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

Increasing results, not days on market!

4 Questions Every Home Seller Asks

July 28, 2014 1:00 am

Are you thinking about selling your home this spring? If so, you're likely to have many questions—especially if you've never sold a house before. It's helpful to understand the basics.

Brett Furman, a broker/owner in St. Davids, Pennsylvania suggests asking these four questions every home seller asks:

What makes a house sell? The five biggest factors are price, terms, condition, location and market exposure.

When is the best time to sell? As soon as you decide it is. In order to receive top dollar for your house, it is important to give yourself as much time as possible to get the house ready. More time means more potential buyers have a chance to see your home, ultimately resulting in more offers and more options for you.

Is there any seasonality to the market? Early spring and early fall are the prime seasons. People like to move in by the holidays or the start of a new school year. "The time of year you sell shouldn't dominate when you sell. It's best to do it when you're ready and, if possible, give yourself as much time as you can," says Furman.

What about price trends, interest rate and the economy in general? When interest rates are low, there will likely be more potential buyers. When inventory is tight, it benefits the seller.

"The ultimate decision of when to sell your house is guided by your family's needs. These factors usually won't have a bearing on when you list your home for sale," says Furman.

Source: www.homesellerhandbook.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

5 Ways to Save at the Amusement Park

July 25, 2014 12:57 am

According to a recent TripAdvisor survey, more than half of Americans plan to visit an amusement park this summer, with more than a quarter spending over $1,000 on the visit. Families can keep costs down by making the visit budget-friendly. Here are five ways to save on amusement park admission:

1. Plan (and purchase) in advance. Rather than purchasing day-of tickets, consider purchasing tickets online. Some parks offer discounted rates if purchased ahead of time, which can save a significant amount on the ticket cost combined. It's also worth checking park websites for flash sales and other discounts. Purchasing tickets as part of a combined package with other attractions can also save on individual costs.

2. Look beyond park-specific promotions. Coupon sites like RetailMeNot and flash sale sites like Groupon and LivingSocial often post a collection of deals and discounts to amusement parks. Membership groups like AAA and AARP also offer discounts to theme parks, and some credit cards provide special promotions to cardholders.

3. Don't overlook multi-day passes. For families spending more than one day in the area, or who live within close distance to an amusement park, purchasing a season- or multi-day pass can help save hundreds. Season passes can also provide additional bonuses like exclusive ride times and free or discounted parking.

4. Spend the night. Many parks partner with nearby hotels to extend special offerings to hotel guests, such as discount tickets, complimentary breakfast or early park entry. Some packages also include transportation to and from the park to help families save on the cost of parking.

5. Time your visit wisely. Some parks offer discount tickets after a certain hour in the day. If you don't mind a shortened visit, or don't have time to spend an entire day at the park, check to see if there are half-day or evening tickets at a discounted rate. Visitors may save as much as half-off by taking advantage of off-peak deals.

Source: Family Vacation Critic

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Combining Focal Points: Your Fireplace and Television

July 25, 2014 12:57 am

(BPT) - When choosing a focal point for a room, designers and homeowners alike often plan for a single feature – windows, TVs, artwork, or fireplaces – to take center stage. However, the explosion of flat screen TVs for every room in the home has created a debate – can you really have more than one focal point?

Online resources and various design blogs have made it easy for homeowners to discuss that question, with many in favor of combining two features that typically stand out on their own – fireplaces and TVs – on one wall to blend the warm and comforting aesthetics of a fireplace with easy TV access.

In large rooms with adequate space, TVs above the fireplace can create an ideal angle of vision. In fact, stacking TVs and fireplaces can be a great choice for several reasons:

Easy design: Combining two elements in one location makes it easier to design the rest of the room, allowing for a single grouping of chairs and couches. In some room designs, it also leaves room for other areas to be turned into reading corners or small work spaces.

Enhanced functionality: Open-concept floor plans and homes that have the kitchen, eating and living area combined into an open great room are perfect for placing the TV and fireplace on the same wall. This arrangement provides optimal viewing of the TV while cooking in the kitchen or relaxing in the eating area, while also incorporating the warmth and comfort of the fireplace.

Subtle style: Higher placement makes a TV less obvious when a person first walks into the room. Visitors notice a beautiful fireplace, especially when lit, and may only observe the TV if it’s turned on. Plus, there are other decorating tricks designers can use if a homeowner really doesn’t want the TV to stand out, like hiding it behind a painting or mirrors.

For a quick living room update, consider placing your TV above the fireplace to create a warm, welcoming and inviting space. You might also install a fireplace to your existing TV room to add relaxation and ambiance.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Make Outdoor Living Easier with the Right Lights

July 25, 2014 12:57 am

Looking to spend your days outside this summer? How about your nights? Enjoy outdoor living long after the sun goes down with lighting that adds both beauty and safety. From evening dinners to late night cocktails, the right outdoor lighting can provide sophistication and ambiance to set the mood.

Light the way to a better outdoor living space this season with the helpful tips from the experts at Trex:

Safety First
– A well-lit outdoor living space is not only welcoming, but helps make guests feel more secure while walking. Brighten walkways with warm, focused lights like Trex LandscapeLighting Path Lights. For stairs, consider using riser lights to illuminate each step.

Added Ambiance – Don’t let harsh lighting spoil a nice summer night. Add soft lighting to specific areas on your deck or patio, such as a kitchen and seating and dining areas. Trex LandscapeLighting Spotlights use the latest LED technology to shine a beautifully bright light through a modest head. When not in use, they’re designed to practically disappear into their surroundings.

Customization – Outdoor lighting allows you to transform your deck into a customized creation. Highlight architectural features, gazebos, pergolas or trellises bringing together design and function. For a sophisticated look find lights that provide illumination for landscaping and small structures.

Source: Trex

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Easy Ways to Slash Your Grocery Bills

July 24, 2014 1:18 am

Cutting coupons and shopping sales are good ways to save on groceries – and since the average U.S. household spends more than $4,000 a year on food, saving money is a worthwhile goal.

But if you’re willing to plan a bit, and expend a little effort, Money Talks consumer expert Stacy Johnson suggests 10 relatively easy ways to slash your monthly food spend:
  • Try generic – Store-labeled boxed and canned foods can save you up to 50 percent over famous-name counterparts. Some are better than the originals, others not so much. Try them to see which work for you.
  • Shop top and bottom shelves – Manufacturers pay for eye-level display. Bargains on similar products are often available if you scan the top and bottom shelves.
  • Seek other sources – Take time to check out discount retailers and local farmer’s markets to see how the savings add up. A package of romaine lettuce hearts for a buck at the 99 Cents store is half the price you’ll find at most supermarkets.
  • Plan meals around the ads – Use the bargains trumpeted in the market circular each week as the basis for family meals – and shop strictly from a list.
  • Make your own – Homemade cookies, sauces or jams made from cheap summer fruits taste better than many you can buy. Take advantage of seasonal bargains. Cook. Freeze. Enjoy.
  • Slice and dice it yourself – Buy the whole pineapple on sale for two bucks or the cut-up container for nearly twice that? You will reap big savings by cutting up chickens, grating cheese, and cleaning veggies on your own.
  • Plan for leftovers – Buying meats and other foods in larger quantities is often cheaper than buying small packages. Cook more than you need at one time and freeze leftovers for a second dinner or several lunches.
  • Substitute cheaper ingredients – A recipe may call for expensive gruyere, but a cheaper Swiss cheese will probably do. Check out The Cook’s Thesaurus or online sources for food substitutions that work.
  • Save free condiments – Those take-out packets of mustard, ketchup and soy sauce can save you money if you save and use them.
  • Cut down on bottled water – Unless the water from your faucet is not fit to drink, bottle it and keep it in the fridge. Fill commuter cups or refill bottles as needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Five Remodeling Projects That Add Resale Value

July 24, 2014 1:18 am

When considering which rooms to renovate in your home, it’s important to keep in mind which upgrades are likely to give you the greatest return on your investment. A recent report by Remodeling magazine indicates the top five projects that recoup the most dollars at resale.

1. Kitchen – The best way to increase your home’s value is to do a complete kitchen renovation. Aside from stainless steel appliances and modern finishes on cabinets and countertops, upgrade the room’s electrical and plumbing systems to get the most bang for your buck.

2. Master bedroom – Whether you choose a full renovation or simple cosmetic changes, updates to a master bedroom are well worth the money. For a master bedroom overhaul, consider adding an en suite bath and fireplace. For smaller improvements, create a sitting area, install double sinks, and add plenty of closet space.

3. Open floor plan – Entertainment areas are a must in today’s homes, so reconfiguring a living space is a wise investment. Removing walls around your kitchen drives an open concept and makes it easy for homeowners to attend to guests.

4. Two-story addition – Although expensive, two-story additions expand square footage; one 2two-story addition can add up to three extra rooms. However, it is often a lengthy project that requires a family to relocate temporarily.

5. Basement
– Finished basements add living space, but they will only increase resale value if basements are common in the neighborhood and region. Be sure to carefully consider whether a renovation is right for you.

Source: Bankrate

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Top 10 Best Cities for Recreation

July 24, 2014 1:18 am

WalletHub recently took an in-depth look at the nation’s best cities for recreation. Using 24 key metrics to compare 100 of the largest U.S. cities, the network highlights the most diverse opportunities for recreation, sports and culture. The survey explored a number of factors— from the cost of movie tickets and parkland acreage to the affordability of food prices and spending on parks per resident — that contribute to the overall quality of each city’s offerings.

The best cities for recreation:

1. Cincinnati, OH
2. Orlando, FL
3. Omaha, NE
4. Minneapolis, MN
5. Tampa, FL
6. St. Petersburg, FL
7. St. Louis, MO
8. Boise, ID
9. Buffalo, NY
10. Sacramento, CA

Source: WalletHub

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Low-Emissive Windows Are Key to Green-Home Building

July 23, 2014 12:33 am

According to the latest NAHB Remodelers survey, high-performing, Low-emissive (Low-E) windows are the most common green building products used by residential remodelers.

So what's the low down on Low-E? Enter Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward representing the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (nachi.org).

They say Low-emissivity glass, aka low-E glass, uses a microscopically thin and virtually invisible metal or metallic oxide layer incorporated in the glazing surface to control heat transfer through insulated windows, reducing energy loss by 30 percent to 50 percent.

Low solar-gain low-E glass is also spectrally selective and is best suited to cooling-dominated climates, where the biggest concern for windows is blocking heat transmission. These windows are made with sputtered low-E coatings that consist of either two or three layers of silver. They are sometimes called double-silver or triple-silver low-E windows.

The report goes on to say, that installing low-E windows can provide significant energy efficiency and savings, especially in hotter climates where windows with a low solar heat-gain coefficient (SHGC) are most effective.

Computer simulations have shown that advanced window glazing with spectrally selective low-E coatings may reduce electric space-cooling requirements of new homes in hot climates by more than 40 percent.

Full disclosure: Nick and Ethan also report that low-E windows are the culprit of melted vinyl siding installed on nearby houses and buildings. Apparently, intense heat reflected by the windows can be focused on neighboring surfaces, similar to the burning effect of pin pointing the sun rays through a magnifying glass.

The effect has caused numerous claims because of melted or distorted siding and several fires according to the NACHI report. In our next Remodeling Month report, we'll chill and take a look at energy saving HVAC systems.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Social Media-Friendly Weddings on the Rise

July 23, 2014 12:33 am

A recent social media and wedding planning survey from TheKnot.com and Mashable indicates significant changes in how couples are leveraging social media – or choosing to unplug – for the big day. Highlights include:

Mobile Apps Rule Planning
Nearly 9 in 10 couples download wedding planning apps to their mobile phones. To stay on top of their to-do lists, one in five couples (19 percent) download mobile checklist apps and 15 percent use organizational apps. Thirteen percent of couples keep their finances top of mind with budgeting apps, and 12 percent anticipate the day with a countdown app.

Wedding #Hashtags
As a way to create a virtual community for this event, 55 percent of couples use a wedding hashtag, and 20 percent use it across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Ten percent of couples did not create a hashtag and wish they had.

Sharing Photos

A majority of couples (57 percent) are on board with guests posting photos from their wedding on Facebook or Instagram. However, 35 percent have mixed feelings about what their guests share, and nearly 1 in 10 couples do not like social photo sharing because they want to control which photos are public. These couples have guests turn off their phones during the ceremony, or ask guests to wait until after the professional photos have posted to share their own images on social media.

Making "I Do" Facebook Official
While 28 percent of couples change their Facebook relationship status within hours of getting engaged, couples are less prompt to change their status after tying the knot, with 33 percent of couples waiting to update their relationship status until the next day.

Inspiration on Social Media
Many brides-to-be are turning to Pinterest, with 70 percent pinning to a wedding board before getting engaged, although more than half of these brides become more realistic about their Pinterest boards after the proposal.

Connecting With Vendors
Couples keep in touch with wedding pros on Facebook (29 percent) and Pinterest (14 percent) most often, with Instagram slowly gaining traction at seven percent. To-be-weds are getting creative with paying their vendors too, with one in five couples using PayPal, the most popular of the nontraditional payment methods.

Source: TheKnot.com

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Three Ways to Save Money on Plumbing

July 23, 2014 12:33 am

Torrential summer rain, ubiquitous family barbecues, and an influx of weekend visitors can have unforeseen effects on a home's pipes. Plumbing systems do a lot of extra work during the summer, so keep in mind these three tips to help keep your home’s plumbing system in tip-top shape.

1. Check washing machine hoses. The warm weather and longer days equal more time spent outside and more dirty clothes. This excess use can put a strain on washing machine hoses, so taking the time to ensure that everything is working correctly could save a homeowner both time and money down the road. Inspect hoses for bulges, kinks, or cracks that could result in a burst. Periodic checks can prevent costly and damaging floods.

Expert tip: Look into purchasing braided steel hoses for your washing machine, as they are less prone to bursting and last years longer than their rubber counterparts.

2. Be kind to your disposal. Many foods can damage a garbage disposal and clog your drains, so be mindful when preparing food for summer parties and cookouts. Avoid putting stringy foods, such as cornhusks and celery, in your disposal as they can damage the blades. In addition, pasta, rice, and other foods that expand with water will quickly clog a home's pipes.

Expert tip: Don't use hot water when grinding food waste. Instead, turn the water on to drain the disposal in between grinding periods.

3. Look for signs of sewer line breakage.
During rainy seasons, water can infiltrate a home's sewer line and cause a backup. Rain also encourages the growth of nearby plants. Tree roots in particular grow aggressively into underground piping, causing damage. Look for signs of an issue, like standing water on your property, which can indicate a broken sewer line. If you think you may have a broken line, be sure to have your local plumber inspect the issue.

Expert tip: Hydroscrubbing your pipes can clear them of debris and roots.

Source: Mr. Rooter

Published with permission from RISMedia.