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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

How Homeowners and Renters Can Apply for Disaster Assistance

June 8, 2015 1:38 am

With storms battering many parts of the country, homeowners and renters in disaster-designated counties who sustained damage to their homes, vehicles or personal property as a result of severe storms should know that they may qualify for disaster assistance. According to FEMA, applicants can:

• Apply online at DisasterAssistance.gov
• Apply by smartphone or web-enabled device at m.fema.gov
• Apply by phone at toll-free 800-621-3362800-621-3362 FREE or 1-800-462-75851-800-462-7585 FREE

Disaster assistance may include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and uninsured and underinsured personal property losses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. These disaster loans cover uninsured and uncompensated losses and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations.

You should apply for assistance even if you have insurance because you may find you have unmet needs after you receive your settlement. If you have not already contacted your insurance agent to file a claim, do so right away. Insurance is your main source for money to put your life back in order after a disaster. But insurance does not cover many expenses, so disaster programs may be able to help. You should not wait for your insurance settlement to apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the SBA.

After you apply, FEMA will send you a copy of your application and a copy of “Help After a Disaster: Applicant’s Guide to the Individuals and Households Program,” which will answer many of your questions. This useful publication explains how FEMA’s disaster assistance program works; describes additional kinds of help you may qualify for from other federal, state and voluntary agencies; and gives you many important tips on how best to make all these programs work for you.

If your home or its contents are damaged and you are uninsured or underinsured, a FEMA inspector may contact you within about 10 days after you apply to schedule a time to meet with you at your damaged home. All inspectors carry photo ID that shows they are affiliated with the U.S. government.

If you’re a homeowner, you may borrow up to $200,000 from SBA to repair or replace your primary residence. Homeowners and renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen Design Goes Global

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

(BPT) – Every great kitchen starts with great design. Whether you favor clean, contemporary lines or err on the side of traditional, trends today draw inspiration from global sources, incorporating cultural influences from around the world while balancing the practical needs of families. To add worldly flair to your kitchen, start by:

Getting Fancy with Flooring

Certain materials establish a regional look because they are widely available in that region. In India, where quarries make natural stones easily affordable, kitchens commonly feature floors of glossy marble or other stone. Ceramic tile is abundant in Spain, and a wide variety of styles are available to create the underpinning for any regionally-inspired kitchen design.

Paving the Way with Walls


Kitchens around the world have signature design elements when it comes to walls. Wood paneling is a hallmark of English country kitchens, while modern Japanese kitchens, which are often limited in space, are made to look larger with walls of floor-to-ceiling windows. And arches and bright tile accents lend themselves to Mexican design.

Opening Up with Cabinetry


The material and color you choose for your cabinets will play a defining role in the overall appearance of your kitchen. Flat white or frosted glass doors can impart a very modern, European flair, while distressed woods in rustic hues create a Tuscan effect.

Coloring Your World


Specific colors are tied to certain world cultures, regions and locations – walls in a soft mandarin paired with burgundy window treatments can build an Asian-inspired backdrop, and Aegean blue and sand backsplash tiles speak of a subtle Mediterranean influence.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Replacing the Roof? Add This Energy-Efficient Feature

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

Did you know a roof replacement can return nearly three-quarters of its cost when the home is sold? Homeowners can reap even more benefits by completing other roof work simultaneously, say the experts at VeluxUSA.com. If you’re planning to reroof your home, consider installing new – or replacing existing – skylights. This energy-efficient measure can not only increase natural light inside the home, but lead to serious savings come tax season.

If you have older skylights, the flashing around them may have deteriorated over time, making them susceptible to leaks and less energy-efficient. Modern fresh air skylights can improve indoor air quality through passive ventilation. At the same time, they reduce dependence on expensive artificial light sources and mechanical ventilation.

Adding blinds further increases energy efficiency to reduce power bills. A blackout blind can improve the energy performance rating of the skylight as much as 45 percent, a light filtering blind by as much as 39 percent, and a Venetian blind by as much as 34 percent.

Both products, as well as installation costs, are eligible for a 30 percent federal tax credit. (Because of this, skylights and blinds with rain sensors and programmable touchpad remote control can be less expensive than an entry-level fixed skylight in some cases.)

Most building codes require that skylights installed out-of-reach utilize laminated glass for safety.

Combining reroofing work with other improvements saves installation or replacement time and allows the synchronization of warranty coverage for all the products. It also assures roofing materials will coordinate with new features.

Source:
VeluxUSA.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Beating the "Sunday Night Blues"

June 5, 2015 1:26 am

We’ve all been there – it’s Sunday night, and instead of enjoying the last few hours of the weekend, you’re dreading the start of the workweek. You’re not alone. In fact, more than three-quarters of respondents in a recent Monster.com poll report having really bad “Sunday night blues.”

Fortunately, there are ways to stave off a case of the Sunday night blues, according to Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi.

“There are many tactics people can use to reduce Sunday night blues, so they are less stressed and more prepared to conquer the week," says Salemi. “Seeking work-life adjustments, and managing work-flow throughout the week can do a great deal to alleviate the blues, but ultimately it could be a sign that you need to find a job that better suits your goals or lifestyle."

To alleviate the Sunday night blues, Salemi recommends:

Conducting a "Friday Review" – Take 15 minutes at the end of the day on Friday to quickly sort your tasks and build a to-do list for Monday.

Managing Your Management
– Use technology to keep yourself 'in the know' while you're enjoying your weekend, by using smartphone apps like calendar, task, and note-taking software.

Calibrating Your Work-Life Balance Beam – Set aside official "on the beam" and "off the beam" moments to delineate and ensure time for exercise, time with family or time to unwind.

Getting Out the Microscope – Think about what specifically causes your Sunday night blues, identify the triggers, and work on ways to prevent or remove those stressors.

Knowing Your Goals – Look at what you'd like to learn, the job description of the position you want or the career path, and then create a proactive plan. Review and adjust it regularly.

Paying Attention to Positivity - Review your wins and keep a running list of accomplishments, however small, as well as recognition from your colleagues.

Finding Better – Sometimes, it's time to look for something else. If you're truly unhappy in your current position, outline a plan to find a new job with elements that make you happy and productive.

Source:
Monster.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Let Tax Records Take a Hit from Hurricanes

June 4, 2015 1:26 am

When hurricanes and other seasonal storms are set to strike, it is important to protect personal documents, including tax records. To ensure your tax records are safe from whatever nature has in store, take the following steps, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

1. Create an Electronic Set of Records
Taxpayers should keep a duplicate set of records including bank statements, tax returns, identifications and insurance policies in a safe place such as a waterproof container, and away from the original set.

Keeping an additional set of records is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet. Even if the original records are only provided on paper, these can be scanned into an electronic format. This way, taxpayers can save them to the cloud, download them to a storage device such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive, or burn them to a CD or DVD.

2. Document Valuables
Another step a taxpayer can take to prepare for a disaster is to photograph or videotape the contents of his or her home, especially items of higher value. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook (Publication 584) which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.

A photographic record can help an individual prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Ideally, photos should be stored with a friend or family member who lives outside the area.

3. Update Emergency Plans
Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes. Make your plans ahead of time and practice them.

4. Check on Fiduciary Bonds
Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

If disaster strikes, an affected taxpayer can call 1-866-562-52271-866-562-5227 FREE (FREE) to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.

Source: IRS.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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6 Garage Safeguards for New Homeowners

June 4, 2015 1:26 am

Most new homeowners are not only new to homeownership, but new to owning a garage, as well. It’s important for all homeowners, especially those with children, to stay safe while entering and exiting the garage. Here’s how, according to the experts at OverheadDoor.com.

1. Make sure the garage door opener control button is out of the reach of children and their small fingers and do not let them play with garage door remote controls.

2. Never place fingers between door sections. Consider pinch-resistant door panels to help prevent accidents.

3. Visually inspect the garage door for wear and tear. Pay particular attention to springs, cables, rollers and pulleys. Do not attempt to remove, adjust or repair these parts or anything attached to them. These parts are under high tension and should only be fixed by a trained garage door professional.

4. Test the reversing mechanism by placing a 2-inch by 4-inch board in the door's path. If the door does not reverse after contacting the object, call a qualified garage door professional for repair. If the opener has not been replaced since 1993, replace the garage door opener with a new one that has safety beams and auto-reverse as a standard feature.

5. While on vacation, unplug the garage door opener unit or use the vacation lock security switch on the wall console, which renders remotes unusable and is an optional accessory to most openers.

6. Do not leave the garage door partially open. When activated again, it may travel downward and come in contact with an object in its path. This also compromises a home's security.

Source: OverheadDoor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Step One in the Mortgage Process: Review Credit

June 4, 2015 1:26 am

If you are considering buying a home, understanding your credit report and score is the first step toward obtaining financing for your purchase. According to a recent TransUnion report, a majority of would-be homebuyers remain misinformed about the mortgage process, including the factors dependent on credit scores and steps to improve credit before buying.

“Leading up to a home purchase is a particularly important time to check and understand your credit score, as it affects lending rates and mortgage terms,” explains Ken Chaplin, SVP at TransUnion. “We recommend prospective home buyers begin regularly checking their score at least three months before securing a mortgage in order to maximize their potential for the best financing options.”

Per the report, half of potential homebuyers correctly identified what factors can be impacted by a credit score, including interest rates, the amount they can borrow and their mortgage lending terms.

Less than half of potential homebuyers, however, understand their credit score measures the amount of debt they hold, the risk of not repaying back a loan, or the financial resources they have to pay back loans. About a third of prospective homebuyers incorrectly believe increasing their income or closing old accounts before applying for a mortgage would help improve their scores.

A nearly equal amount of potential homebuyers believe one month prior to purchasing is a suitable timeframe to check credit scores. One month gives homebuyers little time to take action if they discover fraudulent activity like identity theft or old, unpaid credit card debt that could negatively affect their score.

After reviewing your credit report and score, take time to research loans, rates and brokers before signing a contract. Doing this work ahead of time will pay off later with a better rate and terms. Be realistic with what you can afford. The larger your down payment, the wider your options. Putting more money down, up front, will help ensure you pay less each month.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for a Tidier Home

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

(Family Features) No one wants to spend their weekend doing chores, especially when pleasant weather arrives. Get a handle on household dirt with these efficient, effective cleaning tips from the experts at home product provider Eureka.

1. Repel sweaty hands and scratches. Use furniture polish with a citrus base when cleaning appliances. These products create a low-friction surface that reduce scratches and leave an oily layer which keeps sweaty palms and fingerprints at bay.

2. Organize the entryway. Make outdoor fun more accessible with a tidy entryway, mud room or coat closet. Create bins to organize all accessories for outdoor activities: balls and gloves in one bin, swimming toys and goggles in another, and so on.

3. Recruit a cleaning crew. Give the kids something to do in summer with a few daily chores. This will lighten your load and teach lessons of accountability and responsibility. Even little mess-makers can help with age-appropriate jobs, such as picking up toys or sorting laundry by color. Create a chore chart to help keep everyone on task and ensure chores are completed in a timely fashion.

4. Create a clutter-free zone. Give yourself a little breathing room and assign a special area where no personal belongings can be placed. The kitchen is a great spot to keep clutter-free so meal prep is easier and there's a comfortable place for the family to gather.

5. Dust daily. Set aside just 10 to 15 minutes a day to properly dust one room in the home. A microfiber cloth attached to the end of a long pole with a rubber band is an easy way to reach tough spots such as light fixtures, ceilings and corners, as well as baseboards and behind heavy furniture.

Source: Walmart.com/Eureka

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Electrical Alphabet Soup: AFCIs, TRRs and More

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

There are a myriad of components involved in a home’s electrical system, and any one of them can malfunction, increasing the possibility of fire and shock, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). To minimize risk, consider protecting your home with arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and tamper resistant receptacles (TRRs).

AFCIs – One of the major causes of electrical fire is an arc fault, which is caused by damaged, overheated or stressed wiring or devices. The most common AFCI is a branch/feeder, which replaces standard circuit breakers in the home’s electrical service panel and detects hazardous arcing conditions, shutting down electricity before a fire can start.

Other options include outlet AFCIs, which provide protection to power cords plugged into the receptacle, and combination AFCIs, which provide parallel protection for branch circuit wiring, cord sets and power supply cords downstream of the device.

GFCIs – A GFCI is a device designed to protect people from electric shock by constantly monitoring electricity flow in a circuit and quickly switching off power if it senses any loss of current. Typically, they are installed in areas where water and electricity are in close proximity, such as the bathroom, garage, kitchen and basement.

GFCIs can be installed at the main service panel, in place of standard electrical outlets, or can be used as a portable device. While GFCIs should be installed by a licensed electrician, portable GFCIs require no tools to install.

TRRs
– TRRs look just like ordinary outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the openings or slots. When equal pressure is simultaneously applied to both sides, the receptacle cover plates open to allow the standard plug to make contact with the receptacle contact points.

Without simultaneous pressure, the cover plates remain closed, preventing insertion of foreign objects and protecting children from electrical injuries. TRR technology can be combined with AFCI and GFCI receptacles.

All of these devices have proven so effective that the National Electrical Code® (NEC) requires them to be installed in all new homes. Existing homes with aging electrical systems can also benefit from these advanced technologies, which should be installed by a qualified electrician.

Source: ESFI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Now May Be a Good Time to Buy

June 3, 2015 1:18 am

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) report, lower interest rates and home prices are significantly boosting housing affordability.

“Now is a great time for consumers to buy homes,” says NAHB Chairman Tom Woods, a home builder from Blue Springs, Mo. “Both first-time and move-up buyers can take advantage of these favorable market conditions and start building their American Dream.”

First-time homebuyers can find help qualifying for a mortgage with low down payment programs offered by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are geared primarily toward the first-time homebuyer market. These lenders now offer mortgages with 3 percent down payments, allowing more creditworthy borrowers who lack the funds for a large down payment to obtain a home mortgage.

As housing affordability continues to improve, more consumers will discover the benefits of homeownership, including the fact that it is a primary source of net worth for many Americans, and is an important step in accumulating personal financial assets over the long term.

The financial benefits of homeownership begin in the first year for most homeowners, through the ability to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes paid off their taxable income. This can result in savings of thousands of dollars every year, especially in the early years of the mortgage when interest makes up the largest portion of the monthly payment.

In addition to the financial benefits to families, homeownership also strengthens communities. Home building increases the property tax base that supports local schools and communities.

“Homeownership builds stronger communities, provides a solid foundation for family and personal achievement and improves the quality of life for millions of people,” adds Woods.

Source: NAHB.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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