Karen Kemmerer
 
Karen Kemmerer

Perkasie PA Real Estate News

Has the 'ecobee' Found a Fertile Flower in Amazon's Echo?

April 6, 2016 4:55 am

Once in a while, we hear about a logical pairing of home efficiency systems that can’t 'bee' ignored. A recent announcement from the manufacturers of the innovative HVAC controller ecobee heralded an exciting new relationship—with Amazon and its Echo device.

The ecobee3 smarter Wi-Fi thermostat with room sensors is the first thermostat to be directly compatible with Amazon Echo, offering homeowners added convenience and comfort in their everyday lives through Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa.

The Toronto-based company says Alexa, the brain behind Amazon Echo, will be able to facilitate requests from across the room. For example, users can say, “Alexa, set my thermostat to 72,” or, “Alexa, increase the temperature in my house,” to control their ecobee3.

As the one of the top-selling Wi-Fi thermostats in North America, the ecobee3 is the only thermostat that uses sensors to deliver comfort in preferred rooms. And its unique design resolves what its creators say is a basic flaw in traditional thermostat design: only measuring temperature in one location, which contributes to hot and cold spots throughout the home.

The ecobee3 saves homeowners an average of 23 percent on their heating and cooling bills (based on an October 2013 analysis), and is touted to be compatible with 95 percent of residential homes in North America.

Creating further environmental benefit, the ecobee3 does not rely on batteries that must be tossed when they are exhausted. Its innovators say ecobee3 receives power through a C-wire or its Power Extender Kit (PEK).

Charlie Kindel, director of Amazon Echo and Alexa, says using only your voice to control the temperature in your house is another great way to create smarter homes. The ecobee3 is available for $249 on/at Amazon, Apple, Best Buy and Home Depot.

The kit comes with one free wireless room sensor and supports up to 32 sensors. Additional room sensors can be purchased in a package of two for $79 each.

Not an Echo user yet? The ecobee3 is also compatible with Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and Wink. Visit ecobee.com to catch more buzz about this pairing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Go Green to Save Green: 5 Eco-Friendly Home Improvement Tips

April 6, 2016 4:55 am

(BPT)—Upgrading your home can impact its carbon footprint. Ensure that impact is for the better with these eco-friendly home improvement tips!

1. Choose Green Materials –Select materials that have a low impact on the environment. Reclaimed wood, for example, is renewable. Other eco-friendly alternatives include linoleum (instead of vinyl), low- or no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, bamboo and cork.

2. Rent Tools – Think twice before purchasing tools for the project. Renting tools not only saves you money, but also limits the energy consumption, pollution and waste associated with manufacturing, storing and maintaining new equipment. Visit RentalHQ.com to find the tools you need.

3. Hire Eco-Minded Professionals – If you're undertaking a large-scale remodel, make your green goals heard. Seek out contractors and design professionals that will keep the environment front and center.

4. Use Energy-Efficient Equipment – If the project involves upgrading appliances, implement products with the ENERGY STAR® label—this means that the product meets government standards for energy efficiency.

5. Invest in Water-Saving Features – For kitchen or bath remodels, consider installing low-flow faucets, dishwashers, toilets or showerhead—these significantly conserve water, and can save you hundreds on your bills each year.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Savings Plans Boost Retirement Confidence

April 5, 2016 4:52 am

Retirement concerns have become magnified as a result of the recession, but uncertainty has begun to level off, offering evidence of recovering financial circumstances for pre-retirees, or “workers,” according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) annual Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS).

Gauging confidence about income, the survey found 21 percent of workers feel “very confident” about having enough money for a comfortable retirement. Forty-two percent of workers feel “somewhat confident”—up over 5 percent in the last year.

Workers surveyed who reported they or their spouse have money in a defined contribution (DC) plan or individual retirement account (IRA), or have benefits in a defined benefit (DB) plan from a current or previous employer, are more than twice as likely as those without any of these plans (26 percent versus 10 percent) to feel “very confident.”

“Among those who are confident about retirement, it’s overwhelmingly among those who have a retirement plan,” says Jack VanDerhei, research director for the EBRI and co-author of the survey.

Workers who currently aren’t saving enough for retirement plan to cope with the shortfall by “saving more later on” or “working longer,” according to survey results. This is counter to the findings of retirees surveyed: many reported being unable to work longer due to health concerns.

The survey results also point to a debt-confidence correlation: just 9 percent of workers who described their debt as a major problem say they are very confident about having enough money to live comfortably in retirement, compared with 32 percent of workers who indicated debt is not a problem.

Notably, less than half of workers (48 percent) report having calculated how much money they will need to have saved for a comfortable retirement; 39 percent simply guessed how much they will need to accumulate.

Chiefly driving these trends is the desire to postpone retirement. Thirty-seven percent of workers cited in the survey expect to retire after age 65—contradictory to the experience retirees reported.

Source: EBRI

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Renting a Vacation Home? Know Your Options

April 5, 2016 4:52 am

Peer-to-peer vacation rental listings are on the rise, but some renters find more favor with rental management companies, according to a recent industry study.

While there are benefits to both peer-to-peer and managed rentals, tales of rentals-gone-bad seem to spike when the home is booked directly with the host homeowner—renters cited in the study said they felt safer staying in a managed rental than staying in a peer-to-peer listing.

Unlike direct-from-homeowner rentals, vacation rental managers oversee the process from start to finish, and have established standards for quality, service and security for their properties. Peer-to-peer rentals leave the standards up to each individual homeowner.

“The reality is most homeowners don't have the time to adequately meet guest expectations when it comes to safety, cleanliness and assistance, and as a result they find the tasks daunting,” says Gail Mandel, CEO of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, which conducted the study.

“Guests should know they do not have to go it alone,” Mandel adds. “But if they do, they should keep in mind important tips, like renting from a reputable source, watching for signs of fraud and only using secure payment methods.”

Source: Wyndham Vacation Rentals

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Survey: Homeowners Lacking in the Lawn Care Department

April 5, 2016 4:52 am

Many homeowners have landscapes to tend to—but only a fraction know how to maintain them.

Findings from a recent survey by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) suggest the majority of homeowners lack lawn care know-how, demonstrating misperceptions across the board. Survey data reveal nearly three-quarters of homeowners believe they know how to care for their lawns, yet significant percentages fell short when asked about specific maintenance measures:

• Sixty-four percent falsely believe grass seeds need to be fertilized in spring.

• Fifty-seven percent falsely believe that if a lawn is not green, it is not healthy.

• Thirty-two percent admit they are not sure how often a lawn should be watered.

Still, this gap in knowledge has not deterred homeowners from seeking a lush lawn—even if that means soliciting professional expertise. Over 90 percent of respondents to the survey have had landscaping services performed in the last year, with approximately 80 percent relying on someone in their household and more than 40 percent hiring a professional to carry out those duties.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Achoo! 2016's Top 10 Spring Allergy Capitals

April 4, 2016 4:49 am

Fifty million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, with tree pollen the primary cause of symptoms in spring.

The most challenging cities for allergies this season, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), are:

1. Jackson, Miss.
2. Memphis, Tenn.
3. Syracuse, N.Y.
4. Louisville, Ky.
5. McAllen, Texas
6. Wichita, Kan.
7. Oklahoma City, Okla.
8. Providence, R.I.
9. Knoxville, Tenn.
10. Buffalo, N.Y.

“AAFA's annual Spring Allergy Capitals report provides important insights into cities where people are most affected by seasonal symptoms due to environmental factors such as pollen, behaviors such as allergy medication usage and the availability of board-certified clinicians,” explains Cary Sennett, AAFA's president and CEO. “Whether you live in one of these allergy capitals or anywhere else, it's important to work with your health care providers to recognize the elements that trigger your allergies and determine the best treatments to enjoy your life unencumbered by seasonal nasal allergies.”

“Many different types of seasonal nasal allergy treatments are available, including prescription medications and new combination therapies, mono-therapies, short- and long-term treatments that may help relieve symptoms,” adds Dr. Purvi Parikh, a board-certified allergist and immunologist. “Because spring is the time when most people with allergies experience their worst seasonal allergy symptoms, it's important that allergy sufferers seek advice from a health care professional before the season hits full force.”

To view the complete list of cities in the Spring Allergy Capitals report, visit www.AllergyCapitals.com.

Source: AAFA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

30-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgage Unchanged

April 4, 2016 4:49 am

Mortgage rates remain largely unchanged, albeit mixed, following a Federal Reserve update last week, according to Freddie Mac’s recently released Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®). The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) stands at 3.71 percent, with an average 0.5 point, and the 15-year FRM averages 2.98 percent, with an average 0.4 point.

“Dovish comments by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Tuesday triggered a rally in Treasury markets and drove the 10-year yield down 13 basis points from [the previous] week's high,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist at Freddie Mac. “Yellen's comments came too late to affect this week's mortgage rate survey, and the 30-year mortgage rate remained unchanged at 3.71 percent. However, if the Fed's cautious tone persists, mortgage rates may register the impact in subsequent weeks.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averages 2.90 percent, with an average 0.5 point, the survey reports.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Do My 2015 Energy Improvements Qualify for a 2016 Tax Break?

April 4, 2016 4:49 am

Improved biomass burning products—think wood stoves— are an emerging trend, recently identified at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association’s (HPBA) HPBExpo. HPBA anticipates the trend toward reduced emissions and increased efficiency will accelerate this year, as homeowners and builders take advantage of new tax credits offered for energy-saving improvements.

According to the IRS, if you made energy-saving improvements to more than one home that you used as a residence during 2015, pick up IRS Form 5695.

You may be able to take a credit of 30 percent of your costs for qualified solar electric property, solar water heating property, small wind energy property, geothermal heat pump property, and fuel cell property.

The IRS reminds qualified filers to include any labor costs properly allocated to the onsite preparation, assembly, or original installation of the residential energy-efficient property, and for piping or wiring to interconnect such property to the home.

The credit amount for costs paid for qualified fuel cell property is limited to $500 for each one-half kilowatt of capacity of the property.

You may also be able to take a credit equal to the sum of 10 percent of the amount paid or incurred for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during 2015, and any residential energy property costs paid or incurred in 2015.

This credit is limited as follows:

• A total combined credit limit of $500 for all tax years after 2005;

• A combined credit limit of $200 for windows for all tax years after 2005;

• A credit limit for residential energy property costs for 2015 of $50 for any advanced main air circulating fan; $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane, or oil furnace or hot water boiler; and $300 for any item of energy efficient building property.

Download the form to review and see if you qualify here: www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i5695.pdf.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Students: 5 Questions to Ask Financial Aid Offices

April 1, 2016 4:46 am

There’s no question about it: college is a large investment. But there are a few questions students should ask regarding financial aid, says Mark Kantrowitz, author of “Filing the FAFSA” and senior vice president and publisher of Edvisors.com.

Those questions are:

1. Do you meet full demonstrated financial need or is there an unmet need? (Unmet need is the difference between the student's demonstrated financial need and the student's financial aid package.)

2. How does the college reduce the need-based financial aid package when a student wins a private scholarship? (Scholarship displacement can affect college affordability.)

3. Do you practice front-loading of grants? (Front-loading is a financial aid strategy used by colleges to award more grants and scholarships to a student in his or her first year of attendance. In subsequent years, the college will reduce the amount of grants and scholarships and offer more self-help aid, such as student employment and student loans.)

4. What percentage of students graduate with debt and what is the average cumulative debt at graduation?

5. How does one appeal for more financial aid if the financial aid award is insufficient or the family’s financial circumstances have changed or will change?

By asking these questions, students can make informed decisions about which institution to attend, as well as ensure a successful financial future after graduation.

Source: Edvisors.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Remodeling the Bath? 5 Touch-of-Luxury Tubs

April 1, 2016 4:46 am

For their range of high-end amenities, luxury homes have one feature in common: a show-stopping master bath. The average remodeler can get a similar luxe look by up-scaling the project, say the experts at Cornerstone Design and Remodel, a San Diego, Calif.-based firm. The feature that’s most worth the investment? A deluxe bathtub.

According to Cornerstone, the most popular luxury tubs are:

1. Claw-Foot Tubs
Claw-foot bathtubs are the epitome of Old World luxury, with vintage feet that raise the tub several inches off the floor. This tub is ideal for those looking to add a statement piece to their bathroom.

2. Drop-In Tubs
With drop-in bathtubs, the plumbing is concealed underneath the tub. Drop-ins can be installed with a surrounding shelf for seating, and may also include whirlpool settings.

3. Freestanding Tubs
Freestanding bathtubs can help highlight the flooring, while also adding a sense of spaciousness. These tubs can be installed anywhere in the bathroom, proving them versatile.

4. Soaking Tubs
Soaking tubs have a supportive shape different than traditional bathtubs, allowing the bather to sink lower and retain the water temperature. These tubs are capable of being equipped with a hydrotherapy system.

5. Walk-In Tubs
Walk-in tubs have a watertight door and built-in seat ideal for those with limited mobility. Aside from being an add-on, the seat allows the bather to sit upright comfortably.

Aside from these tubs, remodelers may also want to consider a custom-built model, which can be shaped into specific dimensions (or freeform) depending on the design plans.

Source: Cornerstone Design and Remodel

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: