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Outside, you’ll need to check gutters and problem tree limbs. Indoors, you’ll want to tend to your large appliances and tackle overflowing closets.

November is a good month to move some maintenance efforts indoors. This month also provides an opportunity to see if your hard work during earlier months paid off — nothing tests waterproofing efforts like a hard November rain.

Maintain large appliances
As the holiday season begins, make sure your appliances are prepared for the demands you will place on them.

Pull your refrigerator from the wall and clean the condenser coils in back with a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment. Also, vacuum dust from the front lower grille and clean the drip pan and the drain leading to it, if your unit has one.

Clean the oven and stove drip pans on your electric range. Clean the surface burner on your gas stove to ensure proper flame level.

De-stench your in-sink garbage disposal by packing it with ice cubes and 1/4 cup of baking soda; then turn it on. After the ice-grinding noise stops, pour a kettle full of boiling water into the sink.

Check the dishwasher strainer and washer arm; clean if necessary.

Clean and maintain closets
Go to your closets and perform these two simple tests: Can you see floor space, and can you easily close the door? If the answer to either one of these questions is no, clean your closet. Cramped closets can provide haven for pests, too-full racks can break free from walls, and sliding doors can be derailed by too much stuff. Add compartments and hanging racks at different levels to make better use of space.

Maintain woodwork
November is a good month to repair and reglue woodwork, because indoor air is at its driest. If you are regluing wobbly dining room chairs, clamp during drying by wrapping a rope tightly around the perimeter of the legs. Be sure to protect wood surfaces with cardboard before tightening rope. Try using toothpaste on white water stains on wood surfaces. Once the stain is removed, polish with furniture polish. Use paste wax and elbow grease to put a new sheen on wood furniture.

Clear leaves from gutters
Cleaning gutters is a slimy job, but the task will protect your siding and basement from expensive water damage. Don long rubber gloves, grab a gallon bucket and scoop leaves into the bucket by hand. Trying to use a garden trowel or other device just makes the task more cumbersome and can damage gutters. Blast the scum from the bottom of the gutter with a hose equipped with a pressure nozzle. If it doesn’t drain well, feed your running hose up the pipe to knock loose the clog. Dump the contents of the bucket on your compost pile and pat yourself on the back for a dirty job well done.

Speaking of leaves …
Check some other places where accumulated leaves can be a problem. If leaves are piled in the valleys of your roof, they can retain water and initiate leaks. Walk your property with a shovel and clear drainage ditches and culverts of leaf buildup. Also, a moderate amount of leaves on a lawn can provide a natural mulch, but if large amounts are left to soak up winter rains, they will smother the grass beneath them.

Have problem trees trimmed
Now that you’ve cleaned your gutters, you know which trees are dumping leaves on your roof, shading it enough to encourage moss, and close enough to cause serious damage should they lose a branch in a storm. Trees are dormant this time of the year and can withstand extensive pruning. Decide which ones need cutting back and hire a professional to do the job. This is not a do-it-yourself task if the trees you are looking at are high enough to affect your roof. Trimming large trees is a dangerous job that should be left to an expert.

Maintain moisture
Heaters, especially forced air and wood stoves, can rob a home of humidity. A touch of moisture in the air makes heated air feel warmer, so you can keep the heat at a slightly lower temperature if your humidity is balanced. If your woodwork is cracking or your skin seems excessively dry, you need more moisture in your home. A furnace-mounted humidifier is likely the answer if your home has central forced-air heat and other measures don’t moisten things up. If you have a wood stove, put a nonwhistling teakettle on it and add water regularly (check it daily to make sure the water hasn’t evaporated). If you prefer not to go by feel, buy an inexpensive instrument called a hygrometer that measures humidity.

Maintain pools down south
For most of the country, pools are out of sight and out of mind during November. But if you live in sunny southern climes, this month marks the beginning of the dry season and the time to begin any pool maintenance job that requires emptying the pool. If a pool is emptied when groundwater levels are high, it can “float” and damage itself. So if you’re fortunate enough to live in a place where you can actually enjoy your pool in December, consider having major maintenance like replastering done this time of year.

Check your sump pump
Some unfinished basements in wet areas have sump pumps installed. These pumps switch on automatically when groundwater levels rise, eliminating basement water before it becomes a problem. If you have one, make sure it is in good working order before the rainy season starts.

Buy foam-cup covers for outdoor faucets
Be prepared to protect your spigots when the weather gets chilly and flirts with going below the freezing level. The foam cups are commonly sold at hardware stores and provide a cheap insurance policy that will help keep exposed pipes from freezing.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Anne Erickson of MSN Real Estate

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You might see some holiday deals on these items, but you’ll likely get much better prices if you wait a bit.

 

With all the Black Friday ad leaks and sneak peeks unearthed in the past few weeks, this season’s shopping extravaganza is looking ripe with deals and discounts for all. But even though many product categories will see new all-time low prices, not everything will be a good purchase on Black Friday.

In some cases, you would be better off skipping certain deals and waiting for a better offer later on. Here are 10 items that are not worth buying this Black Friday.

Toys

We’ve said it many times already, and we’ll say it once more: Black Friday is not the best time to buy toys for the holidays. Many will likely still be discounted for Black Friday, and it may feel pretty good to get your shopping done early, but you won’t love that sinking feeling you’ll get when you see bigger discounts on those toys about two weeks before Christmas.

Game consoles without a bundled item

Speaking of toys, if you’re looking to buy any of the major video game consoles this holiday, you’re likely to get more bang for your buck by opting for one that comes with a few extras. While we’ve already seen a few choice Xbox deals in the leaked Black Friday ads, in years past the vast majority of Editors’ Choice console deals went to holiday bundles that included premium accessories and two or three game titles. These were frequently discounted 30% to 40% off their retail prices.

Brand-name HDTVs

Black Friday is an excellent time to invest in a new HDTV, as we predict a variety of size categories will hit their lowest price points. But don’t expect the best deals to be tagged with name brands. Typically, the rock-bottom prices will mostly apply to third-tier manufacturers. Instead, brand-name TVs tend to see their best price of the year in January and February as manufacturers look to clear stock in preparation for new models in the spring.

The latest digital cameras

There’s no shortage of digital camera deals around Black Friday, but keep in mind that the premium current-generation models are just a few months away from being replaced by a new line of 2013 options. If you’re eying a brand-new digital SLR, we recommend waiting until February or later when it becomes an “old model,” resulting in more aggressive discounts from retailers.

Christmas decorations

While not typically on anyone’s “To Buy on Black Friday” list, Christmas decor tends to end up in-cart as impulse buys. Sure, that string of lights or holiday wreath might be on sale, but deals on Christmas items get better the closer we get to the holiday itself — and of course are the best after the holiday.

Office supplies

For some, it may seem silly to advise against office supply deals on Black Friday, as it’s not typically a category associated with the shopping event. But for several years running, office supply stores like Office Depot and OfficeMax have released Black Friday ads in the hopes of encouraging an uptick in business. Unfortunately, these deals are generally no better than those we see throughout the rest of the year. In fact, during the entire Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday stretch in 2011, we only found a measly three Editors’ Choice deals in this category.

Jewelry and watches

We’re flagging this accessories category “do not buy” for the entire holiday season. Much like Christmas items, there will be lots of sales advertising shiny, metallic objects perfect for him or her. But the discounts on jewelry around the winter holidays are no better than those around Valentine’s Day, when baubles are at peak demand. And instead of buying a watch now, consider holding off until the spring and summer when we see more Editors’ Choice deals.

Winter apparel

During Black Friday, we’ll likely see some of the best apparel coupons of the year from a variety of retailers. However, if winter apparel is on your list, it’s smarter to hold off until January, when those items are added to clearance sales that take much deeper base discounts. We will inevitably find additional stacking coupons then too, to make those stronger sales even better for your wallet.

Apple iPad Mini

The long-awaited iPad Mini will set you back at least $329, and if it follows the price pattern of its distant predecessor, the first generation iPad, it won’t see a discount until several months from now. While there’s an off-chance that an attention-seeking retailer could offer an iPad Mini promotion — the latest full-size iPad is included in the Target Black Friday ad, after all — the bottom line is this: The iPad Mini features essentially the same innards as the iPad 2, and we’re predicting that the latter will fall to $299 this Black Friday. Therefore, the iPad 2 will offer more screen real estate at a lower price.

While we advise against purchasing the above products around Black Friday, keep in mind that nothing is written in stone, and we may still see some stellar deals within these categories. However, it’s more likely that we’ll encounter so-so offers, so it’s best to temper your expectations.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Money partner

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Markets could be volatile no matter who wins Tuesday’s presidential election. Here’s what to expect if Obama wins, if Romney wins or — worst-case scenario — if we don’t know right away.

 

Markets will likely be on edge leading up to Tuesday’s election — and volatile the day after and for the remainder of next week. Emotions about the election are high and often bitter. The trench warfare of the campaign is intense.

The polls — and the analyses of the polls — give the nod for a very narrow win to President Barack Obama, especially after a relatively decent jobs report on Friday. Mitt Romney’s camp says he’s going to be the clear winner.

We’ll see. There are some hints from history on what may happen.

Obama wins
If Obama wins relatively clearly — that is, the results aren’t disputed and end up in the courts — the stock market may well tumble on Wednesday. It did after he was elected in 2008: The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU +0.03%) were off 7.1% by the end of the week, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index ($INX +0.05%) off 7.4% and the Nasdaq Composite Index ($COMPX +0.37%) down 7.5%.

Yes, those are real numbers, but they may have had less to do with the president-elect than with the ongoing financial crash of 2008.

Obama and Wall Street have an edgy relationship, even though one of the great stock market rallies in history began in March 2009 after he took office. Many on Wall Street have spent millions of dollars trying to push Obama out.

There is a chance for a different outcome. If Obama wins, it means Ben Bernanke will probably stay on as chairman of the Federal Reserve Board until his term expires in 2014. And the Fed’s accommodative monetary policy — the promise of low interest rates into 2015 — will continue.

Moreover, the odds for a solution to the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax increases and spending cuts — will increase. To do nothing won’t help Republicans. That will be bullish for stocks.

The first scenario is more likely, but the second is worth thinking about.

Romney wins
If Romney wins the election clearly, the stock market may jump. He himself predicted it would when he made his now-famous comment about 47% of the population seeing themselves as victims.

Our conjecture here is based on the market’s reaction to George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004. The major indexes jumped about 3% that week.

That return was about all the Dow did for that year; the S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended the year up more than 8%.

Wall Street will be delighted in a Romney win because, the theory goes, regulation will be rolled back and Obamacare will be repealed. And there is the prospect that Romney’s vows to fix the tax code will mean lower taxes for the wealthy.

It is possible — if unlikely — that a Romney win won’t cheer the Street. One issue is Bernanke, who would be pressured by many in Congress to quit and go back to Princeton. Two issues will go through investors’ minds: Who will replace Bernanke and when would a new Fed leadership then start raising interest rates? Rising rates are death to stocks.

There’s a third issue. Romney is an experienced and successful business executive. But what is not clear is whether he has the political subtlety to convince a tea party-dominated Republican majority in the House of Representatives (and maybe the Senate as well) to trim government spending carefully without tipping the economy into recession. He insists he can lead, but Congress is not a business. There are lots and lots of agendas and scores to be settled publicly and privately.

The tea party scares Wall Street. Look at the reaction in the debt-extension crisis in the summer and fall of 2011. The Dow fell as much as 6.9% before stabilizing in early October; the S&P 500 and Nasdaq were off about 8%.

There is no winner
This assumes that neither Obama nor Romney can come up with 270 electoral votes needed to win. Or results are delayed by the effects of Superstorm Sandy in the Northeast or Ohio.

No one wants this except political talk-show hosts. Least of all investors. When the 2000 Bush-Gore election ended without a clear winner, the Dow fell 3.2% that week, with the S&P 500 off 4.6% and the Nasdaq off 11.3%.

Admittedly, the dot-com bust had broken the 1990s bull market, and the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks were ahead.

But a soft economy and a weak stock market do not do well in extreme political uncertainty.Between Election Day 2000 and the market bottom in October 2002, the Dow fell 33%.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Charley Blaine

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