Local and National Real Estate News from your Doylestown PA Agent - Kim Bartells

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Upgrades That Boost Your Home's Value and Enjoyment

October 9, 2017 12:47 am

(Family Features)—A home is often a family's single largest asset, so making investments with upgrades and home improvements is almost always a good idea; however, knowing when and where to make those improvements isn't necessarily a simple decision. Budget and space most often dictate the direction, but keeping function and your lifestyle needs in mind can help create a space that makes for an all-around smart investment.

Add technology in unexpected places. With the surge in smart devices, it's becoming increasingly common to add technology throughout the house, and the bathroom is no exception. From heated floors to mirrors with embedded TV screens, the options are plentiful. A bathroom outfitted with the latest technology can bring function and a whole new level of style and elegance to your home.

Go green for the Earth and savings. Appliances and climate control systems are often the first features homeowners consider when it comes to environmentally-friendly upgrades, but windows and window treatments are another way to make a big impact. In a similar vein, skylights are a surprisingly affordable upgrade for the functionality and aesthetic benefits they provide, especially in the bathroom and kitchen where ventilation is as important as ample lighting. You can give your lighting and home value a boost with an ENERGY STAR®-qualified option, such as Velux solar-powered fresh-air skylights, which open for air flow, reducing dependence on electrical lights and fans, with the touch of a programmable remote control.

For expanded control over the amount of light and warmth that enters or leaves your rooms, solar-powered skylight blinds are available in more than 100 designer colors and patterns. Like the skylights, Velux solar-powered blinds are operated with the remote. The solar products and installation costs are also eligible for a 30-percent federal tax credit.

Finish the basement. Adding finished square footage to your home is nearly always a way to increase its value. For many homes, the basement is the most practical place to gain that space. Instead of using it as a collection ground for dust bunnies and storage, converting it into usable space can bring meaningful value, not only in dollars and cents, but in overall enjoyment of your home.

When making plans for finishing a basement, keep function first. Adding features like bathrooms can be costly, but having ready access to those facilities may pay off if you plan to spend lots of time downstairs. Also keep climate in mind; in parts of the country basements tend to be damp, so use materials that can withstand the conditions.

Create outdoor living space for all year long. If a basement renovation isn't practical, you may be able to create additional living space in an area you already have: outdoors. Even small patio spaces can become cozy gathering spots with the right furnishings and decor. For a larger yard, create destinations that make it comfy to congregate, such as a fire pit or grouping of chairs with overstuffed cushions.

This is another area where climate will play an important role in your plans: adding an enclosure to a patio can make it usable during all but the coldest months, while a pergola can lend necessary relief to an area that bakes in the sun.

Add curb appeal. While you're considering the upgrade options outdoors, don't forget to think about your home's exterior appearance. Reworking landscaping to highlight architectural features and freshening up paint can make a big impact. Adding decorative elements like shutters or new lighting or doors can also update a tired exterior.

Source: Velux

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cyber Safety Tips for Your Smartphone

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

In the modern, digital age, 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, with 77 percent using a smartphone. While smartphones are excellent tools for communication and knowledge, if used improperly, they can put their owners at a serious risk of security breach.

With that in mind, the Illinois Bankers Association offers some key actions users can take to help minimize the likelihood of becoming a victim.

Regularly update your device and mobile apps. Incidents of mobile malware and mobile ransomware are increasing. Updated operating systems and security software are critical in protecting against emerging threats.
Enable encryption. Enabling encryption on your smartphone is one of the best ways to safeguard information stored on the device, thwarting unauthorized access.

Use a strong, unique passcode. In case your phone ever does fall into the wrong hands, don't make it easy for someone to access all your important information! Enable strong password protection on your device and include a timeout requiring authentication after a period of inactivity. Secure the smartphone with a unique password, and do not share it with others. Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or Social Security numbers on your mobile device.

Take advantage of multi-factor authentication. Many sites offer a second step of logging in by either sending a text message to your registered phone or by generating a code on an "Authenticator" application. Take advantage of this added security.

Do not use public Wi-Fi. Do not log into accounts or conduct any sensitive transactions, such as shopping or banking, while using public Wi-Fi.

Log out completely. When you finish a purchase or mobile banking session, be sure to completely log out of the transaction or retail site.

Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don't know. Note that your bank will never send a text or email requesting your password or other personal information. Be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

Install applications from trusted sources. When downloading apps, be proactive and make sure that you read the privacy statement, review permissions, check the app reviews and look online to see if any security company has identified the app as malicious.

Install a phone locator/remote erase app. Misplacing your device doesn't have to be a catastrophe if it has a locater app. Many such apps allow you to log on to another computer and see on a map exactly where the device is. Remote erase apps allow you to remotely wipe data from your device, helping minimize unauthorized access to your information in the event you cannot locate the device.

Disable unwanted services when not in use. Bluetooth and Near Field Capabilities (NFC) can provide an easy way for an unauthorized user nearby to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.

Carefully dispose of mobile devices. With constant changes in the smartphone market, many users frequently upgrade to new devices. Make sure you wipe the information from your smartphone before disposal. For information on how to do this, check the website of your mobile provider or the manufacturer.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Additionally, tell your financial institution if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

Source: Illinois Bankers Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Splash! Water Safety Tips for You and Your Tots

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

Nothing is sweeter than bath time with your new babe; however, when the phone rings or the big brother is calling you from the next room over, it's important to keep safety front and center. Never forget that 30 seconds can change your life forever. With that in mind, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers safety tips to help prevent children from drowning in and around the home.

·       Never leave a baby alone, or with young siblings, in a bathtub, even for a second. Always keep baby within arm's reach. Children can drown quickly and silently.

·       Keep the toilet lid down, and keep young children out of the bathroom when unsupervised. Consider placing a latch on the bathroom door out of reach of young children.

·       Be sure all containers with liquids are emptied immediately after use. Do not leave empty containers in yards or around the house where they may accumulate water and attract young children.

·       Always secure the safety cover on your spa or hot tub.

·       Learn CPR. It can be a lifesaver.

Source: CPSC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fresh Fall Health Tips

October 6, 2017 12:44 am

Many equate the summer or even the spring with the season for health and wellness. However, despite cooling temps and less daylight, fall is a quiet contender for a healthy, happy season. Below are a handful of tips from MultiVu for keeping healthy all fall.

Toasty tip: With the cooler weather coming in, it's the perfect time of year to enjoy hot herbal teas, which are great for fat-burning, such as green tea, which can boost metabolism. Broth-based veggie soups are also good for warmth and good nutrition, including much needed fiber.

Sweet indulgences: Who doesn't enjoy the delightful array of fall desserts? What's important is to not only to burn off some of those calories, but to take care of your teeth as well! Colgate Total Advanced Health Mouthwash has a unique shake-to-activate formula that combines two different liquids into one powerful, bacteria-removing mouthwash. The dual-phase formula mouthwash is proven to remove 24 times more bacteria for a healthier mouth. All you need to do is simply shake to activate and then rinse to clean (versus ordinary, non-antibacterial mouthwashes).

Plan a getaway: Studies continue to reveal that vacationing is an important part of leading a healthy and happy life, and good choices can help maximize its benefit to ensure you get the best value for your money and the biggest emotional return. One of the best ways to do this is by choosing a vacation rental home, especially if you're traveling with kids. You don't have to go to bed when the kids do, you don't have to eat out for every meal, saving money and calories, and there is plenty of space for working out.

Explore the outdoors: Fall is an excellent time to enjoy outdoor exercise. Consider exploring local hiking paths, setting up a circuit in a nearby park, or joining an outdoor boot camp or cycling club. It's the perfect time of year to breathe in some crisp air and burn extra holiday calories.

Team up with your family: This is a great time of year to be active and healthy, whether it's prepping and trying new healthy meals, or taking turns choosing physical activities that each member of the family enjoys. You might try something new like joining a recreational Frisbee golf team or picking up tennis for the first time. Make fitness fun this fall!

Source: MultiVu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Have You Created a 'Clean Home' Plan?

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

Cleaning your home can sometimes feel like walking uphill--every time you turnaround that floor you left sparkling is once again covered in toys and pet fur. While some cleaning tasks need to be done weekly or even daily (wiping down the counters, cleaning out the shower), some projects need only be done once or twice a year, yet they make a huge impact when addressed. A great way to manage these tasks is to create a long list of them, and then schedule one or two manageable projects per weekend all year long. Voila! Now you have a "clean home" plan you can follow all year. Below are a few offenders that should be addressed once or twice per year at least.

Clean the baseboards. Really get down on your hands and knees with a rag and a toothbrush and remove dust and grime from your baseboards. This type of detailing has a huge impact in the overall sparkle of your space.

Wipe down the ceiling fan. Sure you vacuum and dust your floor and shelves, but how often do you stop to look up? Our ceiling fans collect a large amount of dust and debris over the year, and should be cleaned at least twice, or seasonally if you can manage.

Clean out the cupboards. At least once a year, take everything out of your kitchen cupboards, wipe them down, and re-organize.

Tackle the freezer. This should be done at least twice a year. Remove everything from the freezer, toss out anything you no longer need or want, and wipe the interior down.

Beat out the cushions. Our couch and throw cushions, drapes and rugs collect dust throughout the year.
Choose a sunny day, take them outside and give them a good beat down to remove allergens.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fall Upgrades to Enhance Your Home

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

(Family Features)--Fall provides a time for fun and celebration, but it also can be an opportunity to refocus on taking care of your home both indoors and out.

These simple upgrade ideas can help you improve aesthetic appeal, upgrade safety, keep your home free from pests and save you time, resources and money.

De-bug Your Doors
Enjoy nature without all the pests by adding a protective barrier to your entryways, such as an ODL Brisa Retractable Screen Door. It can be installed over single, double and sliding doors, and can take just 30 minutes to install from start to finish. With one-touch entry and auto-slide open, it allows for easy access when your hands are full. When you're not using it, you can use the secure locking latch or let it slide back into its cartridge.

Get Smart About Laundry
Take a load off and let your washer's technology do the work. Available in white or diamond gray, the top load laundry line from GE Appliances gives owners the power to pretreat stains or hand wash delicates with an industry-first soapy water station, automatically dispense the right amount of detergent and fabric softener based on each individual load and control the load remotely through smart devices by using WiFi Connect.

Feel the Heat
If temperatures are dropping and a warm blanket isn't doing the trick on an especially chilly day, a space heater can help keep you cozy. Many options are light and portable, allowing you to move it from room to room as necessary. Rather than layering up to enjoy a lazy day on the couch, simply plug it in and choose the setting that's right for maximum comfortability. Plus, by flipping the space heater switch rather than cranking up the heat, you can save money on energy bills.

Simple Shredding
One of fall's obnoxious chores in the eyes of many is cleaning up leaves scattered about the yard. To help save time and energy, add a leaf shredder to your arsenal of lawn equipment. By shredding leaves rather than expending time and resources bagging and disposing them, you can improve the look of your yard without as much physical stress.

Mess-Free Mudroom
On cold days when a brisk chill sends you seeking indoor shelter, it can be easy to make a mess at the door with shoes and outerwear. Instead of a pile of garments greeting you each time you come home, add some structure to the mudroom with an organizer that allows you to hang coats and scarves and stow away shoes. While keeping clothes orderly, it can also help keep you and guests from tracking salt, mud and other messes throughout the house.

Source: Family Features

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planning a Destination Wedding? 6 Things to Tell Your Travel Agent

October 4, 2017 12:53 am

If you're getting married on a tropical island or chic European villa, your wedding planning is likely a bit more complicated. This is why the majority of couples planning destination weddings rely heavily on a travel agent.

Below are six things to tell your travel agent, from the experts at travel resource Vacation.

Guest Count: Even if it's an estimate, it helps your agent provide initial recommendations.

Guest Origins: Where will your guests be flying in from? One of the best things a travel agent can assist with is booking group air, hotel and ground transportation. Not only does it make travel easier, but also it can save everyone money and time. Especially the engaged couple.

Kids or No Kids: Will your dream day be a multi-generational family affair or a swank adults-only soiree? Your travel expert needs to know to help you select the perfect venue.

Money, money, money: If your wedding guests have varying budgets, don't be shy about telling your travel agent. This is something they want to know so they can ensure your guests travel in the manner they can afford.

VIP List: Although every guest matters, there are some that you'll want to provide with extra special attention. Your travel agent can help secure upgrades and extra amenities to surprise and delight these guests.

Honeymoon Plans: Once you've said "I do" and danced the night away, what's your plan? If you were getting married at home, you'd be jetting off to your honeymoon, but with a destination wedding, the "what's next" question can be a little trickier. You might opt to keep the party going with your nearest and dearest for a few more days, or escape to another destination for some time with just the two of you. Your travel agent can provide options for either scenario.

Source: Vacation

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Out of Town? Don’t Risk a Water Leak

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

When you head out of town on vacation, you probably take several steps to make sure your home isn’t broken into while you’re away, from leaving lights on to pausing your newspaper delivery.

But did you know that your home is at a greater risk of damage from water leaks than fire and theft when you’re away? According to property and casualty insurance company Chubb, the time between when a leak occurs and when it is discovered is the single greatest factor in determining the amount of damage, making leaks that occur while you're away much more damaging in terms of both cost and severity.

In the past 10 years, the frequency of sudden pipe bursts has nearly doubled. In 2015, water damage accounted for nearly half of all property damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute. A study from Chubb finds that, despite the fact that 91 percent of homeowners rate themselves as "vigilant" or "doing an okay job" at preventative home maintenance, and that close to half (45 percent) have or know someone who has experienced a water leak in the past two years, only 18 percent have installed a water-leak detection device.  

Of all homeowners, high-net-worth individuals are particularly at risk. When compared against other income segments, for instance, high-net-worth individuals are the most likely (55 percent) to report being "vigilant" about conducting preventative maintenance, yet are the least likely (26 percent ) to rank internal water leaks as their top home-related concern. High-net-worth homeowners are also the income group least likely to periodically inspect appliance hoses (33 percent compared to 61 percent of middle class homeowners, the most of any income group), a frequent cause of internal water leaks.   

While there are a number of steps homeowners can take to mitigate the risk, Chubb recommends that when they go through their pre-departure process of locking doors and windows, identifying a neighbor to keep an eye on their home, and ensuring some lights are left on, that homeowners also add shutting off the water main to the checklist.

Additional findings from the survey include:

- The majority of homeowners (63 percent) cite the threat of relocating for an extended period of time (between one month and a year) as their first or second most potentially concerning water damage-related event.

- A quarter of all homeowners have never had their appliances inspected, despite being the surest way to prevent a leak from occurring.

- Many homeowners also cited the loss of irreplaceable items (59 percent) and repairing structural damage (46 percent) as the top most potentially concerning water damage-related events.

- The majority of homeowners are unfamiliar with the most common sources of internal water leaks, with close to half (49 percent) identifying the water heater as the most likely source (independent analyses indicate plumbing supply systems pose the greatest risk).

Source: Chubb

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Traveling for the Holidays? Read This First

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

The holiday season is the busiest time for travel, when millions of Americans jet off to see family, and many more zoom to warmer destinations to escape the cold. But with volatile weather looming in many areas of the country, the holiday season is the most important time to load up on travel insurance.  When considering travel insurance during the holidays, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

Where are you traveling? Depending on your destination, hurricanes, snow storms or flooding can impact your plans. While some destinations are more prone to issues during the holidays, you never know when weather can act up. Trip cancellation coverage can help protect the investment in your trip due to severe weather and trip delay coverage can make those annoying airport delays more tolerable by covering meals and hotels when the airlines don't.

When are you traveling? It seems hard to believe another major hurricane could hit in 2017, yet hurricane season lasts through November 30. With snow hitting as early as October in some places, it is worth considering your dates and the likelihood of weather-related issues. Also, the holiday season can be the busiest and most crowded travel time of the year, making delays and service disruptions more likely.

What will you be doing? Will your vacation consist of sitting on the beach, skiing throughout New England, or hitting your dream golf course? Many travel insurance plans are designed for the more adventurous or sporty vacations. Look for plans that offer coverage for hazardous sports, lost ski days or lost golf rounds. Traveling with your own equipment? Look for a plan that covers loss or theft of your equipment.

Who are you traveling with? Do your kids, spouse or travel companions always seem to be the first to get sick when the weather turns cold? If so, travel insurance is even more important to consider during flu season. Most comprehensive travel insurance plans will allow you to cancel if a family member or traveling companion gets seriously ill before your trip.

What are you bringing with you? While we recommend you ship as many gifts as possible, for items you take on with you, keep in mind that luggage can, and does, get lost. According to airline information technology company, SITA, more than 23 million pieces of luggage are mishandled a year. Travel insurance can provide coverage for each holiday traveler's baggage and personal belongings, so if something does get lost, replacement items are covered (up to a certain limit), even in the short term. Certain travel insurance can even play a role in offering peace of mind if you are bringing your pet along, knowing that if something does go wrong, beloved animals will be taken care of or be transported home in certain circumstances.

Source: TravelInsurance.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Tips to Prepare Your Lawn for Winter

October 3, 2017 12:41 am

(Family Features)--As days get shorter and temperatures drop, many homeowners overlook their lawns' needs. Unfortunately, winter can be brutal and make it hard for lawns, trees and shrubs to thrive the following spring.

Just like chapped lips and dry skin, plants struggle to find moisture in the winter, too. Symptoms include scorched and dropped leaves, mottling on leaves and even dead leaves and twigs. Dry or frozen soil can prevent plants from replenishing needed water, which can result in winter burn. In addition, when temperatures drop below a plant's natural tolerance, it can impact their health and vigor and cause them to decline prematurely.

"Many homeowners may not realize that late fall is a good time to help prepare your lawn and landscape for a healthy spring growth," says Ben Hamza, director of technical services for TruGreen. "Homeowners should remember to perform common maintenance practices on their lawns and landscapes, such as late fall fertilization on lawns and trees and shrubs, and continue to water during dry periods. Taking the extra time in the fall can pay dividends in the spring.

To help prepare your lawn for the winter months, perform the following practices:

1. Clear leaves. It's important to remove leaves or mulch them with a properly equipped mower as they can suffocate grass. Matted leaves left over a lawn throughout the winter months can delay spring green-up. After clearing leaves, homeowners can compost what was collected to nourish plants and shrubs, reducing the impact on the landfill.

2. Replace unhealthy patches. Fall's favorable weather conditions, as well as moist and warm soil temperatures, create the ideal opportunity for successful seeding of bare lawn areas and overseeding of healthy grass to improve your lawn thickness and density.

3. Trim. Trees and shrubs are also vulnerable to winter weather and should be properly groomed and fertilized to avoid winter injury.

4. Give a good fall feeding. The roots of lawns, trees and shrubs need energy to prepare for a healthy, green spring revival. Keep fertilizer on target to prevent run-off and sweep fertilizer granules that may reach pavement back onto your lawn.

5. Give sprinklers a break. In most parts of the country, failing to winterize your sprinkler system can result in major problems that can also lead to costly repairs, such as cracked pipes, broken valves or damage to the lawn itself. Follow your owners' manual instructions to safely put your system to rest. Be sure to blow out underground systems to eliminate any remaining water that may freeze and expand.

6. Mow against snow mold. Keep lawns trimmed until growth ceases. This can help prevent snow mold, which mostly occurs in northern states due to extended snow cover and matted turf. Tall or improperly mowed grass is most at risk of developing snow mold.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.