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

Don't Sweat It: A/C Maintenance Tips

June 10, 2015 1:49 am

As the temperature rises outside, it is becoming more challenging for homeowners to keep energy costs low while keeping cool inside. According to the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association (also known as NADCA), there is a way to decrease energy usage and still beat the heat.

“Air conveyance systems are the largest sources of energy within a home, so it’s important to clean the units whenever needed, in order to avoid increased costs and energy usage,” says NADCA President Bill Benito. “When the units are not in use, they collect a lot of dirt and dust; when they are turned on during the summer months, all of that dust and dirt gets blown back into the home.”

NADCA recommends hiring a certified contractor to inspect air-handling units and test for efficiency. Proper duct cleaning and sealing of the air handling unit will help maximize system efficiency and performance during the hottest months of the year, when the air conditioners run the most often.

“Dirty or contaminated filters and poorly maintained air handling systems can reduce air flow and efficiency. Dirty coils can cause a unit to work harder to pump out cool air, which will ultimately lead to increased energy costs,” adds Benito.

A complete and proper cleaning, according to industry standards, will remove built up particulate and contaminants, resulting in improved indoor air quality. The standard defines complete cleaning to include the inside of air ducts from where air enters the return duct, through the air handler (blower, coil and heat exchange), to the exit, where the air is released to condition the home.

Source: NADCA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Housing's Looking Up, Americans Say

June 10, 2015 1:49 am

With more Americans preferring to buy instead of rent and others believing now is a good time to sell, housing is right on track with forecasted improvements this year, a Fannie Mae survey recently reported.

Based on the survey, a growing number of Americans say now is a good time to buy a house, climbing back up to 66 percent. The amount of Americans who believe it is a good time to sell also increased, surpassing a survey record.

“Things are looking up for housing,” says Fannie Mae Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “Those saying it is a good time to sell a house hit a survey high of 49 percent. Also, the percentage of consumers telling us their household income is significantly higher than 12 months ago grew six percentage points to 28 percent over the past two months.”

Additionally, more than half of Americans expect rents to rise, further boosting optimism for buying a home.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You a Habitual or Aspiring Saver?

June 9, 2015 1:41 am

As a large portion of the population nears retirement, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) recently examined the relationship between saving patterns and long-term outcomes. Chief among the findings was the ratio of habitual, occasional, past and aspiring savers, with habitually-saving Americans surpassing global statistics at 52 percent.

These habitual savers, put simply, are consistently setting aside funds for retirement. One-fifth of Americans identified as occasional savers, contributing to a retirement fund from time to time; 12 percent are past savers, who are currently not saving, but have in the past; and 11 percent are aspiring savers, who are not saving enough for retirement, but intend to do so. Just 5 percent are not saving, and have no plans to do so in the future.

The TCRS research also found the average annual income for habitual savers to be $73,000 – significantly higher than that of the rest of the world. Predictably, habitual savers reported having higher incomes than aspiring savers.

Beyond receiving a pay raise, which most aspiring savers say would be helpful, the findings illustrate ways employers and policymakers can play important roles in promoting habitual saving.

Source: TCRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Landscape Investments Drive Home Value

June 9, 2015 1:41 am

Maintaining the landscape on your property creates scenery not only visually appealing – it can enhance value, too, according to the Appraisal Institute.

“If landscaping is properly maintained, the impact on home values can be positive,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA. “However, it’s important for homeowners not to exceed neighborhood norms when upgrading.”

Curb appeal is an important factor when selling a home, Coyle adds, noting that it is one of the best ways for property owners to make a positive first impression. A home with landscaping that is dated or not appropriately maintained can be a turn-off to prospective buyers and can have a negative impact on the home’s potential resale value.

Coyle says homeowners should ask themselves the following questions when it comes to their home’s landscaping:

• Is the landscaping nice enough to make the prospective buyer walk through the front door? Keep the design modern and on-par with comparable properties in the neighborhood.

• Could the landscaping help future owners save money? Landscaping that needs minimal, if any, water to maintain could be attractive depending on the geographic area.

• Does the landscaping help with the property’s energy efficiency? For example, it’s a good idea to plant trees in a location where they provide shade in locations with year-round hot climates.

If you’re installing a new landscape or planning to revamp an existing one, the EPA’s Energy Star program advises selecting plants that are appropriate for their climate and using a suitable landscape and irrigation design. Homeowners should also consider landscaping techniques using low-water and drought-resistant grass, plants, shrubs and trees.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Tech Evolves with Apple HomeKit and More

June 8, 2015 1:38 am

(Family Features) There’s no doubt technology brings convenience and peace of mind to homeowners. At the touch of a button, families can benefit from thoughtful, digital shortcuts throughout their homes.

One of the newest additions to home technology is Apple HomeKit, slated for release sometime this year. Apple’s latest rollout will make controlling smart devices seamless using iPhone and Siri. Some of the first HomeKit-enabled products include Chamberlain MyQ garage door openers, Honeywell thermostats, the iDevices Switch and Schlage door locks.

While you’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of HomeKit, take a look at these other advancements already available for your home.

• It is now possible to control lighting throughout the interior and exterior of your home using your smartphone. With the proper bulbs, in-home Wi-Fi network and an app on your phone or tablet, you can control lights from anywhere and even schedule lights to turn off and on at intervals to give the appearance that someone is home. You'll never have to enter a dark house again when you use lights with geofencing technology, which recognizes when you pull in the driveway and turns lights on automatically.

• Similarly, you can automate and control your home's temperature from your smartphone or device. Although many thermostats allow you to drop temperatures while you're away at work for the day, options such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Honeywell Lyric take climate management to a whole new level, learning your schedule and adjusting temperatures automatically.

• Motorized drapes not only add a stylish enhancement to your windows, they help keep dawn at bay and your privacy intact through smartphone control. A variety of options allow you to customize settings based on needs, such as blocking daylight, obscuring valuables from outside view, managing the impact of UV rays on your possessions or regulating solar heat.

• With landscaping a chore for many, and water conservation a growing concern, a robotic hose attachment may be the answer, delivering precise amounts of water to each plant. For a large yard, or to use your existing irrigation system, a smart sprinkler system may be a better answer to keep your yard looking lush. Most models can be customized by valve or zone, and many use weather data or moisture sensors to ensure the right amount of water is delivered each time.

• When dinner plans call for a steak on the grill, keep your meal deliciously on target with a smartphone app, such as iGrill or Grill It, which guides you to the perfect temperature based on variables such as the cut and thickness.

With such advancements right at your fingertips, it's becoming easier than ever for families to manage household tasks and functions quickly and easily. Evolving technology means more sophisticated alternatives are yet to come. It's clear that when it comes to home management technology, the future is only a click away.

Source:
Chamberlain.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Patio Hacks to Try This Summer

June 8, 2015 1:38 am

When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach or taking in a game at the ball park, your backyard is likely playing host to summertime activities. To crank up the good times at home, add these unconventional upgrades served up on your patio for endless fun all summer long.

1. Chandelier and Sconces – Today’s outdoor lighting designs have evolved beyond tiki torches and paper lanterns. String up tiny twinklers, repurpose a chandelier or install sconces to add some sparkle to your summer.

2. Suspended Sofa – Outdoor spaces have become an extension of the interior of the home, and your patio should be no exception. Suspend a sofa for lounging, create a coffee nook for weekend mornings or a cozy bench to tackle your summer reading list.

3. Pizza Oven
– It’s no secret outdoor kitchens are in high demand. Add your very own to your backyard by installing a pizza oven. For the non-handy homeowner, pre-manufactured pizza ovens are available, but do-it-yourselfers can construct one in a weekend.

4. Foldable Bar – A bar is a must if you regularly host guests. If your patio doesn’t permit a full bar set, DIY a foldable bar. The best part? It can be stored at a moment’s notice – not that you’d want to!

5. Movie Screen – An outdoor movie at home is a fun way to spend warm summer nights without breaking the bank. String clothesline between deck posts or trees and use a white sheet and a projector to create your very own theater.

6. Dance Floor – If your patio is spacious, up the entertainment factor with a portable dance floor. If your patio is natural wood, reserve a corner for when Saturday Night Fever rolls around.

7. Container Garden – Your patio is the perfect place for a container garden. Inject life onto a stone slab by growing your own vegetables (tomatoes are easy) or summer blooms.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Homeowners and Renters Can Apply for Disaster Assistance

June 8, 2015 1:38 am

With storms battering many parts of the country, homeowners and renters in disaster-designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles or personal property as a result of severe storms should know that they may qualify for disaster assistance. According to FEMA, applicants can:

• Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Apply by smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov
• Apply by phone at toll-free 800-621-3362800-621-3362 FREE or 1-800-462-75851-800-462-7585 FREE

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find you have unmet needs after you receive your settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so right away. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But insurance does not cover many expenses, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA.

After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

If you’re a homeowner, you may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace your primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen Design Goes Global

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

(BPT) – Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor clean, contemporary lines or err on the side of traditional, trends today draw inspiration from global sources, incorporating cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of families. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:

Getting Fancy with Flooring

Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

Paving the Way with Walls


Kitchens around the world have signature design elements when it comes to walls. Wood paneling is a hallmark of English country kitchens, while modern Japanese kitchens, which are often limited in space, are made to look larger with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. And arches and bright tile accents lend themselves to Mexican design.

Opening Up with Cabinetry


The material and color you choose for your cabinets will play a defining role in the overall appearance of your kitchen. Flat white or frosted glass doors can impart a very modern, European flair, while distressed woods in rustic hues create a Tuscan effect.

Coloring Your World


Specific colors are tied to certain world cultures, regions and locations – walls in a soft mandarin paired with burgundy window treatments can build an Asian-inspired backdrop, and Aegean blue and sand backsplash tiles speak of a subtle Mediterranean influence.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Replacing the Roof? Add This Energy-Efficient Feature

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

Did you know a roof replacement can return nearly three-quarters of its cost when the home is sold? Homeowners can reap even more benefits by completing other roof work simultaneously, say the experts at VeluxUSA.com. If you’re planning to reroof your home, consider installing new – or replacing existing – skylights. This energy-efficient measure can not only increase natural light inside the home, but lead to serious savings come tax season.

If you have older skylights, the flashing around them may have deteriorated over time, making them susceptible to leaks and less energy-efficient. Modern fresh air skylights can improve indoor air quality through passive ventilation. At the same time, they reduce dependence on expensive artificial light sources and mechanical ventilation.

Adding blinds further increases energy efficiency to reduce power bills. A blackout blind can improve the energy performance rating of the skylight as much as 45 percent, a light filtering blind by as much as 39 percent, and a Venetian blind by as much as 34 percent.

Both products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. (Because of this, skylights and blinds with rain sensors and programmable touchpad remote control can be less expensive than an entry-level fixed skylight in some cases.)

Most building codes require that skylights installed out-of-reach utilize laminated glass for safety.

Combining reroofing work with other improvements saves installation or replacement time and allows the synchronization of warranty coverage for all the products. It also assures roofing materials will coordinate with new features.

Source:
VeluxUSA.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Beating the "Sunday Night Blues"

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

We’ve all been there – it’s Sunday night, and instead of enjoying the last few hours of the weekend, you’re dreading the start of the workweek. You’re not alone. In fact, more than three-quarters of respondents in a recent Monster.com poll report having really bad “Sunday night blues.”

Fortunately, there are ways to stave off a case of the Sunday night blues, according to Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi.

“There are many tactics people can use to reduce Sunday night blues, so they are less stressed and more prepared to conquer the week," says Salemi. “Seeking work-life adjustments, and managing work-flow throughout the week can do a great deal to alleviate the blues, but ultimately it could be a sign that you need to find a job that better suits your goals or lifestyle."

To alleviate the Sunday night blues, Salemi recommends:

Conducting a "Friday Review" – Take 15 minutes at the end of the day on Friday to quickly sort your tasks and build a to-do list for Monday.

Managing Your Management
– Use technology to keep yourself 'in the know' while you're enjoying your weekend, by using smartphone apps like calendar, task, and note-taking software.

Calibrating Your Work-Life Balance Beam – Set aside official "on the beam" and "off the beam" moments to delineate and ensure time for exercise, time with family or time to unwind.

Getting Out the Microscope – Think about what specifically causes your Sunday night blues, identify the triggers, and work on ways to prevent or remove those stressors.

Knowing Your Goals – Look at what you'd like to learn, the job description of the position you want or the career path, and then create a proactive plan. Review and adjust it regularly.

Paying Attention to Positivity - Review your wins and keep a running list of accomplishments, however small, as well as recognition from your colleagues.

Finding Better – Sometimes, it's time to look for something else. If you're truly unhappy in your current position, outline a plan to find a new job with elements that make you happy and productive.

Source:
Monster.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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