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

Why Invest in Insulation during a Renovation?

March 28, 2014 2:45 am

(BPT) - When it comes to enhancing the value and comfort of a home, most homeowners will opt to address the cosmetic features of a home when completing a renovation project. Yet, it's often the things that homeowners don't consider that can have the biggest impact on the value of a home.

Across the country, the cost of heating and cooling a home has sharply increased. The price of gas, oil and electricity has driven up the cost of living for many homeowners. With this in mind, more homeowners are seeking budget-friendly solutions that provide not only consistent performance over the long-term, but also help keep costs down.

Before beginning a home improvement project, homeowners should consider the whole building envelope rather than just the cosmetic features such as chrome fixtures or granite countertops. High-efficiency windows are an excellent investment for any home to help drive down excessive energy waste and high utility costs. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that traditional windows contribute as much as 10 percent of the total air escaping from a typical home, while improperly sealed doors can contribute 11 percent.

Investing in an effective insulation solution also can make a significant impact on reducing utility costs. Building experts suggest that homeowners completing a home improvement project should be as involved as possible in determining the best insulation type for their home. This means that homeowners should actively research the types of materials available and how well they perform over the long term. While building code requirements and standards were much more lax in the past, recent amendments to the building code mandates that homes must meet certain criteria for insulation levels, heating management and carbon emissions.

One insulation solution that can meet and exceed the newest building code requirements is spray foam insulation. As a modern insulation solution, the benefits of spray foam insulation can have a significant and positive impact on a home. Available in a variety of densities, spray foam insulation combats against air leakage and works well in all types of homes across the country, regardless of climate. More information on the effectiveness of spray foam insulation is available online at www.icynene.com.

Traditional insulation materials are overly permeable allowing moisture and fluctuations in temperature to pass through the home's envelope easily. Yet, spray foam insulation both air seals and insulates to keep allergens and irritants at bay and eliminates air leakage to keep the conditioned air inside without the HVAC system working overtime to compensate.

Spray foam insulation performs for the life of the property, ensuring that homeowners can enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures year-round without overrunning their heating and cooling equipment. Insulation experts from Icynene note that quality spray foam insulation can noticeably reduce heating and cooling costs, in some cases by up to 50 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Perfect the Art of Grilling Juicy, Tender Pork Chops

March 27, 2014 2:30 am

(Family Features) A recent survey by the Heart, Patio and Barbecue Association found that seven out of 10 home grillers consider themselves to be “better than average” at grilling. With warmer weather on the horizon, there’s no better time to put your skills to the test and perfect the art of pork chops on the grill. An incredibly flavorful, juicy and tender choice, pork chops – with cuts like Porterhouse, Ribeye and New York – are perfect for casual backyard entertaining and easy family dinners alike.

Tips for Tender Chops
Mastering grilled pork chops is easy no matter your skill on the grill. It’s all about selecting the right recipe, preparing the grill correctly and grilling your pork chops like a steak using a digital thermometer to ensure the proper range of doneness – between 145°F (medium rare), followed by a three-minute rest and 160°F (medium). To prep your grill:
• Arrange hot coals evenly on the fire grate of the grill or use all gas burners on medium-hot heat.
• Place pork directly above the heat source.
• Follow suggested cooking times – 3/4 inch chops should be cooked for 8-9 minutes and 1 1/2 inch chops for 12-16 minutes -turning once during cooking.

For a deliciously sweet and spicy recipe like Sweet Fire Pork Chops, seasoned with hot chipotle chile, zesty orange, garlic and sweet honey – choose 3/4-inch Porterhouse (bone-in loin) chops to create your new favorite masterpiece. For a complete meal, serve them with a side of mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed green beans.

Visit www.PorkBeinspired.com to learn about ways you can win with pork and to find more inspiring recipes that will keep your grill hot all summer long.

“Sweet Fire” Porterhouse Pork Chops
Servings: 4

Ingredients
4 Porterhouse (bone-in loin) pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
Grated zest of 1 large orange
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1/3 cup honey

Cooking Directions
In a small bowl, stir oil, ground chipotle, salt, orange zest and garlic together into a paste. Using a rubber spatula, spread chipotle mixture over both sides of pork. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in grill. Place chops on grill and close lid. Grill over direct heat, turning once, about 4-5 minutes per side, until the internal temperature of the pork on a meat thermometer measures between 145°F (medium rare) and 160°F (medium). During the last 2 minutes, brush chops on both sides with honey. Remove from grill and let rest for 3 minutes.

Source: National Pork Board

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Which Upgrades Are Worth It to Help You Sell Your House?

March 26, 2014 2:12 am

Is it finally time to sell your house?

That's the question on homeowners' minds as house prices just posted their largest annual gain since 2005. Congrats to those no longer "underwater" on their mortgages, even as interest rates remain tantalizingly low. But here's the catch: Those same higher prices can make buyers as choosy as a restaurant reviewer.

"A house with a $1,600 mortgage payment last year now has a $2,000 mortgage payment," one broker told the Wall Street Journal. "Buyers are saying, 'I better like it.'"

To increase your home's "like" quotient, read on to see which upgrades are worth making and which aren't.

Worth It: A new front door. Strictly in terms of return on investment, a steel one topped the list of Remodeling magazine's annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2014 - recouping 96.6 percent of the average price. But a fresh coat of paint can work wonders, too.

Not Worth It
: A home-office remodel. We know what you're thinking: With so many more people working from home, wouldn't it be brilliant to rewire the space for electronic equipment, say, and install commercial-grade carpeting? Not really. The magazine gave it the lowest return on investment (48.9 percent), and the guy who oversaw the study says, "Home offices don't sell houses."

Worth It: A back-up power generator. It's the biggest gainer in the study, jumping 28 percent over last year, and plays especially well in areas brutalized by storms.

Not Worth It: Major bathroom work. "You could install the most spectacular jetted tub, and it still might not suit a buyer," says Patsy O'Neill, a sales associate in Montclair, N.J. "Meanwhile, you'd have spent tens of thousands of dollars."

Worth It: Roofing replacement. There's a reason this ultimate "curb appeal" enhancer consistently makes Remodeling's list and is up 11.2 percent over even last year: A roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars, and you can kiss that sale good-bye if yours looks like it's been through hell.

Not Worth It: Major kitchen renovations. Again, the key word is "major," and again it's a "taste" issue.

Source: GAF

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Are in the Dark on the Cost-Effectiveness of Energy Savings from Window Film

March 26, 2014 2:12 am

With climatologists predicting a hotter than normal summer, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) is filling a need in the market as both a consumer resource and a window film advocate by helping to establish National Window Film Day on April 30.

The IWFA released new data from a national survey conducted online by Harris Poll in late February 2014 among 3,034 U.S. adults ages 18+ that reveals the cooling benefits of window film are only familiar to 54 percent of Americans. Window film can make a tremendous impact by regulating interior temperatures and cutting heat transmission through windows in hot, sunny weather and may reduce cooling costs by 30 percent.

"April 30 is being designated to support awareness of window film and to shine a spotlight on the spectrum of benefits it provides consumers," said Darrell Smith, executive director of the nonprofit IWFA. Educational information on National Window Film Day can be accessed at www.iwfa.com.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), cooling and heating accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most consumers. And roughly 40 percent of unwanted heat that builds up in a home comes in through windows, states the DOE.

Window Film has been proven as one of the most cost-effective means of reducing solar heat gain and it provides more natural lighting, to avoid closing shades and turning on electric lighting. However, 53 percent of Americans are unaware that window film allows natural light to enter a home's interior, while offering energy savings, interior comfort and safety. Window film has a wide spectrum of shades, from barely noticeable, to smoky greys that can enhance the aesthetic appeal of windows or increase privacy if desired.

Additionally, 54 percent of Americans are unaware that window film can reduce the sun's harsh glare throughout the home and only 43 percent know that it can reduce the penetration of UV rays through windows by 99 percent. This benefit can reduce the fading of furnishings, artwork and other precious decor due to UV exposure through windows and it may also protect skin and eyes from cancer and cataracts.

Another benefit of window film a majority of Americans are unaware of is its safety properties. Only 27 percent know window film can help hold shattered glass together to reduce the chance of injury due to sharp shards of glass.

Source: International Window Film Association

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18 Trillion Gallons of Water Saved during 20 Years of Low-Flow Toilet Regulations

March 21, 2014 1:12 am

Americans have saved more than 18 trillion gallons of water — roughly the volume of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay — by embracing low-flow toilet technology over the past two decades since the U.S. enacted the 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) that mandated less water per flush, according to the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). That's hard to imagine, but it is enough water to fill 27 million Olympic size swimming pools.

Since 1994, when the 1992 EPAct legislation took effect, innovative toilet technology has transitioned the nation from a water-guzzling 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) to a low-flow 1.6 gpf toilet diet and, more recently, toward high efficiency 1.28 gpf models. In the process, the amount of water consumed has been reduced by more than half, with usage rates down by 54 percent and 63 percent, respectively. These savings have been impactful, as toilets represent the single largest source of water consumption in a home, accounting for nearly one-third of residential water use, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The estimated 18.2 trillion gallons in cumulative water savings that has resulted from the use of low-flow toilets highlights how water conservation policies, such as the 1992 EPAct, impact and help sustain the nation's water supplies, noted Mary Ann Dickinson, president and CEO of Chicago-based AWE, the national nonprofit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water.

"These toilets help save an estimated 4.6 billion gallons of water each and every day in the U.S.," said Dickinson. "When you add in the further water reductions achieved by high efficiency 1.28 gpf toilets, the savings are even more outstanding. Water is the critical resource issue of our time, and smart water conservation policies work to ensure that we have sustainable supplies for the future."

The Road to High-Performing Toilet Technology

During the early 1990s, when water use restrictions first took effect, plumbing product manufacturers struggled to produce low-flow toilets that could effectively remove all waste with only 1.6 gallons of water, prompting frustration among users who resorted to counterproductive double-flushing. However, by 1998, toilet manufacturers had successfully modified flushing systems to remove waste using less water.

As the first decade of low-flow technology drew to a close, a flushing evaluation system would be introduced that changed the industry. Maximum Performance (MaP) testing was implemented in 2003 to measure the amount of solid waste removed per flush. This independent testing program inspired toilet producers to strive for the highest rating of successfully flushing 1,000 grams (2.2 lbs.) of solid waste.

In 2006, to drive even greater water savings, the EPA created WaterSense, a partnership program modeled after the EnergySTAR labeling program to help assure consumers that products will conserve and perform as promised. WaterSense-certified toilets use 20 percent less water than low-flow models, while providing strong flushing power. Commode makers were motivated to create high efficiency toilets (HETs) that used only 1.28 gpf while delivering strong flushing performance.

For homeowners looking to save further on their water bill, make sure all your home’s toilets are low-flow models.

Source: American Standard Brands

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Valuable Fraud Prevention Tips for Homebuyers and Homeowners

March 21, 2014 1:12 am

March is Fraud Prevention Month. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) offers the following tips to protect yourself against becoming a victim of mortgage fraud.

Be an informed consumer! Be wary of anyone who approaches you with an offer to make "easy money" in real estate. Remember: if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Protect yourself and your family from becoming victims of or accomplices to mortgage fraud. This means:

• Never deliberately misrepresent information when applying for a mortgage.

• Never accept money, guarantee a loan or add your name to a mortgage unless you fully intend to purchase the property. If you allow your personal information to be used for a mortgage you could be held responsible for the entire debt if the mortgage defaults.

• Always know who you are doing business with and never sign anything without understanding exactly what you are signing.

• Use licensed or accredited mortgage and real estate professionals.

• Get independent legal advice from your own lawyer/notary and talk to them about title insurance and other methods of protection.

•Contact the local provincial land titles office to obtain the sales history of any property you are thinking about buying and consider having it inspected and appraised. An accredited appraiser will provide the property sales and MLS history.

• Find out from your lawyer if anyone other than the seller has a financial interest in the home or if there are any outstanding liens or tax arrears.

• If a deposit is required, make sure the funds are payable to and held "in trust" by the vendor's realty company or by a lawyer/notary.

You can also help to protect yourself by inspecting your credit report at least annually.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Energize Connecticut Advises Homeowners to Assess and Properly Insulate Their Homes

March 19, 2014 12:39 am

As the winter weather begins to fade and the spring weather moves in, it is the perfect time for homeowners to assess any damage caused by ice dams and properly insulate their homes. Assessing the damage and correcting the insulation will prepare home owners for the cooling season as well as next winter.

One of the biggest obstacles facing many homeowners is improving the energy efficiency of their homes, and improving the insulation is a great way to begin. Sealing and insulating is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a home more comfortable and energy efficient. And with spring's not too hot, not too cold temperatures, this is the best time to get up into the attic to begin.

Don’t procrastinate…insulate! Did you know that nearly half of a home's heat loss is due to poorly insulated attics, ceilings and walls? With proper sealing and insulation, customers can reduce their heating and cooling costs by 20 percent annually.

Many people may not realize that even though they may have insulation in their attics, sealing attic air leaks will enhance the performance of the insulation and make for a much more comfortable home. Most homes in the United States do not have enough insulation and have significant air leaks. In fact, if you add up all the leaks, holes and gaps in a typical home's envelope, it would be the equivalent of having a window open every day of the year.

Common household leaks can include: behind knee walls, attic hatch, wiring holes, plumbing vents, open soffit (the box that hides recessed lights), recessed lights, furnace flue or duct chaseways, basement rim joists, windows and doors.
Sealing leaks and adding insulation will not only help homeowners save money and improve the overall comfort of your home, it will also help to fix many common problems, such as:

• Reduced noise from outside
• Less pollen, dust and insects (or pests) entering your home
• Better humidity control
• Lower chance for ice dams on the roof/eves in snowy climates

For homeowners who are looking for additional savings, homeowners should check with their state and utility companies to find programs that offer complete home energy assessments and insight to those areas of your home that could be driving up your energy bills. A home energy assessment is a major step in determining how much energy a home uses and what improvements can be made to save money and energy.

Source: Energize Connecticut

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Change Up Your Routine

March 19, 2014 12:39 am

(Family Features) Aging gracefully is as much about feeling good on the inside as feeling good on the outside. It's never too late to make changes to reinvent yourself and maximize your mental and physical wellbeing.

Self-improvement is at the top of many women's to-do lists, and doing so can take many forms. According to a recent survey by Post Great Grains Cereal, 73 percent of women said they'd reinvented themselves since they turned 40 by improving their health, finding a new passion or changing their career.

Eighty-three percent of survey participants (women, ages 40-plus) think the greatest obstacle to reaching their full potential is what they think of themselves, rather than what others think of them. Follow these tips to become your own best friend and take steps toward creating a happier, healthier you.

Give proper attention to your diet. A common form of reinvention is improving your eating habits. A balanced diet that promotes a healthy digestive system is an important step in creating a healthier you. Starting each day with a nutritious breakfast is one easy change. Fill your menu with nutrition you can see and wholesome ingredients, such as natural grain cereals, which can have active cultures in addition to whole grains and natural fiber.

Take time to understand yourself. Digging deep to understand your true passions may help reveal a new, more fulfilling path in life, whether it be in the form of new hobbies or even a new career. If you're not sure where to start, begin by making a running list of situations, which capture your attention, such as news articles or engaging conversations. Over time, look for patterns to emerge. Topics or themes rising to the top could signal a special interest you may have overlooked in the past.

Nurture valuable relationships. Knowing (and loving) yourself comes first, but having a strong support system is also important for overall wellbeing. While it's important for women to surround themselves with people who will boost them up, that boost doesn't always have to come from another woman. When they need a good laugh, 59 percent of women in the Great Grains survey said they turn to their significant other. Investing time to strengthen your personal connections improves not only the health of those relationships, but the effects of those relationships on your physical health, as well.

While charting a new path may seem daunting, focusing on your physical and mental health as you work to introduce change into your life can smooth the way to reinventing a better and brighter you.

Source: Post Great Grains

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Better Days Ahead? Millennials Think So

March 18, 2014 12:30 am

Americans today have an increasingly positive view of the current U.S. economy, despite years of economic uncertainty. According to a recent survey of 1,004 U.S. adults, 74 percent feel the economy is better (41 percent) or the same (33 percent) as a year ago. But it is the country's millennial generation that has the best outlook.

According to the latest PulteGroup Home Index Survey (PGHI) by PulteGroup, Inc., one of the nation's largest homebuilders, 54 percent of millennials indicate the economy is better than a year ago. This optimism remains in line with recent Pew Research indicating 49 percent of millennials say the country's best days are ahead. With this increased confidence, nearly three-fourths (74 percent) of millennials view now as an excellent or good time to buy the things they want or need.

"No other cohort of adults is nearly as confident about their economic future as the millennials are right now," said Jim Zeumer, vice president of corporate communications. "This is definitely a change, as millennials have regularly been viewed as the disenfranchised generation vastly affected by the fallout of the recession. But now, with an increased sense of optimism, this generation is starting to feel as though they have the resources available to lead the lives they want or expect to in the future."

Specific to purchasing decisions, the vast majority (85 percent) of millennials plan to purchase a home in the future, with 65 percent preferring to spend more money on a home that is move-in ready compared to doing renovations. Additionally, 49 percent of millennials plan to purchase a home in the next two years. Of those planning to purchase in the near-term, 56 percent are current homeowners and 41 percent are renters. According to the Company's internal data, 41 percent of its homebuyers were millennials.

The survey also indicated that 58 percent of millennials increased their interest in purchasing a home in the past year as the positive attributes of homeownership resonate with this generation. They associate owning a home with happiness (62 percent), independence (61 percent) and achievement (59 percent). Further, millennials view a home as a financial investment (33 percent) and like the thought of calling themselves a homeowner (35 percent).

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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RREIN RC - More Than 4 Million First-Time Buyers Want to Enter the Housing Market in 2014, Buoyed by Strong U.S. Housing Confidence

March 14, 2014 2:27 am

Millions of current renters nationwide aspire to buy a home in the next year, according to the inaugural edition of the Zillow Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI), suggesting strong demand among potential first-time homebuyers if market conditions are favorable. But existing headwinds, including tight inventory, rising mortgage interest rates and growing affordability problems in a handful of areas, may make it difficult for potential buyers to follow through on those aspirations as the market enters the busy spring home shopping season.

In 19 of the 20 large metro areas surveyed, more than 5 percent of all residents indicated they wanted to buy a home in the next year. Among current renters, homeownership aspirations were particularly strong, with about 10 percent of all renters nationwide saying they would like to buy within the next 12 months. The vast majority of these respondents also said they were confident or somewhat confident they could afford homeownership now. If all renters that indicated they wanted to buy actually did purchase a home in the next year, it would represent more than 4.2 million first-time home sales, more than double the roughly 2.1 million first-time homebuyers in 2013.

Homeownership aspirations among current renters were the highest in Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas, three metro areas that were among the hardest-hit by the housing recession, according to the Zillow Homeownership Aspirations Index (ZHAI), a component of the broader ZHCI.

Mortgage interest rates are also on the rise, currently standing at about 4.2 percent nationally, according to the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, well above 2013 lows of roughly 3.3 percent.

"For the housing market to continue its recovery, it is critical that homes are both available and remain affordable to meet the strong demand these survey results are predicting, particularly from first-time homebuyers," said Zillow® Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. "This data shows that the dream of homeownership remains very much alive and well, even in those areas that were hardest hit. But these aspirations must also contend with the current reality, and in many areas, conditions remain difficult for buyers. The market is moving toward more balance between buyers and sellers, but it is a slow and uneven process."

The Zillow Housing Confidence Index, sponsored by Zillow, Inc. and developed by Pulsenomics LLC, is measured on a 0 to 100 scale, with readings above 50 indicating positive sentiment. The overall ZHCI for the U.S. stood at 63.7 at the start of the year. Of the 20 metro areas surveyed, 11 had individual confidence levels higher than the U.S. as a whole. The overall U.S. ZHAI among all households, which measures consumers' plans to buy and their attitudes toward the social value of homeownership, stood at 62.4.

Source: Zillow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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