RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

5 Tips for Staging Curb Appeal

March 17, 2015 5:57 am

When buyers visit a potential home, they often make a mental list of the upgrades or repairs they’ll need to pay for if they decide to make an offer. These days, buyers create similar lists when viewing homes online, and if the images don’t showcase your home in the best light, it could delay the sale.

The exterior of the home is typically the first image they’ll see, so it’s important to stage the outside. Stage curb appeal for web appeal with these tips.

1. Declutter the lawn.
The most basic staging principle is to remove any signs of personality, and that includes the outdoors. Store wacky lawn chairs, children’s toys, lawn ornaments or any other items that can distract the buyer.

2. Stage the garage. This especially applies if your home has a front-facing garage. If your doors have seen better days, consider replacing them with a modern model. Set aside time to the clear out any clutter – buyers want space for their vehicles.

3. Power wash the deck. Rent a power washer and clear off the deck and any other outdoor structures that have accumulated debris. Be sure to remove leaves if you’re selling in the fall.

4. Maintain the landscape. Mow the lawn on a regular basis, trim back overgrown bushes and prune dead limbs from trees. Sweep away any dirt or leaves from your front steps. Flowers will add a pop of color and invite buyers in – just be sure to water them frequently.

5. Update fixtures.
Inspect your property for any signs of disrepair, such as broken storm doors or porch lights. Update your house numbers with a fresh set easily visible from the street.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Retirement Fears Boil Down to Debt

March 16, 2015 5:57 am

A recent poll from Bankrate.com focuses on Americans' retirement fears. Interestingly enough, “too much debt” was not in the top three fears cited in the survey, says Gary Herman, president of Consolidated Credit. It may seem like debt isn't a big concern compared to medical bills, lack of savings or not being able to pay daily expenses, but those fears stem from debt, he says.

Herman notes that mortgage debt may be another worry. "Too many Americans don't consider mortgages when they think of the word debt. While mortgages are often considered a 'good' form of debt, you still need to factor it into your retirement plans," he says.

In May 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that consumers age 65 and older owed larger balances on their mortgages than their 65 and older age cohorts did a decade ago. The median amount owed on mortgages increased 82 percent, from approximately $43,400 to $79,000. Older consumers also owe more on their mortgages in relation to the value of their home than a decade ago.

Source: Consolidated Credit

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Making Your Master Closet Work for You

March 16, 2015 5:57 am

(Family Features) Whether you plan on building a home from the ground up, purchasing new construction or adding value to your current residence, there are many opportunities for upgrades at home.

In a recent ClosetMaid® study, 45 percent of existing homebuyers noted that they have made changes to their master bedroom closet since moving in. In addition, 61 percent of new-home buyers said they are considering renovating or upgrading their master closet within 18 months. When considering where to make investments in your home, don't close the door on the closet! You can create the closet of your dreams with a few simple tips.

1. Add paint and update the lighting – Bring bedroom paint into the closet. This makes the space feel like a true extension of your bedroom, not a forgotten area behind closed doors. Great lighting is also important in a closet – it helps you to see everything clearly.

2. Utilize more space – Most master bedroom closets come standard with only a single shelf and rod. Since most closets have little need for so much long hanging space, professional organizer Lorie Marrero, author of "The Clutter Diet," suggests improving your closet with the addition of double hang space. A good rule of thumb is 84 inches for the top shelf and 42 inches for the lower shelf.

3. Consider accessories – If you plan to update your closet with a wire system, there are a multitude of accessories you may want to include, such as a tie and belt rack or shoe shelves. You may also consider installing a laminate or wood system with drawers, doors, decorative molding and more to transform your closet into a personal haven.

Investing in a functional closet organizing system can help you save time now by reducing the stress of finding items when you need them, and benefit you in the future by adding extra value to your home.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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2016's Most Coveted Home Color Trends

March 16, 2015 5:57 am

Global color authority Pantone recently revealed 2016’s most coveted home color trends. The palettes expected to make the biggest splash in home design next year are:

“Natural Forms” – Unambiguous colors, including shades plumbed from natural resources such as warm rosy clay and sheepskin beige

“Dichotomy” – Combinations of silver metallics, sunny yellows and bright cobalt blues with their calmer counterparts

“Ephemera” – Pastel-focused, blending delicate shades of wan blue, pale peach and tender yellow

“Lineage” – Shades of navy, black, tan and regimental green co-mingle with touches of brighter colors

“Soft Focus” – Versatile subtle or muted colors, sometimes described as smoky

“Bijoux”
– Gleams with drama and intensity across jewel tones

“Merriment” – Joyful shades including vibrant greens and yellows contrasted with pinks and oranges

“Footloose” – Capricious color combinations with vacation destination blues and blue-greens

“Mixed Bag” – Assortment of eclectic patterns and prints with exciting and unique colors like pirate black, mandarin red, violet and florid orange

Source: International Home and Housewares Show

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Know Your Rights when You Fly

March 13, 2015 5:57 am

When weather conditions ground a plane, it creates a domino effect of cancelled flights across the country. Add in that nearly 2 million people fly each day and you could easily find that part of your travels may be spent trying to get a seat on another plane.

Legal insurance counsel ARAG® advises travelers to keep in mind their rights when flying.

Flight Delays or Cancellations
If your flight is delayed or cancelled for problems beyond anyone's control, like weather or safety issues, most airlines will rebook you on the next available flight at no charge. They may even book you with another airline without charging you extra. Airlines are not required to provide any amenities, such as meal vouchers or hotel rooms, in this situation.

Similarly, if your flight is delayed or cancelled for something the airline could control, such as a maintenance issue, the airline will likely rebook you on the next available flight, either theirs or another airline, at no charge. The airline is still not required to provide amenities; however, many will provide meal vouchers and even hotel rooms and grooming kits if your delay causes an unexpected overnight stay.

Overbooked Flights
If you are "bumped" for a domestic flight that is oversold, you are likely legally entitled to compensation for a new flight. Generally, when the flight is oversold, the airlines will ask for willing passengers to volunteer to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight and compensation. They may also negotiate with free tickets or travel vouchers.

"If you accept one of these offers," says Ann Cosimano, General Counsel for ARAG, "be sure to ask some deal-breaking questions such as when the ticket expires or if it's only available certain days of the week or during certain seasons."

If no one volunteers and you're bumped involuntarily, you should receive a written statement from the airline that describes your rights and how the carrier decided which passengers were bumped. If you're not rebooked and scheduled to arrive at your destination within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time, then you are entitled to compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the ticket price and length of delay. To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation and have checked-in with the airline within their deadlines.

If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. In addition, on domestic flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

Tarmac Delays
"If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight before taking off or after landing, you may have rights if the delay is more than three hours," says Cosimano. DOT rules prohibit most U.S. airlines to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours unless air traffic control or the pilot decides there are reasons related to safety, security or airport operations.

If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight, you are entitled to food and water no later than two hours after the delay begins. Lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.

Source: ARAG®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Most Worthwhile Home Improvements You Can Make

March 13, 2015 5:57 am

Homeowners making minor home improvements instead of pursuing major remodeling projects can expect the greatest potential return on investment, says the Appraisal Institute.

“In general, simpler, less expensive projects have the best cost-to-value ratio,” says Appraisal Institute President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA. “With the spring home buying season around the corner, homeowners should invest in projects that are most likely to preserve the value of their homes.”

This assertion stems from Remodeling magazine’s most recent Cost vs. Value report. Minor projects with potential major payoffs are mid-range and upscale garage door replacements, manufactured stone veneer, mid-range window replacements and minor kitchen remodels.

Coyle says that some homeowners might choose to fund home upgrades with tax refunds. Before calling a contractor or heading for the home improvement store, however, he says they should consider if the improvement is in keeping within community norms.

“It’s possible that consumers won’t be able to recoup the cost of the upgrade when the home is sold, so it’s important to meet, not exceed, what’s standard for the neighborhood, and to also consider expected length of time in the property,” Coyle says.

He also says that making routine home repairs is essential to maintaining a home’s value. A house that has been well maintained likely will have a higher value than a similar house that is in disrepair. For example, replacing worn out trim boards may in certain situations not add any additional value to the home, other than to preserve the value that would be likely as evidenced by sales of similar homes in the area that do not have worn-out trim boards.

Some green and energy-efficient renovations – such as adding Energy Star appliances and extra insulation – are likely to pay the homeowner back in lowered utility bills relatively quickly. Lower utility costs also are a draw for potential homebuyers.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Think 'Earth First' at Home

March 13, 2015 5:57 am

(Family Features) Living an eco-friendly lifestyle starts at home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, residential use accounts for more than one-fifth of the nation's total energy consumption. Adopt an earth-first, energy saving mindset at home so that you can feel good about your family's contributions to protect the environment – and save money.

The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) recommends greening your home by improving your home's energy efficiency. Wasted energy is money lost in monthly utility bills. Numerous factors influence a home's energy efficiency. Air leaks, outdated appliances or inefficient heating and cooling systems can all negatively impact your home's energy usage.

Correcting any structural issues can also go a long way toward making your home more efficient. Give your home a thorough inspection to identify and repair leaks and cracks around windows, doors and duct work. Remember that poorly sealed attics and basements are also common culprits of energy loss.

Upgrading your appliances and temperature control systems also helps drive more efficient energy use throughout the house. Look for ENERGY STAR-certified products, which are designed to save energy without sacrificing on performance. Where possible, make purchases that will perform double duty, such as high-efficiency washing machines that can save on both energy and water usage.

Choosing the right energy source can also help lessen your impact on the environment. For example, using propane-powered appliances in your home can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to PERC, propane-powered furnaces emit 73 percent fewer greenhouse gases than electricity. Similarly, propane-powered storage water heaters emit approximately 39 percent less greenhouse gas than electric storage models.

Source: PERC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Repay Debt with a Tax Refund

March 12, 2015 5:54 am

This year, the majority of taxpayers (68 percent) would prefer to pay down their debt with a tax refund instead of growing their personal savings, according to a recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC).

The NFCC poll found that some taxpayers will use their refunds to pay for basic necessities (15 percent). Others indicated they’d use the funds to grow their savings (11 percent) or to have fun shopping or take a vacation (2 percent). Just four percent of respondents did not know how they would use the refund.

While there are a number of good reasons to become less dependent on tax refunds, it is wise to have a plan ready. In 2014, the average tax refund for individual taxpayers was $3,034 according to the IRS. Compare that to the average credit card debt of $5,047 for adult consumers with credit cards in the previous year, according to a report by CreditCards.com. If the average refund amount were entirely committed to the repayment of the average credit card debt, it could pay it down by more than half.
The NFCC encourages taxpayers to consider the following tips when deciding how to repay debt with their refund:
  • If the debt is costing more than what is being earned from interest on savings, debt repayment should be considered as the top priority.
  • If committing the entire tax refund to repay a debt does not completely erase the balance owed, a plan should be in place to accelerate the payoff of the remaining balance.
  • If using the refund to settle a debt for less than the balance owed, be prepared to pay income tax on the amount forgiven by the creditor.
  • To pay less interest over time, focus on eliminating the higher interest debts first.
  • Once a balance is repaid, avoid replacing it with new debt.
“The most important thing to consider is the impact that debt is having on quality of life,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Being in a position where savings has to be put on hold while debt takes center stage is not where consumers should be. Placing debt repayment on a faster track while reducing reliance on credit cards and loans will bring people closer to resuming progress toward reaching their personal financial goals.”

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Homebuyers: Identifying Costly Repairs

March 12, 2015 5:54 am

(BPT) - When you're about to buy a house, it's easy to get excited about its great location, spacious floor plan or beautifully decorated interior. Before signing on the dotted line, use this checklist to help avoid some potentially costly surprises and anticipate repairs or upgrades that may be needed.

Roof
- Ask when the current roof was installed. Is it the original roof, or has it been replaced, repaired, or covered over with new shingles in certain spots? Are there known leaks, and if so, where are they? Have any of the leaks caused damage to the attic or interior? Also look at the chimney to see if it's properly sealed around the edges and whether the gutters need repair.

Windows and Doors
– Next, take a look at the windows to see if there is any condensation between the glass panes. If so, it could mean window replacements are in order. Once you get inside the house and close the front door, see if any light is coming through between the edge of the door opening and the wall. This gap is an indicator that the door may need to be replaced since air can escape through it and cause higher energy bills.

Lighting and Electrical
– Throughout the interior rooms, many homes are staged to appeal to buyers with attractive lighting that shows off the space to its best advantage. You may love the way the lamps look in the bedroom, office or kitchen, but more importantly, check out how many electrical outlets there are and whether they are in convenient locations. Also, make sure you check to see if the lamps are masking the fact that there are no ceiling fixtures in each room. Will you need to rig up extension cords or invest in electrical work in order to support all the lamps, ceiling fixtures, appliances and electronics you wish to use?

Furnace
– At the basement level, be sure to check out the heating system. If the current furnace is more than 10 years old, it may be operating at a much lower level of efficiency than the latest manufacturing standards require, resulting in higher energy costs. Newer models can operate at nearly 20 percent higher efficiency than the government minimum standard, for the ultimate in energy efficiency.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Extend the Life of Your Washer and Dryer

March 12, 2015 5:54 am

One of the many perks of owning a home is having your own washer and dryer, but that convenience can be short-lived without adequate maintenance. To avoid having to replace an appliance, take these steps to ensure your machines are operating properly and efficiently for years to come.

Maintaining the Washer

Ideally, your wash machine will be installed at the proper level. If you notice a slight vibration when your machine is running, it may be a sign of an unbalanced washer. Unnecessary vibrations can damage the motor, so make sure the washer is (and remains) level.

When using your washer, take care not to overload the drum inside. Too much stress on the machine can shorten its life. You can find manufacturer recommendations for maximum capacity in the user manual. Whether you use liquid or powdered detergents or pre-measure pods, make sure to use the appropriate soap for your machine.

When your washer is not in use, keep the lid open. This will allow any excess water to evaporate, keeping mold and mildew at bay. If you won’t be using the washer for an extended period of time, consider turning off the water to prevent hose leakage.

Maintaining the Dryer


To keep your dryer in good working order, periodic maintenance is key. Vacuum the dryer exhaust ducts every few months to avoid lint buildup, and inspect the ducts for any wire damage. If you notice a duct deteriorating, replace it as soon as possible. On a regular basis, clear out your lint filter to avoid restricting airflow inside the dryer – not doing so can result in fire.

If you’re in the market for an upgrade, purchase a dry equipped with a moisture sensor, which will prevent clothes from over-dying, conserve energy and save you money.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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