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

Increasing results, not days on market!

2014 Pest Threats

January 6, 2014 12:39 am

Pests have long been a threat to the quality of life we all enjoy.  Their ability to transmit disease, spread bacteria and cause significant damage to property presents a real challenge for families and homeowners.  To help prepare homeowners for 2014, Arrow Exterminators has prepared the top five pests most likely to cause problems this year.  

Ants: Ants continue to be one of the most common pests that invade homes. With over 700 species in the U.S. alone and all requiring different methods of treatment, ants are also one of the most difficult for homeowners to control without professional assistance.  If ants are spotted in the home, contact a licensed pest professional immediately to prevent an infestation.

Fleas: Flea populations are booming in households across the U.S. and not just in homes with pets. Fleas, a lot like bed bugs, have become increasingly resistant to common treatment methods allowing the breeding cycle to continue. Always on the lookout for a warm-blooded host to attack, family pets and humans are the perfect candidates. To help reduce the chances of fleas infesting the home, vacuum often and bathe furry friends frequently.  

Termites: In some areas, it's not about if a home will encounter termites, but when.  Termites continue to be one of the most significant threats to property causing nearly $5 billion in property damage annually and the damage is rarely covered by homeowners insurance.  "Termite infestations continue to create huge financial issues for homeowners," said Shay Runion, Arrow pest expert. "To safeguard their property, homeowners should make sure they have a 24/7/365 termite protection plan for their home and have it inspected annually by a licensed pest professional."  

Rodents: Mild temperatures have provided an abundant food source and the perfect breeding conditions for many types of rodents. The household intruders can transmit diseases, cause real damage inside a home and often bring with them other pests like fleas, ticks and mites. They also reproduce very quickly making them nearly impossible to control without the help of a professional.

Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are a constant battle for everyone across the region for most of the year. While they are most known for the red, itchy welts they leave behind on their victims, mosquitoes can also transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Encephalitis. They only need very small amounts of stagnant water to breed and take just 7-10 days to develop from egg to adult.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make a Healthy New Year's Resolution for Your Pets

January 3, 2014 12:39 am

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners that if they're planning to make a New Year's resolution for 2014 to lose weight, they should include pets in their plans, too.

It's estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of dogs and cats and 31 percent of people in this country are overweight. Studies have found that other domesticated animals, including horses, are also prone to obesity.

"Taking a dog for a walk is healthy for both the dog and the dog's owner. The companionship of a pet provides us with an extra incentive and inspiration to get out and work out," says Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. "Just like humans, overweight dogs and cats are more likely to get a number of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions, liver disease, and joint problems. So putting yourself and your pet on a diet and exercise regimen will result in improved health for 2014 and perhaps a longer life for both you and your pet.”

AVMA's pet weight-loss tips:

• A visit to your veterinarian is the best way to determine if your pet is overweight, but there are things to look for to determine if you should make an immediate appointment for a puppy or kitty weigh-in. A dog should have a discernible waist without fat deposits, and ribs should be easy to feel while stroking a dog. In cats, if there is any rounding of the abdomen or bulging in the back, limbs, neck or face, you've got a fat cat.

• Feed your pets at least twice a day, and keep track of how much they eat (your veterinarian may ask). If the pet hasn't finished their food after about 20 minutes, take the bowl away to discourage overeating.

• Monitor the number and size of the treats you give. A large dog treat can be over 100 calories, while a small treat has as little as 10 calories. If you can't help but repeatedly treat your beloved pet (because they're so incredibly good), break the snacks in half or even thirds to cut the calories.

• Talk to your veterinarian about the best weight reduction plan for your overweight pet.

• To exercise a cat, engage them with a feather, string or laser pointer, and try to get them running after a toy as they swat at it. To exercise a dog, consider agility training, play time with other dogs, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. There is no better exercise for dogs, horses and humans than a brisk walk.

• Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity in humans, dogs and cats, but it's much easier to diagnose in humans. If your dog or cat is obese without a clear cause, make a veterinary appointment.

• Finally, if your pet is a little on the pudgy side, and you think it might benefit from an increased exercise regimen, see a veterinarian first. No exercise program should begin without a veterinary checkup.

Source: www.avma.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


NFCC Warns Consumers about Financial Amnesia

January 3, 2014 12:39 am

The December poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that more than half of the respondents, 56 percent, predicted they would be in a better place financially at this time next year. This response rate tripled the next highest category, where 18 percent of respondents indicated their situation would remain about the same as it is this year.

“Financial optimism is a healthy sign, but it’s going to take more than hope, more than a New Year’s Resolution, to make financial success a reality,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “People need to guard against financial amnesia, the affliction of too quickly forgetting the financial mistakes and pain of the past. One way to do that is by having a financial plan. Although the future can’t be predicted, consumers can protect themselves from financial unknowns by making smart money decisions today.”

Financial control starts with financial awareness. New Year’s Resolutions typically involve getting out of debt, but the basic step of creating a spending plan is rarely on anyone’s list, as many people don’t want to face the financial facts. Continuing to ignore current spending patterns can prevent a person from identifying and addressing the very reason that debt reduction is not achieved.

NFCC encourages consumers to take the first step toward debt reduction by building a 2014 financial plan, including the following often forgotten or ignored areas. The result will be a comprehensive and realistic budget, moving the goal of debt reduction closer to becoming a reality.

• The unexpected. It’s usually not the daily routine expenses that wreck people’s budgets, but the emergencies. Prepare for these by socking away 10 percent of each paycheck into a rainy-day fund. At the end of a year, it will total more than one month’s income, enough to cover most short-term emergencies.

• Long-term savings. Protect against serious set-backs such as job loss. Even though the unemployment numbers are improving, no one is immune to job loss. If the unthinkable happens, bridge money will be needed to help manage daily expenses and existing debt obligations. Without it, people frequently resort to living off of credit cards, often amassing an unmanageable amount of debt. Experts recommend having a minimum of six months income as a cushion. Since it takes quite a while to build up this amount of money, now is the time to start saving toward this goal.

• Known periodic expenses. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vehicle tags, and quarterly insurance premiums are examples of expenses that occur at the same time each year. In spite of being able to anticipate these expenses, many people neglect to set aside the money necessary to satisfy such events.

• Household and vehicle maintenance. Things are going to break, and usually at the worst possible time. Without a plan to cover the expense, people are left with poor resolution choices: take money from a higher priority such as the rent or mortgage, thus compromising that category; charge the expense and add to an already burdensome debt load; borrow from family or friends, which is awkward and potentially puts the relationship at risk.

• Travel. Whether it is a family vacation, an out-of-town funeral or wedding, or sporting events for the kids, traveling costs money. Try to anticipate as many of these events as possible, and work the cost into the budget.

• Major purchases. Buying a home, purchasing a vehicle, remodeling the house or that long-awaited, state-of-the-art entertainment system, are examples of expenses that need to be considered and planned for.

• Charitable giving. Being generous is a virtue. However, being generous to a fault isn’t. Review previous giving patterns to estimate 2014 donations.

• Health insurance choices. Recent changes will potentially have a major impact on a spending plan. In addition to medical insurance, account for anticipated dental and prescription drug needs in the budget.

• Investing. Time is money’s best friend, particularly for those with a long time horizon. Regular, disciplined investing is a critical part of long-term wealth building.

• Debt reduction. Instead of allocating minimum monthly payments into the budget, set a date by which all current credit card debt will be eliminated. This step will free up money to go toward satisfying goals, such as saving or investing.

“The likelihood of being in a better financial place at this time next year starts with the decisions we make now,” continued Cunningham. “Although there are things outside of our control, planning today protects against tomorrow’s uncertainties.”

Consumers can learn more about managing their overall finances by visiting the Sharpen Your Financial Focus website, www.SharpenToday.org, or calling toll-free 855-3-SHARPEN (855-374-2773) to schedule an in-depth financial review with an NFCC Member Agency.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planning To Rent Out Your Home during an Entertainment Event? Make Sure You're Properly Insured First

January 3, 2014 12:39 am

Homeowners looking to score a windfall by renting out their residence to Super Bowl ticket holders or fans of any other large renowned event should first contact their insurer, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"Before renting out all or part of your home, tell your insurer about your plans to make sure you're covered if your property is damaged or if someone is injured," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president, Public Affairs, and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

The Super Bowl is being held on Sunday, February 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., eight miles west of mid-town Manhattan. The market for properties near the Stadium is booming on peer-to-peer rental websites as New Jersey and New York homeowners angle to receive their own version of a playoff bonus with thousands traveling to the region for the NFL's championship game. Short-term rental prices for homes typically soar when the Super Bowl or other high-profile sporting events come to town.

Some insurance companies may allow policyholders to use their property as a rental for a one-time, special occasion like the Super Bowl, as long as the insurer is informed about it ahead of time. Other insurers, while allowing this type of arrangement, may insist on other criteria being met, such as the homeowner acquiring additional insurance coverage.

Keep in mind that there are some insurers who will consider any rental of your home to be a business venture, requiring the purchase of a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy—because a standard homeowners insurance policy excludes losses arising from the operation of a business.

"Technological advances have allowed for the growth of the sharing economy," said Barry. "But, if you participate, it is your responsibility as a property owner to make sure you're adequately covered."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Freshen Up Your Home, Naturally

January 1, 2014 12:30 am

(Family Features) Homes trap all kinds of smells — last night’s salmon dinner, dirty gym clothes in the laundry basket, the cat’s litter box and more. When it comes to ensuring the home looks, feels and smells clean, 64 percent of homeowners have even gone to extreme measures to rid their homes of pungent odors, such as replacing a rug or carpet (34 percent), purchasing a new trash can (26 percent) or replacing a couch or another piece of furniture (17 percent), according to a recent survey.

But if you’ve become accustomed to the scents of your own home, how can you really know if it’s odor free? Healthy living expert, building biologist and author Lisa Beres shares these simple solutions to naturally create and maintain a fresh home:

Kitchen refrigerator: Remove foul odors and stains from leftovers in the fridge by cleaning the drawers and shelves with a homemade cleaning solution. Simply add a few drops of natural dish soap to a bowl of baking soda and stir until it creates a thick paste. Also, store an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help eliminate odors before they start. Replace it with a fresh box at least every three months.

Candles and air fresheners: Store-bought air fresheners can contain synthetic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, which can irritate eyes, skin and throats, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, create your own air freshener by combining 10 drops of an essential oil — such as lavender or eucalyptus — with two cups of water.

Pests and repellants: Pesky ants and other insects can make their way into your kitchen pantry when they’re on a mission to find food, but dousing them and your kitchen’s surfaces in toxic repellent isn’t a healthy solution for the home or the family. Instead, set a line of coffee grounds, lemon juice, cinnamon or cayenne pepper around doors and windows to create an effective barrier they won’t cross.

Cooking: Help prevent unappealing cooking odors, such as fish, from spreading and lingering throughout the home by upgrading to an odor reduction filter. It helps remove odors and gases from the air passing through the filter and helps keep the home fresh for families and houseguests. Synthetic air fresheners, candles and incense only provide temporary relief from odors by masking them in one particular room but will do nothing to remove the odors from the entire home.

Damp towels: Wet towels from a shower, a trip to the gym or a day at the pool can be a breeding ground for mildew to develop if they sit too long without drying. To rid towels of the mildew smell, first wash them once in hot water with a cup or two of white vinegar. Then wash them again with a natural or eco-friendly laundry detergent. Finally, dry the towels in the dryer on high heat. To avoid mildew and associated smells in the future, hang towels up right away to ensure they dry thoroughly.

Source: www.Filtrete.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Move to Improve Arthritis

January 1, 2014 12:30 am

More Americans are walking, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the news is a step in the right direction, the report also highlights a need for many more Americans to join the movement.

Importance of Movement
According to the CDC report, the number of Americans who walk at least 10 minutes at a time one or more days a week increased from 55.7 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2010 – a jump of about 6 percent. Among people with arthritis, the increase was about 4 percent.

While Americans are moving more than in years past, the CDC report also revealed fewer than half of all Americans are getting the government-recommended 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity like brisk walking to improve their health. Movement is especially important for people with arthritis and is one of the many ways to fight off arthritis. Walking, biking, swimming or even tennis can help reduce risk and improve pain.

Move to Improve
The Arthritis Foundation is taking steps to increase walking and physical activity to limit the effects of arthritis. As the nation’s leading cause of disability, arthritis affects one in five adults in the United States – more than 20 percent of the adult population. High rates of arthritis among people with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, make physical activity an even more important way to manage disease.

The Arthritis Foundation is calling on the nation to:

Get Moving —The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease exercise program is a great resource to start moving. It’s safe, easy and motivating. And researchers have found that Walk With Ease can reduce pain, increase balance and strength, and improve overall health.

Wave With the World — If you’ve been touched by arthritis, join 50,000 people from 70 countries around the world waving in support of people with arthritis. Upload a photo at www.worldarthritisday.org/waving and post the photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #WorldArthritisDay. Be sure to include a personal message about how arthritis affects you or someone important to you.

Source: Arthritis Foundation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Year's Resolutions That Will Keep Your Home Warm and Happy

December 31, 2013 12:27 am

With the New Year upon us, many people are reminded of their resolutions from the past year. Many resolved to keep up with their home maintenance. How did you do? Was your New Year's resolution to fix those air leaks in the window? If you haven't done it yet, the time is now. The winds of winter are here and that means that it's time to assess your home's insulation situation and save yourself some money while also providing your home with trendy new fashions. If you have never done it before, the first thing you should do to winterize your home is conduct an energy audit.

Hiring a professional energy auditor may seem unnecessary, but turning your home into an energy efficient machine will help you save more money in the long run. The auditor will point out spots of energy waste, poorly insulated areas and air leaks, and other places which are the main causes of higher-than-usual utility bills during the winter months. Once the auditor has pointed out the areas that need home improvement, it's time to go about winterizing those areas to save as much money as possible.

The term "winterize" is used in professional inspection services to refer to houses that are going to be vacant during the winter. However, there are ways to prepare (winterize) your home while living in it, which effectively protects it from the damaging effects of the harsh weather. Consider these tips for helping you make it through the winter in a comfortable and cozy fashion.

• Improve insulation. Poor insulation can cost you money on your utility bill year round, but especially during the winter when your cozy warm air is seeping through different leaks. If your home is not well-insulated, you will end up spending more money on gas and electricity trying to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer. This makes insulation improvements a top priority on your New Year's to-do-list for home repair and maintenance.
- Insulate all piping exteriorly exposed.
- Insulate your hot water tank with an insulation blanket.

• Doors
- Install weatherstripping.
- Use a door sweep for extra insulation.
- Like storm windows, storm doors can help you save money by eliminating air leaks in this area.

• Windows
- Find air leaks and seal them with caulking.
- Consider installing storm windows.
- Insulate your windows and save money in the New Year with eco-friendly shades that can also help keep you warm during the winter. The use of custom window coverings can help your home keep the heat in when the winds are blowing.

• Roofing
- Replace missing or damaged shingles.
- Clean gutters and downspouts.
- Check flashing around chimneys and other roof protrusions. Air often leaks around these areas.

• Outdoor landscape
- Cover furniture and external air conditioners.
- If your deck needs it, seal it before the wet winter ruins it completely.
- Drain gas from lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other outdoor equipment.
- Drain water from fountains.
- Purge sprinkler systems by shutting off water and blowing compressed air through system.

Preparing your home for winter doesn't have to mean locking yourself up in an igloo for four months! You can prepare your home for winter by redecorating your interior to match the seasonal trends and to add a new level of comfort and coziness to your humble abode.

Source: Budget Blinds

Published with permission from RISMedia.


14 Top Diet Trends for 2014

December 31, 2013 12:27 am

The annual nutrition expert trends forecast is in – what fad diets are hot? What's out? Which foods top the list? What are consumers eating? According to a survey of more than 500 Registered Dietitians conducted by the nutrition trade magazine, Today's Dietitian, and a leading food, health and wellness public relations agency, Pollock Communications, America's demand for nutrition information is at an all-time high and there's no shortage of outlets talking about diets. The data shows that with all the attention on health and nutrition, Americans need advice from dietitians now, more than ever, to cut through the clutter.

Whether right on or nutritionally wrong, dietitians identified 14 diet, nutrition and food trends that will make headlines, influence food-purchasing decisions and shape Americans' waistlines in 2014. For better or for worse, here's what to watch out for:

1. Anti-wheat sentiment. According to experts, consumers will continue to lean on wheat-deprived diet plans like the Paleo diet, gluten-free or "wheat belly" in 2014. "Despite the lack of evidence to support wheat- or gluten-elimination diets for weight loss or health – not associated with a clinical disorder or disease – consumers are still looking for ways to control their weight," explains Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, senior vice president and director of Food & Wellness at Pollock Communications. Just over half of the respondents agreed that the Paleo diet, gluten-free or "wheat belly" would top the list of most popular diet fads for 2014.

2. Ancient grains are new again. Despite the popularity of some low grain diets, ancient grains are being served up in 2014.

3. Add kale, coconut or chia seeds. While 32 percent of dietitians forecast a fondness for ancient grains, 27 percent say that kale is hot (or served cold) in 2014. When it comes to ingredients, 37 percent of dietitians report that coconut oil is all the rage, followed by omega-3, and ALA-rich chia seeds (32 percent).

4. "Low fat" falls flat. While low carb remains strong, low fat gets weaker. Dietitians predict that the low-fat diet will be the least talked about plan for 2014.

5. The nutrition pros promote MyPlate. Looking for a great educational tool for creating a healthy diet? Seventy-five percent of dietitians turn to MyPlate to help people eat right.

6. "Health" is important in the grocery store. When it comes to shopping for food, 95 percent of dietitians say that "health" is important to shoppers. And supermarkets know this more than anyone – the Supermarket Dietitian is the fastest growing job classification in grocery stores nationwide.

7. I'm a doctor… and I play one on TV. Dietitians agree that consumers are exposed to more health information on their flatscreens than ever before. Sixty-six percent of dietitians predict that television doctors will up the diet discussions in 2014, along with more views about food from celebrity trainers and chefs.

8. I'm as healthy as my friends. When it comes to weight and health, consumers are comparing themselves to recommendations from TV personalities and health-focused shows, say 34 percent of dietitians. How else do they gauge their health and weight? They look to their friends and family.

9. Bloggers blog about nutrition and health. Whether it's a lifestyle, mommy or credentialed dietitian blogger, consumers are booting up their devices for diet advice. Dietitians report that the topic of nutrition and health is booming on blogs and websites.

10. The (mis)information age. Dietitians report that most (67 percent) of nutrition information is based on personal beliefs and half-truths rather than published peer-reviewed research. And, 75 percent say that there will be a preponderance of misinformation to digest in 2014.

11. More eco-conscious eats. According to dietitians, consumers are looking for more eco-labels in 2014. About 38 percent say that local is where it's at and 31 percent tell us that their clients look for sustainable foods when shopping.

12. Americans become a little too comfortable. The national averages for body weight have not budged and dietitians worry that Americans may be becoming complacent about their unhealthy weight. Forty-four percent feel that as we move into 2014, more consumers are becoming OK with an unhealthy weight.

13. Fruits and veggies: the biggest bang for the buck. If consumers made one positive nutrition change, what would that be? It's no surprise: dietitians say that the most important first step to improve overall health is to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables.

14. Consumers have an insatiable appetite for nutrition and diet information. According to 66 percent of the respondents, consumers' interest in nutrition and weight loss will only grow in 2014.

Source: Pollock Communications/Today’s Dietician

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Gas Safety Tips for Cold Season

December 31, 2013 12:27 am

As temperatures drop, another threat to safety is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO poisoning can occur as a result of a poorly ventilated heater or a CO leak from another source. Symptoms can include nausea, headaches, paralysis and even death. Remember the following tips to help prevent CO poisoning:

• Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor or SoCalGas.
• Vacuum and clean regularly in and around the furnace, particularly around the burner compartment to prevent a build-up of dust and lint.
• Never store items in, on or around the appliance that can obstruct airflow.
• Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when necessary.
• When installing a new or cleaned furnace filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly; never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Check the appearance of the flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor or SoCalGas to have the condition corrected.
• Using an unvented gas heater in your home is dangerous and a violation of most states’ Health and Safety Code.
• Never use your oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home because these appliances are not designed for this purpose.
• If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Source: socalgas.com/safety

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prevent Alzheimer's with These Three Foods

December 30, 2013 12:33 am

The number of Americans with Alzheimer's is projected to triple by 2050. While there isn't a cure for Alzheimer's, certain lifestyle changes can help prevent cognitive decline.

MySilverAge.com recommends three foods that can help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's by enhancing brain function and keeping the mind sharp.

1. Oil-based Salad Dressings—Drizzling oil-based dressing on salads can help support healthy brain function. The vitamin E found in oil-based salad dressings is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are thought to guard neurons—the nerve cells that relay information between the brain and the rest of the body—from oxidation, thus preventing or slowing brain damage. Vitamin E has even been credited with delaying the advancement of memory loss in moderate to severe cases of Alzheimer's disease.

2. Beet Juice—It may not be the first thirst-quencher that comes to mind, but recent studies show that beet juice could help fend off Alzheimer's. Nitrates found in beet roots help blood and oxygen flow within the body by dilating blood vessels. In particular, they boost blood flow to the frontal lobes, which helps to prevent dementia. Other nitrate-packed foods include spinach, celery and cabbage.

3. Chicken Giblets—Think twice before tossing out chicken giblets (the neck, heart, gizzards, kidneys or liver). Chicken giblets are actually powerful tools for battling Alzheimer's. The vitamin B-12 found in giblets could keep the brain sharp, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Neurology. And it only takes one cup of giblets to get 228 percent of the recommended daily dose of the vitamin.

Source: MySilverAge

Published with permission from RISMedia.