RE/MAX 440
Joanne Stahl
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-398-8111 1426
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Cell: 610-392-6547
Fax: 267-354-6236 
jstahl@remaxcentralinc.com
Joanne Stahl

My Blog

Survey: Volunteerism Sparks Improved Well-Being

January 20, 2016 1:01 am

Volunteering has countless benefits for both underserved communities and the individuals who devote time to bettering them. “Giving and Getting Back: Volunteering in America,” a recent survey, pinpoints what those mutual benefits are, as well as the patterns that shape volunteerism today.

And the findings may surprise you! Survey results suggest, for example, that volunteering may be the new Match.com. (Really!) Eighty (80) percent of respondents to the survey say they’re more willing to date a person they met volunteering than through an online dating site—and nearly 85 percent of respondents report feeling more comfortable going on a date with a fellow volunteer than being set up on a blind date by a relative or friend.

Volunteering may also give your career a boost. Survey results show that volunteering, a valuable addition to a resume, has led to increased networking opportunities and improved job skills for approximately one-third of respondents. What’s more, 10 percent of respondents received new employment offers while volunteering, and 8 percent changed careers altogether as a result of their volunteering efforts!

Volunteering can whip you into shape, too. In fact, nearly one in four respondents to the survey believes volunteering helped them become more physically active. Nearly half of respondents would consider volunteering for a challenging physical activity in the future, as well, such as runs, cycling or triathlons, to raise funds for a cause.

Above all, volunteering leads to a heightened sense of purpose. Survey respondents report a tangible increase in their overall sense of happiness, accomplishment and spiritual fulfillment when volunteering. Who can argue with those benefits?

Source: LLS.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Tips to Reduce Flood Damage

January 20, 2016 1:01 am

Most homeowners become concerned when winter storms threaten snow and ice damage to their property. What they’re often less concerned about is water damage, which can be just as detrimental to a home as snow and ice buildup.

Water, no matter how much or how little, can cause foundation damage, mold growth, musty smells and damage to tools and furniture. A damp area can also attract pests, which can cause severe damage to the structure of your home. High relative humidity (RH) in wet spaces can also lead to rust on tools and other metal objects, and even cause electronics to fail.

 Areas of your home that may flood—a basement or crawlspace, for instance—must be outfitted to ensure adequate drying. To do that, most homeowners can:

• Patch Leaks – If the source of a leak is obvious and small, perform patching to repair them. (If cracks are widespread or there are signs foundation damage has already occurred, it’s best to call a professional.)

• Clear Drains – If your home has a clogged French drain (or no sump pump), the water will have no way to exit your property. Be sure to clear drains of any debris, and consider installing a sump pump if flooding is a frequent occurrence in your area.

• Dehumidify the Air – The only real way to remove moisture from the air is with a dehumidifier. Purchase a high-capacity dehumidifier to protect your home from the damaging effects of excess moisture.

Source: Aprilaire

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Improvements for the Most-Used Rooms in Your Home

January 20, 2016 1:01 am

When it comes to home renovation, it’s smart to focus on improving the areas that see the most use, not only for increased functionality and enjoyment, but also to boost the home’s value come resale. Kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and game rooms top the list of rooms homeowners would most like to remodel, according to a recent Ranker.com survey.

To better the most-used areas of your home, including those cited in the survey, consider the following:

1. Boost Air Quality – Air flow is critical to the health of your home and everyone who lives in it. Ventilation in kitchens and bathrooms carries away excess moisture that can cause mold and mildew, and creates a fresher, more healthful environment by exhausting stale indoor air. Bathrooms should be equipped with exhaust fans, and kitchen hoods should vent to the exterior of your home whenever possible.

2. Freshen the “Foundation” – A solid foundation is essential for a home—but that doesn't just mean sturdy flooring. Wall and trim color are fundamental elements in any room. Simply repainting walls and woodwork can completely change the look of a room—even just a fresh coat in the existing color will make the room look brighter and newer.

3. Max Out Storage – Installing organizational systems in rooms where clutter typically collects is an easy, cost-effective way to improve the function of the room. In bedrooms, maximize closet space with ready-made units you can install yourself, or hire a professional closet organizer to custom-fit units to the space.

4. Swap Appliances and Fixtures – Outdated features are not only aesthetically displeasing; they can also cost much more to use than newer models. Replacing old faucets, shower heads, dishwashers and washing machines with energy-efficient alternatives can reduce bills and give kitchens and bathrooms a whole new look.

5. Welcome Natural Light – Most rooms in the home look better with natural lighting, and more daylight can help reduce the need for artificial lighting. Adding skylights and solar-powered window coverings are practical ways to bring more natural light into virtually any room, and you’ll recoup the investment in no time.

Source: Brandpoint

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Lesser-Known Tax Breaks Homeowners Miss

January 19, 2016 2:55 am

Did you know most homeowners can write off all mortgage interest up to $1.1 million for primary and secondary residences, as well as property taxes? Credits for property taxes and other tax breaks are also offered to in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

But mortgage interest and property taxes are not the only tax savings homeowners can enjoy. Look to see if you qualify for other deductions, including:

Discount Points: You can deduct points in the year that you pay them; you can only use this tax break on your primary residence; paying points must be an established business practice in your area.

Profits: In 1997, Congress passed a law that made the first $250,000 in profits ($500,000 for married couples) tax-free as long as you lived in the home for two of the last five years before the sale.

It's important to remember that calculating federal (and local) income taxes can be highly complicated. Any information provided here should always be validated by a licensed tax professional before taking any tax deduction.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that in 2012, Americans took $68.5 billion in mortgage interest deductions (MID) when filing their tax returns, saving an average of $1,900.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Cut Winter Heating Bills

January 19, 2016 2:55 am

High winter heating bills can make mincemeat of your budget—but a few tricks can help keep you toasty and warm this winter and keep heating costs under control. Home improvement experts suggest these seven tips:

1. Service the Furnace – Seems like a no-brainer, but many homeowners forget or put off having the furnace checked each fall. Being certain that your system is working efficiently can help save you big bucks.

2. Flip the Ceiling Fan – Warm air rises. While it may seem odd to have the ceiling fan on in cold weather, flipping the switch to spin in a clockwise manner will help to warm up the room.

3. Reflect the Radiator – If you have radiators in your home, place a sheet of aluminum foil behind each one. The radiator will heat the foil, which will reflect heat back into the room.

4. Put a Stop to Drafty Doors – Warm air escapes and cold air enters from the space under your front door. Stop the leakage with a piece of foam pipe insulation cut to the right size. It’s lightweight and easy to remove and reuse as needed.

5. Put a Jacket on Your Water Heater – According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save an average of $20 a month on your heating bill just by wrapping your water heater in an insulating blanket, available at most home stores.

6. Consider the Cost of Exhaust – Using the exhaust fan is a good way to remove humid air from the bathroom after showering, but turn it off as soon as feasible. Using the fans for long periods can run up your heating bill because the warm air pulled out is replaced with cold air, which needs to be heated.

7. Let the Sun Shine In – Many families leave their blinds or drapes closed when they leave home for the day. Letting the daytime sun in–especially in south-facing rooms–can bring in enough warmth to help your rooms stay warmer into the evening even after the window coverings are closed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prepare for a Pre-Listing Home Inspection

January 19, 2016 2:55 am

If an inspector is coming to look at your home before you list it, you may have a few questions. What will the home inspector be looking at? How can you prepare for the inspection?

For insight and answers, we turned to the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), who've outlined many steps you can take before your pre-listing inspection—and most can be done at little or no cost to you. These include:
  • Removing grade or mulch from contact with siding; six or more inches of clearance is preferred.
  • Diverting all water away from the house, i.e. downspouts, sump pump, condensation drains, etc.; grade should slope away from the structure.
  • Painting all weathered exterior wood and caulk around trim, chimney, windows and doors.
  • Sealing asphalt driveways, if cracking, and pointing up masonry chimney caps.
  • Cleaning or replacing the HVAC filter.
  • Testing all smoke detectors to ensure they are in safe working condition.
  • Having the chimney, fireplace or wood stove cleaned and providing the buyer with a copy of the cleaning record.
  • Ensuring that all doors and windows are in proper operating condition, including repairing or replacing any cracked window panes.
  • Ensuring that all plumbing fixtures (toilet, tub, shower, and sinks) are in proper working condition; checking for and fixing any leaks; caulking around fixtures if necessary.
  • Installing GFCI receptacles near all water sources.
  • Checking to ensure that the crawlspace is dry, installing a proper vapor barrier if necessary, and removing any visible moisture from a crawlspace.
  • Checking that bath vents are properly vented and in working condition.
  • Removing paints, solvents, gas, etc., from crawlspace, basement, attic, porch, etc.
  • Having clear access to attic, crawlspace, heating system, garage and other areas that will need to be inspected.
  • Turning on all utilities, including water, electric, water heater, furnace, air conditioning and breaks in the main panel.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Vacationing This Year? Your Generation May Inform Your Travel Log

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

Recent AARP research shows nearly all Americans are planning to take a leisure trip this year—but that’s where the commonalities end.

“[The AARP] survey shows that there is a clear generation gap among baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials when it comes to taking a vacation, from planning to trip experiences to sharing memories,” says Stephanie Miles, vice president of Products and Platforms for AARP. “While everyone wants to travel, they have differing tastes and ways of making their trips their own.”

How exactly do these generations differ? Boomer respondents to the AARP survey plan to take the “trip-of-a-lifetime,” whereas Gen Xer respondents are planning multi-generational trips motivated by family. Millennial respondents, on the other hand, are seeking romantic getaways, particularly to international destinations.

Millennial respondents also plan to pack lighter than preceding generations, according to the survey, opting to bring casual wear like jeans and flip flops. Gen Xer respondents would be remiss without their camera to document their trip, and boomer respondents plan to tote along “a good book” and a list of emergency contact information.

Generational divides exist when it comes to travel costs, too. Boomer respondents to the survey say increased airfare would affect their vacation plans, even though they tend not to have a budget. Both Gen Xer and millennial respondents are more likely to make budgets for their trips.

A generation gap is also apparent when booking accommodations. Up-and-coming hospitality trends, like Airbnb and VRBO, are more popular with millennial respondents than any other generation.

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Poll: Sunny Outlook Fosters Better Financial Habits

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

Many of us take stock of our financial situations come the New Year, setting goals in hopes of practicing better money management habits. But how exactly do we determine what those resolutions should be?

As it turns out, perceptions about the economy can have an impact on those pledges, according to a recent Harris Poll®. In poll findings, those hopeful for an improved economy were more likely to make savings plans for the year ahead, and those anticipating a worsening economy were more likely to try to cut back on spending.

Poll respondents with a positive perception of the economy were likely to make goals such as paying down debt, saving more for retirement and undertaking home improvements to increase home value.

Poll respondents with a positive perception of the economy were also likely to get rid of one or more credit cards.

Source: The Harris Poll®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Tips for Buyers and Sellers to Best the Market

January 18, 2016 12:55 am

This year’s housing market is expected to favor sellers—and for buyers, those circumstances will likely result in multiple-bid situations. Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important to understand how to navigate this type of market in order to achieve the best possible outcome in the transaction.

“The 2016 housing market is forecasted to be mainly a seller's market, filled with increasing home prices, relatively low inventory and fierce competition between buyers," says realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke. "Buyers looking to close this year need to keep an open mind and be prepared to move quickly when they find a home that meets their needs. For sellers, it's about understanding the ins and outs of their local market so they can optimize the price of their home and close quickly."

For homebuyers, Smoke recommends:

Being the early bird – Over 85 percent of buyers who plan to purchase in the next year intend to buy in the spring or summer of 2016, according to a recent realtor.com® survey. With roughly 50 percent more listings inventory relative to the number of potential home sales expected in January and February, buyers who start their search early face less competition with nearly the same number of homes.

Comparison shopping for mortgages – Mortgage rates are expected to reach 4.65 percent and prices are predicted to rise 3 percent year-over-year in 2016. Buyers planning to finance their purchase should put as much effort into getting the right mortgage as they do finding the right home. A lower interest rate can make the difference in qualifying for a home and save thousands over the life of the loan.

Considering a new home – In 2016, the number of new homes on the market is expected to grow more rapidly, resulting in a 16 percent increase in new home sales year-over-year. Buyers should consider the new home options in their market; they are likely to have less competition and to enjoy a broad selection of homes. While new homes are typically higher in price, they are usually larger and offer performance advantages and warranties that could reduce operating and maintenance costs.

For home sellers, Smoke advises:

Listing during peak season – Unlike buyers, demand benefits sellers. Prime home buying season begins in April and reaches its peak in June, according to a realtor.com® analysis of home sales. Sellers who list their home during the prime spring and summer months benefit from a larger population of buyers and potential bidding wars, which often result in higher prices and faster closings.

Pricing a home to the market – In 2016, prices are expected to increase nationally 3 percent year-over-year. Local prices changes are anticipated to be more dramatic. Sellers who work with a local REALTOR® to optimize the price of their home based on its unique features and surrounding neighborhood are often able to receive the highest price for their market and sell more quickly.

Offering incentives – Last year, 37 percent of all sellers offered incentives to attract buyers. Sellers who are open to negotiating beyond price are more likely to find scenarios that result in wins for both sides resulting in a potentially faster sale and more seller profit.

Source: realtor.com®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Gardening in Winter? It Can Be Done!

January 15, 2016 12:49 am

Ready…set…spring!

One way to beat the winter doldrums this season is to liven up your home with greenery. Green thumb or not, the key is to start small, says gardening author Ann Whitman, who suggests beginning with a terrarium, a miniature tabletop garden.

“Terrariums invite you in for a closer look and provide a perfect escape from the winter weather outside,” Whitman says. “Terrariums are easy to care for and don’t require any special skills for success…not much more than occasional watering and trimming.”

The proper vessel is most crucial to your terrarium’s success. Modern models are substantial, and angled with beveled glass and copper-colored metal trimming (real copper would turn green). Take care to select plants that are specifically suited for terrariums—they should not require a high level of maintenance.

Aside from a terrarium, you can jump-start your outdoor garden (yes, in the dead of winter!) by planting seeds indoors, says Whitman. If your home does not receive adequate sunlight, consider purchasing a light system to ensure the seeds thrive through the season.

“Greenery” in your home might also include springtime scents, Whitman adds. Botanical essential oils, such as lavender, eucalyptus, orange, peppermint or rosemary, are the pure, extracted essence of plants, unadulterated by chemicals or other ingredients. Just a few drops in a diffuser can help inject life into your home ahead of the first day of spring.

Source: Gardener’s Supply Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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