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

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10 Money-Saving Tips to Turn Regular Back-to-School Shoppers into Savvy Consumers

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

As parents and students prepare to shop for everything they need for the coming school year, PriceGrabber® offers ten money-saving tips you can use to save big.

According to a recent survey, 68 percent plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season," said Sharon Banfield, director of public relations at PriceGrabber. "With a little homework, budgeting, and creativity, shoppers can easily reduce this number and get the most for their buck this year."

1. Take a household inventory. Scan the kitchen, office, bedrooms and the rest of the house for miscellaneous supplies. Take an inventory of the findings and then compare this to your kids' supply lists. The findings will most likely cover many items on the lists.

2. Make a list with a budget and stick to it. When planning a budget for this year's back-to-school shopping, start by making a list and separating "must-have" items from "wants." This doesn't mean you can't indulge in some trendy gear, just shop for necessities first. Take a look at how much you spent last year and challenge yourself to spend less this year.

3. Involve the (older) kids. Turn back-to-school shopping into a family activity by charting out the budget in a creative way with your children. This will help teach them to budget while you bond as a family. However, if you have young kids consider leaving them at home to avoid getting distracted from your shopping list.

4. Host a clothing exchange with other parents. Invite about 12 to 15 parents with children of similar ages, sizes and genders over to exchange kids' clothing. Have guests bring about 10 clean items in good condition so that they can leave with 10 different pieces in similar condition. Even if only a few items fit, everything was still free.

5. Shop online and look for free shipping. Skip the crowds and shop online. Comparison-shopping sites can save consumers money on popular back-to-school items like tablet computers, backpacks, dorm room furniture, and basic school supplies. Look for retailers offering free shipping to save even more.

6. Use your mobile device as a shopping aid. If shopping a brick-and-mortar store sale, use your smartphone to ensure the sale price is really the best deal in town.

7. Shop end-of-summer sales. Stock up on summer clothing which can be worn well into the fall. Sweaters and leggings can be paired with summer shirts and dresses for an easy transition into the cooler months. Microwaves, storage bins, tool kits and other dorm room must-haves are also a part of the summer clearance sales.

8. Follow your favorite shopping sites on social media. Be the first to know about special offers from your favorite retailers and shopping sites. Some retailers may offer exclusive back-to-school discount codes or coupons.

9. Buy in bulk. Pencils, markers, printer paper and other supplies are always in high demand. Spend a little more money now and buy large quantities, which will give you cheaper supplies needed later in the year.

10. Personalize. Jazz up inexpensive, plain school supplies such as notebooks and folders with stickers. Let your student get creative and personalize their items so they don't get mixed up with other students' supplies. There's a better chance you won't have to spend money on lost items later in the year.

Source: PriceGrabber®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(Family Features) As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a recent survey, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, there are ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards

Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards

Use the rewards programs available to credit card holders to cash in on things your family really needs. Whatever rewards you are seeking, there is likely to be a card suitable for you.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It’s never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. Calculate your income and expenses and set your monthly budget. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking your spending will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.

Source: BOA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Securing Your Summer Home for the End of the Season

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Many homeowners close their home by shutting the door, locking it and setting the alarm. If you own a home that you won’t be living in for months at a time, this simply isn’t enough to guarantee security.

According to Chris Falkenberg, a former U.S. Secret Service Agent and president of Insite Security, an unprecedented amount of people fail to take the necessary steps to ensure their homes are properly protected for the fall and winter months. While working with clients and companies on risk preparedness and physical security planning, Falkenberg suggests the following tips for keeping homes safe while you’re away.

Have a Professional Check Your Alarm
Having a professional check your alarm system on an annual basis can help ensure that you are never prone to failures when your safety and security is on the line. A trusted and experienced electronic security installer will be able to assess your system prior to closing the house up for the season to determine if any part should be replaced in a preventative nature. “Like any other electrical component, alarms will fail as some parts simply wear out. You don’t want them to fail when you need them most,” says Falkenberg.

Close Contacts
If your alarm is set off, someone needs to be alerted that something is awry at your home. If you live too far away to travel to the home yourself, having a family friend or contact in the community that is available on short notice to go to the house and open the door for police is a must. Police can then conduct outside inspections and look for indoor damage from water or excessive cold and hot temperatures. Your alarm will detect the problems but it is the response to those signals and the further analysis that gives the alarms their best value.

Assess Fire Risk before Leaving
Fires are a huge risk to summer homes. It’s extremely important to make a thorough assessment of fire risk, both as to what equipment can be put in the house to prevent fire and also what kind of insurance coverage you should have if a fire does occur in a closed summer home. Falkenberg recommends having your insurance placed into effect by an independent agent who writes insurance for many different carriers and one who will make sure that all your valuables are covered. You don’t want to find out that you weren’t adequately covered after an incident occurs.

One fire risk that is always an issue is turpentine, other types of flammable cleaning liquids and the rags used for cleaning and finishing, says Falkenberg. Homeowners often leave dirty rags and flammable objects around to spontaneously combust. Though the risk has been known forever, it’s a common mistake often overlooked. Be aware of this if you are renovating, and make sure the contractor is cognizant of this as well.

Install a Sprinkler System if Possible
If you are building a new summer house, installing a residential sprinkler system is a smart idea. Sprinklers can greatly reduce the risk of fire, however, because they cannot be turned off remotely or electronically. They can also be a prime source of water damage. Have an important contact ready on call, and make sure they know where the water values are to shut off the system.

Other Measures Do Not Replace Strong Locks
Just because you have an alarm system doesn’t mean you should neglect having strong locks in place. Secure your home with extra deadbolt locks prior to closing. For houses with lots of glass exposure, consider security window film to make it harder to break.

“The important thing to take away is that this is a starting point—a series of things to think about when trying to consider security risk and mitigating that risk,” says Falkenberg. “People need to focus on themselves and then make sure their security is squared away, or alternatively, get somebody who knows a lot about security to help advise them or safeguard them while they’re away.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Save Cash with These Summer Cooling Tips

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Although we seem to be nearing the end of the summer, there's still plenty of heat left, and it's important to stay cool and safe these last few weeks. Why not save a little money in the process?

Although the weather can impact your energy use, there are some simple ways to lower your electric bill.

The average homeowner spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs, with summer cooling contributing a large part to the total. Of all your summer electric use, air conditioning is the number one cause of higher energy bills.

But whether you run air conditioning or fans to prevent that hot-weather meltdown, the following tips, provided by DTE Energy, will help you stay comfortable without overloading your checking account:

• Increase your thermostat setting. For every degree you increase your thermostat above 72 degrees, you'll reduce your cooling costs by up to 3 percent. Better yet, install a programmable thermostat and let it automatically adjust the setting for you – and apply for a $10 rebate! Find out how at dteenergy.com/energystar.

• Change or clean your furnace filter once a month. A dirty filter restricts airflow and can cause your air condition unit to run longer. Vacuum registers and vents regularly, and don't let furniture and draperies block the air flow.

• Use ceiling fans to assist your air conditioning. Set them to run counter-clockwise (or downward air flow), which provides better air circulation. Remember to turn them off when you leave the room.

• Close blinds, draperies and shades on windows facing the sun to block out the heat, and wait until cooler times of the day to run your dishwasher or clothes dryer.

• Have your central air conditioning unit tuned-up by a professional, plus clear away weeds and debris so that air can circulate freely around the unit.

• One last tip – Be sure to drink plenty of fluids in hot weather and enjoy the summer!

Source: DTE Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Take Time to Tackle Home Maintenance

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(Family Features) Keeping a healthy home for your family means more than daily chores and the occasional deep cleaning. It’s important to add inspections of often overlooked areas and regular maintenance to your list of tasks.

“Every home can have unhealthy, harmful, or even hazardous areas,” said Mike Holmes, a contractor on HGTV and healthy home expert. “It’s important to check them out, especially during regular maintenance. Addressing these ‘hidden hazards’ helps create a healthy home and keeps your family safe.”

Holmes recommends following his “SAFETY” checklist:

S - Seek out lead in the home.
If your home was built before 1978, it could contain lead. If you disturb any material that contains lead, tiny lead particles could become airborne at home. Talk to a professional to test the entire house, and take the necessary steps to ensure your family’s safety.

A - Address indoor air quality and change your air filter.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution levels can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor levels. Use an electrostatically charged air filter to help capture odors and airborne particles, such as mold spores, dust mite debris, bacteria and viruses. Plus, changing your filter at the start of every season helps protect and maintain your system.

F - Fix leaks to prevent mold and mildew.
Mold spores need moisture to grow and thrive in warm, humid conditions. Inspect your home for excess water and moisture build-up from leaky roofs, faucets, basement drains, dishwashers and washing machines, and fix them immediately.

E - Exercise caution around appliances.
Before using appliances such as space heaters and toaster ovens, make sure they are working properly. Never drape an electrical cord over a sink. Also avoid overloading wiring or plugging too many appliances into a single wall socket. Be sure to unplug appliances when they’re not being used, and cover sockets with outlet protectors.

T - Test for dangerous gases.
One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. has dangerous levels of radon, according to the EPA. You can purchase a short-term home radon test for less than $20. Test the lowest lived-in level of your home, and if you have elevated levels of radon, call a qualified contractor immediately. Also, test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every month by pushing the test button on the unit. Remember to change the batteries every season, and replace the entire unit every 7 to 10 years.

Y - Yield healthier results with regular upkeep.

Keep up with regular home maintenance to help keep your home healthy and your family safe. Fix small problems now to avoid big repairs later. Remember, big repairs come with big price tags and can lead to unhealthy and unsafe living conditions.

Source: 3M

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Keep a Speeding Ticket Out of Your Summer

August 8, 2013 2:30 am

(BPT) - Want to know how to avoid a speeding ticket? Easy - don't speed. But even the most law-abiding drivers with flawless records can make mistakes and find themselves pulled over. In fact, 34 million people in the United States receive speeding tickets each year, according to the National Motorists Association.

A ticket can raise insurance rates and tarnish your driving record, according to FindLaw.com. If you get arrested or fined for other traffic violations, those tickets can lead to stiffer fines and penalties.

"The big rule of speeding tickets is that most come at the discretion of the police officers involved," says Don Cosley, a criminal defense attorney of the Cosley Law Office in Chicago. "Unless the officers are working a state or federal grant where they are required to issue traffic tickets, how you interact with a police officer will play a considerable role in whether you drive away with a warning or a ticket."

"Always cooperate with law enforcement officers," Cosley says. "They've heard every excuse in the book. If you immediately start arguing or making smart comments, your chances of driving away with a ticket increase."

Here are some additional tips from FindLaw.com on how to avoid a speeding ticket:

• Watch for posted speed limit signs. According to a 2013 survey by Insurance.com, the top excuse for speeding is, "I didn't see the sign." The safest way to avoid a speeding ticket is to carefully watch posted signs and not exceed the limit. Even five miles per hour over the speed limit can land you a ticket - particularly near schools, road construction zones and other hotspots where police try to increase safety.

• Give yourself plenty of time. If you're running late, you're more likely to speed. One simple trick you can do to build in some travel time is to set your house clocks a few minutes ahead. Remember, you'll arrive even later if you get pulled over.

• Keep a clean driving record. Police cars are often equipped with computer systems that allow law enforcement to instantly look up your driving record. A driver with a clean record is more likely to be let off with a warning than one with several traffic violations.

• Stay off your cell phone. Cell phone use is legal in some states and illegal in others, but distracted driving should always be avoided. If you are observed speeding and using your phone at the same time, it will dramatically boost your odds of driving away with a ticket, rather than a warning, and it may increase fines associated with the violation.

• Avoid speed traps. Speed limits typically drop when you approach a small town or city. That's prime real estate for speed traps. Police often use highway overpasses, bridges or medians with a clear view of oncoming traffic to hunt for speeders.

• Don't stand out. Drivers who go too fast, swerve or aggressively pass other drivers are more likely to draw the attention of the police.

• Move over. After using the left lane to pass a car, move back over to the right lane. Cars that continue to pass other cars while in the left lane are easy targets for police. Also keep in mind that in some states, the left lane is only for passing.

• Cooperate with the police officer. Being cooperative and respectful toward the police officer who pulls you over is one of the best ways to avoid a speeding ticket. It also can help defuse a potentially stressful situation. If you are pulled over, start by turning off your car, put away your cell phone and place your keys on the dashboard and your hands on the wheel in the 10 and 2 o'clock position to show the officer that you aren't doing anything illicit before he or she arrives. Taking off your sunglasses also can be a show of respect. If it's nighttime, turn on the interior lights of your car.

• Save your arguments for traffic court. If you believe you don't deserve a speeding ticket, take your argument to court. Don't argue it with a police officer at the scene.

Source: FindLaw.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Quickly Sell Your Home

August 8, 2013 2:30 am

Why do some houses sell faster than others? Same house, same number of bedrooms, same size garden, same street. The difference? The house down the road is presented properly for a quick turnaround.

You must present your property in the best possible light. That means present it as you would wish to see it for the very first time. Let's start at the first thing a potential buyer will see - the front of the house. Is the gate hanging off the hinges? Is the path/driveway covered in weeds?

Does the front door need a lick of paint? Do the windows need cleaning? Whatever the season you're selling a house, there's always stuff to do, so get them done! First impressions count; don't put off your potential buyer before they've even got through the front door.

In the living room, make sure the TV is turned off, cushions plumped up, carpet vacuumed, toys and general stuff put away, the room freshly aired and flowers somewhere in the room. The living room, as with all rooms, should be freshly decorated and de-cluttered.

Next move on to the kitchen - the most important room in the house! Get it spotless. All dishes should be cleaned and put away, the table set, and the floor polished. Show that you have pride in your kitchen and that it’s an important room in the house. The smell of coffee or freshly baked bread or cut flowers always works as a treat.

The back yard should also be kept tidy. Make sure all toys and bikes are hidden away in the garage or shed, have the grass freshly cut and all weeds removed, and make sure the garden furniture is clean and well presented. And hide any gnomes!

Back in the house, the master bedroom should show with fresh clean linen and curtains open to give as much light as possible. Do the same with the kids’ rooms and again, hide any clutter, take down all the One Direction posters and make sure the bedrooms don't have any lingering smells.

Use these simple tips to help you sell your house quicker than your neighbor. Do these and more if you can and you will soon be shaking hands with your buyer.

Source: Flying Homes Ltd

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Top Ten Reasons Your Property Isn't Hurricane-Ready

August 8, 2013 2:30 am

If you used the plywood from your hurricane shutters to build a tree house there’s a good chance you aren’t hurricane-ready.

If hurricane season is anything like last year, being prepared is paramount. State Farm is reminding property owners that a little preparation can make a big difference when it comes to safety and security.

Is your property hurricane-ready? If you identify with a majority of our top ten list, you may not be ready:

1. Your roof is in poor condition and the shingles are questionable.
2. Your house has large trees looming over it and branches ready to fall.
3. There are none of those famous “hurricane straps” on your trusses or rafters.
4. The house was never bolted down to the foundation.
5. The plywood that’s supposed to serve as hurricane shutters was used to build a tree house.
6. Your six foot-wide patio doors rattle every time the wind blows.
7. The wind brace for your garage door is holding up a bird feeder.
8. The stuff in your yard; patio furniture, solid fence, pool cage, etc. is ready to sail away in the wind.
9. You have no emergency power system (generator).
10. You forgot to meet with your agent to review your homeowners coverage.

Forecasters expect to see above-average hurricane activity between now and November. The peak of hurricane season begins in August. Homeowners can protect themselves and their property with a few easy steps:

Review your insurance coverage. Make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance.

Create a home inventory. Make a list of your possessions and their estimated value.

Protect your property. Stock plywood and materials you may need to board up windows. Move garbage cans and other large objects inside the house or garage. Secure boats and cars.

Have an evacuation plan. Before the hurricane, decide what you will do. Find out the location of evacuation shelters. Determine if you will ride out the storm in your home (if local authorities permit you to stay), or establish a safe place inland. Plan an escape route. Tell relatives where you will be.

Source: State Farm

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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4 Tips for the Buyer of a Previously Owned Home

August 7, 2013 2:26 am

Purchasing homes with a history can present some unique issues, especially if they are not visible to the average homebuyer. Sewer-related problems are potentially one of the most expensive and least evident of those issues. When shopping for a new home, outdated or broken appliances, peeling paint or dirty carpet are a lot easier to spot than plumbing issues. And, while a standard home inspection will cover some of the basics like water damage and water heater safety, other common plumbing problems often go unseen. Potential sewage and drain issues may lurk beneath the surface, unbeknownst to the buyer.

Here are four tips for buyers:

1. If it happened once, it will happen again. It is extremely likely that a home would have an ongoing history of sewer-related issues. According to Roto-Rooter Director of Plumbing Services, Larry Rothman, “In fact, it's almost a certainty. Some customers require sewer cleaning every six months, while others need us on an annual basis or every two years. The roots from the same problem tree will continue to grow back as long as the sewer pipe has voids and loose joints that allow the roots to get inside the pipe and the problem almost always gets worse over time, requiring more frequent cleanings to keep the roots under control because pipes will shift within the soil causing misalignment between sections.”

2. Sump pump problems may not be evident unless there has been a fair amount of rain. Not all basement homes have sump pumps, but most ought to have them to prevent basement flooding. Sump pumps are now a normal requirement in most new building codes for basement homes, but older homes were not subject to the new, stricter codes and the vast majority of older basements are at risk for some level of basement flooding if rainfall is particularly heavy and the ground around the foundation becomes saturated.

Rothman says, “An inspection of the plumbing, particularly the sump system, water heater and sewer line could potentially save a prospective homebuyer a great deal of money, potentially thousands of dollars.”

3. A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection. Homebuyers regularly waive this extra inspection in the purchasing process because it requires an additional cost of anywhere from $250 to $550. Additionally, many buyers do not know that responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality. Whatever the reason for skipping a sewer line inspection, buyers should reevaluate foregoing this important step in signing a deal. If a problem exists, excavation could be required costing thousands of dollars after the home has already been purchased. “Sewer inspection camera equipment is expensive and often is only utilized by well equipped plumbing companies, but the video inspection service itself is easy to complete and well worth the extra step,” said Rothman.

4. Sellers do not have to disclose information about plumbing problems. Ask questions! Know when the home was built; if it is 25 years old or older, it is more likely to have nonplastic pipes that are at least somewhat deteriorated and more susceptible to root entry. Take note of mature trees, visible root growth and cracked concrete and ask if they are related to any persistent pipe problems.

The benefits of purchasing a previously owned home can be wonderful. However, some of the things a buyer loves most about an older home, the charm, older fixtures, the mature landscaping, can all be indicators of potentially costly problems for the plumbing system below the surface. Homebuyers may be focused on kitchen designs, interior paint or landscaping, overlooking the possibility of serious plumbing problems. In fact, about 44 percent of people purchasing homes call a plumber for one reason or another within the first year at their new residence. Simply avoid any unpleasant surprises before it is too late by being thorough in the inspection and buying phase. Ask the right questions and prevent the added cost of repairs down the road.

Source: Roto-Rooter

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Driving with Dogs: Tips to Keep Everyone in the Car Safe

August 7, 2013 2:26 am

(BPT) - It's only natural for man's best friend to stay close by his master's side, but for dog owners who drive frequently, bringing Fido along for the ride can be risky. The problem is particularly worrisome for older drivers; a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham showed that for people 70 years and older, crash rates were higher among those who frequently drove with pets in the car. But for many drivers, leaving precious pets behind isn't an option. The best compromise is to find solutions that will get you from point A to point B without compromising the safety of human or animal passengers.

Distracted driving is a growing concern and a loose pet in the car certainly numbers among the potential hazards that can take your eyes - and mind - off the road and lead to accidents. While older drivers might not be as likely to be distracted by texting or smartphone surfing, even those who have spent many years navigating the roads need to honestly assess how having a pet in the car can divert their attention away from the road.

To stay safe on the road when Fido is with you, remember these tips:

• Don't allow pets in the front seats. Having a pet sit on your lap is obviously distracting, but if he's in the front passenger seat, the problem can be just as bad. In the front seat, your pet is more likely to be within your line of sight and obstruct your view of the road. An unrestrained dog in the front seat could also be easily injured if you have to slam on the brakes or swerve, or are hit from behind. The force with which airbags deploy also poses a safety hazard for dogs in the front seat - if you're in an accident and they inflate and hit your dog, he could easily sustain an injury.

• Create separation. There are a variety of pet barriers on the market that can keep your pet from moving between the front and back seats of your car. Installing a barrier will help keep your pet out of your way and diminish concerns about him being propelled forward in case you have to make a sudden stop.

• Restrain your pet. There are a number of options for pet restraints in your vehicle. Pet seatbelts and car seats will help keep a dog safely in place. Keeping a crate in the car is also a good option. Make sure it's secured and large enough so that he can stand up, turn around and comfortably sit or lay down. Add a soft pad in the bottom of the crate and it might just become your pet's favorite way to travel.

• Brush up on your driving skills. Today's driving environment is probably very different than it was when you first got your license. A refresher course, like those offered by AARP Driver Safety, is an ideal way to ensure that your skills are up to date. Brushing up on defensive driving techniques and the essential rules of the road will help keep everyone in your car safe - and you may even qualify for a multi-year automobile insurance discount from your insurance company (check with your agent for details). AARP Driver Safety courses are available in a classroom or online setting, in both English and Spanish.

Source: www.aarp.org/drive

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