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

Debt-Free Is Still the 'American Dream’ for Most

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

Being out of debt and retiring financially secure represent the American Dream for a majority of Americans, and most are optimistic that they can achieve it, according to the 2014 Credit.com American Dream Survey. Retiring financially secure at age 65 represents the ultimate American dream for 36 percent of those surveyed, while getting out of debt came in at a close second, with 25 percent of respondents choosing it as their definition of the "American Dream."

The majority of survey respondents are optimistic about their ability to achieve their version of the American Dream, with 16 percent saying they have already achieved it and another 50 percent indicating it is within their reach. Only 24 percent say it is it not within their reach.

Other significant findings from the survey include:

• Dreams are personal and varied. After retirement and getting out of debt, the other top definitions of the American Dream included owning a home (17 percent), joining the "one percent," (five percent), graduating from college (three percent), and paying off student loans (two percent).

• Getting out of debt is a top priority. When asked about their top financial priority for the next year, at the top of the list was paying off credit card debt, with 19 percent of consumers choosing that option. Close behind that, another 18 percent chose "being debt-free." Other responses included investing for retirement (12 percent), saving for a major purchase (12 percent), buying a home (nine percent), paying off student loans (six percent), retiring financially secure at 65 (six percent), sending kids to college (five percent) or paying off the mortgage (four percent).

• Most are fairly optimistic about their ability to pay off debt. When it comes to being debt-free, 79 percent said they are very or somewhat likely to achieve that milestone in their lifetimes, with only 18 percent indicating that it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, those with student loan debt were most likely to say it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes (28 percent), followed closely by those who have been unemployed in the past three years (24 percent).

Source: Credit.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

How to De-clutter Kitchen Cabinets

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

From spices to coffee filters to cooking oils, those kitchen cabinets have a way of filling up fast, and keeping these culinary tools in order can be a daunting task. Use these three tips to get your pantry and kitchen cabinets in order:

1. Empty Each Shelf
Go through each shelf to properly wipe out dust and crumbs, and to sort through outdated food. Before you put the items back on the shelves, clean the base thoroughly and line each one with a non-adhesive shelf liner which will create a protective, cushioned barrier on your surfaces.

2. Survey Food Items
Go through food items and donate or dispose of those you won't use, and group similar items together. This will help you keep track of your inventory. For further organization, sort based on expiration so you can use up food while it's still fresh.

3. Create User-Friendly Spaces
Make your pantry more ergonomic and easier to access by placing commonly used items on eye-level shelves. In addition, maximize the space in pantry and cabinets with turntables for spices and other storage solutions.

Source: Duck Brand

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Homeowners Can Cut Costs with Geothermal

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

The winter of 2014 was a wake-up call for homeowners facing higher-than-normal heating costs. With polar vortex cold sweeps, heavy snowfalls and ice blizzards affecting much of the country, energy prices for electricity, gas and oil have increased. Propane prices have skyrocketed due to scarcity of supplies, leading some governors to declare a state of emergency.

The hefty costs of heating and cooling - Many homeowners, concerned that energy prices for air conditioning this summer could be just as high, followed by yet another tough winter, are looking for alternative sources for heating and cooling. Higher performing, energy-efficient heating and cooling products are available, but they are still dependent on fossil fuels. Renewable forms of energy like solar and wind won't solve the problem. Such sources don't work all the time and require backup in the form of a conventional heating-cooling system, so the dependence on high cost fossil fuels remains.

Energy from the ground up - However, there is a viable renewable solution. It's called geothermal and its energy source is the very earth beneath our feet. Because the earth absorbs 50 percent of the sun's energy—more than 500 times more energy than mankind needs every year—there is an abundant power source in the earth to tap for heating and cooling. Geothermal systems transfer this heat from a home during the cooling season and return it to the earth during the heating season. Geothermal is possible because the temperature of the earth at 4 to 6 feet below ground remains relatively constant year-round.

"A geothermal system is the answer to today's and tomorrow's high energy prices," says Lyndal Moore, National Geothermal Sales Manager for Bosch, a manufacturer of geothermal heat pumps. "But that's just the beginning. Homeowners and homebuyers need to consider the long-term benefits of living in a home equipped with a geothermal system. It's not just the return on investment that should be considered, but rather the comfort, quietness, longevity and environmentally friendly nature of geothermal."

How geothermal systems work - A geothermal system is accomplished through the installation of what's called a "heat exchange loop" in the ground, either directly beneath a house or in the homeowner's yard. If a well or pond is available, the loop can be installed in the water and connected to the house in the same manner. This in-ground or water-source loop is connected to one or more heat pumps inside the house.

In the winter, the fluid circulating through the earth loop or water source absorbs stored heat from the ground and carries it indoors. The geothermal heat pumps compress the heat to a higher temperature and distribute it throughout the home. In the summer, the process reverses and the cooler earth absorbs the heat from the home, returning cooler fluid to the heat pump. This is typically cooler than the outside temperatures, providing a reduced load for air conditioning the home.

Significant savings for homeowners - The geothermal system uses a small amount of electricity to run the heat pumps, so homeowners will see a sizeable reduction in the cost of energy for heating and cooling each year. Geothermal systems are recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as the most efficient heating-cooling system of all (saving up to 70 percent on energy bills) and they come with a federal tax incentive rebate of 10 percent of total install costs which can be combined with state and local incentives that can save up to 40 percent of the total cost of the system.

Most of the cost to install a geothermal system is centered on the costs to drive bore holes into the earth and the installation of the loop. Thereafter, operating costs are typically low enough to show a return on investment within a decade or less. The loop infrastructure lasts around half a century and the heat pump, which has few moving parts, has an operating life expectancy of 25 years.

With a geothermal system, there is no fossil fuel use, no greenhouse gas emissions, few maintenance issues, and because the loop is underground and the heat pumps are located inside the house, the system is not susceptible to weather or storm damage. Plus, geothermal systems are exceptionally quiet in operation.

Source: Bosch

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Bring the Look and Feel of Iconic Summer Travel Destinations Inside Your Home

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

Designing with a travel destination in mind gives new meaning to the term ‘staycation.' By featuring a mix of timeless and exotic décor, you can create a relaxing getaway all without leaving the comfort of your home. Get inspired with ideas from these three vacation hot spots:

Nantucket
• Paint furniture in bright colors and set against a crisp, white wall to create a preppy look synonymous with Nantucket.
• Spruce up your foyer with a bright, cheery blue and coordinating white trim. If the area includes a staircase, add contrast by painting the balusters in a glossy, rich shade of navy blue or black.
• Keep the historical seaside charm of Nantucket alive by painting your front door in an unexpected color and adding a nautical doorknocker.
• For an oceanside cottage feel, use accents such a rope detailing, knots, waves and shells.

Southern California
• Blue isn’t the only color that evokes shades of the sea. When it comes to your décor, mix in silvers and light grays with weather greens for a truly ocean-inspired look.
• Use the powerful colors of a Pacific Ocean sunset to transform a room – think corals, burnt oranges and peachy-pink tones.
• Most contemporary beach houses along the coast keep a neutral, monochromatic exterior color scheme and add in small doses of bright color as accents. To achieve this look, keep your home’s exterior white, gray or neutral and add color to your entry door, planters or outdoor patio furniture.
• Potted citrus trees are common on the west coast and can add charm to a yard, entryway or kitchen. The splash of green with yellow or orange adds a touch of color and gives any space an organic feel. Use a matching pair to flank an entry, driveway or door.

The Mediterranean
• Coastal Mediterranean style is about light and fresh living. To recreate this look at home, paint a room’s walls, trim and ceiling in all white.
• The exteriors of buildings in this European coastal paradise are sun-kissed with warm tones of white, yellow and terra cotta. Achieve this look by highlighting wooden shutters in warm colors.
• Remove heavy window treatments such as wood blinds and thick drapery in favor of light and airy white linen drapery panels. Hang them from just below crown molding and puddle on the floor slightly for a casual, billowy effect commonly seen throughout the Mediterranean.

Source: Clark+Kensington

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

System-Built Housing Brings Environmental Sustainability

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

Homes with solar panels and security systems you can remotely control may seem like props in a science fiction movie, but they are just a few examples of ways the system-built housing industry continuously embraces modern advances in green and smart technology.

Part of what new homeowners expect is ways to cut energy costs, which relieves stress on both their pocketbooks and the environment. One way homebuyers can be environmentally friendly is by installing Energy Star appliances in their homes. These products keep energy use, and therefore energy costs, lower than traditional appliances. Additionally, homes can be built with special insulation, high-performance windows and other materials to reduce overall energy costs and use fewer natural resources.

Smart-home technology can also be incorporated into system-built homes. It can include systems in your home that are controlled with a mobile device to temperature-controlled window shades to advanced multimedia configurations. As technology advances in all areas of your life, your home is no different.

Whether looking to incorporate energy-saving appliances or design a home with a myriad of smart technologies, system-built homes can take you and your family into the future. Homebuyers can work with retailers and manufacturers when choosing their new home to integrate cutting-edge technology options.

Source: MMHA

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Tricks for Less Mess and Stress This Summer

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

(BPT) - Summer vacation means children, teens and in-betweens are spending more time at home, resulting in more messes, mud and madness. By tackling a few projects around the home now, you'll be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and carefree days ahead.

• Make sure you aren't stuck inside spending valuable time cleaning. Invest in products that'll help do the job for you, and lessen the workload by having the entire family pitch in. Divvy up the chores and make a game out of it to keep things fun. Try turning clean-up time into a scavenger hunt and have everyone collect stray items throughout the house.

• Now's the time to get organized. Do you have a large frame or two collecting dust in a corner? Pick up some chalkboard or dry erase paints to quickly transform an unused frame into a family message board that's perfect for jotting down summer-time schedules, chore reminders and grocery lists. Not only will this keep you and your kids on task for summer months, but it will also make transitioning back into a structured school year smooth sailing.

• Pay special attention to your garage. Before you know it, you'll have pool toys, golf balls and dirty cleats clogging up the space. Take the time now to create personalized storage bins for each member of the family. It will give everyone a place to keep their prized possessions while keeping dirt and mud out of the house.

• Make the most out of the outdoors by planting a garden. Not only will your household benefit from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but your kids will also learn what it takes to sustain and grow food. If yard space is a concern, container gardens make a great option.

• You can also spend time with family outside after the sun goes down. Install a fire pit for making late-night treats. It can set the stage for story-telling and laughing about the day, keeping your family close and connected.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Customize Your Home with Hassle-Free Design

July 9, 2014 3:51 am

(BPT) - Conventional wisdom holds that in order to achieve a custom look in your home decor you either have to spend a bundle hiring professionals, or invest countless hours of hard work doing it yourself. In the Internet age, however, it's easier than ever to achieve the look of custom home decor without the expense or hassle of traditional methods. Create a custom look for next to nothing with these tips.

Wall decor - While family photos are one of the easiest, cheapest ways to customize your wall art, sometimes a room cries out for an eye-catching canvas wrapped print. Home decor stores can yield some acceptable options, but for a bigger selection - and reasonable costs - head over to www.canvasyourway.com. With so many options, it's possible to find exactly what you're looking for at a reasonable price without the worry that you'll ever see a similar piece in someone else's home.

Lighting - Builders standardize home lighting and many homeowners simply never bother to change things. Or, if they do, they head over to the same home improvement store that everyone else uses, so changing a light fixture doesn't really give them a unique look. A simple online search can yield thousands of options for customizing your home's lighting design - from chandelier makers that allow you to specify the number, size and color of crystals to pendant lights in myriad colors, shapes and sizes.

Window treatments - Blinds for one room, sheers for another and valances in a third - sure, you can get all those window treatments customized from local businesses, but how much time and money will it cost? Online merchants offer virtually the same level of customization for window treatments as you would find in a specialty shop, at competitive prices and with far less hassle than driving to a custom store, or having a sales person come to your home. All you need is a measuring tape and a vision, and you can find custom window treatments online to fit any home decor.

Slip covers - From shabby couches that are still comfy to sturdy dining room chairs that just need a new look, covering existing furniture with custom slip covers is usually much cheaper than reupholstering or replacing furniture altogether. Again, it's easy to find a host of online merchants that can customize slip covers to your specifications, including the exact size, color, pattern and fabric you desire. And most reputable online sellers will offer satisfaction guarantees, so you can be confident you'll be happy with the look of custom slipcovers that you buy online.

Customization doesn't have to cost a lot of time and money. Some smart online searching can help you create the exact home decor look you desire.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Poll Reveals Americans Lack Confidence When Dealing With Personal Finance

July 9, 2014 3:51 am

Successfully managing our daily lives includes making smart financial decisions, often requiring a fair degree of financial competence. Nevertheless, a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) online poll revealed that the majority of respondents were not fully confident when managing their finances, with more than one in four (26 percent) wishing they didn’t have to deal with their finances at all. Only eight percent, the lowest number of respondents, felt as though they had a good grip on their personal finances.

“Personal finance can be complicated, thus there is no shame in admitting difficulty understanding how to best manage money,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “However, since there is easily accessible and affordable help available nationwide, it is regrettable that more people don’t take advantage of it.”

Consumers may be hesitant to reach out for help due to misconceptions about financial counseling. Below are some of the false beliefs toward financial counseling that consumers admitted in the NFCC Financial Literacy Survey:

Financial counseling costs too much. The truth is that through an NFCC member agency counseling is either free or low cost. One of the requirements for membership in the NFCC is that no service will be denied based on an inability to pay. Cost should never be a barrier to finding the financial help needed.

It would be embarrassing to discuss my situation. NFCC member agencies counsel more than 1.5 million people each year. It is highly likely that the trained and certified financial professional you visit with has encountered a financial problem similar to yours, and may do so every day.

Credit counseling agencies only offer advice, not real solutions. Although financial education is critical to financial success, when a person has debt beyond what he or she can responsibly manage, a Debt Management Program (DMP) may be appropriate. The DMP allows consumers to continue to service their debt, repaying it in full, but often with a more affordable monthly payment, a lower interest rate, and late fees and over-limit fees stopped or lowered.

Seeking credit counseling might damage my credit report and score. Credit counseling is not reported to the credit bureau, thus could not have a negative impact on a person’s credit report or score. However, if a person elects to repay their debt through a DMP, the creditor may make a notation on the credit report of participation in the program. Nonetheless, graduates of the DMP often emerge with improved credit scores due to having paid off the debt through consistent monthly payments.

Debt settlement or bankruptcy seem like better solutions. Both debt settlement and bankruptcy are serious financial decisions which can negatively impact a person’s credit report and score for years. Before opting for either, a person should first rule out all other alternatives.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Three Steps to Keep Produce Fresh

July 9, 2014 3:51 am

There's nothing like a fresh salad in the summer or a juicy watermelon to refresh you on a hot day. Whether you're camping or having a picnic or a barbecue, fresh produce is often part of an outdoor summer meal. But did you know that food poisoning from fresh produce tends to increase in the warmer months? That's because harmful bacteria can grow in as little as two hours when produce is not kept refrigerated or properly chilled when eating outdoors.

Lower your risk of food poisoning by following these food safety steps when handing and preparing your fresh produce:

Step 1: Clean
Before handling your produce, always wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds. In most cases, antibacterial soap is not necessary for safe and effective hand hygiene.

Frequently wash surfaces where you are preparing your produce to avoid the spread of bacteria.

No water nearby? Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available. If your hands are visibly soiled, use towelettes to clean your hands, and then use an alcohol-based hand rub. Disinfectant wipes can be used to clean surfaces and utensils.

Remove and throw away any damaged portions of fresh produce. Always wash raw fruits and vegetables with clean running water. Use a vegetable brush on produce that has a firm skin such as carrots and melons. You cannot tell whether food is carrying harmful bacteria by the way it looks, smells or tastes.

If you are preparing your salads away from home where clean drinking water is not readily available, wash your fruits and vegetables at home first. While camping, you can use commercially bottled drinking water to wash your fruits and vegetables.

Wash all plates, utensils and cutting boards that touched or held raw meat, poultry, fish or seafood before using them again for other foods, including fruits and vegetables.

Step 2: Separate
Keep your produce separate from raw (uncooked) meats. When you pack a cooler for an outing, it is important to keep your raw meats separate from your fresh produce and other ready-to eat foods. If possible, use a separate cooler for your raw meats such as hamburger patties, poultry, fish and seafood. If this isn't possible, be sure to wrap raw meats securely and put them on the bottom of the cooler to prevent raw juices from dripping onto other foods.

Step 3: Chill
When outdoors, perishable foods that are normally in the refrigerator, such as produce, must be kept in an insulated cooler with freezer packs or blocks of ice to keep the temperature at 40 degrees Fahrenheit until ready to serve.

Place leftovers salads back in the cooler as soon as you are finished eating. On hot summer days, don't keep food unrefrigerated for more than one hour.

Keep coolers out of direct sunlight and avoid opening them too often. Ideally, use separate coolers for drinks since these are opened often.

Source: Health Canada

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Building a Tool Kit: A New Homeowner's Guide

July 8, 2014 3:39 am

For many new homeowners, a dripping faucet can become a rite of passage—a time to learn how to do it yourself instead of calling the janitor or the landlord. But it needn’t be a stressful time, home store advisors agree. With a good basic tool kit and some free advice from the local home store, many household chores and home repairs are relatively easy to manage.

While your tool kit will undoubtedly expand over the years, a basic kit kept at the ready should prepare you for those first few homeowner challenges:

A set of screwdrivers—A few flat-bladed and Phillips-head screwdrivers in a variety of sizes will prepare you to tighten, adjust, and install almost anything, from fixing loose drawer handles or crooked hinges to mounting a bathroom towel rack.

Hammer and stud finder—Handy for hanging artwork or removing old nails, a hammer is a must-have tool. An inexpensive stud finder will help you hammer those nails into just the right spot.

A level—Our eyes can deceive us, but a level will ensure that anything you mount or install is truly level.

Exacto knives—These handy little knives will help you open boxes and make precise cuts wherever they are needed.

A good tape measure—From checking the floor space to measuring appliances, a good tape measure is essential. Buy one that fits in purse or pocket to take on furniture shopping trips.

Pliers—You’ll find dozens of uses for an inexpensive pair of pliers to help you pluck out nails, tighten screws and more.

A drill—Cordless models are nice, but a small electric drill with a cord will be handy for most household chores.

Shop vac—This handy device can be used to vacuum your car, clean out cobwebs or sliding door tracks, even suck up standing water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: