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Judy Kistler
4789 Route 309 | Center Valley, PA 18034
Phone: 610-393-9393 | Office Phone: 610-791-4400 | Fax: 267-354-6225
email: jkistler@remaxcentralinc.com

Judy Kistler's Blog

Realize Your Dream

Understanding Your Flood Risk

October 8, 2015 2:01 am

As a homeowner or renter, understanding your flood risk is essential. Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down is covered by homeowners or renters insurance; water that comes from the bottom up is covered separately by flood insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“Many consumers don’t understand what type of water damage is covered by standard home insurance, nor do they understand the various types of flood policies available to them,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, chief communications officer for the I.I.I.

Water from the bottom up, such as overflow from a nearby lake, river or stream, is typically not covered by homeowners or renters insurance. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and a few private insurance companies. Policies from the federal government have a 30-day waiting period before the coverage is activated. Excess flood insurance is also available from some private insurers if additional coverage is needed above and beyond the basic policy.

Remember: it only takes a few inches of water to cause tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. Don’t hesitate to contact your insurance professional to ask questions. Doing so will help you make informed decisions about your coverage.

You may also consider conducting a home inventory to document your belongings. Taking stock of your possessions will help you purchase the right amount of insurance, makes filing a claim easier and can be used to document losses when filing tax returns or applying for financial assistance after a disaster.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Things to Know about Title Insurance

October 8, 2015 2:01 am

Many factors play a role in the process of purchasing a home – none understood less than title insurance. Put simply, title insurance protects your investment from title issues that may arise after buying or refinancing a home, such as lost, forged or incorrectly filed deeds or liens on a property, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

To gain a clearer understanding of title insurance, take a look at the facts recently shared by the NAIC:

• Lenders typically require title insurance; however, you are not required to use their recommended title company or agent. Keep in mind that by federal law, affiliated (referral-based) relationships must be disclosed to you in writing.

• Title insurance can be purchased from a licensed title insurance company or agent. Attorneys may also have the authority to sell title insurance, depending on their jurisdiction.

• When comparison shopping, inquire about services and fees, both included in the title premium and not. Be sure to ask about discounts.

• When selecting a policy, take time to assess your options. As stated above, your lender will likely require a lender’s policy for the amount of the loan, which protects the lender from title issues that may occur after buying the home. Though you may have to pay the policy premium, coverage will decrease as the mortgage is paid off.

• Though you are not required to buy one, an owner’s policy for the full price of the home (and potential legal costs) protects you if title issues emerge after purchasing the home. Coverage will remain as long as you own an interest in the home.

• Depending on your area, you may also have the option to purchase an enhanced owner’s policy, which covers approximately 20 percent more than a standard owner’s policy.

• Policy endorsements may be available to you, as well. An endorsement, which you may or may not have to pay for, covers a specific issue, such as a mechanic’s liens.

Source: NAIC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Steps to Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

Taking a proactive approach to preventative vehicular maintenance helps ensure safety, reliability and fewer unexpected repairs. Whether you do it yourself or take your car to a professional service technician, the non-profit Car Care Council recommends 10 basic procedures to keep your vehicle operating at its best:

1. Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering, brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

2. Check the hoses and belts
to make sure they are not cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or showing signs of excessive wear.

3. Check the battery
and replace if necessary. Make sure the connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.

4. Check the brake system
annually and have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected at each oil change.

5. Inspect the exhaust system
for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise. Exhaust leaks can be dangerous and must be corrected without delay.

6. Check engine performance
to make sure it is delivering the best balance of power and fuel economy and producing the lowest level of emissions.

7. Check the heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) system as proper heating and cooling performance is critical for interior comfort and for safety reasons such as defrosting.

8. Inspect the steering and suspension system annually including shock absorbers, struts and chassis parts such as ball joints, tie rod ends and other related components.

9. Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

10. Check the wipers and lighting
so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly. Replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving during precipitation.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top Remodeler-Approved Design Trends

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

As professionals with a presence in both the design industry and with the homeowner, builders and remodelers are privy to the trends that truly resonate with consumers. And a recent study has revealed exactly what those trends are.

According to the study, conducted by Schlage®, an Allegion™ brand, nearly half of builders and remodelers cited an interior design update as the most common reason for undertaking a renovation. Minor kitchen and bath remodels, fixture and hardware updates were also reported popular.

When builders and remodelers were asked to rank the design styles they’d most likely recommend to homeowners, traditional design ranked highest. Contemporary, eclectic and rustic designs followed, respectively.

When asked which elements have the most design impact, more than half of builders and remodelers noted paint colors, followed by light fixtures.

Much like homeowners, builders and remodelers reported deriving design inspiration from catalogues and magazines.

Source: Schlage®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Cooking? The Secrets to a Gourmet Kitchen

October 7, 2015 1:55 am

(BPT) – If you’re a homeowner with a passion for cooking, there’s likely one amenity you covet above all others: a gourmet kitchen. But you don’t need a five-star restaurant budget to have a chef-worthy kitchen. All it takes are a few simple upgrades and coordinating design elements, say the experts at faucet manufacturer Brizo (www.brizo.com).

• Just as great recipes call for top-quality ingredients, great kitchens need excellent tools. Maximizing storage is key for those with a collection of kitchen tools and culinary essentials. Avoid overwhelming renovations and make the most of storage options by thinking "outside the cabinet" to fully accommodate needs.

For a crisp, modernized look, arrange pots and pans in a line on the wall with a linear rack. Take organization a step further by incorporating a magnet bar for sharp utensils, ensuring tools are close at hand without getting in the way. Store culinary tools and flatware in expandable drawer dividers to ensure all cabinet space is utilized and the counter remains clutter-free.

• To bring a bit of the outdoors in, plant a miniature herb garden for fresh flavor enhancements when you need them. Spaces in front of a kitchen window with natural light are ideal for an indoor garden.

Various herbs in three- or four-inch pots can be grouped together in stylish trays to keep humidity high. For an extra splash of color, add edible flowering plants to the garden, such as lavender, lemongrass and violet. These homegrown herbs can be used as garnishes, to layer flavor into a dish or even in cocktails for at-home entertaining.

• Commercial restaurants work well with cooking stations for seamless preparation and execution. Designate specific areas for every facet of meal preparation to aid in overall organization and evoke the look and feel of a five-star kitchen in your home.

In most top-rated kitchens, food preparation is commonly performed between the sink and refrigerator to ensure all needs are met for retrieving, rinsing and chopping. Added elements like a deep sink and wide counter space make these tasks efficient and restaurant quality.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Leave Kitchen, Bath Remodels to the Pros

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Planning to remodel your kitchen or bathroom? Don’t go at it alone. Because the magnitude and complexity of these projects are well beyond the typical weekend do-it-yourself job, a higher level of expertise on product, design and installation is needed, says the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA).

“Hiring a certified professional for remodeling projects is a must,” says NKBA President Maria Stapperfenne. “DIY sounds good on paper, but homeowners are rarely prepared for the amount of work behind a remodel project; professionals provide much-needed insight into technical regulations and design innovations that the client isn’t even aware of.”

Certified professionals have an “engineer-type” mentality which couples aesthetic judgment with practicality and safety, notes Stapperfenne.

“They understand the components ‘behind the wall’ that enable the space to function properly and efficiently, while still maintaining sleek design.”

While cost can be a concern, the services of certified professionals are not out of reach. Typically, professional fees represent about 4 percent of the total project budget. And, “if the project is done incorrectly the first time, a client will spend even more money hiring a professional to fix it,” adds Stapperfenne.

Source: NKBA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Storm Preparedness Strategies for Homeowners

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Believe it or not, many homeowners fail to take necessary steps to prepare for storms. In fact, according to Kim Brooks, president and CEO of ServiceMaster DSI, disaster restoration experts still come across mold damage in homes months or even years later.

"We can't stress enough the importance of having a plan," says Brooks. "Unfortunately, people often don't take weather warnings seriously, and once they do, panic sets in and they run out of time to take care of simple precautions to secure their property. Knowing what to do before and after a major storm, and knowing when to call in the professionals for assistance, including who to call, can help home and business owners avoid costly damage to their properties in the long run."

Brooks suggests a three-part strategy to help reduce potential damage, expense and inconvenience following severe weather:

1. Prepare in Advance - Once severe weather is predicted, begin boarding up windows and ensuring rain gutters are clear. Secure loose outdoor items and have a fresh supply of batteries on hand, as well as emergency supplies such as water, medication and non-perishable food. Take photos and make lists to document essential possessions.

Most importantly, have a plan for post-hurricane repairs and information on hand for professional restoration companies to help lessen damages in a timely manner.

2. Assess Aftermath
- Safety after a heavy storm is critical. Debris, live power lines and electrically-charged water are just a few of the safety risks to keep in mind. Evaluate the situation and structural damage before entering the home or attempting DIY cleanup, which can cause more damage and lead to additional expenses.

When possible, water cleanup should begin right away (within 24-48 hours) to avoid mold, rust and further damage. Remove wet area rugs to prevent seepage of water up drywall and discard damp, non-valuable items to help avoid potential mold contamination. To mitigate loss, contact a professional restoration company immediately.

3. Recognize Lingering Problems - Be on the lookout for mold following water damage or flooding. Mold needs wet conditions to grow and is most often detected by sight or smell. If you notice mold stains or a musty smell in a room or area, remove any lingering wet items.

Don't rely on products that promise to kill mold, including bleach, as it only causes mold to go dormant. The only way to truly get rid of mold is to cut it out of an area -- an undertaking best left to professionals to avoid spreading it across the property, causing further costly damage and inadequate cleaning.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things to Know about Credit

October 6, 2015 1:52 am

Though most of us have basic knowledge about credit, major gaps still exist. According to the nonprofit organization American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC), more than half of Americans are unaware that credit scores measure the risk of not repaying a loan on time, rather than their ability to pay based on their annual salary.

“Credit has a major impact on so many aspects of an individual’s life, from the ability to rent an apartment to buying a car or securing a mortgage,” says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of ACCC. “Despite its importance, many Americans not only have trouble managing their credit, but they don’t fully grasp how it works and what it means – particularly when it comes to understanding their credit scores.”

The ACCC shares five things to know about credit:

1. A good credit score secures financial wellness. Credit is more than just a plastic card you use to buy things—it is your financial trustworthiness. Good credit means that your history of payments, employment and salary make you a good candidate for a loan, and creditors—those who lend money or services—will be more willing to work with you.

2. All credit scores are not the same. There are three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion), and they each have their own model for calculating your score. They also may not all be using the same information. Each score matters, and different lenders may be using different scores to evaluate you.

3. Bad credit scores are fixable.
A bad credit history can haunt you for a long time—seven years or more. Make sure you correct any errors on your report. Asking for help from your creditors can go a long way in terms of fixing bad credit. If you have a poor credit score, take the necessary steps to start fixing it by paying down debt where possible and making payments on time.

4. Make the right choice.
Consider fees, limits, interest rates, and benefits, which can vary substantially among credit card issuers, when opening a new card. Some credit cards that look like a great deal at first glance may lose their appeal once you read the terms and conditions of use and calculate how the fees could affect your available credit.

5. Discipline goes a long way.
Try to pay your bills on time and in full as much as possible. This will help you avoid late fees, and build a positive credit history.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You a Cyber Slacker?

October 5, 2015 1:49 am

There’s no question about it: those who fail to protect themselves online are vulnerable to identity theft. Are you a cyber slacker?

If you’re a millennial, you might be. According to a recent TransUnion survey, most millennials are not taking action to safeguard their personal information online, despite being the most concerned about cyber crime. In fact, almost 90 percent of millennials store bank account information on their phones, and about 85 percent check financial accounts while connected to public Wi-Fi – actions that put them at risk of identity theft.

In contrast, only a third of baby boomers report being concerned about identity theft, but at least half take basic precautions to protect themselves. Just half of boomer respondents said they store important information on mobile devices and just over half check financial accounts while connected to public Wi-Fi.

“Cybercriminals don’t care about your age; they just want access to your identity and credit,” says Ken Chaplin, senior vice president at TransUnion. “It is important for people of all ages to be aware of the behaviors that make them vulnerable to identity theft and to not sacrifice security for convenience.”

TransUnion advises all Internet users, millennial or otherwise, to heed the following best practices for cyber security.

• Activate password protection on your phone. Cyber criminals can install applications on stolen phones that give them access to the device’s personal information, like photos, personal calls and banking applications. Set a unique password on your phone to create a barrier that makes it difficult for anyone to access the information.

• Approach near field communication (NFC) applications with caution.
Criminals have traded spam and antivirus hacking methods in favor of third-party applications. NFC applications, which allow data to be transferred between two local devices, such as through tap-to-pay methods at checkouts, and other third-party payment applications should be approached with caution.

• Avoid accessing sensitive information on public Wi-Fi networks. Businesses that offer public Wi-Fi are required to share a liability notice, but many may not read it. By using Wi-Fi sniffing, when criminals intercept information while it travels from the access point to the device, your personal data can be at risk.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ceilings: Leave the Popcorn to the Movies

October 5, 2015 1:49 am

(BPT) – Popcorn ceilings haven't represented stylish home design since disco was on the radio, but they've certainly stuck around. Whether you’re updating your home before putting it on the market or simply amping up aesthetics, revamping a popcorn ceiling is a worthwhile investment.

“Ceilings really do make a greater impact than people realize,” says Mark Clement, general contractor and blogger on MyFixItUpLife. “The right choice can help a room soar - but you probably won't get that effect with a popcorn ceiling. New ceilings are a great update, and with today's options, they're incredibly easy to install yourself.”

But before your grab your scraper, Clement offers a few words of caution.

“To remove a popcorn ceiling, you have to really be committed to the task. You can certainly do it yourself, but be forewarned that it can create a gigantic mess. You'll want to consider all of your options carefully, from removing to simply covering it up, based on your time and budget. Patience is also a factor!”

Keep in mind that water stains, cracks and other issues on your popcorn ceiling can make it difficult to simply paint over. At best, you'll be soaking your ceiling with water (and possibly your walls along the way) before scraping the resulting slop off with a drywall knife. At worst, the water won't get through all of your layers of paint, and you'll be breaking out the heavy machinery to sand or scrape through it all, kicking up dust. It's doable, but it's a lengthy process and not for the faint of heart.

You can avoid a DIY headache by installing a new ceiling over the existing one. Manufacturers like Armstrong Ceilings have many options: wood planks, metal tiles or patterned panels. How-to videos show how easy it is to install a new ceiling in as little as a day.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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