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

5 Tips for a Tidier Home

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

(Family Features) No one wants to spend their weekend doing chores, especially when pleasant weather arrives. Get a handle on household dirt with these efficient, effective cleaning tips from the experts at home product provider Eureka.

1. Repel sweaty hands and scratches. Use furniture polish with a citrus base when cleaning appliances. These products create a low-friction surface that reduce scratches and leave an oily layer which keeps sweaty palms and fingerprints at bay.

2. Organize the entryway. Make outdoor fun more accessible with a tidy entryway, mud room or coat closet. Create bins to organize all accessories for outdoor activities: balls and gloves in one bin, swimming toys and goggles in another, and so on.

3. Recruit a cleaning crew. Give the kids something to do in summer with a few daily chores. This will lighten your load and teach lessons of accountability and responsibility. Even little mess-makers can help with age-appropriate jobs, such as picking up toys or sorting laundry by color. Create a chore chart to help keep everyone on task and ensure chores are completed in a timely fashion.

4. Create a clutter-free zone. Give yourself a little breathing room and assign a special area where no personal belongings can be placed. The kitchen is a great spot to keep clutter-free so meal prep is easier and there's a comfortable place for the family to gather.

5. Dust daily. Set aside just 10 to 15 minutes a day to properly dust one room in the home. A microfiber cloth attached to the end of a long pole with a rubber band is an easy way to reach tough spots such as light fixtures, ceilings and corners, as well as baseboards and behind heavy furniture.

Source: Walmart.com/Eureka

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Electrical Alphabet Soup: AFCIs, TRRs and More

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

There are a myriad of components involved in a home’s electrical system, and any one of them can malfunction, increasing the possibility of fire and shock, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). To minimize risk, consider protecting your home with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs).

AFCIs – One of the major causes of electrical fire is an arc fault, which is caused by damaged, overheated or stressed wiring or devices. The most common AFCI is a branch/feeder, which replaces standard circuit breakers in the home’s electrical service panel and detects hazardous arcing conditions, shutting down electricity before a fire can start.

Other options include outlet AFCIs, which provide protection to power cords plugged into the receptacle, and combination AFCIs, which provide parallel protection for branch circuit wiring, cord sets and power supply cords downstream of the device.

GFCIs – A GFCI is a device designed to protect people from electric shock by constantly monitoring electricity flow in a circuit and quickly switching off power if it senses any loss of current. Typically, they are installed in areas where water and electricity are in close proximity, such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen and basement.

GFCIs can be installed at the main service panel, in place of standard electrical outlets, or can be used as a portable device. While GFCIs should be installed by a licensed electrician, portable GFCIs require no tools to install.

TRRs
– TRRs look just like ordinary outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the openings or slots. When equal pressure is simultaneously applied to both sides, the receptacle cover plates open to allow the standard plug to make contact with the receptacle contact points.

Without simultaneous pressure, the cover plates remain closed, preventing insertion of foreign objects and protecting children from electrical injuries. TRR technology can be combined with AFCI and GFCI receptacles.

All of these devices have proven so effective that the National Electrical Code® (NEC) requires them to be installed in all new homes. Existing homes with aging electrical systems can also benefit from these advanced technologies, which should be installed by a qualified electrician.

Source: ESFI

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Why Now May Be a Good Time to Buy

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) report, lower interest rates and home prices are significantly boosting housing affordability.

“Now is a great time for consumers to buy homes,” says NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “Both first-time and move-up buyers can take advantage of these favorable market conditions and start building their American Dream.”

First-time homebuyers can find help qualifying for a mortgage with low down payment programs offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are geared primarily toward the first-time homebuyer market. These lenders now offer mortgages with 3 percent down payments, allowing more creditworthy borrowers who lack the funds for a large down payment to obtain a home mortgage.

As housing affordability continues to improve, more consumers will discover the benefits of homeownership, including the fact that it is a primary source of net worth for many Americans, and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term.

The financial benefits of homeownership begin in the first year for most homeowners, through the ability to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes paid off their taxable income. This can result in savings of thousands of dollars every year, especially in the early years of the mortgage when interest makes up the largest portion of the monthly payment.

In addition to the financial benefits to families, homeownership also strengthens communities. Home building increases the property tax base that supports local schools and communities.

“Homeownership builds stronger communities, provides a solid foundation for family and personal achievement and improves the quality of life for millions of people,” adds Woods.

Source: NAHB.org

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The Secret to a Healthy Home Garden

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

What's the key to a garden full of healthy plants? The secret is in the soil, says Melinda Myers, author and host of Melinda’s Garden Moment.

"Most homeowners don't have great garden soil in their yards," says Myers. ”The soil in most suburban yards has been damaged during the construction process. Typically it was scraped away and sold, or it was compacted during building."

Healthy plants require the right growing conditions and healthy, fertile soil. One way to improve the condition of your soil is through peat moss, which naturally absorbs water and slowly releases it to plants. In addition to helping to balance the soil's water retention and drainage, peat moss also improves soil aeration that improves plant health.

"The best way to improve soil is to add amendments such as compost and peat moss," says Myers. "Peat moss improves water drainage in clay soil, and peat moss helps lean, sandy soil retain water.”

Myers recommends adding 2-3 inches of organic matter to the top 12 inches of soil, which is the “basic zone” for most plantings.

Source: PeatMoss.com

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Save on Utilities with DIY Filter Swap

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

\One of the easiest ways to boost indoor air quality at home is to change the filter on your HVAC unit. Replacing the filter becomes even more important when your cooling unit is running consistently, according to the experts at FiltersUSA. An inefficient filter can produce greater stress on the blower motor and restrict airflow, increasing energy expenses and the possibility of a breakdown.



How can you tell when the filter must be replaced? A general rule of thumb is to replace the filter at times proportional to the frequency of use. Doing so will prevent the cooling coil from becoming clogged or freezing.



To change the filter, turn the air conditioner off, open the cabinet and pull out the old filter, noting the direction of the airflow arrow. Insert a new filter in the same direction of the arrow.



The type of filter you use will have different results. A denser filter media with a higher MERV rain will capture smaller particles; electronic air cleaners remove the smallest particles.

If you live in an apartment building with limited access to the HVAC unit, consider using an inexpensive portable room air cleaner, many of which are small enough to move from room to room and offer true HEPA filtration.



Source: FiltersUSA.com


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9 Tips for Cyber Space Safety

June 2, 2015 1:09 am

Though social networking has become a mainstay of society, many of us don’t think twice about digital safety when surfing, chatting and sharing. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, some thought must be given to ensuring that Internet-based activities remain safe and secure.

Whether posting pictures on Snapchat, posing questions on Ask.fm or using any of the thousands of other social apps and sites, we all love to share. Remember to:


Share with care. Sharing private photos or details online, even in emails, can cause problems later on. Even folks you consider friends can use the information you share online against you.

Be nice online.
Or at least treat people the way you want to be treated. If someone upsets you, try not to react; instead, use privacy tools to block them.

Be smart about pictures.
It is fun to share pictures, but you never know who might see them or how they might affect you in the future.

Avoid in-person meetings with people you don't know. It is not necessarily bad to interact with strangers online, but be careful with what information you share and very careful (by letting someone else know or having someone accompany you) before agreeing to meet someone you do not know.

Chat carefully.
If a game allows you to chat with other players, be careful about the information you disclose.

Know the apps. Make sure apps are only downloaded from reputable app stores and check their privacy disclosures and settings.

Be location savvy. Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.

Lock your phone. Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.

Know how to locate and wipe your phone. There are free tools (like Apple’s iCloud Find my Phone and Google’s Android Device Manager) that will help you find your device if it is turned on or wipe it clean if it becomes lost.



Source: National Cyber Security Alliance

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5 Financial Planning Tips for College

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

Did you know the average American college student is now graduating with $33,000 in debt? And with more than half of parents placing higher value on college savings over retirement, learning to save smart is more important than ever, says nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

One way to do so is with a 529 plan–an investment plan operated by a state or educational institution, with tax advantages and other incentives to make it easier to save for college for a designated beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild. Operating similar to IRA and 401(k) plans, 529 college savings plans allow parents to save for a child's education tax-free through an array of investment options.

There are two types of 529 plans: prepaid tuition plans and savings plans. The plans are named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code and are administered by state agencies and organizations.

In addition to enrolling in a 529 savings plan, students and families can save for college and manage expenses during school by:

Learning to Budget Now
– Developing a realistic and manageable budget is a valuable lifelong skill that is essential for anyone in college, preparing to go to college, or just graduating. Start by using a budgeting worksheet for students to get an accurate picture of your income and expenses. By comparing and contrasting your total income and expenses, you will be able to create a feasible budget plan. By sticking to your budget, you will avoid going into any unnecessary credit card debt.

Being Wary of Credit Card Debt
– Credit card companies target college students because they have little experience managing their money. If you sign up for a credit card, don’t get carried away. Get your payment in by the due date or you'll be slapped with late fees and create additional debt for yourself.

Working – Consider a part-time job, tutoring, paid internships or work-study programs to earn and save money while in school. If you’re looking to get an apartment after graduation, make your student loan payments, or relocate for a job, saving for your future will help you in the long run.

Using Your Student ID for Discounts
– Not only will you need it to enter your dorm, the dining hall, and the library, but your student ID can also earn you discounts at hundreds of retailers nationwide. If you are not sure if a company offers a student discount, just ask. You can also find a list of discounts at ConsumerCredit.com.

Taking Stock of Your Financial Situation – Too many students graduate from college without any idea of how much they’ll have in student loans, or how much to expect to make at their first job. Make sure you know how much school costs per year, what your parents are covering, what you’ll be expected to cover, and budget for rent and living expenses accordingly.

Source: ACCC

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Protecting Your Home from Grill Fires

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

Did you know three out of five households own a gas grill? That may translate to a lot of tasty meals, but it also explains why there’s an average of 8,800 home fires each year related to grilling, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). But gas grills are not solely to blame–all types of grills pose risks for fires.

The NFPA advises backyard chefs be diligent during cookouts. Keep in mind most grilling fires begin on a courtyard, terrace, patio, exterior balcony or open porch. Protect these areas by:

- Checking for damage before using the grill for the first time each year;

- Using propane and charcoal BBQ grills outdoors only;

- Placing the grill well away from the home, deck railing and out from under eaves and overhanging branches;

- Keeping children and pets at least three feet away from the grill area;

- Keeping your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grates and in the trays below;

- Never leaving your grill unattended.

Source: NFPA

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Credit Know-How Breeds Buyer Confidence

June 1, 2015 1:06 am

The majority of homebuyers know credit is important when purchasing a home–and they feel significantly more prepared to buy if they know their credit scores, Experian reports. In addition, the majority of homebuyers understand the importance of their credit scores in securing favorable interest rates to refinance a home.

"No one likes to go into a lender's office, whether buying or refinancing, and not know the state of their credit; it makes them feel helpless," says Becky Frost, Experian Consumer Services.

Credit score uncertainty among homebuyers manifests in feelings of anxiety over interest rates and the ability to purchase a home. The good news is, more than half of future homebuyers indicate they are actively working to improve their credit, including taking steps to pay off debt, pay bills on time, keep low credit card balances, protect personal information from identity theft or fraud, and not open new credit accounts.

In more good news, 62 percent of future buyers are confident about their credit status, and 60 percent feel financially prepared to buy a home.

Source: Experian Consumer Services

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Taking Fido on the Road? Tips for Traveling with Pets

May 29, 2015 1:02 am

Each year, millions of pets accompany their families on vacation. If you’re planning on taking your furry friend on a trip, plan ahead with these tips from PetInsurance.com.

1. If traveling by car, secure your pet with a safety harness or well ventilated carrier to restrain them in case of a sudden stop or accident.

2. Never allow your pet to hang out the window. Opening the window just a few inches will allow your pet to safely enjoy the breeze without the risk of inhaling debris or being struck by any objects. This will also prevent any temptation your pet may have of jumping out of the car.

3. Feed your pet a smaller meal before your trip to prevent an upset stomach. Also remember to carry plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

4. Bring your pets' toys to accompany them during travel. The familiar smells can help comfort your pet and keep them occupied during the trip.

5. Never leave your pet in a car unattended. Even with the windows cracked, temperatures in a car can increase drastically.

6. Make sure your pet is wearing identification at all times in case she becomes separated or lost. Verify that your pet's ID tag is up-to-date, durable, and includes your mobile phone number.

7. Pack a recent photo of your pet along with current vaccination records. If your pet becomes lost, having a current photograph will make the search easier.

8. Book a pet-friendly hotel. With more than 25,000 hotels in the U.S. allowing pets, there are plenty of properties from which to choose. Don't assume all pets will be allowed – some hotels place limits on the size of the dogs they allow. Call to check that your dog will be welcomed.

9. Look up details about a veterinary hospital near your destination. If your pet has a medical emergency you'll be prepared and know where to go.

Source:
PetInsurance.com

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