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

9 Safety Guidelines for Fireworks

July 2, 2015 1:34 am

Fireworks are a time-honored tradition on Independence Day. If you’re planning to host your own firework-filled festivities at home, keep in mind these safety guidelines issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

• Make sure the fireworks you want to buy are legal in your area before buying or using them.

• Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

• Do not buy fireworks that are packaged in brown paper, which is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays.

• Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.

• Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.

• Never try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.

• Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

• Light fireworks one at a time, then move away from them quickly.

• After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding the device to prevent a trash fire.

Source: Consumer Product Safety Comission

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What Can the Founding Fathers Teach Us about Roofs?

July 2, 2015 1:34 am

The benefits of homeownership were not lost on the Founding Fathers. In fact, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson took steps to protect their investment, including upgrading the exteriors of their homes. Both Washington and Jefferson’s homes, which still stand today, offer home improvement insight that can inform homeowners today.

Washington, for instance, complained of his home being “plagued with leaks.” To prevent water from entering his Mount Vernon estate, he replaced his roof with a wood-shingled version common to the 1700s. Jefferson, who had a knack for architecture and engineering, considered a variety of roofing materials when planning the construction of Monticello, and eventually settled on tin shingles. Although they used different materials, both roofs made sense for each of their needs.

What’s the lesson here? Homeowners should take a cue from the Founding Fathers by considering all of their options before replacing the roof, or undertaking any home improvement project!

Source: Metal Roofing Alliance

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Lightning Protection a Must for Homeowners

July 2, 2015 1:34 am

Lightning strikes may seem like a rare occurrence, but they can wreak havoc on your home if they strike your property, says Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety President and CEO Julie Rochman.

“People often underestimate the harm that lightning can cause, but make no mistake–it’s a dangerous force to be reckoned with,” says Rochman. “We encourage both home and business owners to take the necessary precautions to protect their property from the damaging effects of a lightning strike, such as power surges.”

• For protection from lightning strikes in the general area of your home or an externally produced surge, a whole-house surge protector is the best starting point for reducing the risk of damage or a fire.

• Install additional protection for important or expensive electronic equipment. This should include localized surge protection for power cords to the electronic equipment and any telephone and cable/satellite television lines connecting to the equipment. Make sure all equipment is UL-listed and properly labeled.

• Lightning protection systems are designed to protect a structure and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt. The system neither attracts nor repels a strike, but receives the strike and routes it harmlessly into the earth, thus discharging the dangerous electrical event. Be sure the lightning protection system is designed and installed in accordance with accepted industry standards.

• Stay off landline/wired telephones and utilize a cell phone if necessary. In your home, do not stand near open windows, doorways or metal piping. Stay away from the television, plumbing, sinks, tubs, radiators and stoves. Avoid contact with small electric appliances such as radios, toasters and hairdryers.

Source: IBHS

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Don’t Let Money Get Away on Your Getaway

July 1, 2015 1:34 am

Travel is one of those luxuries everyone wants to afford, but may not be able to fit into their budget. In fact, 32 percent of Americans report they cannot afford to take a summer vacation, according to a recent Skift survey. But for families feeling the squeeze, there are ways to enjoy a guilt-free vacation. The nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) recommends planning a budget-friendly trip with these tips.

1. Plan in Advance

To save big, plan ahead by packing lunches, snacks and drinks. Instead of filling your cooler full of ice that will melt, freeze water bottles to cool your food down. When they melt, hand them to your kids for drinks. With a picnic lunch, you can avoid inflated amusement park prices and allot more money to other vacation activities. If you are staying in a hotel or flying, make sure to book your ticket in advance before prices skyrocket.

2. Drive Rather than Fly


Instead of flying, take advantage of falling gas prices by setting out on a road trip. Compared to last year, fuel cost is estimated to be a dollar less per gallon in the United States. Make the most out of your outing. Get your kids involved by using Google Maps to plot your destinations along the way. Bring fun trivia and car games to transform what could be a boring car trip into an exciting adventure.

3. Research Budget Activities and Special Deals

Do your research ahead of time to find out about special offers. Since it is summer and the economy is slow, many businesses and towns are offering free events and incredible deals on discount websites such as Groupon.com. Instead of taking a pricey walking tour, print your own map out online and create a do-it-yourself version Visit free concerts and museums.

If you find a free deal a few states away, use it as your choice for an expedition. While on your trip, pass up the over-priced souvenirs and use your smart phones to capture photos. When your trip is over, compile your pictures into a colorful scrapbook or calendar as a memento or great gift idea for a family member in the future.

4. Find Off-Season Destinations

If you can take off week days, plan to travel Monday through Thursday so that you beat the crowds and weekend prices. Consider winter destinations, like the Caribbean, as you will enjoy their off-season prices during the summer.

5. Rethink Your Lodging

Avoid staying in the most popular locations. If you are planning a trip to a major tourist city, consider staying in a city close by. When choosing where to stay, take into account the variety of options besides expensive hotels. Camping is not only affordable, but a clever way to un-plug from your busy routine and enjoy the outdoors. If camping is not for you, consider a quaint bed and breakfast where you can enjoy a sit-down breakfast with your family.

Source: ACCC

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Will It or Won't It? 8 Signs a Tree May Fall

July 1, 2015 1:34 am

One of the greatest dangers to life and property during natural disasters is posed by falling trees and limbs, say the experts at the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).

“Growing trees will ‘catch’ more wind and become heavier, so they are prone to increased mechanical stresses, increasing the chances of failure,” explains Tchukki Andersen of the TCIA. “Preparing trees for a natural disaster is a must and should be done well in advance of the storm season. To help ease these dangers, have a professional arborist evaluate your trees. Doing this will help you determine potential weaknesses and dangers.”

Andersen advises homeowners to inspect their trees for the following warning signs:

• Wires in contact with tree branches. Trees may become energized when they are contacted by electric wires.

• Dead or partially attached limbs hung up in the higher branches that could fall and cause damage or injury.

• Cracked stems and branch forks that could cause catastrophic failure of a tree section.

• Hollow or decayed areas on the trunk or main limbs, or mushrooms growing from the bark that indicate a decayed and weakened stem.

• Peeling bark or gaping wounds in the trunk also indicate structural weakness.

• Fallen or uprooted trees putting pressure on other trees beneath them.

• Tight, V-shaped forks, which are much more prone to failure than open U-shaped ones.

• Heaving soil at the tree base is a potential indicator of an unsound root system.

Remember, too, that a tree is a living thing, and its integrity and stability change over time, so don’t assume that a tree that has survived nine severe storms will necessarily survive a tenth, Andersen cautions.

Source: TCIA

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6 Good Credit Habits for Buyers and Renters

July 1, 2015 1:34 am

Your credit score has a critical impact on your housing options, and healthy credit is essential to buying a home or renting one. “An important step to finding a home, whether you’re renting or buying, is ensuring that you have a good credit history,” says Frank Keating, president and CEO of the American Bankers Association (ABA). “A strong credit score can open doors to better homes and lower mortgage rates.”

To build a good credit history, the ABA recommends adopting these habits.

1. Request a copy of your credit report–and make sure it is correct.
Your credit report illustrates your credit performance, and it needs to be accurate so that you can apply for other loans, such as a mortgage. Everyone is entitled to receive a free copy of his or her credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting agencies, but you must go through the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-82281-877-322-8228 FREE. Note that you may have to pay for the numerical score itself.

2. Set up automatic bill pay.
Payment history makes up 32 percent of your VantageScore credit score and 35 percent of your FICO credit score. The more you pay your bills on time, the better your score. Avoid missed payments by setting as many of your bills to automatic pay as possible.

3. Keep balances low on credit cards and ‘revolving credit.’
Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your scores by limiting your charges to 30 percent or less of a card's limit.

4. Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.
Keep this in mind the next time a retailer offers you 10 percent off if you open an account. If you need a new line of credit, don’t jump at the first appealing offer; compare rates and fees offered through mail solicitation, on the Internet or at your local bank.

5. Don’t close old paid off accounts.
According to FICO, closing accounts can never help your score and can in fact damage it.

6. Talk to credit counselors if you’re in trouble.
Using legitimate, non-profit credit counseling can help you manage your debt and won’t hurt your credit score. For more information on debt management, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit by visiting www.NFCC.org.

Source: ABA.com

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Losing Sleep? It's Not Your Mortgage

June 30, 2015 1:24 am

A select group of Americans are getting a better night’s sleep as the economy strengthens, a recent CreditCards.com survey reports. According to the survey, Americans age 65 and older are sleeping more soundly than succeeding generations due to minimal stress over finances. A percentage of Americans, however, do experience some level of sleeplessness over finances.

The most common concern leading to sleepless nights is retirement savings, followed by educational expenses and healthcare and insurance bills. Mortgage and rent payments and credit card debt are less distressing than in previous years, the survey reveals.

"The biggest change over the past eight years has been the steady increase in the number of people losing sleep over educational expenses," says CreditCards.com Senior Industry Analyst Matt Schulz. "That's the only one of the five categories that has gotten worse since the Great Recession. Unless something slows the rapid rise in college costs, this could soon be Americans' biggest financial fear."

Predictably, those with an annual household income of $75,000 lost sleep over at least one of these issues far less than those with an annual household income below $75,000.

Source: CreditCards.com

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Evaluating Insurance in a Multigenerational Home

June 30, 2015 1:24 am

Multigenerational households are fast becoming the norm, with many families housing three or more generations under one roof. While this can be beneficial financially, multigenerational housing situations present some unique insurance considerations. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), it is crucial for multigenerational households to evaluate their insurance when a new resident moves in.

First, notify your insurer of your new circumstances and find out what your homeowner’s policy covers. Standard policies typically protect residents from fire or theft, but protection of personal possessions (including big-ticket items) may require additional coverage. When assessing your coverage, consider how long the family member plans to live with you.

Remember that dependents, such as college students, are covered under a parent or guardian’s policy, generally up to 10 percent.

If your new housemate is bringing a pet into the mix, ensure you have adequate liability coverage.

If your new household addition will be paying rent, he or she may want to obtain renter’s insurance. Policies are relatively inexpensive.

Source: NAIC

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How to Save on Unpredictable Energy Costs

June 30, 2015 1:24 am

Sizzling heat and freezing temperatures can take a sizable chunk out of household budgets throughout the year. “Changing seasons require renters and homeowners to adapt quickly when it comes to household savings,” says National Foundation for Credit Counseling© (NFCC©) spokesperson Bruce McClary. “The good news is that there is more than one way to achieve the kind of energy efficiency that can add up to extra savings.”

According to the NFCC, homeowners and renters can spend less on energy by:

• Turning off lights, televisions, stereos, computers, and other electrical devises when not in use;

• Installing a programmable thermostat to efficiently manage heating and cooling;

• Plugging items such as televisions and DVR players into a power strip to prevent them from running on standby;

• Drying dishes by hand instead of using a heated drying cycle in the dishwasher;

• Lowering the hot water heater thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit;

• Replacing older shower heads with low flow attachments;

• Waiting for a full load before washing clothes and dishes;

• Using a clothesline to dry clothes or using the air dry setting on the dryer;

• Closing all windows and doors when heating or cooling the home.

Remember light bulbs, home appliances, electronics and other products that display the ENERGY STAR® label are products that comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy guidelines.

If energy costs have contributed to uncontrollable debt, the NFCC can provide financial counseling in-person, by phone, or online. To reach a certified financial counselor, visit www.nfcc.org.

Source: NFCC

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The Far-Reaching Impact of Household Food Waste

June 29, 2015 1:24 am

There’s no arguing food waste is a common occurrence in homes across America. According to a recent survey by TNS Global, more than half of households in the U.S. throw out leftovers at least once a week, and a nearly equal amount throw away food they bought, but never consumed. Government figures estimate households waste $900 in unconsumed food each year.

When asked what concerns them most when wasting food, almost 80 percent of respondents cited money lost; about half were bothered by the fact that others do not have enough to eat. Less than 20 percent pointed to adverse impacts on the environment, although the EPA says wasted food is the most prevalent material in landfills and contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA also expresses concern over the wasted energy, water and other resources used to produce the 30-40 percent of food that goes uneaten in the U.S.

One way to reduce food waste is through proper packaging. Plastic packaging helps prevent food waste by providing barriers to oxygen, light, temperatures, moisture, microbes and other factors that lead to spoilage.

“Just a little bit of plastic packaging can prevent a whole lot of food waste,” says Steve Russell of the American Chemistry Council.

Though less than half of survey respondents say they actively use proper packaging at home, nearly all said they take or one or more steps to prevent food waste, such as eating leftovers and avoiding over-buying of perishables.

Source: Plastics Make It Possible

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