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

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Prepare for Power Outages with a Checklist

September 3, 2014 1:00 am

Americans who have recently endured a prolonged power outage at home are much more likely to improve their family's emergency preparation for the future, according to a recent report.

A 2014 survey conducted by Harris Poll found almost one in four U.S. adults had endured a power outage lasting 12 hours or more in the last two years. That experience motivated two-thirds of respondents to be more prepared for future incidents, according to the survey.

"The high percentage of respondents who took action to better prepare their families and homes for future emergency situations really underscores the level of frustration a power outage can cause families who aren't properly prepared," said Amanda Grandy of Briggs & Stratton, commissioners of the survey.

When you have advance warning of a potential loss of power, which is often caused by a strong weather system, there are many steps families can take to minimize the stress it can cause. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you create an emergency preparedness plan with a checklist of items:
  • Make sure your gas tank is full
  • Fill plastic bags with water and place them in the freezer
  • Stop by the bank to ensure you have some cash on hand
  • Fill prescriptions that are approaching their refill date
Disasters, however, don't always come with prior notice, so having an emergency kit prepared ahead of time is the surest way to protect your family. Be sure to include items such as:
  • A three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Adequate water (a gallon per person, per day)
  • First aid supplies
  • Matches
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries
  • Essential toiletry items, such as toothbrush and paste
An expanded list of items to consider when packing your emergency supply kit can be found at www.fema.gov.

Source: Briggs & Stratton

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mixing Patterns: The Rule of Threes

September 3, 2014 1:00 am

Pattern and texture are essential to interior design. Whether on a fabulous set of nature-inspired pillows or a chunky knit throw blanket, the right mix of patterns and textures creates symmetry and visual interest. Incorporating pattern can be especially intimidating to homeowners who fear the end result will be a room full of mismatched pieces.

To prevent your space from pattern overload, stick to the rule of threes. Aside from balancing a room, combining patterns in threes lends a designer’s touch of sophistication.

1. Choose a dominant pattern. This is typically a large-scale print found on wallpapers, rugs, sofas or other big pieces of upholstered furniture.

2. Add a secondary pattern. Think about outfitting smaller surface areas, such as drapes and side chairs, with a pattern that color-coordinates with your dominant choice.

3. Use a third pattern sparingly. This pattern applies to accents, such as pillows, table linens, lamp shades, and ottomans that can be swapped out in a snap. Reserve on-trend patterns for these accessories.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Than a Quarter of Americans Likely to Order Healthy When Dining Out

September 2, 2014 1:21 am

Most Americans would agree that eating healthfully should be a priority in their daily lives, but what truly drives consumers to choose healthy items over the potentially more enticing, yet unhealthy options? Are consumers still in the mindset that restaurant visits don't warrant healthy eating?

Recent research finds that more often than not, diners eat with their eyes, not their stomachs – 38 percent of adults agree that if a healthy menu item sounds tasty in the menu description, they are more likely to order it.

Moreover, some 27 percent of consumers say they like to order healthy meals with ingredients they are familiar with. "For consumers who are often on the fence for healthy or indulgent eating, familiarity can help ease them into healthier choices, rather than alienating them with superfoods they have not heard of or have a reputation for lackluster taste,” says Katrina Fajardo, food service analyst at Mintel Group.

So how do Americans define healthy dining? Nine percent agree a menu item that includes a "gluten-free" mention denotes a healthy choice, and 39 percent think entrees with more fruits and vegetables come across as healthy. Meanwhile, 37 percent believe an item with a low calorie count is a healthy option, and 34 percent think a dish with less sodium is considered healthy.

"One of the possible reasons for consumers' indecisiveness on healthy foods in restaurants is the fact that food service still has the stigma of being unhealthy, regardless of what is ordered. As a result of the numerous exposés showing the real caloric counts in salads, sandwiches, and other menu items deemed as 'healthy,' consumers are conflicted with the idea that a restaurant could offer real, healthy items,” adds Fajardo. “In addition, the overwhelming amount of healthy-eating knowledge available to consumers can be overbearing, and skew the way they are personally defining health.”

Nearly one out of every four U.S. consumers is not interested in eating healthfully when they go out to eat, because they view away-from-home visits as a treat. Similarly, about a quarter of consumers mentioned that they look at the more healthy options, but opt for the unhealthy meals instead.

Source: Mintel Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Vibrant, Contrasting Colors Dominate Remodeling Projects

September 2, 2014 1:21 am

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, vibrant, energetic colors – especially in contemporary kitchens – is one of the top trends this year, with many homeowners upgrading to a bright, bold color palette that creates contrast in a space. Not surprisingly, the main motivating factor for homeowners to renovate the kitchen is to improve the overall look and feel of the space – a goal that can easily be accomplished by introducing new, vibrant hues.

“Color is a great way to create harmony, especially in open concept kitchens that flow into other parts of living and dining room space,” says George Edwards, COO of A&C Kitchens and Baths in Chester, Pa. “And homeowners often start a remodel by updating the color scheme.”

Instead of a classic black and white combination, which often loses impact in kitchens that already have black or stainless steel appliances, design experts suggest adding bursts of color on other surfaces:
  • Base of an island or peninsula cabinetry
  • Backsplash tiles
  • Colored stone countertops
  • Blended cabinetry wood
Popular shades include poppy reds, royal blues, zingy oranges, sunny yellows and avocado greens. For backsplashes, designers recommend Aztec clay colors, such as coppery brown, henna, ginger and gold.

If you’re planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these color trends to update your kitchen. Consult with a professional remodeler before construction gets underway.

Source: NARI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your Fall Lawn Care To-Do List

September 2, 2014 1:21 am

Taking time in the fall to prepare your lawn for the colder months ahead will pay dividends come spring and allow you to enjoy lusher, greener grass when temperatures rise again.

Fertilizing
Providing nutrients to your lawn before cold weather strikes is good for strengthening roots and increasing the nutrients stored for an earlier spring green. While the top growth of grass stops, grass plants are storing nutrients and energy for the following season.

To determine the best ratio of fertilizer for the soil in your yard, you should utilize a soil test. Otherwise, look for fertilizer with a nitrogen-phosphate-potassium (NPK) ratio of 3:1:2 or 4:1:2.

When applying the fertilizer, make sure that you follow the application instructions and rate information on the package and use a calibrated spreader to apply the correct amount. It is also a good rule to apply the fertilizer about 2-3 weeks before the ground freezes so the plant can start to take up some of the nutrients.

Instead of pacing the yard with a push spreader, consider a tow-behind spreader attached to your riding lawn mower or garden tractor. An attachment can quickly distribute fertilizer evenly across your yard.

Aerating
Aerating, the process of removing plugs of soil and thatch from the lawn, is ideal in cooler months. It encourages deep rooting, improves water and nutrient penetration, and promotes growth of beneficial soil microorganisms. There are a variety of techniques you can use to penetrate the soil, such as spiked shoes or spray-on liquids, but to most effectively aerate soil, attach a dethatcher, or a plug aerator behind a riding mower or tractor to remove plugs of soil from 2-3 inches deep.

Mulching
If you prefer not to rake or bag grass or leaves, mulching with a mower is an ideal alternative. Be sure to mulch leaves only when they are dry to avoid damp and wet leaves clumping or building up under mower decks.

Remember that grass needs sunlight in the fall to help store food for winter, so don't wait until your lawn is completely matted down with leaves to mulch. A thin layer of mulched leaves is ideal and helps add nutrients to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizer.

Composting
Creating a compost pile allows you to turn organic material into rich soil. The fall season is a good time to create a compost pile with decaying yard matter, such as vegetables, grass clippings and leaves, which can provide nutrient-rich soil for spring planting. For best results, alternate layers of "brown," or high carbon materials, with grass clippings.

Using a rear bagger with your lawn mower or tractor will help make collecting grass clippings a breeze, and adding to your compost pile is as simple as backing up to the spot and unloading. Another optional mower attachment, the lawn sweeper, brushes leaves into a hamper, much like a broom and dustpan.

Taking these steps will prepare your lawn for the winter and help it come back strong, healthy and beautiful in the spring.

Source: John Deere

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Renting a Car over Labor Day Weekend?

August 29, 2014 1:06 am

For those renting a car over Labor Day weekend, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many renters do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Before renting a car, I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance professional and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

1. Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, provided you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

2. Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. You may not have personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

At the Rental Car Counter
Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.

Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state-required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.

Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.

Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.

If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bathroom Upgrades You Can Do in a Weekend

August 29, 2014 1:06 am

Replacing the tile or refinishing the tub can be major bathroom projects, even for accomplished do-it-yourselfers. But when it comes to adding style and pizzazz, it can take just a few good ideas and a weekend or less to turn your frumpy bathroom into a beauty.

From news and lifestyle journal Epoch Times, here are eight good ideas to help get the re-do started:

Frame the mirror – Framing is an old reliable interior decorating trick, and one that works beautifully here. Use a framing kit or re-purpose a few feet of crown molding to update and glamorize your bathroom mirror.

Replace the vanity – Choose a traditional model from the home store or think about using an antique or other stylish dresser as a vanity. Selecting new drawer pulls and changing the sink hardware can also make a huge difference.

Add chic lighting – Have an overhead light fixture? Replace it with a sparkly chandelier or another unique fixture to make a stylish statement.

Add some shelving – New shelving over the toilet or elsewhere will add a finished look as well as a handy place to store extra towels and supplies.

Fence in the tub – Refresh the look of an inset tub by fencing it in by adding a decorative wood panel to the front of it.

Jazz up the color – Choose a bold color or a soothing pastel – even a geometric pattern. A new coat of paint and some matching towels can make an eye-popping difference to the bath.

Add a glass shower door – A sleek glass shower door, or a slider in the tub, will give your bathroom a designer feel and create the illusion of more space.

Hang some artwork – Adding a few pieces of attractive wall art is an easy way to make your bathroom look as complete and decorated as the rest of your home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Ways to Reduce College Costs in High School

August 29, 2014 1:06 am

(Family Features)—College is a significant investment and how to pay for it can be a major source of concern for parents and students. However, there are ways to reduce the amount of debt you take on when preparing for higher education.

Outstanding student loan debt has now reached $1.2 trillion, according to recent estimates from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Yet there are ways to help reduce the amount a family or student has to borrow to fund a college education, if families start early.

1. Earn college credit in high school. Many high schools offer students the opportunity to earn dual high school and college credit, before college, through advanced placement (AP) courses. You can learn more about AP programs online.

2. Consider a community college. Average annual community college tuition and fees are less than half those at public four-year colleges and universities and one-tenth those at private four-year colleges and universities, according to a 2008 report from the National Center of Education Statistics.

3. Learn about college savings financial options. There are many different financial products to help save for college. Under certain circumstances, some colleges and universities lock in tuition for all four years. Even certain life insurance policies offer cash savings options to help pay for expenses such as college tuition, weddings, or starting up a business. Look for permanent or whole life policies with cash value accumulation options.

4. Research scholarships early. Scholarships are available for traditional and non-traditional students, but don't wait until senior year to research. Some require organizational membership, volunteer hours, or criteria that may take time for the student to be eligible.

Source: www.royalneighbors.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Most Homeowners Use Cash to Finance Home Improvement Projects

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

Data released this summer from HomeAdvisor shows most homeowners surveyed (almost 58 percent) paid for their last home project with cash. Additionally, 45 percent of the requests nationally were for addition and remodeling projects, such as bathroom and deck renovations.

National trends show that 47 percent of homeowners surveyed said they were more likely to put money into their home now to increase value than they were 12 months ago. Additionally, 78 percent of homeowners are completing home improvement projects to increase their quality of life. Of the cities that data was collected from, Dallas, Texas had the highest percentage of addition and remodeling requests. Results also show an increase in home improvement requests in Dallas, Denver and Boston, with Boston receiving the largest increase of 6.35 percent.

“While maintenance and repair projects lead the requests in numbers, large home improvement projects, such as remodeling a bathroom and building a deck demonstrate homeowner confidence,” said HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill. “Homeowners are investing in their homes to increase value and quality.”

More than half of the projects requested nationally (55 percent) focused on maintenance and repair projects. Top tasks include repairing, installing or replacing electrical switches, and repairing or replacing faucets, fixtures and pipes. Of the cities data was collected from, Sacramento had the highest percentage of repair and maintenance projects requested (54.4 percent).

For interior design trends, the most common style was a transitional style and the most popular room to design was the kitchen. The most common types of countertop and flooring materials were granite and hardwood.

Source: HomeAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Know Which Professional Is Right For Your Kitchen Remodel

August 28, 2014 12:54 am

Kitchen renovations rank highly for those seeking to add value to their home. Kitchen remodels often reap the most reward when listing the home on the market, but they can be a challenge for homeowners financially. Before you upgrade, consider the scope of the project. Then, hire the right professional for the job to avoid overspending.

Remodeling contractor – Most renovations require the assistance of a certified contractor who has at least five years of experience. A certified contractor is equipped to tackle any project from demolition, electrical and plumbing to ventilation and installation. They are also responsible for outsourcing tasks to other professionals if needed.

Interior designer – Contractors typically work with designers to select the right aesthetics and finishes for a particular room. An interior designer might be worth hiring if you want your kitchen to flow seamlessly with other rooms in the home, or if you want to achieve a custom look with uncommon materials.

Kitchen designer – Not to be confused with an interior designer, a kitchen designer is important to have on hand when reconfiguring an existing space. Consider hiring one if you are planning to redesign a cabinet layout or move non load-bearing walls.

Architect – Your local zoning board may require an architect to authorize renovations, so be sure to check regulations before beginning a project. Architects are also helpful when rearranging load-bearing walls, tampering with mechanical systems or making any other major structural changes.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.