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

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Do You Know About the Top New Products for Your Home?

March 9, 2017 12:48 am

Are you up with the latest new home products? A national representative survey of 40,000 consumers conducted by Kantar TNS, a global leader in consumer research, helps determine the Product of the Year winners each year so that consumers can best identify the top new products.

The 28 winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award were announced at a recent New York City soiree hosted by "Saturday Night Live" alumnae Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer.
Mike Nolan, CEO, Product of the Year USA. says this year's winners will be "able to utilize the distinctive red Product of the Year logo on packaging and in brand advertising to show shoppers that 40,000 consumers recommend their product against the competition."

Now in its 30th year, Product of the Year takes entries from new consumer products launched within the previous year that demonstrate innovation within their industry.

Product nominations are then placed into categories such as beauty, personal care, household essentials, food and beverages, and are assessed on seven key measures. One product is then named the winner of each category, based on the results of the consumer survey.

The top winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award for the home are:

- Home Care: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Bathroom Cleaner: Lysol Power & Fresh 6 Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Bath Tissue: Charmin Essentials Soft
- Liquid Laundry: Tide PurClean
- Laundry Pacs: Tide PODS Plus Febreze Odor Defense
- Fabric Conditioner: Snuggle PLUS SuperFresh Dryer Sheets
- Laundry Booster: Downy Fresh Protect with Febreze Odor Defense
- Air Care: Air Wick Bloom Scented Oil Warmer

For additional information about the 2017 Product of the Year winners, visit productoftheyearusa.com and follow #POYUSA2017.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Maintain Natural Stone Counters

March 9, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Durability is one reason homeowners choose natural stone for their kitchens and bathrooms, but the greatest appeal is often the sheer beauty of the material. Maintaining that luster and shine requires a bit of effort, but the ability to enjoy the unique character of natural stone makes it all worthwhile.

It's important to understand the shine on granite and other natural stone is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that reflects a rigorous process.

After being quarried from the earth's surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks are taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness, similar to a giant bread slicer.

The next step is a polishing line, where blocks pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, progressively finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. It's this factory finish that enhances the inherent characteristics of natural stone – the veins, swirls and crystals. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to local stone manufacturers and installers to be cut to a homeowner's specifications.

Once installed, you can maintain that luxurious factory finish with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even miniscule particles could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. However, it's important to avoid common cleaners and abrasives as they can break down the protective seal and result in expensive repairs or replacement. Also avoid using an abrasive scrubbing pad, which may leave unsightly scratches. Rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

"Common, everyday household cleaners aren't formulated for granite, marble, travertine or any other natural-stone surface," says Lenny Sciarrino, CEO and co-founder of Granite Gold Inc. "They will dull the natural finish – the great luster and shine everyone enjoys – and lead to costly repair or replacement."

Seal frequently. Frequently sealing natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. It's easy to test when to reseal. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if a dark mark or ring is created by the water, it is time to reseal. Be sure to repair any etching or stains before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing not only brings out the stone's natural beauty, it reinforces the protective seal and provides ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com.

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Save Your Kids’ Sleep From Daylight Savings

March 9, 2017 12:48 am

Whether you’re a friend or foe of daylight savings, it would be hard to argue that the time change has no impact on you and your family, especially if you have little ones. In fact, half of all American parents say Daylight Saving Time (DST) affects their kids and 29 percent report it's more difficult to get children to sleep after the time change, according to a new survey from the Better Sleep Council.
Of those parents who report bedtime challenges for their kids after DST, a stunning 94 percent report it takes two or more days for kids to get back into their regular sleep pattern and 31 percent say it takes six days or more.

Overall, more than one-quarter (28 percent ) of all parents do not like putting their clock ahead one hour for DST. Other findings from this group:

- Moms (32%) are more likely to feel this way than dads (22%)
- Parents who use childcare (37%) are more likely to feel this way than parents who don't use childcare (24%)
- Parents who are unemployed/stay-at-home parents are more likely to feel this way (36%) than parents who work full time (25%)
- Parents who feel their kids do not get enough sleep are also more likely to feel this way (37%) compared to parents who feel their kids do get enough sleep (25%)

When asked about children's regular bedtime patterns, many parents reported they already feel like their kids aren't getting enough sleep (24 percent). About half (48 percent) of those same parents find it at least somewhat frustrating to get their kids to sleep on a typical night. These feelings are more prevalent with parents of tweens and teens (11-18 years).

The BSC suggests the following top tips to help kids get back into their regular sleep pattern after Daylight Saving Time goes into effect:

Go slow. In the week before DST, try to put your kids to bed 15 minutes early to prep them for the time change.

Create a ritual. Your kids likely already have a bedtime routine. Stick with it and consider adding an extra step or two like reading a storybook together or having them take a warm bath or shower to help relax before bed.

Keep it light. Avoid eating heavy meals at least two to three hours before bed. Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality.

Source: www.bettersleep.org.

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How to Protect Your Pet’s Oral Health

March 7, 2017 12:30 am

You may brush your teeth twice a day, but do you ever think about your pet’s dental hygiene? Taking care of your furry friend’s teeth is just as essential as taking care of one's own, and can save them from many health issues later.  

Below are a few tips for taking care of your pet’s mouth.

1. Brush their teeth. Yep, you read this right. Get a feline or canine tooth paste. Do NOT use human toothpaste as fluoride can be poisonous to animals. Brush your pet’s teeth when they’re relaxed, perhaps after they’ve had a decent amount of exercise. There’s no need to do this every day. Talk to your vet about frequency.

2. Feed them dry food. Dry food is better for your pet’s teeth, as soft food sticks to their teeth and gums and can cause decay.

3. Find dental toys. There are lots of dental toys and chews that help clean your pets teeth painlessly. Talk to your vet about one that may be a good fit.

4. Feed them a proper diet. Just like people, your pet’s health will improve with a proper diet. Avoid feeding them table scraps, “people food”, and sugary food to improve their oral health.

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How to Protect Your Identity While Traveling

March 7, 2017 12:30 am

If you travel a lot for work, your identity may be at risk, according to International SOS. Whether in-transit, or at their destination location, business travelers – and by extension their corporate networks – are potentially more vulnerable to malicious cyber and physical information security threats, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and audacious in their methods of accessing travelers' confidential corporate information.

Below are a handful of helpful tips from International SOS to help protect your data while on the move:

Before you travel, it's important to research the potential threats to your company's sensitive commercial information, specific to the location you'll be visiting. This will enable you to implement effective security measures to help prevent problems during your trip.

Avoid advertising the exact location or purpose of your business trip.

Make sure that all software on your devices (including but not limited to antivirus software) is up-to-date before departure.

Avoid connecting to non-secure networks (such as public WiFi hotspots) when you travel. Where possible, disable any WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, which can provide additional entry points for attackers and can be exploited without your knowledge. Turning these off will further reduce the likelihood of sensitive information being stolen from your devices.

In locations assessed as HIGH threat (this may vary from company to company, depending on the nature of their operations), maintain physical control of your devices and sensitive information at all times. Keep your laptop with you as carry-on luggage and do not loan it to anyone while traveling. When you return from a high-threat location, or if you have witnessed any suspicious activity on your devices, ask your IT service desk to check for signs of malware, unauthorized access, corruption or intrusion. Do not connect your devices to sensitive networks until they have been verified as safe.

Source: International SOS

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Financial Tips for International Travel

March 7, 2017 12:30 am

Heading overseas? Whether it’s for business or pleasure, take care of your finances first, says GO Group, LLC.  Below are their top tips for protecting yourself as you spend time abroad.

Inform Your Bank and Credit Card Issuer of Your Trip 
Financial institutions often block transactions coming from unexpected locations, such as foreign countries to guard against fraudulent activity and identity theft. Call your banks and credit card companies in advance of your journey and tell them where you'll be going and when to let them know you'll be using your card or account from those locations. If you're still blocked, a simple call to customer service should resolve any issues that crop up.

Acquire Local Currency 
Cash is still quite useful in certain geographic regions where credit card acceptance is spotty at best. Convert your dollars into the local currency, but beware of doing so at the airport. You'll get a better exchange rate from a bank or at an ATM. Merchants may offer to accept your USD and convert it at the time of purchase, but they might use unfavorable rates of exchange, so it's best to keep a few hundred dollars worth of local money.

Bring Multiple Types of Payment 
Don't rely on only one means of payment. Rules about accepted payments options vary from place to place, so it's prudent to have at least one backup handy. Try to bring both a Visa and a MasterCard issued by separate companies. If one doesn't work, try the other.

Explore Specialized Payment Methods 
Traveler's checks and pre-paid debit cards might save the day if your credit card is declined or stolen. They're also appropriate for paying wherever credit isn't accepted. If nothing else, they provide extra methods of payment, giving you more flexibility.

Most credit cards charge fees when you make purchases abroad, but there are foreign-friendly credit cards that don't. With the right card, you may even be able to accumulate cash back or other rewards on the purchases you make in other countries.

Do Your Banking Online 
Online banking allows you to perform many banking functions which is helpful if your bank doesn't have branches in the area you're visiting. Setting up automatic bill payment ensures you don't fall behind on your obligations while you're out of the country.

Certain stressors are unavoidable when traveling, but money woes don't have to be among them. Save money, lower your expenses and protect your peace of mind with the tips.

Source: The GO Group, LLC

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Car Safety Devices That Can Save Your Life

March 6, 2017 12:51 am

Seat belts and airbags are not the only car safety devices that can save a life. Below are a handful of car safety systems, courtesy of Zanes Law, that can make a huge difference in your vehicular safety.

Forward Collision Warning – A forward collision warning system is the safety system that should be on the top of your list because it is designed to keep you from crashing into the back of a vehicle that suddenly stops in front of you.

Blind Spot Warning – Blind spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert will warn you when you are attempting to change lanes and a car is in your blind spot.

Backup Cameras –Backup cameras are such a great feature that they should be standard on all cars by 2018. 

Inflatable Seat Belts – Developed by Ford, in a crash they deploy and spread the force of a crash over an area of the body that's five times greater than a traditional belt, further reducing the likelihood of injury. Source: Zanes Law

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How to Promote Better Eye Safety at Work

March 6, 2017 12:51 am

We all know too much time in front of a screen can be detrimental to our eyesight. But what happens when our job requires it?  To combat this, the Academy provides the following tips to help avoid workplace eye injury or strain:

Wear protective eyewear: Ensure that your eye protection is appropriate for the type of hazard that may be present in your workplace, such flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, intense light, and heat. Your eyewear must be American National Standards Institute ANSI-approved and OSHA compliant. You must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shield or helmet if you are near hazardous radiation welding, chemicals, lasers or fiber optics.

Position your computer 25 inches away: If you are working on a desktop computer, try placing the monitor at an arm's length away from your face. You may need to adjust the font size to appear larger at that distance.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Eye strain and dry eye occur after long, continuous periods of viewing digital screens up close. To help alleviate this, take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking at a distance allows your eyes to relax and return to a regular rate of blinking again. Normally, people blink about 14 times a minute[6] and with every blink, your eyes are lubricated with fluid that contains moisturizing elements, including oil.

Reduce glare on your smartphone and digital screen: While many new phones and digital devices have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, adjust the low light filter setting to lower screen brightness or use a matte filter to reduce eye strain.

Adjust environmental lighting at your work: If your computer screen is brighter than your office surroundings, your eyes need to work harder to see. You can reduce eye strain by adjusting the lighting in your surroundings.

"It takes only a few seconds to protect yourself from eye related issues that can cause vision problems," says Brenda Pagán-Durán, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "I can't stress enough the importance of incorporating eye wellness into your daily routine; whether it's simply adjusting the setting on your computer monitor, or wearing appropriate protection to avoid serious eye injury. This is truly an ounce of prevention that can safeguard your vision."

Source: www.eyesmart.org.

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3 Smart Ways to Pass Wealth to Your Kids

March 3, 2017 1:03 am

Leaving money to your kids can cause unwelcome tax burdens unless you plan ahead and do so wisely. Financial experts at The Motley Fool, recommend three smart ways to pass your hard-earned wealth to your children:

Pass the cash – The IRS lets you give up to $14,000 tax-free per year to each child. You may be able to give them additional sums if they have tuition or medical bills. If you pay those bills -- by sending the money directly to the school or healthcare provider(s), not to your child -- then those sums can be tax-free gifts as well.

Spend it on education - You can help your child avoid student loan debt. One way to do this is with a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA.) As opposed to a 529 plan, a Coverdell allows you to make investment decisions. While that may not matter to a novice investor, it means that a seasoned market participant can maximize stock opportunities as they arise. Distributions from a Coverdell ESA are not taxed if they are spent on qualified education expenses. Caution: you are only allowed to contribute $2,000 per year per child. Furthermore, if the money isn't used for qualifying education expenses, it can be taxed -- which defeats the purpose of the Coverdell. But given that the contribution limits are low, while college costs are historically high, it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Use a Roth IRA - From an estate-planning standpoint, a Roth IRA has useful features. You can contribute to it as long as you have earned income, and you're not obligated to withdraw any money for as long as you live, so you can leave your investments to grow for the rest of your life. Your heirs won't have to pay tax on withdrawals so long as the account has been open for at least five years. After your death, your kids can take the proceeds as a tax-free lump sum, or allow the money to grow and compound for years. (They will, however, have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the account beginning in the year you die.)

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Protect Your Eyes from Your Mobile Device

March 3, 2017 1:03 am

We’re all guilty of spending too much time staring at our screens. But a recent survey from the American Optometric Association's (AOA) revealed that 88 percent of Americans know that digital devices can negatively affect their vision, but the average American still spends seven or more hours per day looking at their screens. According to the AOA, this overexposure to blue light – high-energy visible light emitted from digital devices – can lead to digital eye strain, sleep problems, blurred vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain, among other things. The AOA survey also indicates that the average millennial spends nine hours per day on devices such as smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and flat-screen TVs which also emit blue light.

Read on for tips from the AOA on protecting your eyes.

Power down before you turn in: Turn your digital devices off at least one hour before bed.
Unplug with the AOA 20-20-20 rule: When you are using any device or computer, make a conscious effort every day to take a 20-second break and look away from the screen, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.

Step back: Maintain a comfortable working distance from your digital device by using the zoom feature to see small print and details, rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes.

Adjust your device to fit your needs: The AOA recommends reducing the glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.

Schedule an appointment: Visit a doctor of optometry by visiting AOA.org to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to detect and address vision problems.

Source: American Optometric Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.