Karen Kemmerer
 
Karen Kemmerer

Perkasie PA Real Estate News

Sellers: Remember These Tips for a Safe Showing

April 14, 2016 5:04 am

Selling your home can be exciting, but unfortunately, it can also heighten the risk of crime when showing the home.

A recent blog from realtor.com® outlined the following points to remember—all of which will be practiced by your real estate agent.

• Schedule an appointment for showings.
• Keep records of every guest's identity.
• Watch for unexpected guests.
• Do not show your house without your real estate agent, or if you are otherwise alone.

Most importantly, the blog advised: trust your instincts. Instinct is generally the best self-protection tool. If a visitor makes you feel uncomfortable, be alert. Warning signs include:

• He or she spends too much time in one room, checking windows, doors or even security devices;

• A couple separates during the showing (Professional burglars usually have one person talking to the agent or seller as a distraction, while the other wanders around, planning an act);

• He or she asks questions in an effort to make you reveal habits or schedules, such as what time everybody goes to work and/or school, what you do on the weekend, etc.

After the showing, be sure to lock your doors and windows—a recent article noted one case in which a rogue visitor unlocked a window at an open house and returned later to burglarize the property. 

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Energy Efficiency on Your Wish List? Buy New

April 14, 2016 5:04 am

Newly constructed homes marry contemporary innovation with the practical preferences of homebuyers—and those inclinations are greener than ever, reports the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

“Today’s new homes include features that will help homeowners reduce energy consumption and enhance the conveniences of modern living,” says Ed Brady, chairman of the NAHB and a builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. “Our builders are telling us that energy efficiency continues to be a top demand from consumers.”

In fact, a recently conducted NAHB survey revealed four out of the top 10 most coveted features are energy-efficient:

• ENERGY STAR® Appliances
• ENERGY STAR® Windows
• Low-E Windows
• Programmable Thermostats

Some homebuyers even desire an ENERGY STAR® rating for the entire house—though most are willing to pay more for a home simply in exchange for lower utility costs. According to the survey, the average additional cost to buyers is $10,372, and the average savings are $1,000 a year.

Non-green features are resonating with buyers, as well. Survey results show builders anticipate demand for granite countertops, a kitchen island, a great room, a walk-in closet and a laundry room, and will be including these features in their builds this year.

Source: NAHB

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5 Ultra-Processed Foods Worth Tossing

April 13, 2016 5:04 am

A recently released study published in the medical journal BMJ Open reports a whopping 60 percent of calories in the diets of most Americans comes from “ultra-processed” foods. Ultra-processed foods contain additives like hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and emulsifiers that account for 90 percent of the added fat and sugar we consume, increasing health risks.

Put simply, if the ingredients of any food include a lot of long words you can barely pronounce, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Among the worst offenders:

Candy Bars – Most brands you know and love contain high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. There are better options out there, such as 70 percent dark chocolate—a good source of magnesium and antioxidants.

Chips – If you must have them, your best bet is a basic kettle chip with three simple ingredients: potatoes, olive or sunflower oil and salt. Other good-for-you options include organic blue corn chips and popcorn, which are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with antioxidants. 

Diet Soda – Besides the fact that diet soda has zero nutritional value, it contains artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin and sucralose, which have been linked to headaches and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. If you can’t get used to plain water, try sparkling.

Packaged Cakes – Those plastic-wrapped cakes that seem to last forever in your pantry are packed with sugar and way too many preservatives, which is why they last so long. Bake your own cupcakes from any recipe, substituting pureed fruit, like bananas, for half the sugar.

White Bread – You may already know you should avoid white bread in favor of fiber-rich whole grain breads, but even some grain varieties can contain additives, so check the labels and choose one with no artificial additives or preservatives. Pro tip: check the frozen section at your grocery store—breads that are frozen generally contain no preservatives.

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Lawn Care 101: Ready the Mower

April 13, 2016 5:04 am

Spring is here! Eager to get out there and mow the lawn? Hold off until you’ve serviced your mower, say the experts at Briggs & Stratton—operating it prematurely can affect its performance over the course of the season.

Your lawn mower tune-up should consist of the following steps.

Change the oil. Changing the oil prevents engine damage and keeps your mower running efficiently. Engine oil needs to be changed annually for two reasons: oil is vulnerable to dirt and debris, which can cause wear on the internal components of the engine; and regular use of the engine causes the oil to break down. After removing old oil, add fresh oil as specified in the operator's manual, and recycle the old oil accordingly.

Replace the air filter. The mower’s air filter collects dust and debris through regular use, and it must be replaced every three months, or after 25 hours of use. To determine which air filter your mower needs, reference the operator's manual.

Replace the spark plug. An old spark plug can be problematic when starting your mower. It’s important to change the spark plug at the start of every mowing season, or after 100 hours of use.

Fill with gasoline, fuel treatment and stabilizer. Gasoline can go stale after as little as 30 days. Stale fuel contributes to gummed-up internal components, which cause hard-starting. What’s more, ethanol-blended fuels (like E10) attract moisture, which leads to rust and corrosion over time. This can affect the carburetor, fuel line and overall performance of the engine. To prevent these issues, remember to treat your fuel when you fill your gas can.

Source: Briggs & Stratton Corporation®

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Summer's Coming: 5 HVAC Maintenance Tips

April 13, 2016 5:04 am

Maintaining your HVAC system throughout the year can spare you the inconvenience of a breakdown, especially during periods of extreme weather.

“Homeowners need to have their heating and cooling equipment properly maintained to keep it running smoothly,” explains Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). “Doing so will help central air conditioning and heat pump units last at least 12 to 15 years.

“Spring is a great time to think about getting service before hot weather arrives and the rush for maintenance is in full swing,” Yurek adds.

To keep your HVAC running efficiently through the summer and beyond, the AHRI recommends the following tips.

1. Clean your outdoor condensing unit occasionally by spraying it with a water hose. Do not use a pressure washer.

2. Ensure air vents inside your home are not obstructed by furniture. If air cannot circulate freely through the vents, the air conditioner will consume more energy.

3. Hire a technician for professional maintenance. The service should include inspection of the belt, electric terminal, evaporator coil, ducts, oil motor, refrigerant and thermostat.

4. Remove any grass, leaves, weeds or other debris that may have collected on the outdoor condensing unit. Debris on the unit's fins will block airflow and reduce its efficiency; one of the most common offenders is grass clippings thrown by the lawn mower.

5. Replace the air filter if it’s dirty, or according to the manufacturer's recommendation, to keep dust from collecting on the evaporator coil fins. In most cases, the filter and coil are located in the basement of the home (sometimes in the furnace) within the air handler. Be sure to turn off the power to the air handler before swapping out the filter.

“Following these steps to ensure your units are running as efficiently as possible can help offset HVAC costs through the summer months,” says Yurek. “Heating and cooling account for about 48 percent of the energy used in homes, making it the single biggest energy-consumer for homeowners.”

Source: AHRI

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8 Tips for Eleventh-Hour Tax Filers

April 12, 2016 5:01 am

Scrambling to file your taxes before this year’s deadline? Don’t let the time-crunch result in incorrect information on your return, says Greg Rosica, contributing author to the “EY Tax Guide 2016.”

“It's easy to make mistakes when you are rushing,” Rosica says. “If you waited until the last minute, you're not alone. Take a deep breath and start thinking back on personal life changes that occurred over last year, such as a new job, marital or family status, or large purchase. Think about any major decisions you made that can have tax implications. Most importantly, look at last year's return and make sure you have similar documents to support any of the deductions or income you include this year.”

Rosica advises eleventh-hour tax filers follow this checklist:

1. Check your math, or input the numbers if you use software to file. Be sure that your Form W-2 and all Form 1099s, as well as your Social Security number, are correct.

2. Confirm that you signed and dated your return and entered your occupation. If you are filing a joint return, be sure that your spouse also signs as required.

3. Check that you’ve claimed all of your eligible dependents, such as elderly parents who may not live with you.

4. Attach all copies B of your W-2 forms to your return in order to avoid correspondence with the IRS. If you received a Form 1099-R showing federal income tax withheld, attach copy B of that form, as well.

5. Retain for your records any health coverage tax forms you received (1095-A, 1095-B or 1095-C) from the IRS to prove you have health insurance and aren't required to pay any tax penalties.

6. If both spouses work, look into whether a married filing separate return is more beneficial than a joint return. If you are single and have a dependent who lives with you, consider the possibility that you might qualify for the lower tax rates available to a head of household or surviving spouse.

7. If you worked two or more jobs, see if you can claim a credit for any overpaid Social Security taxes withheld from your wages.

8. Keep copies of all documents you have sent to the IRS.

Taxpayers also have the benefit of additional time to file this year, adds Rosica.

“If you like to wait until the very end, you're in luck this year,” Rosica says. “Due to April 15 coinciding with a Washington, D.C., holiday this year, the deadline for Form 1040 filing is extended to April 18.”

Taxpayers in a bind have other options, as well.

“You can also request an automatic six-month extension if you feel you need more time to prepare your return,” Rosica says. “The extension gives you until October 18, but you can file any time before then. However, you still have to pay the IRS your estimated tax bill by April 18.”

Source: EY

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Prepping Your Garden in Spring for Summer Bounty – Pt. 2

April 12, 2016 5:01 am

In our last segment, we discussed the preparation needed to start your own vegetable garden. Returning to a recent blog by Brian Bath of Modern Farmer (modernfarmer.com), let’s dig into more of those steps.

Barth says once the soil in your vegetable garden is dry enough to not squish when you step on it, it’s time to start laying the groundwork for spring planting:

Clean Out: Remove any leftover veggies that didn’t survive the winter and toss them into a compost pile. Pull out any drip irrigation tubes to make way for tilling and planting. If you planted cover crops in the fall, mow them to the ground and then let the stems dry out for a couple weeks before tilling in the debris. If you mulched your beds in fall, rake off the mulch and add it to the compost pile.

Top Up the Fertility: Spread a fresh layer of compost on your beds—Barth suggests one to two inches—and till it in. Add supplementary nutrients like lime (for acidic soils), sulfur (for basic soils), bone meal (for phosphorus), greensand (for potassium), and kelp meal (for micronutrients). Till in the compost and amendments, but only once the soil is dry enough to crumble when you grab a handful. Rake the beds into smooth, ready-to-plant mounds.

Barth also recommends getting a soil test to fine-tune your fertility management strategy. Have the test annually to ensure what you are trying to grow has the best chance of reaping you a bounty.

Many state, county and local agencies, as well as universities, supply low-cost or free soil testing, along with advice on how to alter soil qualities for the veggies you want to grow, or which types of plantings may not do so well in your garden.

Homeowners and gardeners can learn a lot about soils in their own region by consulting the annual soil surveys available through the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service: www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/soils/home/.

In our final segment, we'll take a look at a few of the foods you can grow with very limited yard space.

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Homeowners: Your Flood Risk May Be Higher Than You Think

April 12, 2016 5:01 am

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports less than 15 percent of homeowners and renters have flood insurance—but nine out of 10 natural disasters involve some level of flooding.

“Too few residences are covered by flood insurance policies because many homeowners and renters underestimate their flood risk,” says Jeanne Salvatore, the I.I.I.’s senior vice president for Public Affairs and chief communications officer, noting that 20 percent of all flood claims come from moderate-to-low flood risk areas. “Most Americans should, at the very least, consider acquiring flood insurance because standard homeowners and renters policies do not cover flood-caused damage.”

Flood insurance is available to homeowners and renters from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. Excess flood insurance policies can also be purchased by homeowners seeking coverage above and beyond the basic NFIP policy, which is capped at $250,000 for structural damage and $100,000 for contents. Those residing in a community that does not participate in FEMA’s NFIP also have the option to purchase an excess policy.

“There is a 30-day waiting period between buying an NFIP policy, and when the coverage takes effect, so those residing along the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines may want to act soon, because hurricane season starts on June 1,” Salvatore adds.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects elevated risk of moderate flooding in the South and areas along the Missouri River basin this year.

Source: I.I.I.

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The Best (and Worst) Things to Buy in April

April 11, 2016 5:01 am

Seasonal shoppers save big bucks because they know what goes on sale when, and what purchases to delay until the timing is more favorable. Recent posts on DailyFinance.com and DealNews.com reveal the five best—and worst—things to look for in April:

• Green Goods – Earth Day may be near the end of April, but retailers use the entire month to promote green goodies, offering special deals on organic foods, natural beauty items and other earth-friendly goods for the home and garden.

• Restaurant Freebies – There are some savings available on Tax Day, when many restaurants offer free food incentives, including no-cost appetizers, beverages or desserts when you order a meal. Watch the ads in your local paper for offers in your community.

• Small Kitchen Appliances – Wedding season is around the corner, and the best deals are available now on toasters, coffeemakers, hand mixers, blenders and more.

• Vacuums and Cleaning Supplies – With spring cleaning in mind, prices go down on vacuum cleaners and other hard and soft cleaning goods in April. Look online, as well as in retail shops, for the best buys on the equipment you need.

• Winter Wear – With cold weather on the way out, retailers are clearing out winter clothing and accessories to make room for spring and summer styles. With a little due diligence, you may be able to score clearance winter goods at more than 50 percent off.

Which items should you delay purchasing?

• Grills – It’s tempting to want to start grilling as soon as the weather begins to warm up, but the best buys on grills and grilling gear are in May and June, experts say.

• Mattresses – You’ll start to see them go on sale in April, but the experts recommend waiting until May or June for deeper discounts—sometimes as much as 60 percent off original prices.

• Refrigerators – The new models come out in June, so wait a month and look for sales of as much as 25 percent off on this year’s models then.

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Outdoor Renovations Top To-Do List for Homeowners

April 11, 2016 5:01 am

Break out those hammers, folks! Millions of homeowners are planning to renovate their homes in the next year—36 million, to be exact, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey. The majority of renovations will take place outside of the home, the survey found, including improvements to:

• Driveways
• Decks
• Fencing
• Landscaping
• Patios
• Pools
• Roofing
• Siding

“With more homeowners deciding to make upgrades to their homes this year, it's a sure sign that they're generally feeling more secure about the economy and in the housing market, as well,” says Mike Cetera, Bankrate.com's personal loans and credit analyst.

Millennial homeowners are more likely than others to renovate in the next year, according to the survey—and interestingly, homeowners with lower incomes are just as likely to renovate in the next year as those more flexible budgets.

For homeowners planning to finance a renovation, Cetera recommends considering a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). These charge lower interest rates than personal loans, but do require the home as collateral. Cetera also suggests applying for a zero-percent balance transfer credit card, if the homeowner exhibits creditworthiness. 

Source: Bankrate.com

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