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

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Consumers Would Cash in Credit Card Rewards for Extra Vacation Days

May 22, 2012 2:38 am

With the summer travel season on the horizon, Americans are more savvy than ever about making the most of their rewards programs, according to the Capital One Rewards Barometer, a quarterly survey among American consumers that focuses on how they accumulate and redeem credit card rewards.

Fifty percent of respondents who plan to travel this summer will use credit card rewards to cover some of their summer vacation expenses, up from 42 percent compared to the Rewards Barometer results in 2011. Interestingly, nearly 19 percent were even willing to trade in as much as $200 worth of rewards for an extra vacation day, if it were an option.

When it comes to using rewards toward summer travel expenses, airfare tops the list (58 percent) of most popular redemption options followed by hotels (42 percent) and gas (18 percent). Sixty-seven percent of respondents are planning to travel this summer and a majority of summer travel budgets range from $500 - $2,000 (54 percent). Eighteen percent of travelers plan to spend between $2,001 and $3,000 for a summer getaway. Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of these travelers do not plan to go away on popular summer holiday weekends, including Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

When traveling this summer, mobile devices can be a traveler's best friend from finding local hot spot coupons or using rewards for last minute travel deals. More than 30 percent of respondents who have a mobile device use it for on-site vacation research, such as restaurants, gas stations, coupons and deals. Meanwhile, 22 percent get ahead of the game by using their mobile device for pre-vacation research, and 14 percent book travel through their mobile device. For those who would like to redeem their rewards via a mobile rewards app, hotel (58 percent) and air travel (49 percent) were the top two options.

The following tips can help rewards card holders save some money and make their summer vacations more satisfying:
  1. Redeem on the go. Find a rewards card that lets you redeem straight from your mobile device.
  2. Earn rewards on vacation. Rack up rewards for your next trip while you're on your current one. Use your rewards card to pay for vacation expenses such as tickets, meals or local tours.
  3. Include all fees in your vacation budget. Avoid sticker shock post vacation by making sure you account for any extra fees charged when booking travel with rewards or foreign transaction fees for overseas travelers. Better yet, find a rewards credit card that doesn't charge these fees.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fewer Immigrants and Newborns, More Elderly Slow U.S. Population Growth

May 22, 2012 2:38 am

Lower immigration levels, an aging population, and declining fertility rates are driving a decline in U.S. population growth, according to a new Population Reference Bureau (PRB) analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Between 2010 and 2011, the U.S. population increased by 0.7 percent, after averaging 0.9 percent growth each year from 2000 through 2010, reported Mark Mather, PRB associate vice president for Domestic Programs. We added just 2.3 million people from 2010 to 2011, compared with 2.9 million from 2005 to 2006, just five years earlier.

The current decline is a "significant departure" from recent trends but "it's too soon to tell whether it will continue or is a short-term result of the recession," he said.

The U.S. population is currently projected to reach "majority-minority" status (the point at which less than 50 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white) in 2042. But a sustained drop in immigration levels and fertility rates would slow the pace of minority population growth.

Drop in Immigration: Between 2010 and 2011, net migration was estimated at around 700,000, down from 1.4 million per year in 2000 and 2001. This decline contributes to slower growth in the Latino and Asian American populations, and has been linked to job losses in occupations often filled by recent immigrants, as well as stricter immigration law enforcement.

Population Aging: Between 2010 and 2011, the number of children declined by 190,000, while the number of elderly increased by 917,000; just a decade ago we added more children than elderly. Also down sharply is growth in the number of working-age adults, including those in prime childbearing ages. With more baby boomers retiring and fewer people of reproductive age, births could decline further, and the United States could start to resemble elderly-heavy, slow-growth European countries, Mather noted.

Declining Fertility Rates: There were an estimated 4 million births between 2010 and 2011, down from 4.2 million at the recent peak of U.S. population growth between 2005 and 2006. The total fertility rate (TFR) stood at an average of 2.0 lifetime births per woman in 2009—down from 2.1 a few years ago—but preliminary data from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that the TFR could drop below 2 births per woman in 2010. Births among Latina women, a group with historically high fertility rates, could drop below 2.5 per woman in the near future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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REALTORS Raise Awareness at Real Estate Rally

May 22, 2012 2:38 am

An estimated 13,000 REALTORS® converged on the grounds of the Washington Monument last week to make their voices heard on behalf of homeowners, real estate investors, and those who aspire to homeownership.

At the Rally to Protect the American Dream, REALTORS® from every state in the country joined invited members of Congress to demonstrate their commitment to preserving access to homeownership and robust real estate investment.

“REALTORS® know that homeownership is an investment in our collective futures, and we’re here today to protect the American Dream of homeownership,” said National Association of Realtors® President Moe Veissi. “Homeownership and investment in real estate impacts families, communities, small businesses and the nation’s economy in a very meaningful way. Today, we’re proud to be showing the country that homeownership matters.”

In the current economic and political climate, REALTORS® are working to ensure that people who want to own a home or invest in real estate and can responsibly afford to do so will continue to have the opportunity to do that. Toward that end, REALTORS® are advocating better access to affordable financing, reform of the secondary mortgage market, improved liquidity in residential and commercial lending, and preservation of the tax benefits associated with homeownership.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) addressed the crowd of REALTORS® at the event.

“I commend the National Association of Realtors® for keeping the issue of homeownership at the forefront when we talk about our economic recovery,” said Rep. Hoyer. “Stabilizing the housing market remains a central issue for Democrats, who understand we will not have robust economic growth without a vibrant housing market and that access to homeownership remains a critical component of the American Dream.”

Sen. Isakson said, “Homeownership always has been, and remains to this day, a part of the American Dream. It is the biggest and most important investment that the average American family makes, and that’s why we should remain focused on the value of the housing market and the important role it plays in our country. It is my hope that this rally encourages Congress and the president to move forward with policies that are supportive of housing, which is vital to job creation and the recovery of our economy.”

The rally was part of NAR’s week-long Midyear Legislative Meetings, during which REALTORS® and guests met with members of Congress, federal regulators and industry experts to address pressing real estate issues and public policies in support of private property rights, homeownership and housing issues.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tornado Season Safety: Be Prepared

May 21, 2012 2:38 am

This year’s tornado season got off to an early start, and the National Weather Service is predicting another savage storm season after recording one of the deadliest tornado seasons ever last year. While the next few months are typically the most active for twisters, Amica Insurance offers the following tips to make sure everyone is prepared.

"Deadly tornadoes can occur anywhere with limited warning, so it’s important to be prepared,” said Michael Gillerlane, a senior assistant vice president for Amica Insurance. “Make sure you have an emergency supply kit in your home with food, water and a radio with extra batteries.”

It’s also important to locate an emergency shelter in your community and develop an emergency communication plan with your family in case someone is separated, Gillerlane said. Also, remember to keep your cellphone charged and with you, in case of an emergency.

Most important, be aware of weather conditions that spawn tornadoes, especially powerful thunderstorms, Gillerlane said. Pay attention to news alerts:

-A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible, so make sure to keep checking for news and updates.
-A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or indicated on the radar, so it’s important to seek shelter immediately.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says warning signs of a tornado include:

- Dark, often greenish sky
- Large hail
- Low-lying clouds, particularly if rotating
- A loud roar, similar to that of a freight train

If a tornado is headed your way, stay inside and take cover, Gillerlane said. Basements are the safest place to stay. Turn off all utilities, especially natural gas or propane to avoid fire. If you don’t have time to go to an emergency shelter, stay inside your home, keep away from doors and windows and head to the basement if possible.

"If a tornado does strike your community, monitor local news and weather before you head outside,” Gillerlane said. “Stay clear of downed wires and evacuate the area immediately if you smell gas. Also, be careful entering any buildings that have been damaged.”

If you experienced a loss during a tornado, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damages, Gillerlane said. Try to compile an inventory of your losses and photograph the damages to submit with your claim. And be sure to use reputable contractors for clean-up and repairs.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Tips for Choosing a Tree Removal Service

May 21, 2012 2:38 am

Choosing a tree removal company is a decision that can spell disaster or delight for a homeowner. If you have dead or dying trees on your property that need to be removed, the following questions will help in selecting a company that can perform the job safely and fit your specific needs.

1. Experience: What experience does the company have in large tree removals; especially where a tree is positioned close to a house, fencing, or electrical power lines?
2. Professionalism: Does company representative arrive on time for his appointment, dressed professionally with company identification?
3. Certifications: Is the company representative an ISA Certified Arborist? Is the tree removal crew EHAP certified to work around electrical hazards?
4. Safety: How will the property be protected from damage during the tree removal? Does the company employ crew members who are Certified Treecare Safety Professionals (CTSP)?
5. Best Practices: Will the job be done according to ANSI A300 standards; the best practices in the industry?
6. Insurance: Does the company have a “Certificate of Insurance” that covers worker’s compensation, property damage and at least $2,000,000 business liability in case of accidents?
7. Security: Does the company do criminal background checks and drug test their employees?
8. Crew Qualifications: Are personnel trained to work around electrical hazards? Does the company require its crew members to participate in continuing education and training in the latest techniques and safe working procedures?
9. Track Record: Does the company have references for work completed in the neighborhood?
10. Ethics: What is the company’s policy on handling problems and ensuring complete satisfaction?

“Removing a tree is a science of logistics, weights and angles,” explains Robert Nagy, ISA Certified Arborist and Giroud Tree and Lawn Representative. “The most qualified company will have deep experience in all parts of the tree removal operation. Price is always a consideration but it should not trump the company’s ability to do the job safely.”

Before starting work, tree removal crews who follow best practices will assess the work area. The crew will set up the job to maximize efficiency and prevent property damage. Finally, the crew must evaluate the proximity of the tree and workers to electrical lines. Tree crew members should be specially trained to work safely around electrical hazards. By federal law, a crew cannot work within 10 feet of a live electrical wire.

When the tree removal operation begins, the angles at which limbs are cut and the weight of each tree limb becomes critical. Limbs that look small from the ground can actually weigh more than the family car when they are cut and lowered from the tree. The tree crew must understand how each limb will behave when it swings free from the tree plus the rigging and equipment required to safely lower it to the ground.

Every tree removal has a unique set of challenges, concludes Nagy. “When research on each company’s capabilities is done before making a hiring decision, a homeowner is more likely to have the job done safely and be satisfied with the end result.”

Source: Giroud Tree and Lawn

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Effective Mold Identification and Treatment Tips for a Healthy Home

May 21, 2012 2:38 am

We all know that April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, however, a wet spring season can do more than help plants grow. In fact, heavy rain storms can actually pose a threat to homeowners in the form of mold. While it’s common for mold to be present in the great outdoors, it can pose serious risks if left untreated within the home.

Molds are basically fungi that come in thousands of species, not all of which are harmful. However, many are capable of causing physical problems ranging from slight allergic reactions and skin conditions to more serious neurological and respiratory problems. People with weak or compromised immune systems, such as very young children and the elderly, are particularly at risk for problems related to mold.

Mold occurs normally in outdoor environments, serving as nature’s recycling center and breaking down the dead organic matter from animals or plants. Humans encounter mold and even inhale mold spores every day with no ill effects whatsoever. When mold occurs in an indoor environment, however, things change. Suddenly, mold and its accompanying spores (through which it reproduces) are encountered (and inhaled) in large concentrations. When you consider the job that mold is designed to do on organic matter, it becomes easy to see how it could become a serious health hazard.

Mold occurs as the byproduct of water damage, or in any area where the moisture level is sufficient enough to sustain its growth. Even if the mold is not dangerous to anyone’s health, it still presents a problem since it destroys the surface on which it grows, meaning that a growth that is large enough could cause serious damage. Homes, businesses, and even entire city blocks have been condemned and destroyed simply due to out of control mold growth. For this reason alone, professional mold remediation services should be brought in to handle mold infestations.

Unfortunately, too many people mistakenly believe that removing the mold is sufficient. This is not true. Unless the area is properly treated, the mold will eventually return. The affected area should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and humidity levels brought down to within acceptable parameters, normally between 40-45 percent. Only by changing the environment to make it inhospitable to mold can any property owner hope to avoid mold problems in the future.

Even new homes may have mold problems, so mold inspections are recommended for new home purchases. Newly constructed homes are often tightly sealed up between the time that construction is finished and the time the home is sold. Any moisture trapped inside will have no place to go, and over time may easily give way to mold and mildew growth.

Source: Restoration Local

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Nearly Three-Quarters of American Grill Owners Fire Up the Grill on Memorial Day

May 18, 2012 2:32 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, 71 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on Memorial Day, a 10 percent jump from last year.

"We continue to see a rise in the number of people grilling for nearly all major holidays, including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July (90 percent), Father's Day (53 percent) and even birthdays (76 percent)," said Brooke Jones, Director of Marketing for Weber-Stephen Products LLC, one of the world's leading manufacturers of outdoor gas and charcoal grills and grilling accessories.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23nd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.

Other top trends include:

A Surge in Electric Grilling Popularity

Sixty-two percent of American grill owners who have never grilled on an outdoor electric grill are interested in trying, a six percent increase over the past three years. In addition, the survey showed:

-Grill owners who have used an outdoor electric grill (24 percent) list the top three reasons they enjoy electric grilling as: easy to use (61 percent), does not require fuel (52 percent), and heats up quickly (51 percent).

Southerners and the Art of Smoking
By region, grill owners in the South rule when it comes to smoking foods, with 41 percent reporting they know how to use an outdoor smoker. Northeasterners are the least likely to know how to use an outdoor smoker at 29 percent. The West and Midwest are tied at 36 percent. Additional smoke cooking statistics include:

-Forty-four percent of grillers who do not know how to use a smoker are interested in learning how to use one.
-Smoker owners are the most prolific grillers, spending an average of 7.5 hours per week grilling during their grilling season.

Other Newsworthy Facts from the Weber GrillWatch Survey
-Currently, 71 percent of all Americans (21 and older) own an outdoor grill and or smoker.
-Almost three-quarters of American grill owners (74 percent) are using their grill at least once a week during their grilling season, an increase from 69 percent last year.
-The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
-Grillers consider dessert the most challenging food to grill (35 percent), followed by fish (30 percent) and pizza (28 percent).

For more information, visit www.weber.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Water Your Lawn the Right Way with These Simple Tips

May 18, 2012 2:32 am

Watering the grass is a critical part of maintaining a healthy lawn. Watering too little can cause the grass to turn brown and thin out, creating room for weeds. Watering too much can lead to turf disease and shallow root systems, which means your grass is weaker and less able to stand up to drought, lawn-feeding pests and other problems.

TruGreen, one of the nation's largest professional lawn care services and part of the ServiceMaster family of brands, regularly monitors U.S. weather data to enable the company's trained lawn care specialists to effectively address local agronomic conditions while promoting responsible water conservation. The lawn experts at TruGreen have some tips to help you water your lawn the right way.

How to Tell When Your Lawn Needs Water
Turfgrass plants are 70 to 75 percent water, so giving them enough water is vital. Symptoms of inadequate water are easily seen:
-Grass slowly loses its bright green color and starts to fade to yellow.
-You may notice wilting, which causes grass blades to roll or fold.
-If you walk across your lawn and your footprints remain in the grass, or lawn mower tracks remain visible, your lawn needs water.
-If grass loses its green color altogether and turns yellow and then tan, that signals drought dormancy. That means grass has stopped growing. Once your lawn has turned brown and lost all color during drought dormancy, it could take several weeks of steady watering to spur regrowth.

The most accurate way to determine whether your lawn needs water is to use a knife to cut a wedge of soil (through the turf) about four inches deep and feel the soil. Ideally, it should be moist, not powder dry nor soggy and wet.

"Signs of typical wear and tear on yards this time of year are amplified when lawns are stressed," said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen. "Brown spots on lawns may not always be from lack of water or nutrients, but instead from lawn-feeding insects that can mimic drought damage on select grass types. Homeowners need to have a clear understanding of the source of the yard problem to effectively resolve."

How to Water Your Lawn
Established lawns should be watered deeply, but infrequently. Deep watering once a week encourages deeper root growth, while frequent, shallow watering produces a limited root system.

-When watering, make sure you moisten the top three to four inches of soil, which covers the root zone.
-Although watering frequency depends on the type of grass, your soil, and the weather, most grasses require about one inch of water each week for healthy growth. Let Mother Nature do as much of the watering for you as possible.
-The best time to water is in the morning and in non-windy conditions. This conserves water and allows grass to dry before evening. Grass that remains wet for long periods of time is more susceptible to disease development. Watering in the afternoon is the worst for water conservation. Up to half the water can evaporate in the air or on the ground during the hot part of the day.
-If you're using a movable sprinkler, let it run in one spot just until the water begins to run off the surface, then move to a different area of the lawn.
-Monitor your underground irrigation or sprinkler system to be sure that you moisten the lawn's entire root zone without over-watering any sections.
-To help ensure uniformity, place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of lawn area to measure depth of water collected after each watering cycle.
-Make sure you are familiar with and follow any local watering restrictions.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Hit Record Lows...Again

May 18, 2012 2:32 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates again hitting new record lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.79 percent continues to remain well below 4 percent and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are also slightly down at 3.04 percent.

Additional details from the PMMS:
-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.79 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 17, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.83 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.61 percent.
-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.04 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.80 percent.
-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.83 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.81 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.48 percent.
-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.78 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.15 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Seven in Ten Americans Cooking More, Eating Out Less

May 17, 2012 2:26 am

One of the ways people gauge when an economic recovery is occurring is when Americans start spending more on things like eating out in restaurants.

According to the results of a recent Harris Poll, people are indeed dining out. Over three in five U.S. adults (63 percent) have dined at a fast food restaurant chain in the past month and about half have dined at a local casual dining establishment (53 percent) and a casual dining restaurant chain (50 percent). Fewer have dined at either a local fine dining establishment (18 percent) or a fine dining restaurant chain (9 percent) while 13 percent of Americans have not dined at any of these types of restaurants in the past month.

However, while Americans are dining out, they are still cutting back on how often they do so. In looking at the past six months, about one-third say they are eating less frequently at fast food chains (36 percent), casual dining restaurant chains (34 percent), and local casual dining restaurants (34 percent).

Women are more likely than men to say they are dining out less frequently in these three types of restaurants over the past six months. For example, two in five women (41 percent) say they are dining less frequently at fast food restaurants compared to 31 percent of men.

Seven in ten Americans (71 percent) say they find themselves cooking more instead of going out in order to save more money, while over half (57 percent) say going out used to be a regular occurrence but it is now a luxury. On the flip side, three in five U.S. adults (60 percent) disagree with the notion that they will eat out as often but now usually at a lower priced restaurant. Only three in ten Americans (29 percent) say they will cut spending in other places in order to still be able to dine out.

"Consumer restaurant behavior continues to evolve as they manage their budgets in an ongoing tight economy. At the beginning of the economic downturn we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from Casual Dining towards Fast Food/Quick Service restaurants," according to Mary Bouchard, vice president and thought leader at Harris Interactive. "Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy-lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home. When they do eat out, not surprisingly, price is still a primary component of their decision making process."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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