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Public Service Commission Approves Gulf Power Rate Increase

Gird your loins! Your next trip to the mail box may be a shocker! In early December, 2013, the Public Service Commission gave Gulf Power Company the green light to raise base electric rates!

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A residential bill in January, 2014 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity is currently slated to be $127.94. That same bill will increase $4.06, an increase of about 3.2 percent. In addition, in January, 2015, the price will increase an additional $2.42 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The deal is expected to provide 42 months of rate stability for Gulf Power’s more than 430,000 customers.

The hike allows Gulf Power to increase its revenue through base rates by $35 million in January, with another $20 million boost in 2015.energy graph 1

The money will be used to pay for 15 transmission projects, both new and upgrades.

Examples of the planned Gulf Power infrastructure investments include:

1.) Substations are being added and improved to continue to  provide reliable service to customers. In Pensacola, a substation on Devilliers Street has been rebuilt. On Allison Avenue in Panama City, a new substation has been built.

2.) Seventy miles of 70-year-old transmission line is being rebuilt from Panama City to Holmes County.

3.) An existing transmission line between Highland City and Holmes Creek substations in the Panama City area is being upgraded to maintain reliability for customers.

4.) A new 38-mile line is being added that begins in the Pensacola area and goes to the Florida-Alabama state line. This project is necessary for mandatory federal environmental compliance.

Visit www.gulfpower.com for ways to possibly save money on your energy bill.

What do you think about this increase? Are there more cost effective solutions out there for the average home owner? Post your comments here.

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5 Hardy Plants to Make Your Space Green Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

With the emphasis on going green these days, Pensacola Real Estate Professionals wanted to point out that live green plants in your home are a great way to start! The 5 following plants are hardy and require minimal attention for those that have not been necessarily gifted with a green thumb!

jade1. Jade: The jade plant is sometimes referred to as the “Friendship Tree,” “Lucky Plant” or “Money Tree”. Sounds like it might be a great plant to have around, right? Jade has small pink and white flowers. And since it is in the succulent family, it needs very little water.

Care: Plan on watering it once a week in the summer, and once every two weeks in the winter. If exposed to a lot of sunlight (generally, jade needs to be in a bright room), the tips of the jade plant can turn red, which causes a colorful effect.

2. Aloe: It’s easy to see the many uses of aloe when you walk the aisles of a drugstore. There are aloe gels for various ailments, but it is just as effective to take the aloe gel straight from the plant. If you get a minor burn, break off a leaf from the base and rub the gel on your skin. Be sure to consult a medical professional before trying this. Saving the leaf and extra gel is simple – simply place the leaf in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.aloe

Care: Aloe is another plant in the succulent family, so all it really needs is a room with bright sunlight and some water every two weeks or so.

3. ZZ Plant: The ZZ plant is tropical, perennial and originally comes from the eastern part of Asia. The leaves of the ZZ plant resemble the Zamia plant and are sturdy and glossy.

zz plantCare: Perhaps the easiest plant on this entire list to care for is the ZZ plant. This low-light tropical plant is happy in virtually any condition. Although it prefers at least some light, you can keep it in a fairly dark room. The ZZ plant does not like to be watered very often, and you should make sure the soil is dry before watering.

4. Philodendron: Meaning “tree lover,” philodendron plants are vines that often climb trees in their native, tropical habitat. There are many lovely varieties so you can easily choose a type that suits your style.philodendron

Care: They don’t require much water and actually prefer to get dry between watering(s).

Tip: Since these vines spread so well, it’s easy to train them up a pole or trellis in your home.

5. Snake Plant: Commonly known as “Mother-in-Law Tongue,” the snake plant may be the most popular plant on this list. Its long, dense leaves add height to any space, and it comes in a variety of beautiful shades of green.

snake plantCare: Put the snake plant in a well-lit area and water when the soil is dry to the touch. Water along the edges of the pot and avoid watering directly in the middle of the plant.

A nice selection of all of these plants can be found at local businesses such as: Lowes Home Improvement Store, Home Depot and B & C Nursery.

Not only are houseplants pretty to look at, but as studies have shown they can help reduce allergies, purify the air in your home and give any space a calming effect. With these five easy-to-maintain houseplants, you can get all of these benefits with minimal work and care. You may find your thumb is greener than you thought.

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10 Tax Mistakes to Avoid Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

It is time to start thinking about and preparing your 2013 tax returns, which the IRS will begin accepting at the end of this month.

No one enjoys doing taxes, but it’s an important financial task. As you sit down to do it this year, Pensacola Real Estate Professionals wants you to be sure to avoid these common tax mistakes.tax time

1.) Using a pen and paper. It’s amazing that in 2013, some 20 percent of filers still fill out their returns the old fashioned way: by hand. Doing so makes you much more likely to introduce math errors or simple mistakes – like forgetting to sign and date a form – that a computer (yours, or your tax preparer’s)  would catch. In addition, e-filers get their returns more quickly and less likely to be victims of ID theft.

2.) Choosing the wrong tax preparer. Software like Turbo Tax is fine if you are comfortable doing your taxes solo. If you decide to bring in professional help, remember that there’s no licensing requirement for someone to call himself a tax preparer. To be safe, look for someone who’s either a certified public accountant (CPA) or an enrolled agent (EA); both must take ongoing exams to prove their knowledge of the tax code.

3.) Waiting to long to get started. Missing the April 15 deadline would obviously be a huge mistake, but experts say you should start preparing your documents well before the end of March. Early filers get their refunds more quickly than laggards; plus, starting early gives you a time cushion if you discover missing documents or need to verify information.

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4.) Selecting the incorrect filing status. It’s not uncommon for filers to opt for the wrong filing status. Particularly for single parents, filing as ‘head of household’ instead of single will give you a higher standard deduction and lower your taxes. If you’re married, divorced or had a child in the past year, don’t forget to update your status as well.

5.) Assuming you shouldn’t itemize. Often mortgage-free homeowners or renters assume that since they don’t have a home loan, it’s not worth itemizing. Simply taking the standard deduction, however, can be a costly mistake. Before making that your default, tally up potential deductions such as state and local taxes, charitable contributions, and medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of your income to see if they’re worth more than that deduction. There might be some rare cases where itemizing wouldn’t be the best move, but for most people, it’s better to itemize.

6.) Failing to double-check your work. Computer programs are great at catching math errors, but they won’t know if you’ve transposed the digits on your Social Security number or incorrectly transferred numbers from your W-2. Print out your returns before pressing the “send” button and double-check all of your numbers for human error.

7.) Not properly safeguarding your private information. ID thieves love tax season, and tax-related identity theft is a growing problem. In the first half of the year the IRS reported that identity theft affected 1.6 million taxpayers, more than the number affected in all of 2012. Protect yourself by avoiding shared computers for filing; not emailing your returns to anyone, including your preparer; and filing as early as possible.tax id theft

8.) Forgetting to keep a copy of your returns. If you’ve lost your copies, the IRS will send one to you for $50, so it’s worth holding onto your own copy. You’ll need to keep one on hand for at least three years in case of an audit, but you may also have to produce a copy to a potential mortgage lender or someone else examining your financials. Plus, having last year’s returns on hand makes it much easier to prepare your taxes the following year. Looking at old returns may jog your memory about an account that you closed this year, or deductions you might be missing.

9.) Keeping inadequate records throughout the year. It’s a lot harder to reconstruct deductible expenses at the end of the year than it is to organize your receipts on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Plus, you’ll need documentation supporting any deductions if the IRS ever decides to audit your returns. Mobile apps like Expensify can make keeping receipts a paperless breeze. In addition to business and medical expenses, keep detailed records of any charitable donations you make. Any donations worth more than $250 requires a letter from the organization that includes a description of the item or the amount of cash, and whether you received anything in return for the contribution. (If you did receive a gift or service, you’ll need to subtract its value from the amount you contributed.) The IRS really focuses on these, so you definitely want to have that documentation in order.tax time 2

10.) Leaving money on the table at work. Not all important tax decisions get made at filing time.  It’s equally important to make sure that you’re withholding the proper amount of taxes at the office, and fully taking advantage of any tax-advantaged benefits, such as 401(k) contributions and flexible spending accounts (for health care, transportation and dependents). Properly using such benefits can lower your taxable income, save you money, and – in some cases – even move you into a lower tax bracket.

Saltmarsh Cleaveland and Gund CPAs and Consultants, Lambert Lanza CPAs and Brown Thornton Pacenta  & Company, P.A. are just a few local companies that you may wish to contact, if you are interested in having a professional prepare your tax returns.

Please contact me here or directly at 850-393-7106, if I can help guide you to a local tax expert.

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10 tips for “Refreshing” The Interior Look of Your Home in 2014 Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

Pensacola Real Estate Professionals would like to share 10 tips with you to “refresh” the interior look of your home in this bright, shiny new year!

For those into home projects, now is the time to change things up with new fabrics, paints, decor and design. All it takes is a little creativity and determination to create a new space that you will be happy with, whether you are planning an entire overhaul or a few minor tweaks here and there.

Here are 10 Room “Refreshment” Tips to get you started:

pillows lamps rugs 11.) Three ingredients to a beautiful room that can be cost effective: pillows, lamps and rugs. Notice how the accent pieces in this photograph really liven up the space, while at the same time making it appear comfortable and inviting.The blue fabric of the wing chairs add another layer of flavor to this very cozy room. The neutral color palette of the walls and the sofas allow you to mix in any accent colors that are personally appealing to you. Let your imagination take over. Skies the limit. You can blend complimentary shades of color and design elements to your hearts content. Think outside the box. Select a rug pattern that has elements specific to where you live for example, or if you like clean, geometric designs bring that element into the room by the area rug you select.

2.) Paint the ceiling or add a new ceiling light fixture. A trey ceiling already draws the eye, but when it is highlighted with a splash of color or even two colors, the impact to the room is instantaneous!

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This beautiful room makes a statement from the ceiling to floor windows, to the painted ceiling and elegant lighting fixture.

Remember that darker colors will make rooms appear smaller, while softer colors will open up spaces making them appear larger than their true dimensions.

over size wall art3.) Over-scaled art can make a big impact on a small budget. You can find these anywhere from a local estate sale to an antique store. Many retail shops offer these types of items for sale, too.

Check out places like Bed, Bath and Beyond, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Pier 1 Imports, T.J. Maxx, Target or Bealls.

There are many other specialty shops that also feature unique art that may be just the thing to add that “wow” factor to the room that you are decorating. Or search the web for artists that sell their wares on-line. You may be able to acquire a real “find”.

4.) Take everything out of a room, and then put it back using a different layout. You will be pleasantly surprised at how different the room will feel, just by doing this simple little trick.

Try swapping out different pieces of furniture from different rooms to really change things up, while saving room in your budget for other purchases that you may need to make. Keep in mind that you can blend different styles to really make a signature statement.

5.) Mixing furniture styles for an “eclectic” blend is seen in this photograph.eclectic blend 2

See how charming this room looks. Try using different chair or table styles in any given room to add instant pizzazz!

You can’t make a mistake. Experiment to see what appeals to your eye. Make it a family event by getting input as to what they like.

Getting the children involved will be a great educational tool.

one focal wall

6.) Wallpaper or paint one focal wall in the room.

Using a palette of soft gray with a blue accent wall, as seen in this room, is just an example of the calming effect paint colors can impart. The one wall focal point provides a splash of designer flair.

If you are more adventurous, you may elect to use purples, reds or pinks, which lend a romantic mood to room settings.

Using yellows and oranges will make rooms seem cheery. Like bringing a little ray of sunshine indoors!

7.) Adding lamps is a terrific way to change the mood of a room and add interest when several different heights and styles are used. This home entryway shows a nice example of two different styles of lamps used to give this space a unique elegance. The large mirror is a point of interest and is functional for that last minute check as you head out the door.

different lighting

8.) Trendy fabrics can be used on pieces such as pillows and chairs to suit a season or look, then changed every few seasons for a brand new feel.trendy accent pieces 1

9.) Choose a neutral base color for costly items like sofas and draperies that will work with many different accent colors.

10.) Remove old items to make way for new items.

Transforming the look of the rooms in your house doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Take one room at a time, remembering to keep a consistent design in mind, and before you know it, you will have a whole house that seems new again.

However, if you have decided it is time to move on or move up, contact me, Lisa Burns, Broker Pensacola Real Estate Professionals, here, or call me directly at 850-393-7106. I will be happy to help you take the necessary steps to buy or build a new home.

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Raspberry Kisses Recipe: An Easy Holiday Dessert in a Flash Courtesy of Pensacola Real Estate Professionals

Raspberry Kisses are a delightfully, simple cookie recipe! Pensacola Real Estate Professionals is pleased to share this with you as Christmas fast approaches!

Raspberry-Kisses-Cookie Recipe

With vanilla wafers, raspberry jam, cream cheese, powdered sugar and 10 minutes: you will have a sweet treat to share with Christmas company!

What You Need:

48 Vanilla Wafers

1/2 Cup Philadelphia Cream Cheese Spread

1/4 Cup Seedless Raspberry Jam or Preserves

1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar

Make It:

Spread 24 wafers each with 1 tsp. cream cheese spread; top each with 1/2 tsp. jam.

Cover with remaining wafers to make sandwiches.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

santa eating cookies 2Kitchen Tips:

Variation: Prepare using Reduced Fat Vanilla Wafers and Philadelphia Neufchatel Cheese.

Note: For crisper texture, serve immediately. Or for a cake-like texture, place in an airtight container and store in refrigerator overnight before serving.

Note: Store leftovers in airtight container in refrigerator.

Don’t forget to make enough of these to leave some on a plate for Santa Claus to enjoy with a big glass of milk!

Wishing one and all a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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