731 W Skippack Pike
February 13, 2013 3:55 pm
Winter is only half over and who knows how many more “storms
of the century” lay ahead. Whether you’re a buyer, seller, or proud homeowner,
everyone is undoubtedly feeling the strain of heating bills these days. This
week we’ve brought you some seasonal energy-saving tips. Here’s hoping that you
can use them to avoid wearing gloves to the dinner table. (But even if you do,
we won’t judge – we promise.)
Maintain Your Heating
Equipment: This one’s huge. No one wants to be left without
heat when they need it most, not to mention a big repair bill to boot. Dirt and
neglect are the top causes of heating system failure, especially on appliances
more than a decade old. Even if you think your system is fine, it can’t hurt to
get it checked out.
While we’re on the subject, dirty air filters are another
leading cause of system breakdown. Most sources recommend that they be changed
every three months for optimal performance. Plus, the better they function, the
less energy your system has to expend, and the more money stays in your pocket.
Seal Off Air Leaks: Now,
in a perfect world, this would have been taken care of before the dead of
winter, but better late than never. In rooms that are excessively drafty, you
may have an issue with air leaks, particularly around windows and doorframes.
Sealing the air leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping can help you
get the most out of your home’s insulation.
Close Doors: Shutting
the door to unused rooms, can help you avoid unnecessarily heating the space.
Studies have shown that this simple action can save up to 3 percent* on monthly
heating costs. (Pro-tip: Make sure to reduce sun exposure in these spaces as
temperature fluctuation can sometimes lead to mold growth.)
Open Drapes: On
sunny days, don’t be afraid to use natural energy to your advantage. Open up
the drapes and let the sun help heat the room, especially if the windows are
south or west facing. As an added bonus, sun exposure has also been known to
help drive away those “winter blues”!
Wait To Do Your
Laundry: We don’t know about you, but we’ll take this excuse and run with
it. It’s no secret that a bunch of half-full loads can needlessly add to your
water and energy bills. Waiting until you have a full load (along with washing
in cold or lukewarm water) can help you save 2-4 percent* on your next bill.
*In case you’re curious, the statistics used in this
article are from The EPA and The Edison Electric Institute and were compiled in
another article found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/27/winter-energy-saving-tips_n_1139412.html#s529040&title=Maintain_Your_Heating
January 30, 2013 4:06 pm
Congratulations, deciding that you’re ready to buy your own
home is a big step! Now, it’s time to think about what kind of what kind of home
you’d like to purchase – style of architecture, number of bedrooms, lot size. While every buyer has a wish list, you should
be prepared to make some compromise. However, there are some areas on which comprise
isn’t such a virtue. We’ve laid out three for your consideration:
it’s not one flat rate that needs to be decided upon. It’s best to have two
figures in your head when looking at listings: a figure that you’d prefer to
stay under and then your absolute maximum. This maximum gives you a little
wiggle room and comes into play when deciding if it’s worth it to spring for a
completely redone kitchen. (Don’t be
afraid. Remember, while a couple thousand dollars may seem like a huge deal
when looking at the total price tag, the amount is much smaller when
distributed over your monthly payments.) Don’t feel like you have to let your
dream house go over a few lattes per month.
Location, Location” is the ultimate home-buying cliché for a reason. This is
because, at the end of the day, it’s the one thing about the house that really
cannot be changed. Once you settle into a home, new appliances can be bought
and paint colors can be altered, but your commute to work will never shorten.
Conversely, a property that’s too close to a major road may eventually be
subject to expansion or unattractive to buyers upon resale.
TURN KEY VS. FIXER
UPPER: On the one hand, renovating is a great way to put your own personal
stamp on a home and it’s seems like a great way to save a few extra bucks, at
least initially. But, on the other, they are also a huge responsibility. Are
you handy? Do you have the time to deal with contractors or do the projects on
your own? Are you prepared to deal with unexpected setbacks and extra costs? Now is the time to be honest about these things. It’s hard to call it quits
in the middle of a project.
January 24, 2013 4:20 pm
Let’s be honest, selling your home can be hard work. On top
of school, work, and softball practice it’s not easy to shuffle the whole
family out the door, so that prospective buyers can come through for a showing.
At that point, the last thing on anyone’s mind is making sure that the house
looks like a Homes and Gardens cover.
Unfortunately, staging is one of those necessary evils. A showing is a prospective buyer’s first –
and quite possibly only – impression. Just like on a first date, it’s really
important to put your best foot forward. People talk and homes that show better
inevitably get more traffic. Lucky for you, we have 5 tips to make sure the
process is as quick and painless as possible.
CLEAN: This seems
like it should go without saying, but it bears repeating. Luckily, that doesn’t
mean you have to hog wild for each showing. Use your time wisely. Scrub in the
corners when you have time on the weekends. Then, just make sure that you do a
quick sweep to pick up those odds and ends before you leave.
DON’T CUT CORNERS: Everyone has experienced a moment when company
is five minutes away and the living room still looks like a tornado hit it. The
easy answer is to shove the whole mess into a closet and deal with it later,
right? That may work most of the time, but remember that when potential buyers
are on a showing, they are trying to picture themselves living in the home.
They want to see as much as possible. This means closets, laundry rooms, and
even attics or crawl spaces in some cases. If you’d be embarrassed to show your
guests, don’t take the chance.
FOR PETS): It will be a lot easier to get everyone out of the house on time
if you know where everything belongs. (Pro tip: Dark colored bins can hide a
multitude of sins.) This goes double if
you have pets. Always make sure that all paraphilia – like food or a liter box
- is in the same room and as tucked away as can be. Whenever possible, take
Fido with you to minimize risk of accidents or allergies.
is no doubt that you have an impeccable sense of personal style. However, you
have no idea who will be seeing your home. It could be a young professional
searching for her first house or an older couple looking to downsize. Your job
is to appeal to as many people as possible. Now is the time to remove family
photos and big statement pieces. When in doubt, neutral works best.
EMBRACE LITTLE TOUCHES: You
don’t have to break the bank to add value to your home. A new coat of paint and
some fresh flowers can go a long way.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
Should I FSBO? It’s a question that often comes up.
The practice of a homeowner with no previous experience selling one’s own property is not uncommon. But whether to do it or not is a subject of intense debate.
Floridian real estate professional Riley Smith recently blogged that you could not pick a worse time to list on your own. While inventory is low and well-priced, homes are seeing multiple-offer situations. Smith has never seen a more difficult time to get to the closing table than right now.
He says pitfalls from new insurance requirements as well as appraisal values and lending guidelines have real potential to blow up a FSBO deal.
He went so far as to highlight the fact that the Wall Street Journal discovered that the founder of ForSaleByOwner.com, hired a REALTOR® to sell his New York apartment because he was unable to get the job done on his own.
In Texas, real esate professional Loreena Yeo makes the point that FSBOs residing in non-disclosure states may be stymied by a lack of accurate information to accurately value their property.
Yeo also blogged that some FSBOs may be more successful than others simply because of location. If a home is located on a busy street where many people constantly drive by, they are more inclined to see and talk about a house that is for sale.
She also stresses the Miranda warning: ‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.’
Yeo warns that a regular home seller without much experience, more often times, will volunteer information without realizing it. So watch what you say - and to whom - or you might talk your way into some legal entanglements that will cost a lot more to untangle.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
Studies show that summer is the peak season for home break-ins. Why? Because people tend to open the windows and forget to close them when they leave. They forget to lock the front door while working out back in the garden – often leaving purses, wallets, and other valuables out in plain sight.
In addition to correcting these common oversights, the consumer advocates at Consumer Reports suggest five ways to boost your home security:
• Kickproof your doors – Most doors, whether solid wood, fiberglass or steel, are resistant to hard blows. The problem is the door jamb area near the lock’s strike plate. You can strengthen these areas on exterior doors by using a one-inch long deadbolt lock and a reinforced metal box strike, which costs about $10. Use three-inch long screws to mount them so they lodge in the framing beyond the door jamb. (And don’t overlook the door that leads into your house from the garage.)
• Choose the right locks – High security locks, which cost up to $175, are worth the price because they resist drilling and picking. Equally important: Carry a pull-apart key chain, so your home key stays with you when your car is being serviced or valet-parked.
• Landscape wisely – Trim tree branches that could provide access to windows’ roof or skylights. Remember that tall plants and high fences can provide cover for criminals – and that gravel beds around the perimeter of the house make it easier to hear anyone lurking outside.
• Keep it bright – Illuminate areas around doors, windows and blind spots. Install lights on high exterior walls so they can’t be easily disabled. Low-voltage light systems provide more light than solar powered lights – and can be connected to motion detectors.
• Don’t leave garage door openers in your car – They can be an open invitation to robbers. Especially if your address is easily obtained from papers in your glove compartment, tuck the garage door opener into your purse or briefcase whenever you park your car away from home.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
(ARA) - Looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation? Don't forget about that garden while you're sipping umbrella drinks on a beach or snapping photos of the Grand Canyon. Make sure you have a plan for keeping the garden green and the grass under control while you're gone.
The best solution, of course, is a reliable friend or neighbor who will give your garden the loving attention that you would. Simply offering to trade some fresh produce or a bunch of flowers for watering can often work in your favor and act as a motivator to the reluctant helper. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a reliable person they can count on for garden care. This doesn't mean all is lost. Whether you have a competent garden-sitter or not, a few quick steps can help to ensure continued health of your garden while you're away.
Make the most of mulch
Mulches that are derived from wood can act as an excellent layer of protection for retaining moisture and can help keep weeds at bay by blocking access to sunlight, especially while you are out of town. Soak soil thoroughly and add a fresh layer of mulch to the garden, around trees and shrubs and even on the tops of containers.
Timing is everything
Invest in a timer or two to connect to the outdoor faucet. Hook these up to sprinklers or drip hoses and set timers to come on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation. There's no need for a garden-sitter to remember when to water. All your sitter needs to do is over-ride the timer for you in case of rain.
Get a drip
Head to the local home-improvement store to stock up on drip-irrigation materials before leaving for a vacation and make your life easier all growing season. It's so easy to use drip irrigation in vegetable gardens and flower beds that you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Weave lengths of drip tape or "leaky pipe" through the plants and cover the beds - irrigation and all - with a thick layer of mulch.
Another option is to make your own simple drip irrigation system by using two-liter soda bottles from the recycling bin. Just rinse out bottles and poke a few small holes in the bottom. Then fill 1/3 full with sand. Next, bury the bottle next to the plant and fill with water. Water will slowly filter through the sand and holes and gradually provide moisture to the plants' root zone. With a bit of ingenuity you can enjoy your vacation knowing that the plants are happily taking care of themselves.
Container gardens require a bit more attention and planning to ensure you come home to the same beautiful plants. If you're going away for a just a few days, all you really need is to give the plants a thorough soaking before you leave. For longer trips, first add a layer of mulch, then group pots together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location or in a baby pool filled a few inches deep with water.
The good news is that when you're going away for a week in the summer, your lawn won't miss you. Grass grows more slowly in the heat of summer, so simple preparations will do just fine. Just mow your grass at the regular height the day before you go. If you water your lawn, be sure to water it deeply the day before you leave. If you plan to be away longer, grass may go dormant but, no need to worry. Going dormant is a healthy coping mechanism for grass in periods of dry summer heat. You can water it deeply when you get back. If you'll be gone for more than two weeks, you may want to hire the neighborhood kid or a mowing service to cut your grass while you're away.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
A: Start by finding out who designed the projects that you like in your community. Get referrals from people you know, or the local American Institute of Architects (AIA). Interview three to five firms to get a range of possibilities for your project. But only select firms that specialize in residential designs, preferably remodeling, and review their portfolios and talk with past clients. Insist on meeting the key people who will work on your project and ask questions until you’re comfortable and confident about your decision. Ultimately, select a firm based on its design ability, technical competence, professional service, and cost. Then, enter into detailed negotiations about service and compensation. The AIA offers standard-form owner-architect agreements that can help you begin this process.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
I know there’s still plenty of summer left for parties. And it was great to come across a summer party blog from Design Consultant Vanessa Pereira of Vanessa Pereira Interior (midatlanticbuilders.com).
Pereira says that whether you are planning a small and intimate barbecue among friends or a large potluck, you will be regarded as the consummate host by executing the perfect combination of planning, and making guests feel at home.
Here are a few of her ideas to help you achieve summer party uber-host status:
• Mix up the seating – Create several seating areas throughout your yard/deck so your guests can form smaller conversation groups.
• Account for anything that might prevent entertaining outside: If you think bugs, rain, heat, or cold might get in the way of your party; make sure you have a backup plan to bring the guests indoors.
• Buy two of the same tablecloth if your table is too large for one to cover. Simply fold each in half and drape over the ends of the table leaving the middle of the table uncovered for your decorations and extra silverware.
• Carve holes into apples, pears, or other firm produce to make unique garden-theme candleholders. Produce can make attractive serving pieces as well — serve fruit salads in melon halves.
• Use candles on the table if you’ll be dining outdoors after dark. To create magical overhead lighting, Pereira says make wire cradles for jars and suspend them from trees.
• Keep unwanted pests away from individual dishes using wire domes, sometimes called flywalks, which are available at kitchenware stores.
• Buy extra bags of ice, have mosquito repellant available for your guest, be prepared for spills and make sure to have extra trashcans on the corners. Your guests will be impressed with the details.
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
(ARA) - In today's environmentally conscious times, it seems we're surrounded by the need to shop, act and live "green." Some of our choices are easy and small, while others can be big and costly. But one thing is for sure - each choice can make a significant difference.
Some of the most important green choices we can make are right within our own home, according to Kevin McJoynt at Danze, Inc.
"Installing items like Energy Star appliances and energy-efficient windows is a great step in moving your home to be more green," says McJoynt. "But changing your in-home water usage can have the most impact."
According to McJoynt, water shortages, energy demands and the cost of transporting water continue to rise. "Finding ways to simply reduce our usage without dramatically altering our lifestyle could save billions of gallons of water each year in the United States."
McJoynt offers up these tips on how you can immediately start conserving water (and save money) in your home:
* Replace older toilets (1992 or earlier) with newer, high efficiency toilets (HETs). They operate at 1.28 gallons per flush and could save 11 gallons of water per toilet per day.
* Be sure to turn off the tap when brushing your teeth - it could save nearly 3,000 gallons of water per year.
* Update your bathrooms with newer WaterSense certified lavatory faucets. According to the Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense program, if every household in the U.S. installed these water-saving lavatory faucets, more than $350 million in water utility bills and more than 60 billion gallons of water annually would be saved, plus $600 million in energy costs for heating the water.
* Always turn the water off between tasks. Letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt light bulb run for 14 hours.
* Make sure to wash only full loads of laundry. Using a high-efficiency washing machine is ideal, as they use about 28 gallons of water per load, versus an average machine that uses 41 gallons.
* Take a shower rather than a bath. A full bath tub requires up to 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. Want to be even more efficient? Switch your showerhead to a water-saving option.
"We realize showers are a tricky one when it comes to saving water. Homeowners want to make sure they have a well-performing shower experience," says McJoynt.
"However, the EPA WaterSense program recently published standards for showerheads that consider both conservation and performance to build support of these water-saving units. Be sure to look for the WaterSense certification mark."
* Fix those leaks. Most leaky faucets can waste more than 3,000 gallons of water each year.
"Better design and engineering of many new bathroom products actually gives the user improved performance as well as efficiency," adds McJoynt. "Faucets, toilets and showerheads are great examples. They're just like other appliances that use less energy, but still work very well."
August 10, 2012 7:06 pm
The list of ways employers can use Health Reimbursement Arrangements (also known as HRAs or Medical Reimbursement Accounts) to improve benefits and lower health plan costs grows every day. HRAs are the future of employer-sponsored health insurance; they are one of the only employee-benefits vehicles allowed to reimburse premiums on individual health insurance and are therefore a critical part of any defined contribution health plan. Below, we examine five uses of HRAs and then summarize how HRAs.
Defined Contribution HRA. The HRA becomes the entire employer health benefits plan. Employees purchase their own individual health insurance, and seek reimbursement for the premium from the HRA 100 percent tax-free.
New-employee HRA. Provides health insurance coverage from first day of hire until employees become eligible for regular health benefits.
Retiree HRA. Provides an extended and less expensive alternative to COBRA health insurance, and can help older employees with early retirement.
High-deductible HRA. Encourages employees to choose high-deductible health insurance and incentivizes smart shopping (i.e., buying generics, medical shopping).
Supplemental HRA. Fills the gaps that some group and individual plans do not cover (e.g., accidents, maternity).
TIP: Whether your company has a traditional employer-sponsored (defined benefit) group health plan or a defined contribution health plan, HRA programs can save companies and their employees thousands each year—from the day they are first hired until years after they are retired. The new-employee HRA program alone may save employers with a group health plan—$2,500 per single and $7,500 per family—on every new person they hire.
Source: Zane Benefits
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