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

Brick Exteriors Test Strongest in Severe Weather

December 10, 2012 1:54 am

After the third most active storm season on record, tests continue to show that genuine clay brick outperforms other home exteriors in severe weather conditions. As homeowners head into peak home fire season in December and January, brick also offers a one-hour fire rating by itself—unlike other exteriors that need to incorporate fire-resistant materials in their wall systems.

In cumulative studies, genuine clay brick beats competitive exteriors in wind resistance, moisture resistance, earthquake resistance and protection from wind-blown debris.

"As a sustainable building product made from natural abundant resources, genuine clay brick exteriors can also help reduce property damage and increase survival odds," said Gregg Borchelt, president and CEO of the Brick Industry Association (BIA). "Combined with proper design, installation and maintenance, brick is an essential element of strong, safe homes."

A 2010 study by the NAHB Research Center comparing moisture resistance among typical residential exteriors evaluated genuine clay brick veneer as the highest in moisture resistance and dryness. Of the eight wall systems tested—accounting for approximately 90 percent of the cladding systems used today—brick veneer wall assemblies performed the best overall in controlling moisture.

In 2009, a brick seismic study funded by the National Science Foundation showed that buildings constructed with genuine clay brick veneer can resist earthquakes above the Maximum Considered Earthquake for Seismic Design Category D without collapse.

Videos of a 2004 wind-blown debris study at the Wind Science and Engineering Research Center at Texas Tech University demonstrate that a medium-sized and wind-blown object, such as a 7.5-foot long 2 x 4, would penetrate homes built with vinyl siding or fiber-cement siding at a speed of 25 mph, but would need to exceed 80 mph in order to penetrate the wall of a genuine clay brick veneer home. The tests showed that a single wythe of brick exceeded the impact resistance for high velocity hurricane zones in the Florida building code.

Free of volatile compounds, earth-friendly genuine clay brick is a key element of green building design with benefits including a 100-year lifespan, no- to low-maintenance, termite resistance, durability and other competitive benefits.

Source: Brick Industry Association (BIA)

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Five Money Tips to Make Your Holidays Merry, Bright...and Affordable

December 7, 2012 1:54 am

The 2012 holiday shopping season is underway and shoppers and budget-minded consumers should be reminded that it's never too late to start planning for an affordable holiday season and debt-free New Year. Now is the time to get together with family and friends and discuss a game plan for the remainder of the season.

In honor of the season, here is a five-step plan to help keep your finances in check:

1. Dial down the holidays. Consider asking family and friends to downsize the holidays to something less commercial, with fewer purchased gifts, more valuable time spent together and a "less is more" sentiment. You'll be well on your way to a very meaningful holiday that doesn't evolve into overwhelming financial stress in early 2013.
2. Start saving and budgeting now. Set a specific and reasonable amount for each person on your "must-buy-for" list. Before you start socking the money away, make certain the amount won't impact your ability to manage your existing monthly expenses.
3. Consider making your own gift. Gifts made from inexpensive materials can go a long way in showing someone you care because people do understand the value of your time. It can be extremely meaningful to your relationship and to the holiday, not to mention light on the pocketbook.
4. Don't end up shopping at the gas station. As the old holiday joke goes, wait until the last minute and you'll be shopping at the 24-hour GasMart. Have a plan and stick to it. Plan your shopping early on. If you wait until the last minute, you may end up spending more just to get the shopping done quickly.
5. Save on wrapping. Inexpensive wrapping paper (even a brown paper bag or color Sunday comics), combined with a nice bow or a well-placed flower, pine cone or holiday ornament, works wonders for adding significance to an inexpensive gift. If you don't have a talent for wrapping, find someone who does and ask for their help.

Source: GreenPath Debt Solutions

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Don't Bring Cybercrime Home for the Holidays

December 7, 2012 1:54 am

Cybercrime is on the rise and the holidays are no exception. In fact, this holiday season may prove to be the biggest ever for cybertheft. Hackers observe no holidays, instead using them as yet another theme to entice and trick computer users into letting them into their networks. Compounding this, many retailers and other businesses conduct more transactions and process more credit cards during the holidays than at any other time of the year, which makes breaking into any company's networks all the more lucrative and enticing, regardless of size.

Here are a few strategies for keeping the cyber-grinches out:

• Know what is happening on your network. With good security monitoring architecture in place, if a network incident occurs, you would be able to go back and trace when and how the breach happened and detect if any sensitive data was stolen. Network recording devices, such as full packet capture appliances, quickly establish the facts and timeline of any incidents and provide the forensic evidence necessary to pursue prosecution.

• Beware of holiday e-cards, even if received from a trusted sender. Unbeknownst to the sender, holiday-themed screensavers, e-cards and other free digital content from the Internet may contain malicious spyware, malware and trojans. Downloading these digital "freebies" onto your office computers can open your network up to intrusion and exploitation by cybercriminals who have no intent of spreading holiday cheer.

• Encourage employees to keep their holiday Internet shopping activities at home. Seemingly benign and legitimate retail sites may be fronts for disseminating malware, compromising both computers and networks. Hackers are fully aware that even a short-lived exploit on a busy website can bring high exposure. Hackers even go so far as to hide their malicious payloads in paid-for advertisements. Remember: a firewall cannot keep malicious programs out if an insider invites them in.

• Review what your business liability insurance covers and what to expect from lapses in PCI and other regulatory compliance. Standard business insurance does not cover the costs and liabilities resulting from data theft and a breach of your credit card processing system can result in suspension of your merchant account.

The reality is that business losses from cybercrime overtook losses due to physical theft for the first time in 2010, and 2012 stands as no exception, with a growing list of breach victims in all industries.

Cybercrime is on an upward trend and the question now is not whether an intrusion will happen, but when you will need to respond to a cyber-event. Businesses cannot afford to put cybersecurity off until the new year.

Source: IPCopper, Inc.

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HARP Enhancements Continue to Bolster Program

December 7, 2012 1:54 am

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released its September Refinance Report, which shows that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans refinanced through the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) accounted for nearly one-quarter of all refinances in the third quarter of 2012. More than 90,000 homeowners refinanced their mortgage in September through HARP with more than 709,000 loans refinanced since the beginning of this year. The continued high volume of HARP refinances is attributed to record-low mortgage rates and program enhancements announced last year.

Also in the report:

• Since the program’s inception in 2009, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have financed more than 1.7 million loans through HARP.

• In September, half of the loans refinanced through HARP had loan-to-value (LTV) ratios greater than 105 percent and one-fourth had LTVs greater than 125 percent.

• In September, 19 percent of HARP refinances for underwater borrowers were for shorter-term 15- and 20-year mortgages, which help build equity faster than traditional 30-year mortgages.

• HARP refinances in September represented 45 percent of total refinances in states hard hit by the housing downturn–Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Georgia–compared with 21 percent of total refinances nationwide.

• Also in September, HARP refinances for borrowers with LTV ratios greater than 105 percent accounted for more than 70 percent of HARP volume in Nevada, Arizona and Florida and more than 60 percent of the HARP refinances in California.

Source: FHFA

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Expert Tips for Getting the Sold-Out Toys Your Kids Really Want

December 6, 2012 1:54 am

Every parent or grandparent wants to make the holidays a special time, one that the beloved children in their lives will always remember. Be the holiday hero by getting the gifts they really want – those super popular toys making headlines across the country. Of course, the hottest holiday toys quickly sell out. With a few smart shopping strategies, you will be able to get the gifts they really want without a lot of hassle.

Your children or grandchildren are sure to squeal with delight when they tear open their presents and find a Nintendo Wii U, a Disney Doc McStuffins doll or a Furby in one of the hardest-to-find colors. How were you able to get the toys that your friends and neighbors could not get? You followed some simple shopping strategies for locating high-demand items:

Visit the manufacturer's website
The first step to tracking down a popular toy is to find out where the toy can be found. Each manufacturer's website will list where its toys are sold. Contrary to popular belief, not every major retailer carries all the popular toys of this year. Some manufacturers have exclusive agreements with certain retailers, while other manufacturers may stock at smaller toy stores as well as large retailers.

Call early and be courteous
Call when the store opens so you can speak with a department manager before peak shopping hours. Be courteous and ask if a toy is in-stock. If possible, ask for the item to be held for you. If you are told it is out of stock, do not be shy about asking when the store receives its shipments. On that day, call the store and ask if your item was in the shipment. Better yet, be there for when the store opens.

Use technology to your advantage
The Internet has changed the way people shop for holiday gifts. If you are having trouble tracking down a special toy visit TrackAToy.com, a free resource that helps people find the most popular toys. You can create a free profile and set up toy-availability alerts in three easy ways: email, text message or Internet browser notification. Free alerts can save you time and reduce holiday stress, notifying you as soon as your needed item is back in-stock at many major online retailers such as Walmart.com and ToysRus.com.

Online discussion boards are another valuable resource for holiday shoppers. A quick search and you will find a number of different online forums, where people chat about the season's top toys, where they found them and other unique shopping topics.

Finding that perfect holiday toy does not have to be an impossible mission when you utilize a few smart shopping strategies. From calling stores in the morning to free online product alerts, you will make this the most memorable holiday yet.

What are the top toys this holiday season? Here are a few of the most popular:

1. Nintendo Wii U
2. Furby – 2012 Collection
3. Disney Doc McStuffins Time For Your Check Up Doll
4. Monster High Werecat Sister Doll Pack – Meowlady and Purrsephone
5. LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer Learning Tablets
6. Monster High Ghouls Rule Doll – Abbey Abominable
7. Skylanders Giants Character Packs (Series 2)
8. Lalaloopsy Holiday Collector Edition Doll – Ivory Ice Crystals
9. LEGO Minecraft (21102)
10. Playskool Sesame Street LOL Elmo

Source: TrackAToy.com

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What to Do with Your Old Electronics

December 6, 2012 1:54 am

(Family Features) Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, game consoles, cameras – electronic devices are a big part of American life. In fact, Americans own an average of 24 electronic products per household, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. With technology changing so rapidly and new “it” devices hitting the market every few months, a lot of those devices get discarded quickly. That adds up to a lot of potential e-waste.

In fact, a recent survey sponsored by RadioShack found:

• More than 90 million American adults 18 and over have unused technology products lying around the house.
• As part of that pile of retired tech, a third of mobile phone users report owning unused phones — and more than half of those with unused phones own two or more.

Some unused electronics just collect dust, but many get thrown away. The Environmental Protection Agency’s most recent report showed that nearly 1.8 million tons of e-waste was simply trashed. Fortunately, it’s easier than ever to keep old electronics out of the waste stream.

Donate. Donations give schools, nonprofits and lower-income families access to equipment they might not otherwise afford. Before donating, check with the organization to see what they need.

Trade Up. If you are ready to upgrade to something new, try a program that lets you swap retired technology for store credit toward your purchase. Simply bring eligible working electronics and accessories to a participating store or log on to www.radioshacktradeandsave.com for appraisal information. When you complete your trade in a store, you’ll immediately receive the appraised value in the form of a store gift card (except where prohibited by law). Trade-ins may also be completed via mail by requesting a free shipping label available on the program website. In that case, a store gift card for the trade-in value will be mailed after the product is received. There’s even a free Trade & Save app available to appraise your unused technology using iOS and Android devices. Products traded in are refurbished or recycled.

Recycle. Electronics in nonworking condition should be recycled. Check www.Earth911.com or www.e-stewards.org to find a recycling center near you. Many states have regulations about disposing and recycling electronics. Learn more about your state’s laws at www.electronicstakeback.com.

Don’t Forget the Batteries. Recycling your rechargeable batteries is another easy step you can take. Retailers like RadioShack also recycle rechargeable batteries. To date, the company has collected more than 5 million pounds in rechargeable batteries through Call2Recycle (www.Call2Recycle.org).

Don’t let your old electronics gather dust or add to the waste stream. It just takes a few simple steps to put your devices to better use.

Source: RadioShack

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Will Santa Help You Sell Your Home?

December 6, 2012 1:54 am

If decking the halls and busting out the egg nog helps you feel merry and bright, be warned. It doesn't make everyone feel that festive. While Santa may know if you've been naughty or nice, he isn't quite as much of an expert on real estate. That's why the big guy should lay a little low if you're trying to sell your home this holiday season. We're not saying you need to keep Santa and his reindeer away altogether.
However, if you go overboard with your holiday decorations, it can actually prevent your home from selling. Keep in mind, there's a big difference between putting out a few personal touches and turning your home into Santa's workshop. Even if potential home-buyers aren't Grinches, they'll be turned off by too much holiday decor. Here's why:

1. It makes the space yours, not theirs. Above all else, your goal is to make potential home buyers walk into your home and envision propping their feet up and calling the place "home." However, that's really tough for people to do when you've got a giant picture in the middle of the living room of you dressed up as Santa, your wife as Mrs. Claus, your kids dressed up as elves, and your dog donning a set of reindeer antlers. Putting up the picture may be a treasured family holiday tradition for you, but for potential home buyers, it's an unavoidable reminder that they're "trespassing" in someone else's home. If they feel uncomfortable in your home, it may prevent them from putting in an offer.

2. You might accidentally make your home look smaller than it really is. Let's face it – all of those holiday decorations that you love so much take up a ton of space. When you've got a listing that describes your home as "open, airy, and spacious," the last thing you need is for potential home buyers to come in and find a house that's actually cluttered, cramped, and disorganized. So, if your Christmas tree takes up half the room, you might want to think about downsizing this year. After all, is having a giant tree worth making the wrong impression to potential buyers?

3. It shifts the focus. Even if you pay to have your holiday decorations put up by a professional and they look like something out of a magazine, you could still have a problem. After all, you don't want the focus to be on your decorations. You want the focus on your home's natural beauty, like on the great archway by the front door, the beautiful staircase, or those awesome granite countertops on the kitchen. If people are too focused on your holiday decorations (things that are going to be gone in a few weeks), they're not going to fall in love with what your house really has to offer. In the end, they won't end up buying it.

Source: RealtyPin.com

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Toilet Malfunction Rated Top Entertaining Disaster by Guests and Hosts

December 5, 2012 1:52 am

From dusting and fluffing to menu planning and decorating, homeowners put a lot of work into planning an at-home gathering, especially around the holidays. But despite all the preparations, the most likely source of trouble is often overlooked.

According to a recent Delta Faucet survey of one thousand homeowners, only one in five homeowners worried about plumbing-related issues when planning a party and just 10 percent consulted a professional plumber to address any potential problems. Interestingly, though, respondents reported a toilet malfunction would have the greatest impact on a party, more significant than running out of food or a major appliance breaking down.

Homeowners should look beyond décor and dust bunnies and perform some basic maintenance on key areas of the home to ensure their home is ready for the holiday season.

Enlist the help of a friend. It’s easy to be “house blind” or oblivious to smaller home maintenance needs. Invite a friend to help assess the house and offer an objective opinion about the areas of the home that may benefit from a little extra attention or repair.

Focus on high impact areas. Preparing for house guests doesn’t have to be time-intensive or expensive. Rather than try to fix everything, focus on the areas where reliable performance really counts, paying special attention to the things guests are likely to touch or interact with, such as front door hardware or the toilet in the powder or guest bathroom.

Get rid of the clutter. Entertaining even just a few people can make an otherwise spacious home feel a little too close for comfort. Give your guests room to mingle by removing non-essential items. You can store larger items in a room you won’t be using or pack smaller things away in inexpensive storage containers and tuck them out of sight.

Source: Delta Faucet

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Planning a Relaxing and Fun-Filled Winter Vacation

December 5, 2012 1:52 am

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder and the only way to beat the winter blues may be actively embracing the snow and packing your bags and escaping for a winter holiday. There are a number of different types of adventure you could have on a winter break, from ski holidays to winter sun, you can find the perfect holiday to rejuvenate yourself.

While ski holidays are not for everyone, they can offer a holiday experience like no other. Imagine relaxing by a roaring log-fire in ski chalets after a long day on the slopes, or enjoying the rush and thrill of effortlessly gliding down a snow-capped mountain.

Skiing is not the only type of holiday activity available during the winter months; there are many ways you can have fun in the snow; such as tobogganing, snowboarding, figure skating and sledging.

Snowboarding
A number of ski holiday deals could include a range of winter sport activities. Snowboarding is a thrilling and exciting winter sport that acts as a great alterative to skiing. Using specially designed boots and a board attached to the rider's feet, the sport takes elements from skateboarding and skiing. Snowboarding is a sport for all ages and levels and is ideal for those who might have tried either skiing or skateboarding before, or even those who wish to try something completely new.

Tobogganing
Tobogganing is another family-friendly winter sport which is suitable for the whole family. Both grown-ups and children can enjoy the sport, making it a fun-filled family adventure for all. Specially designed tobogganing can be done in a number of places. Another option is tubing, where you can safely whizz down specially-made courses found in family-friendly resorts.

Sleigh rides
One of the most leisurely, as well as romantic, ways to take the weight off aching legs is to snuggle under a warm fur blanket and be pulled along in your own sleigh by horses, or in some cases dogs.

Sit back and enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the soft jingle of sleigh-bells on the ride of a lifetime. It can be a much-needed post-Holiday recuperation!

Source: Neilson Holidays

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Include Winter Weather Preparedness in Your December Plans

December 5, 2012 1:52 am

The Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH)® reminds families that as they ready for seasonal guests and travel, now is the time to make winter weather preparedness a part of your holiday plans. According to FLASH, damage from winter-related home hazards like frozen pipes, a leading cause of homeowners' insurance claims, can cost thousands of dollars of damage and become a major inconvenience to you and your guests. Tips to prepare the home include:

• Double check or install proper attic insulation to prevent water damage from ice dams.
• Ensure safe usage of fireplaces, furnaces and space heaters.
• Insulate pipes to prevent costly floods from frozen pipes.
• Keep walkways around your home clear of snow and ice.
• Winterize your windows and install window insulation kits to keep your guests warm and toasty.
• Prepare to stay safe and warm during power outages.

Additionally, it's important to prepare well for holiday travel, which can be treacherous in severe winter weather. Of the 17 deaths reported last year related to severe winter weather, 15 occurred in the exposed elements or in a car. It's smart to prepare in case you are marooned by having a well-stocked winter storm survival kit in your car. When making travel plans:

• Make sure other people know your travel plans and how to contact you. Travel in convoy with other vehicles if possible.
• Prepare an extreme winter weather survival kit for your car. They also make great gifts for loved ones who travel frequently during the holidays. Include:
• Non-perishable food such as canned goods or candy bars
• Extra clothes and blankets
• A battery powered radio
• A shovel
• Sand
• If stranded, remain in the vehicle. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna so rescuers can find you. Run the engine occasionally for heat making sure to keep the exhaust pipe clear. Open windows occasionally for fresh air.

Source: Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, Inc.

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