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

Increasing results, not days on market!

Easy-to-Install Window Trim Options

July 25, 2013 12:14 am

On the “what’s in and what’s out” list for homeowners, naked window exteriors are definitely out. Easy-to-install decorative accents like mouldings, window crossheads and shutters are now trending for homeowners across the country.

“With so many options for enhancing window exteriors using lightweight polyurethane products, even the most novice do-it-yourselfer can change a window exterior from boring to beautiful in a short time,” says Niki Decker with Fypon. “If you can use a tape measure, a hammer and a caulk gun, you can transform your window exteriors!”

Options for homeowners to use include:

Crossheads – Decorative crossheads sit on the top of a window and add a regal look. They can be plain or detailed with keystones in the center to draw attention or detail trim along the length of the crosshead to suit traditional home styles. There are also crosshead arches and eyebrow crossheads that provide a softer, curved look when installed above a window.

Pediments – Stylish and eye-catching, pediments also sit above windows. From curved and peaked sunbursts to triangular peaked caps, acorn and rams head styles, pediments are the most dramatic way to draw attention to your window exteriors.

Pilasters – Not all window enhancements sit on top of the window unit. Usually intended to flank the sides of entry doors, pilasters can also be cut down to run vertically up the sides of windows. Pilasters can be smooth and plain, or have a “fluted” recessed design. They generally have plinths at the top and bottom to balance out the window design and add style to the window surround.

Mouldings - Perhaps the easiest way to surround a window is with flat or decorative trim and plinth blocks. This quick project requires no miter cuts because the plinth blocks are put in all four corners of the window exterior and butt up to straight cuts of smooth, paintable trim pieces. Many homeowners use this technique as a “starting point” and then add in other elements such as pediments and shutters to create their own personal window statement.

Shutters – Another popular way to draw attention to the sides of windows is to add a set of decorative shutters. Available in louvered and raised panel styles that are smooth and paintable, shutters provide the perfect way to carry an accent color throughout the exterior of your home. Or, timber shutters in board, plank and louvered styles can be stained to imitate the look of wood on a home without all the maintenance hassles of real wood.

Window Panels – To add depth to the look of a window, flat and raised panels can be added below the window unit and then enclosed entirely with trim. Window panels tend to fill in space between the bottom of the window and the ground, helping the windows gain more presence and focus on a home exterior.

Pot Shelves
– Available in both timber and stone styles, a pot shelf is placed below the bottom window sill. Oftentimes they’re used to balance out an entire window surround with a finished look.

Source: Fypon, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Ways to Better Your Bones

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

There are few things scarier than a broken bone—especially as we age. But, while it isn’t possible to break-proof your bones, there are some pretty reliable ways to strengthen and protect them.

From Prevention Magazine, here are 10 good tips for keeping your skeleton healthy:

● Get enough D – More than half of adults don’t get enough of this vitamin, essential for calcium absorption and bone health. Cod liver oil is a great source, so are salmon, tuna, whole eggs, and D-fortified milk and yogurt.

● Cut back on caffeine – Too much caffeine has been linked to hip fracture. Limit your intake to 2-3 small cups per day, and watch what you’re getting from sports drinks and supplements.

● Say ‘ohm’ – Studies show that doing yoga exercises regularly helps increase bone density. Start with a gentle yin or relaxation yoga class.

● Restrict the vino – Alcohol is known to have a negative effect on bone health. Keep intake to no more than two drinks in an evening.

● Prevent falls – We all lose bone density as we age. Clear away clutter, take your time, and be aware of your surroundings to guard against falls and broken bones.

● Skip the skinny look – Eat sensibly. Being overly thin may put you in more danger of broken bones because you may be depriving them of protein.

● Eat like a Greek – Increase Omega-3s and monounsaturated fats with olive oil, lots of fish, and minimal red meat.

● Don’t smoke – As if you needed another reason! Nicotine and free radicals may harm our body’s bone making cells.

● Exercise – Moderate exercise, including brisk walking, is known to help build bone density.

● Mind your meds – Some commonly prescribed drugs, such as steroids or protein pump inhibitors, can cause bone-thinning. Check with your doctor to develop a plan to counter this unwanted result.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Health Risks of Noise Pollution

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

Noise pollution is a significant cause of sleep deprivation, stress, hypertension, and heart risk. The problem is, it invades our work places and homes constantly.

Recent studies published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” indicate that noise levels at night may also increase the risk of heart attack by chronically elevating stress-related hormone levels. It's clear that noise adversely reduces people's health and quality of life.

Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is critical for proper physical and mental functioning in healthy individuals.

Apart from various effects on sleep itself, noise during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, narrowing of the blood vessels, changes in respiration, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement.

Secondary effects measured the following day include fatigue, depressed mood and well-being, and decreased performance. People who sleep in a noisy environment have a shallower and less restful depth of sleep. This creates more health stresses on the body.

Most homes are built to protect against heat and cold. Often, they are not effective in blocking out noise. Studies of hundreds of offices and homes show that the most significant amount of noise comes through windows, not walls. While many people spend thousands of dollars on "sound proofing" the walls of their buildings, laboratory studies show that more than 90 percent of all the exterior noise comes in through doors and windows. Walls are almost never the problem.

Dual pane windows have been shown to be ineffective at handling noise issues. They are designed to handle heat and cold. The engineering needed for sound is quite different than for handling temperature. That's why people looking for noise relief who simply replace their dual pane windows are often disappointed.

A solution that has shown to reduce noise levels by 75-95 percent is adding soundproof windows. These are add-on windows which install quickly on the interior of a room. They blend with the window frame and dramatically reduce the level of outside noise that comes into the room. The technology behind these specifically engineered windows is grounded in engineering sound-eliminating window systems for recording studios.

Independent laboratory tests confirm noise reductions of 92-99 percent, as verified by audio instrumentation. While the human ear cannot detect that level of precision, the difference in noise levels in a room is significant.

If you live in a major city or on an otherwise noisy block, soundproofing your windows may just be the solution you need for uninterrupted sleep.

Source: Soundproof Windows, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make DIY Home Repairs Safely

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

When it comes to home maintenance and repairs, many homeowners opt for the DIY approach. Not only is it a fun way to get your hands dirty, but it can save money on the expenses of hiring a professional. However, many DIYers neglect to fully prepare themselves for accomplishing the task at hand. This results in surprisingly common mistakes that could easily be avoided. So before you choose to DIY something in your own home, take a look at our list of common mistakes homeowners make and learn what you can do to prevent them from happening to you!

Electrical Repair

When it comes to DIY around the house, there's one area that should more often than not be left to the professionals—electrical repairs. According to Root Electric, anywhere from 4,000-6,000 people are injured each year from electric accidents, with a high percentage coming from those performing DIY electric repair attempts.

Neglecting Safety Tips

A great deal of at home DIYers neglect useful and common safety tips during projects. For instance, wearing protective eye wear and dust masks are crucial to a person's safety while doing household repairs. Additionally, it's important to be extra careful and watchful no matter the size of the project you are doing.

Not Taking Out Required Permits

Another common mistake homeowners make when completing home improvement projects themselves is neglecting to take out the required permits. Not only is this not meeting legal standards, but not following certain procedures can be unsafe.

Starting a Job Unprepared

It's great to want to tackle a household task without calling in the professionals, but make sure you are fully prepared. A common mistake most homeowners make is not checking to ensure they have the necessary materials. Before you get in over your head on a project, double check your supply list.

Source: Homesessive.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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.