RE/MAX 440
Diane Minguez
dminguez@remax.net
Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
PH: 267-575-6818
O: 215-362-2260
C: 267-575-6818
F: 267-354-6882 
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Traffic Infractions: Their Severity and Impact on Insurance Rates

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

Traffic infractions can vary from minor to very serious and how an insurance company rates them varies as well. Drivers should know how these types of infractions affect premiums and when to shop around for a better rate.

When a driver is given a ticket, it may cause an increase in premiums depending on the type. It may also cause a much higher increase if it is a major or serious infraction. Even with a serious infraction you can still shop for a better insurance rate as there are insurance companies who cater to this market specifically.

Minor Infractions Mean Smaller Increases
Drivers can generally expect that an insurance company will raise rates for some of the following, treating them as minor infractions:

• Speeding tickets for speeds less than 49 km/hr over (this may vary)
• Running a red light or stop sign
• Failure to obey a traffic sign
• Failure to signal before making a turn or changing lanes
• Following too closely (tailgating)

Most minor infractions will cause some type of increase. However, there are a few minor infractions that may not result in an increase at all, depending on the insurance company’s rules. An example of these would be a parking violation or a red light camera ticket.

Major Infractions Result in Higher Rates
Drivers can expect to see heftier increases on their insurance premiums in the event of a major traffic infraction. These infractions are considered more serious than a minor infraction and result in a higher insurance increase. Again, there are no hard and fast rules for what an insurance company will define as a major infraction, but the following will often make the list:

• Speeding tickets for speeds more than 50 km/hr over (again, this may vary)
• Speeding in a school zone
• Driving while uninsured
• Passing a school bus with red lights flashing

When a driver receives a ticket for a major infraction, odds are good their insurance will rise in accordance with the severity of the violation. Of course, each insurance company makes their own determination on rate increases and on what is considered a major offence.

Serious Infractions Mean Serious Consequences
A serious infraction is not just serious to insurance rates but can have legal consequences as well. These might include large fines, loss of driver’s license or even jail time. They are considered serious because they are usually very dangerous actions that could put lives in danger and in some cases have already caused injuries or death. Some of the actions that fall into this category include:

• Careless or dangerous driving
• Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Vehicular manslaughter
• Assault with a vehicle
• Failing to stop after an accident
• Failing to stop for a police officer
• Illegal street racing

Drivers who face these kinds of violations are often not thinking about their insurance rates at first and it may come as a surprise later when the rate increase occurs.

No matter the type of infraction, insurance companies can only charge an increased rate for a specific amount of time. This is generally three years (from the date of conviction, not the date that you got the ticket) but may vary from company to company. Be prepared by knowing exactly when the infraction will fall off and follow up on it. Some insurance companies will leave the increase in rate on the policy until the next renewal date. A new company, however, may not be bound by this, so be sure to take the time to shop around.

Source: InsuranceHotline.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Winterize Your Yard and Garden

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.

"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for a power tools manufacturing company. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."

• Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.

• Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.

• Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.

• Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.

• Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn – not spring – is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.

• Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.

• Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.

• Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.

• Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.

• Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.

• Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden.

Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter and thrive for seasons to come.

For more information, visit www.troybilt.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Are You Covered? Five Tips for Roof Replacement Projects

September 23, 2013 1:09 am

(BPT)—Summer storms are a reminder to make certain your roof is well-equipped to help provide protection from Mother Nature. Considering a roof replacement? Follow these tips for outstanding performance, increased curb appeal and enhanced comfort for your family.

1. Check the warning signs
One of the best ways to stay in front of a roof replacement is to look for small annoyances that could eventually turn into big problems. Do a thorough investigation, but remember to practice ladder safety. Look for discoloration, cracking, uneven surfaces, curled and missing shingles and stains on the underside of the roof deck when viewed from the attic and excessive amounts of granules in the gutter, which fall from shingles and expose the asphalt underneath. If any warning signs are evident, it's time to get in touch with a contractor to assess your roof's condition and discuss replacement.

2. Choose a complete roofing system
When most people think about roof replacements, they think shingles. While shingles add beauty and character to a home's exterior, it's important to understand that they're only the first line of defense in protecting your home from the elements. For true peace of mind, your roof should consist of high-quality shingles and underlayment products to help guard against severe weather outside, as well as ventilation products that balance airflow to control temperature and humidity inside.

"A high-performance roof needs to include components and layers that are specifically designed to work as one system for outstanding protection," says Carl Baca, director of strategic marketing for Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt.

3. Select your contractor wisely
Finding a skilled and reputable professional who will be able to guide you through the roof replacement process from start to finish is key. It may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn't have to be. Begin by looking for preferred contractors on roofing manufacturers' websites. Ask trusted friends and neighbors for recommendations. Then, obtain quotes from multiple contractors and ask for references. Insist on someone who is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, holds at least $1 million in general liability insurance and carries all required state and local licensing. The best contractor for the job will be specifically certified to install the roofing components you've selected and possess both a dedication to outstanding craftsmanship and knowledge of the latest industry standards and technologies.

4. Plan for the future
Replacing a roof can be a significant investment, so make sure it's protected with a strong warranty. If you've installed a roofing system, ask your contractor about adding on a warranty that covers the system of components.

5. Don't hesitate to insulate
While your roof is being replaced, consider adding another layer of protection to the top of your home. Ask your contractor to assess your insulation levels when he's in the attic inspecting the underside of your roof. When installed in an attic, loosefill insulation contributes to energy savings and helps control interior temperatures for a comfortable living environment. This could be a DIY project, but many contractors are specifically certified to install insulation - making it an easy add-on to your roofing project.

Source: www.OwensCorning.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Move Lower

September 20, 2013 1:09 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving lower amid signs of a weakening economic recovery, which in part also prompted the Federal Reserve (Fed) to continue its bond buying program. Mortgage rates have increased more than one percentage point since early May when speculation about Fed tapering began.

Findings:

-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.50 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending September 19, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.57 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.54 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.59 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.77 percent.

-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.11 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.22 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.76 percent.

-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.65 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.67 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.61 percent.

"Mortgage rates drifted downwards this week amid signs of a weakening economic recovery. Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, which was nearly half of July's 0.4 percent increase. In addition, industrial production in August grew 0.4 percent, less than the market consensus forecast. And lastly, consumer sentiment fell for the second consecutive month in September to the lowest reading since April,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

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Warm Up the Fall Season with Seasonal Paint Color and Decor Trends

September 20, 2013 1:09 am

Ace Hardware announced its top paint color and décor trends for fall 2013, chosen by Ace's panel of design experts. Nature-inspired color palettes and décor are trending this season to reflect the changing colors of the outdoors; rich shades of red, auburn and pumpkin paired with warm neutrals such as mocha and chocolate will be accented by deep jewel tones in shades of emerald, purple, deep pink and blue.
"Fall is the perfect time to paint and redecorate your home in order to get a head start on the busy holiday entertaining season," said Katie Reynolds, one of the design experts.

Based off of the season's most anticipated design trends, experts have selected the following colors for fall 2013:

Jewel tones, including emerald green, will continue to be popular this season. Ground these pops of color with neutral hues.

Equestrian palettes with warm hues will be on trend, especially when paired with brass, leather and wood décor accents.

Give the kitchen a quick makeover with a bold cabinet facelift. Try a rich shade of dark brown and add accents of red and pink for a touch of drama.

To give a room a rich, masculine feel, use shades of darker green and blue. Add gold accents in the form of a lamp or mirror to complement these darker shades.

Inspired by the beautiful fall colors in nature, shades of auburn are a great way to bring seasonal outdoor tones inside.

Once the colors are selected, the following fall décor tips are recommended to freshen up homes this season:

Look outdoors for inspiration -- nature-inspired graphic details will be a big trend. A faux bois design on an entry floor is a stunning, unique way to welcome guests into the home.

Kitchens are getting more cozy and rustic this season. After a run of modern countertops, handmade tiles and weathered flooring will regain popularity and offer a more timeless feel.

Use grayed out wood tones throughout the home to show off wood grain. These tones work well as flooring, dining tables or even smaller accent pieces for a distinct, on-trend look.

Natural elements such as branches or stones are becoming increasingly popular as unique art displays. Display a branch or stone on a bookcase for a designer touch.

Look for products that show some life this fall. Handmade accent tiles, vintage items, distressed wood flooring and reclaimed materials are very popular this season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Can Certain Colors Make Kids Smarter?

September 20, 2013 1:09 am

Yes, it's true - certain paint colors can enhance learning. While parents may not have much control over the colors in their kids' classrooms, they can certainly make sure the study area in the home is conducive to learning. Dunn-Edwards, a supplier of low and Zero VOC paints, provides paint for thousands of schools and universities throughout the Southwest, often consulting on color.

"The best palette is a range of colors using lighter hues with deeper accents to provide a stimulating environment," explained Dunn-Edwards color expert Sara McLean. "For example, a softened, sage green paired with a pop of orange catches the eye without being overwhelming. Creating a monotone color scheme tends to not work for children, as the lack of color doesn't engage the senses." She points out that nature-based greens create an atmosphere of calm and restfulness, therefore, easier places to study and learn.

Productivity or creativity? Choose your paint color. Softened yellows are cheery and warm, and if not too bright, yellow can assist in productivity. Blues tend to be spa-like and restful, and reminders of oceans and tranquility; studies have shown that blue rooms assist in more creativity. Violets and softened lavenders also are shown to engage children in increasing their creative senses.

Young children tend to be attracted to warm, bright colors. "Parents and teachers can see that just by looking down the toy aisles and looking at the brighter toys for young age groups. As children age, they grow to an interest towards pastels in elementary school to brighter medium-cool colors in middle school," McLean points out. "In high school, darker colors are preferred and there is less preference for primary colors."

If parents have any input on colors in school rooms, opt for blues, greens, violet and turquoise.

"Classrooms should incorporate a variety of colors to reduce the monotony and increase mental acuity. Warm colors tend to make large spaces feel more intimate, while cool colors make smaller rooms appear larger. By moderating the use between warm and cool, a classroom environment can make a child feel engaged without feeling overly stimulated," she added.

Source: Dunn-Edwards

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After the Storm: Tips for Filing Insurance Claims

September 19, 2013 1:03 am

In the wake of a storm, homeowners may have questions about what damages are covered by insurance.

While each insurance policy differs, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine offers the following examples of what is and is not covered in a typical homeowner's policy:
  • Flood damage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program and takes 30 days to become effective. If your flooding was related to sewage backup, ask your insurance agent or carrier if an endorsement for sewer backup coverage was added to your homeowner's policy. If so, your losses may be covered if the water damage was caused by sewer lines backing up through your home's drain pipes.
  • Auto damage. If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, the damages sustained from flooding will be covered.
  • Power outages. Generally, there is no coverage for damage or a loss caused by a power outage if the source of the power outage did not occur on the insured premises. However, if the source of the power outage occurred on the insured premises, there is coverage.
  • Removal of trees and branches. The removal of downed trees and/or debris may be covered if there is damage to a covered structure or if state government declares the area where the damage occurred is a disaster area.
  • Additional living expenses. There may be an allowance for offsite housing until your home is repaired. Keep all your bills and payments made for offsite housing.
After you contact your insurance company, take pictures of the damage and log your expenses:
  • Do not throw away your damaged property and do not make any permanent repairs. Your claim could be denied if the insurance company or adjuster is unable to see the extent of the damage to your property. If you do make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied.
  • Be wary of anyone who knocks at your door and offers to do your home repairs. Natural disasters can be a magnet for scam artists.
  • Know your options when working with a property claims adjuster. You have the option of working with a company-appointed adjuster or you may choose to use a public adjuster to assist you in filing your claim. Be aware that public adjusters will charge a fee for their services.
  • Be sure you are working with a reputable, dependable contractor. Make sure your home-improvement contractors are licensed.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance

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Ladder Dos and Don'ts for Fall Maintenance

September 17, 2013 12:57 am

With homeowners clambering up ladders to paint, clean gutters and perform other fall chores, the autumn months can be an especially dangerous time

Ladders play a big role in thousands of accidents around the home. A Consumer Reports analysis of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission found more than 160 deaths and 170,000 injuries related to ladders in 2007, the latest year for which full data is available. And over the past five years, more than 500,000 ladders have been recalled "due to fall hazards."

The following dos and don’ts will help keep you safe while you are performing chores that involve the use of a ladder this season.

Inspection and maintenance
-Keep ladders clean and dry. Wipe the ladder off after each use to prevent deterioration.
Wear and tear can cause a ladder to fail. Check all types—aluminum, fiberglass and wood—for cracks, dents and missing components.
-Tighten reinforcing rods beneath steps and hinges, and check the lanyard on an extension ladder for deterioration.

Getting ready
-Set up your ladder on a firm, level surface. Use leg-levelers if necessary. Never stack objects, such as lumber or stones, beneath a ladder leg to level it.
-Lean a straight or extension ladder against a wall or other even, fixed object—never against a narrow tree or surface that cannot support both of the side rails.
-Set up an extension ladder with the base 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 feet the ladder reaches up- that's 3 feet at the base for a 12-foot ladder, or roughly a 75-degree angle.
-Use your stepladder only in the open, A-shaped position, never when folded. Make sure the spreaders are fully open and locked.
-Be sure that your extension ladder extends 3 feet beyond the roofline or work surface.
-When raising any extension ladder, be mindful of overhead power lines and other hazards.
-Before climbing, inspect the area where you'll be working for insect and bird nests. Check the area from below with a pair of binoculars.

Ups and downs
-Use the right ladder for the job. Always select a height that doesn't require you to reach up or out in a way that destabilizes the ladder; keep your belt buckle centered between the rails. Don't use a stepladder to get to the roof.
-When doing electrical work or working near an electrical power line, use only a wooden or fiberglass ladder. And remember that any ladder can conduct electricity when it's wet.
-Don't allow anybody else on the ladder with you.
-Climb and descend slowly, facing the ladder and holding the side rails with both hands (keep tools in a tool belt).
-Keep both feet on the ladder and center your weight between the rails at all times.
-Don't try to move the ladder when you're standing on it or try to "walk" it into a new position.
-Don't step above the labeled maximum height. Beyond that point, the odds of an accident increase significantly.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Routine Eye Exams Could Save More than Your Sight

September 17, 2013 12:57 am

(Family Features) Regular eye exams are crucial to more than just good vision. They can also aid in early detection of health problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This is possible because the eye is a unique window into one’s overall health. It’s the only place in the body where, without surgery, medical professionals can see blood vessels, arteries and a cranial nerve.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye care professional will use drops to view the back of your eyes to check for damage or disease. There are several different eye conditions and diseases your eye doctor will be looking for during an exam, including but not limited to the following:

Diabetic Eye Disease: This disease occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. It is the most common cause of blindness.

Dry Eye: This occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly. It can make it difficult to perform some activities, including reading or using a computer for an extended period of time.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: AMD for people aged 50 and over in the U.S. has increased by 25 percent over the last decade. The disease causes dim images or black holes at the center of vision. AMD rarely causes complete blindness, but there is currently no cure.

While annual eye exams are critical to your overall health routine, if you’re among the 50 million households in the United States without access to vision insurance, it’s tempting to forgo when cost is an issue. For those without vision insurance, the only options were to work for an employer that offered vision coverage, pay out-of-pocket or simply go without.

Even if you think your vision is fine and your eyes are healthy, an eye exam is the only way to be sure. Annual eye exams are an important part of your overall health routine. Remember, vision care isn’t just about seeing well – it’s about being well.

Source: VSP Vision Care

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Tips for Dealing with Fall Allergies

September 17, 2013 12:57 am

Many Americans associate summer with "hay fever," a popular term for allergy symptoms caused by pollen and other air-borne outdoor allergens. But if you think allergy season ends with the onset of cooler weather, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Allergy symptoms can last well into fall, often until the first frost occurs. And according to COIT Cleaning and Restoration company, it is important for people who suffer with fall allergies to minimize the presence of allergens in their homes.

"Plant pollens can persist well into fall, and ragweed pollen is no exception," said Bob Kearn, president and CEO of COIT. Ragweed is one of the most prevalent plant-related allergens present in our environment. "These pollens enter homes on clothing, footwear, and even pets, and can especially be a problem once we start closing windows, trapping allergens indoors and preventing the circulation of fresh air through the home."

According to The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 75 percent of people who are allergic to spring pollen-producing plants are also allergic to ragweed. Ragweed typically begins pollinating in August, but the process can continue well into fall, which is why it is a problem for fall allergy sufferers. Ragweed pollen can travel hundreds of miles and cause problems even in regions where the plant's growth is less prevalent.

Mold, which thrives in damp areas both indoors and outdoors, can take hold in basements, bathrooms, and near leaky pipes. In the fall, piles of damp, raked leaves can become breeding grounds for mold, and mold spores, like ragweed, can become airborne.

Once ragweed, mold spores, and other allergens (such as dust mites) enter the home, they can be ground into carpets and furniture and can circulate through the indoor environment when the furnace is turned on in colder weather.

COIT recommends a number of steps to minimize the presence of fall allergens in the homes of allergy sufferers. Regular laundering of clothing (including outdoor wear) is critical. Bathe pets regularly, and ask family members and guests to remove footwear before entering the home. You can put a small sign near the door with a boot tray beneath it and provide clean slippers for use in the house. Wash bedding and towels at least weekly in hot water, and dispose of old pillows that might harbor dust mites.

Carpeting, upholstery, draperies and blinds are notorious for collecting dust and allergens. The beginning of fall is a good time to schedule professional cleanings to eliminate allergens that have collected in the house over the summer. Families with allergic individuals should consider scheduling additional cleanings at the end of fall. If you suspect mold in kitchen or bathroom tiling or grout, a professional Tile and Grout cleaning might also be in order.

Despite the prevalence of fall allergens, there are many ways to minimize their presence in the indoor environment and to help make family members who suffer from allergies more comfortable.

Source: COIT

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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