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

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Simple Ant Prevention

July 23, 2013 12:14 am

(Family Features) Of all the pests that can take up residence in your home this summer, ants are among the most common, and they don’t discriminate.

“Treat ants proactively, even if you only see one or two,” advises Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes.” Cameron’s long experience in home remodeling and carpentry makes him an expert on how to detect and discover entry points for potentially destructive ants to enter the home. “Taking preventative measures will help you protect both the inside and outside of your home from these pesky insects.”

Here are a few of Cameron’s tips and tricks to help protect your home and outdoor spaces from ants:

Treat Using a Systematic Approach
Even if you only see a few, adopt a systematic approach to help treat the ants you see and even those you don’t. Start by treating the perimeter of your home using a product such as Raid Max Bug Barrier to defend against ants that want to enter your house. Next, use an instant-action product indoors to kill them on contact. Treat areas such as baseboards and entry points, as they are prime locations for ants to infiltrate homes. Finally, place baits in areas where you see individual ants or ones following a trail or path to protect against bigger problems in the future. Do not place ant baits in areas where sprays were used.

Clear Damp Areas
Ants love to build their colonies in moist areas, especially those in which organic mulch, leaves, weeds, branches and brush remnants collect. Places such as where rain gutters overflow are perfect environments for ants, so be sure to clean them out regularly. If you have an ant problem year after year, see if there is any wet debris up against your home and get rid of it. Use stone mulch and cut back weeds around the foundation.

Store Food Properly
To help protect the inside of your home from ants, store food in sealed containers, use dried goods in a timely manner and sweep up crumbs immediately. Even a small crumb on the floor is a large meal for an ant colony. Also, be sure to clean up after your pets. Many ant problems are the result of pet food bowls being left out with food remnants in them. Be sure to have an instant-action spray on hand, such as Raid Ant & Roach Killer, to kill bugs on contact. Be sure to read the label carefully when treating in and around food-prep areas.

Monitor Mounds
Outdoor mounds are nests that are underground. They are a big cue for a colony of ants, so when you see them, be sure to treat them right away with a pest control product.

Check Trees
Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species and usually get into homes from nearby trees. Inspect trees on your property for nests and treat as needed. Most carpenter ant nests are found in decaying wood in trees with holes or imperfections. In fact, carpenter ants can hollow out the wood throughout your home, causing problems that can be costly to repair.

To learn more about how to keep bugs out of your home, visit www.RaidKillsBugs.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


June Existing-Home Sales Slip but Prices Continue to Roll at Double-Digit Rates

July 23, 2013 12:14 am

Existing-home sales declined in June but have stayed well above year-ago levels for the past two years, while the median price shows seven straight months of double-digit year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dipped 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.14 million in May, but are 15.2 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in June 2012.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is enough momentum in the market, even with higher interest rates. “Affordability conditions remain favorable in most of the country, and we’re still dealing with a large pent-up demand,” he said. “However, higher mortgage interest rates will bite into high-cost regions of California, Hawaii and the New York City metro area market.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.07 percent in June from 3.54 percent in May, and is the highest since October 2011 when it was also 4.07 percent; the rate was 3.68 percent in June 2012.

Total housing inventory at the end of June rose 1.9 percent to 2.19 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 5.0 months in May. Listed inventory remains 7.6 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.4-month supply. “Inventory conditions will continue to broadly favor sellers and contribute to above-normal price growth,” Yun remarked.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $214,200 in June, up 13.5 percent from June 2012. This marks 16 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases, which last occurred from February 2005 to May 2006.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Half of America's 74 Million Cats are Not Receiving Regular Veterinary Care

July 23, 2013 12:14 am

A study conducted by Bayer HealthCare found that more than half of the nation's cats (52 percent) had not been taken to the veterinarian within the last year for needed checkups. Because the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – annual examinations are essential to keeping cats healthy and preventing potentially serious disease problems.

Feline resistance single biggest obstacle to veterinary visits
According to the Feline Findings Study, 58 percent of owners report that their cats hate going to the veterinary clinic and, for 38 percent of them, just thinking about it was stressful. The study found that most cats fear being placed into a cat carrier and transported by car, so many owners simply opt not to put up with the hassle.

The Feline Five: five things cat owners can do to improve feline healthcare
"There are five easy steps owners can take right now to increase the likelihood their cats will be healthy," said Bayer's Dr. von Simson. "We call them the Feline Five."

1. Make the cat carrier a familiar, comfortable place.
Reduce feline resistance to the cat carrier by placing it near to where the cat rests with soft bedding, leave the door open and occasionally place treats in the carrier.

2. Familiarize your cat with your car.
Prepare your cat for the car ride to the clinic by taking her on rides in the carrier as you run normal errands.

3. Recognize the importance of regular check-ups.
Since the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – your cat needs veterinary check-ups at least annually.

4. Realize that cats keep secrets, so you must be a cat detective.
Health problems often go undetected for a long time because cats hide signs of illness, so be attentive.

5. Know the signs of illness and injury.
 Signs include: changes in interactions, activity, sleeping habits, food and water consumption, grooming and/or vocalization; unexplained weight loss or gain; signs of stress; and/or bad breath.

Source: Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Must-Have Landscaping Tools

July 22, 2013 12:04 am

The world of landscaping tools is vast—you could fill your garage with types of hoes alone. However, you will have to invest money and space in several basic landscaping tools to maintain and improve your property. Here are 10 must-haves.

1. Round point shovel: Arguably the most versatile landscape tool, this shovel has a rounded and beveled steel blade that ends in a point. It digs, scoops, and slices dirt, manure, and gravel. Cost: $20 to $30.

2. Rakes: There’s a whole world of long-handled tools that dig, spread, and gather. Buy a metal-toothed landscaping rake to move dirt, separate rock from soil, and spread mulch. Buy a plastic leaf rake that gathers leaves, grass clippings, and other debris on the surface of your lawn. Cost: $30 to $50 (landscaping rake); $10 to $20 (leaf rake).

3. Hoe: This digging and spreading landscape tool has the blade at a right angle to a long handle. The shape and sharpness of blades vary, making some hoes better for slicing weed roots (gooseneck hoe), and others for breaking up soil (garden hoe). Cost: $10 to $40 (specialty hoe).

4. Flat border spade: The blade is parallel to the handle. This is often used to edge beds and uproot grass. Cost: $60 to $70.

5. Chainsaw: These gas or electric saws have sharp teeth that revolve on a chain. They’re good for cutting wood, downed tree limbs, big branches and trees. It takes practice to use one safely, so get some pointers before revving up. A 40 cc saw with a 16-inch blade is good for most yard work. Cost: $130 to $200.

6. Shears: There’s a wide variety of hand-held landscape tools that cut and trim. You’ll need small bypass shears for roses, hedge shears for boxwoods, and looping shears for small tree limbs. Cost: $20 to $30.

7. Lawn mower: Manual, battery, electric, or gas-powered lawn cutters are pushed or ridden, self-propelled, or hand-propelled. Most can bag clippings. Get a 21-inch gas-powered mower for the average yard. Yards bigger than a quarter-acre may need a riding mower to save time and muscle. A push-type reel mower is a good green choice. Cost: $100 (reel); $300 (gas); $1,500 (riding mower).

8. Wheelbarrow: Made of metal or plastic, wheelbarrows are movers of soil, plants, hay, and basically anything that fits. Most have one wheel and two handles for balancing and steering; some have two wheels for added stability. Cost: $30 to $250.

9. Edger: This is a manual or automatic landscape tool that creates a neat and clear separation between the lawn and adjacent surfaces (such as driveways) and around trees or flowerbeds. $30 (foot powered); $90 (electric); $190 (gas).

10. Hand trowel: This is used for digging small holes to plant seedlings and bulbs for borders and gardens. Cost: $5 to $10.

Source: HouseLogic

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 10 Travel Insurance FAQs

July 22, 2013 12:04 am

With summer around the bend, many travelers will be heading out on much-needed vacations and should hopefully be seeking out travel insurance. Here is a list of the questions most commonly asked by travelers on the lookout.

1. Doesn’t my credit card have travel insurance?
No, not in the way most travelers want it to. Credit cards that have “travel insurance” provide little coverage, but nothing in comparison to a separate policy from a travel insurance company. Some cards provide cancellation coverage, but with an annual limit ($1,500-$2,500 per 12 month period), and the list of covered reasons is limited. Interruption coverage is limited as well, as is travel delay coverage. Most importantly though, is that almost no credit cards provide medical expense or evacuation coverage.

2. Won’t my regular health insurance cover me abroad?
Not completely. Most regular health insurance plans provide partial or no coverage while you are traveling in another country. For Medicare, there is never coverage abroad. Countries with “universal health care” might assist with minor needs, but they are under no obligation to do so. In the event of major or ongoing medical expenses, they would cease to help, and they would never pay to evacuate you or help you return home.

3. Will my cruise line refund me?
A little. It depends on when you cancel, but generally you won’t get much back. Most cruise companies have a declining refund schedule where they refund less and less the closer to the departure date, until they refund nothing at all. Generally within two weeks there is zero refund, and even canceling a month before will usually only get you a 25 percent refund.

4. Are hurricanes covered?
Yes, many plans cover hurricanes and weather under trip cancellation coverage. To be covered you need to 1) make sure it is listed as a covered reason, 2) buy before the storm is named, 3) insure for the full trip cost, and 4) some plans require that you buy soon after your trip payment to avoid the waiting period.

5. Are pre-existing conditions covered?
Yes, many plans offer a waiver that removes the pre-existing condition exclusion. To be covered you need to 1) buy your plan soon after your first trip payment, 2) insure for the full trip cost, 3) be medically cleared for travel at the time of purchase.

6. What does travel insurance cost?
Insurance costs 4-8 percent of the trip cost (pre-paid, non-refundable expenses). Basic plans can be very budget-minded at less than 4 percent, and premium vacation plans can be over 12 percent. Travel medical insurance is sold on a trip=length basis, and can be as little as dollars per day.

7. When should I purchase my plan?
Within days of making your initial trip deposit. There are many benefits to purchasing the plan sooner, including maximizing the period of cancellation coverage, and being eligible for pre-existing condition coverage and hurricane coverage.

8. How do I know I can trust the company?
The companies featured by Squaremouth.com are companies that have years of experience with solid AM Best ratings of financial stability, and they comply with a Zero Complaint Policy.

9. What is the refund policy?
A 100 percent refund of premium within the Free Look Period is guaranteed by all companies. This allows travelers to review their policy and return it for any reason within the time period (less a small administration fee $5-$8).

10. How do I buy travel insurance?
Travel insurance can be quoted and purchased instantly online using a credit card. Since travel insurance is a temporary insurance product, there is generally no underwriting period or medical examination required. You can get a quote online, buy with a credit card, print your email confirmation, and you’re all done.

Source: www.travelinsurancereview.net

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Lighter, Brighter Summer Eating

July 22, 2013 12:04 am

(BPT)—Simple, fresh and delicious - that's summertime eating at its best. Less time in the kitchen means more time to enjoy the bright delicious flavors of just-picked berries, peaches, greens and other vegetables.

"It makes sense to eat lighter in the summer," says Chef William Tillinghast, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. "Hot weather slows down the digestion and heavy foods are harder to digest."

Chef Tillinghast got together with Chef Jeffrey Floyd, culinary academic director at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta, to offer these five tips for enjoying summer's gastronomic delights.

Buy local and seasonal - or grow it yourself

Summer brings locally grown specialties - berries of all types, melons, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sweet onions and more. Visit farmers' markets and ask what's in season. Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program to explore eating seasonally. And nothing tastes better than tomatoes from your own garden.

Process produce as little as possible

The fresher the produce, the less preparation needed. "The longer the time between preparation and consumption, the more flavor is lost," says Chef Tillinghast. Try cutting up peaches and a honeydew melon, add fresh blueberries and a squeeze of lemon or lime. Serve immediately for an instant refreshing dessert.

Cook veggies quickly by stir frying. Cut vegetables small. Cook briefly with olive oil in a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat (or put the wok on your grill). Add a little coarse salt and freshly ground pepper - it's the perfect side dish for a simple roast chicken, grilled steak or swordfish.

Keep flavors simple

Allow the flavor of fresh summer produce to shine. Chef Floyd loves this summer salad, adapted from "American Regional Cuisine," by The Art Institutes system of schools. Cut zucchini into matchstick strips. Combine with wedges of ripe tomato, finely sliced fresh basil, thin slices of sweet or green onion. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve on a bed of lettuce, spinach or other greens. Add feta or bleu cheese crumbles if you like.

Use that grill

Grill eggplant, zucchini, onions and peppers. Brush with olive or walnut oil if you like. Put veggies directly on the grill, use a griddle or wrap in a single layer in foil. Grilled peach halves and pineapple rings are also delicious.

Soup is for summer, too

"Cold soups like gazpacho, vichyssoise, avocado and cucumber, or various fruits, are refreshing," says Chef Tillinghast. For a delicious cold soup, peel and chop pears and apricots (or hull and cut up strawberries). Add a sprinkling of sugar and perhaps a little cinnamon or cardamom. Mash lightly with a fork and add sour cream or yogurt, half and half or milk - even champagne.

Beat the heat with lighter, simpler meals - you'll feel better and have more time for summertime fun.

Source: www.artinstitutes.edu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Guide to Effortless Summer House Painting

July 19, 2013 1:04 am

You can boldly embrace summer this year with a new coat of paint on your home's exterior. While exterior painting may seem a daunting task, College Pro Painters has tips to help you achieve an effortless and elegant exterior painting experience with some before, during and after painting tips.

Before you go searching for paint swatches, take these points into consideration:

-What is your house's style? Pay heed to the style of your house - its age and architectural background - with a little research. Choosing colors that adhere to its style, whether it's southwestern, colonial revival, Tudor, or ranch style will help your house to truly own its new color.

-What are the styles and colors of your neighbors' houses? Neighborhoods often feature a particular set of house shades, and selecting colors that are compatible with these (but not necessarily the same) will keep your home from sticking out like a sore thumb.

-Are there decorative features you want to play up as you paint? In your exterior painting plans, do you also plan to paint the shutters? Front door? Columns? Trim? Choosing accent colors to play up these features will give your home more visual interest and depth.

-How do color tones affect the appearance of your home? A general rule of thumb in house painting is that lighter colors will make a house appear bigger, while darker or more intense colors make a house seem smaller. Color tones will affect the longevity of the paint and your home's ambiance.

-What colors are already present in your home? If your home has decorative stone or brick elements, your house's exterior should complement those colors - especially their tone. You can also create a vibrant continuity between your home's exterior and interior by choosing exterior colors that pair with your interior design.

During your research of house painting trends and possible painting companies keep in mind:

-Grays of all shades from slate to feathered gray have been extremely popular recently. Because they're so neutral they can be paired with less standard colors to add a pop of excitement.

-Primary colors - Variations of primary colors, especially more subdued blues are paired with bold primary accent colors on the doors or shutters to enhance the visual interest.

-Color families - If you're looking for cohesion, consider choosing different shades from the same family. The variety will give your home dimension while still keeping it consistent and classy.

-College Pro's Rule of three - An exterior color scheme should, in most cases be composed of three colors, allowing for a base color and contrasting accent colors to highlight your home without overwhelming the exterior.

-A comprehensive house painting company - Choosing an exterior painting company to work at your home may seem a little unsettling. After all, the company's employees will be entering your family's personal space. That's why it pays for you to select a company with many years of experience and high customer satisfaction standards to meet all your needs.

After your newly painted house is the envy of the neighborhood, here are easy updates to spruce up the rest of your home's exterior too:

-Replace Old Hardware - Replacing old door knobs or latches will complete the new, sparkling appearance of your home.

-Paint/Stain and Repair your Deck-- A dingy deck can drag down the appearance of your house's exterior. Paint or stain your deck to compliment the new shade of your home. (Mid-range stains are particularly popular now.)

-Put Your Personal Stamp on Your Mailbox - Show off your new exterior painting job and invest in a new mailbox or redecorate the one to compliment your house.

-Gear up your garden - Adding potted plants or flower boxes near your front door and in your windows can make your home appear much more inviting for visitors!

Source: College Pro

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Insulate Now for a Comfortable Summer

July 19, 2013 1:04 am

Hot summer days are here, and in many regions, hot days mean hot, restless nights, even when the air conditioning is running. With temperatures on the rise outside, it's time to think about how to keep cool indoors without breaking the bank. To keep the heat out and the cool air in, now is the ideal time to insulate.

Many homeowners consider adding thermal insulation to their home in the fall, in preparation for a cold winter. But insulating in the summer can help provide immediate relief from rising temperatures and elevated electric bills that result from running an air conditioner. Just as heat escapes through improperly-insulated walls during cold winter months, it can creep back in through these walls during the summer.

Homeowners are encouraged to insulate now for a cool, comfortable summer and thermal protection all year long.

-During summer months, air in an attic can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Without proper attic insulation, that hot air can make its way down into the home, sabotaging an air conditioner's hard work. If the second story is hotter than the first floor, add extra insulation or replace failing insulation in the attic.

-Crawlspaces built into and under homes should also be properly insulated. Consider adding insulation to the underside of the home's floor and around the crawl space walls.

-Basements are often overlooked as a key place to insulate, but in the summer, a basement is typically the coolest place in the house. To keep that cold air in, adding a layer of insulation to exterior-facing walls and in the basement ceiling will help prevent drafts and escaping cool air.

Source: Roxul, Inc

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Supporting Healthy Aging: Finding Solutions for Social Isolation

July 19, 2013 1:04 am

After Marilyn, 83, lost her husband and companion of 63 years last spring, she dropped many of her activities and grew apart from her friends. Her daughter Mary, 61, wondered if the changes she saw in her normally active mother were due to aging or because she was depressed. Mary began helping with shopping, cleaning and coordinating doctors' appointments. She began losing sleep and worrying about her mother when she wasn't there while also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time job and a first grandchild on the way.

Much like Mary, today's adult children increasingly find themselves balancing a variety of responsibilities. Known as the "sandwich generation", many adult children are struggling to care for their aging parents while supporting their own children. Added to this delicate balancing act is the issue of social isolation among seniors, a problem that impacts both aging parents and their caregiving children.

The effects of social isolation

The social isolation and loneliness experienced by Marilyn reflect an issue of growing concern in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, about 37 percent of seniors 75 and older live alone. According to the World Health Organization, social isolation is associated with higher rates of premature death, a lower sense of well-being, more depression and a higher level of disability from chronic diseases.

Research also shows that social isolation increases "caregiver burden," with potentially negative effects on health and quality of life. This currently impacts approximately one-third of baby boomers who provide assistance to an aging family member, with about 70 percent of caregivers aged 45 to 64 actively working, according to Statistics Canada and BMO Retirement Institute.

Finding the right solution


The good news is there are solutions to reduce the risks of social isolation for seniors and their family caregivers, including maintaining or restoring an active social life. "Staying socially active, in a variety of physical, social and emotional activities can truly enrich life for seniors and help them build new social connections," says Laura Forsyth, director of Life Enrichment at Chartwell Retirement Residences.

The right support services can often help prolong independence and help manage care needs for an aging parent while reducing the stress on adult children. If the time has come to consider your options, a retirement residence may be the solution.

Source: Chartwell.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Real Estate Appraisers Optimistic About Future

July 18, 2013 12:56 am

More than three-fourths of U.S. real estate appraisers are very or somewhat positive about the demand for their services over the next one to two years, according to an Appraisal Institute survey recently released.

Eighty percent of residential appraisers and 78 percent of commercial appraisers said they are upbeat about their future, according to the survey conducted in May-June by the nation's largest professional association of real estate appraisers.

"Appraisers have faced a challenging real estate market in recent years, and it's great to see that so many valuation professionals are feeling optimistic about the future," said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA.

According to the survey, 95 percent of residential appraisers and 49 percent of commercial appraisers said there is currently more demand for their services than a year ago.

Additional survey results include:
-Eighty-four percent of residential appraisers said their local residential real estate market is strong, and 46 percent of commercial appraisers had the same opinion about their local commercial markets.
-Eighty-six percent of residential appraisers and 55 percent of commercial appraisers said demand for their services is strong.
-Thirty-two percent of residential appraisers and 45 percent of commercial appraisers anticipate more demand for their services during the ensuing one to two years.

"Real estate trends are typically local in nature, and it's a positive sign for the nation's economy that appraisers around the country reported increased demand for their services," Borges said.

Published with permission from RISMedia.