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By Eva Beshears | Agent in Springfield, MO
  • Turn Off the Video Games and Turn Your Kids into Nature Reporters

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Greene County, Parks & Recreation in Greene County, In My Neighborhood in Greene County  |  June 13, 2012 8:05 AM  |  513 views  |  No comments

    Turn Off the Video Games and Turn Your Kids into Nature Reporters
    Boy using binoculars as a nature reporter

    By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

    Published: June 5, 2012

    When your kids whine, “I’m borrrrrred” during school breaks, sign into plant and animal tracking websites and teach them about nature.

    If you’re looking for something constructive for kids to do during school breaks and get them to help you with yardwork and gardening, turn them into junior environmental reporters by logging onto websites that track the comings and goings of plants and animals.

    These tracking sites depend on participants to report when they see a particular bud blooming or hummingbird humming as a way to determine how environmental factors — temperature, rain, whatever — are changing established growing and migration patterns.

    Your kids will learn how to identify creatures large and small, understand the growing stages of plants, and appreciate the inextricable link between man and nature. At the very least, you’ll recruit a grunt worker (think weeding!) and unglue them from their video games.

    Here are some reporting sites to check out.

    Project BudBurst: BudBurst is a national network of people who monitor plants as the seasons change and collect important ecological data based on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting — called “phenophases.” Scientists use the data to learn how individual plant species are responding to climate change. You can make single reports or keep a running log of what you see.


    Hummingbirds.net: Hummingbirds are Nature’s sideshow -- humming, darting, dive-bombing miniatures that are a riot to watch and feed. Your kid can help track of the Ruby-throated hummingbird’s migration by contributing to the site’s map, which indicates when the little darlings show up throughout the U.S. Hummingbirds.net also tracks hummingbird festivals around the U.S., a novel family vacation destination. More: Great projects for kids that attract birds to your backyard.


    Journey North: This site — and mobile app — turns your child into a field biologist who can report sighting everything from monarch butterflies to singing frogs. Your child also can view maps that document other sightings. What better way to learn by doing?

    Journey North

    Project FeederWatch: Thousands of FeederWatchers count the birds that arrive at their feeders from November through April, and report the information to the tracking project, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants receive the project’s annual summary publication, Winter Bird Highlights. Sign ups for the 2012-2013 season are underway now. A $12 to $15 donation is required to receive the data entry kit.


    What home and garden projects have you enlisted your kids to do? How do you keep them busy during school vacations?


    Broker Salesperson with Murney Associates, Realtors

    Springfield: (417)882-6222

    Email:  ebeshears@murney.com

    Web:  www.RealEstate417.com

  • Celebrating Earth Day Begins at Home

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Springfield  |  April 22, 2011 8:02 PM  |  508 views  |  No comments

    Celebrating Earth Day Begins at Home

    By: Courtney Craig

    Published: April 22, 2011

    Happy Earth Day! There are many ways to green up your life, but many of the most important improvements you can make are right in your own home.

    Happy Earth Day! There are many ways to green up your life, but many of the most important improvements you can make are right in your own home. We’ve searched the Internet for offers, contests, and tips for making your home a greener place--not just on Earth Day, but every day.

    Recyclebank’s Green Your Home Challenge: Log on to this online challenge, which asks you to complete green actions around your home. The more actions you complete, the more points you earn. You even get bonus points for referring friends to the contest. At the end of the contest, a grand prize winner will win a green home kitchen makeover, complete with brand-new Energy Star-qualified appliances. Smaller prizes will be awarded to 10 first-place winners and 100 second-place winners.

    Lowe’s Earth Day giveaway: The home-improvement chain is celebrating Earth Day by giving away 1 million trees on Saturday, April 23. Show up early to get your sapling.

    Home builder company giveaway: Today, KB Home street teams, festooned in green, at select locations will be handing out vouchers, which you can redeem for a $10 gift card. Through Sunday, April 24, at KB Home communities, you also can enter a sweepstakes to win a $2,500 cash prize. All Energy Star-qualified homes built by KB Home now come with an energy performance guide that estimates that home’s average monthly energy cost.

    Facebook’s A Billion Acts of Green: Pledge to do your part by announcing your green activity of choice through social media. This Facebook page lets you commit to your choice of green acts, such as eliminating toxic cleaning products, changing to CFLs or LEDs for home lighting, and/or getting a home energy audit.

    Earth911 offers tips on spring cleaning your garage: Follow these tips for staying organized, motivated, and eco-conscious while cleaning out a notoriously grungy and not-so-green part of your home.

    Earth911 also has ideas for reusing items in your garden: Learn how to use a few common household items that could easily end up in a landfill to help your garden flourish.

    Finally, The Greenists offer a simple tip for greening up all facets of your life: Use less. See how many opportunities you can find around your home to put this simple idea into practice:

    • Would you use washable rags instead of paper towels for cleaning?

    How will you celebrate Earth Day?

  • New Years Resolutions for the Home: A Financial Plan for Your Home

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Springfield, How To... in Springfield, Credit Score in Springfield  |  January 7, 2011 11:10 AM  |  471 views  |  No comments

    A Financial Plan for Your Home

    By: Richard Koreto

    Published: August 28, 2009

    Your home is probably your biggest investment. To manage it, create a financial plan that takes into account repairs, upgrades, mortgages, insurance, and taxes.

    Use our home financial plan budget worksheet, and start by writing a list of expenses, such as:

    • Mortgage
    • Taxes
    • Home insurance, including liability
    • Repairs and maintenance, such as new furnace, roof, painting
    • Voluntary upgrades, such as a swimming pool, a premium range, a new powder room

    What will you learn from this home financial plan weekend exercise?

    • How much you have to spend
    • How much you need to allot in the short- and long-term for necessary maintenance and voluntary improvements

    With this newfound grip on your home’s expenses, you can create a home financial plan that’ll help you there for years with maximum enjoyment and minimum anxiety.

    The mortgage: Pay it—and then some

    Yup, you already shell out a lot for your mortgage, but can you pay more? Even a little extra each month can add up to an earlier payoff. Let’s say you have $200,000 in outstanding principal and a 20-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5%. Your monthly payment is $1,319.91. But if you can manage to pay another $100 a month, you’ll save $14,887 in interest.

    Run the numbers yourself for your home financial plan.

    Advantages of an early payoff, says Alan D. Kahn, a financial planner in Syosset, N.Y.:

    • Less debt means more money to spend later.
    • It feels darn good to own your house outright as soon as possible.
    • Minimal tax loss. Toward the tail end of the life of a loan most of your payment goes to the principal, not the interest, so you’re getting only a small tax break anyway.

    Of course, if you’re still saving for retirement, put the 100 bucks elsewhere:

    • A retirement plan
    • An account for the inevitable home repairs
    • An account for discretionary improvements, which can raise your home’s value

    Insurance: Protect your property

    Your vegetable garden is pointless without a fence to keep out rabbits; likewise, your home financial plan will come to nothing without an insurance “fence”:

    Homeowner’s insurance. Basic coverage for your home and everything in it. The average cost is $636 per year but this varies widely by state.

    Liability coverage. Protects you from a lawsuit if someone gets hurt on your property, for example. Your best bet: An umbrella policy.  For about $300 a year you can by a typical $1 million policy.

    Various disaster insurance policies. Optional policies cover flood, earthquake, and hurricane damage. As part of your home financial plan, you have to research to see what disaster coverage, if any, you need in your area, and what your standard policy already covers. For $540 a year you can buy flood insurance, for example.

    Don’t under- or overbuy insurance

    For your basic policy, get homeowners insurance with full replacement coverage in case your house burns to the ground.

    That sounds simple, but heads up on calculation. Remember that you own a house as well as the land on which it sits. So even though you bought your home for $300,000, it may cost only $100,000 to rebuild it. Your policy limits should reflect this. This difference will vary widely by region.

    Another heads up: Don’t make the common and potentially disastrous mistake of thinking that because your home has fallen in value you need less insurance. If you bought a $1.2 million townhouse in Florida during the boom, it’s true it now may only sell for $600,000. But the replacement cost of the townhouse hasn’t changed much, so you can’t improve your home financial plan by cutting insurance costs that way.

    Other ways to cut your insurance budget:

    • If you make structural improvements, such as adding storm shutters, your insurer may give you a break.
    • If you belong to certain groups, such as AARP or veterans’ organizations, your premiums may be lower.

    Repairs and renovations: By choice or necessity

    You own a home, so you’ll be spending money on everything from a new faucet to—surprise!—a new roof. Freddie Mac and other authorities say as part of your home financial plan, you should be prepared to spend 1% to 3% of the market value of the home annually on maintenance. To be extra-prudent, open a savings account and make regular payments until your account reaches 1% to 3% of your home’s current value.

    To help you budget:

    Start with the inspection report you received when you bought the house. Did the inspector indicate that you would need a new roof in five years? A new furnace in 10? 

    Keep a log of your major appliances’ age so you can estimate when they’ll need replacing. Some estimated life spans:

    • Roof: 20-25 years
    • Heating systems: 15-20 years
    • Range/ovens: 11-15 years
    • Water heaters: 8- 13 years

    Then get estimates on what replacements will cost and start saving.

    Consider ongoing non-emergency maintenance, too. Do you live in New England? Price a snow blower and get bids from plow services.

    Resist the siren call of the home equity loan to take care of everything. That just defeats your efforts to pay off the mortgage early.

    Separate out what you want from what you need. A $50,000 kitchen remodel is nice, but you’ll recoup only 76% of the project cost your home’s resale, according to Remodeling magazine.

    If you can afford to redo, go for it. Just don’t confuse your necessary repairs (new oil furnace—about $4,000) with your discretionary upgrades (Viking range—$6,000 and up).

    Taxes: (Almost) no way around them

    Even if your lender handles your property taxes from an escrow account, you need to budget for them in your home financial plan. They creep up almost every year, it seems. Take responsibility for tracking the changes in your area: Look over past tax bills to get a sense of how quickly they’ve risen in the past.

    Or if your lender handles escrow and you haven’t saved your bills, ask for an accounting. The median annual property tax payment is $2,198, but that hides the enormous range in medians from state to state:

    • New Jersey: $6,320
    • New York: $3,622
    • California: $2,829
    • Alabama: $383
    • Louisiana: $188

    You can generally deduct property taxes on your federal return. A tax pro can tell you how much of a tax break you’ll get, to help you fine tune your home financial plan.

    You may be able to reduce your tax burden by getting a reassessment. Do your homework first: Are comparable houses taxed less than yours? Ask the local assessor what formula is used to set tax rates. You can challenge the assessed value and get yourself a rollback.

    If you’re in a special group, you might get some help from state or local programs. Check around to see what’s available in your area. New York State, for example, has its Star Program for giving senior citizens some relief from school-related property taxes.

    Richard J. Koreto is a managing editor of finance, taxes, and insurance at HouseLogic. He has been editor of several professional financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in Rockland County, N.Y.


    Broker Salesperson with Murney Associates, Realtors

    Springfield: (417)882-6222

    Email:  ebeshears@murney.com

    Web:  www.Ozarks-Homes.com


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