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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

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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Rent Burden to Rise over 10 Percent by 2025

October 5, 2015 1:49 am

It’s fast becoming more favorable to buy than rent. According to recent research out of Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, along with Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., the number of households spending more than 50 percent of their income on rent is expected to rise more than 10 percent by 2025. The largest increases are expected among older adults, Hispanics and single-person households.

“Our analysis shows that even in the unlikely event that income growth greatly outpaces rent gains, the number of severely cost-burdened renters will remain near current record levels,” says Christopher Herbert, managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The research projects the number of severely burdened households aged 65 to 74 and those aged 75 and older will swell to 1.2 million, a 42.1 percent increase. The number of Hispanic households with severe renter burdens will rise to 3.4 million, a 27.3 percent increase. The number of severely burdened single-person households will jump to 5.7 million, a 12.0 percent increase.

The research calls for action on the dwindling supply of affordable housing, urging policymakers to consider enhanced levels of support for rental housing across a range of income levels.

Source: Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fall Maintenance: 10 Safety Tips for Ladders, Rakes

October 2, 2015 1:49 am

Here’s a statistic: In the last year alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported more than half a million fall home maintenance-related injuries – and 40,000-plus of those incidents were caused by raking!

“Never underestimate the task at hand while cleaning,” says Dr. Patrick Osborn, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS). “Even the most mundane or simple chores can cause strain, injury, or even a fall if not done correctly. For instance, when using a ladder, never stand on the top rung.”

Dr. Osborn and the AAOS strongly advise homeowners to keep safety in mind when tackling fall clean-up this year. Here are some tips.

1. Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength.

2. Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.

3. Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.

4. Properly set up the ladder.
Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder — when extended — will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.

5. Remember the one-to-four rule. The bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.

6. Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It's unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of slipping and falling.

7. Select the right ladder for the job.
If you're washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.

8. Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.

9. Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your belly button should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!

10. Wear proper footwear.
Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn't be too wide or too long.

Most importantly, be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands.

Source: AAOS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Sub-4-Percent Mortgage Rate Continues

October 2, 2015 1:49 am

In more encouraging news for homebuyers, mortgage rates remain below 4 percent. According to Freddie Mac’s recent Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is 3.85 percent, with an average 0.6 point. The average 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.07 percent, with an average 0.7 point.

Other types of mortgages are also hovering well below 4 percent, including the 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage, stable at 2.91 percent, and the 1-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaging 2.53 percent.

“In contrast to the volatility in equity markets, the 10-year Treasury rate – a key driver of mortgage rates – varied just a little more than 10 basis points over the last week,” explains Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “As a result, the 30-year mortgage rate remained virtually unchanged, dropping 1 basis point to 3.85 percent. This marks the tenth consecutive week of a sub-4-percent mortgage rate.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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