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

Is Organic Coffee Worth the Price?

September 24, 2013 2:39 am

If you choose to eat organic foods you might be lucky enough to avoid ingesting the many pesticide residues so common to farming. It also means you're likely avoiding those "Franken-foods" that result from genetically engineered seeds.

Yet, with the price of organic produce typically higher than non-organic the question remains—can you pick and choose foods based on your budget, yet still come out on the healthier side? For example, bananas or avocados, thanks to their firm skins are less affected by pesticides than celery or strawberries.

But what about coffee?

Since coffee for many of us is our preferred "fuel" representing not only the start of our day but often also our afternoon pick-me up, do organic beans really matter?

Rohan Marley, chairman of Jammin' Java says it sure does. Having grown up in Jamaica, Rohan, the son of legendary musician Bob Marley, says: "The benefits of organic coffee are significant, as chemical free soil is good soil. This extends to healthy trees which result in good beans with greater antioxidants and less chemical residues."

Get Rohan Marley talking and he'll tell you how the benefits of organic farming begin with the benefits to the farm workers who are able to fulfill their jobs without the adverse health impact of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Taking it further, the farm's neighbors aren't exposed to potentially harmful chemicals in the air as well. Then, less fossil fuel is converted into fertilizers. All this is good for the environment.

"It's a life-cycle," according to Marley. "Naturally healthy soil can sustain coffee crops for generations to come. All of this contributes to the quality of the bean."

To avoid the impact of lax pesticide regulations on coffee farmers, Marley advises consumers to look for the USDA Organic label to ensure we're not buying beans that have been grown or processed with the use of potentially harmful chemicals.

And if you really want to do something good for your body and the world, when you seek to sip your java, look for Sustainably Grown and Ethically Farmed on the labels to ensure that your purchase supports farmers with fair pay and work environments.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Are You Ready to Care for Your Pet When Emergency Strikes?

September 24, 2013 2:39 am

Whether it is a tornado in Kansas, a hurricane in Louisiana, a wildfire in California, an earthquake, a nuclear plant failure, floods, blizzards or a family emergency, you know you need to be prepared for yourself and your children. Dean of the Becker College School of Animal Studies, Dr. Richard French, encourages pet owners to consider that other family member: the dog, the cat or even the fish.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, more than 250,000 pets — from cats and dogs to parrots and fish — were left stranded by the storm's destruction. Many owners who expected to return within a few days left food and water for their pets. But days turned into weeks, and the pets had to struggle to survive.

For pet owners, saving their beloved animals from approaching disaster can be as important as caring for themselves. Not many years after Katrina, some 15 million dogs, 14 million cats, and 1.5 million horses were in the path of Hurricane Sandy, according to the American Humane Association. Many people believe first responders will care for their pets, but their obligation is to people. Few have training in animal rescue and handling, and that is not the priority in an emergency. In fact, pets can be an obstacle for first responders, hindering their ability to perform their jobs. The best thing you can do is to have a plan and all the equipment and supplies you might need to protect your pets in an emergency before disaster strikes.

Since 2004, National Preparedness Month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has been observed every September. Now is the time to create a plan and explore the services in your area. A good place to start is with your veterinarian, your state veterinary office, or the regional ASPCA. Here are some additional steps you can take:

• Get a Rescue Alert sticker for your home, identifying your pets.
• Make sure your pet's veterinary care and vaccination records are available.
• Arrange a safe haven in case you must leave your home.
• Build an emergency supplies and traveling kit.
• Choose designated caregivers.
• Prepare your family and pets for possible evacuation.
• Keep in mind some pets, such as birds, reptiles, and small animals, have special needs that may include medications and diet.

You can also create an Evacuation Kit and have it on hand. Some of the items to include are:

• A pet first-aid kit and guide book; ask your vet what to include in the kit
• Three to seven days' worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food
• Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
• Litter or paper towels
• Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
• Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
• Non-breakable pet feeding dishes
• An extra collar or harness, as well as an extra leash
• Photocopies of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember to refresh those supplies so they don't go bad before an emergency.)
• Bottled water; at least seven days' worth for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
• A traveling bag, crate, or sturdy carrier; ideally, one for each pet
• Flashlight and backup batteries
• Blanket for scooping up a fearful pet
• Recent photos of your pets, in case you are separated and need to make "Lost" posters
• Especially for cats: a pillowcase or EvackSack, toys, scoopable litter
• Especially for dogs: an extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week's worth of cage liner

You can make this a family project so that everyone in the family knows what's in the kit and where it is in the event of an emergency. Taking these measures now can give both you and your family peace of mind. And your pet, though always giving unconditional love, will love you for it.

Source: Becker College

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Small Changes to Upgrade Your Home

September 24, 2013 2:39 am

(BPT)—Flipping through the television channels, it's hard not to find a home improvement show about remodeling and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. From "Property Brothers" to "Design Star," these popular programs give homeowners ideas on how to modernize their spaces. If you're planning your own DIY projects, here are three areas of the home that will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to a makeover.

First stop: the bathroom
Bathroom remodels are the most popular remodeling projects because they have a high return on investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders. When you're ready to sell your house, renovating the bathroom typically has a return of 62 percent. A low-cost way to modernize the bathroom is installing new faucets. Look for a signature style featuring cylindrical, geometric shapes and distinct 90-degree angles, such as the new Moen Arris collection, for an iconic, modern update.

Another idea for modernizing the bathroom is to add additional light sources. Bringing in more light will open up the space and make your bathroom come to life. The bathroom is often a place to unwind, and adding the right lighting can set the tone for a spa-like atmosphere. One way to do this, without breaking your budget, is by simply replacing the light fixtures. Add a modern touch to your bath with dramatic choices like chandeliers and sconces.

Second stop: the living room
Modern design doesn't have to mean uncomfortable. Homeowners love modern interiors for the sleek and streamlined look, which leads to less clutter and visual stress. Expand the modern theme throughout the home by updating furniture with unfussy and relaxed pieces. You don't need to buy everything new. Fabric covers, in an array of prints and colors, can instantly bring new life to old furniture. For pieces that need to be replaced, consider purchasing solid and neutral furniture. As trends change, you can switch out pillows and blankets to stay up-to-date.

Keep neutrals in mind when selecting paint colors, as well. White, black, brown and gray will go with just about anything. For a pop of color, paint an accent wall with a bold color, or add extra personality with drapery or area rugs. Use lamps, paintings and accessories to give a personal touch throughout the rest of your living space.

Final stop: the kitchen
Opening up shelving is a way to put a fresh, modern spin on your existing kitchen layout. You can order new cabinets with glass panels or simply remove the doors from your existing ones. Just make sure the exposed areas are not cluttered. Open shelving is a perfect place to display dishes. For a crisp look, try stacks of white plates and bowls. If you're looking for an edgy feel, try patterned or bright-colored ones. Adding new hardware to cabinets is also an inexpensive way to improve the look of your kitchen.

Since you updated your faucet in the bathroom, consider doing your kitchen the same favor. To complement your new faucet, look to update your counters as well. Granite remains a popular choice because of its high style and durability.

Source: moen.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Traffic Infractions: Their Severity and Impact on Insurance Rates

September 23, 2013 2:39 am

Traffic infractions can vary from minor to very serious and how an insurance company rates them varies as well. Drivers should know how these types of infractions affect premiums and when to shop around for a better rate.

When a driver is given a ticket, it may cause an increase in premiums depending on the type. It may also cause a much higher increase if it is a major or serious infraction. Even with a serious infraction you can still shop for a better insurance rate as there are insurance companies who cater to this market specifically.

Minor Infractions Mean Smaller Increases
Drivers can generally expect that an insurance company will raise rates for some of the following, treating them as minor infractions:

• Speeding tickets for speeds less than 49 km/hr over (this may vary)
• Running a red light or stop sign
• Failure to obey a traffic sign
• Failure to signal before making a turn or changing lanes
• Following too closely (tailgating)

Most minor infractions will cause some type of increase. However, there are a few minor infractions that may not result in an increase at all, depending on the insurance company’s rules. An example of these would be a parking violation or a red light camera ticket.

Major Infractions Result in Higher Rates
Drivers can expect to see heftier increases on their insurance premiums in the event of a major traffic infraction. These infractions are considered more serious than a minor infraction and result in a higher insurance increase. Again, there are no hard and fast rules for what an insurance company will define as a major infraction, but the following will often make the list:

• Speeding tickets for speeds more than 50 km/hr over (again, this may vary)
• Speeding in a school zone
• Driving while uninsured
• Passing a school bus with red lights flashing

When a driver receives a ticket for a major infraction, odds are good their insurance will rise in accordance with the severity of the violation. Of course, each insurance company makes their own determination on rate increases and on what is considered a major offence.

Serious Infractions Mean Serious Consequences
A serious infraction is not just serious to insurance rates but can have legal consequences as well. These might include large fines, loss of driver’s license or even jail time. They are considered serious because they are usually very dangerous actions that could put lives in danger and in some cases have already caused injuries or death. Some of the actions that fall into this category include:

• Careless or dangerous driving
• Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
• Vehicular manslaughter
• Assault with a vehicle
• Failing to stop after an accident
• Failing to stop for a police officer
• Illegal street racing

Drivers who face these kinds of violations are often not thinking about their insurance rates at first and it may come as a surprise later when the rate increase occurs.

No matter the type of infraction, insurance companies can only charge an increased rate for a specific amount of time. This is generally three years (from the date of conviction, not the date that you got the ticket) but may vary from company to company. Be prepared by knowing exactly when the infraction will fall off and follow up on it. Some insurance companies will leave the increase in rate on the policy until the next renewal date. A new company, however, may not be bound by this, so be sure to take the time to shop around.

Source: InsuranceHotline.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Winterize Your Yard and Garden

September 23, 2013 2:39 am

As the days become shorter and the leaves begin to change color, now is the time to prepare your yard and garden for winter. There are a number of simple tasks that will not only protect plants and lawn from the cold, but will make for an easier spring.

"Tending to your lawn and garden in fall can ensure that it has every chance to develop through the colder months," says Heidi Ketvertis, director of marketing communications for a power tools manufacturing company. "Also, winterizing your equipment will make for a better spring start."

• Evaluate. Before you start your preparations, take a moment to review what worked and did not work in the garden over the past season and jot down notes in a garden journal so you remember a year or two from now. Fall is the best time to move plants because roots are given ample time to establish.

• Clean up. Removing leaves and debris reduces the likelihood of future problems since they can harbor pests and diseases. Using a leaf blower can save time and effort.

• Repair damage. Fall is the best time to reseed a lawn that's been damaged by summer heat. Top-dressing the seed with up to one-quarter inch compost or soil will help it take root.

• Don't put away the hose. Continue to water plants and lawns in the fall, as the rainfall tends to slow down. Plants need to stay hydrated to properly retreat to their winter states. However, as soon as freezing temperatures hit, make sure to drain garden hoses and store them in a sheltered place where they will not freeze and crack.

• Fertilize. Despite what many people might think, autumn – not spring – is the most crucial time to fertilize lawns and gardens. Renewing the mulch in flower beds, especially the top two or three inches, will protect many plants from harmful freezes.

• Go easy on pruning. Pruning promotes growth. It's important to prepare plants to go dormant during the winter rather than growing.

• Think spring. Some spring bulbs, such as crocus and grape hyacinth, should be planted in the fall. Larger bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted in the fall but won't bloom until spring. Many vegetable plants, like beets, broccoli and cabbage grow best in the winter.

• Cover plots. Covering a garden bed with burlap keeps weeds at bay. Another option is to plant a nitrogen-rich cover crop, like clover, which can be easily turned under when spring arrives.

• Tune-up tools. After completing all preparations, clean, oil and sharpen tools, and then store them in a dry place to prevent rusting.

• Winterize your power equipment. Make sure to drain the gas from your lawn mower and other gas-powered equipment after you've finished using them for the season to keep the engine running smoothly next year.

• Know when to stop. When frost is in the forecast or the temperature drops below 40 degrees consistently, usually around late October or November, it's time to close down the garden.

Although it may seem like a hassle, winterizing your garden will make for less work come springtime. Consider these practical ways that will protect and care for your yard and garden so they can survive the winter and thrive for seasons to come.

For more information, visit www.troybilt.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Are You Covered? Five Tips for Roof Replacement Projects

September 23, 2013 2:39 am

(BPT)—Summer storms are a reminder to make certain your roof is well-equipped to help provide protection from Mother Nature. Considering a roof replacement? Follow these tips for outstanding performance, increased curb appeal and enhanced comfort for your family.

1. Check the warning signs
One of the best ways to stay in front of a roof replacement is to look for small annoyances that could eventually turn into big problems. Do a thorough investigation, but remember to practice ladder safety. Look for discoloration, cracking, uneven surfaces, curled and missing shingles and stains on the underside of the roof deck when viewed from the attic and excessive amounts of granules in the gutter, which fall from shingles and expose the asphalt underneath. If any warning signs are evident, it's time to get in touch with a contractor to assess your roof's condition and discuss replacement.

2. Choose a complete roofing system
When most people think about roof replacements, they think shingles. While shingles add beauty and character to a home's exterior, it's important to understand that they're only the first line of defense in protecting your home from the elements. For true peace of mind, your roof should consist of high-quality shingles and underlayment products to help guard against severe weather outside, as well as ventilation products that balance airflow to control temperature and humidity inside.

"A high-performance roof needs to include components and layers that are specifically designed to work as one system for outstanding protection," says Carl Baca, director of strategic marketing for Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt.

3. Select your contractor wisely
Finding a skilled and reputable professional who will be able to guide you through the roof replacement process from start to finish is key. It may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn't have to be. Begin by looking for preferred contractors on roofing manufacturers' websites. Ask trusted friends and neighbors for recommendations. Then, obtain quotes from multiple contractors and ask for references. Insist on someone who is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, holds at least $1 million in general liability insurance and carries all required state and local licensing. The best contractor for the job will be specifically certified to install the roofing components you've selected and possess both a dedication to outstanding craftsmanship and knowledge of the latest industry standards and technologies.

4. Plan for the future
Replacing a roof can be a significant investment, so make sure it's protected with a strong warranty. If you've installed a roofing system, ask your contractor about adding on a warranty that covers the system of components.

5. Don't hesitate to insulate
While your roof is being replaced, consider adding another layer of protection to the top of your home. Ask your contractor to assess your insulation levels when he's in the attic inspecting the underside of your roof. When installed in an attic, loosefill insulation contributes to energy savings and helps control interior temperatures for a comfortable living environment. This could be a DIY project, but many contractors are specifically certified to install insulation - making it an easy add-on to your roofing project.

Source: www.OwensCorning.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Mortgage Rates Move Lower

September 20, 2013 2:39 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving lower amid signs of a weakening economic recovery, which in part also prompted the Federal Reserve (Fed) to continue its bond buying program. Mortgage rates have increased more than one percentage point since early May when speculation about Fed tapering began.

Findings:

-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.50 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending September 19, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.57 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.54 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.59 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.77 percent.

-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.11 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.22 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.76 percent.

-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.65 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.67 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.61 percent.

"Mortgage rates drifted downwards this week amid signs of a weakening economic recovery. Retail sales rose 0.2 percent in August, which was nearly half of July's 0.4 percent increase. In addition, industrial production in August grew 0.4 percent, less than the market consensus forecast. And lastly, consumer sentiment fell for the second consecutive month in September to the lowest reading since April,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Warm Up the Fall Season with Seasonal Paint Color and Decor Trends

September 20, 2013 2:39 am

Ace Hardware announced its top paint color and décor trends for fall 2013, chosen by Ace's panel of design experts. Nature-inspired color palettes and décor are trending this season to reflect the changing colors of the outdoors; rich shades of red, auburn and pumpkin paired with warm neutrals such as mocha and chocolate will be accented by deep jewel tones in shades of emerald, purple, deep pink and blue.
"Fall is the perfect time to paint and redecorate your home in order to get a head start on the busy holiday entertaining season," said Katie Reynolds, one of the design experts.

Based off of the season's most anticipated design trends, experts have selected the following colors for fall 2013:

Jewel tones, including emerald green, will continue to be popular this season. Ground these pops of color with neutral hues.

Equestrian palettes with warm hues will be on trend, especially when paired with brass, leather and wood décor accents.

Give the kitchen a quick makeover with a bold cabinet facelift. Try a rich shade of dark brown and add accents of red and pink for a touch of drama.

To give a room a rich, masculine feel, use shades of darker green and blue. Add gold accents in the form of a lamp or mirror to complement these darker shades.

Inspired by the beautiful fall colors in nature, shades of auburn are a great way to bring seasonal outdoor tones inside.

Once the colors are selected, the following fall décor tips are recommended to freshen up homes this season:

Look outdoors for inspiration -- nature-inspired graphic details will be a big trend. A faux bois design on an entry floor is a stunning, unique way to welcome guests into the home.

Kitchens are getting more cozy and rustic this season. After a run of modern countertops, handmade tiles and weathered flooring will regain popularity and offer a more timeless feel.

Use grayed out wood tones throughout the home to show off wood grain. These tones work well as flooring, dining tables or even smaller accent pieces for a distinct, on-trend look.

Natural elements such as branches or stones are becoming increasingly popular as unique art displays. Display a branch or stone on a bookcase for a designer touch.

Look for products that show some life this fall. Handmade accent tiles, vintage items, distressed wood flooring and reclaimed materials are very popular this season.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Can Certain Colors Make Kids Smarter?

September 20, 2013 2:39 am

Yes, it's true - certain paint colors can enhance learning. While parents may not have much control over the colors in their kids' classrooms, they can certainly make sure the study area in the home is conducive to learning. Dunn-Edwards, a supplier of low and Zero VOC paints, provides paint for thousands of schools and universities throughout the Southwest, often consulting on color.

"The best palette is a range of colors using lighter hues with deeper accents to provide a stimulating environment," explained Dunn-Edwards color expert Sara McLean. "For example, a softened, sage green paired with a pop of orange catches the eye without being overwhelming. Creating a monotone color scheme tends to not work for children, as the lack of color doesn't engage the senses." She points out that nature-based greens create an atmosphere of calm and restfulness, therefore, easier places to study and learn.

Productivity or creativity? Choose your paint color. Softened yellows are cheery and warm, and if not too bright, yellow can assist in productivity. Blues tend to be spa-like and restful, and reminders of oceans and tranquility; studies have shown that blue rooms assist in more creativity. Violets and softened lavenders also are shown to engage children in increasing their creative senses.

Young children tend to be attracted to warm, bright colors. "Parents and teachers can see that just by looking down the toy aisles and looking at the brighter toys for young age groups. As children age, they grow to an interest towards pastels in elementary school to brighter medium-cool colors in middle school," McLean points out. "In high school, darker colors are preferred and there is less preference for primary colors."

If parents have any input on colors in school rooms, opt for blues, greens, violet and turquoise.

"Classrooms should incorporate a variety of colors to reduce the monotony and increase mental acuity. Warm colors tend to make large spaces feel more intimate, while cool colors make smaller rooms appear larger. By moderating the use between warm and cool, a classroom environment can make a child feel engaged without feeling overly stimulated," she added.

Source: Dunn-Edwards

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

After the Storm: Tips for Filing Insurance Claims

September 19, 2013 2:39 am

In the wake of a storm, homeowners may have questions about what damages are covered by insurance.

While each insurance policy differs, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine offers the following examples of what is and is not covered in a typical homeowner's policy:
  • Flood damage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage, however, is available in the form of a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program and takes 30 days to become effective. If your flooding was related to sewage backup, ask your insurance agent or carrier if an endorsement for sewer backup coverage was added to your homeowner's policy. If so, your losses may be covered if the water damage was caused by sewer lines backing up through your home's drain pipes.
  • Auto damage. If you have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, the damages sustained from flooding will be covered.
  • Power outages. Generally, there is no coverage for damage or a loss caused by a power outage if the source of the power outage did not occur on the insured premises. However, if the source of the power outage occurred on the insured premises, there is coverage.
  • Removal of trees and branches. The removal of downed trees and/or debris may be covered if there is damage to a covered structure or if state government declares the area where the damage occurred is a disaster area.
  • Additional living expenses. There may be an allowance for offsite housing until your home is repaired. Keep all your bills and payments made for offsite housing.
After you contact your insurance company, take pictures of the damage and log your expenses:
  • Do not throw away your damaged property and do not make any permanent repairs. Your claim could be denied if the insurance company or adjuster is unable to see the extent of the damage to your property. If you do make permanent repairs before the adjuster has seen the damage, your claim could be denied.
  • Be wary of anyone who knocks at your door and offers to do your home repairs. Natural disasters can be a magnet for scam artists.
  • Know your options when working with a property claims adjuster. You have the option of working with a company-appointed adjuster or you may choose to use a public adjuster to assist you in filing your claim. Be aware that public adjusters will charge a fee for their services.
  • Be sure you are working with a reputable, dependable contractor. Make sure your home-improvement contractors are licensed.
Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: