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

Increasing results, not days on market!

Tips for Avoiding and Handling Fire Emergencies

October 14, 2013 12:00 am

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), on average, seven people in the U.S. die every day in house fires. In 2011, fire departments responded to 370,000 home fires, resulting in $6.9 billion in damage. With Fire Prevention Week underway, the experts from Rave Mobile Safety, creators of the national public safety service Smart911, are offering the following tips to help individuals and families prevent and handle fire related emergencies.

• Cook with Care: Cooking is the foremost cause of home fires and unattended cooking is the leading culprit. Stay in the kitchen when frying, broiling and grilling. Use a timer as a reminder that a stove is on, and if you need to leave—even briefly—turn the appliance off. Don't put things that can catch fire on a stovetop, including wooden utensils, oven mitts and food packaging, and keep curtains away. Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Have a lid on hand to smother small grease fires, and if there's an oven fire, turn it off and keep the door shut. Don't try to fight larger, uncontrollable fires - leave the premises, shut the door to contain it and call 9-1-1.

• Candle Caution: The NFPA notes that, on average, home fires caused by a candle are reported every 40 minutes. More than one-third of these fires start in the bedroom, half of them when potentially flammable items are placed close to a candle. Always use candle holders that won't tip over, and, extinguish the flame before it burns down and gets too close to the holder. Keep candles on uncluttered surfaces and never leave them unattended or in the care of children. Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and never light them if medical oxygen is used in a home.

• Where There's Smoke, There's Fire: The leading cause of fire deaths are smoking materials. If you smoke, smoke outside. Remain alert; never smoke in bed and be aware that medicine, drugs and alcohol can make a person drowsy. Keep cigarettes, lighters and matches out of reach of children. Dispose of cigarettes properly by dousing them with water or sand.

• Heat Risks: Fires from heating sources pose risks, particularly during winter months. As a general rule, keep anything that can burn a minimum of three feet from these sources. Children should also be kept the same distance away. An oven should never be used for heating purposes and always turn portable heating devices off before going to bed or leaving the house.

• Be Proactive, Plan & Practice: Do a proactive safety check of your residence. Test the function and batteries of smoke alarms. Make sure outlets are not overloaded with multiple plug-extenders or extension cords. Look at electrical wires and cords on appliances, devices, lamps, etc. to ensure they're not damaged or worn. Develop and practice a fire-escape plan, marking two ways out of each room, such as a door and a window. Select a spot outside and in front of a residence where all family members should meet in the event of a fire. Also, discuss fire dos and don'ts, including never exiting a door if it feels hot and staying low to avoid smoke inhalation.

Source: http://www.ravemobilesafety.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Celebrate Pizza: Fun, Easy Ways to Enjoy a Family Favorite

October 14, 2013 12:00 am

(Family Features) Pizza is one of America’s favorite foods, as it is easy to prepare and fun to share. Families are often looking for ways to enjoy this tasty dish and still feel good about staying on track with enjoyable, mindful eating.

With the help of the Nestlé Pizza Portion Guide, you can feel even better about serving this family favorite.

“It’s all about how much you eat and what else you eat with it,” says registered dietitian Lisa R. Young, Ph.D., R.D., author of “The Portion Teller Plan.”

It’s easy as pizza pie
While assisting in the creation of the new Pizza Portion Guide, one of Young’s goals was to help people “legalize” pizza in their mind, while helping them stay committed to a balanced diet.

“One of the best ways to do this is to be mindful of portion size,” says Young. “When you learn ways to eat what you love in appropriate portions, you can continue to enjoy your favorite foods (in appropriate portions) and keep your meals enjoyable and your eating plan on track.”

Pizza is what’s called a mixed dish, combining several food groups such as proteins, vegetables and grains all in one slice. By pairing pizza with nutritious side dishes, such as steamed vegetables and fruit salad, you create a complete meal.

For a mindful approach to enjoying pizza, Young recommends these tips:

• Top it your way: Select your favorite kind of pizza. Consider adding your own various vegetable toppings.
• Nutrition facts check: Read the nutrition facts label on packaged pizza you prepare at home (shown per “serving size”).
• Show of hands: Portion size can be based on what you have eaten in a day or what you plan to eat. One fun way to determine the best portion size of pizza is to picture your hand as a pizza slice. Plan to enjoy only one or two hands’ worth. A child or small woman’s hand is smaller, and so are their portions.
• A side of healthy, please: Fill half of your plate with a salad, steamed or roasted mixed vegetables and seasonal fruit for a complete meal.
• Savor your selection: Enjoy your selection knowing you are eating your favorite foods in the right amount for you. You’ll leave the table fully satisfied, but not overly full.

Family pizza night
Celebrate this family favorite with a pizza night. Young recommends keeping the night fun by allowing family members an active role in crafting pizza portions tailored to their tastes and needs. Mix and match the following possibilities for a fun and flavorful pizza night:

• Line up small bowls, each filled with different toppings to bring color and variety to pizza.
• For a fun and unique choice, add in pineapple, strawberries or blueberries.
• Add canned beans, cooked chicken, turkey or shrimp to cheese pizza for more protein.
• Pizza can be excellent for leftovers. Keep your pizza crispy and bubbly by reheating in a large skillet, toaster oven, oven or grill, instead of the microwave.

Source: nestleusa

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Finding a Builder for Your New Home: Hire a Professional

October 14, 2013 12:00 am

Contracting the right builder is a critical first step in the construction process of your dream home. Some homeowners liken it to hiring an employee, while others compare the experience to a marriage—you have to spend a lot of time together, make a lot of big decisions and ultimately trust each other to build something that lasts.

“This is the biggest purchase you make, period,” new homeowner Amy Greene said.

Don Ghiz also has recent experience in hiring a contractor. He’s in the middle of a construction project and said he spoke to several candidates before making his selection.

Before picking a contractor, Ghiz evaluated a number of builders based on their level of experience, competency, style of house they were comfortable building, method of accounting, communication skills and willingness to stay positive.

Following is some helpful advice on what to look for when choosing a builder:

1. Ask for recommendations. Greene said she found her builder by asking her friends. Having a recommendation helps. “I’d definitely do my homework and look at a lot of custom builders,” she said. “Then go look at their houses and spend time talking with them.”

Get to know the builder. Get to know who they are and what they stand for – are they passionate about building homes or are they all about the money?

2. Get lost in the details. Greene said that her builder’s detailed bid sealed the deal for her. She explained that costs can go up if builders do not give all the information up front.

“Without details, prices can skyrocket,” Greene said. “You want a builder who has a really good idea of what things will cost.”

Ghiz noted that customers need to assess the builders’ choice of quality materials and be assured that contractors will not cut corners to save expenses without discussing the options.

“In my case, I looked for a builder with genuine concern that I get what I want at a fair price,” he said. “I looked for a person who would say, with honesty, ‘I don’t think you’ll like that, and here’s my reason for saying it.’”

3. Talk it out. As in any good relationship, communication is key. Greene and her builder spent hours talking before they began to work together, discussing every detail of the project in full before starting construction.

4. Trust your instincts – and back it up. For Ghiz, it all came down to trust.

“When all is said and done, your builder will spend many months on what you may live in for the rest of your life, so consider the choices carefully and don’t ignore your gut,” he said.

5. Use your resources. If you aren’t sure of something, don’t hesitate to seek advice from others or get a second opinion.

Source: The Custom Builders Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Options in Radon Gas Monitoring Available Soon to U.S. Homeowners

October 11, 2013 1:15 am

There are epidemiological evidences that indoor radon exposure is responsible for a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population. In the U.S. alone, more than 20 thousand people die yearly from radon. About eight million homes throughout the nation have elevated levels of radon in indoor air.

It is estimated that up to 14 percent of lung cancers are attributed to radon gas radiation. Radon is the second cause of lung cancer after smoking. Analyses indicate that the lung cancer risk increases proportionally with increasing radon exposure. As many people are exposed to low and moderate radon concentrations, the majority of lung cancers related to radon are caused by these radon exposure levels. This indicates that in countries where radon is found, most buildings should be monitored for radon as part of general preventive health care.

In most fields, technology has for long moved from the analogue to the digital age. Not so when it comes to radon gas monitoring technology. The traditional technology – track edge film – is still the most prevalent in the market. Many countries now demand more appropriate technologies for continuous radon monitoring in homes. This has inspired the Norwegian company Corentium AS to develop accurate and affordable digital monitoring devices. The development of the monitor Corentium model QRI is largely a response to the 2009 UN World Health Organization report “WHO” handbook on indoor radon. A public health perspective which provided detailed recommendations on reducing health risks from radon gas.

The Corentium enables homeowners to continuously monitor the indoor radon concentration– making radon gas diagnostics much easier. The Corentium monitor gives the possibility to read short term average values for 1 day and 7 days, and the long term average up to a year. The Canary is also ideal for a fast disclose of the effect of mitigation done by the homeowners themselves. That brings the solutions closer to the homeowners - increasing awareness and reducing costs.

The Corentium model QR' will soon be available through US resellers. To learn more about Corentium, visit http://www.corentium.com/us.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Winter Moving Tips and Tricks

October 11, 2013 1:15 am

With the Farmers’ Almanac predicting winter to be piercing, bitterly and biting cold, two-thirds of the country is bracing for a colder-than-normal season. Just the thought of having to move house in these conditions sends a shiver down the spine, but as the housing market is on the rebound and with Americans moving at least 8.2 times in their lifetime, the dreaded task of relocating is one that many will be faced with during this cold winter.

Here are some moving tips if you’re planning on moving during the coldest season of the year:

1. Pack items as usual with one caveat. Make sure any temperature sensitive items (plants, anything that can freeze, etc.) are well protected and kept from exposure. Most trucks are not temperature controlled so special care and thought should be given to protecting these items in transport if they will be in transit for long periods.

2. Dress appropriately. You'll be back and forth, in and out of cold weather, and probably breaking a sweat regardless. Wear layers that can be easily added or removed as your temperature fluctuates throughout the day.

3. Prepare for the elements. Icy sidewalks and steps, poor driving conditions and the elements in general can make moving a box across the street a challenging adventure. Be prepared with the proper attire and footwear, or even rock salt and sand to cover icy areas. And don't forget to put down mats by the door of your home to help reduce the dirt and snow tracked in.

4. Monitor and be flexible. Some natural events cannot be avoided – and an unexpected blizzard may force you to reschedule your move. Staying on top of the weather forecasts and staying in communication with your moving company (or moving help) will help you prepare for any last minute changes you might require, including rescheduling a move in advance.

5. Keep warmth within reach. Pack a separate box or bag of cold weather gear – including extra blankets and warm clothing. Make sure to have your car checked if you will be moving long distance so you can avoid any breakdowns in the frigid middle of nowhere. And make sure to contact all the utility companies to ensure you'll have properly functioning heat and hot water when you arrive at your new home. You don't want to spend your first night shivering.

6. Pack and organize extra early. The more organized you are, the more efficiently you will complete your move. Why spend more time outside than necessary?

Source: FlatRate Moving

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Buyers Value Environmentally Friendly Features

October 11, 2013 1:15 am

Homeowners frequently see their heating bills rise as fall begins and the weather cools. For this reason, homes with energy efficient and environmentally friendly features are often a priority to prospective buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors®’ 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, nearly nine out of 10 recent homebuyers said that heating and cooling costs were somewhat or very important when considering a home for purchase.

“REALTORS® build communities and know that consumer demand for greener homes and features has grown considerably over the past several years. Going green has proven to be more than a trend; many people now seek out this way of living and want homes and communities that are more resource efficient and sensitive to the environment,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “As energy savings and green building features are becoming more important to buyers, sellers and businesses, it comes as no surprise that consumers are placing a higher value on properties with those features.”

It’s easy to understand why homebuyers tend to favor greener houses; often the higher a home’s energy efficiency, the more money is potentially saved in monthly heating and cooling costs. NAR data show that features that directly affect monthly energy costs are important to buyers; thirty-nine percent of survey respondents reported that a home’s heating and cooling costs were very important when considering a home for purchase, followed by energy-efficient appliances and lighting, each at 24 percent. Landscaping for energy conservation and environmentally friendly community features were less important but were still a factor in the minds of home buyers; nearly half of buyers found these features very or somewhat important.

Regionally, buyers in the North and South placed a greater importance on heating and cooling costs, probably due to more extreme temperatures in those areas of the country. The survey also found that buyers who purchased more recently built homes placed greater importance on environmentally friendly features than buyers who purchased older homes; nearly 60 percent of buyers who bought homes built in 2011 said heating and cooling costs were very important, compared to less than thirty percent of buyers whose homes were built before 1910.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Reasons Investing in Outdoor Space Pays Off

October 10, 2013 12:57 am

Increasingly, homeowners around the nation are investing in their outdoor living space. In fact, the majority of homeowners surveyed by American Express revealed that they have plans to engage in some sort of home improvement project in the next year. The outdoor living and landscape sector has grown into a $60 billion per year industry, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Investing in outdoor living provides a good return on investment for most people, making it an ideal home improvement project.

“Many people are finding that they want to get back to spending more time outdoors,” explains Bob Dallas, the chief executive officer at UltraOutdoors.com. “People also want to put money into their home improvement projects where it is going to pay off. Outdoor living is a logical choice that fulfills both of these needs.”

Here are five reasons investing in outdoor space pays off:

1. Resale value. HGTV claims that homeowners recoup 65-90 percent just by adding a deck. Experts agree that investing in your outdoor living space will add to the value of your home. When you put money into this area, a lot of it will come back to you, when and if you decide to sell your home. Buyers will like the fact that your home includes nice outdoor living features and spaces.

2. Personal enjoyment. Most people could use a place to unwind and de-stress. Having a relaxing outdoor living space will create an environment where the family can relax together and enjoy each other’s company.

3. Save money. Consider how many times a family leaves home in order to seek out something that could have been in their backyard. This includes leaving to use a swimming pool or going to the park. Create the environment you are seeking in your own backyard, and save the gas and fees of taking your recreation elsewhere.

4. Entertaining opportunities. Having an ideal outdoor living space creates an oasis for entertaining. Whether hosting a holiday gathering, Friday night s’mores around a bonfire, or an outdoor picnic-style potluck, you will have a great place to pull it off.

5. Benefits of nature. There are mounds of research demonstrating the many benefits of spending more time outdoors. These include such things as reducing stress, improving mental clarity and mood, improving concentration, and more. Many people find that spending time outdoors is the cheapest form of therapy there is, and it’s good for all ages.

“The pay-off from investing in an outdoor living space comes in many forms,” added Dallas. “Not only is it good for the value of your home, but it’s a solid investment for creating great recreation and entertainment spaces, and giving your family a relaxing area where they can re-charge their batteries.”

There are many outdoor living options to choose from, including outdoor fireplaces, kitchens, pools and water features, patios and decks, gazebos, sitting areas, and landscaping. The key to having the outdoor oasis that fits your needs is to work with a professional to design a custom plan.

Source: www.UltraOutdoors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips on Mold Pricing

October 10, 2013 12:57 am

Home and business owners often do their best to prepare for the inherent dangers that come along with being a property owner. Dangers like home or office security, fire damage, severe storms, and water damage are on the short list of what keeps a property owner up at night. While these hazards can prove to be extremely costly and dangerous, a silent threat that is often forgotten about can be just as detrimental to the wallet and to the health of a property's inhabitants. This silent threat is simply known as mold.

Mold growth is actually a necessary part of the everyday environment as spores can often be found both indoors and outdoors. However, when toxic mold spore counts are elevated inside the home or business, indoor air quality can negatively affect the health of families, colleagues and customers respectively. Also, the physical toll mold growth takes on the structural integrity of a property can be catastrophic.
Needless to say, removal of the toxic fungus must be done immediately in a safe, effective way. Property owners often do not take mold remediation into account when budgeting for repairs. Oftentimes, home and business owners look for the least expensive option when shopping for a remediation specialist.

Value of mold remediation depends on a variety of factors. First, it is important to understand how mold behaves and how the colony can spread throughout the home or business. Whenever mold is attacked, it sends its spores into the air to find a suitable replacement area to regrow the colony. Therefore, if a general contractor without the proper equipment or insurance simply cuts away areas affected by mold without treating it properly, cross contamination will occur as spores populate other areas of the property.

Mold spores can regenerate a colony whether they are dead or alive. Valuable residential and commercial mold remediation pricing includes:

• Containment of the affected area
• Removal and safe disposal of mold affected materials (eg. drywall, carpet, padding, wood, etc.)
• Scrubbing of support beams and concrete with brushes and EPA-approved biowashes
• Eradication and removal of live and dead spores with a HEPA filter vacuum

Along with these general practices, which provide a level of safety and efficiency necessary to mitigate mold, technicians should also wear Personal Protective Equipment, maintain proper insurance and bonding, and complete training and certification. These practices will ensure the safety and health of the technicians and the property inhabitants who are counting on dependable mold removal.

Cheap mold restoration does not provide true value. While initial costs may be less by choosing an uninsured, uncertified contractor who does not follow the mold removal guidelines listed above, costs will increase exponentially in the long run when spores contaminate other areas of the home or business.

Source: SI Restoration

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Excited About Remodeling Again

October 10, 2013 12:57 am

Planese, Inc. announced that homeowners across the country are now willing to spend 30 percent of the value of their home when they remodel; remodeling expense as a percentage of home value has been trending upward since 2007. Consumers also plan to use materials that are more expensive and spend an average of $102,000 to improve their homes.

These findings are part of the Fall 2013 Remodeling Sentiment Report, a forward-looking report based on data from the Planese and remodelormove.com survey of homeowners nationwide that analyzes and documents trends in the home improvement industry. Planese compared the responses of today's homeowners throughout the nation against the findings reported both during the recession in 2010 and at the height of the remodeling boom in 2007.

"The wealth effect is taking hold; consumers are spending again, which bodes well for the entire home improvement industry," said Dan Fritschen, CEO and co-founder of Planese, Inc. "More people are feeling secure enough during this economic environment that they are remodeling. It's no longer the most affluent; we are at the beginning of a multi-year trend."

More homeowners (74 percent) plan to hire a general contractor, which is up significantly from the 64 percent reported in 2010 and 2007. The percentage of people who plan to engage an architect (56 percent) has bounced back from the low of 47 percent in 2010 during the recession. As the scope of projects increases, so does the need for an architect.

The projects planned are larger; the average number of rooms to remodel is four. Homeowners are more likely to remodel a kitchen (55 percent), which tends to be expensive and often is a discretionary expenditure, than a bathroom (48 percent), which is often viewed as a necessity.

The survey also found that homeowners are less likely to do any of the work themselves. Today, 43 percent plans to do none of the remodeling work themselves as compared to 36 percent in both 2010 and 2007. In addition, more homeowners say they will use expensive materials when they remodel (17 percent) today, as compared to 9 percent in 2010 and 10 percent in 2007.

Survey Results:

Cost to remodel /home value
2007 – 25 percent
2010 – 28 percent
2013 – 30 percent

Plan to perform none of the work
2007 – 36 percent
2010 – 36 percent
2013 – 43 percent

Plan to use a general contractor
2007 – 64 percent
2010 – 64 percent
2013 – 74 percent

Plan to hire an architect
2007 – 54 percent
2010 – 47 percent
2013 – 56 percent

Plan to use expensive materials
2007 – 9 percent
2010 – 10 percent
2013 – 17 percent

Plan to add a bathroom
2007 – 52 percent
2010 – 53 percent
2013 – 48 percent

Plan to remodel a kitchen
2007 – 57 percent
2010 – 48 percent
2013 – 55 percent

Source: http://www.planese.com/

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Tips for Fall Car Care Month

October 9, 2013 1:06 am

October is Fall Car Care Month, so use it as an excuse to make sure your vehicle is ready for the harsh winter weather ahead. Taking a few simple steps now can save you the headaches and cost of an emergency breakdown later, says the Car Care Council.

Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the Car Care Council recommends the following proactive steps to make sure your car is ready for winter driving.

Battery – Keep the battery connections clean, tight and corrosion-free. Cold weather is hard on batteries, so it's wise to check the battery and charging system. Because batteries don't always give warning signs before they fail, it is advisable to replace batteries that are more than three years old.

Heater, Defrosters and Wiper Blades – Check that the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system are working properly as heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons, such as defrosting. Wiper blades that are torn, cracked or don't properly clean your windshield should be replaced. As a general rule, wiper blades should be replaced every six months. When changing the blades, be sure to also check the fluid level in the windshield washer reservoir.

Tires – Check the tires, including the tire pressure and tread depth. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots. If snow and ice are a problem in your area, consider special tires designed to grip slick roads. During winter, tire pressure should be checked weekly as tires lose pressure when temperatures drop.

Brakes – Have the brake system checked, including brake linings, rotors and drums. Brakes are critical to vehicle safety and particularly important when driving on icy or snow-covered roads.

"Getting your vehicle ready for winter while temperatures are still mild is a proactive approach to preventive maintenance that helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs when severe winter weather strikes," says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Source: www.carcare.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.