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

Renting a Car over Labor Day Weekend?

August 29, 2013 2:00 am

An estimated 34.1 million Americans are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home this Labor Day weekend, the highest turn out since 2008, when the recession was at its peak, the American Automobile Association reports. Gas prices are also down, nearly 5 percent, another plus for vacationers. However, for those renting a car, it can be confusing, frustrating and downright daunting. Unfortunately, many consumers do not even think about car rental insurance until they get to the counter, which can result in either wasting money by purchasing unnecessary coverage or having dangerous gaps in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Before renting a car, I.I.I. suggests that you make two phone calls—one to your insurance professional and another to the credit card company you will be using to pay for the rental car.

1. Insurance Company
Find out how much coverage you currently have on your own car. In most cases, whatever coverage and deductibles you have on your own car would apply when you rent a car, provided you are using the car for recreation and not for business. If you have dropped either comprehensive or collision on your own car as a way to reduce costs, you will not be covered if your rental car is stolen or damaged in an accident.

2. Credit Card Company
Insurance benefits offered by credit card companies differ by both the company and/or the bank that issues the card, as well as by the level of credit card used. For instance, a platinum card may offer more insurance coverage than a gold card.

Credit cards usually cover only damage to or loss of the rented vehicle, not for other cars, personal belongings or the property of others. You may not have personal liability coverage for bodily injury or death claims. Some credit card companies will provide coverage for towing, but many may not provide for diminished value or administrative fees. Some credit card companies have changed their policies, too, so you may not have as much coverage as you thought.

At the Rental Car Counter

Since insurance is state regulated, the cost and coverage will vary from state to state. Consumers, however, can generally choose from the following coverages:

Loss Damage Waiver (LDW)
Also referred to as a collision damage waiver outside the U.S., an LDW is not technically an insurance product. LDWs do, however, relieve or "waive" renters of financial responsibility if their rental car is damaged or stolen. In most cases, waivers also provide coverage for "loss of use," in the event the rental car company charges the renter for the time a damaged car cannot be used because it is being fixed. It may also cover towing and administrative fees.

Liability Insurance
By law, rental companies must provide the state-required amount of liability insurance. Generally, these amounts are low and do not provide much protection. If you have adequate amounts of liability protection on your own car, you may consider forgoing additional liability protection. If you want the supplemental insurance, it will cost between $7 and $14 a day.

Personal Accident Insurance
Personal Accident Insurance offers coverage to you and your passengers for medical and ambulance bills for injuries caused in a car crash. If you have adequate health insurance or are covered by personal injury protection under your own car insurance, you may not need this additional insurance. It usually costs about $1 to $5 a day.

Personal Effects Coverage
Personal Effects Coverage provides insurance protection for the theft of items in your car. If you have a homeowners or renters insurance policy that includes off-premises theft coverage, you are generally covered for theft of your belongings away from home, minus the deductible. If you purchase this coverage through the rental car company, it generally costs between $1 and $4 a day.

If you frequently travel with expensive items such as jewelry, cameras, musical equipment or sports equipment, it may be more cost effective to purchase a personal articles floater under your homeowners or renters insurance policy. With such a floater, your valuable items are protected at home as well as while traveling anywhere in the world and the coverage is broader.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Economy Picks Up Steam: Housing Recovery, Consumer Spending, and Manufacturing Pave the Way

August 29, 2013 2:00 am

Economic growth continues to gain momentum in the second half of the year, as expected, despite the slow start at the beginning of 2013. Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s full-year forecast for both the economy and housing market remains on track, with GDP expected to come in at approximately 2.0 percent in 2013 and to accelerate to 2.6 percent in 2014. Fiscal drag is waning, the housing recovery continues, and manufacturing and business investment are rebounding, helping to boost growth. Furthermore, consumer spending and the employment sector appear to be growing sustainably, which may help to offset downside risks from the expected tapering of the Federal Reserve’s securities purchases.

“Our macroeconomic and housing forecast shows very little change from July, and the steady pickup during the past few months validates our expectations for the second half of the year,” said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan. “The biggest risk to this forecast is the expected reduction in the Federal Reserve’s asset purchases, which would likely put additional upward pressure on interest rates and lead to some volatility in capital markets. Although the nature and timing of the tapering are still to be determined, we continue to expect the Fed will scale back its asset purchases and end the program by spring. In addition, we may see some fiscal tightening this fall as the debate over federal spending and the debt ceiling takes place.”

The housing recovery appears to have weathered some of the uncertainty, although additional growth is expected to be modest rather than robust while the market awaits an easing of credit conditions in the presence of rising interest rates. The rise in mortgage rates has led to a drop-off in refinance activity but does not appear to have had much impact on home purchase activity to this point. Home prices are expected to continue to climb, although the pace should slow significantly from the dramatic levels seen during the past 12 months.

Source: Fannie Mae

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Fall Lawn Care Tips

August 28, 2013 2:00 am

Your lawn can be a canvas for expressing yourself. In fact, over half (52 percent) of homeowners surveyed in TruGreen’s Lawn Lifestyles National Survey of America said that “a homeowner’s lawn can tell you a lot about their personality.” Consider your lawn personality as a way to boost your home’s curb appeal. Fall is the proper time to prep lawns, trees and shrubs for spring’s growth cycle and the next home buying season.

Homeowners’ Top Three Ideal Outdoor Spaces


According to the survey, homeowners’ top ideal outdoor space is “functional” (40 percent) or focused on the overall utility of the lawn. Characteristics of this popular response include using the yard for children to play, sport activities, backdrop for entertaining, and growing flowers, fruits or vegetables.

Coming in second is the “formal” (24 percent) outdoor space characterized by a perfectly cut, healthy lawn, clutter-free area, manicured landscaping, and little or no yard accessories. In close third is the “creative” (17 percent) outdoor space driven by the imagination and inspired by the senses. Here you may find wilder foliage, colorful flowers, water features, artistic lawn decorations and charming outdoor lighting.

In comparison to ideal outdoor spaces, more homeowners (45 percent) best described their current outdoor space as “functional.” Fewer respondents categorized their current outdoor space as “formal” (21 percent) or “creative” (10 percent), reflecting that for some homeowners reality doesn’t match the vision that they have for their yard.

Fall Lawn Care Prep

According to the majority of homeowners (79 percent) surveyed, “in selling a home, it is important for the lawn to be in top shape to get the best price.” Fall is the best time to prep lawns, trees and shrubs for spring’s growth cycle, especially with the home buying season right around the corner.

“Lawns become distressed from summer entertaining with family and friends and require care throughout fall,” said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., TruGreen expert and director of technical operations. “A good fall feed is important to lawn, tree and shrub health as roots continue active growth before the dormant winter months and store reserves needed for hungry plants in spring.”

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Shake Up Your Front Door

August 28, 2013 2:00 am

Builders, remodelers and homeowners interested in "shaking up" home exteriors should look to the roof first, according to color specialist Kate Smith.

"I always recommend people add color from the top down on a home exterior, starting at the roof and working their way down to the windows, door and trim," says Smith, chief color maven at Sensational Color. "However, I have the most fun with adding color to the front door. When you have a paintable door, you have the ability to add a 'pop' of welcoming color to any entryway."

"In each case the entry door is a prominent feature of the home that deserves special attention. This is the one specific area of the house where a homeowner shows off his or her personality. They may choose a bold red for the door that says 'I'm an extrovert' or a mellow yellow that declares 'I like being part of this community.'"

According to Smith, here’s a look at what different paint colors on entry doors of the home say about the occupants inside:

- Red tells the world to “look at me!” This bright color says I’m not afraid of standing out or saying what’s on my mind.
- White says that I prefer things that are organized, neat and clean. Even if my home isn’t always this way, I wish it was!
- Green tells the world that you have traditional values and enjoy being a member of the community.
- Black says I’m consistent, conservative and reserved in my manner as well as my approach to color. With a black door I’m saying my design style is timeless rather than trendy.
- Blue tells people you are naturally at ease in most situations and people are attracted to your easygoing personality.
- Yellow says you have a personality similar to green, but a bit less traditional. You’re most likely a leader or organizer of a group.
- Purple reveals a “free spirited” person who is comfortable taking risks, thinking differently and dreaming big.

Source: Therma-Tru

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Making Smart Home Improvements

August 28, 2013 2:00 am

When today’s homeowners decide that it’s time for an upgrade, they often look for ways to create a safer, more functional space. Members of the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association agree that clients are making savvy choices.

Jim Nowlin, president of the Council, said most of the recent projects for his company have focused on kitchens and bathrooms.

“The master bath seems to be the biggest thing,” he said. “People are completely gutting and remodeling their bathrooms, adding larger showers, heavy glass enclosures and new cabinetry.”

Nowlin added, “Instead of plain-Jane tile, homeowners are choosing nice decorative tile work with mosaic patterns."

Gonzalo Garcia, vice-president of the Remodelers Council agrees.

“Clients are calling for the conversion of a bath tub to a shower,” he said. Luxury items, like overheard shower heads, also known as rain showers, are high on the list.

Garcia said another trend is the addition of a catch-all room. “The big home theatre is out, and it’s been replaced by a multi-purpose room,” he noted.

These new living spaces might hold a big screen television, library shelves, a work desk and craft tables.

Contractor Larry Abbott said clients are looking for ways to protect their investments and ensure longevity, usefulness and value in the home. He said energy efficiency remains a top priority in the industry. Attention to windows, doors, attic and wall insulation and meticulous weather-stripping is key. Abbott said LED lighting is also popular.

“Although the upfront costs are sometimes hard to swallow, homes are cooler – and most importantly, only cost pennies per year to operate,” he said. “The LED range of color can greatly enhance the beauty of art work and fine features in the home like stone countertops.”

Abbott said that many of his clients are interested in adding a room to the house.

“They are fixing up quarters above the garage either for a parent or for their grown children who haven’t settled on a profession or found their own nest yet."

Source: Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association

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Back-to-School Health Checklist for Parents

August 27, 2013 2:00 am

Summer fun is almost over for about 50 million American students. To ensure that students of all ages go to class in the best possible health, the nation's emergency physicians are advising parents and guardians to do a little homework of their own and go through a back-to-school health checklist.

"Nothing is more important than making sure your child's health is in check," said Dr. Andrew Sama, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Make sure all of the necessary forms and information are organized and easily available to those who need it." 

Checklist:

  • Organize your child's medical history records and emergency medical contact information.  Provide copies of this information to your child's school and any day care providers with instructions to take it with them to the emergency department if your child is sick or injured. The form should include information related to prescription medications, medical problems, or previous surgeries as well as pertinent family history and emergency contacts. An emergency information form is also available for children with special needs. Complete a consent-to-treat form and give copies to the school nurse and any day care providers to keep in your child's record and to take with them if your child should need to go to the emergency department. The form will allow caregivers to authorize medical treatment.
  • Coordinate with the school nurse and your child's physician to develop action plans for any health issues, such as asthma or food allergies. Communicate these plans to all appropriate care givers.
  • Schedule medical and dental check-ups before school starts. Some children will need immunizations. Consider vision and hearing tests, since impairment can adversely affect learning. Consider a sports check-up if your child will be playing in sports. 
  • Review and do a dry run with your child of his or her route to school, explaining potential hazards along the way. If your child walks to school, make sure he or she understands potential traffic dangers.
  • If your child takes the bus, establish a safe, visible pick up/drop off spot, preferably with a group of children and in an area where they can be clearly seen by adults. If your child drives to school, make sure he or she obeys all laws and wear seatbelts.  
  • Make sure your children know how to telephone for help. Post emergency contact numbers by every telephone in your home. Have them practice how to call 911 or the local emergency number and give their names, address and a brief description of the problem.
  • Develop a family emergency plan in case something happens on the way to (or from) and while at school. Be aware of the emergency and evacuation plans for your children's schools.

Source: American College of Emergency Physicians

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Saving on Moving Expenses

August 27, 2013 2:00 am

Whether you are packing up your college student or moving into the home you purchased this summer, here are some great tips from U-Haul for making the process easier and more cost effective:

  • Plan ahead. Make your reservations as far in advance as possible and use online packing planners to help determine how many boxes you will need.
  • Pack your boxes strategically. Choose a packing room ahead of time and box up a few things each day. Mark each box with its contents and destination room. Have all your boxes packed before you go to rent your truck. Load the heaviest items first, in front and on the floor. Pack items firmly and closely.
  • The last thing you want is the expense of having your personal belongings damaged. Protect your items by using the proper moving supplies, such as biodegradable packing peanuts, bubble wrap or furniture pads made from recycled fabrics. 
  • Save money on your rental by avoiding the weekend rush and especially trying to avoid the end of the month when apartment leases expire. Typically, Sunday through Thursday offers greater equipment availability…plus, banks, utilities and government offices are open.
  • Take advantage of free-storage offers if you need more time to move all of your belongings.
  • Make arrangements in advance for loading and unloading help. Now is the time to call in those favors!
  • Prior to moving, look into your homeowner's insurance policy, as some policies will cover belongings while moving as long as the insurance policy is in force during the move.

Source: U-Haul

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Market Index: Home Prices Advance in 250 of 300 U.S. Markets

August 27, 2013 2:00 am

The just-released Homes.com Local Market Index, utilizing home pricing data for the period ending June 2013, showed gains for single-family properties in 87 of the top 100 markets, a slight drop from 95 in the previous reporting period.

Starting with June 2013 housing data, the Homes.com Local Market Index has expanded to include midsized markets ranked from 101-300, providing a closer look at smaller markets nationwide. The Index showed increases in 250 of the top 300 markets, off from 259 the previous month. Year over year, all midsized markets increased.

As a complement to the Local Market Index, Homes.com released an exclusive Rebound Report, highlighting how the housing recovery process is unfolding across the country. Rebound data for June 2013 in the top 100 markets revealed that 19 markets across the U.S. are fully recovered – up from the previous month’s 16 markets. Additionally, 41 U.S. markets now show a rebound of 50 percent or more, up from 38 in last month’s report.

The latest Homes.com Local Market Index reports the following:

  • Monthly increases in 87 of the top 100 markets and in 163 of the 200 midsized markets.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii remains the top gaining market on a year-over-year basis with a 23.67 index point increase.
  • California markets [Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, Calif.; San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.; and San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.] are among the top 5 and increased 21.43, 20.52, and 19.44 index points respectively.
  • Six of the top 10 monthly gaining markets are in the South, two are from the Northeast, and two are from the West.

Highlights from the Homes.com Rebound Report for the top 100 markets show:

  • 19 have made more than a 100 percent rebound, indicating a complete recovery in these markets. This is up from 16 markets posting a full recovery in last month’s report.
  • The three newest markets to achieve a full rebound are Indianapolis- Carmel, Ind., Raleigh-Cary, N.C., and Syracuse N.Y.
  • 41 show more than a 50 percent rebound, up from 38 markets in the previous report.
  • Six of the top 10 markets are from Texas, with five exceeding a 200 percent rebound.

Source: Homes.com

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Six Surprising Home Hazards

August 26, 2013 2:00 am

You might think home fires are due to someone leaving the oven running or the coffee pot on. However, an alarming number of appliance fires are caused by the units themselves as opposed to human error. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from Consumer Reports, indentifies six appliances that cause the most fires and tips on how to minimize the risk.

"It was shocking to learn that appliances can turn themselves on or suddenly short-circuit and go up in flames," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "So it's important to learn the signs of trouble and know what to do if you have to deal with an appliance fire."

ShopSmart analyzed data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2002 through 2009 and found appliances were the main cause of 69,000 fires – with about half of the incidents linked to a mechanical, electrical, or design flaw. Below are the appliances that accounted for most of these fires and ways which consumers can minimize their risk:

1. Ranges. Burners that turn on by themselves and delayed ignition on a gas oven's bake and broil functions are the leading contributors to a range fire.
Number of fires: 16,824
Play it safe: Look for any unusual error messages on the range's digital display. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling, or broiling food and be sure to keep flammable items, including oven mitts, away from the cooktop. Kids should be kept at least 3 feet from the cooking area.

2. Clothes Dryers: Lint buildup and blockages and gas leaks on dryers that run on gas can cause fires.
Number of fires: 8,717
Play it safe: Don't run dryers when asleep or when no one is home. Clean out the lint filter before each load and check vents annually for clogs. If using a gas dryer, install a carbon monoxide alarm near the laundry room to warn of leaks, which are poisonous.

3. Microwaves. Units that turn on by themselves and glass doors that shatter unexpectedly can lead to a potential fire. Some microwave fire victims said that the panel flashed the code "PAN" or "F2" as self-starting began.
Number of fires: 1,705
Play it safe: Don't store food or other items in the microwave. Look for unusual error messages on digital display panels and if the unit goes on by itself, try to turn it off. Know where it's plugged in and which circuit breaker controls it in case it won't turn off using the microwave's controls.

4. Refrigerators: Fires can be caused by electronic components that short-circuit, control boards that overheat, or by lightbulbs that stay on when the door is shut.
Number of fires: 1,514
Play it safe: Be aware of unusual error messages on fridges with digital displays. Check that the lightbulb goes off when the fridge is closed by pressing the switch, which is usually inside where the door closes.

5. Dishwashers: Fires can be caused by circuit boards and heating elements catching fire, and liquid rinse aids that can leak into circuitry, creating a fire hazard.
Number of fires: 1,015
Play it safe: Don't run a dishwasher when asleep or when no one is home. If the rinse-aid dispenser needs constant refilling, call for a repair. Know which circuit breaker cuts power to the unit in case it starts smoking or goes up in flames.

6. Toasters and toaster ovens: Two potential fire hazards are units that turn themselves on and mechanism jams while toasting.
Number of fires: 902
Play it safe: Unplug toasters when not in use and inspect them for any frayed power cords. Don't toast anything that doesn't easily fit into the slot.

The good news is that these incidents are rare given the millions of appliances sold, and there are ways consumers can protect themselves from an incident.

• Register new appliances to be notified of service problems.
• Check for recalls at recalls.gov. In the past six years, more than 18.6 million appliances have been recalled for flaws that could cause a fire.

Sources: Consumer Reports, ShopSmart magazine

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School

August 26, 2013 2:00 am

If you have moved this summer, your children may be nervous about beginning classes at their new school this fall. While moving is a difficult and tedious process for all involved, it can be particularly daunting for children. Leaving behind friends, familiarity and comfort in exchange for alien territory and feelings of isolation may leave your child anxious, scared or depressed.

Helping your child adjust to a new school will take a little time and a lot of patience. Read on for some useful tips on how to aid them in their transition.

Talk about it. Your child may be harboring concerns without voicing them. Bring up the topic of starting a new school to initiate a dialogue–talking about her fears and apprehensions will lessen the burden. Validate her feelings by expressing empathy and offering examples when you felt similarly, and mention times in her past when she had to do something else for the first time–perhaps her first day at kindergarten or summer camp.

Research the school. The fear of the unknown will lessen if it becomes more familiar. Spend some time researching your child’s new school online and take notes of interesting classes or activities that you think would appeal to him. Encourage involvement in sports and other extracurricular activities, and be sure to point out classes or clubs of interest to your child that were unavailable at his old school. Getting him excited about whatever his new school has to offer will take his mind off of his nervousness.

Have a practice run. Before classes begin, go through the motions as if you were taking your child to school. Walk to the bus stop, map out the route to school if she will be walking, or drive her to school so she is familiar with where you will drop her off and what entrance she will use. You could also schedule a tour of the school, where you can check out the classrooms, cafeteria or other places she will need to find on her first day.

Get involved. Younger children are often comforted by their parent’s presence in the school. Join the P.T.A or volunteer as a classroom aid or a chaperone for class trips and school events. This will also help you to meet other parents and arrange play-dates for your children.

Keep home life routine. With so much change happening, it’s important to try and instill some level of stability for your child. Keep his home life as routine as possible–stick to your usual schedule for mealtimes, bedtime and playtime.

Expect regression. Even the most perfect angel may begin to exhibit undesirable behaviors as a reaction to increased stress levels. Your younger children may throw tantrums, have accidents, or crawl into your bed at night. Teens may become angry and withdrawn, rebel, or mouth-off disrespectfully. Maintain your authority as the disciplinarian, but try your best to be empathetic to what your child is experiencing.

Source: Movers.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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