Identity Theft Insurance: Do You Need It?

Ways to lock your identity back downThe recent blockbuster “Identity Thief” made light of a very serious, growing problem in the U.S. and around the world. Identity theft is growing at an alarming rate; and it can wreak havoc on your plans for environmentally sustainable housing, checking account, credit cards and

credit ratings, it can even impact your employment and employability if you are looking for a job. So what can you do to protect yourself? Practice good privacy protection habits first. In the movie, the victim simply gave his personal information over the phone to a caller claiming to be from a company holding one of his accounts. Giving out personal info to someone you don’t know and cannot verify is a major mistake. But if you are already taking all the smart privacy protection steps you can and want to know if there’s more you can do, especially if you feel you are at a higher risk of identity theft (say for example you know that your personal data was recently compromised); you may want to think about identity theft insurance.

While identity theft insurance can’t prevent a theft from occurring, it can make repairing your identity a little bit easier after a theft has occurred. Repairing your identity can be costly; so the insurance reimburses you for certain expenses associated with getting your identity back where it should be. You can be reimbursed for things like phone bills, lost wages, cost for notarizing fraud affidavits or other documents, and certified mail costs, and sometimes even pre-approved attorney fees. If you’re looking to purchase identity theft insurance, comparison shop policies first among multiple insurance companies. Make sure you understand exactly what you are getting; find out about policy limits, deductibles, whether it covers lost wages and attorney’s fees and what the policy will cost, most policies range from $25 to $65 per year.

Get more tips on purchasing identity theft insurance in the article, “

Do I Need Identity Theft Insurance?” on the Equifax Finance Blog, and while you’re there, you can find tons of information to help you protect your identity, as well as manage your personal finances, from retirement to taxes to credit and more.

Infographic: Green Renovations That Pay for Themselves

Don’t want to go green because of the up-front costs? This insightful infographic from Digney York, interior renovation specialists for hotels and resorts, shows how the energy-efficient improvements in your home will pay for themselves and then some over time.
Green Renovations That Pay for Themselves (Infographic) - An Infographic from Digney York Associates, LLC

Outdoor Improvement Ideas from Equifax

Go green and enjoy the outdoors!You can embrace the outdoors and upgrade your home with lots of improvements to boost your home’s outdoors. We often forget about our home’s exterior when we think about home décor, but outdoor upgrades can bring years of enjoyment or improve your home’s attractiveness to buyers while still keeping in harmony with nature. A recent

Equifax Finance Blog article discusses popular outdoor upgrades.

  • Fire pits – enjoy the glow of an evening fire with a fire pit spring through fall; these can either be built-in and permanent or you can purchase a portable fire pit at a department or home improvement store

  • Outdoor kitchen – these can get upscale with a grill, sink, stove/oven, bar, refrigerator and more. An outdoor kitchen makes entertaining outdoors easier

  • Patio – kick your basic patio up a notch with a concrete pavers, which come in all kinds of sizes, shapes and colors and add a focal point with a paved walkway or fountain

  • Landscaping – planting trees or flowers is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to add beauty to your home; a colorful planter filled with seasonal flowers will add to your home’s curb appeal

  • Paint – touching up or repainting your home’s exterior will not only freshen up your home’s exteriors but it will also help protect your home from the elements

Get more home improvement tips at the Equifax Finance blog, including tons more helpful tips on real estate, as well as other personal finance topics, like retirement, taxes, insurance, credit and
identity theft protection.

Make Recycling a Part of Your Household’s Routine

recycling tipsWhen it comes to recycling, many people underestimate how much benefit the act of simply recycling everyday products on a regular basis could have. Here are my top five favorite facts when it comes to recycling and how you can help reduce our planet’s waste:

  1. Recycled Metal: The most important resources that should be recycled are the earth’s metals. One company devoted to this task is Brilliant Earth, a conflict-free diamond company specializing in diamond and engagement rings that works to reuse silver, gold and platinum. The recycling process includes refining the metal back to its pure elements before molding it into different objects. Not only do recycled metals put less of a demand on the earth’s resources, but they are also less harmful on the planet, making Brilliant Earth a valuable company in relationship with the earth’s environment.
  2. Recycled Shoes: Nike, one of the largest athletic brands in the world, offers a recycled shoe program that accepts donated shoes. They use the rubber from each pair to make playground turf, which ultimately eliminates waste and saves thousands of dollars. Nike also uses all organic materials for its items, making it a leading brand in society.
  3. Cell Phones: Cell phones last an average of two to three years, which means the used ones have the potential to accumulate quickly worldwide. Fortunately, they can be recycled by disassembling the phone and removing the battery; both parts can then be donated by dropping them off at computer or electronic recycler units.
  4. Plastic Bags: Plastic bags can be seen everywhere, from packaging to grocery store bags. For the average household, the material often accumulates rapidly, and adds thousands of pounds of extra waste at landfills. Instead of throwing your plastic bags away, consider donating them to local grocery stores, so that they can be reused and remade.
  5. 25 Million Trees Can Be Saved Each Year: Saving a total of 25 million trees a year is much easier than most people think. If every household recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, it would equate to this seemingly impossible number.

These few simple recycling habits are some of the easiest for households to acquire, and can largely contribute to solutions that will ultimately preserve the earth’s resources, making it a more habitable place to live for many generations to come.

Guest post written by Sophia Evans

Energy Efficient Stoney Creek Opening Soon in Woodstock

Stoney CreekAshton Woods Homes’ newest community Stoney Creek opening in August is the perfect place to raise a family. Stoney Creek is only minutes away from Downtown Woodstock, the new Aquatic Center, J.J Biello Park and The Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta. Priced in the low $200,000s, this community is sure to sell out quickly.

Offered in the community will be four very unique floor designs, including the Melrose, Whitmore, Monroe, and Glenwood. Homes will have somewhere around 2,842 to 3,160 square feet and feature four bedrooms with two-and-a-half baths.

The energy-efficient homes are very spacious and there are opportunities for finished basements, third floors and outdoor living. Residents will not only enjoy their home amenities, but also the community cabana, pool and playground located around the charming community clubhouse. Continue reading

4 Tips to Avoiding First Time Home Buying Mistakes

Earth-conscious homebuyersBuying a home is likely the biggest financial decision you’ll make. What should first time home buyers know before getting started? The Equifax Finance blog real estate pros came up with a list of four things every first time buyer should know to help avoid common first time buyer pitfalls/mistakes, in the recent article, “

First-Time Homebuyers: The Four Mistakes You Need to Avoid.”

  • Know Your Credit Score: If you have a bad credit score, you’re wasting time (unless of course you have the funds to buy a home in cash — which is unlikely). Without a decent score, you won’t be able to get financing for a mortgage. Knowing your score in advance will set you up for making decisions about whether or not to buy, and what kind of lending terms and interest rates you can expect. Check your credit for free three times a year from the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) and make smart credit decisions, like paying bills on time to keep your score up.
  • Get Pre-Qualified: Getting pre-qualified early in the process will not only let you know how much you can afford, it will set you apart from other buyers who are less serious and/or may not be able to get the financing that they want. Getting pre-qualified not only helps you, but it helps your agent and sellers, as it signals to them that you are ready and able to buy.
  • Know Home Values and Prices: Knowing the home values and prices in the areas you’re looking will arm you with the knowledge to be a savvy shopper and get the best deals. You can and should look up prices of homes for sale online, but you should also ask your real estate agent to provide you with some recent sales statistics. He/she can pull recent figures that will help you in your search, and will help provide perspective about pricing on homes that you’re interested in.
  • Assemble the right team: Find an agent that is knowledgeable about your area, experienced and trustworthy. You need an agent that you can feel confident in, and you’re likely to find the best fit through word of mouth as opposed to finding someone online. Ask your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, etc., for recommendations on an agent. Then, meet him or her and find out how long they’ve been working in your area, how many clients they have, if they have expertise with first time buyers, etc.

Get more real estate tips at the Equifax Finance blog as well as tips on retirement, insurance, taxes,

credit score, identity theft protection and more.

Green Atlanta Home Builder Uses Family Farm as Natural Resource

green Atlanta home builderWhen it comes to buying an energy-efficient new home in Atlanta, you want to choose a builder you can trust. Many builders say they can build you a green home, but finding one that actually encompasses earth-friendly qualities in their everyday lives is rare. Brock Built’s dedication to not only building green, but also living green is what makes them stand apart.

In fact, when you purchase a Brock Built home, you can rest assured that all of the natural stone in your new place came from Fox Mountain, which is located on the Brock family farm. The stone is harvested from their property, sifted and carried by dump truck back to Atlanta. Then, their on-site masons hand chisel the stone to make sure every single piece is a unique work of art. Once they are done, the stone is then ready to be used in fireplaces, firepits, home exteriors, landscaping boulders and retaining walls.

In addition to gathering all of their natural stone from the property, the farm is also run completely on solar power. Their solar energy system uses a series of panels to send the energy the home and well require to batteries. And, all of the home’s water is heated through tankless water heaters, which are more efficient in terms of energy and money.

Being committed to an eco-friendly lifestyle is just part of what makes this Atlanta home builder‘s GreenSmart program stand out from others like it. All of their homes are built to high standards for energy efficiency, and they include features such as radiant barrier roofing, spray-on fiberglass insulation, house wrap, high efficiency light bulbs, ENERGY STAR appliances and 14 Seer A/C units.

To learn more about Brock Built’s communities of Atlanta new homes and their GreenSmart program, visit the Brock Built website.

Ashton Woods Homes has Brilliant Basement Plans

Ashton Woods HomesHeritage at Kennesaw Mountain, Sterling Walk and Belmore Manor are Atlanta new homes that are sure to attain your homeowner dreams! Ashton Woods Homes created finished basement floor plans that are alluring, energy-efficient and selling out quickly. On a rainy or hot summer day, these charming basement spaces are perfect for having a chilled drink or playing board games with the kids.

Heritage at Kennesaw Mountain offers the popular Cambridge plan priced at $612,613 and provides 5,600 square feet. The Cambridge features six bedrooms and five baths as well as a gourmet kitchen on the main floor of the home. The breakfast room leads outside to a gorgeous patio deck with a screened in option that views a professionally landscaped yard perfect for rest and relaxation. The second story offers three additional bedrooms and a master suite with master bath. The basement also offers a sixth bedroom option as well as a study or game room space. Continue reading

New Alderwood Additions Coming this Summer

AlderwoodNew Atlanta townhomes are coming soon! Ashton Woods Homes has decided to build 10 more homes at Alderwood, and they are just in time for summer.

Alderwood is a lovely community located in Sandy Springs with great amenities on the way. Residents can stay nice and cool this summer by taking full advantage of the community pool! Residents can relax by the water’s edge while chatting with new neighbors. During the chilly summer nights, residents can warm up to the new outdoor fireplace. Continue reading

Being Green and Saving Green: Eco-Friendly Building Material Options

low-e windowWhen you’re building your Atlanta new home, there seems to be a never-ending list of things to consider and decide on during the process. One of the newest things that homeowners are adding to that list is how to build a more eco-friendly, green home. You know that you want your home to be economic, you want your building materials to last and you want your home to be energy efficient throughout its lifetime. While trying to incorporate as many as many of these energy and earth-friendly materials as possible, here are a few things you may want to consider:

  • Radiant floor heat – One thing to consider is how you are going to provide heat to your home, especially during the coldest winter months. Radiant heat rises out from the floor, and can be fueled by electricity, heated air or hot water. In single family homes, hot water systems are used most often because they are the most cost effective. Tubing is laid under the floor, and hot water funs through from the boiler.
  • Recycled wood or plastic composite lumber – Re-using materials that might end up in a landfill otherwise is a perfect way to make your home a little more green. These materials are becoming common in playground equipment, and the National Association of Home Builders reports that using plastic waster with wood fibers creates lumber that is less toxic and more durable than regular treated lumber. Materials with plastic help to reduce mold and rot, making it the perfect choice for decks and patios.
  • Low-e windows – Giving your house the ability to hold its temperature through low emissivity (low-e) windows is an easy way to make your home more energy-efficient. These windows require more of an upfront investment, but they quickly put that money back in your pocket through reduced energy bills.
  • Insulated concrete forms – Another alternative to wood is insulated concrete forms, which can reduce energy consumption by as much as 20 percent in colder climates.
  • Recycled steel – Using steel beams in construction can add stability and take away the risk of mold or rot you could get from wood. Steel beams are commonly made from scrap metal from cars, instead of a natural resource like wood. By using scrap metal, 75 percent less energy is used over making new steel.
  • Plant-based polyurethane rigid foam – Insulation plays a large part in whether or not your home is energy efficient. One of the best insulation options is made by a company that previously manufactured surfboards. After a slap on the wrist by the Environmental Protection Agency, the company stopped using hazardous materials in their boards and began using plant-based polyurethane rigid foam, which they realized was excellent insulation.

It is often the case that green products are initially more expensive, but by investing in the products now, you save in future energy costs over the lifetime of your home. You can also take even more pride in your energy-efficient Atlanta new home and know that you are benefiting the overall good of the environment.