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

10 Communities with a High Level of Well-Being

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

Communities in California, Colorado, Florida and Texas boast the highest levels of well-being, with Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., recently named the top community by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The Index ranks communities based on numerous indicators, including individual sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, access to basic healthcare and relationship to the community.

“U.S. communities are in many ways on the front lines of American well-being,” says Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “From the influence of local leadership, to the vibrancy of good jobs and job creation, to an ability to influence infrastructure changes, cities are able to engender a culture of well-being among residents in ways that can effect meaningful and positive change.”

Rounding out the top 10 communities are:

2. Salinas, Calif.
3. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
4. Fort Collins, Colo.
5. Barnstable Town, Mass.
6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
7. Boulder, Colo.
8. Charlottesville, Va.
9. Anchorage, Alaska
10. San Luis-Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Source: Gallup/Healthways

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Selling or Staying, These Home Improvements Are Worth It

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

Generally, homeowners undertake home improvement projects for one of two reasons: to enhance their quality of living, or to increase the value of their home. The best improvements, however, pay off whether staying or selling.

The projects worth the most of their investment are:

1. Boost Natural Light – Buyers love balanced, natural light— and you probably do, too! To make the most of the light entering your home, install ENERGY STAR®-qualified, no-leak skylights in the kitchen or bathrooms. Skylight blinds can help control the amount of light at any given time of day, giving you (and buyers) the ability to enhance the ambiance of the home.

2. Install a Deck – Whether seeking to spend more time outdoors or to attract potential buyers, adding a deck (or upgrading an existing one) can be well worth the cost. A composite deck can recoup up to 75 percent of its expense at resale, and a wooden deck can recoup up to 64 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

3. Repaint the Exterior – Repainting the exterior of your home is a big job, but a valuable investment whether seeking to update its appearance or entice buyers. Your color choice can also affect your utility bills—lighter colors deflect heat from the home, for example. If you're selling in the near future, a fresh coat of paint can help increase perceived value.

4. Update the Kitchen – Kitchens sell homes, and are also the center of most households. Even a minor kitchen remodel can recoup more than 83 percent of its cost at the time of resale, according to Remodeling magazine’s report. The most cost-effective projects are to replace old cabinet hardware, upgrade faucets and lighting, and invest in quality countertops.

Whether you plan to place your home on the market or intend to stay put for years to come, it pays to invest in improvements that boost both resale value and your enjoyment of your home.

Source: Brandpoint

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Pesky Mistakes New Homeowners Make

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

(Family Features) From seasonal temperature fluctuations to excess rainfall, pests find any excuse to enter homes. The homes of new homeowners are especially prone to attracting pests, says Ron Harrison, entomologist with Orkin, partly because they are unaware of the best preventative measures.

If you’re a new homeowner, avoid these 5 “pesky” mistakes.

1. Overlooking Tiny Cracks – Even miniscule cracks and crevices in the foundation, doorways and walls can invite pests inside, including rodents, which are able to squeeze through openings as small as a coin. To keep pests from entering your home, promptly clean up all water and food spills, seal any openings around doors, windows and pipes, and install weather stripping around and under all doors, including garage doors.

2. Furnishing with Second-Hand Items – It may be tempting to save money by purchasing furniture from a thrift shop or garage sale, but pests have been known to hide in second-hand upholstered furniture—and once inside, they can spread from room to room. To keep this from happening, inspect and quarantine (for several months, if possible) all second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.

3. Ignoring Insulation – The attic can be a gateway inside the home for pests that nest in insulation. Inspect insulation for pest activity and damage on a regular basis. Consider installing new insulation that incorporates materials specifically designed to deter pests.

4. Neglecting Flooring/Siding Damage – The foundation, wood framing, furniture and shelves are all possible feeding sites for termites. Signs of termite activity include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings that appear to have slight water damage. Have your home regularly inspected by a licensed professional to avoid potentially extensive (and expensive!) termite damage.

5. Forgoing Repairs – Leaks may appear minor, but when combined with condensation, they create ideal conditions for pests that are attracted to damp areas. These areas are most likely located in an attic, crawlspace, basement, kitchen or bathroom. To keep pests out, fix leaking faucets, water pipes or HVAC units as soon as possible, and eliminate standing water on the roof or in gutters as soon as the weather dries up.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kids in the Kitchen: 5 Reasons to Resurrect the Family Dinner

February 25, 2016 2:04 am

A familiar event is making a comeback at home: the family dinner.

Data from a recently released study show that “togetherness” grows when families prepare meals together, harkening back to the “heart of the home” adage most often associated with the kitchen. Nearly all parents cited in the study (93 percent) report their child helps them with cooking, and over three-in-four (76 percent) report their child helps them cook at least a few times a week.

In what ways do children reap the benefits of shared mealtime? According to the study, children who assist with food preparation and sit down at the dinner table with their families are apt to:

Actively participate – Four in 10 parents in the study report that children are more engaged in conversations at the dinner table, and 39 percent report their children are likely to stay longer at the table.

Feel accomplished – Sixty-eight percent of parents in the study report their children are proud about the meal they’ve helped prepare; 64 percent report their children are excited about the meal they’ve helped prepare.

Feel more confident – More than half of parents in the study report a boost of confidence in their children when the child assists with cooking. Additionally, 63 percent of parents say their child learns responsibility, 47 percent say their child’s focus improves, and 42 percent say their children become better communicators.

Share responsibilities – Children also develop a sense of shared duty when assisting in the kitchen. According to the study, some of the most common tasks children are responsible for include stirring, rising, measuring and cleaning up.

Try new foods – Half of parents cited in the study agree that when their children help cook, they are likely to try new food, as well as finish the meal.

Source: LG Electronics USA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Who's Driving Home Renovation Activity This Year?

February 25, 2016 2:04 am

A driving force behind the renovation economy, millennials are leading the pack when it comes to remodeling their homes. In fact, according to a recent report by online renovation platform Kukun, Generation Y will head up much of the renovation activity—poised to grow by more than 5 percent—in 2016.

The largest concentration of renovators this year, according to Kukun’s report, will be in California, which boasts not only a predominantly affluent population, but also mild weather ideal for projects year-round.

“Major metropolitan areas, such as San Francisco and New York, are seeing the greatest number of home renovations due to their growing housing markets,” says Raf Howery, co-founder and CEO of Kukun. “We’re also happy to see that millennials are embracing the renovation process. Their generation is environmentally conscious and wants homes with sophistication, history and character.”

Not surprisingly, kitchens and bathrooms will remain the most popular renovation projects in the year to come, Kukun’s report shows. Over 75 percent of those planning a kitchen remodel in the next year will undertake a living room reno, too—and nearly an identical percentage will re-do a bedroom in addition to a bathroom.

Source: Kukun

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Landscape Trends that Conserve Water

February 25, 2016 2:04 am

Homeowners are expected to incorporate sustainable, water-saving features into their landscapes in the year ahead, as conservation takes root in homes across the country, according to a recently released survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

“Water issues are hot topics for many communities, and many people are turning to landscape architects for creative green infrastructure solutions,” says Nancy Somerville, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “Sustainable residential landscape architecture, if part of a broader integrated site design, can dramatically reduce water usage and stormwater runoff over the long term while creating a healthy residential environment.”

The 10 most popular trends that support this initiative, according to the ASLA, are:

1. Rainwater/Greywater Harvesting
2. Native/Adapted Plants
3. Drought-Tolerant Plants
4. Low-Maintenance Landscapes
5. Permeable Paving
6. Fire Pits and Fireplaces
7. Food Gardens
8. Rain Gardens
9. Drip or Water-Efficient Irrigation
10. Reduced Lawn Area

Other features homeowners will implement this year, per the ASLA’s survey, are dry gardens, organic gardens, plant walls, vertical gardens and xeriscapes—all of which conserve, or eliminate the use of, water.

Source: ASLA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Majority Using Tax Refunds for Savings Boost

February 24, 2016 2:01 am

How are taxpayers planning to use their refunds this season? Many are prioritizing future financial security, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Consumers are boosting their confidence and building their spending power as they set aside their checks from Uncle Sam,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says. “Americans this year see refund season as a time to improve their financial health by using their refunds to get ahead on savings goals, pay down debt and plan for purchases in the future. Money saved is spending potential down the road.”

Americans are exercising forethought beyond savings, as well. According to the NRF, nearly 35 percent of taxpayers—and 45 percent of millennial taxpayers—plan to pay down debt with their refunds.

“Millennials are being wise and putting saving ahead of splurging as they look for ways to get ahead,” Prosper Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow says. “Young consumers see their refund as an opportunity to build their savings without making a dent in their monthly budget.”

Splurges will happen, but not by many. According to the NRF, just over 10 percent of refund recipients will spend their refunds on  a vacation, approximately 9 percent will make a major purchase (e.g., car, television), and about 8 percent will indulge in a night out or a trip to a spa.

Source: NRF

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Report: Mortgage Repayment Rates Recovering

February 24, 2016 2:01 am

Housing appears to be benefitting from the steadily improving economy. According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, mortgage repayment rates are recovering, with just 2.2 percent of mortgage balances 90 or more days delinquent. More than half of all new mortgage balances went to borrowers with credit scores averaging 760.

“Non-housing debt balances have been rising, but the same cannot be said for mortgages,” says Andrew Haughwout, senior vice president at the New York Fed.  “Mortgages are being paid down faster, helping to offset the generally rising volume of originations.”

The report found 90-plus day delinquencies for all forms of household debt have dropped to their lowest level since the beginning of 2008. Only 5.4 percent of outstanding debt was in some stage of delinquency—the lowest rate since 2007.

Balances on home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) have also declined, a trend continuing for the last four years. Balances fell last quarter by $5 billion in total.

Total household indebtedness, mortgages included, stands at $12.2 trillion, according to the report.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Avoid Mortgage Fraud

February 24, 2016 2:01 am

Mortgage fraud, a crime defined by the FBI as “some type of material misstatement, misrepresentation, or omission on a loan which is then relied upon by a lender,” can result in devastating outcomes for victims. Perpetrators of mortgage fraud generally fall into two camps: those in the industry, and the borrowers themselves.

Mortgage fraud encompasses several ploys, including schemes like air loans, builder bailouts, condo conversions, equity skimming, false commercial leases or residential loans, foreclosure rescue scams, fraudulent flip appraisals, loan modification scams, and reverse mortgage and “silent second” mortgage scams. These crimes are complex cons designed to benefit to the scammer, either through profit or housing.

Mortgage fraud does not discriminate—it can affect any one at any stage of homeownership. To avoid becoming a victim, follow these guidelines.

1. Seek out lender referrals from your REALTOR®. He or she can point you in the direction of a reputable professional. Take precautionary measures and compare the lender’s credentials against the information kept by your local regulatory agency.

2. Do not include false information on a loan application, even if another party advises you to do so. Be honest about all of your personal information, including source of income, and confirm that information before signing.

3. Review all other mortgage documents thoroughly before signing them. Don’t hesitate to have a third party review them with you for clarification. Never sign a document that is blank or has incomplete information.

4. Conduct your own research on property records, including tax assessments and title history, before agreeing to the terms of any contract. Look for comparable homes in your area to verify accurate pricing.

5. Be on alert for red flags, such as “no money down” loans. These and other claims are often code for a scam. Do not click Web-based advertisements making too-good-to-be-true claims, and hang up the phone if someone calls your home using high-pressure sales tactics. Do not pay any fees outright for these offers.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Hit the Slopes in These 7 Late-Season Locales

February 23, 2016 2:01 am

Spring appears to already have sprung in some parts of the country, but there’s still a few more weeks left for winter enthusiasts to enjoy the outdoors. Here are the best winter getaways, plus accommodations, for late-season fun, rounded up Booking.com:

1. Mont-Tremblant, Quebec
Imagine a cosy B&B with all the comforts of home nestled in its beautiful surroundings. Only a 10-minute drive from Mont-Tremblant Ski Resort, Au Beau Soleil Bed & Breakfast is sure to soothe the body (and soul!) after a day on the slopes.

2. Big Sky, Mt.
The western stylings of Shoshone embrace the countryside with great views and private balconies to show off the majestic landscape, while placing you just a short stroll from the mountain village and several ski slopes. Also, Yellowstone National Park is only an hour's drive away.

3. Whistler, British Columbia
Whistler Lodge Hostel is full of fun with a game lounge, large open terrace, soothing sauna and a hot tub. It’s less than 2 miles from your ultimate destination, one of the longest and greatest ski runs in North America.

4. Killington, Vt.
Killington Grand Resort Hotel offers comfort and class in stunning surroundings. If you're game to explore more of this gorgeous area, the famous Killington Peak is only a 3-minute drive away.

5. Sun Peaks, British Columbia
It’s easy to mistake your surroundings for the Swiss Alps when you arrive at Sun Peaks Lodge. This quaint chalet provides all the essentials for a spa day and is only steps away from the chair lifts.

6. Olympic Valley, Calif.
Tucked amongst enormous and enchanting trees, Resort at Squaw Creek is one of the highest resorts in California. Step outside to hit the mountain or take a short drive to one of California's greatest gems, Lake Tahoe. No matter what you're looking for, this area has plenty of winter festivities.

7. Winter Park, Colo.
The gorgeous Zephyr Mountain Lodge offers spacious suites with phenomenal fireplaces and fully equipped kitchens. Take a 4-minute stroll straight to the ski lifts to start your winter adventure.

Source: Booking.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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