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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

7 Fun, Frugal Ways to Spend Free Time

August 19, 2016 2:46 am


Spare time is something to be treasured. It can also be expensive, because there are so many tempting—and costly—ways to spend it. For the budget-conscious among us, contributors to U.S. News & World Report suggest seven ways to spend free time without breaking the bank:

1. Check Out Museums – Most of us have never explored the museums in our own communities. Free or discount admission days can provide a pleasant few hours or a fun date on the cheap.

2. Get in Shape – You don’t have to join a gym to get a healthy workout. Grab a friend for a daily walk or jog, or check out online videos for ideas.

3. Shop Second-Hand – If you do need to shop for clothes or household goods, go to a second-hand store—it’ll keep your spending to a minimum.

4. Take Up a New Hobby – Adopting a hobby, like or learning a new language or widening your cooking skills, is an affordable way to spend free time.

5. Visit the Library – Readers can check out best sellers and classics for free, along with e-books and hundreds of movies.

6. Volunteer – Find an opportunity that appeals to you, such as assisting at an animal shelter, to spend some fun, rewarding hours helping others without spending money.

7. Write a Blog – Try your hand at blogging on a topic you’re knowledgeable and passionate about.

How do you spend free time without spending money?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Homeowner Handbook: What to Do If the Sewer System Breaks Down

August 19, 2016 2:46 am


Many homeowners have had to deal with a malfunctioning sewer line at one time or another—often, at the expense of limited know-how. It pays to be prepared if the sewer line breaks down, says Michael Petri, owner of New York-based Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

According to Petri, a sewer line can fail for a number of reasons, including excessive rainfall; therefore, the first step to remedy a breakdown is to identify its cause.

“First, look for any backflow, issues flushing the toilet, and clogged drains,” Petri advises. “This is often an indication of potential sewer problems in need of repair, sewer cleanout, or replacement.”

In most cases, issues can be fixed by clearing drains that have backed up, says Petri. Garbage disposal and kitchen sink drains are often the culprits.

“We suggest examining your drains regularly,” Petri says. “Use grates to prevent debris, such as hair, from getting clogged going down the drain. In addition, pour water down the drain to check the speed of the water flow into the pipes.”

This type of maintenance—“preventative,” notes Petri—staves off damage that could warrant replacement of the system.

Ensure the sewer drains near the property are not blocked by litter, as well, Petri says—sometimes, the solution is a simple sweep of a nearby drain.

Petri also recommends inspecting the foundation of the home for standing water—this could be a sign of a worsening problem. (Standing water can also encourage mold growth, Petri adds.)

Work to minimize water use in the home during bouts of heavy rainfall. According to Petri, high volumes of household water, combined with rainwater, can place undue strain on the sewer system.

Source: Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Trends: Luxe Meets Tech in Master Baths

August 19, 2016 2:46 am


More and more homeowners are investing in luxurious, technology-equipped master baths, incorporating features that range from built-in sound and radiant flooring to self-cleaning toilets and towel warmers.

This is according to the recently released U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Survey, which polled over 2,000 homeowners who are either in the midst of, are planning to, or have recently completed a master bath remodel.

“Our recent industry and consumer studies show an uptick in discretionary projects and spending in several areas of the home, including bathrooms,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz, in a statement. “The Bathroom Trends study sheds light into what is behind the spending increase in renovations of these rooms, including a rise in high-tech and luxury features.”

Luxe…

Of those surveyed:

• 54 percent upgraded a master bathroom shower to a model with luxury features, such as a rainfall showerhead;

• 20 percent upgraded a master bathroom tub to a model with luxury features, such as room for two; and

• 6 percent upgraded a master bathroom toilet to a model with luxury features, such as a bidet.

…Meets Tech

• 20 percent upgraded a master bathroom toilet to a model with high-tech features, such as a built-in night light or motion-activated seat;

• 12 percent upgraded a master bathroom tub to a model with high-tech features, such as a heated backrest or scented mist dispenser; and

• 9 percent upgraded a master bathroom shower to a model with high-tech features, such as digital controls or mood lighting.

The most common elements and finishes in luxe-meets-tech baths, according to the survey, include:

• Ceramic/Porcelain Tile
• Gray Paint
• White Countertops/Cabinetry

Homeowners are shelling out to achieve the luxe-tech look, the survey concludes: two in five of those surveyed spent $10,000 - $25,000, and one-third spent over $25,000.

Source: Houzz.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Joined a Gym? Tips to Start Off on the Right Foot

August 18, 2016 2:46 am


Did you know exercise not only makes you feel healthier, but can make you feel younger, too?

Planet Fitness recently commissioned a survey of gym-goers over age 60 to determine their attitudes toward exercise. The most impressive result? Sixty-plus exercisers reported feeling 12 years younger than their actual age. Talk about incentive!

However old or young, joining a gym for the first time can be intimidating. According to Brian Zehetner, director of Health and Fitness for Planet Fitness and co-author of “Working Out Sucks (And Why It Doesn’t Have To),” making the experience stress-free is key. His tips include:

Asking for Help

Close to one-third of those surveyed by Planet Fitness reported feeling concerned they will not understand how to use gym equipment. Ask for help! Take advantage of the staff available to you—they will teach you how to use the equipment safely.

Starting Slow

Know your limitations, and don’t take on too much too soon—nothing is more frustrating than an injury, especially if you’re an older individual who will require a longer recovery period. Start by establishing a core foundation of cardiovascular conditioning, strength training and flexibility exercises.

Teaming Up

Having a workout buddy can make the gym experience seem less daunting, and provide motivation. (For most over age 60, the “talk test” is a good way to measure the intensity of the workout—if you can carry on a conversation while exercising, you're probably enjoying yourself more than you would be working out alone.)

Expecting Discomfort

Don’t be discouraged by soreness or stiffness after your first few workouts—these are signs that the body has identified the stress you’re putting it through, and responding and adapting in kind. Over time, exercise will become easier, and recovery won’t take as long.

Starting off on the right foot at the gym can set you on the path toward a healthier lifestyle long-term. Stick with it—you’ll feel benefits sooner than you think!

Source: Planet Fitness
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Reasons to Remodel This Fall

August 18, 2016 2:46 am


Most house remodels occur in spring and summer, when the weather is unlikely to derail a project—but according to one expert, another season is just as ideal for remodels: fall.

Why fall? Dan Fritschen, product manager at RemodelOrMove.com and author of six books on home remodeling, lists three reasons:

1. The off-season means more contractors are available for hire. Remodels are less common in fall, making it the perfect time for homeowners to have their pick of professionals. Contractors are often more responsive in the off-season, and eager to give estimates for work that will keep them employed through fall and early winter.

2. Temperatures are ripe for remodeling convertible spaces. Finishing an attic or basement in spring or summer can be challenging due to a lack of climate control. Fall temperatures, on the other hand, are cool enough—but not too cold—to start (and finish!) a conversion project. According to Fritschen, an attic or basement conversion ranges from $25 to $100 per square foot.

3. The holidays are coming! Starting a remodel in fall will allow time to complete the project before the holidays—what better way to celebrate the season than with a newly remodeled home?

To enjoy these benefits, it is imperative to keep the project on schedule, Fritschen adds. RemodelOrMove.com offers a free remodeling planner that will not only customize the schedule, but automatically send information at pivotal points in the project.

Source: RemodelOrMove.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Has Federal Intervention Improved Home Appraisals?

August 18, 2016 2:46 am


Have home appraisals become more accurate in the years since the enactment of Dodd-Frank?

For homebuyers, an inaccurate home valuation can derail the opportunity to obtain a mortgage; for homeowners, it can spoil the chance to refinance.

The answer, according to an analysis by Bankrate.com, is murky.

Dodd-Frank was expected to result in more reliable appraisals, Appraisal Institute spokesman Ken Chitester told Bankrate—one provision, the elimination of the Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC), was aimed at clearing up confusion over who can present information to an appraiser and discouraging lenders from placing pressure on appraisers to value properties at a certain price.

The HVCC, however, had unintended consequences. According to Bankrate, many more appraisals were ordered through appraisal management companies (AMCs), which were dispatching appraisers to properties far afield from the neighborhoods they knew well. As a result, these appraisers were undervaluing homes, putting countless potential sales in jeopardy.

Under Dodd-Frank, REALTORS®, homebuyers and home sellers can consult with an appraiser—but this newfound permission requires some basic knowledge on the part of the consumer, Richard Koestner, partner at Iowa-based Koestner, McGivern & Associates, told Bankrate.

Koestner recommends homebuyers and home sellers ask:

• How long have you been an appraiser?
• How many appraisals have you completed?
• How often do you appraise homes in this area?
• How familiar are you with the local market?
• Where do you get the data that you use in your appraisal reports?

Asking these questions can help homebuyers and home sellers not only assess an appraisers’ qualifications, but also understand the home appraisal process.

For more on home appraisals, or to learn how much your home is worth, contact a real estate professional in your area.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Not to Pack for Your Next Vacation

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


Airlines have begun charging for checked bags, travel security measures have tightened… what’s a vacationer to do?

A carry-on bag is your best bet—but if you’re traveling for a week or more, packing just a carry-on may seem impossible. Turns out, you can travel light and still have everything you need for a vacation, says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. Here, his top picks for what not to pack:

A Third Pair of Shoes – For most trips, you can get away with a pair of sneakers and one pair of walking shoes nice enough to be worn to dinner. If you must have more, make the third pair lightweight flip-flops.

Banned Liquids – You know you can’t bring bottled water through security, but remember that shampoos, lotions, sunscreens, etc., must be in bottles no more than 3.4 ounces.

Excess Equipment – Blow dryers can be found at even the most modest motels, and forget electric curlers or straighteners— you won’t want to spend so much time on your hair, anyway!

Expensive Items – Valuables are a target for thieves, and bags or purses can easily be lost or rummaged through. If you must take an expensive item, wear it—and if you bring an electronic device, keep it on your person at all times.

More Clothes Than You Need – Make a wish list of outfits you want, then cut it in half. Know the weather in your destination, and be prepared to layer as needed.

Old-Style Entertainment – Free up space by leaving books, especially hard-covers, as well as radios and flashlights, at home.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Share and Separate: Remodeling for Multigenerational Living

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


(BPT)—Multigenerational households are becoming more and more common, as extended family members move to live under one roof for cultural, financial or personal reasons.

While multigenerational living has its advantages, a lack of space can be a challenge. One of the best ways to remedy it is to remodel the home with separation in mind. Converting an existing space—such as a basement, garage or guest suite—into living space for one generation, or compartmentalizing, is ideal.

To compartmentalize effectively, each generational space must have, at minimum, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and living and sleeping areas. Make special consideration when it comes to installing plumbing in the kitchenette and bathroom—some spaces simply cannot accommodate in-ground or in-wall fixtures, and an above-floor, compact system may be necessary.

Setting up shared spaces is equally important when remodeling for multigenerational living. Consider the activities the whole family enjoys—Sunday brunch, crafts, or movie night, for example. Factor these into the remodeling plans, and ensure the areas that support these are accessible from the generational compartments.

The number of multigenerational households is expected to continue growing, as boomers enter their golden years and millennials strive to establish homes. Remodeling for both separation and shared spaces increases the functionality of the home, fostering what ultimately matters most: time with family.

Source: Saniflo
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Money-Saving Tips for Cost-Burdened Renters

August 17, 2016 12:46 am


Renters burdened with rocketing monthly housing costs are limited in their ability to save for emergencies, a down payment on a home, and retirement. It is possible, however, to control costs, even in the current rental market, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of the national non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

“As the cost of rent continues to increase, it’s becoming more difficult for many individuals and families to afford housing and other basic necessities,” said Trumble in a statement. “The good news is that there are tips and considerations that can help renters better manage rent-related costs and ease this major financial burden.”

These tips are to:

Set a rent budget—and stick to it. Keep to a realistic and reasonable rent budget, even if it means compromising with fewer amenities or a less-than-ideal location. Take time to tour a variety of rental listings before signing a lease.

Consider adding a roommate. If the lease and space allow, consider getting a roommate to offset the rent burden. Those savings can be allocated toward student loan debt or a down payment fund.

Cut back on spending. Rent is a fixed cost, but other expenses are not. Cut back on spending in areas like activities, clothing and entertainment, and use coupons as often as possible.

Look for ways to trim costs, too. A lot of renters are burdened by energy costs. Trim the expense by turning off air conditioning and lights in unused rooms, and turning off the faucet while brushing teeth.

Make a move. Rents are often less in areas outside of a city. Consider making a move to an outlying town—if it has access to public transportation, all the better. Call upon the assistance of a real estate professional to make the transition from renter to homeowner as smooth as possible.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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EPA Rule Addresses Formaldehyde in Household Wood Products

August 16, 2016 12:46 am


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized a rule that extends protections over formaldehyde-laced wood products, such as cabinets, furniture and flooring. Exposure to formaldehyde, which is often used as an adhesive in household wood products, can be harmful to health.

The rule, established as directed by the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite Wood Products Act of 2010, mandates that composite wood products manufactured, imported, sold and/or supplied in the U.S. be labeled TSCA Title VI compliant. The rule applies to products such as hardwood plywood, medium-density fiberboard and particleboard.

The EPA cooperated with the California Air Resources Board to ensure the rule remained consistent with California requirements for composite wood products.

“We are carrying out important measures laid out by Congress to protect the public from harmful exposure of this widely-used chemical found in homes and workplaces,” said Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement on the rule. “We have worked with the state of California as a partner to help ensure consistency in our requirements. The new rule will level the playing field for domestic manufacturers who have a high rate of compliance with the California standard and will ensure that imported products not subject to California’s requirements will meet the new standard and, thus, not contain dangerous formaldehyde vapors.”

The rule exempts products made with no-added or ultra-low formaldehyde.

For more on formaldehyde in the home, visit www.epa.gov/formaledhyde.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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