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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National Preparedness Month: Tips for Homeowners

September 20, 2016 12:33 am


Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, often with no warning. September, National Preparedness Month, is the ideal time to prepare your household for these types of events.

“Your family's safety is top priority when a disaster happens,” says Pete Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore. “It starts with having plan: Have a ‘go bag’ ready to quickly grab and go during an evacuation, have a meeting place for your family in the event you're displaced, and have an outside contact for your entire family. Plan for emergency food and medications for the entire family, including pets.”

The ‘go bag’ Duncanson refers to should contain three days’ worth of emergency essentials, such as water, non-perishable food, medications and clothing. Other supplies may include flashlights, a radio, your home insurance or utility providers’ contact information, or rain gear.

Make it a habit, Duncanson adds, to review your homeowners insurance policy documents (and any other important papers) a few times each year. Consider making electronic copies of them so that they can be easily accessed if they’re damaged in a disaster—a secured thumb drive is the best method to store them.

Most important when disaster strikes, Duncanson says, is to put safety first—not your possessions. Evacuate immediately if instructed to do so, even if you must leave behind your belongings.

If your home is habitable after a disaster but requires cleanup, avoid approaching the task by yourself, says Duncanson—a DIY effort can make damage worse, causing unnecessary expenses, and be detrimental to your health. Have a restoration professional assess the damage within 48 hours of the disaster to prevent bacteria or mold growth.

“When a disaster occurs in a home or business, response time is critical,” says Duncanson.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Safety Tips for Your Household This Fall

September 20, 2016 12:33 am


As a household, transitioning from a summer of spontaneity to a fall full of activities can move safety by the wayside. Still, it’s vital to carve out time in your schedule to prioritize it, says Rebecca Smith, vice president of Marketing for Master Lock.

“During the fall, many families’ schedules are busier than ever, but it’s still important for parents to make safety and security a priority,” says Smith. “Now that school year routines are established, it’s a perfect time to address safety topics with your children, such as guidelines for staying safe at home and on the go.”

Smith and Master Lock recommend the following tips for parents:

Teach your children to note their surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind your children to follow safety precautions, whether walking home or just to a parked car. Instruct them to stick with a friend or in a group, if possible, and to stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and observe traffic rules.

Review bike safety. If your children will be riding their bikes to school or extracurricular activities, review the rules of the road with them—following traffic signals, riding with traffic, stopping at stop signs, etc. Make certain, also, that they’re outfitted with bright-colored clothing and a helmet.

Establish a "home alone" routine. Set guidelines for older children who may be home without supervision, either after school or during activities on weekends. These may include calling to check in, locking the door immediately after entering the house (and not answering the door for strangers) and reviewing emergency phone numbers.

Observe fire safety. Establish a household fire evacuation plan, which involves visiting each room in the home to designate two exits (in each) and ensure they open. Determine a safe meeting place outside of the home, as well, and practice the evacuation periodically.

Putting these tips into practice will set safe habits for your children, now and beyond the season. For safety and security products for your home, visit MasterLock.com.

Source: Master Lock
 

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4 Habits of Productive People

September 19, 2016 12:30 am


(Family Features)—Appointments, meetings, tasks…life can get hectic both professionally and personally. Staying productive on a packed schedule can be difficult, but it’s not impossible—especially if you practice the following habits:

1. Rest – It seems counterproductive (pun intended), but without enough rest, it's all the more challenging to stay on top of your schedule. It may be difficult initially to carve out time to rest, but it will pay off in the long run—even if you do something as simple as putting away your computer or phone an hour before bedtime.

2. Schedule Everything – Schedule all obligations on a calendar—mundane included. Having this information readily accessible frees up brain space for the more important tasks in your day.

3. Embrace Technology – Many tools today make keeping track easier than ever. One such tool is the “smartpad,” an alternative to paper notebooks with the benefit of digitizing every idea or reminder so that they’re available from any device.

4. Keep Clean – Messy areas can make you feel disorganized and overwhelmed, hindering your ability to be productive. Sprucing up at the end of each day helps you “wind down,” preparing you to be just as productive tomorrow.

What habits do you practice to stay productive?
 
Source: Wacom
 

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Climate Control, Lighting, Security Most Popular Smart Home Upgrades

September 19, 2016 12:30 am


More homeowners are springing for a smart home makeover, so much so that renovated homes today are more than twice as likely to include a smart system or device, according to the recently released U.S. Houzz Smart Home Trends Survey. The results of the survey, which, in conjunction with CEDIA, assessed nearly 1,000 renovators either planning, in the midst of, or who have recently completed a home renovation, indicate 45 percent of homeowners are incorporating (or have incorporated) smart home technology as part of a renovation.

“Our data sheds light on how renovating homeowners are embracing smart technology,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “These homeowners aim to improve the comfort, convenience, safety and energy usage of their home during their renovations, and smart technology appears to address many of their needs.”

Why the smart move? Homeowners are installing smart home technology for:

Safety/Security
Twenty-five percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to protect their homes against intruders (67 percent) or control and monitor the safety of their homes while they’re away (52 percent). The majority of those upgrading for safety/security reasons spend $1,500 or less.

Climate Control
Fourteen percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to improve the comfort of their homes (71 percent), reduce energy consumption (68 percent) or control and monitor the device while they’re away (41 percent). The majority of those upgrading for climate control spend between $1,501 and $2,500.

Lighting
Twelve percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to reduce energy consumption (59 percent), improve the comfort their homes (54 percent) or change the “mood” or “vibe” of their homes (34 percent). The majority of those upgrading for lighting spend $1,500 or less.

The most common smart home devices, according to the survey’s results, are:

• Fire/Gas Alarms
• Cameras
• Door/Glass/Motion Sensors
• Door Locks/Video Doorbells
• Thermostat
• Television
• Speakers
• Video/Music Streaming
• Indoor/Outdoor Lighting

“While many homeowners report difficulty learning about and finding the right smart products to fit their needs, high levels of adoption and satisfaction among renovators are sound predictors of a wider reliance on these technologies among the general public in the near future,” Sitchinava concludes.

Source: CEDIA
 

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A Multitude of Tips for Multiple Offer Situations – Pt. 1

September 19, 2016 12:30 am


Multiple offer situations, or cases in which more than one competing offer is placed on a home, can be challenging for a homebuyer, especially one new to the process.

Knowledge is half the battle when navigating the multiple bid minefield. Below are insights and tips from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) all buyers should be mindful of.

• While a listing agent can offer advice and suggestions, all decisions about how offers will be presented—and dealt with—are made by the seller. Your agent likely has other buyer clients, some of whom may be interested in the same properties as you are, so ask how offers and counter-offers will be presented and negotiated.

• Sellers can handle multiple offers in the following ways: accept the “best” offer; inform all potential purchasers that other offers are “on the table;” “counter” one offer while holding others awaiting a decision on the counter offer; or counter one offer while rejecting the others.

• Generally, purchase offers are not confidential—in some cases, sellers may make other buyers aware that your offer is in hand, or even disclose details about your offer to another buyer in the hope of convincing that buyer to make a “better” offer. You may want to discuss the possibility of making an offer confidential, or establishing a confidentiality agreement between you and the seller, with your agent prior to negotiations.

• There are advantages and disadvantages to various strategies. A low initial offer may result in obtaining the property for less than the listed price, or it may result in another buyer’s higher offer being accepted. On the other hand, a full price offer may result in paying more than the seller might have required. In some instances, there can be several full price offers competing for the seller’s attention—and acceptance.

Keep in mind, most importantly, that your agent’s guidance is based on experience, and is no guarantee as to how any particular seller will act (or react). Above all, your best line of defense is an agent seasoned in multiple offer situations.
 

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Keeping Up with the Joneses—and All Your Friends on Facebook

September 16, 2016 12:21 am


The desire to “keep up with the Joneses”—that is, match a lifestyle—has spread to social media, with the circle of “Joneses” wider than ever, according to recent survey by Harris Poll and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The results of the survey reveal a pattern: most of us feel envious of our social media friends who share lavish experiences and purchases online, but we also share lavish experiences and purchases online.

“Social media has vastly expanded the number of ‘neighbors’ people are trying to keep up with,” says Gregory Anton, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Some people are purposefully curating a more glamorous image on social media and, unfortunately, it can have a negative financial impact on their friends and followers who feel compelled to keep up with them.”

Notably, a significant portion of survey respondents admitted to being likely to choose an experience or purchase based on how their social media followers will respond to it—and some even shared an experience or purchase because it seemed “expensive” or “fancy.”

The pressure to “keep up” is felt strongest by younger social media users, the survey also found. Millennial respondents were more than twice as likely as baby boomer respondents to report feeling envious of their social media friends’ and followers’ experiences or purchases.

“People, in particular those just beginning their careers, would be better served spending their money maxing out their 401(k) and paying down debt, instead of trying to one-up their friends on social media,” Anton says. “While smart financial moves may not get the most likes or retweets, building a solid financial foundation should take priority over building a social media following.”

Source: American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)
 

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Climate Change Calls for Fortified Homes

September 16, 2016 12:21 am


With the likelihood of extreme weather events ever-growing, fortifying homes to withstand the elements has become crucial. One such fortification is window film, a once-commercial innovation that is now making its way into the residential market.

“Homeowners need to be aware of the risks posed by extreme weather,” Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), says. “Professionally-installed window film provides an increased level of protection that can help to reduce damage to family members or their homes in the event of broken windows, no matter the cause of the breakage.”

Window film is a thin, permanent sheet of coating that binds shards of glass together, according to the IWFA. It protects primarily against the effects of high winds, which can produce projectiles that could shatter a home’s windows and endanger its occupants. It also comes with the added benefits of barring burglars and deflecting heat from the sun.

Window film does not reduce visibility to the outside of home, preserving views and security, and does not alter the appearance of windows themselves—it is available in many shades, from virtually clear to medium to dark.

Window film is subjected to third-party testing to confirm its performance, the IWFA states. It also adheres to safety guidelines and standards for burglary intrusion, human impact, fire safety and glass fragment protection.

For determine if window film is right for your home, learn more at IWFA.com.

Source: International Window Film Association (IWFA)
 

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Top Colleges with the Highest and Lowest Off-Campus Rents

September 16, 2016 12:21 am


The cost for students to live off-campus is steep—especially at the nation’s best colleges.

That’s according to a recently released analysis by Zillow, in conjunction with the unveiling of the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges ranking, that reveals 80 percent of the country’s top universities are in expensive rental markets. Students at Princeton, Stanford and UC Berkeley can expect to pay the most for off-campus housing, the analysis found:

Top Colleges with Highest Off-Campus Rents

Stanford University
Stanford/Palo Alto, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 5 (Tied with Columbia University)
Median Monthly Rent: $6,139

Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.
U.S. News Ranking: 1
Median Monthly Rent: $4,529

University of California – Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 20 (Tied with Emory University, Georgetown University)
Median Monthly Rent: $3,534

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 12 (Tied with Northwestern University)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,720

University of Southern California/University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.
U.S. News Rankings: 23/24 (Tied with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,701

Top Colleges with Lowest Off-Campus Rents

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.
U.S. News Ranking: 14 (Tied with Cornell University, Rice University and Vanderbilt University)
Median Monthly Rent: $723

Washington University – St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo.
U.S. News Ranking: 19
Median Monthly Rent: $881

University of Rochester
Rochester, N.Y.
U.S. News Ranking: 32 (Tied with College of William and Mary)
Median Monthly Rent: $945

Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, N.C.
U.S. News Ranking: 27 (Tied with University of Michigan – Ann Arbor)
Median Monthly Rent: $994

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.
U.S. News Ranking: 24 (Tied with University of California – Los Angeles and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $1,141 

“As students and their parents are filling out applications this fall and are crunching the numbers on financial aid and student loans, they should also factor in the cost of housing,” says Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow. “Looking at both on- and off-campus housing prices, and thinking through whether they’ll likely live with roommates or alone will help them gauge an accurate picture of the student loans and financial aid they will need in order to obtain their degree.”

Students seeking acceptance to either list of colleges should consider how rents may rise in the years they attend, and even beyond, should they enter the workforce near their alma mater, Wacksman adds. 

Source: Zillow
 

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Don't Get Pressed into Buying Protection at Checkout

September 15, 2016 12:21 am


Appliance, electronic and tool retailers are often very well-trained in the art of up-selling protection plans that extend warranties and claim to provide bonus services to help protect your purchase. Howard Schwartz of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says when you're asked to pay extra for an extended service contract, ask yourself: Is the extra cost worth it?

The answer, according to the BBB, is not so simple.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises consumers to understand exactly what they'll get for their money if they buy extended coverage. The FTC says rather than extending a manufacturer's product warranty, most product protection plans are service contracts, which are not the same as the manufacturer's warranty, and they typically contain wide-ranging restrictions and exclusions.

Some consumers feel a service contract is worth the peace of mind once a manufacturer's warranty expires, the BBB states. Others don't see the point in paying extra money to buy a five year-long protection service for a moderately-priced item, such as a $65 printer.

Alternatives to service contracts include insurance policies for merchandise that is easily lost, stolen or broken, such as a smartphone. Some credit cards extend manufacturers' original warranties as a perk, according to the BBB.

Unfortunately, most cashiers do not have the information you need about the extended protection policies they sell. The BBB encourages you to take home a copy of the paperwork and understand the terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations of the extra coverage:

• Weigh the benefits. What is the expected average lifespan of the merchandise?

• How reliable is the type of product?

• Understand the terms and conditions. If you buy extra protection, make certain you know what is covered and what is not, such as labor, parts and service calls.

• Get details about customer service. How long do you have to wait for repairs? Do you have to pay for shipping? Is the repair service contracted out to a local service?

The BBB recommends researching retailers before you buy at BBB.org.
 

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7 Ways to Declutter Your Kitchen

September 15, 2016 12:21 am


If you're always short of cabinet and counter space, it’s time to de-clutter the kitchen—but that’s a chore that seems to get relegated to "someday." The job may be easier if you know where to start, say consumer editors at Country Living magazine.

If you want to give yourself more kitchen space, begin by getting rid of the following:

Anything Free with Dinner – That goes for spare chopsticks, soy sauce packets, kid's meal toys, and other stuff that’s cluttering your kitchen drawers. You’re going to get more the next time you order, so there's no point in stockpiling.

One-Use Gadgets You Thought You Would Use – Garlic presses, apple corers, hot chocolate frothers…your cabinets may be full of specialty cooking gadgets that serve only one purpose. If it's taking up space and you use it less than four times a year, it's probably worth tossing—especially if there's an everyday object that can get the job done.

Plastic Grocery Bags – If you have more than 10 balled up in a cabinet or drawer, put the rest in your recycle bin or take them to the nearest store that recycles plastic bags.

Rarely Used Cookbooks – If they’ve sat on a shelf for more than a year without being used, it’s time to sell or otherwise dispose of them. Keep only family collections and one or your favorite specialty cookbooks.

Reusable Shopping Bags – Keep only two or three of those eco-friendly bags and get them out of the pantry. Store them in the trunk of your car for use when you do your shopping.

Tupperware Collection – Most of us have far too many, including those empty deli and margarine containers we’ve saved. Limit yourself to containers in two sizes, and no more than five or six of each, with lids.

Weirdly Sentimental Mugs – Too much shelf space is often given up to mugs we will never use—from vacation souvenirs to those with cutesy sayings. Harden your heart and get rid of most of them. You will never, ever miss them.
 

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