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Psychic-hotline producer owns 2nd most expensive apartment in NYC

Published: Friday, August 28, 2015 @ 5:00 PM
Updated: Friday, August 28, 2015 @ 5:00 PM


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He probably saw this happening years ago.

Yahoo Homes says Steve Feder, producer of the popular Ms. Cleo psychic hotline infomercials, owns the second-most expensive apartment in Manhattan, a $100,000 per month penthouse in the Time-Warner building.

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The site says only actor Robert DeNiro pays more.


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Your guide to finding the best lawn care pros this summer

Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 4:01 PM

William Moss, Master Gardener with the National Gardening Association, discuses some tips that help make your summer lawn maintenance easy.

The “Agony and the Ecstasy” may be a literary classic, but it's also an on-point description of owning a house with a lawn. Yes, it offers a wonderful play space for the kids and a respite from the workaday world for the adults. But when the heat climbs and the brown spots start showing and the lawn guy who signed up in cooler months starts ghosting you, your lawn can turn into real burden.

»RELATED: How to keep snakes out of your yard

It doesn't have to be that way, though. If you select lawn care professionals carefully and follow up with the respect that will keep them around, a lush green lawn can be yours− even in August.

Set the standard

According to Sue Silva of Arbor-Nomics, you should think of keeping your grass green the same way you think of having a healthy smile. "Your dentist provides regular care along with advice on preventing problems and warning signs to watch for. In between visits, you floss, brush and follow recommendations for any special care. You want that same kind of relationship with your lawn service. Regular weed killer treatments and fertilization alone won't guarantee a yard you're proud of and enjoy being in. For best results, you need to work with someone who is knowledgeable in what they do and can explain what you need to do."

Avoid the over-the-phone estimator. You'll never get anywhere with a company or individual who can't be bothered to see your lawn and answer your questions before discussing money.

Ask about later. Potential hires should be able to tell you about their refund policy and how their work is guaranteed. Make sure to get it in writing.

Find someone who understands fertilizer. According to Reader's Digest landscaping experts, many bigger lawn companies recommend too much fertilizer. You can save money and possibly avoid health risks if you look for a company or independent contractor who will employ a fertilizer with time-releasing water-insoluble nitrogen and use it only twice a year on a steady schedule.

Consider several options. It's not just price that will vary depending on who does your lawn. You'll also encounter different ways of billing, bundling services and establishing a fee schedule for everything from buying seedlings to paying electronically. Home Advisor recommended speaking to at least three or four lawn care providers before settling on one.

Check their mowing standard. According to LawnStarter, one simple question will weed out low-quality lawn care providers: "How often do you sharpen your blades?" Dull blades make grass look tattered and brown on top. Ask them how many mowing hours they go through before changing or sharpening blades. The answer should be no more than 10 hours. Popular Mechanics adds that a home owner or a professional will get the greenest lawn by letting the clippings fall while mowing. It's also important never to mow unless there's rain in the short-term forecast.

Get personal. "When it comes to the techs themselves, the fewer the better – at least in terms of who treats your property," Silva noted. "You're better served by having the same dedicated technician or tech team visit after visit. That way they get to really know your yard and can stay on top of any problem areas."

Get references. The lawn care industry is tricky, according to LawnStarter, which operates franchises in the Georgia area, because the industry is decentralized. "While Yelp reviews don't provide the whole story (usually only really positive and really negative experiences are written about), it does provide a good glimpse at what you're getting into. In addition, ask your neighbors which company they use and what they think of them." If you expect immediate service and are willing to pay for the privilege, you might want to consider a company that employs an office manager or owner-manager who can respond promptly.

Look for a business license and insurance. Sure, there are high-quality contractors who don't have multiple certifications, but most homeowners want a firm with a business license and proper insurance, so you won't be liable for injuries or damages, Katherine Hutt, a spokeswoman for the Better Business Bureau, told MarketWatch.

You're part of the equation, too.

When it comes to hiring the most reliable and competent lawn care professionals - particularly the little guy businesses - you're in competition with other homeowners and renters. Think of it like trying to hold onto a really good babysitter. Sure, you're already paying for lawn care, maybe a king's ransom if you've opted for the manicured lawn approach, but if you want your lawn to be the first serviced by an independent contractor when everyone needs mowing at the same time, being nice goes a long way.

Clear the yard before the mowers arrive. Be sure to pick up toys and dog poop and all the other things that can get in the way of the highly qualified professional you hired to mow your lawn.

Put the pets up ahead of time. Instead of inadvertently wasting a lawn care pro's time (or risking having to pay for a return visit), develop a routine that involves securing all your indoor and outdoor pets out of harm's way on mowing day.

Keep the kids off the clock. It's crucial not to waste a landscaper or mower's time. "We know your kids want to help," one professional told Reader's Digest, "but they're just making our job take longer."

Offer a cold drink. A cold beverage goes a long way when the temperature starts climbing. If you're not going to be home, set out a cooler with a note.


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How to keep snakes out of your yard

Published: Friday, June 08, 2018 @ 8:21 AM
Updated: Friday, June 08, 2018 @ 8:21 AM

Woman Bit By Copperhead Snake At Longhorn Steakhouse

Forget about "Snakes on a Plane," we're more concerned with snakes in the yard. Even though snakes are nowhere near as prevalent as our irrational fears would have us think (assuming you don't live smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake territory), if you're a homeowner with a bit of landscape or yard under your direction, you may encounter snakes on occasion.

» RELATED: 6 venomous snakes to watch out for in Georgia

That should be no biggie, according to experts at the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension

"As a general rule, snakes are just as frightened of you as possibly you are of them and often they move as quickly as possible in the other direction," the extension noted. Venomous snake bites are rare and you can readily take steps to treat them. If you're an avid gardener, you may even want snakes in your slice of the great outdoors, since they diet on rodents and insects and can actually help protect you from garden pests.

Not buying it? You can try to keep snakes out of your home life. Just understand that even the best measures are not 100 percent foolproof, according to America's Wetland Resources, which is based in the South.

"There are no magic or absolute solutions," AWR asserted. "There are no poisons or repellents that work, though some new 'breakthrough' is occasionally advertised. Horsehair ropes and trails of mothballs have consistently tested negative, and pest control operators have no answers."

» RELATED: How Atlantans can identify venomous snakes this summer 

But there are still plenty of valid ways to limit, or possibly eliminate, a slithery presence in your yard, garden or home. Here are five tips from the pros on how to keep snakes out of your yard:

Seal crevices. Closer to your home, seal the openings where snakes like to set up house. "Check the clearance of door bottoms, weep holes, openings where pipes enter, cracks and spaces under eaves," AWR recommended. "Don't neglect storerooms and sheds."

AWR added that sealing enough openings to make a difference is much more difficult if you own a raised wooden home.

Lawrenceville approves $253,061 for upgrades to the Lawrenceville Lawn. Courtesy City of Lawrenceville(For the AJC)

Tidy up the yard. Snakes might choose to live on your property or simply travel through, according to AWR. You want to make your property as inhospitable as possible, so concentrate on ridding it of any places snakes would consider good spots to hide. Remove debris, from piles of boards, tin, sticks and leaves to flat boats on the ground and piles of bricks or stone, AWR advised, and keep vegetation cut back.

» RELATED: 7 most common myths about snakes

Stop serving the snake's preferred menu. It's a win-win. When you take away potential hiding places for snakes, the spots where rat and mice families like to congregate are also eliminated. But take this one step further, AWR advised, and take further steps to get rid of the rodents that snakes like to snack on. You may want to involve a pest control agent, but you definitely want to practice anti-rodent hygiene, including not leaving pet food out for more than an hour or so, closing trash cans tightly and securing compost in a sealed container.

Combat the climbers. If limbs from a neighbor's yard hang over your fence, snakes may use them as an entry to your place. Consider working with your neighbor to get them trimmed.

» RELATED: Largest venomous snake in U.S. spotted swimming in waters off Florida Keys

Consider the snake-proof fence. If you live in an area where one or more venomous snakes are common, you may want to invest in a snake-proof fence, according to NCSU. "Small areas where children play can be protected from all poisonous and most harmless snakes with a snake-proof fence," it noted. "However, the cost of the fence may make it impractical to protect an entire yard."

Make a fence by burying 1/4-inch mesh wire screening 6 inches underground and building it up 30 inches, instructed NCSU.

"It should slant outward at a 30-degree angle from bottom to top. The supporting stakes must be inside the fence and any gates must fit tightly. Tall vegetation must be removed along the fence, both inside and outside."

It's costly, but you can snake-proof the entire yard with a concrete chain wall that extends six inches or so below the surface, noted AWR. 

» RELATED: Photos: Georgia’s venomous snakes and how to identify them

"If you already have a wooden fence and the boards are very close together, a good solution is to snake-proof the bottom." 

One fairly cheap way is to use 1/4-inch hardware cloth cut in strips wide enough to overlap the bottom of the fence so it can be tacked securely and extend down into a narrow trench six inches deep.

AWR added another word of caution for either snake-proof fence design (spoiler alert: it's nightmare inducing.) "Many snakes climb by looping over objects and the above described design may virtually eliminate their entry," it noted. "Others, however, can crawl up vertical surfaces if they are rough, such as the trunk of a tree or a brick wall (including the side of a house)."

» RELATED: Snakes are most attracted to these kinds of Atlanta homes

To overcome this creepy climbing capability, you can place a foot-wide ledge made of wood or metal flashing along the outer side at the top. "This structure makes the snakes lean out away from the wall and it will lose its grip and fall."

After all this snake talk, AWR does have one bit of great news. "Snakes are rarely abundant in any one location."

And if all your efforts fail and snakes do make their way into your yard, AWR recommended the ultimate failsafe. 

» RELATED: It’s the season for snakes: When should you worry?

"The best thing you can do for yourself and family is to teach everyone to respect snakes and to be on the lookout for them," according to the  AWR website. "Remember, don't touch it with your hands. Use a shovel to place the snake in a deep bucket with a cover. The chances of your encountering a venomous species is remote, but possible enough to always by careful!"


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6 factors that will affect your mortgage payment 

Published: Thursday, May 03, 2018 @ 3:37 PM

The following are five ways to ensure that you're getting the best mortgage rate possible Look beyond a 30-year fixed rate Improve your credit score if it's low Beef up your down payment Get more than one quote Consider paying points

Deciding when to shop for your first home can be a big decision. 

Maybe you've been holding down the rent payments on your apartment for a few years and you're ready to invest in a place of your own. Maybe you just got married and you're looking for a house with a backyard for your two dogs. No matter what your motivation for taking this step, it's important to start by figuring out how much you can spend on a home without breaking your budget.

»RELATED: House hunters, here are 5 secrets to getting the best home loan

The problem is, for first-time home buyers, understanding how mortgage payments are calculated can be about as clear as mud. To help you navigate the numbers, here's a breakdown of what you'll need to think about when estimating your monthly payment:

1. Property Price

The starting off point to figure out your mortgage payment is the property price. Once a buyer and seller agree on a sale price, almost all mortgage lenders will use the results of an appraisal to find out how much the house is actually worth. According to an article on Zillow, lenders might not issue a loan for more than the appraised value, but you can always put up your own money to cover the difference.

A home exchange is about more than accommodations; you also join a community that allows you to make new friends and discover places you wouldn't ordinarily visit.

2. Down Payment

The amount of your down payment can vary based on a few factors. When shopping for your first home, you want to be realistic about how much cash you will have available for your down payment and closing costs. Speaking to a mortgage lender ahead of time will help you figure out how much you should save for the down payment on the house of your dreams. Once you're ready to get started, here are some tips on how to save for that down payment.

3. Loan term

Your payment can go up or down depending on how much time you have to pay off your loan. ranks 30-year home loans as the most common.

4. Interest Rate

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your interest rate is based on things like your credit score, the economy, how much you're looking to borrow, and where your house is located. Because these rates change with the market, it's impossible to pinpoint exactly where they might be on the date of your closing. You want to speak to your lender to figure out how to get the best rate at the time you're ready to buy.

»RELATED: Numbers don’t lie: 5 things to know about your FICO score

5. Property Taxes

Property taxes are set based on where your house is located. Certain metro Atlanta areas have higher property tax rates than others so you might want to do your research to see how local counties compare. Also, property taxes can change over time so you'll probably see a slight difference in your monthly payment amount from year to year.

6. Other Factors 

The monthly payment on your home sometimes includes some other factors. Here are a few you might want to keep in mind:

  • Homeowners Insurance: Your annual homeowners insurance premium is usually rolled into your mortgage payment.

  • Private mortgage insurance: Private mortgage insurance (PMI) may be added to your mortgage payment depending on your lender's requirements.

  • HOA Fees: If your property is a part of a mandatory Homeowners Association, you will have to pay annual fees to participate. HOA fees are paid separately from your mortgage, but should be included in your payment estimates because they are typically paid monthly.

Here's a quick example of a mortgage calculation using the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices app for Georgia properties:

  • Sale price: $195,000

  • Down payment: $6,825 (3.5 percent)

  • Loan term: 30 years

  • Interest rate: 4.5 percent

  • Property taxes: $1,200/year

  • Homeowners insurance: $700/year

  • HOA dues: $125/month

  • PMI: $180/month

Based on these numbers, a ballpark guess for your mortgage would be about $1,417 per month.

Fortunately, there are several real estate apps and websites that include free mortgage calculators. These tools can help you estimate how much a specific home might cost you per month. However, because mortgage payments can vary based on your specific situation, it is vital to speak to a mortgage lender before kicking off your home search to get the best idea of how much you'll pay monthly for that dream house.

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Here’s how buying plants can help these Greene County college students

Published: Saturday, April 28, 2018 @ 4:07 PM

            U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at Central State University on Thursday. Perdue (center) met with students, President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond (left) and other school leaders.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at Central State University on Thursday. Perdue (center) met with students, President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond (left) and other school leaders.

Central State University will host its 27th annual Plant Extravaganza, and money raised at the event will benefit students.

The sale will happen Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. and again Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. in the CSU Greenhouse in Wilberforce.

Students majoring in Sustainable Agriculture and volunteers started in January to plant seeds and propagate houseplants, annual flowers, perennials, herbs and vegetables. The community outreach effort is sponsored by the Department of Agricultural Sciences in the College of Engineering, Science, Technology and Agriculture.

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The greenhouse specializes in seed geraniums, coleus, tomatoes and peppers, but there are more than 50 varieties of plants available. Cost per flat is $10, mix or match. Additional donations are accepted.

All proceeds are donated to the CSU Greenhouse Fund, which helps pay for supplies, scholarships, student research and campus beautification.

The public is invited to come early for the best selection. Cash or checks accepted only.

Central State University is a regionally accredited 1890 Land-Grant University.

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