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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Q: What Are the Most Important Considerations in Buying a Vacation Home?

October 2, 2012 6:48 pm

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.

Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

DIY: File Cabinet Planters

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

In our last segment, I introduced the idea of repurposing old office file storage. One of the ideas was taking multi-drawer file cabinets and upending them to convert into practical planters for exterior use.

Some good points of advice on this project include:

Determining if the cabinet you are planning to use has a hollow bottom or a solid bottom. The perfect file cabinet should be a sealed box with a smooth bottom. Don't use cabinets with no bottom plate.

If your file cabinet has little raised lip slightly elevating the flat bottom, you might have to cut a piece of wood and fit it in to achieve a perfectly smooth surface.

Think about adding wheels or casters so you can easily move that planter around if necessary. Wheels not only make it easier to shift your file cabinet planters around, they raise it up from the floor so the planters can have proper drainage. The can be purchased inexpensively and bolted through the metal or wooden surface that will become the bottom of the planter.

To promote proper drainage, drill about 10 - 12 holes in the bottom of each drawer recess - that would be the side that was previously the back of the cabinet that faced the wall.

Since the planter will be outdoors, it is important to paint the cabinet with rust proof paint. First, sand off any rust from the cabinet, clean the cabinet, and prime the cabinet with metal primer.

Beware when using certain brands of metal paint and primer. In the case of Rustoleum, one blogger noted that you couldn’t apply a second coat of Rustoleum paint within 48 hours of the first coat, or the paint will bubble and peel off.

To avoid having to fill up the bottom of the planter with heavy dirt or large rocks, try using square planter boxes and elevate them using buckets. Another idea is to use plastic spinach containers you can get as throwaways from local grocery stores. Punch holes at the bottom and two of them fit snugly into each file slot to hold your plantings.

Slumber by the Numbers: Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

There’s no getting around it: Sleep is important. It reenergizes us, keeps our minds alert, speeds up our metabolism and helps to elevate our mood. But between snoring partners, lumpy mattresses, old pillows and bed-hogging pets, there's a lot going on in bedrooms across America. Unfortunately, it's wreaking some serious havoc on the quality—and quantity—of sleep we're getting.

"According to some experts, the average American sleeps just six-and-a-half hours a night during the workweek and just over seven hours on weekends—that's well below the suggested 8-plus hours per night," says Denny Bradford, director of Ashley Sleep.

So what's keeping us awake? Here's a look at some factors that can often play a major role in sleeplessness:

  • A snoring spouse
  • Pets in the bed
  • Partner's motion
If these sound all too familiar, consider the following easy ways to improve your sleep so you can seize your day, every day:
1. Decide if your mattress is a good fit. If you have a spouse that tosses and turns, or pets that share your bed, a memory foam mattress—or gel mattress with memory foam—may be a good fit. Memory foam contours the mattress to the body and helps alleviate pinches and pains that can cause restlessness. It also absorbs motion so that each partner is supported independently.
2. Control the snoring. Since allergens can be a cause of snoring, make sure to rid the room of any potential snoring hazards like dust, mildew, fungus and pet hair. You can do this by replacing pillows yearly and by regularly washing sheets and keeping the room clean and vacuumed. Latex mattresses may also help with snoring since they're more resistant to bacteria, mold, mildew and dust-mites. If you've tried every possible remedy and the snoring just won't go away, it may be time to see a professional.
3. Take advantage of the weather! With the fall season officially upon us, the cooler weather can actually work to your advantage—and save you some money on your heating bill. Optimal sleeping temperatures in the bedroom should be somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees—so no need to crank up the heat too high. Fall's shorter days can be beneficial to your sleep, as well, since the sun is early to set and late to rise. A darker room means better sleep.
4. Keep the family room OUT of the bedroom. A bedroom should be a personal sanctuary, an inviting place that reflects your personality and taste. Unfortunately, many people also use their bedroom as a home office or TV room. Reserving this space for sleep alone will lead to a more restful environment and better night's sleep.
5. Be routine. Keeping a nighttime routine isn't just for kids; it can also help improve your level of sleep. Whether it's a hot bath, a book, journaling, or a cup of decaf tea that does the trick, be sure relax and unwind before bedtime so you can be at your best the next day.

Source: Ashley Sleep

Hot Home Trends: Euro Metro Modern Furniture Design

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

You don’t have to be a hipster to decorate your home with modern furniture. Today, bright, sparse furniture is drawing on more than just its reputation for uncluttered, art-inspired designs. The iconic bright colors, pop art and sci-fi shapes of mid-century modern furniture are giving way to more understated colors and up-market designs.

"Euro-modern styles perfectly marry a light-filled, uncluttered, high-tech home with a comfortable, high-style, luxurious one," says Brenda Dillon, VP of Merchandising for Ashley Home Furniture. "This look is style with an edgy vibe. White leather. Black finishes. Clean textures. Chrome. These are some of the elements that make Euro style the hottest trend. It's modern style—all grown up!"

Ashley's new Euro pieces are smaller in scale for those who are space-challenged, as well as clean-lined with no ornamentation for a cool esthetic. They include:

Small-scale sectionals, modulars and sofas. These pieces create a number of set-up combinations to fit within any living area -- without sacrificing the comfort of the thick, boxed-seat cushions and backs surrounded in a soft chenille fabric.
Sleek, space saving tables. Choose from faux marble, travertine, chrome, and more for a cool, sophisticated palate that awakens the décor of any living area.
Innovative lighting designs. Say goodbye to sloped or angled lamp shades. Euro-modern designs feature straight shapes, including rectangular styles, as well as square and circular styles.
Abstract art. Modern art was made for modern furniture. Choose from big pieces, including art canvases without a frame. Hang a complementary pair of pictures together for a clean, modern look.
Bold accent pillows & rugs. Rich and contrasting textures are must-haves in a room with such clean lines. Ashley offers accessories that are a trendy counter point to the hip Euro feel, including shaggy rugs and throw pillows to contrast sleek chairs and shiny steel.


Keep Your Home Fire-Free

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

A fire is one of the greatest homeowner fears. Not only could you lose your home and valuables but, more importantly, your family could be at risk! To put your mind at ease, and protect your home from potential fires, follow these simple tips.

  • Change the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
  • Always turn car engines off when pumping gas.
  • Give space heaters their space – at least three feet from anything flammable – and turn space heaters off before bed.
  • To extinguish charcoal grill fires, close the lid and vents and if the fire persists, douse the grill with water from a distance. Remember: never use a charcoal grill indoors.
  • Keep charged fire extinguishers handy in the home and in vehicles.
  • Use baking soda instead of water on grease fires.
  • Program ICE (In Case of Emergency) in cell phones for EMS, police and fire contacts.
  • Long grilling utensils are best to avoid burns.
  • If an appliance smokes or smells, unplug it immediately and have the appliance repaired or replaced.
  • Store matches and lighters safely out of kids' reach.


Word of the Day

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

Trustee. One who as agent for others handles money or holds title to their land.

Q: Do Builders Provide Financing?

October 1, 2012 6:42 pm

A: Many builders offer financing incentives to help move more buyers into a project. In fact, major building companies often have their own mortgage brokerage subsidiaries, while many other builders routinely refer buyers to "preferred" local lenders. If it is a buyer's market in your area, you can be sure developers will offer incentives such as low-down-payment financing or interest rate subsidies.

10 Quick Kitchen Fixes

September 28, 2012 4:34 pm

You need not spend a lot on granite counters or tile flooring to give your kitchen a fresh, new look. So says stylist Rebekah Zaveloff, owner of design studio KitchenLab.

“So many people thing kitchen remodeling is an all-or-nothing proposition,” Zaveloff noted. “The truth is, you can brighten and lighten your kitchen with a few deft, inexpensive touches.”

For starters, she offers these 10 simple fixes:

Throw down a colorful area rug
– Kitchens don’t have to be boring. A colorful area rug by the sink, under a portable island, or beneath the kitchen table can really liven up the space.
Update the barstools or kitchen chairs – Browse second-hand shops or Craigslist for vintage or designer chairs or stools that will add new pizzazz to your old kitchen.
Change the lighting – Fluorescent lighting sheds more light in a dark kitchen, and a well-chosen chandelier or other hanging fixture over the kitchen table will provide a whole new look.
Go bold with wall color – A bright paint color will add new life. Paint all the walls or just one area, perhaps in the dining nook.
Paint the cabinets – If you’re tired of white, try a bold color on the cabinet doors, leaving the background white if you care to.
Change the cabinet hardware – New hardware is easy to install and makes a big impact on the look of your kitchen – especially if the woodwork is dark.
Add a pot rack to a blank wall – It will give the kitchen a new look and help to free up cabinet space.
Add display shelves – Shelves on the wall or behind a glass door cabinet can showcase collections, like antique cooking accessories, or hold glass Mason jars filled with pasta, cereal, rice, dried fruit and wrapped candy.
Tile the backsplash – tile of your choice is easy to apply and can dress up the space behind your sink or stove, adding new color and easy-clean elegance to the kitchen.

Tile, paint or wallpaper the built-in island – Choose a pattern that adds a bold look and a statement about who you are.

Should You 'Winterize' Your Pet?

September 28, 2012 4:34 pm

(ARA) - The arrival of autumn signals many changes in the household, from switching from salads to soups to pulling sweaters out of storage to changing furnace filters. With pets, however, you may need to think as much about what you don't change as what you do.

Chicago veterinarian Dr. Shelly Rubin is well acquainted with the dramatic temperature swings that accompany the change of seasons, as well as how to help pets and owners cope with them. Following is his list of fall do's and don'ts for pet owners.

Don't “fall” off the exercise wagon. With days getting shorter - and cooler - it can be tempting to skip your early morning or evening walk. But with more than half of all pets in the U.S. being overweight or obese, exercise is vital. A daily walk, or several shorter walks, can rev the metabolism of both two- and four-legged walkers for hours.

Do ensure your pet is outfitted for cooler weather. Small, light-bodied breeds, dogs with very short hair and older dogs with weakened immune systems are likely to need a sweater when venturing outside. And once cold and snowy weather sets in, dogs may require protective footwear to keep their paw pads from freezing.

Don't assume that cooler weather eliminates the threat of diseases like heartworm, which are spread by infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes have been known to survive well into the winter months, thanks to indoor havens and protected microclimates existing within larger, cooler climate zones. For this reason, the American Heartworm Society recommends year-round heartworm protection for both dogs and cats.

Do ensure your senior pet has a warm, draft-free place to sleep. Many older dogs and cats suffer from arthritis. Just as sore joints in people tend to feel worse in cold weather, so it is with pets. A warm cozy bed can make nights - and mornings - more comfortable.

Do be sensitive to your pets' feelings if fall brings changes to your household.
Just like people, pets can get depressed. And if you're missing a son or daughter who has moved away to start college or a job, chances are your family pet is also feeling the loss. Spending time with your pet and giving him an extra measure of cuddling and affection will help both of you feel better.

Financial Tip of the Week: How to Get More for Your Money

September 28, 2012 4:34 pm

You know how it goes: pay day comes and you’re feeling good about your finances, but after your mortgage, college tuition payments, grocery bills and the occasional latte, you’re wondering where that money ran off to. It used to be that "middle class" meant "comfortable." Yet today, some are finding that lifestyle is slipping away as they struggle to maintain their standard of living.

Today, the best way to maintain the lifestyle you're accustomed to is to become smarter with the money you do have.

Here are four strategies to help you maximize your money:

Budget for your specific needs. When every dollar counts, you can't afford to let anything slip through the cracks. That's where a budget comes in. Creating one – and actually using it – can help you take control of your money. Start by keeping a spending journal so you can see where your money's going. Next, subtract your fixed monthly costs (i.e. mortgage or rent, car payment, utilities, savings, etc.) from your monthly income. The remaining money is what you have left for variable expenses, such as groceries, entertainment, gas, etc. How you divide this money is up to you – the only catch is you have to stay within your budget limits.

Plan ahead to avoid ATM fees. Avoiding this extra cost is as simple as planning ahead. Paying $3 here and there may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. "For example, paying $3 at a non-bank ATM, four times a month adds up to $144 each year.

Find a credit card that benefits you. Look for one that rewards you for the money you spend.

Save money on everything. With a bit of advance planning and research, you can save money on everything from groceries and gas to haircuts and entertainment. Many of these savings can be found online and through mobile apps. Follow your favorite businesses via social media to learn about exclusive discounts and sales. Mobile apps can help you find the lowest prices on gas and other items you use everyday.


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