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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

Real Estate Appraisers Optimistic About Future

July 18, 2013 3:36 am

More than three-fourths of U.S. real estate appraisers are very or somewhat positive about the demand for their services over the next one to two years, according to an Appraisal Institute survey recently released.

Eighty percent of residential appraisers and 78 percent of commercial appraisers said they are upbeat about their future, according to the survey conducted in May-June by the nation's largest professional association of real estate appraisers.

"Appraisers have faced a challenging real estate market in recent years, and it's great to see that so many valuation professionals are feeling optimistic about the future," said Appraisal Institute President Richard L. Borges II, MAI, SRA.

According to the survey, 95 percent of residential appraisers and 49 percent of commercial appraisers said there is currently more demand for their services than a year ago.

Additional survey results include:
-Eighty-four percent of residential appraisers said their local residential real estate market is strong, and 46 percent of commercial appraisers had the same opinion about their local commercial markets.
-Eighty-six percent of residential appraisers and 55 percent of commercial appraisers said demand for their services is strong.
-Thirty-two percent of residential appraisers and 45 percent of commercial appraisers anticipate more demand for their services during the ensuing one to two years.

"Real estate trends are typically local in nature, and it's a positive sign for the nation's economy that appraisers around the country reported increased demand for their services," Borges said.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Apps for Scoring Extra Savings at the Supermarket

July 18, 2013 3:36 am

Bad shopping habits can be tough to break – just ask the 63 percent of Americans in ShopSmart's new national grocery shopping survey who admitted to buying things they don't need because of a coupon or a sale. The September 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine highlights new mobile tools that can get supermarket shoppers organized while saving them time and money at the store.

"A trip to the grocery store can be overwhelming if you go in unprepared," said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. "Make the most out of your supermarket's website for coupons and download a few convenient apps that can help you save big on the things you need the most."

More than one in 10 respondents said they either never make a list or they make one but never stick to it. However, many are sticking to their lists more often than they did a couple of years ago. ShopSmart recommends the following free apps to help shoppers prepare for their next trip to the supermarket:

1. ZipList allows users to create a master checklist for things they buy frequently; the app also finds coupons and sorts participating stores by aisle. Works on: Android, Apple.

2. Weekly Ads & Sales
gives users access to weekly circulars without having to deal with the paper clutter. An added feature is its ability to track sales for the largest grocers, such as Kroger and Safeway, plus specialty retailers including Best Buy and Old Navy. Works on: Apple.

3. Grocery iQ matches items on users' grocery lists with applicable coupons and works best for people who tend to stick to the same list week after week. Works on: Android, Apple.

Coupon apps with extra features such as automated deals, rewards for frequent use, and instant savings can be a great way to score extra savings at the grocery store.

4. SavingStar registers users' loyalty cards and allows them to browse a list of exclusive offers. The "One or Many" deals feature lets users buy items over multiple trips to hit the required quantities. The deals usually have a big payout, such as $5 off $30 spent on Charmin, Gillette, and Ivory products. Works on: Android, Apple.

5. Cellfire sends coupons directly to users' loyalty cards and features an optional store alert, reminding them about coupons when they walk into a store. Works on: Android, Apple, BlackBerry.

6. Ibotta pays users back, usually 25 to 50 cents, when they take a poll or watch a short video, then buy the item, take a picture of the receipt, scan the bar code and submit it. It might not seem worth the effort at first, but those quarters can add up – especially when bonuses start to kick in after frequent use. Works on: Android, Apple.

Source: ShopSmart

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Extreme Heat Means Danger for Pets

July 18, 2013 3:36 am

This week, temperatures in much of the United States are expected to climb beyond the 90 degree mark, with heat indices above 100 degrees. This can mean extreme danger for pets.

To keep pets safe, the veterinarians at Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center remind pet owners of the following:

Never leave your pet unattended in a car. Even with the windows open, the interior temperature of a car can exceed 100 degrees in a matter of minutes on a warm day. This can cause heatstroke, a life threatening condition for pets. Heatstroke can lead to kidney failure, brain damage, and in severe cases, death.

Asphalt, concrete and sand can become extremely hot. Use caution when allowing a pet to walk on these surfaces as they can quickly burn a pet's paw pads.

Keep pets indoors. It's best to keep pets indoors in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible on extremely hot days. When outdoors, pets should have access to shade and plenty of cool, clean drinking water.

Don't over-exercise your pets. Exercise is great for pets, but it's important to use caution. Avoid excessive exercise on hot days. Any exercise should take part during the coolest part of the day.

Never leave your pet unattended in a pool or lake
. Not all dogs are good swimmers. Some may get tired or have difficulty getting out of the water, leading to problems or even drowning.

Prevent sunburn. Light-colored dogs, hairless dogs and dogs that have been shaved can get sunburned. Use a pet-specific sunscreen to keep your pet safe from sunburn when it is outdoors.

Use only pet-safe products. Never use sunscreen or insect repellant on animals unless it is specifically approved for use on that species. Some products made for human use are toxic to pets.

Pet owners who think their pet may be suffering from heatstroke should immediately move the animal to a cool place and begin cooling the pet. Pets can be cooled with damp towels or by immersing the animal in cool (not cold) water or rinsing it off with a hose. Pet owners should also seek immediate care from their veterinarian or from an emergency veterinary center. Veterinarians can help cool pets with intravenous fluids and other medical resources.

Source: Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center

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Beyond Finances: Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

According to a recent PulteGroup Home Index Survey, more than half of renters aged 18-34 say their intention to buy a home has increased in the last year.

While their intentions are in many ways driven by personal, aspirational reasons – more space, family stability and the pride of homeownership – the low mortgage rate environment, increasing rental costs and scarcity of desirable rental options makes homeownership an even more attractive proposition for many.

"The propensity for young adults to test the waters of homeownership continues to increase and has become more evident as renters are seeing the overall value of owning a home," says Deborah Wahl, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PulteGroup, Inc., noting that more than 50 percent of Millennials reported that the desire to own/build equity was the primary reason for purchasing a new home. "However, beyond finances, it is important for potential buyers to take several other factors into consideration."

Below are tips for first-time homebuyers looking for the right housing match:

Know Your Financial Situation
– Start saving for a down payment and talk with mortgage lenders about available loans well in advance of your purchase. Understand that there are special federal, state and locally administered financial programs for new homebuyers, such as FHA and HUD loan programs. Additionally, it's important to take into account other factors beyond your mortgage, including homeowners insurance and property taxes. By doing your homework, you will know what you can afford and comfortably make a decision about this important investment.

Compare Owning vs. Renting – Buying can be smarter than renting from a financial standpoint, but it has other advantages, as well. Owning a home provides you with a great deal of freedom and decision-making autonomy. No more will you have to worry about the noisy neighbor upstairs or accidental scratches on the wall from decorations. You'll have the power to select paint colors and plant flowers throughout the yard. Also, houses tend to offer more storage space.

Weigh New vs. Used – If you want to choose the floor plan and customize a home to fit your needs and lifestyle, building a new home may be the right choice for you. Popular options new homes offer today include more open, larger spaces, master bedroom suites, island-centric kitchens and bigger outdoor living space. Customizing a new home also provides the opportunity to design your home and include amenities that meet the needs of your growing family – if that's in your future. Additionally, new homes can be up to 30 percent more energy efficient and often come with a builder warranty. If you're handy and don't mind a fixer upper, resale can be an attractive route as well.

Examine the Location – Consider your surroundings when deciding upon where you want to live next. If you plan to start a family, research the local school district and other family offerings such as nearby parks and community centers. For fun, test out the local retail scene and entertainment options to see if it caters to your lifestyle. If you're a commuter, determine if the area is supported by adequate public transportation or provides easy access to major highways. Many in the housing market also care about ensuring they still live within close proximity to family and friends, as only 21 percent of homeowners are willing to move away from their families.

Select the Right Builder – If you decide on a new home, select a builder who has experience in the type of home and in the location you want. Make sure they have a history of building quality homes and are financially stable. Moreover, how easy are they to work with? Some builders today have gone digital to enhance customer service and help buyers stay on top of the latest with their new home. Look for online design centers that can help you make important design decisions, for example, or portals in which you can stay up-to-date on how your new home is progressing. Lastly, take time to check their references and talk to past customers.

Confide in Trusted Sources – More than 90 percent of home shoppers today are plugged-in to the Internet and use it as their main source of information. While this is particularly true with Millennials, don't forget to seek advice from two trusted groups: real estate agents and your personal network, including your parents. Approximately 60 percent of Millennials say they would rely on both sources, as each has extensive experience in purchasing homes and can provide personal guidance toward the successful purchase of their home.

"With third party data showing that 90 percent of Millennials plan to purchase a home at some point in their lives, it's important for first-time homebuyers to have access to the right tools and information to ensure their first home purchase is one they are proud of for years to come," adds Wahl. "With many options to choose from, starting from a point of knowledge will go a long way towards achieving their dream of homeownership."

Source: Centex

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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When the Doorbell Rings, Americans Want X-ray Vision

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

Since the invention of the electric bell ringer in 1831, Americans have relished the benefits of the ever-present doorbell to let them know someone's calling. A new nationwide survey shows that no matter how long we have doorbells as fixtures on front doors, we still have very strong and personal reactions to hearing them ring.

The 2,000-person survey was conducted by an independent market research firm and sponsored by VTech® Communications, Inc. Beyond turning into a superhero to see who's there (30 percent want X-ray vision), survey respondents said that an intercom to engage with the visitor (22 percent), followed by the immediate desire to continue activities unnoticed (16 percent), were their top spontaneous reactions to hearing the bell.

A Relentless Need-to-Know
No doubt, maintaining a sense of security is a top reason nearly all consumers (95 percent) say they won't open the door before checking to see who’s there. The majority (89 percent) said they sometimes hesitate to open the door when the bell rings, especially late at night (57 percent), when there's an unfamiliar face (42 percent) or when home alone (31 percent).

Other fun facts from the survey show:

• Mars and Venus reactions to a ringing doorbell. Women are more concerned about security than men – 60 percent of women check who is at the door due to safety worries compared to 45 percent of men. Men, instead, were more apt than women to peek out of curiosity or to screen visitors.

• Curiosity sparks the home dwellers. Emotions vary for an unexpected doorbell ring, with curiosity topping the list (43 percent), followed by annoyance (21 percent), surprise (12 percent) and anxiousness (12 percent).

• A ringing doorbell is worst during a snooze. Sometimes the doorbell rings at the most inconvenient times. The greatest bother to Americans is a doorbell ringing when they are asleep (40 percent), followed by when they are eating a meal (23 percent) and when they are in the shower (21 percent).

• Pets are the secret weapon for home security. The majority of consumers (69 percent) take some measure to protect their homes with 43 percent hoping the family dog will warn them of any trouble. Nearly one third (31 percent) use alarm systems and almost a quarter use motion-detecting lights (23 percent).

"We wanted to find out what Americans think about their doorbells and if this fixture on the front porch is still something people feel attached to," said Matt Ramage, senior vice president, product management, VTech Communications, Inc. "We saw that knowing who's at the door still provides a sense of comfort and security – while satisfying an equal desire for curiosity and convenience. As Americans embrace more digital solutions in the home, we can now take the doorbell concept a step further to accommodate all of those needs."

Source: VTech

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Summer Travel Safety Tips for your Hot Vacation Plans

July 17, 2013 3:36 am

As the economy continues to rebound, Americans are preparing for summer vacation trips around the country. According to PhoCusWright's U.S. Consumer Travel Report, six in ten U.S. adults traveled for leisure in 2012, the same number as in 2011. However, vacationing away from home can present safety risks as well as pleasures.

"You can help make family trips more enjoyable by taking a few simple steps to reduce the possibility you will become an easy target for thieves who prey on tourists, or that your home will be robbed in your absence," says Allstate Claims Director of Property Innovation Bryan Corder. "Following some simple precautions can make your family vacation a memorable one for all the right reasons."

To help you enjoy a safe family vacation:

Make sure your home is protected while you're away:
• Stop mail and newspapers, or ask a neighbor to pick them up every day.
• Put several household lights on timers so they turn on and off at appropriate times.
• Arrange to have grass mowed while you're gone.
• Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway overnight, or anything else that might suggest someone is home.

Make sure you don't pack unnecessary items and that your valuables are protected:
• Clean out your wallet or purse before you go; take only essential credit cards.
• Carry your purse close to your body, or wallet in an inside front pocket.
• Pack as lightly as possible. Lots of heavy, cumbersome bags will slow you down and make you more vulnerable to getting robbed.
• Keep a separate record of the contents of checked luggage. Keep anything of value such as medicine and jewelry in a carry-on that stays with you.

In unfamiliar locations, you and your family should try to blend in with the crowd and not look too much like tourists:
• Don't display expensive jewelry, cameras, bags and other items that might draw attention.
• Check maps before you go out so you can tour confidently.
• Stick to well-lit, well-traveled streets at all times.
• Leave an itinerary of your trip with someone at home in case you need to be contacted. Carry an extra passport photo with you just in case you need to replace a stolen passport.
• Don't use your home address on your luggage tags. You don't need to let anyone know where your empty house is located. Consider using your business card instead.

Source: Allstate

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Debunking Top Swimming Pool Myths

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

Don't pee in the pool or the water will change color and everyone will know. Parents have long used the story of a chemical that changes color in the presence of urine to keep their children from peeing in the pool. In reality, no such chemical is used, but a new Mason-Dixon survey found that 52 percent of people believe there is a chemical that is added to pools to turn a conspicuous color in the presence of urine.
While the use of a urine-detecting chemical may be the biggest pool myth, other common aquatic urban legends include:

Myth – Swimming is not good for children with asthma.
Truth – Medical experts say swimming in a healthy, well-maintained pool is an excellent physical outlet for swimmers with asthma. The Belgian Superior Health Council examined the relevant scientific studies and concluded that the available evidence does not support advising children against swimming in chlorinated pools. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other public health experts have asserted that swimming in a well-maintained pool is a healthy form of exercise for people with asthma.

Myth – Chlorine turns hair green.
Truth – An earlier survey by the Water Quality and Health Council discovered that nearly half of respondents believe that chorine is responsible for turning hair green. In fact, the presence of copper in swimming pool water is to blame. Copper may be introduced to pool water in several ways, including metal plumbing or algaecide.

Myth – Swimmer "red eye" is caused by too much chlorine in the pool.
Truth – Eighty-seven percent of respondents believed that chlorine in pools makes swimmers' eyes red and irritated. In reality, when nitrogen, found in urine and sweat, is combined with chlorine, irritants called chloramines are formed. It is these chloramines, not the chlorine itself, that irritate the eyes, skin and respiratory system. In this case, more chlorine may actually need to be added to pool water in order to reduce the formation of chloramines.

Myth – When it comes to pool water, clarity means cleanliness.
Truth – Even when swimming pool water is clear, microorganisms too small to be seen with the naked eye can be present. While chlorine destroys bacteria that could put swimmers at risk for disease, it takes time to work. Most germs are killed within seconds in a properly treated pool, but some (such as Cryptosporidium) can survive for days and require more aggressive treatment.

Myth – The strong odor of chemicals indicates a clean, well-treated pool.
Truth – A faint smell is expected, but a strong scent of chemicals could mean trouble. When irritating chloramines are formed by the mixture of chlorine and pool contaminants, such as urine, body oils and other substances brought into the pool by swimmers, a strong smell is released. A healthy pool is one with little to no odor.

Test Your Pool
There are ways to make sure the pool you are swimming in is healthy. Experts recommend using a pool test kit or even use your five senses to know if the pool you're swimming in is healthy and well-maintained.

Sight – Make sure you can see clearly through the water to the floor of the pool.
Touch – Check for tiles that feel smooth and clean, not slimy.
Smell – Make sure there are no strong chemical odors.
Sound – Listen for the sound of the pool pump.
Taste – Avoid tasting and swallowing pool water!

Source: Water Quality and Health Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Canned Foods Stocked In 98 Percent of Americans' Kitchens

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

A new survey reveals that for a majority of Americans, a home-cooked meal means turning to their pantry. An overwhelming 98 percent of Americans currently have canned foods in their kitchens, with the average pantry stocked with 24 cans.

Canned corn is king, and vegetables top the list of America's most popular canned ingredients (present in 79 percent of American homes), followed by beans (74 percent), broths, stocks and condensed cooking soups (71 percent), fruits (67 percent) and meats and seafood (54 percent).

This provides insights into how Americans shop and put homemade meals on their family tables, day in and day out. Americans rely on canned foods for mealtime solutions, and are always looking for inspiration, with 68 percent agreeing that they need new canned food recipe ideas.

"These results demonstrate the integral role canned foods play in America's kitchen," said CMI President Robert Budway. "The can is one of the best ways to get food from the farm to the family table, and most consumers keep a healthy mix of canned fruits, vegetables, stocks and meats on hand, allowing for a wide variety of nutritious and delicious meals that can be prepared any time."

A closer look:

• The average number of canned food items used each week is five. That's a can each weekday!
• Canned corn is the most popular canned vegetable in America, with 63 percent of Americans reporting they stock it in their pantry.
• Busy parents streamline their meal prep with canned foods, and 86 percent agree they do not go a week without using cans.
• Among those who keep canned fruits in their pantry, canned peaches (67 percent) and canned pineapple (63 percent) are the most commonly found in America's pantry, followed by canned fruit cocktail (56 percent) and pears (52 percent).
• Among all Americans, the top four canned fruit and vegetable classics after corn are: green beans, tomatoes (whole, diced or pureed), peas and peaches.
• Nearly three in four Americans throw away spoiled fresh produce. On average, Americans throw away spoiled fresh produce twice a month.

Source: Can Manufacturers Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Keep Kids Safe While Around Lawn Mowers

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

The lawn mower is one of the most dangerous household tools. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, each year 68,000 people are treated in the emergency department for lawn mower related injuries, and 9,400 of them are children under the age of 18. Most childhood injuries due to lawn mowers are related to riding mowers, and most are injured in their own yard.

"One important statistic to remember is that a significant number of these accidents occur among family members," says Junichi Tamai, MD, Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery. "Most families think that if the child stays with a family member, everything will be okay, but that is not always the case."

Most common injuries associated with mowers can include lacerations, amputations, fractures, infections and skin defects.
Dr. Tamai and the American Academy of Pediatrics give the following tips for staying safe around lawn mowers.

SAFETY TIPS
• Children younger than 15 should not be in the yard when someone else is mowing.
• Children younger than 12 should not use walk-behind mowers.
• Children younger than 16 should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers.
• Children or adults should never be allowed as passengers on ride-on mowers.

The Safe Lawn Mower
• Allows automatic blade disengagement when the mower is placed in reverse
• Has a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is released
• Has a blade safety device for ride-on mowers that disconnects the blade from the power source when the operator leaves the operating position

Operating the Mower
• Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
• Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.

Protecting Yourself and Others
• Wear hard-soled, sturdy shoes around mowers (no sandals or sneakers).
• Wear hearing and eye protection when operating a mower.
• Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.

Source: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Continue Trending Higher

July 16, 2013 3:34 pm

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates continuing to trend higher for the week on more market speculation that the Federal Reserve will reduce future bond purchases following June's strong employment report.

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.51 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending July 11, 2013, up from last week when it averaged 4.29 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.56 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.53 percent with an average 0.8 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.39 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.86 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.26 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 3.10 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.66 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.69 percent.

"June's strong employment led to more market speculation that the Federal Reserve will reduce future bond purchases causing bond yields to rise and mortgage rates followed,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “The economy gained 195,000 jobs in June, above the market consensus forecast, while revisions to the prior two months added 70,000 on top of that. Moreover, hourly wages rose by 2.2 percent over the last 12 months and represented the largest annual increase in nearly two years. However, the minutes of the June 18th and 19th Federal Reserve's monetary policy committee meeting, released July 10th, stated that many members indicated further improvement in the outlook for the labor market would be required before it would be appropriate to slow the pace of bond purchases."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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