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

How to Rock Your Kitchen Remodel

June 24, 2015 1:15 am

(Family Features) Remodeling a kitchen is no easy task, but with a bit of designer expertise, homeowners can transform their kitchen into the kitchen of their dreams. According to MaryJo Camp, a designer certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), homeowners can successfully revamp their space with these tips.

1. Require References from Your Contractor (and Call Them)


As you begin to look for kitchen designers and contractors, ask for references from their last few jobs and call those references to ask about the experience. Ask specific questions like, How did they leave the jobsite? Are they loud? Did they show up too early? If sticking to a budget is critical, yet a reference says, "Well, he came in way over budget, but he did such an amazing job," this isn't the professional for you.

2. Remember: A Little Space Can Add A Lot


Remodeling because you're tight on space? You're not alone. "The top complaints I hear–no room for seating, too little counter area–all go back to a lack of space," says Camp. Referencing her own remodel, she says, "We borrowed space from a closet in our entryway, which only added about 20 square feet, but it made a big difference."

When working with a smaller kitchen, resist the urge to put cabinets everywhere. Less common design options, like running cabinets along only one wall, selecting mid-high cabinets, or implementing an art wall, can do wonders to break up the space.

3. Select Materials and Finishes That Work for You


When you're ready to choose materials and finishes, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Keep in mind that practicality is key, especially when it comes to countertops. Softer stones like marble are beautiful, but also very delicate and require special care. If you're looking for a material that gives the look of a natural stone, but can stand up to anything, consider an all-natural sintered compact surface.

4. Don't Forget about What You Love


"Everyone always wants to talk about what they hate about their kitchen, but people rarely consider what they love about the existing space," says Camp. "If it's liking how the light comes in or your kids' favorite homework spot, you don't want to take that away."

Source: Neolith.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Default Rates Plummet

June 23, 2015 1:13 am

Credit default rates, including those of mortgages, recently sunk to historic lows, according to the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices. Both mortgage default rates fell, the first to 0.74 percent and the second to 0.42 percent, signaling a turn of tides for economy.

Data from the Indices revealed the auto loan default rate dipped to a record low of 0.86 percent. The bank card default rate decreased to 2.98 percent – its largest decrease since 2013.

“Consumer credit default rates are below pre-crisis levels, at new lows and continue to drift down,” says David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “These low levels should not come as a surprise: interest rates haven’t turned up, consumer debt service as a proportion of household income is close to its record low, and the Federal Reserve reported that consumer wealth was at a peak in the first quarter of 2015.

“Nor should one assume that debt levels and defaults are low because no one is spending; on the contrary, May light vehicle sales were the highest since July 2005 and retail sales jumped. The economy looks good, consumers are spending and credit usage is rising. The combination of low debt service and economic expansion should ease worries about the fallout some fear when the Federal Reserve boosts interest rates,” Blitzer says.

Source: S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mold Cleanup: When to Clean, Dry or Discard

June 23, 2015 1:13 am

Not all damage from flooding takes place while your home is under water. Long after the flood waters have receded, mold and mildew can present serious and ongoing health issues, says FEMA. Mold and mildew can start growing within 24 hours after a flood, and can lurk throughout a home, including the attic, basement and crawl spaces. The best defense is to clean, dry or discard moldy items.

Many materials are prone to developing mold if they remain damp or wet for too long. Start a post-flood cleanup by sorting all items exposed to floodwaters:

• Wood and upholstered furniture and other porous materials can trap mold and may need to be discarded.

• Carpeting presents a problem because drying it does not remove mold spores. Carpets with mold and mildew should be removed.

• Glass, plastic and metal objects and other items made of hardened or nonporous materials can often be cleaned, disinfected and reused.

All flood-dampened surfaces should be cleaned, disinfected and dried as soon as possible. To ensure a safe and effective cleanup, remember:

• Open windows for ventilation and wear rubber gloves and eye protection when cleaning. Consider using a mask (rated N-95 or higher) if heavy concentrations of mold are present.

• Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean all areas and washable items that came in contact with floodwaters.

• Mix one-and-a-half cups of household bleach in one gallon of water and thoroughly rinse and disinfect the area. Never mix bleach with ammonia, as the fumes are toxic.

• Cleaned areas can take several days to dry thoroughly. The use of heat, fans and dehumidifiers can speed up the drying process.

• Check all sources of odor. Mold often hides in the walls or behind wall coverings. Find all mold sources and clean them properly.

• Remove and discard all materials that can’t be cleaned like wallboard, fiberglass and other fibrous goods. Clean the wall studs where wallboard has been removed and allow the area to dry thoroughly before replacing the wallboard.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Want to Up Curb Appeal? Try This

June 23, 2015 1:13 am

Whether looking to improve a home’s curb appeal out of choice or necessity, enhancing the exterior of the house can be easily accomplished with one smart upgrade. Vinyl siding, says Vicki Payne, host of PBS series “For Your Home”, not only looks beautiful, but can boost resale value when it is time to sell. Here’s why.

After winter, wood or fiber cement siding may be swollen, cracked, pitted, peeling or fading, says Payne. These can be signs of freeze/thaw or water damage and the affected areas may need repair or replacement. Vinyl siding is PVC-based, so it does not absorb water, and has a “rainscreening” design that won’t trap water behind the cladding.

Many homeowners choose to repaint wood or fiber cement siding. The finish on vinyl siding retains a freshly painted look for years, eliminating the need to touch up with paint in the future. While there are hundreds of vinyl colors to choose from, consider colors indicative of the architectural style of your home, Payne suggests.

No one wants to be taken by surprise with a costly repair. Nearly 98 percent of the vinyl siding sold in the United States is certified to meet or exceed standards for quality, such as color retention and performance, says Payne. Generally speaking, vinyl siding warranties cover the original owner for a lifetime and 50 years from the date of installation for subsequent owners.

There are also innovations in siding that can actually reduce your energy consumption, adds Payne. Insulated siding wraps your home in continuous insulation, preventing heat or air conditioning from escaping through the studs, so your home stays cool in summer and warm in winter.

If not installed properly, all cladding will be vulnerable to damage over time. Vinyl siding is the only exterior cladding with a certified installer program with validation by an independent, third-party administrator. Certified installers have years of installation experience, knowledge of proper installation techniques consistent with the industry-recognized installation standard, and have passed a rigorous certification exam.

Source: VinylSiding.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Excessive Vacation Spending Can Damage Credit

June 22, 2015 2:12 am

It’s no secret travelers tend to spend more money when vacationing, but a recent Experian survey finds that the majority are relying on credit cards to make up the difference. Findings from the survey show that most travelers prefer to use credit than debit cards and cash for expenses like lodging, airfare, entertainment and dining.

"People want to come home from vacation with happy memories, not with unanticipated and unmanageable credit card bills," says Experian Consumer Services President Guy Abramo. "Racking up excessive credit card debt without a plan to pay it off can put people, especially millennials, in a bind that could affect their financial health and credit status for years to come."

According to the survey, millennials rank higher when it comes to risky vacation spending. Nearly three-quarters of millennials report spending more than expected when traveling, and one-third report not saving in advance of a vacation. More than half are strapped with credit card debt once the holiday ends.

Source: Experian Consumer Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Download on Digital Dwellings

June 22, 2015 2:12 am

Homeowners today are more plugged in than ever, incorporating technology into their digs like never before, says Moen Senior Director of Consumer and Marketing Insights Jack Suvak. A recent survey conducted by Moen explored the smart home trend, concluding that homeowners could make smart home technologies must-haves in the future.

"With easy access and the increased availability of smart devices, consumers are able to transform their homes into personal data epicenters, with instant access to news and up-to-the-minute information from family and friends," explains Suvak. "Our research found consumers own about seven personal digital devices, proving there is a definite demand for not just these devices, but the seamless integration of technology into the user's everyday life. In fact, 57 percent own one or more home-based smart devices like thermostats, security systems and televisions."

According to the survey, digital devices make many homeowners feel smart, organized and efficient. But there is such a thing as being “too connected”–more than three in 10 consumers surveyed found being tethered to a smart device made them feel anxious and tired.

"It's possible that as connected home devices improve, and become almost second nature, there is a greater likelihood negative opinions could move toward more positive feelings," Suvak says. "Maintaining a constantly 'turned on' mentality can be stressful, but as brands improve applications, and the technology behind connected home products becomes more intuitive and integrated, we may see a shift in how homeowners perceive and interact with these products in the future."

Source: Moen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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9 Ways to Color Your Summer at Home

June 22, 2015 2:12 am

Featuring hues reminiscent of languid summer days and breezy seaside vacations, this summer’s hottest color trends run the gamut of eye-catching bolds to grounding neutrals, say Ace Design Experts Katie Reynolds, Julie Richard and Nathan Fisch.

All three Design Experts recommend implementing this season’s color palette in small ways to avoid an overly-trendy look. For example:

• Paint your kitchen island for an updated look that’s easier than repainting your cabinets. A classic neutral, like a subtle gray, will pair nicely with most woods and finishes.

• Classic stripes continue to be a staple in many homes. Try painting them on a pair of oversized outdoor planters in a sunset-inspired combination of apricot orange and shrimp pink.

• If you’d like to incorporate one of this season’s pastel trends, such as peach, but are afraid of pulling it off, try balancing it with a complementary hue like classic navy.

• Graphic patterns and details are an easy way to make a big change. Add a pop of color stenciled in a chevron stripe on drawers of a basic white dresser with a Camellia blossom pink.

• Layered warm neutrals never go out of style and work equally as well in open floor plans or cozy nooks. Try using a darker neutral on the walls and ceiling, such as vanilla, and furnishing with a paler hue, like linen, for a fresh feel.

• Try a fun color pairing for a guest or kids room by painting a focal window wall in a brighter green (think green tomatoes) and then adding a muted green (think moss) on the window base.

• Deep blues and indigos like navy and blueberry are great go-to colors for a monochromatic color scheme inspired by the ocean. Simple and natural accents like stone top tables, linen or woven window coverings polish the look for a clean aesthetic that won’t fade over time.

• Combine a warm neutral, like honey, with a blush pink in a nursery or girl’s room for a soft look reminiscent of the flowers blooming outdoors.

• Shiplap wall paneling, featuring horizontal, overlapping wooden boards covering the walls is the perfect way to bring a nautical feel to any space. Try painting the wood in a crisp, snow white to make this architectural detail the feature focus.

Source: Ace Hardware

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Stay Active in Summer

June 19, 2015 2:07 am

(Family Features) Staying active in warmer months is always a challenge. Despite the best laid plans, life can get in the way – you may skip a gym visit to go to the beach, or miss that workout class to lounge by the pool. To avoid veering off track this summer, get moving with these tips.

1. Find ways to beat the heat. Don't let the summer sun be your excuse to stay indoors on those extra hot days. Set your alarm early to get your morning run or hike in before afternoon temperatures rise. Seek a refreshing, cool workout, such as water aerobics at the gym or paddle boarding at the lake when the temps are soaring.

2. Find motivation in all forms. Seek the help of like-minded individuals who also want to establish healthy routines. Look online for health and fitness blogs from others who can share their own journeys toward better health. Or, invest in a wearable fitness device for a personalized experience.

3. Establish a summer schedule. With kids out of school, it can be easy to fall into a more laid-back routine. Fight the urge to turn on the television and create an active schedule with your children. After dinner, have a family walk around the neighborhood or plan for weekend outings to your favorite local nature preserve.

4. Schedule a walking meeting at work. If sitting in an office is part of your daily routine, make a point to be active. Need to go over some items with a co-worker? Avoid booking the conference room and plan a walking meeting outside or around the building. Getting your heart ate up and taking in some fresh summer air may be just what you need for successful brainstorming on the job.

5. Plan for an active vacation. Don't let travel plans justify inactivity. Use your vacation as an opportunity to get moving and create new, healthy experiences. Visiting a historic town or city? Check out walking group tours to sightsee. Hitting the beach? Try beach volleyball, surfing or strolling beside the water every night. No matter where your travels take you, you can always find a way to be active.

Source:
MyMiraFit.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Reel In

June 19, 2015 2:07 am

After a notable run-up, both fixed and adjustable mortgage rates are taking a breather, reports Bankrate.com. Mortgage rates moved down slightly with the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate slipping to 4.13 percent and the average 15-year fixed mortgage sliding to 3.35 percent.

Adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) have lowered as well, with the 5-year ARM down to 3.22 percent, and the 7-year ARM settling at 3.45 percent. The jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage retreated to 4.14 percent.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), while acknowledging the likelihood of an initial interest rate hike later this year, did emphasize that further economic improvement still needs to be seen and that the trajectory of interest rates will be gradual. This has calmed the nerves of bond investors, causing both bond yields and mortgage rates to settle after a period of volatility.
Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on long-term government bonds, which fluctuate based on the outlook for the economy, interest rates and inflation.

Source: Bankrate.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Added Expenses Homeowners May Overlook

June 19, 2015 2:07 am

Many homeowners agree the most stressful part about owning a home is the added costs. According to a recent analysis by Zillow and Thumbtack.com, homeowners can pay more than $9,000 in additional expenses each year, with most averaging $6,042 in unavoidable costs like homeowners insurance, property taxes and utilities.

Though DIY is often the preference of many homeowners when it comes to cleaning their home or doing yard work, those who choose to outsource find equally variable costs across the country. Professional help for tasks like house cleaning, yard care, gutter cleaning, carpet cleaning and pressure washing averages $3,435 a year, the analysis found.

"Homebuyers too often fixate on the sticker price or monthly mortgage payment on a house, and don't budget for the other expenses associated with ownership – which can add up quickly," says Zillow Chief Marketing Officer Amy Bohutinsky. "For example, new buyers can get really excited about having a backyard of their own for the first time, without budgeting for how they plan to maintain that space."

For buyers who may be relocating to a different area of the country, the difference in costs regionally is crucial to consider when budgeting.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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