Diane Minguez
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RE/MAX 440   Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street  Lansdale, PA  19446
Office Phone: 215-362-2260    Phone: 267-575-6818  Fax: 267-354-6882  Cell: 267-575-6818
dminguez@remax.net

My Blog

3 Earthquake Safety Tips

July 16, 2015 12:40 am

Disaster films like “San Andreas” may appear to depict real-life scenarios, but most earthquakes are not all doom and gloom, says the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). In fact, there are three ways to prepare for an impending quake that are relatively simple:

1. Earthquake-Proof Your Home

Falling objects cause the majority of injuries during an earthquake. Using museum wax or putty, anchor bolts and earthquake straps to secure objects within your home will prevent injuries and save lives. Take a Saturday afternoon and have your kids help put museum wax or putty under all your breakables and collectibles.

2. Be Financially Prepared

Earthquakes are not covered under standard homeowners or renters insurance policies, so look into purchasing a supplemental policy for earthquake damage. Earthquake coverage is available from private insurance companies and, in California, where quakes are most common, from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA coverage limit is the insured value of the home as stated on the companion homeowners insurance policy with a deductible of 10 or 15 percent. Cars and other vehicles are covered for earthquake damage under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

3. Plan for Evacuation

The whole family can—and should—participate in creating and practicing your evacuation plan. Consider downloading the Know Your Plan app to better protect yourself, your family, your home and even your pets.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Steps to Take before Refinancing a Mortgage

July 16, 2015 12:40 am

Refinancing your mortgage can lower your monthly payments and save money, but it’s important to review your circumstances carefully before doing so. According to a Zillow survey cited by the nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), many homeowners are misinformed about the refinancing process – nearly half incorrectly believe they must wait at least one year between refinancing, and one-fifth incorrectly believe underwater borrowers are not eligible for refinancing.

“Too many homeowners are unaware of the opportunities to refinance and save money,” says ACCC President and CEO Steve Trumble. “As people work through their careers and continue to increase their salary, they are more likely boost their credit score. With this increase in credit comes the ability to procure home loans at lower rates. A lower interest rate can have a significant effect on monthly mortgage payments, potentially saving homeowners hundreds of dollars a year.”

Before refinancing a home loan, ACCC advises homeowners to:

1. Beware of Increased Terms - Borrowers should be aware that increasing the term of the loan repayment means more payments and more interest paid. Borrowers can use an online home refinance calculator to help calculate monthly payments under these repayment plans.

2. Meet Qualifying Criteria - Before deciding to refinance, borrowers should be sure to meet all of the qualifications. To refinance, homeowners should have regular income, at least 10 to 20 percent equity in their homes, and a FICO credit score of 740 or better. Borrowers with scores as low as 620 can qualify for a Federal Housing Administration mortgage, which are available through banks, credit unions and other lenders.

3. Look at Short-Term Loans
- If you're not going to stay in your home for over 10 years, you should consider a hybrid loan that is fixed for 5, 7, or 10 years and then converts into a 1-year adjustable rate mortgage. These loans reduce the amount of interest paid, but if you stay beyond the fixed period, your rate could rise.

4. Know Your Options - Before refinancing, weigh your options. Compare monthly payments, interest savings, length of mortgage, refinancing costs, eligibility, etc. Speak with your current lender and see what types of options are available and let the lender know you are shopping around for the best deal.

All homeowners have their own unique and personal financial situation, but taking advantage of refinancing can be rewarding – particularly when consumers take the time to properly research and make educated decisions on the timeliness of their repayments.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Path to Purchase: Shoppers Rely on Tech More Than Ever

July 15, 2015 12:33 am

Shoppers today harness connected technologies more than ever to simplify their shopping experience, with nearly three-quarters relying on information from a smartphone to make a purchase, according to a recent survey by Blackhawk Engagement Solutions (BHEngagement.com). This habit and others illustrate the profound effect technology will continue to have on consumer spending.

After the smartphone, shoppers obtain product or retailer information through a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. Over half of consumers shop while watching television at home, and over 35 percent shop while at work. They survey pointed to peak shopping hours between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Other survey findings include a trend called “showrooming,” in which a shopper purchases a competitor’s product while standing in the store after comparing prices on sites like Amazon. The majority of consumers will buy at a physical store that matches online prices with price-match rebates. Nearly 90 percent of shoppers would consider buying online and picking up in store to save just five percent on a purchase.

Mobile wallets are also gaining popularity. According to the survey, more than half of shoppers are likely to use a mobile wallet over a traditional wallet if it is universally accepted. One-fifth would stop carrying a traditional wallet altogether.

Source: BHEngagement.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Save Money with 5 Energy-Efficient Improvements

July 15, 2015 12:33 am

Utility costs, especially HVAC expenses, can eat up your household budget if your home falls short on energy efficiency. A top-to-bottom energy audit may not be feasible, but there are areas of your home you can make more energy-efficient with relatively little time and money. The experts at HomeAdvisor.com recommend:

Sealing Air Leaks
: Whether heating or cooling your home, escaped air is literally dollars out the window. To keep HVAC bills low, check for leaks around all entry points to the home, including windows, doors and in your attic or basement, where holes may have formed in the insulation. Simple weatherstripping will suffice to seal up windows or doors, but if your insulation is leaking air, hire a professional to remedy the problem.

Cleaning Air Vents
: A dirty HVAC system consumes more energy, leading to higher monthly bills. It can also release dusty air into your home. For anywhere between $250 and $450, a professional can clean all vents and ducts to ensure your system is operating efficiently.

Changing Air Filters
: While having your system cleaned, be sure to swap out air filters, too. A filter with enough build-up can block air from entering your home, costing you more money each month. This is an easy DIY project that can be done in a half-hour or less.

Upgrading the Thermostat: Programmable thermostats effectively regulate the temperature in your home, automatically or manually. Upgrading to one can save at least 10 percent in monthly energy costs. The best part? They’re a cinch to set up.

Installing Ceiling Fans: It sounds counterproductive, but a ceiling fan typically costs far less than air conditioning and can be installed for a mere $150. The investment will pay back dividends in lower utility bills in no time at all, and is a great way to cool your home in warm, but not hot, months.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Listing Your Home on Airbnb? Don't Forget Insurance

July 15, 2015 12:33 am

Home-sharing, or peer-to-peer renting, has soared in popularity thanks to sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and Roomorama that give renters the opportunity to room with a host in a privately-owned property, paying similarly to a hotel stay. The property is not a licensed hospitality provider, so insurance concerns are common for hosts.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), standard homeowners and renters insurance policies generally do not cover home-sharing-related claims. Hosts must consider what their course of action will be if a guest is injured on or vandalizes the property. If you rent your home frequently, your insurer may deny coverage because your policy does not cover home-based businesses. If you rent your home only occasionally, your insurer may be able to provide an endorsement to protect you, but it is not guaranteed.

Because these and other factors must be considered, it’s important to discuss home-sharing with your insurer prior to renting. The NAIC recommends purchasing a landlord policy for liability protection and to cover possessions, any legal fees and lost rental income due to damage. You might also require renters to provide proof of their own homeowners, renters, or personal liability insurance for added protection.

At present, Airbnb offers host insurance coverage up to $1 million if a guest is injured on or damages the property.

Source: NAIC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Get in Gear with a Summertime Tune-Up

July 14, 2015 3:33 am

According to AutoTrader.com, more than half of drivers perform work on their car themselves instead of brining the car to a dealership or shop. While do-it-yourself maintenance can save hundreds of dollars in professional mechanic services, it’s important not to leave out any items on your tune-up checklist, especially in summertime.

The steps are simple – just remember the acronym SUMMER:

Scrub the Battery – Car battery drain is a common problem. Help keep your battery healthy and clean by sprinkling baking soda onto battery terminals and lightly spraying with water. Let the baking soda mixture sit for an hour before wiping it off with a wet sponge. Many auto parts stores also have cleaner specifically for car batteries. You can also ask them about a corrosion preventing kit, which sells for about $10.

Use a Sunshade
– Summer heat can cause cosmetic damage to your car's paint and interior, especially if you repeatedly park in direct sunlight. Be sure to preserve your vehicle's paint job with a UV-protectant wax, always try to park in a shady spot, and consider purchasing an inexpensive sunshade to help protect the car's interior.

Maintain Proper Fluid Levels – Coolant, or antifreeze, is the number one fluid you should check in your car during the summer months, as it helps protect your cooling system from corrosion and overheating. Add more if your level is below the minimum line – but do not open the coolant tank lid while your engine is hot.

Make Sure Tire Pressure Is Correct – Properly inflated tires are safer, last longer and can even improve fuel economy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that proper tire pressure can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, saving you money at the pump. Be sure to check your spare tire, too.

Expect an Emergency
– Pack an emergency kit in your car with the essentials, such jumper cables, a flashlight, paper towels, roadside flares, a first-aid kit, bottled water, and even snacks like granola bars.

Replace Your Wiper Blades – While it may seem obvious, summer storms can often roll in unexpectedly. Replace the blades every six months, or as soon as you notice decreased visibility or unusual squeaky noises.

Source: Autotrader.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Ways to Erase the Most Common Household Messes

July 14, 2015 3:33 am

(BPT) – No matter how neat you keep your home, odors and stains will occur. These can be especially challenging to remove in areas prone to spills and smells. According to the KILZ paint and primer experts, here’s how you can freshen up even the most stubborn spots in your household.

1. Eliminate Refrigerator Odors - Refrigerators are subject to a variety of spills and odors. To clean your fridge, begin by emptying its contents and throwing out, recycling or composting any food that is expired or beginning to smell.

Next, pull out any removable drawers or shelving and place them in the sink. Using a damp, soft cloth or non-abrasive sponge, wipe down these pieces, the interior of your fridge and the door with a multi-purpose cleaner. Or, mix two tablespoons of baking soda with one quart of hot water for a natural soap alternative. Don't forget the seams of the shelves and rubber door seal.

If your fridge requires an extra-deep cleaning, unplug it while you work to avoid wasting energy. Before putting all of your food back into the fridge, wipe down the exterior of each jar or container with a damp cloth.

2. Conceal Wall Stains with Primer - Have your kids made artwork of your walls, or has a leaky roof caused a water-damaged mess? Tough wall stains like these can be hard to get rid of, but are easily sealed by applying a high-quality, stain-blocking primer.

Before covering the problem area with primer, clean the wall thoroughly with a grease-cutting solution and lightly sand the area to be painted.

3. Remove Dirty Grout Lines - Tile surfaces are prone to dirt and debris, especially in bathrooms or high-traffic areas. To keep tile looking fresh and new, grab an old toothbrush or electric toothbrush for a deeper scrub. Before you start, wash the surface with water then mix two parts baking soda with one part water. Scrub the resulting paste into the cracks and crevices, then douse with water again. If the grout lines are stained, spray a mixture of equal parts vinegar and warm water onto the area and brush. After a final rinse, the grime will be gone.

4. Fight Off Washing Machine Mold
- If you own a front-loading washing machine, you've probably noticed the unpleasant smell that can linger after completing a load of laundry. Despite being more energy-efficient, these machines have a tendency to hold odors and harbor mold. To clean and prevent grimy buildup, try this: instead of detergent, cycle two cups of vinegar and a quarter-cup of baking soda on a hot setting. When it's done, use a clean sponge to scrub down the inside. Finally, rinse with a plain-water cycle, and you'll see (and smell) the results

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Don't Delay Buying a Home – It Can Cost You

July 14, 2015 3:33 am

If you are on the fence about buying a home, consider this: waiting to buy could cost thousands in accumulated wealth. According to a recent realtor.com® report, the financial penalties of delaying or forgoing on a home purchase have become very steep – the average buyer is estimated to gain $217,726 (in today’s dollars) in wealth over a 30-year period.

Although some markets are more buyer-friendly than others, national data shows homeowners see significant financial benefits as compared to lifetime renters. In nearly 90 percent of metro areas, buying a home produces a financial benefit of at least $100,000 over 30 years.

“This analysis looks solely at the financial reasons to buy a home, based on assumptions about rising mortgage rates and changes in home values," realtor.com® Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke says. "It's important to remember that a home purchase decision is deeply personal. Potential buyers need to consider factors such as upcoming life events, job security and potential relocation, in addition to financial benefits, because they too can have a significant impact on ownership."

Source: realtor.com®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Properly Dispose of Household Hazardous Waste

July 13, 2015 3:34 am

Following a severe storm, homeowners and renters should take special care when collecting and disposing of household hazardous wastes. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), homeowners and renters affected by disaster should, whenever feasible, separate hazardous household waste from other debris before disposal.

Among the items that fall into the household hazardous waste category are paints and solvents, cleaning materials, batteries, oils and petroleum products, pesticides, explosives, swimming pool chemicals and pressurized gas cylinders.

Improper disposal of household hazardous waste includes pouring it down the drain, on the ground, into storm drains/sewers, or in some cases putting it out with the trash. The dangers of such disposal methods might not be immediately obvious. Certain types of household hazardous waste have the potential to cause physical injury to sanitation workers, contaminate septic tanks or wastewater treatment systems, and pose health hazards to both humans and animals.

Oil-contaminated debris or material tainted by other petroleum products should be segregated and stored in a well-ventilated area. If stored outdoors, household hazardous materials should be covered to keep precipitation from contaminating nearby soil and water.

After separating out household hazardous waste, take the waste (or arrange for it to be taken) to a facility that accepts toxic materials. To find a facility that accepts household hazardous waste in your area, contact your local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Renting? 3 Savvy Storage Tips

July 13, 2015 3:34 am

(Family Features) Just because you don't own your home or have a permanent abode doesn’t mean you can't be neat and organized in the place you currently hang your hat, says professional organizer Lorie Marrero.

"Even if you are not able to drill holes in the walls, even if you are always on the move and prefer not to invest in costly storage solutions, there are still plenty of portable and attractive options for you," says Marrero. "Find those that work best for your needs and can be as portable as you are."

With the right products and a little creative thinking, adding moveable, functional, attractive and affordable storage can be quite simple for any renter. Marrero suggests implementing savvy storage solutions to make the most of your space and situation, such as:

Creative Closet Space


One drawback when renting can be the lack of storage space and the inability to install permanent fixtures in closets. Typically equipped with one rod and a top shelf, rental closets don't provide the best configurations for maximizing the available area. You can make the most of the limited space with a removable system that securely clips to an existing rod, with accessories like fabric bins and hanging organizers.

Plain View Storage


Colorful storage pieces can enhance existing decor and brighten up the often lackluster neutral walls found in most rentals. Anyone living in an apartment or smaller quarters knows that storage needs to not only look good, but also be completely functional. Add stylish storage to your living space with vibrant cubes that complement your existing décor.

Accessible Areas

Create a system to keep your place tidy. A drop zone, whether in your entryway, kitchen or living area, is a good place to keep your mail, keys, shoes, bags or whatever you always need readily available. A small bench or colorful coat tree by the door are good options to keep belongings off the floor. Once you've gotten your system down, be vigilant about sticking to the plan.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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