RE/MAX 440
Sandy Hershey

Sandy Hershey
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880  Skippack  PA 19474
Phone:  610-909-2929
Office:  610-584-1160
Fax:  267-354-6987

My Blog

Take Preventive Measures to Keep Your Garage and Family Safe

November 6, 2013 1:33 am

Garages continue to serve as a major hub of activity in the modern household, often becoming the primary entry point into the home and a storage center for everything from soccer balls to snow blowers. But, with one out of every 15 garage door openers lacking the latest safety features, there is a hidden threat in millions of households across America. To avoid injuries from the largest and heaviest moving object in the home, LiftMaster is announcing its national "Don't Chance It. Check It.™" Garage Safety Initiative.

Once considered a luxury item, automatic garage door openers are now installed in 35 million households across the country, with more than 70 percent of homeowners relying on their garage door as the main access point to the home. As more and more garage door openers made their way into American homes over the last several decades, laws were enacted to ensure the safety of those using them. However, prior to 1993, protection systems, such as infrared sensors or "photo-eyes" that stop a garage door before making contact with an object or person – were not mandatory.

Instead, garage door openers were equipped with force-sensing safety systems that only reverse the door after it makes contact with an object. These older models can be safe and reliable if installed, tested and maintained properly. But unless they're retrofitted with photo-eyes, the vast majority of these older units still are not up to today's standard in safety.

The program, currently rolling out to a national audience, is designed to help homeowners and families understand how to check their door and make sure they have the safest garage door opener system in place. Follow these three easy steps to ensure safe functionality of any automatic garage door openers installed after 1993 or retrofitted with safety eyes:

1. Check the sides of the garage door for properly installed photo-eyes (black sensors), mounted no higher than six inches off the floor.

2. Block the photo-eye with an object over six inches tall and press the close button on the garage door opener. The door should not close.

3. Lay an object that is at least 1.5 inches in height flat on the ground in the door's path and press the close button. Household objects this size might be a bar of soap, stack of index cards, or a hardcover book. The door should reverse off this object. If it makes contact and does not reverse, the door is not operating correctly.

After recording the results, homeowners are encouraged to contact a Certified Safety Check Dealer to seek guidance on how to keep this high traffic area safe and secure. For further assistance or to learn how to upgrade a garage door opener, homeowners can visit LiftMaster.com/GarageSafety .

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Prevent Home Fires

November 6, 2013 1:33 am

Deaths from fires and burns are the third-leading cause of fatal home injuries, and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine has offered five simple ways to prevent home fires.

"Often victims in house fires die from smoke or toxic gases, rather than burns," Consedine said. "We can all take certain precautions to help prevent these types of tragedies, particularly now as we prepare for colder weather."

Tip 1 – Give heaters their space

In colder months, heating can be a concern. Portable, electric space heaters need three feet of clear space in all directions. Keep heaters away from draperies, furniture, bedspreads, people and pets. Also, homeowners should have their central heating equipment professionally inspected and serviced each heating season. And if you regularly have logs burning in your fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually.

Tip 2 – Stand by your pan

Cooking, particularly stove-top cooking, is the leading cause of home fires. Many such fires happen after residents put something on the stove, but become distracted and forget about it. If you have to leave the kitchen while cooking, turn the heat off the burner.

Tip 3 – Don't smoke in bed

House fires can occur as smokers lose track of their still-smoldering butts, which then come in contact with flammable surfaces such as couch cushions. Also cigarettes should be doused with water before they are thrown away to make sure they are completely extinguished.

Tip 4 – Check electrical cords and don't overload your fuse box

Faulty or worn electrical cords are another top cause of home fires. Cords that become frayed or cracked can send sparks to flammable surfaces and start a fire. Check all of your electrical cords to see they are in good shape, and replace those that have deteriorated.

Also, do not overload your circuits. Stick with one plug per receptacle/outlet. Another potential hazard occurs when numerous outlets are wired to a single circuit. You may find that all of the outlets in an entire room are connected to a single circuit. This means that you don't necessarily have to overload a single outlet to cause a fire.

Tip 5 – Check your smoke alarms

All households should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor and preferably one in every bedroom. New smoke alarms should be installed every ten years. Test the alarm and replace the battery yearly.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Things You Need to Know About Buying Eyewear

November 5, 2013 1:33 am

There have been a lot of stories counseling Americans not to buy eyeglasses from their local eye doctor. This is not only bad from a personal health perspective, but also from a personal finance perspective.

Here are some facts that everyone needs to know before choosing their specs.

1) Retail (e.g., Pearle Vision, LensCrafters) is not always cheaper! Independent research shows that buying glasses at an independent eye doctor is still less expensive than at many corporate retail chains…by a lot! When you add vision coverage to the mix (which nearly 20 percent of Americans have), that price is even lower.

2) If you have a complex prescription, many online retailers can't make you glasses. The little secret that most online sites don't advertise is the fact that they only sell single vision lenses, not progressives. If they do sell progressives, you are responsible for providing your measurements. So if you have a complex prescription, need glasses to help you see at multiple distances, or are over the age of 40, the chances that you won't be seeing as clearly as you could are pretty high!

3) Beyond price, glasses need to do more than just look good. Glasses are unique in that they are the only fashionable medical device (so far!). Your glasses must be customized to you in every way to maximize their role to help you see clearly. And, while can find some great values online, your eye doctor should, and must, play a critical role in helping you select the best frame and lenses that are right for your individual needs. Just a few things your eye doctor and their staff ensure:

Up-to-date prescription: Your eye doctor will make sure your prescription hasn’t changed and your eyes are healthy through a comprehensive eye exam before picking out your new style. This is especially critical for young children whose eyesight can change regularly. Glasses with the wrong prescription don’t help you see!

Lens options: Lenses may seem like an afterthought, but the right ones can make a big difference. Today’s digital lens technology is more affordable than ever before, especially with vision insurance, and makes a huge difference in helping you to see your best. Your eye doctor and their staff are a great resource to learn about specialized lenses and coatings to fit and enhance your personal lifestyle needs.

Measured to fit your face: Measurements are essential to ensure that your prescription works for you. Because your face is unique so are the way your lenses fit your frames! Your eye doctor and their staff will take your personal measurements to ensure that once your new frames are in hand, they fit your face properly and not only look good on you but help you see.

4) Buying discounted frames online may cost you money in the long run. If you find a deal that is too good to be true online, it probably is. Extremely discounted designer and brand name glasses sold online are usually done so through a “gray market,” which is unofficial, unauthorized or unintended sales by the original manufacturer. This is important to know because, if these glasses malfunction, you may not have an option to get them fixed under warranty. If you purchase through your eye doctor, you have the confidence in their direct relationship with the frame manufacturer.

Source: VSPBlog.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Prefer to Live in Mixed-Use, Walkable Communities

November 5, 2013 1:33 am

Choosing a community is one of the most important factors for consumers as they consider buying a home, and research by the National Association of Realtors® has consistently revealed that Americans prefer walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and shorter commutes.

According to NAR’s 2013 Community Preference Survey, 60 percent of respondents favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses and stores and other businesses that are easy to walk to, rather than neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation.

The survey findings indicate that while the size of the property does matter to consumers, they are willing to compromise size for a preferred neighborhood and less commuting. For example, although 52 percent of those surveyed prefer a single-family detached house with a large yard, 78 percent responded that the neighborhood is more important to them than the size of the house. Fifty-seven percent would forego a home with a larger yard if it meant a shorter commute to work, and 55 percent of respondents were willing to forego a home with larger yard if it meant they could live within walking distance of schools, stores and restaurants as opposed to having larger yard and needing to drive to get to schools, stores and restaurants.

“REALTORS® build communities and care about improving those communities through smart growth initiatives. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, smart growth is typically characterized by mixed-use development, higher densities, and pedestrian friendly streets that accommodate a wide diversity of transportation modes,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Growth patterns, economic development and quality-of-life issues are inextricably linked to the success of communities and residents.”

When asked to identify their ideal community, the most popular choice was a suburban neighborhood with a mix of houses, shops and businesses. The least popular was a suburban neighborhood with just houses.

As for transportation concerns, 41 percent said improving public transportation would be the best solution, while 29 percent would prefer the development of communities where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop, and 20 percent would choose building new roads.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Reasons Veterans Should Work With a Housing Counselor When Pursuing Homeownership

November 5, 2013 1:33 am

In an effort to improve the homeownership and financial planning outcomes of active duty service members and veterans, NeighborWorks America CEO Eileen Fitzgerald called upon nonprofit housing counselors and nonprofit financial capability coaches to increase their outreach and other marketing efforts to those who have chosen to serve their country in the armed forces.

A recent survey by NeighborWorks America found that homeownership is a major goal for veterans and their families. According to the survey, 92 percent of veterans said that homeownership was an important part of their American Dream. And by a nearly three-to-two margin (49 percent to 32 percent), veterans today feel prepared to buy a home.

Against this backdrop, Fitzgerald identified four reasons that service members and their qualified family members considering homeownership or financial planning should work with a housing counselor. These reasons included how taking advantage of nonprofit housing counseling and education could help reduce the significantly higher mortgage delinquency rate seen among borrowers with mortgages backed by a Department of Veterans Affairs guaranty.

Become familiar with the home buying process.


With home prices rising in nearly every market across the United States, and mortgage rates moving erratically, active duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses have the unique opportunity to purchase a home with a zero down payment because of the 100 percent borrowing ability enabled by a home loan backed by a Veterans Affairs guaranty.

"A zero percent down payment mortgage could be a great way for those who qualify to achieve homeownership," said Fitzgerald. "But there's more to buying a home than having enough money for the down payment. It's extremely important to understand the home buying process and to know how to avoid potential risks. That's where NeighborWorks network and other nonprofit housing counseling agencies add tremendous value, by providing step-by-step information on everything from how to pick a real estate agent to guidance on home energy efficiency."

Take steps to reduce default risks.


One of the major downside risks of homeownership is delinquency that could lead to foreclosure. Default and foreclosure damage a homeowner's credit, cause extra stress and could lead to poor financial decisions - such as falling prey to a mortgage loan modification scam - that have the potential produce even worse financial outcomes.

"Working with data from the credit reporting company Experian, NeighborWorks America showed that homebuyer education and counseling is effective at helping to reduce serious mortgage delinquency," said Fitzgerald. "There are many factors that can lead to delinquency and default, but one thing that seems to help reduce the risk of default is housing counseling and education."

Locate closing cost assistance.

VA mortgage eligible homebuyers have the opportunity to include their closing costs in the overall mortgage amount borrowed. Although closing costs vary from location to location, they typically are several thousand dollars. But what if a VA borrower who may have little cash saved didn't want to borrow the closing costs as well as the money needed to purchase the house. What's the solution?

"There are a number of ways that working with a nonprofit housing counselor could help a VA mortgage borrower obtain closing costs," explained Fitzgerald. "While each assistance program has different terms and conditions, the best way to determine eligibility is to work with a nonprofit housing counselor."

Connect with a financial coach.

According to Fitzgerald, a growing number of nonprofit housing counseling organizations are increasing the skill set of their staffs by having some counselors become certified as financial capability coaches.

"Financial capability coaches help everyone establish a plan to meet their financial goals, whether that's to achieve homeownership or another goal such as decreasing credit card balances or increasing savings," said Fitzgerald.

Research from a recent project between the Citi Foundation and NeighborWorks America found that that people who received financial coaching significantly improved their savings habits, enhanced their credit scores and meaningfully paid down debts.

"Nonprofit housing counselors who also are certified financial coaches are a key asset for service members to connect to," said Fitzgerald. "The bottom line is that whether a homebuyer is using a VA mortgage or not, the nonprofit housing counseling community is here for active duty service members and veterans to help them achieve their financial goals."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Great Dollar Store Buys

November 4, 2013 1:30 am

If you are pinching pennies, a dollar store can be your best friend. Not everything there is truly a bargain, but consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch recommends 10 dollar store purchases that offer good quality as well as big savings:

Cleaning supplies – According the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, most dollar store cleaning supplies work just as well as name brands at a savings of 30 percent or more – and that includes sponges, mops, and scrub brushes.

-Food containers – Plastic food containers in all shapes and sizes cost a fraction of the name brands at retail stores and will keep your food fresh just as well.

-Gift wrap and bags – They will probably be of lesser quality than what you find at the party store. But they are just as attractive, and since most bags and wraps are discarded anyway, why pay so much more than you need to?

-Greeting cards – Cards may cost as little as fifty cents at the dollar store. You may not find a great selection, for many occasions you will find them a worthwhile buy.

-Holiday items – From Halloween centerpieces to Christmas décor and Valentine’s Day items, you will find a huge selection of holiday items and candy at the dollar store.

-Party supplies - You can find paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils in a variety of colors at the dollar store for about a third of the cost at party supply stores and less than half what you’ll pay at the grocery store. Also look for streamers, plastic tablecloths and helium balloons at great prices.

-Personal grooming items – Hair brushes, toothbrushes, toothpastes and deodorants are significantly less expensive at the dollar store.
Picture frames – You may be amazed at the variety of picture frames in all sizes available for a buck at the dollar store. Look like a hero and frame your children’s artworks for practically nothing.

-Scented candles – You can find these in a variety of sizes and colors for a dollar, compared to three bucks or more at other stores.

-Shampoo and conditioner – Unless you are loyal to one particular label, you will probably find that most shampoos and conditioners from the dollar stores do as good a job as their name-brand counterparts.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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CPSC Urges Consumers to Replace Batteries in Smoke and CO Alarms

November 4, 2013 1:30 am

There is no doubt that smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms can save lives. But to do their job of alerting consumers to fire or CO, alarms need fresh batteries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers put new batteries in their alarms to prepare and protect families throughout the upcoming winter.

Home fires take a heavy toll in lost lives, lasting injuries and property damage. CPSC estimates an average of 362,300 unintentional residential fires attended by the fire service, resulting in 2,260 deaths, 12,820 injuries and nearly $7 billion in property damage each year between 2009 and 2011.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), three out of five fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Working smoke alarms with fresh batteries can make a real difference in lives saved and injuries prevented. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Housing Survey for 2011, only three out of four homes reported they changed the batteries in their smoke alarms in the last six months. Batteries should be replaced in alarms every year. In addition, CPSC recommends that consumers test their alarms every month to make sure that the alarms are working. Smoke alarms should be placed on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside sleeping areas.

CO alarms are just as important as smoke alarms. If you do not have CO alarms, get them. Each year from 2007 to 2009, there were nearly 170 carbon monoxide deaths involving consumer products under CPSC's jurisdiction, including portable generators and home heating systems.

Carbon monoxide is called the invisible killer, because you cannot see or smell it. This poisonous gas can come from a variety of sources and quickly incapacitate and kill its victims.

CO alarms should be installed on every level of the home and outside sleeping areas. Like smoke alarms, CO alarms need fresh batteries every year. They should be tested once a month to make sure they are working.

Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fixed Mortgage Rates Decline for Second Consecutive Week

November 4, 2013 1:30 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates declining for the second consecutive week amid recent data showing softening in the housing market. Fixed mortgage rates are at their lowest levels since June.

Findings

30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.10 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending October 31, 2013, down from last week when it averaged 4.13 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.39 percent.

15-year FRM this week averaged 3.20 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.24 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.70 percent.

5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.96 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.00 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.74 percent.

1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.64 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.60 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.58 percent.

"Fixed mortgage rates eased further leading up to the Federal Reserve's (Fed) October 30th monetary policy announcement. The Fed saw improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program, but noted the recovery in the housing market slowed somewhat in recent months and unemployment remains elevated,” said Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist, Freddie Mac.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Health Risks of Noise Pollution

November 1, 2013 1:03 am

Noise pollution is a significant cause of sleep deprivation, stress, hypertension, and heart risk. The problem is, it invades our work places and homes constantly.

Recent studies published in “Environmental Health Perspectives” indicate that noise levels at night may also increase the risk of heart attack by chronically elevating stress-related hormone levels. It's clear that noise adversely reduces people's health and quality of life.

Environmental noise is one of the major causes of disturbed sleep. Uninterrupted sleep is critical for proper physical and mental functioning in healthy individuals.

Apart from various effects on sleep itself, noise during sleep causes increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, narrowing of the blood vessels, changes in respiration, cardiac arrhythmias, and increased body movement.

Secondary effects measured the following day include fatigue, depressed mood and well-being, and decreased performance. People who sleep in a noisy environment have a shallower and less restful depth of sleep. This creates more health stresses on the body.

Most homes are built to protect against heat and cold. Often, they are not effective in blocking out noise. Studies of hundreds of offices and homes show that the most significant amount of noise comes through windows, not walls. While many people spend thousands of dollars on "sound proofing" the walls of their buildings, laboratory studies show that more than 90 percent of all the exterior noise comes in through doors and windows. Walls are almost never the problem.

Dual pane windows have been shown to be ineffective at handling noise issues. They are designed to handle heat and cold. The engineering needed for sound is quite different than for handling temperature. That's why people looking for noise relief who simply replace their dual pane windows are often disappointed.

A solution that has shown to reduce noise levels by 75-95 percent is adding soundproof windows. These are add-on windows which install quickly on the interior of a room. They blend with the window frame and dramatically reduce the level of outside noise that comes into the room. The technology behind these specifically engineered windows is grounded in engineering sound-eliminating window systems for recording studios.

Independent laboratory tests confirm noise reductions of 92-99 percent, as verified by audio instrumentation. While the human ear cannot detect that level of precision, the difference in noise levels in a room is significant.

If you live in a major city or on an otherwise noisy block, soundproofing your windows may just be the solution you need for uninterrupted sleep.

Source: Soundproof Windows, Inc.

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10 Foods to Stock Up On to Reduce Impact of Cold and Flu Season

November 1, 2013 1:03 am

Flu season has significant costs for everyone. According to a National Business Group on Health report, the flu indirectly costs employers about $76.7 million a year in employee absenteeism and other indirect costs. A typical employee has flu symptoms for five to six days and misses between a half day and five days of work.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicting flu activity to increase in the coming weeks and months, now is the time for employers to prepare. One important way is help employees boost their immune systems, the front-line for flu protection.

Get ready for the flu season by stocking the right foods in your kitchen. The 10 great immunity-boosting foods are:

-Oranges
-Veggie slices (peppers, carrots, celery, any)
-Whole grain fortified cereals
-Nuts (walnuts, almonds, peanuts, any)
-Hardboiled eggs
-Hummus
-Yogurt (Greek or low fat)
-Bean salad
-Green tea
-String cheese

Building one's immunity system with vitamin C, zinc, protein, and antioxidants before cold and flu season helps lessen its impact. Studies show that consuming these nutrients after getting sick does not shorten the duration or stop the virus.

In addition to eating the 10 immunity-boosting foods, here are some other ways you can to boost their immune system:

-Eat yogurt or other sources of probiotics to support the gastrointestinal tract, the second line of defense for the immune system
-Eat a well-balanced diet
-Reduce stress levels
-Keep skin healthy - dry cracked skin can provide an entrance for the flu virus
-Laugh – laughter has been shown to improve immune function by lowering stress
-Consider getting the seasonal flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine (to determine your suitability for these vaccines.

Source: Geneia

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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