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

Tips to Keep Your Home Pest-Free This Summer

August 2, 2013 1:50 am

Summer brings the return of bugs and other pests to your home. The first line of defense against an invasion is keeping your home clean and eliminating attractants that may bring the unwanted guests indoors.

To help keep your house pest-free, here’s a list of the top cleaning tips to avoid the pest invasion that comes with summer months:

• Clean dishes immediately to avoid flies. Don't wait until the end of the day to wash your dishes, especially if they have sticky residues. Before scrapping leftovers into the garbage, drain moisture and place scraps in a tightly tied bag in a trash can with a fitted lid.

• Practice insect control with non-toxic, organic sprays and insecticides. Home remedies or commercial products are effective for homeowners, which work on ants, roaches, fleas, etc.

• Prevent roaches by regularly cleaning around the fridge, stove, and dishwasher to remove food crumbs. Keep the areas free of liquid by cleaning kitchen counters after every meal, mopping the floor and wiping down baseboards.

• Cut back bushes and tree branches around your house. Remove any piles of leaves or other debris that has accumulated as they are perfect nesting spots for bugs and other pests.

• Seal small cracks in windows, doors or floorboards where bugs could get in with caulk.

• Place food in clean fruit bowls and use a lid to create a barrier between fruit flies and your items. For more, read Molly Maid's post on getting rid of fruit flies.

Source: Molly Maid

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Now Is the Time to Lock Your Rate

August 2, 2013 1:50 am

For consumers and borrowers looking to secure a mortgage, locking in to the lowest rate possible is critical to your success. A mortgage rate lock enables borrowers to lock in the original rate that they were quoted when they first applied for a loan from their lender. Not all lenders allow borrowers to lock in their rates, but those who do will usually allow for a rate lock at the beginning, when the loan is filed, or during the application process. Most borrowers prefer to lock in their rates when they first submit the loan, since this will protect them from potential rate or point increases that may occur during the home loan application process.

If you've been mortgage shopping, you've probably seen a lot of interest rates – some lower than others. You've probably also been following news reports about the recent increase in rates, and even though rates are still near record lows, it's pretty obvious that now is the time to take out a new mortgage or refinance an existing one. Of course, once you do decide to apply for a mortgage, it takes time – usually a few weeks – before the mortgage will be finalized. At the end of that time, you want to be sure you end up getting the same low rate that was in effect when you submitted your application. The way to do that is by locking in your rate, and maybe even your points.

A lock protects you from potential rate increases while your loan is being approved, it can also mean you are unable to take advantage of decreases in the interest rates that may occur while your loan is being processed. In a market where you aren't sure whether rates will fall or not, you might choose to float your rate. That means that although you lock in the rate when you make an application, the lender will adjust the rate to any lower interest rate that occurs while your application is being processed. Of course, if rates rise, in most cases the rate will "float" upward with them. Since points also typically fall with interest rates, some lenders also allow points to rise and fall during the application process.

Conducting research on the market and observing mortgage trends is a good way to make sure you can lock in at the best possible rate.

Source: LoanLove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Best Cities to Be a Chicken

August 2, 2013 1:50 am

Urban chicken coops – and the fresh eggs that come from them – have become the hottest trend among health conscious eaters and locavores. So what kind of person keeps chickens? It turns out they're not necessarily suburbanites with a lot of land; in fact on average, listings with chicken coops have smaller homes and smaller lots, but larger price tags. It appears some buyers are willing to pay a little more for a home with a henhouse.

But which cities have embraced this trend the most? Here are the top five cities to be a chicken, based on the number of homes that have hit the market in the past three months with chicken enclosures mentioned as a feature in the multiple listing service description.

1) Portland, Ore.
The locavore movement is strong in Portland, with many restaurants boasting a menu made of ingredients from less than 50 miles away. The city's residents were among the first to raise backyard chickens en masse, and even the former mayor, Sam Adams, had a couple of hens.

"From community urban farms to edible front yard gardens, Oregonians are crazy about keeping it local. We make our own cheese and sausage, brew our own beer, roast our own coffee…we even trade canned food. Chickens fit right in. The eggs taste way better, your neighbors will love you (if you share), and if you have a good chicken coop, you might be sitting on a little pot of gold when you sell your house!" said Jeff Bale, a real estate agent in Portland.

In order to raise more than three chickens in Portland, residents must build a proper enclosure at least 15 feet away from their home, and obtain a permit from the city. But a permit isn't required if you have less than three hens.

2) Ventura, Calif.
Perhaps it's the temperate climate that drove so many residents of Ventura to build chicken coops. It's much easier to take care of chickens when you don't need to worry about them freezing to death! Locals in Ventura, Calif., have been quick to embrace the backyard chicken movement; there's even a Facebook page called Ventucky Chicken, where residents can discuss the local chicken culture.

"The year-round weather in Ventura and the surrounding communities is terrific for raising chickens and other animals or having personal gardens for vegetables. With such a mild climate, it is no surprise that farming plays such a large part of the lifestyle in the area," said John Underwood, a real estate agent in Southern California.

City officials are trying to catch up with the trend. Last October the City of Ventura Planning Commission recommended that the City Council change the definition of domestic animals to include chickens, so that residents can keep up to six hens without a permit, as long as they are in a penned area at least 35 feet from a home. The laws and regulations currently vary by region; for specific details on the regulations in Ventura County, it's best to contact your local community council.

3) San Diego
Chickens are popping up all over San Diego, and we don't mean the Famous San Diego Chicken. Backyard coops have gained in popularity since the city amended its code last January to allow single family residents to keep chickens.

"Chicken coops are the trendiest house accessory in San Diego. Some have a small one-hen coop, while others have a deluxe, multiple-level coop brightly painted in neon colors. Hens can often produce more eggs than a household can eat, so some homeowners hold weekly egg sales on their sidewalk or at the local farmer's market," said Jordan Clarke, a real estate agent in San Diego.

San Diego residents are allowed up to five hens, as long as they are in the backyard, five feet from side property lines, 13 feet from the rear property line, and kept in an appropriate coop. The city offers residents an online form that makes it easy to look up the guidelines in their area. More information is available on SanDiego.gov.

4) Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento was one of the first major metros to allow chickens, but unlike other cities, it requires a fee. Unfortunately, many residents are unaware of the license and fee requirements, and are keeping undocumented chickens.

"There are a lot of reasons people in Sacramento keep chickens. Some value the free, farm-fresh eggs, some see it as being good for the environment, and others simply enjoy having them as pets. It seems to be a growing trend; over the past few years I've been seeing a lot more chicken coops as I go on home tours with clients," said Lindsay Martin, a real estate agent in Sacramento.

People within Sacramento city limits can keep up to three hens in their backyard, as long as the enclosure is 20 feet away from any homes. An annual license fee of $10 per household and permit fee of $15 per chicken is also required.

5) Seattle
Seattle and Portland have a lot in common, including their love of urban chicken farming. Some of the most popular restaurants in Seattle boast organic items on the menu, including Tilth, which encourages the practice by hosting a tour of the top 25 urban farms in the area.

"Seattleites are foodies and conscious about what they put into their bodies. A lot of people have created urban farms on their property; they grow organic vegetables in their garden and raise chickens in their backyard. You'd be surprised by how many homes for sale have coops. Sometimes they're the front-and-center focal point of a yard, and sometimes they're unobtrusive, covered by trees and bushes," said Bree Al-Rashid, an agent in Seattle.

Seattlites can keep up to eight chickens, as long as their enclosure is at least 10 feet away from any home. They aren't allowed to roam off your property, so some type of pen needs to be created. People with larger lots can keep additional chickens.

Source: Redfin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Make Working at Home Work

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

(BPT) - Working at home is a growing popular trend. The 2010 U.S. Census reports 9.5 percent of the population spends at least one day a week working at home - an increase of more than 2 percent since 1997. Technology is making it easier for employees and self-employed workers to set up a home office and conduct business.

When deciding to set up an office at home, one challenge many workers face is determining what computer to use - or purchase. Apple and Windows-based PCs are the two staples, and everyone has a preference on which system they prefer. Sometimes it's the user interface of one over the other that's preferred, and in other cases, how chosen programs perform on each platform determines what type of computer workers purchase. And often, workers just want to seamlessly blend in with the office environment, and purchase the same system for home.

With Parallels Desktop for Mac, the difficulty of choosing between the two platforms is obsolete. This software enables users to run all operating systems like Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP, Mac OS X, Google Chrome OS and more on a Mac without rebooting. This allows an at-home employee to easily switch between the system provided on work computers and the home computer, even if they're running different operating systems.

This allows at-home workers several benefits:

• If you have a Mac and a PC, then Parallels Desktop software can simply move your entire PC onto you Mac so you have everything on one computer. If you don't have a PC, its wizard lets you simply add Windows and other operating systems to your Mac so you can do everything on one computer.

• Save money because there is no need to repurchase software you already own. All of the PC applications you invested in can simply be moved to your Mac and run in Windows via Parallels Desktop.

• Run both Windows and Mac systems at the same time, allowing you to work in a Mac program while using a Windows platform.
Copy and paste between documents running in both operating systems easily - which is not possible if you must reboot your Mac to change between OS X and Windows applications.

Another challenge working-from-home employees face is taking the business on the road. Those who are self-employed often don't have the luxury of bringing business into the home office, and have to make the office mobile. This requires updating technology so email, documents and files can all be accessed from either a smartphone or tablet.

Another option is to access your computer remotely, allowing you to do everything you'd be doing at home while away. Parallels Mobile for iPad and iPhone lets you remotely access and run all of your Mac and Windows files and applications when you're on the go.

One final challenge is being able to handle the business errands without having to leave the office - or home. Banking, setting up conference calls or ordering supplies can all be done electronically using websites and downloadable apps. This technology allows a home-worker to make business deposits, connect with clients and have supplies delivered to the door - without having to leave.

Seamless connection is key to working at home, because any interruption in getting technology to work is lost time, and potentially lost business. Apps, using the same computer programs you've always used through Parallels Desktop for Mac and mobile devices will help any at home worker to keep all connections with the office and clients going strong.

Source: http://www.parallels.com/desktop

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Seven Small Changes with Big Impact

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

(Family Features) Ever envy those beautiful homes that seem to get redecorated with every new season? The latest and greatest looks are easy to incorporate if you keep your furnishings neutral and the décor uncluttered. From there, it’s just a matter of bringing in a few simple touches that create a big impact.

Start with one or two easy projects and you will quickly transform your house into a place you’re proud to call home.

1. Transform With Paint
– Every interior designer will tell you the quickest way to transform a home is with a fresh coat of paint. Greet guests with a beautiful new door color. It will give your entire home a facelift with very little time and effort.

2. Warm Things Up – The look of hardwood brings warmth to every room in the house. Even kitchen and bathroom spaces can benefit from the addition of wood-look tiles, which are easy to clean, water resistant, and durable, but with the beauty and ambiance of traditional hardwood. Throw rugs are a great way to accent a wood-look floor and are easy to swap out with the change of season or style.

3. Keep it Clean – Kitchens are prime gathering places and just keeping them clean and uncluttered will transform the look and feel of an entire house. Leave just one or two appliances on the countertops, add fresh flowers and hang a pair of colorful kitchen towels to brighten the space.

4. Make a Space Pop – Add a pop of color and texture with new tile, such as American Olean’s Garden Oasis featuring Oceanside Glass Tile. The tiles, which can be seen at www.americanolean.com, come in various shapes, sizes, colors and patterns, so you can easily show off your own creative style anywhere.

5. Throw on Some Pillows – Filling a room with furnishings in neutral shades is actually the simplest way to embrace new decorating trends. Give a monochromatic room an instant makeover with pillows, artwork and tchotchkes. It’s an inexpensive way to change things up whenever the mood strikes.

6. Be Neighborly – Even if you only have room for a small pot of flowers, make your front porch welcoming. If possible, set out some chairs for neighborly chats, place a small table between for refreshments and add plenty of cushions for comfort.

7. Let There Be Light – Instantly change the look and feel of a room just by changing the lighting. Simply change your bulbs to one offering more natural light or swap out the entire light fixture for instant beauty.

Whether you update one room or transform your entire house, these simple changes will turn your home into a sanctuary that truly reflects your own personal style.

Source: Daltile

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Mortgage Rates Calm Further

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates easing for the second consecutive week helping to alleviate concerns over a slowdown in the housing market and amid recent strong homes sales data for June.

Highlights include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.31 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending July 25, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.37 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.49 percent.

• 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.39 percent with an average 0.8 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.41 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.80 percent.

• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.16 percent this week with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.17 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 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 2.66 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.71 percent.

"Mortgage rates eased for the second consecutive week, which should help to alleviate market concerns of a slowdown in the housing market,” says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac. “Thus far, existing home sales for June were the second highest since November 2009 and new home sales were the strongest since May 2008.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Renters Thinking More about Owning a Home

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

Americans overwhelmingly believe owning a home is a good financial decision and a majority of renters say homeownership is one of their highest priorities for the future, according to a survey by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). The 2013 National Housing Pulse Survey also found that renters are thinking more about purchasing a home now than in past years, while the number of people who say they prefer to rent has declined.

“Homeownership matters to Americans who consistently realize the many benefits it provides to communities, families and the nation’s economy,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Due to high housing affordability and today’s interest rates it makes sense for people to consider homeownership over renting. In fact, in many parts of the country it’s cheaper to own a home than to rent one. Therefore, it’s no surprise that renters recognize that owning a home offers tremendous long-term benefits and is an investment in their future.”

The survey, which measures consumers’ attitudes and concerns about housing opportunities, found eight in 10 Americans believe buying a home is a good financial decision and more than two-thirds (68 percent) said now is a good time to buy a home. Since the last survey in 2011, more renters are now thinking about purchasing a home, up from 25 percent to 36 percent, while those who say they prefer to rent dropped from 31 percent to 25 percent. Half of renters say that eventually owning a home is one of their highest personal priorities, up from 42 percent to 51 percent.

Attitudes toward the housing market have also improved over the years. Nearly four in 10 Americans (38 percent) identified an increase in activity within their local housing market in the past year, compared to just 22 percent who reported a slowdown in activity. By contrast, in 2011, some 51 percent reported a slowdown in activity. There was also less concern than in the past about the drop in home values; a majority said housing prices in their area are more expensive than a year ago.

In addition to these improved attitudes about the housing market, respondents also showed an improved outlook about the national economy. Just under half (48 percent) said job layoffs and unemployment are a big problem, down from 61 percent in 2011. The concern over foreclosures showed a steep decline from 2011 when 47 percent characterized distressed properties as “very” or a “fairly big problem”; today only 29 percent say it’s a problem.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Three R's for Back to School: Research, Reuse, Revisit

July 31, 2013 5:22 am

With families preparing for the back-to-school season and the frenzied shopping sessions that come along with it, Goodwill Industries International is asking parents and students to shop responsibly. In 2010, Goodwill launched the Donate Movement, which asks consumers to think about how donations and shopping for used goods can make a difference to communities and the planet. At Goodwill, donated goods and their resale are transformed into job training and placement programs that help millions of people annually. With that in mind, Goodwill asks families to consider the Three R’s of the back-to-school season.

1. Research: Instead of approaching the back-to-school season with a last-minute dash for the mall, kids and parents can use it as an opportunity to learn about conscientious shopping. At the Donate Movement website (donate.goodwill.org), anyone can easily find out the impact their used goods can have by entering donations into the patent-pending Donation Impact Calculator. For example, three pairs of gently used jeans provide 31 minutes of career counseling. Students can also read exactly how these career counseling classes have helped job seekers in their communities. Parents can enter their zip codes on the site to find out how and where to donate.

2. Reuse:
Young people can make an impact during the back-to-school season in three ways. First, they can make room in their closets, bedrooms and backpacks by donating gently used clothing and household items to Goodwill. Second, they can purchase donated items for school so that the value of what they buy will go directly into helping their communities. Third, they can hold donation drives at their local school once the school season starts. Young shoppers can find everything from clothes and school supplies to books, electronics and sports equipment at their local Goodwill stores.

3. Revisit: With families now spending more than ever before on back-to-school shopping, it can certainly help to put off some purchases until later in the year. By returning to Goodwill throughout the school year, parents can make sure they're only buying items they really need. Returning later also means they can likely find some must-have back-to-school items at deeply discounted prices in just a few months. Throughout the year, families can revisit the Donate Movement site to learn how their donated goods are having an impact, and return to Goodwill to drop off used items and find new ones.

"The back-to-school season can be a stressful time for families," said Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "By approaching it as a fun opportunity to learn about the power of donating and to find ways to strengthen our community, children and parents alike can get everything they need for school while knowing they're doing good by helping others."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Back to School Survey Finds School Boundaries Play Major Role in Home Buying Decisions

July 30, 2013 2:42 am

Realtor.com® announced the results of its Back to School survey, which analyzed how much impact school boundaries have on buyers looking to purchase a home within two years. It was found that three out of five homebuyers surveyed said school boundaries will impact their home purchasing decision.

Findings:
A majority of homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact are willing to pay one percent to 10 percent above budget to live within school boundaries:

• 23.59 percent would pay one percent to five percent above budget.
• 20.70 percent would pay six percent to 10 percent above budget.
• 8.98 percent would pay 11 percent to 20 percent above budget.
• 40.33 percent would not go above budget.

For those homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision, the majority indicated school boundaries will be an important consideration:

• 90.53 percent said school boundaries are "important" and "somewhat important."
• 2.04 percent were "neutral" around importance of school boundaries.
• 7.43 percent said school boundaries are "unimportant" and "very unimportant."

Homebuyers who said school boundaries will have an impact on their decision also indicated that they would give up several amenities to live within school boundaries of choice:

• 62.39 percent would do without a pool or spa.
• 50.60 percent would give up accessibility to shopping.
• 43.96 percent would pass on a bonus room.
• 41.99 percent would offer up nearby parks and trails.

Homebuyers indicated that they would like to be within a certain distance of school boundaries:

• 45.19 percent want to live within school boundaries.
• 33.67 percent want to live within a few miles so their children can ride the school bus.
• 17.20 percent want to live within a mile so their children can walk to school.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips to Keep Children Safe When the Babysitter's Behind the Wheel

July 30, 2013 2:42 am

For some parents, just leaving the kids with a babysitter or nanny can be a nerve-racking experience. But it can be several times more distressing when the babysitter is also responsible for chauffeuring the kids around town. Edmunds.com suggests several steps parents can take to ensure their children's safety while they're in the care – and cars – of others.

"First and foremost, parents should check to make sure the caretaker has a valid driver's license and a solid driving record," says Edmunds.com Consumer Advice Editor Carroll Lachnit. "Be on the lookout for reckless-driving citations, cell phone tickets, excessive speeding and, of course, driving while intoxicated. And don't discount even smaller traffic violations. No red flag is too small when the safety of your children is at stake."

More top tips that every parent should follow include:

1. Check the babysitter's references. There's a peace of mind that comes with knowing other parents in your community have relied on the babysitter to drive their children around.

2. Decide what car the babysitter will drive. It's ideal to lend your own vehicle so you'll be able to make sure that it is in good condition and has all of the features needed to keep your little ones safe. If that's not an option, have a trusted mechanic check out the nanny's car.

3. Install child safety seats. The car that your sitter will use should have appropriate child safety seats that are properly installed for each child who needs them.

4. Sign up the sitter for a defensive driving class. Some nanny agencies require this already. But if you're not going through an agency, or your sitter hasn't taken a class, your insurance agent can help you track one down or you can find a class through your local DMV.

5. Use technology to keep tabs. Parents can install diagnostics trackers that monitor the car's speed, location and performance. Apps and other technology can also be installed to restrict the driver's smartphone usage while the car is in use.

Source: Edmunds.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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