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

Effective Mold Identification and Treatment Tips for a Healthy Home

May 21, 2012 3:14 am

We all know that April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, however, a wet spring season can do more than help plants grow. In fact, heavy rain storms can actually pose a threat to homeowners in the form of mold. While it’s common for mold to be present in the great outdoors, it can pose serious risks if left untreated within the home.

Molds are basically fungi that come in thousands of species, not all of which are harmful. However, many are capable of causing physical problems ranging from slight allergic reactions and skin conditions to more serious neurological and respiratory problems. People with weak or compromised immune systems, such as very young children and the elderly, are particularly at risk for problems related to mold.

Mold occurs normally in outdoor environments, serving as nature’s recycling center and breaking down the dead organic matter from animals or plants. Humans encounter mold and even inhale mold spores every day with no ill effects whatsoever. When mold occurs in an indoor environment, however, things change. Suddenly, mold and its accompanying spores (through which it reproduces) are encountered (and inhaled) in large concentrations. When you consider the job that mold is designed to do on organic matter, it becomes easy to see how it could become a serious health hazard.

Mold occurs as the byproduct of water damage, or in any area where the moisture level is sufficient enough to sustain its growth. Even if the mold is not dangerous to anyone’s health, it still presents a problem since it destroys the surface on which it grows, meaning that a growth that is large enough could cause serious damage. Homes, businesses, and even entire city blocks have been condemned and destroyed simply due to out of control mold growth. For this reason alone, professional mold remediation services should be brought in to handle mold infestations.

Unfortunately, too many people mistakenly believe that removing the mold is sufficient. This is not true. Unless the area is properly treated, the mold will eventually return. The affected area should be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and humidity levels brought down to within acceptable parameters, normally between 40-45 percent. Only by changing the environment to make it inhospitable to mold can any property owner hope to avoid mold problems in the future.

Even new homes may have mold problems, so mold inspections are recommended for new home purchases. Newly constructed homes are often tightly sealed up between the time that construction is finished and the time the home is sold. Any moisture trapped inside will have no place to go, and over time may easily give way to mold and mildew growth.

Source: Restoration Local

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Nearly Three-Quarters of American Grill Owners Fire Up the Grill on Memorial Day

May 18, 2012 3:12 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, 71 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on Memorial Day, a 10 percent jump from last year.

"We continue to see a rise in the number of people grilling for nearly all major holidays, including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July (90 percent), Father's Day (53 percent) and even birthdays (76 percent)," said Brooke Jones, Director of Marketing for Weber-Stephen Products LLC, one of the world's leading manufacturers of outdoor gas and charcoal grills and grilling accessories.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23nd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.

Other top trends include:

A Surge in Electric Grilling Popularity

Sixty-two percent of American grill owners who have never grilled on an outdoor electric grill are interested in trying, a six percent increase over the past three years. In addition, the survey showed:

-Grill owners who have used an outdoor electric grill (24 percent) list the top three reasons they enjoy electric grilling as: easy to use (61 percent), does not require fuel (52 percent), and heats up quickly (51 percent).

Southerners and the Art of Smoking
By region, grill owners in the South rule when it comes to smoking foods, with 41 percent reporting they know how to use an outdoor smoker. Northeasterners are the least likely to know how to use an outdoor smoker at 29 percent. The West and Midwest are tied at 36 percent. Additional smoke cooking statistics include:

-Forty-four percent of grillers who do not know how to use a smoker are interested in learning how to use one.
-Smoker owners are the most prolific grillers, spending an average of 7.5 hours per week grilling during their grilling season.

Other Newsworthy Facts from the Weber GrillWatch Survey
-Currently, 71 percent of all Americans (21 and older) own an outdoor grill and or smoker.
-Almost three-quarters of American grill owners (74 percent) are using their grill at least once a week during their grilling season, an increase from 69 percent last year.
-The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
-Grillers consider dessert the most challenging food to grill (35 percent), followed by fish (30 percent) and pizza (28 percent).

For more information, visit www.weber.com.

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Water Your Lawn the Right Way with These Simple Tips

May 18, 2012 3:12 am

Watering the grass is a critical part of maintaining a healthy lawn. Watering too little can cause the grass to turn brown and thin out, creating room for weeds. Watering too much can lead to turf disease and shallow root systems, which means your grass is weaker and less able to stand up to drought, lawn-feeding pests and other problems.

TruGreen, one of the nation's largest professional lawn care services and part of the ServiceMaster family of brands, regularly monitors U.S. weather data to enable the company's trained lawn care specialists to effectively address local agronomic conditions while promoting responsible water conservation. The lawn experts at TruGreen have some tips to help you water your lawn the right way.

How to Tell When Your Lawn Needs Water
Turfgrass plants are 70 to 75 percent water, so giving them enough water is vital. Symptoms of inadequate water are easily seen:
-Grass slowly loses its bright green color and starts to fade to yellow.
-You may notice wilting, which causes grass blades to roll or fold.
-If you walk across your lawn and your footprints remain in the grass, or lawn mower tracks remain visible, your lawn needs water.
-If grass loses its green color altogether and turns yellow and then tan, that signals drought dormancy. That means grass has stopped growing. Once your lawn has turned brown and lost all color during drought dormancy, it could take several weeks of steady watering to spur regrowth.

The most accurate way to determine whether your lawn needs water is to use a knife to cut a wedge of soil (through the turf) about four inches deep and feel the soil. Ideally, it should be moist, not powder dry nor soggy and wet.

"Signs of typical wear and tear on yards this time of year are amplified when lawns are stressed," said Ben Hamza, Ph.D., director of technical operations at TruGreen. "Brown spots on lawns may not always be from lack of water or nutrients, but instead from lawn-feeding insects that can mimic drought damage on select grass types. Homeowners need to have a clear understanding of the source of the yard problem to effectively resolve."

How to Water Your Lawn
Established lawns should be watered deeply, but infrequently. Deep watering once a week encourages deeper root growth, while frequent, shallow watering produces a limited root system.

-When watering, make sure you moisten the top three to four inches of soil, which covers the root zone.
-Although watering frequency depends on the type of grass, your soil, and the weather, most grasses require about one inch of water each week for healthy growth. Let Mother Nature do as much of the watering for you as possible.
-The best time to water is in the morning and in non-windy conditions. This conserves water and allows grass to dry before evening. Grass that remains wet for long periods of time is more susceptible to disease development. Watering in the afternoon is the worst for water conservation. Up to half the water can evaporate in the air or on the ground during the hot part of the day.
-If you're using a movable sprinkler, let it run in one spot just until the water begins to run off the surface, then move to a different area of the lawn.
-Monitor your underground irrigation or sprinkler system to be sure that you moisten the lawn's entire root zone without over-watering any sections.
-To help ensure uniformity, place a one-inch deep, empty food can in the middle of lawn area to measure depth of water collected after each watering cycle.
-Make sure you are familiar with and follow any local watering restrictions.

Source: TruGreen

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Hit Record Lows...Again

May 18, 2012 3:12 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates again hitting new record lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 3.79 percent continues to remain well below 4 percent and 15-year fixed-rate mortgages are also slightly down at 3.04 percent.

Additional details from the PMMS:
-30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.79 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending May 17, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.83 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.61 percent.
-15-year FRM this week averaged 3.04 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.05 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.80 percent.
-5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.83 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.81 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.48 percent.
-1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.78 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.73 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.15 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

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Seven in Ten Americans Cooking More, Eating Out Less

May 17, 2012 3:10 am

One of the ways people gauge when an economic recovery is occurring is when Americans start spending more on things like eating out in restaurants.

According to the results of a recent Harris Poll, people are indeed dining out. Over three in five U.S. adults (63 percent) have dined at a fast food restaurant chain in the past month and about half have dined at a local casual dining establishment (53 percent) and a casual dining restaurant chain (50 percent). Fewer have dined at either a local fine dining establishment (18 percent) or a fine dining restaurant chain (9 percent) while 13 percent of Americans have not dined at any of these types of restaurants in the past month.

However, while Americans are dining out, they are still cutting back on how often they do so. In looking at the past six months, about one-third say they are eating less frequently at fast food chains (36 percent), casual dining restaurant chains (34 percent), and local casual dining restaurants (34 percent).

Women are more likely than men to say they are dining out less frequently in these three types of restaurants over the past six months. For example, two in five women (41 percent) say they are dining less frequently at fast food restaurants compared to 31 percent of men.

Seven in ten Americans (71 percent) say they find themselves cooking more instead of going out in order to save more money, while over half (57 percent) say going out used to be a regular occurrence but it is now a luxury. On the flip side, three in five U.S. adults (60 percent) disagree with the notion that they will eat out as often but now usually at a lower priced restaurant. Only three in ten Americans (29 percent) say they will cut spending in other places in order to still be able to dine out.

"Consumer restaurant behavior continues to evolve as they manage their budgets in an ongoing tight economy. At the beginning of the economic downturn we saw consumers saving money by changing their behavior in two ways: eating out less frequently and shifting their eating-out dollars away from Casual Dining towards Fast Food/Quick Service restaurants," according to Mary Bouchard, vice president and thought leader at Harris Interactive. "Now, with several years of experience with constrained budgets, they have shifted even further from the busy-lifestyle convenience of eating out on a regular basis to making time for cooking at home. When they do eat out, not surprisingly, price is still a primary component of their decision making process."

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Refreshing Your Laundry Room

May 17, 2012 3:10 am

If you’re noticing that your summer clothes are dull and grey and your whites are yellowing, part of the problem may be a dirty washing machine, according to the experts at The Maids. To keep you and your wearables looking fresh, The Maids suggest the following steps for cleaning your laundry room:

The Washer
- Clean out your washer every month or so by adding vinegar to the wash cycle. For top loaders, turn the setting to the largest load and fill the empty machine with hot water. Once filled, stop the cycle and add three to four cups of distilled white vinegar. Turn off the machine. After letting the water sit for about 30 minutes to an hour, restart the machine and finish the cycle. To eliminate odor, add one-half cup of baking soda to the vinegar-water mixture. For front-loading machines, place vinegar and baking soda into the empty machine and run through a wash cycle.
- Occasionally wipe out the inside of the machine with a damp cloth or soft brush and a tiny bit of detergent.
- To keep the machine clean and eliminate residue, use less detergent. Oftentimes, you can cut the amount in half. Add a small amount of vinegar, about one-fourth cup, to the rinse cycle to replace fabric softener. Vinegar is less expensive and is a natural whitening agent, leaving white clothes whiter and colored clothes brighter.
- If you have a removable detergent compartment, let it soak in vinegar to eliminate sticky residue. If it is not removable, warm a cup of vinegar in the microwave then pour it into the detergent compartment. Let it sit for about 10 minutes before running a wash cycle.

The Dryer
- After every use, empty the dryer's lint trap. About once a week, get rid of all the lint residue on the trap by washing it in the sink or vacuuming it. Use a long, flexible brush to clean any stray lint from the housing that holds the lint trap. Occasionally clean the inside of the dryer by wiping it down with a damp cloth and a tiny dab of dishwashing detergent.
- Use the same method – damp cloth and dishwashing liquid – to clean fronts, sides and tops of machines.

The Laundry Room
- Sweep or vacuum the floor, launder any rugs and dust or vacuum under the washer and dryer, being careful to avoid hoses and cords.
- Occasionally clean the dryer hose with a duster or long vacuum attachment. This will clear away lint stuck to the walls of the hose. Follow manufacturer's directions for detaching the hose.
- Clean the sink and deodorize the drain by pouring in one-four cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white distilled vinegar. After letting the mix sit for about 15 minutes, rinse with hot water.

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Homeowners Face Insurance Increases Nationwide

May 17, 2012 3:10 am

The recently released 2011 HomeInsurance.com RateReport shows a considerable increase in average 12-month homeowners insurance premiums for new policies in December 2011. The data represents approximately 15,000 policies sold across the United States with such top-rated carriers as Travelers, Safeco, The Hartford, and ASI/Ark Royal.

The RateReport shows that 12-month home insurance premiums in December 2011 were $810 nationwide, a 19 percent increase from January 2011 at $682. RateReport shows that on a nationwide basis, homeowners are paying, on average, $128 more per year for new homeowners insurance policies than they were at the beginning of the year.

State-by-state premium increases were more dramatic in some areas including Mississippi, Montana and New Mexico where new policies in December 2011 were carrying roughly 29-39 percent higher premiums than those sold in January 2011.

"Rate fluctuations are normal and can be caused by a variety of factors," says Carlos Lagomarsino Founder of HomeInsurance.com. "The best thing homeowners can do is comparison shop and ask their agents to qualify them for all eligible discounts, such as a home-auto package, which can provide substantial savings."

With the overwhelming increases in 2011, there were some bright spots where policyholders saw lower rates toward the end of 2011 such as Washington D.C., where homeowners were paying about 7 percent less for new policies. Likewise, new policies sold in December 2011 in Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and California decreased in price as compared to earlier in the year when they were 1 to 3 percent higher.

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Americans Warming Up to Summer Travel in 2012

May 16, 2012 9:10 am

Compared to 2011, more Americans are planning to kick-off the summer with a Memorial Day weekend excursion this year; however, they are conscientious about travel expenses, according to a new Deloitte survey.

The survey shows a notable increase in anticipated Memorial Day travel, as nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents plan on taking a leisure trip, compared to the 24 percent who say they traveled over the Memorial Day weekend last year. For the remainder of the summer travel season, the majority (54 percent) expect to take a trip between June 1 and Labor Day, which is slightly more than those who say they ventured out during the same time period in 2011 (52 percent). Furthermore, of those respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day, one in four (24 percent) plan to spend more money on this year's summer trips than they did last year, while over half (56 percent) anticipate spending the same amount.

While the cost of air travel remains a top concern, it will not cause most consumers to cancel their plans altogether. Among the two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents who have noticed an increase in airfare, only 16 percent changed their summer travel destination or decided not to book a trip that involved flying. However, measures by airlines to increase revenue with additional fees appear to influence the behavior of leisure travelers.

Air travel is not the only area where consumers are seeking value, as leisure travelers admit they are looking to cut costs throughout their trips. About a third (31 percent) of respondents admit to not tipping hotel staff on a frequent basis because they are no longer using services such as a bellman, a direct result of fliers using carry-on sized bags. However, hotel businesses overall can likely expect an increase in business revenues this summer, with only about one in four (21 percent) of respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day willing to spend less on lodging to cut overall travel costs, down from 35 percent last year. Instead, value-conscious consumers will likely be looking for more in services and added amenities, including complimentary breakfast, free wireless Internet access and free parking. Additionally, only one-sixth (16 percent) of respondents feel they are receiving more personal attention and/or individual tailored services during hotel stays.

Fuel costs will likely be less of a roadblock for consumers hitting the roads over Memorial Day weekend, with more than half of respondents (54 percent) saying rising gas prices will not affect their travel plans, compared to the 41 percent who indicated the same in 2011. However, rising fuel costs may significantly influence travel plans for lower income households. For those respondents who expect to travel between June 1 and Labor Day and with a total annual income of $99,000 or below, one quarter (25 percent) indicate they would cancel a summer trip if gas prices were to increase one dollar, whereas only 11 percent of those earning more than $100,000 per year say the same.

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Survey: Economic Optimism Increases Among U.S. and Europe CFOs

May 16, 2012 9:10 am

Chief Financial Officers still see a tough road ahead, but are demonstrating a strong outlook, according to the most recent survey of CFOs conducted by Financial Executives International (FEI) and Baruch College's Zicklin School of Business. CFOs in Europe and the United States have increased optimism in the global economy and their businesses, with fewer concerns over inflation, oil and hiring than last quarter. U.S. CFOs are showing a brighter outlook in particular and half now believe that the country is in the midst of a recovery.

Respondents to the quarterly "CFO Outlook Survey," which polls CFOs of public and private businesses in the U.S., Mexico and Europe (Italy and France) on their economic and business confidence, expressed a higher level of optimism compared with the previous quarter. European CFOs' optimism in the global economy increased over two points (from 51.80 to 54.00), but it still remains below the survey high one year ago (58.9). Their level of confidence in their own companies also increased slightly to 58.30 (from 57.60 in Q4), although it remains below where it stood a year ago (66.1). U.S. CFOs' confidence also experienced increases this quarter. Their optimism in the global economy increased more than five points to 51.9 (from 46.10 in Q4), and their optimism in their own companies saw a three point increase to 70.60 (from 67.60 in Q4). The CFO Optimism Index for the U.S. economy had a similar increase to 60.60 (from 57.10 in Q4). This quarter, net earnings, capital spending, revenue and technology spending remained the top areas where CFOs across the board are expecting positive increases over the next 12 months. U.S. CFOs are expecting a 20 percent increase in their net earnings, compared with 13 percent last quarter.

Despite their climbing optimism, CFOs, on average, continue to believe that the unemployment rates will remain at high levels for the next six to 12 months. Although the U.S. CFOs believe the rate will slightly decline from 8.3 to 8.1 percent, European CFOs think their countries' unemployment rates will climb from 8.6 to 9 percent. While 59 percent of U.S. CFOs have seen wage levels rise, the majority of those responding in Europe (63 percent) report that they have stayed the same. Still, the majority of U.S. CFOs (62 percent) plan to hire additional employees at their companies in the next six months, compared with only a third of European CFOs (35 percent).

CFOs forecast the inflation rate in the U.S. to be at 2.5 percent six months from now, rising to three percent a year from now, and European CFOs forecast their inflation rates to come in at 2.8 percent six months from now, rising to 3.1 percent a year from now. On average, CFOs have a moderate to low concern about inflation, and when asked to rank their concern on a scale of one to five, 39 percent of EU CFOs and 36 percent of U.S. CFOs expressed a "three," with a near even split on either side.

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U.S. Housing Market Finally Reaches a Turning Point

May 16, 2012 9:10 am

Home valuations will start to climb again while adjacent consumer industries will capture significant new growth opportunities in 2012 and beyond as the U.S. housing market finally turns the corner, concludes a major new study released today by The Demand Institute. According to the study, the recovery of the housing market will have far-reaching impacts in the coming years across the United States and international markets as U.S. consumers increase their spending on buying, renovating, furnishing and maintaining their homes.

Launched in February 2012 and jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen, The Demand Institute is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization with a mission to illuminate where consumer demand is headed around the world.

The new report, “The Shifting Nature of U.S. Housing Demand,” predicts that average home prices will increase by up to 1 percent in the second half of 2012. By 2014, home prices will increase by as much as 2.5 percent. From 2015 to 2017, the study projects annual increases between 3 and 4 percent. This recovery will not be uniform across the country, and the strongest markets could capture average gains of 5 percent or more in the coming years.

Between 2006 and 2011, some $7 trillion in American wealth was wiped out when home prices dropped 30 percent after dramatic climb in valuations during the housing bubble. Looking forward, the moderate growth expectations for coming years suggest a return to normalcy. As home prices continue to drop and interest rates fall further, first-time buyers and others who remained relatively cautious will be drawn back into the housing market. And, as the market recovers, so too will consumer spending.

In addition to the projected gains in home prices, the report discusses in detail the dynamics at work in the U.S. housing market and the impacts across industries. Here are further highlights from the report:
  • Rental demand will help to clear the huge oversupply of existing homes for sale. In 2011, some 14 percent of all housing units were vacant, while almost 13 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure or delinquent—increases of 12 and 129 percent respectively over 2005 levels. It will take two to three years for this oversupply to be cleared, and at that point homeownership rates will rise and return to historical levels.
  • The housing market recovery will not be uniform across the country. Some states will see annual price gains of 5 percent or more. Others will not recover for many years. The deciding factors will include the level of foreclosed inventory and rates of unemployment.
  • The average size of the American home will shrink. Many baby boomers who delayed retirement for financial reasons during the recession will downsize. They will not be alone. The majority of Americans have seen little or no wage increase for several years, and many will scale back their housing aspirations. The size of an average new home is expected to continue to fall, reaching mid-1990s levels by 2015.
  • Consumer industries including financial services, home furnishings, home remodeling will all experience shifts in demand and new growth opportunities. Part of this spending is linked to increases in wealth from improving home valuations, while an even bigger part is tied to the "transaction" of buying or selling the home which sets in motion increased demand for a wide range of products and services.
  • Despite the number of Americans who have been hurt financially by the housing crash, the desire to own a home remains strong. We do not expect to see a long-term drop in ownership rates. Indeed, one survey has revealed that more than 80 percent of Americans recently thought buying a home remained the best long-term investment they could make.

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