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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Lighten Up Your Home for Summer

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Summer: The kids are getting out of school, the temperature is starting to rise, and you're ready to finally throw open the windows. However, once you take a look around your newly re-opened home, you may find it's not as ready for summer as you are.

Heavy, insulating textiles and unaccountable clutter have probably invaded your rooms, and you need an efficient way to keep the inside temperature down. Your home is about as ready for summer as a snowball.

According to the National Soap and Detergent Association, removing clutter from a home will decrease the amount of time spent on housework by 40 percent. Start by sorting through the contents of closets and cupboards and donating those items that you no longer use. Clearing out closet space will allow you to find a new home for items that are congesting your living space, giving you more room to enjoy and utilize space for BBQs and summer visitors.

In addition to clearing away the clutter, storing dark and heavy textiles and bringing out lighter and brighter ones will also open up your home. Consider colorful, patterned bedding to cheer up your room, as well as printed pillows to brighten chairs and couches, further channeling the bloom of summer straight into your home. Your floors can join in on the makeover by swapping out thick or woolen rugs for ones made of cotton or sisal, which add an organic feel to your home.

One more plus to swapping out rugs is that lighter rugs will retain less heat in your home than heavy ones, which will help to keep your home cooler. Dealing with the ever-increasing summer temperatures in an energy efficient manner is certainly another part of your home's summer makeover. The most natural and energy saving way to keep your home cooler this summer is to improve your windows. According to, direct sunlight can raise a room's temperature by 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit, so improving your window coverings will help reduce heat gain in your home.

Budget Blinds offers the best energy saving solutions for reducing heat gain from your windows with these customizable options:

  • Drapery - Drapes installed around windows will not only add elegance and texture to a room, they can also reduce heat gain by as much as 33 percent.
  • Screens - Improving windows by adding retractable screens will help your family capitalize on the cooler times of the day and reduce AC use. Screens can also be added to porches to allow you to experience the warmth and sun of summer without fear of invading pests.
  • Window Film - Investing in window films, especially high-reflectivity films, will both protect your furniture from sun-bleaching and help reduce heat gain while still allowing you to keep your summer view. Window films are especially important for East and West facing windows which attract the most direct sunlight.
  • Solar Shades and Blinds - Solar Shades are designed specifically to help shield against the sun's heat and reduce glare inside your home. And, according to, horizontal or vertical slat-type blinds are particularly effective at reducing heat gain by as much as 45 percent.

These window solutions will work well with your preexisting window coverings and will create a comfortable environment within your home during the summer. Moreover, applying layers of window treatments, such as window film and drapes, will increase your windows' energy efficiency and help your home retain heat during the winter too.

After lightening up the interior of your home with new textiles, and improving the energy efficiency of your windows, the last stop on the road of any summer home makeover is the garage. Taking the time to invest in a garage organization system will pay off later this summer when you no longer have to wade through spider infested boxes to reach your belongings. Adding racks to the walls of your garage will utilize the room's vertical space, and just as with your closets, clearing out items that you no longer use will free up even more space!

Source: Budget Blinds



Long Live Your Pet

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

(Family Features)--Pet parents do everything they can to ensure their dogs and cats are around as long as possible. Pets, much like humans, need a healthy diet and plenty of exercise to help them live a long and happy life.

Good nutrition is key. There are many factors involved when it comes to choosing a pet food for your dog or cat. Keep in mind if your pets aren't digesting the ingredients properly, nutrition is not being absorbed. Get maximum nutrition from every bite by purchasing a natural, high quality food with a digestive health support system. Ingredients to look for include:

  • Probiotics -- or good bacteria -- help keep your pet's immune system healthy. Find a brand of food that contains live probiotics that are added to the food after it has been cooked and cooled. This process assures maximum survival of the probiotics, so that your pet reaps the full benefits of their food.
  • Prebiotics stimulate the growth and maintenance of good bacteria, like probiotics, in your pet's digestive tract.
  • Fiber plays an important role in human digestive health, and it also plays an integral role in your pet's digestive health. Look for foods with fiber-rich ingredients, such as oatmeal, flaxseed, pumpkin and papaya to promote digestive regularity.
  • Digestive enzymes help your pet's body break down proteins, fiber and carbohydrates. This ensures your pet is getting the nutrients from their food, while reducing stress on their organs. This is especially crucial for aging pets.

Get pets moving every day. Dogs and cats used to have to work for a living. Many were bred to be mousers, hunters, herders or protectors. Most pets today have a much more sedentary lifestyle. They spend their days lying around, waiting for their human companions to come home and are rewarded for their patience with a big bowl of food. However, regular exercise supports healthy circulation of both nutrients and waste and is essential for a pet to have a happy and long life.

Experts recommend cat owners plan a daily play session. Toys that mimic the actions of their natural prey -- birds, mice or bugs -- should get them up and moving. Dogs need to be walked for 20 to 30 minutes each day, while larger breeds often need much more. At your next veterinarian visit, ask if your pooch is healthy enough for an exercise program and ask for recommendations based on breed.

Adequate exercise is an important step toward good health. It's also a great way to reduce such unwanted behaviors as chewing, digging, scratching or whining.




Five Tips to Taken before Hitting the Road

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

Family Features—Millions of Americans are expected to take a summer vacation this year. If you're one of those hitting the road to reach your final destination, here are a few reminders to help ensure you're road-trip-ready.

1. Check under the hood. 
Even if you properly care for your vehicle year round by keeping up with regularly scheduled maintenance, it is wise to check your vehicle's oil, coolant and wiper fluid levels before heading out on the road. Hot summer temperatures can cause your engine to overheat, so keep an eye on all of the warning lights on your dashboard -- from the engine light to the gas gauge.

2. Inspect your vehicle
. To help avoid any unfortunate surprises, do a thorough check of your vehicle, paying special attention to the only part that actually touches the road -- your tires. Be sure to properly check all four tires with a tire pressure gauge. The optimum tire pressure required for your car can be found on a sticker in the door jamb, on the inside of the glove compartment door or in the owner's manual.

"The proper inflation is essential for the performance and longevity of a tire," says Ron Margadonna of Michelin. "In fact, keeping your tire pressure at the recommended level can boost fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon."

3. Check the weather. 
Unexpected storms are common during the summer months and the first few minutes of a rain shower can be a dangerous time for drivers. Oil and grease trapped on roadways rises to the surface and can create slippery driving conditions that can impact the traction and grip of your car. In fact, stopping on a wet road can take up to four times the normal distance as a dry road. It's best to slow down and increase the space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

4.Prep friends, family and your home
. Remember to tell neighbors, friends and family that you'll be out of town. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on the house and have someone pick up your mail and newspaper. It's also a good idea to set up timers on lamps and lights in various rooms throughout your home so it looks occupied.

5. Review the route. 
No matter how well you plan your journey, you can never predict what obstacles you might encounter along the way. Road construction, traffic detours or bad weather can be troublesome if you don't have a backup plan. It's best to review your route and understand the alternate roads that can help you arrive at your destination safely, stress free and ready to enjoy your vacation.




Q: Should I Hire a Home Inspector for a New Home?

June 16, 2013 7:34 am

A: You would think not since it is new and the developer has to adhere to local construction guidelines. However, err on the side of caution – always hire an inspector, whether the home is old or new.

You can ask the builder to provide copies of any inspection reports on the property, architectural plans, surveys and pertinent construction documents for your inspector to review.

The inspector should either be a professional home inspector, an engineer, an architect or a contractor. When hiring a professional inspector, look for one who belongs to a home inspection trade organization, such as the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).

This group has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members.  Membership in ASHI is not automatic. Proven field experience and technical knowledge about structures and their various systems and appliances are required.  

As for rates, they vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs increase based on the scope of the inspection.



5 Easy Ways to Build Savings

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

You’ve heard it before: a great way to save money is to have ten percent of every paycheck automatically deposited into savings. Maybe you do that, and maybe you don’t – and if you don’t do it yet, perhaps you will decide to start.

For the die-hard resisters, there are some other good ways to build up your scanty savings. From a panel of consumers in Brea, California, here are five ways to get you started:

Fill a jar with fives – Filling a piggy bank with loose change is nice, but it will never make you rich. Try this: Every time you get a $5 bill in change, stuff it into a jar – right out in the open, where you can see it every day. Chances are, you won’t miss the fives in your wallet, but you may be surprised at how quickly the jar fills up. When it’s full, put the contents into the highest interest savings account you can find – and start stuffing the jar again.

Start by saving for the short-term – Got your eye on a new iPad – or some other indulgence you know you can’t really afford? Start saving spare nickels, dimes and dollars with an eye toward that single purchase, Reward yourself when you reach goal, and now that you’re in the habit, keep saving and bank it for the long-term.

Save your coupon savings – If you’re at all frugal, you are probably clipping and using grocery coupons. Add up the amount you are saving on each week’s grocery bill – then put that amount into savings.

Cut your personal expenses – Can you make do with a cheaper cell phone plan? Brew your own morning coffee? Give up magazines you don’t need, or cable stations you don’t watch? Make a list of your monthly personal expenses. Pare it ruthlessly, and put your savings into the bank.

Watch out for bank charges – Banks these days are charging fees for ‘inactive’ accounts, not meeting a minimum balance, or ‘services’ you didn’t know or forgot about. Check monthly statements and be aware if your savings are being slowly siphoned off. If fees are eating into your balance, move the account elsewhere.


4 Simple, Smart Ways to Save toward Summer Travel

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

(BPT) - Americans may still be cutting back in other areas, but when it comes to summer travel they're willing to start spending again. Economic uncertainty aside, 78 percent of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer, and one in four of them plan to spend more this year on summer travel, according to a recent survey released by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation.

More than half (55 percent) of Americans will spend the same on summer vacation this year as last year, and 26 percent say they will spend more, according to the survey. Just 16 percent intend to spend less on travel in 2013.

Summer vacation is an important American tradition. Traveling together gives families, couples and friends the opportunity to relax, bond and experience new places.

"As valuable as summer vacation can be to our emotional well-being, it's important to ensure that the costs of traveling don't adversely affect our overall financial health," says Carrie Braxdale, managing director of investor services, TD Ameritrade, Inc. ("TD Ameritrade"). "Like managing any large expense, paying for vacation comes down to planning and saving."

Consider these four important points when you're thinking about how you will fund this year's summer vacation:

1. Early planning pays off - While occasionally you may be able to score a great travel deal at the last minute, it's more likely you'll find the best hotel, airfare and rental car rates by planning and booking in advance. Decisions such as your destination, lodging arrangements and transportation plans will all affect the ultimate cost of your vacation. By planning ahead and tallying costs before you incur them, you will be able to save toward your travel goals and reduce the chance of overspending, running up credit card debt or - even worse - diverting funds from long-term savings goals like retirement.

2. Build a vacation budget - Just as budgeting helps you stay on track with day-to-day and month-to-month spending, establishing a vacation budget can help you keep control of travel costs. Decide in advance how much you will spend on transportation, lodging, food and attractions before you make a single reservation. Once your vacation is under way, track expenses every day and stay on budget. This will help ensure you don't overspend on food, activities or souvenirs you didn't plan for.

3. Keep a level head - Even if it's the trip of a lifetime, try not to allow your vacation to carry you away. Don't get caught up in the moment and overspend by putting all your travel costs on a credit card. Going into debt to fund a vacation ensures you'll be paying for it - at a high rate of interest - long after you've returned home.

4. Cut back wisely - Cutting back on other expenses in order to save toward a vacation fund is a great idea. Just cut back carefully. Never reduce savings, especially retirement savings, just to pay for a vacation. In fact, consider doing the opposite, and cut back on vacation expenses in favor of putting a little bit more into your IRA or 401(k). For example, if you start at age 30 and contribute just $500 additional a year toward your IRA, by age 55 you could have an additional $39,000 for your retirement. That's assuming an 8 percent rate of return over 25 years. If you're unsure how your current retirement savings will affect your financial life once you retire, visit TD Ameritrade's Retirement Center, where you can learn about different types of IRAs and find tools like a Retirement Planner and WealthRuler.

Summer vacation can be great fun, but be sure to save toward it and spend it wisely while travelling. Keeping control of your travel costs now can help ensure you'll have plenty of funds later in life when it's time to take the ultimate vacation ... retirement.


Wildfire Advice: Fireproofing with Your Landscape

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

I had the unfortunate experience of living through a suburban wildfire situation. So watching yet another spring wildfire tearing through Los Angeles county has prompted a review of firesafe protections for those living in areas that could be more prone to wildfires.

This first of two segments zeroes in on issues you can manage on your property to help hedge against wildfire damage. Some great advice is available from Oregon State University ( According to the site, homeowners in fire-prone areas should make sure that the plants and landscaping materials they use are fire resistant.

When planning landscaping projects, remember that a fire safe landscape shows off plants and other garden elements by leaving space between plants and groups of plants. More tips are available through the US Fire Safety Administration, including:

• Create a defensible space perimeter by thinning trees and brush within 30 feet around your home.

• Beyond 30 feet, remove dead wood, debris and low tree branches.

• Eliminate small trees and plants growing under trees. They allow ground fires to jump into tree crowns.

• Space trees 30 feet apart and prune to a height of 8 to 10 feet.

• Place shrubs at least 20 feet from any structures and prune regularly.

• Plant the most drought-tolerant vegetation within three feet of your home and adjacent to structures to prevent ignition.

• Provide at least a 10 to 15 foot separation between islands of shrubs and plant groups to effectively breakup continuity of vegetation.

• Landscape your property with fire resistant plants and vegetation to prevent fire from spreading quickly.

• Create fire-safe zones with stone walls, patios, swimming pools, decks and roadways.

• Use rock, mulch, flower beds and gardens as ground cover for bare spaces and as effective firebreaks.


Word of the Day

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

Loan-to-value ratio.  Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property.  Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e. – 75 percent financing.



Q: How Bad Is a Previous Foreclosure on Credit?

June 12, 2013 6:08 pm

A: Unfortunately, it is a pretty bad blemish.  A property foreclosure is one of the most damaging events in a borrower's credit record. In terms of the effect on your credit history, a deed in lieu of foreclosure – where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender – or a short sale – when the lender agrees to write off a portion of the loan that is higher than the value of the home – is not as adverse as a forced foreclosure.



5 Tips to Get a Higher Sales Price

June 12, 2013 2:08 am

Reports of rising home prices as the housing recovery accelerates are prompting more owners to think about jumping into the real estate market. But before they take the leap, potential home sellers need to consider how technology has changed the way homes are sold in recent years.

"Increasing prices are encouraging more homeowners to put their properties on the market," says Brian Balduf, Chairman, VHT Studios, a leader in photography and digital marketing for homes and businesses "But if you haven't been in the real estate market for 5 or 10 years, you may be surprised how much the home-buying experience has changed, thanks to the Internet."

A decade ago, selling your home meant pounding a sign in the yard and having your agent mail out postcards and place newspaper ads.  But that approach is as obsolete as VCRs, pagers and cassette tapes.

Today's buyers are focusing their searches on the web. They're using iPads and tablets to shop and compare homes for sale, typically scanning hundreds of listings, looking for properties that catch the eye.

Grabbing the attention of these web-savvy buyers requires professional-quality photographs, publishing a video on and providing interactive floor plans, says VHT's Balduf.

"Selling your home has become an online beauty contest," Balduf says.  "Buyers are visually-oriented.  So sellers need to provide the best possible pictures of their house on the Internet to grab buyers' attention and motivate them to set up a showing.

Balduf offered these five tips for helping sellers maximize their sales price:

Spring and early summer are the best times to sell. There tend to be more buyers when the weather is nice. Lawns and other landscaping are at their peak so your home will look its best, helping you get a higher sale price compared with listing later in the year.

Use an agent who uses professional photographer. Sellers who provide flawless, high-resolution photos in their listings can expect a sale price closer to the listing price.  Professional photos help listings get more Internet views, and they increase the perceived value of a home by nearly 13 percent. On a $250,000 home, this equates to an increase of $32,500, according to a consumer survey by VHT.

Ask your agent about posting a video of your home on YouTube. More than 80 percent of all buyers find their homes online, and 21 percent use of look for online videos.

Include floor plans in your listing. Interactive floor plans that show how rooms relate to each other are an increasingly popular marketing tool. Some brokerages have begun making them standard. The combination of floor plans and professionally-taken photos creates the ultimate shopping experience for buyers.

Clear out the clutter. Your house will show better if it's clean and well-organized. Potential buyers are interested in buying your home, not your furnishings. So take a minimalist approach to personal items around the house, such as piles of paperwork, books, houseplants and photos.

"It's obvious from even a cursory glance at many real estate listings that some real estate agents still tend to overlook the importance of good photographs and videos.  But home buyers don't," Balduf says. "Using an agent who works with professional photographer is the surest way to provide stunning, striking pictures of your home and create a great perception of your home that draws more buyers to your listing."



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