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Fun Facts About Christmas!

by Desi Sowers

 

  • Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
  • Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.
  • The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
  • The Salvation Army has been sending Santa Claus-clad donation collectors into the streets since the 1890s.
  • Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
  • Construction workers started the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition in 1931.    
  • Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.
  • By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S.
  • The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.
  • In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.
  • Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
  • The meaning of Christmas lights one common belief is that red represents passion, green represents vitality, yellow represents brilliance, white represents purity and blue represents a generosity of spirit

                      Learn more fun Christmas facts and traditions at the History.com

5 DIY steps to help you stay warm and save money this winter

by Desi Sowers

(BPT) - With the dead of winter fast approaching, it’s never too soon (or late) to prepare your home for the cold months ahead. With the goal of keeping cold air out and warm air in, make sure you’re doing all you can to keep your family warm and your heating bills low.

Proper insulating and air sealing can help lower your energy bills by up to 30 percent, according to the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET). Additionally, the average U.S. home has a half mile of gaps and cracks spread throughout, according to energystar.gov. If you’re seeing spiders, dust, cobwebs and feeling drafts or uneven room temperatures, your home likely has gaps and poor insulation. Here are five DIY air sealing steps to help keep your home comfortable during the frigid weather using insulating foam sealant:

1. Scope out the problem areas

Start by checking around doors and windows that lead outside or to the garage. Gaps around water and waste pipes often lead to exterior walls which can let in a lot of air. Don’t forget to look around in your basement and attic where you may find gaping joists, holes in wood or cracked blocks.

2. Take safety precautions

Before starting any DIY project, be sure to take the necessary safety precautions. Begin by reading and understanding all of the instructions on the foam sealant can for proper use and handling. Sealant is sticky and will adhere to your skin, so cover all skin.  At a minimum, you’ll need both gloves and long sleeves to cover your hands and arms, along with a pair of safety glasses. Protect the floor and surrounding area by laying down a ground cover and make certain the room has proper ventilation with no sparks or flames nearby.

3. Start with windows and doors

To seal the openings around windows and doors and their rough openings, find an entry point for the nozzle to spray the foam sealant, such as Great Stuff(tm) Window & Door Insulating Foam Sealant. Fill the cracks only about half way, because the foam will expand the rest of the way. Not only does this block out cold air, but it’ll help keep those unwanted bugs and spiders out of your home.

4. Move on to cracks in the foundation

Cracks in your home’s foundation tend to develop over time. It’s important to take action when you find them, to help prevent major damage down the road. Apply a water-resistant, air-tight sealant to any cracks you find in your basement or attic. Shake the sealant can and turn it upside down to begin filling. If you spray too much, wait for the sealant to cure, and after about eight hours when it is fully cured, level it with a serrated knife.

5. Seal off pipe penetrations

Pipes that penetrate floors and walls in your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room are prime areas for air flow and pests to sneak through. As a result, the space that surrounds the pipes should not be left wide open. Using a can of foam sealant, point the straw into the opening around the pipe and start sealing. Do not force foam into spaces or voids behind walls.

6. Safely store and dispose of cans

Most one-component insulating foam sealant cans are for one-time use so before you start, make sure you identify all the areas around your home that you can seal. Also be sure to follow all of the instructions on the product label for both storage and disposal. Disposal regulations for these types of products may differ from one location to the next. Because a sealant is pressurized it must be stored upright and at room temperature.

Follow these steps to help keep your home warm and cozy this winter. For more information and tips on winterizing your home visit: www.dowgreatstuff.com/winterize.

NAR Reports Reveal Two Reasons to Sell This Winter

by Desi Sowers

We all realize that the best time to sell anything is when demand is high and the supply of that item is limited. The last two major reports issued by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed information that suggests that now is a great time to sell your house.

Let’s look at the data covered by the latest Pending Home Sales Report and Existing Home Sales Report.

THE PENDING HOME SALES REPORT

The report announced that pending home sales (homes going into contract) are up 3.9% over last year, and have increased year-over-year now for 14 consecutive months.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, expects demand to remain stable through the final two months of the year, and “forecasts existing-home sales to finish 2015 at a pace of 5.30 million – the highest since 2006.” 

Takeaway: Demand for housing will continue throughout the end of 2015 and into 2016. The seasonal slowdown often felt in the winter months hasn’t started and shows little signs of being near.

THE EXISTING HOME SALES REPORT

The most important data point revealed in the report was not sales but instead the inventory of homes on the market (supply). The report explained:

  • Total housing inventory decreased 2.3% to 2.14 million homes available for sale
  • That represents a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace
  • Unsold inventory is 4.5% lower than a year ago

There were two more interesting comments made by Yun in the report:

1. "New and existing-home supply has struggled to improve, leading to few choices for buyers and no easement of the ongoing affordability concerns still prevalent in some markets."

In real estate, there is a guideline that often applies. When there is less than 6 months inventory available, we are in a sellers’ market and we will see appreciation. Between 6-7 months is a neutral market where prices will increase at the rate of inflation. More than 7 months inventory means we are in a buyers’ market and should expect depreciation in home values. As Yun notes, we are currently in a sellers’ market (prices still increasing).

2. "Unless sizeable supply gains occur for new and existing homes, prices and rents will continue to exceed wages into next year and hamstring a large pool of potential buyers trying to buy a home.” As rents and prices increase, potential buyers will not able to save as much for a down payment and many may become priced out of the market.

Takeaway: Inventory of homes for sale is still well below the 6 months needed for a normal market. Prices will continue to rise if a ‘sizeable’ supply does not enter the market. Take advantage of the ready willing and able buyers that are still out looking for your house.

Bottom Line

If you are going to sell, now may be the time.

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