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Feds allege Minnesota bank discriminated in lending practices

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

MINNEAPOLIS -- The U.S. Justice Department has accused Minnesota-based KleinBank of "redlining," the practice of unlawfully structuring its mortgage lending business to avoid serving minority neighborhoods around the Twin Cities.

In a federal lawsuit filed late Friday, lawyers from the department's civil rights division said Chaska-based ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Frugal Food Shopping 101

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

As food costs continue to soar, it's a good time to revisit the basics of frugal food shopping. Follow these tips and, provided you don't end up buying twice as much, you really will see your food costs plummet.

GO WITH CASH ONLY. Shopping with cash and only cash is one of the best ways to make a severe grocery budget work. If you have the ...Read more

House Calls: Losing Money with Two Homes

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: I am trying to downsize from my large upscale house to a much smaller house. My small house is complete, but my large house is not selling. My Realtor dropped the price three times in six months, to far less than I paid for the place, but to no avail. I am now contemplating putting out an advertisement that says, "Best offer by two ...Read more

Average real estate commissions dropping to low 5 percent range

Consumer / The Nation's Housing /

WASHINGTON -- The average commission rate paid on American home sale transactions continues to decline and could dip below 5 percent within the next few years.

That’s the conclusion of Real Trends Consulting Inc., a research and advisory company that monitors hundreds of realty brokerage firms and compiles data on sales and commission rates ...Read more

Here's How: Install a New Bathroom Vent Fan/Light

Consumer / Here's How /

Dear James: I want to add a bathroom vent fan with an overhead light. The window does not provide enough light. What are some tips for installing one and venting it up through the the roof? -- Kathy T.

Dear Kathy: Although having a window in a bathroom with its natural light is great for putting on makeup, it is not always the best ventilation ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Chromebook Laptops Are Better Than Ever -- and Cheaper, Too!

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Only a few months ago, I told you about what was happening in the world of the Chromebook, a laptop that runs on the Chrome OS operating system and is designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet. I mentioned that Chromebooks had just outsold Apple's range of Macs (and for the first time in the U.S.).

Chromebooks have become so...Read more

Art of Design: Understanding the Designer Design

Consumer / Art of Design /

Unbeknownst to many, some of the most influential interior designs have come from architects and not interior designers. Take, for example, Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion or Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water residence: these are the works of professionals trained as architects, and commissioned to do interior design. As a designer with ...Read more

Your Place: Warming up a chilly crawl space

Consumer / Home Advice /

Q: What is the best way to heat the crawl space under my first floor?

The house is very old and has a dirt floor about three feet under the flooring, and the walls are stone. Total size is 15-feet-by-20-feet.

There is a basement that is also cold. There is a small opening from the basement into the crawl space.

I was going to have an electric...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: 6 Free Websites Help Save Time and Money

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

365 GRATEFUL. Get on board with 365Grateful, a photographic project that's all about the good things in life. Does it sound similar to keeping a gratitude journal? Well, the idea here is to create a visual journal by taking a photo every day of one thing for which you are grateful. So get our your smartphone, digital camera or even your DSLR, ...Read more

The Mortgage Professor: How retired homeowners can avoid running out of money: Alternative strategies compared

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

An increasing number of retirees, who are living longer and are less likely to be covered by a defined benefit pension than previous generations, risk running out of money. Those who have significant equity in a home, however, can reduce or eliminate the risk if they use their equity wisely.

This article will compare three strategies for using ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Homemade Tub, Shower and Tile Cleaner Makes Soap Scum Disappear Like Magic

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land in my mailbox was from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments near a big university -- and lots of them. His job is to see that after an apartment is vacated it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants.

He told me that the biggest challenge ...Read more

Small Changes for a Senior Visitor

Consumer / Small Spaces /

The new year always begins with all sorts of ambitious ideas for change. What better time to look around your home and ready one small space for a visit from a senior parent or grandparent? It takes a few minor adjustments that might seem insignificant but can make a stay infinitely more comfortable for your guest. Here's how to start in a ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: The Blessing of Self-Government

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

You'd have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the turmoil and economic agitations in the U.S. And the growing debt. Too bad we can't do much about it. In fact, we are powerless.

But I have to say that it's kinda fun, if not momentarily empowering, to think about what we could do if anyone would let us. I'd be wickedly effective as ...Read more

House Calls: That Escrow Account

Consumer / Edith Lank /

Dear Edith: Our purchase offer was accepted, and we are excited about moving into our new home. But we have a question about our monthly mortgage payment. It's more than we figured because of escrow. We have a good record of paying our bills, but the bank says it will collect every month and keep track and pay our taxes and insurance. Is this ...Read more

This company will help with a down payment, but it wants a stake in your new home

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

CHULA VISTA, Calif. -- When Ricardo and Catherine Soto were looking to buy a home in Chula Vista, they knew that even after selling their old house they would be able to afford a down payment of only about 10 percent.

But when buying a home, 20 percent is the magic number. It means not only borrowing less but also avoiding mortgage insurance, ...Read more

Here's How: Considerations When Building a Healthy Home

Consumer / Here's How /

Dear James: All my children have allergies. We are planning to build a new house and I need to avoid the "sick house syndrome" from poor indoor air quality. What things should I consider for it? -- Lisa T.

Dear Lisa: Sick house syndrome refers to much more than just allergies and can be a serious problem in today's newer airtight homes. The ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Dirty, Stained, Grimy, Sticky, Dried Out Leather -- Help Me, Mary!

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

To me there's nothing quite as lovely as soft, supple, beautiful leather. I'll take it in a handbag, shoes, car seats and furniture. I love fine leather.

With that in mind, try to imagine this scene that occurred just a few of days ago: me in my comfy chair, my favorite handbag on the floor next to me and a hot cup of coffee on the table to my ...Read more

Your Place: Secrets of the failed stucco, revealed

Consumer / Home Advice /

Joseph Ponessa had some thoughts about stucco that I want to share with you.

Ponessa is professor emeritus of housing, indoor environment, and health at Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

He got in touch after I wrote an article about a lawsuit by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania against an area developer over stucco issues with new homes.

I had ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Here's How to Turn a 15-Minute Phone Call Into $555 Cash

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Dear Mary: I don't have cable TV in my house, but I do have internet. I'm one year into a two-year contract, and I noticed this month's bill went up $20 since I'm no longer in the first-year promo period. I called the company and told the representative I was looking to cancel because I found a better rate. I must have said the magic words ...Read more

The Mortgage Professor: Keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until they are no longer needed

Consumer / Home and Consumer News /

In September 2008, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed in a federal governmental conservatorship. The crisis-induced rise in mortgage defaults had eroded their capital and made it impossible for them to continue operations without support from the U.S. Treasury.

Since then, the conservatorship has eroded the agencies' political support. ...Read more