all this information, if it's even available, is a daunting task when dealing with a major loss.
There is another way to document your belongings. Make a digital movie to supplement photos and receipts of what you own.
Utilizing a digital video camera, you can capture the items you own and edit the movie with digital video editing software such as Movie Maker 2, a free download that comes with Windows XP Service Pack 2. Then, you can copy the edited movie to a CD, which can be used as proof that you own the items you claim. You should make multiple copies and store the CDs somewhere safe - a safe deposit box, a fireproof safe, a trusted friend's house, or mail a copy to your insurance agent.
Video archiving your assets should become a regular practice. You could update your archive, for example, every autumn when the time changes. And, after the initial creation of the video archive, you need only shoot new acquisitions to add into your edited movie. The process takes little time and doesn't cost much - particularly when you consider the potential cost of not having a record. What you need to get started:
• Digital video (DV) camera
• CD burner
• Digital video editing software
With your DV camera charged, in hand and on "record", walk around your house and property and film everything you own. Narrate, while filming, as many details about each possession as you can. Your narrative should include:
• Where and how you purchased or obtained it
• The date you obtained it
• How much you paid for it
• The approximate worth now
• What it would likely cost to replace it
Once you have your raw video footage, you've only got a few more steps.
1. Transfer the video from your camera to your computer by following the directions that come with your video editing software. You'll need some sort of transfer cable that both your computer and camera support-USB, FireWire (also called IEEE 1394), or analog video if you're using an analog camera. (If your computer does not support the sort of video cable that your camera uses, you can buy a PC card to add this capability.)
2. Edit your movie. Remember, this is for your insurance agent. They probably aren't interested in stunning effects, transitions between clips, or any other fancy editing techniques you may have picked up along the way. If you're in a hurry, you can skip the editing altogether and move on to the next step. However, if you...
3. Edit the movie, you can save your project, and then simply append new footage that you shoot when you next update the video.
4. Copy the movie to a CD or a DVD (of the two, CDs are cheaper). You may be able to do this through your video editing software. If not, follow the directions on your CD or DVD burner.
5. Preview your CD or DVD to ensure that all the video footage you shot is there.
6. Make a copy of the movie and send it to your insurance agent. Keep several other copies in a safe place, outside of your home. If you own or can borrow a digital video camera, it's a simple task to document your assets. With luck, you'll never need that digital inventory, but you'll appreciate having it if you do suffer a major loss.

»»Thank a Veteran for Their Service to Our Great Country!!

04/27/2012 - Fixed Mortgage Rates Hold Near Record Lows! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, average fixed mortgage rates were down slightly and hovering just above their record lows as markets waited for the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.88 percent and has been below 4 percent all but one week in 2012. The 15-year fixed, a popular refinancing choice, averaged 3.12 percent.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.88 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 26, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.90 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.78 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.12 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.97 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.51 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.74 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.81 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.15 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac:
"Fixed mortgage rates held near record lows this week as the markets waited for the Federal Reserve's (Fed) April 25th monetary policy announcement following two days of deliberations. The Fed stated that it expects economic growth to remain moderate and then pick up gradually. In addition, it noted that labor market conditions have improved in recent months and it anticipates the unemployment rate will decline gradually.
"The housing market has also shown some improvement as well. The Federal Housing Finance Agency's purchase-only house price index rose at a monthly rate of 0.3 percent in February. Moreover, 12 out of 20 metropolitan areas experienced increases over the month, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller® 20-city indexes, led by a 2.1 percent gain in Phoenix. New home sales in March were stronger than the consensus market forecast and February's sales were revised upwards to the strongest pace in almost two years. However, the Fed's statement warned that despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector still remains depressed."

Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back! - (The Wall Street Journal) A new development is catching home buyers off guard as the spring sales season gets under way: Bidding wars are back. From California to Florida, many buyers are increasingly competing for the same house. Unlike the bidding wars that typified the go-go years and largely reflected surging sales, today's are a result of supply shortages.
"It's a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with," said Andy Aley, who is looking to buy his first home in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood. The 31-year-old attorney was outbid this year when he offered up to $23,000 above the $357,000 listing price and agreed to waive inspections and other closing conditions.
Competitive bidding in the current environment isn't producing huge price increases or leaving sellers with hefty profits, as occurred during the housing boom. Still, the bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump.
An index that measures the number of contracts signed to purchase previously owned homes rose in March to its highest level in nearly two years, up 12.8% from a year ago and 4.1% from February, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.
"We very much believe we've hit bottom," said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of a research firm, who was among the first to warn of a downturn seven years ago. Earlier this week, she raised her home-price forecast for the year, calling for a 1% annual gain, up from a 1% decline.
The Wall Street Journal's quarterly survey found that the inventory of homes listed for sale declined sharply in all 28 markets tracked. Real-estate agents consider a market balanced when there is a six-month supply of homes for sale. At the height of the housing crisis, in 2008, there was an 11.1-months' supply. In March, there was a 6.3-months' supply.
Inventory levels in many markets were at the lowest level in years. At the current pace of sales, it would take just 1.5 months to sell all the homes listed in Sacramento, Calif., and 2.4 months to sell all the homes listed in Phoenix. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., each have 3.4 months of supply, while Miami has 4.1 months of supply.
Other markets have plenty of homes. Chicago, for example, has 9.4 months of supply, while New York's Long Island has 16.1 months of supply. Even in those markets, the number of houses for sale is edging down.
Increased competition is frustrating buyers and their agents. "We're writing a record number of offers, but we're not seeing a record number of closings and that's because it's so competitive," said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. in Seattle with offices in 14 states.
Nearly 83% of offers that Redfin agents have made on behalf of clients in the San Francisco Bay area this year and 71% in Southern California have had competing bids. Redfin represented a buyer that made the winning bid on a Gaithersburg, Md., home earlier this month after agreeing to adopt the dog of the seller, who was relocating and looking to find a new home for "Buddy," a white toy poodle.
Inventories are declining for a number of reasons. Some sellers, unwilling to accept prices that are still down from their peak by one-third, are taking their homes off the market in anticipation of higher prices down the road. Meanwhile, investors have been outmaneuvering consumers for the best properties, often making cash offers that are quickly accepted by sellers.
In addition, some economists say that inventory levels are being held artificially low because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the nation's biggest banks have been slow to list for sale hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes they currently own. The lenders slowed down foreclosure sales and repossessions after record-keeping abuses surfaced 18 months ago.
Banks and other mortgage investors owned nearly 450,000 foreclosed properties at the end of March, and another two million mortgages were in some stage of foreclosure.
Inventories could rise, putting more pressure on prices, if the banks and other lenders step up their efforts to sell their properties. Real-estate agents say they aren't concerned. "There's an enormous appetite for foreclosures. Release the inventory. It will sell," said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands.
The declining inventory of older homes is spurring sales of new homes. New home sales are up 16% so far this year, compared with a year ago, while inventories of new homes fell in March to their lowest level since record keeping began in 1963.
Meritage Homes Corp., a builder based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reported Thursday a 36% increase in orders for the quarter ending in March versus the previous-year period.
Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago. Increased demand is "entirely affordability driven, which tells me there will be strong resistance to price increases" by buyers, says Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group, an East Brunswick, N.J., appraisal firm.
Rents are rising at a time when mortgage rates have fallen to very low levels. The result is that the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home is lower than any time since the 1990s. Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that mortgage rates fell to 3.88% for the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage, near its lowest recorded level.
Rates are "so low that we can afford a house that was out of our price range before," said Aarthi Srinivasan, who is looking with her husband for a home around Palo Alto, Calif., one of the country's hottest real-estate markets.
Ms. Srinivasan says she fears that prices are being bid up too quickly. She says she had her "aha moment" earlier this year while touring a 50-year-old house that needed extensive remodeling. The home, listed at $1.1 million, received nearly 10 offers and eventually went under contract for more than $1.3 million to a buyer who hadn't even viewed the property.
"There are only so many buyers who are going to be in such a hurry, so we're hoping it'll top off soon," she says. On Monday, they offered to pay more than the $1.2 million list price for a four-bedroom, bank-owned foreclosure. They haven't found out if they made the top bid.
On the other side of those transactions are sellers like Debbie and Bill Wetherell, who had 17 offers in four days for their four-bedroom home in Danville, Calif. "I was floored. It was so fast, it was surreal," says Ms. Wetherell. The home sold on Wednesday for $796,000, more than $50,000 above the asking price.
Still, the sale is for nearly $180,000 less than what they paid for the house in 2005. Ms. Wetherell's husband has commuted to Reno, Nev., for five years and they have decided to relocate.
Housing markets face other headwinds. More than 11 million homeowners owe more than their home is worth. It is a big reason that the "trade-up" market has been stalled. These homeowners can't sell their current homes, let alone come up with the down payment for their next home.
Mortgage-lending standards remain tough. Real-estate agents say an unusually high share of deals are falling apart because homes won't appraise at the price that buyers have agreed to pay sellers.
Still, borrowers with stable jobs are looking to make deals. Kelly Pajela-Fu and her husband offered to pay the asking price of $600,000 for a four-bedroom home in Marblehead, Mass., within a day of the property hitting the market.
"We just knew this house would go quickly," says Ms. Pajela-Fu, a 31-year-old doctor who had lost out on an earlier offer. Their strategy to avoid a bidding war paid off: The sellers accepted their offer before having an open house.

Fed Renews Vow to Keep Interest Rates Low ! - (Daily Real Estate News) The Fed voted this week to continue its near-zero interest rate policy for the next quarter and likely much longer. The move will keep mortgage rates low in the coming months, if not years.
In recent weeks, mortgage rates have hovered around record lows, which has helped increase home buyer purchasing power as well as helped refinancers trim their monthly mortgage payments.
Last summer, the Fed made a rare move in vowing to keep the key rate near zero through late 2014. The move has been criticized by some who say it will cause inflation and awards spenders, not savers. Critics have pushed the Fed to reverse its policy.
However, the Fed says the subdued outlook for inflation has not warranted a change in its policies.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, following the Fed's policy-making committee meeting this week, affirmed the Fed's intention to continue keeping short-term interest rates down until late 2014-and possibly even longer.
The Fed has kept short-term interest rates near zero since late 2008. The Fed has also acted to reduce long-term rates by purchasing Treasury securities and mortgage bonds.
The Fed's policy-making committee also released its economic forecast, projecting moderate economic growth in the coming months before a steady pick up, as well as a gradual drop in unemployment. The committee also projects for inflation to remain under control, despite the recent rise in oil prices.
"If there's a substantial change in the economic outlook in either direction, then there would be a change in the outlook," Bernanke said. "But for now, I think the committee is comfortable."

How to Store Meat, Poultry, and Seafood! - (RealSimple) Brush up on these storage techniques and guidelines* before your next trip to the meat counter.!
Keep meat and poultry in its original packaging in the refrigerator. To freeze, slip the packaging into a resealable freezer bag. If you're freezing for several months, it's best to wrap pieces individually in plastic before bagging; this will make them less vulnerable to freezer burn. Another way to cut the risk of freezer burn is to buy vacuum-packed meats and poultry (which can also last about 2 days longer in the refrigerator). Leave seafood in its original packaging and, if possible, place on a bowl of ice in the refrigerator. However, live shellfish (like clams) should not be put on ice; open or poke holes in the packaging. To freeze seafood, slip the original packaging into a resealable freezer bag.
Beef and Lamb
• Chops
~ Refrigerator: 3 days
~ Freezer: 6 months
• Ground meat and premade patties
~ Refrigerator: 2 days
~ Freezer: 4 months
• Roasts and loins
~ Refrigerator: 3 days
~ Freezer: 6 months
• Sausage, uncooked
~ Refrigerator: 2 days
~ Freezer: 2 months
• Steaks
~ Refrigerator: 3 days
~ Freezer: 6 months
• Stew meat
~ Refrigerator: 2 days
~ Freezer: 4 months
*Real Simple consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists, food manufacturers, and a host of other experts-including fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee roasters, bakers, and bartenders-to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Real Simple chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.

Survey: REOs Safer Bet if Inspection-Approved ! - (Daily Real Esate News) About 84 percent of home buyers say distressed properties can be a good deal, and they would be more likely to consider buying a distressed property if a home inspector vowed that it was in good condition, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Home Inspectors.
ASHI points to the findings as a way to help increase buyer confidence in distressed sales.
The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ASHI, found that home inspections can increase buyer confidence for other home purchases too. Eighty-eight percent of adults surveyed said that a home inspection made them feel more confident about a property purchase.
That said, many home owners still have some confusion over what all a home inspection entails, the survey found. Twenty-eight percent of home owners mistakenly said that the inspection is to verify that a home complies with local building codes. What's more, more than one-in-10 home owners confused a home inspection with an appraisal, according to the survey.

04/20/2012 - Fixed Mortgage Rates Edge Slightly Higher! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, average fixed mortgage rates are holding relatively stable this week amid signs that inflation remains in check with the 30-year fixed up slightly at 3.90 percent and 15-year fixed at 3.13 percent. Meanwhile, the average 5-year ARM hit a new all-time low of 2.78 percent, from its previously low of 2.80 percent set the first week of February, 2012. News Facts.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.90 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending April 19, 2012, up from last week when it averaged 3.88 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.80 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.13 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.11 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.02 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.78 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.85 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.61 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.81 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.80 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.16 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac:
"Fixed mortgage rates held relatively stable this week amid signs that inflation remains in check. Industrial production was flat in March, a reading below the market consensus forecast. Meanwhile, both headline inflation gauges (the consumer and producer price indexes) for March were in line with market expectations."

3 Surprising Asthma Triggers! - (Reader's Digest) Don't stop at avoiding smoke and allergens-stay clear of these unexpected asthma triggers and you'll breathe easy.
1) Acetaminophen - This painkiller reduces glutathione, a substance that helps ease inflammation in the lungs. Ask your doctor if aspirin or ibuprofen is a good alternative, says Paul V. Williams, MD, of Northwest Asthma & Allergy Center in Washington.
2) Statins - A recent small study led by Safa Nsouli, MD, director of the Danville Asthma and Allergy Clinic in Danville, California, found that asthma patients who used cholesterol-lowering meds had more breathing problems than those who didn't. But other data suggest statins could improve symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think your asthma has gotten worse since starting statins.
3) Beer and Wine - They contain sulfites, compounds that have been linked with wheezing and other breathing issues in some people. Instead, consider liquor, which doesn't have sulfites.

Letting Go During a Move! - (RealtyTimes) Have you decided to make the leap in today's buyers market? Whether you are downsizing or moving into your dream home it's time to let go.
We hold onto a lot of baggage over the course of a lifetime. Some of this is emotional while much of it is in the physical realm. We become attached to things, both valuable and not. Moving is the perfect occasion to clean house.
Moving can be a time to literally let go of physical belongings. We are a pack rat nation! We love to hold on to every gift, knick-knack, souvenir, and pair of too small pants. What about all those things to which you're sentimentally attached? Should you keep them?
First, let's talk about some things. Holding on to belongings can not only stiffen your new space, but also keep you living in the past. Living in the past can make letting go and moving forward an incredibly difficult task. Instead of fully embracing a new life, you are pining away for the old. This becomes increasingly hard for those letting go of things that once belonged to loved ones who are no longer with us.
It's important to use moving as a time to pare down on stuff. Give yourself time to go through each room and find items that can be sold (garage sales, Craigslist, eBay, etc) or donated.
Start the process of letting go by coming to terms with the fact that items don't house the memories. Your mind and heart hold memories and those go with you everywhere.
Was the item a gift or an heirloom? The gifter, if they really care, would want your new home to be beautiful, not cluttered. Heirlooms should be kept only if they hold a very special place in your heart and if you have room in your new space. If you don't, then it's time to give the items to another family member or sell them to someone who will truly appreciate them.
Moving can also be an incredibly emotional time. There's a reason moving makes the top 10 list for most stressful life events. Apart from orchestrating the timing of movers, painters, and renovations and the financial responsibility of homeownership, moving can mean letting go of a home where so many memories have been created.
Letting go of emotional baggage is no small order. Familiarity is comfortable and safe. So, stepping outside that comfort zone takes courage and resolve.
Make the commitment to yourself that today is a new day. No time exists except the right now. Don't allow yourself to become bogged down in the past or in what could've been.
A simple way to embrace your new home is to write in a gratitude journal each day. This is helpful no matter if you're moving up to your dream home or have lost a home to foreclosure and are now needing to move away from the familiar. Take a moment each day to write down a few things that you are thankful for in your life today. This could be anything from a funny moment shared with your family to good health or a beautiful blue sky.
Moving can be an exciting time. By letting go of your extra baggage you'll free yourself up to enjoy every moment of your new life.

5 Tips That May Prevent Alzheimer's Disease! - (MoneyTalksNews) Alzheimer's Disease affects more than 10 percent of older Americans - and costs society billions of dollars a year. But these simple tips might help you avoid this deadly disorder.
Today, one in eight Americans over the age of 65 live with Alzheimer's Disease. This progressive brain disorder causes brain cells to degenerate and die, which results in a continuing decline in memory and other mental functions. Alzheimer's literally shrinks the brain.
Each year, Alzheimer's costs 79,000 people their lives, making it the sixth leading cause of death. It also costs American society - $200 billion this year alone, according to the Alzheimer's Association's projection.
Scientists haven't yet discovered a proven way to cure or prevent the disorder, but recent research connects certain lifestyle changes with decreased chances of developing Alzheimer's. Considering that these lifestyle changes will improve your physical health or mental function even if Alzheimer's weren't a concern, you have little to lose...
• Exercise your brain. Two studies published last week by the American Academy of Neurology support existing evidence of a connection between your mental activity now and your mental acuity later in life. In other words, keeping mentally active appears to preserve your mental skills, which may otherwise weaken with time. Examples of ways to challenge your brain include reading, playing board games, and doing crossword puzzles.
• Exercise your body. This tip is also backed by numerous studies - of mice and humans. The Mayo Clinic has even called exercise the "best bet" for preventing Alzheimer's. Note, though, that "exercise" in this case means getting your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes several times a week.
• Protect your health. A study published by the American Academy of Neurology last year found that seniors who rated their health as poor had greater chances of developing Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. A second study published last year found that even a modest reduction of certain medical risk factors - smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, midlife high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression - could prevent 3 million cases of Alzheimer's worldwide.
• Protect your mental health. A 10-year study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in November connected poor psychological health (specifically depression and anxiety) to a greater chance of dying from Alzheimer's Disease. As if you needed another reason to relieve stress, "One possibility, the researchers propose, is that chronic levels of psychological distress may raise levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Persistently high levels of cortisol, in turn, may have toxic effects on the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is critical for memory."
• Learn a foreign language. An article about the benefits of being bilingual, published in The New York Times last month, cited a recent University of California-San Diego study. It found that people with a higher degree of bilingualism were more resistant to Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. In other words, the more proficient you are at a second language, the later the disease onset.

Smoking and HOAs! - (RealtyTimes) Are residents complaining about drifting cigarette smoke? Worried about fire hazards? Tired of picking up cigarette litter? Wanting to maintain the highest possible property values? You are not alone. To minimize the risks associated with smoking and increase property values, homeowner associations across the U.S. are adopting no smoking policies. In a recent survey of Oregon Community Associations Institute members, 74% said no smoking policies are "desirable for HOAs."
Below are steps to guide the process. Additional tools can be found at including sample legal language, materials on financial benefits, legal questions and a more detailed version of these steps.
Step 1 - Constructing our no smoking rule.
Familiarize yourself with, and talk to your attorney about, the different methods of adopting a no smoking rule for your community association. These include (a) Amendment to Declaration, (b) Amendment to Bylaws, and (c) Board Resolution. Reaffirm the HOA's general rule against nuisances. Find sample legal language for all three methods at the website listed above.
Where do you want to prohibit smoking? Indoor common areas (lobby, hallways, community rooms); inside the units; outdoor general common areas (trails, playground, parking lots); outdoor exclusive use common areas (balconies, porches, patios); within a certain distance from the buildings (such as 25 feet), or everywhere on the property, inside and outside. If you designate an outdoor smoking area, make sure it is far enough away so the smoke doesn't drift back into the buildings.
When will rule go into effect? Allow time to gather owner input and educate residents. A summer date may increase compliance because it gives smokers a chance to get used to smoking outside.
How will the rule be enforced? Spell out the steps to enforce the rule and the penalties for infractions. Reference homeowner association rules to see how other violations are handled.
Step 2 - Get owner input.
Conduct a resident survey to give people the opportunity to voice their opinions, include them in the process, and to act as a preliminary "vote." A survey might uncover areas needing special attention and may decrease opposition. Find a sample resident letter and sample survey questions at the website above.
Step 3 - Educate owners.
A super-majority of owners may be needed to approve the rule change so take time to educate them on the benefits of a no smoking rule and to share the survey results. Use newsletter articles, notices on the website, signs in a lobby, etc.
Step 4 - Voting.
To promote voting, use multiple communication channels including letters to owners, newsletter articles, web notices, signs throughout the community, and knocking on doors to collect proxies. Since it may be difficult to obtain the required number of votes in a fixed time period (due to owner absence, etc), consider leaving the voting open until a quorum is reached.
Step 5 - Implementation.
Mail each resident a copy of the rule change or bylaw amendment as soon as it has passed. Make them aware they could be held financially responsible for violations on the premises and that the rule applies to everyone, including guests and tenants. Post no smoking signs at entrances, hallways and other conspicuous areas. If you find someone smoking in an area where it is prohibited, post a no smoking sign there too. Remove ashtrays, clean up cigarette butts and repair cigarette damage in common areas so that it does not look like a smoking area.
Step 6 - Enforcement.
Respond promptly to complaints of smoking. Ask those who complain to document when and from where the smoke likely originated. Consistently follow-up and enforce in a timely fashion. Taking the same steps in the same time period for every complaint and rule violation sends a clear message to everyone that smoking is not allowed.
Second hand smoke is a proven killer and far surpasses the definition of "nuisance". The wise board heeds the message to protect the health and property of all HOA members.
Information from the Oregon Smokefree Housing Project. For more innovative homeowner association management strategies, subscribe to


04/13/2012 - 15-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Hits New All-Time Record Low! - (RealtyTimes) In Freddie Mac's results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey®, average fixed mortgage rates declined for the third consecutive week on the heels of a weaker than expected employment report. The 30-year fixed averaged just above its record low while the 15-year fixed averaged a new all-time record low of 3.11 percent breaking its previous low of 3.13 percent on March 8, 2012.
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.88 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending April 12, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.98 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.91 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.11 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 4.13 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.86 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.78 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.80 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.25 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac: "Fixed mortgage rates eased for the third consecutive week following long-term Treasury bond yields lower after a weaker than expected employment report for March. Although the unemployment rate fell to the lowest reading since January 2009, the overall economy added just 120,000 new jobs in March, nearly half that of the market consensus forecast. On a more positive note, the Federal Reserve reported hiring was steady, or showed a modest increase, across many of its Districts in its April 11th Beige Book of regional economic conditions."

Increased Lending, Short Sales Necessary to Reduce High REO Inventories, Say REALTORS®! - (National Association of Realtors) Improving access to affordable mortgage financing for qualified home buyers and investors and committing additional resources to loan modifications and short sales will help reduce current and future inventories of real estate owned (REO) properties held by government agencies, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
In a letter sent today to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, NAR responded to the agencies' recent request for input and offered its recommendations for selling REO properties held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.
In its letter, NAR urged the agencies to create an advisory board as they explore new options for selling foreclosed properties to ensure that efficiently disposing of agency REO properties will minimize taxpayer losses and reduce the negative effects that distressed properties have on local real estate markets.
"As the leading advocate for housing issues, Realtors® know that foreclosures affect families, communities, the housing market and our nation's economy," said NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "We believe the government has an opportunity to minimize the impact of distressed properties on local markets by expanding financing opportunities, bolstering loan modifications and short sale efforts, and enhancing the efficient disposition of REO properties. This will help stabilize home prices and neighborhoods and help support the broader economic recovery."
Phipps said that the lack of available and affordable mortgage financing is hurting REO sales and the entire housing market, and urged increased consumer and investor lending. While NAR supports strong underwriting standards, the lack of private capital in the mortgage market, unduly tight underwriting standards, and increasing fees, have discouraged many potential home buyers from applying for mortgages. NAR believes ensuring mortgage availability for qualified home buyers and investors will help absorb the excess REO inventory.
To prevent further REO inventory increases, NAR also recommended that the agencies take more aggressive steps to modify loans and, when a family is absolutely unable keep their home, to quickly approve reasonable short sale offers that allow families to avoid foreclosure. Phipps said that while federal programs have been put into place to help keep families in their homes, many of these have fallen short of expectations, and advocated that those resources be applied toward modifying loans and expediting short sales, which are typically less costly than foreclosure.
"Loan modifications keep families in their home and reduce defaults, while short sales keep homes occupied, helping stabilize neighborhoods and home values," Phipps said. "Expanding resources and ensuring the use of already allocated funds for pre-foreclosure efforts is the best opportunity to reduce taxpayer costs and creates more positive outcomes for homeowners and their communities."
NAR's letter also outlined concerns about proposals to pool large volumes of REO properties for bulk sales. While these types of transactions may help quickly alleviate high REO inventories, taxpayers would be required to accept larger losses than are necessary. Phipps said that efforts should be made to incentivize individual versus bulk sales, except in small geographic areas that meet certain criteria, since selling in bulk to large national investors puts a large section of the housing market into the hands of fewer market participants and puts individual home buyers and sellers at a disadvantage.
He also said the success of any bulk sale programs should be determined by the stabilizing effect the program has on a locale and whether it maximizes value to taxpayers. Maximizing the recovery on the agencies' assets will depend on how property valuations are determined and that those valuations are accurate, appropriate, and reflective of market conditions, such as the valuations available through the REALTOR® Property Resource, an NAR subsidiary.
NAR is also concerned about proposals that include lease-to-own elements. Phipps said that agency policies should first be focused on keeping families in their homes through loan modifications or short sales if that's a better option, and that the agencies should not expedite foreclosures so that those properties could be included in a lease-to-own program. He added that any lease-to-own programs should not be administered by the government, but instead should include the participation of local investors or nonprofits that can manage the specialized needs and challenges of the local market.
"Realtors® welcome the agencies' desire to receive input and ideas to help address their REO inventory. We look forward to serving on any advisory board and working together with agency staff, real estate professionals, property managers, and others with extensive real estate industry experience to develop sound strategies and solutions to ongoing REO issues," said Phipps.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Happy Friggatriskaidekaphobia! - (Suburban Mortgage) Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the name given to a phobia of Friday 13th, a superstition that has existed for hundreds of years in virturally every corner of the world.
According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Ashville, North Carolina, fear of Friday the 13th affects between 17-21 million Americans.
Over the years, attempts have been made to debunk the notion that 13 is an unlucky number and prove that Friday the 13th is a day like any other. In the 1880's a group of influential New Yorker's formed a club for that express purpose, to debunk the fear of 13. The group's leader, William Fowler, a Civil War veteran with a defiant fondness for the dreaded figure: he had served with distinction in 13 major battles, retired from the army on August 13, 1863, and leased the club's future headquarters, a Manhattan tavern on the 13th day of a month.
Since Fowler and his like-minded recruits hoped to flout as many old wives' tales as possible, they entered by walking under a ladder and sat down to a table covered with spilled salt. This club became very popular attacting over 500 members.
So how unlucky is Friday the 13th, really? Experts say accurate data is impossible to collect but there have been studies that suggest there are fewer auto accidents, fires and crimes, adding the caveat that superstitious would be victims may simply stay home, out of harm's way.
Friday the 13th may actually be a boon for finance. According to CNBC, the market has been up 80 times out of the past 140 Friday the 13ths.
13 is actually one of my lucky numbers. It's a good thing, because I can't pronounce the word for the phobia!
I hope your day is lucky too.

A Simple System to Destroy Debt! - (MoneyTalksNews) It's possible to pay off every debt you have in months, rather than years. It's not easy, but it is simple. Here's a five-step process that will work, if you work it.
Ask anyone how much they make, and you'll get an instant answer - to the penny. But ask the same person how much they owe, and don't be surprised if their eyes glaze over.
If you don't know how much you owe, you're not alone. As you'll see in the video below, Consolidated Credit Counseling president Gary Herman says most people seeking help from their agency can't provide an accurate list of their debts.
Keeping on top of credit and debt isn't at the forefront of many American minds. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling's 2012 survey of financial literacy reports that one-third of adults don't pay all their bills on time, and in the past year, "most adults have reviewed neither their credit score (55%) nor their credit report (62%)."
The following steps describe a process Stacy and other consumer advocates have been using for decades. For more details, you can read his book Life or Debt 2010, but it's not complicated. It's called snowballing. And if you doubt it will work for you, simply read How I Wiped Out $37,000 of Debt in One Year and Reader Shrinks Credit Card Debt.
Step 1: Make a goal.
The easiest way to accomplish anything in life is to create a specific goal: something you intend to achieve, along with a deadline for getting there. Then stay focused by visualizing how success will improve your life. For example, if losing weight is the goal, decide exactly how many pounds and by what date. Stay motivated by habitually visualizing the "new you."
If losing debt is the goal, decide exactly how much debt you're going to destroy by what date. Then keep yourself motivated by visualizing the rewards: using money now going to interest for better things, like retiring early, starting your own business, putting your kids through college, or buying a house - whatever it takes to keep you keeping on.
Making a concrete goal and visualizing the rewards of achieving it is the single best way to go from wanting something to getting something. Unless you can make your goal more powerful than your existing habits, nothing will change.
Step 2: Make a list of your debts.
Now that you know how much debt you're going to destroy, it's time to pick the first target.
There are two popular options: The first is to assign the highest priority to the smallest balance. The other is to focus on the debt with the highest interest rate.
Smallest-debt-first is popular because as debts are paid off, you feel a sense of accomplishment that keeps you motivated. Highest-rate-debt-first makes the most mathematical sense. Choose based on your personality and the way you'll feel most motivated. But whichever method you use, whenever a debt is paid, use the old payments from it to attack the next debt on your list - that's the "snowballing" part.
Want to see how different scenarios would work? Plug your debts into a debt calculator and compare the "interest order" and "balance order" options.
Step 3: Create a "debt destroyer."
The more you pay on a debt, the faster it dies. So it's critical to create a "debt destroyer": a lump sum of cash you add to the minimum monthly payment of your target debt. The bigger, the better, but something to shoot for would be 10 percent of your monthly gross income.
Where will you find it?
If you're setting money aside for monthly savings, maybe you can temporarily use that to destroy debts. If you're spending a lot on eating out at work, maybe you can bring your lunch from home. If you're paying a lot for cable TV, maybe you can drop it and watch online instead. Maybe you can lower your insurance bills by raising your deductibles.
The best way to find the money for a debt destroyer is to track, then pick apart, your existing expenses. You can track your expenses in any number of ways, from to free budgeting spreadsheets. It's not rocket science - just keep track of the money you spend every day, divide it into categories, and review it. You're going to find money you can redirect to debt destruction.
Step 4: Execute your plan.
You decided exactly how much debt to shed, and when you expect it to be gone. You prioritized your debts by size or interest rate. You surgically reduced your expenses and created a lump sum of monthly cash earmarked for debt - a debt destroyer.
All that's left is to pull the trigger.
Make minimum payments on all but your target debt. On that debt, pay the minimum plus the debt destroyer.
When that debt is dust, go to the second debt in your list. For this one, send in the minimum, plus the debt destroyer, plus the minimum from debt 1. When debt 2 is destroyed, move to debt 3 - send in the minimum from debts 1 and 2, along with the debt destroyer.
Once you've snowballed your way to victory, and are completely debt-free, take all those old payments and that debt destroyer and turn it into a money machine by investing it every month.
Step 5: If you need help, find it.
It's hard to focus on destroying your debt if your debt is destroying you. If you've lost your job, are unable to make your minimum payments, or are otherwise in a precarious position, this isn't the time to use the steps above - it's the time to reach out and get help.
There are three types of organizations that can help you deal with dangerous levels of debt. It is suggested that you start with a credit counseling organization, or consider a debt settlement, or finally ...learn how to deal with your debt through bankruptcy.

Principal Forgiveness on Mortgages Gains Appeal! - (USA Today) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could save $1.7 billion if they forgave principal on some distressed mortgages, new analysis shows.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency- which regulates the mortgage giants - may decide in the next few weeks about whether to use principal forgiveness as a foreclosure prevention tactic, said Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA while speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institution.
The FHFA, and DeMarco, have come under pressure to allow Freddie and Fannie, which own or guarantee 60% of all home loans, to do principal forgiveness.
FHFA's previous analysis has shown that forgiving mortgage debt is no more effective than other loan modification efforts at reducing home loan defaults - and could cost taxpayers more money since Freddie and Fannie were placed under government control in 2008.
But new incentives from the Treasury Department may change that, FHFA's preliminary assessment shows. With those, Freddie and Fannie could curb losses by $9.9 billion if almost 700,000 homeowners received a mortgage reduction, FHFA says. That's $1.7 billion more than if those homeowners received principal forbearance - which means they defer payment on a portion of their loan.
DeMarco cautioned that any principal forgiveness would only help the U.S. housing crisis at the "margin," given that 11 million homeowners owe more on their homes than they're worth, based on CoreLogic estimates.
He also warned that some homeowners may stop paying their mortgages to try to get a principal reduction. That could wipe out benefits to Freddie and Fannie. Also, Treasury incentives come from taxpayer funds so they'll still be "on the hook," says Anthony Sanders, real estate finance professor at George Mason University.
Principal reduction "is clearly getting more traction" as a foreclosure prevention tactic, says Laurie Goodman, senior managing director of Amherst Securities. The recent $25 billion mortgage settlement requires loan servicers to do at least $10 billion in principal reduction. That doesn't cover Freddie or Fannie loans.
Principal forgiveness supporters say it'll lead to fewer foreclosures and help stabilize housing prices. FHFA's new analysis - and DeMarco's discussion of it - signals that a change is likely, says Ira Rheingold of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
DeMarco is "under enormous heat from the Obama administration" to do so, Rheingold says.

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