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Colleen Gular


Colleen Gular
423 North Main Street | Doylestown, PA 18901
Phone: 215-348-7100 | Office Phone: 215-348-7100 | Toll Free: 800-360-7100 | Fax: 267-354-6836
Cell: 267-266-2084 | email: cgular@remax.net

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Holiday Decorating 2012: Tips For Hanging Holiday Outdoor Lights

November 28, 2012 5:40 am

The holiday season is fast approaching and if you're hanging up holiday lights, now is the time. With a little pre-planning and helpful advice, what starts as a festive holiday activity should end as a festive holiday activity.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), hospital emergency rooms treat about 12,500 people for injuries from falls, cuts and shocks – all related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees. Thinking about lining the walkway with candles to stay safe? Think again, as the CPSC warns that candles start about 11,600 fires annually resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss.

To transform an outdoor area into a holiday wonderland as safely and efficiently as possible, try the following:

• Develop a plan. Sketch out a drawing, take before and after pictures and file them away for next year's decor. Having a plan is not only a time saver, but it also eliminates the amount of time spent on the roof or on ladders – a safety hazard for both pros and homeowners, alike.

• Make time. Plan on at least three hours for roof hanging. If it's the first time you're executing a plan, keep it simple. It's easier to add more lights on another day, but get the basic outline complete first.

• Test and retest. Test each strand of lights early and before attempting to hang. Don't test on the fly.

• Use the right stuff. Only use exterior extension cords, and use more than one. A common DIY mistake homeowners make is connecting all of the lighting through the same line and outlet. Doing so can blow fuses and lights.

• Tape it up. Tape up connections so that outdoor elements don't affect the circuitry. For example, exposed extension cords are trip hazards for both homeowners and visitors.

• Use clips. When hanging lights and decorations, use clips, not nails. Clips hold better and don't destroy the home's exterior.

• Never go solo. When mounting roof lights, work in pairs. Have one partner hold the ladder (on hard ground in an area free of small rocks, divets or holes) so that it stays secure. This reduces accidents and gets the job done quicker. And when in doubt, call in the experts. Professional lighting installers can install lights on high peaks and places that typical home ladders can't reach. They can also develop a plan to be implemented season after season.

Oftentimes, less is more. Use an elegant and simple holiday lighting scheme and don't go to extremes. Using too many colors or fixtures can look overbearing and take away from what you are trying to accomplish.

Source: Outdoor Living Perspectives

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Is It Possible to Retire Without a Mortgage to Worry About?

November 27, 2012 5:38 am

It's one thing to commit to a 15- or 30-year mortgage when you're in your 20s or 30s and have a (relatively) stable income. But what about when you're in your 50s and 60s and thinking about retiring? Suddenly, those once-manageable monthly mortgage payments can seem like a massive hurdle. Is it even possible to retire without a mortgage in today's day and age? Before the recession, Baby Boomers were sitting pretty on homes that were just about paid off – and skyrocketing in value. As a result, many of those Baby Boomers used all of that value to their advantage – like taking out second mortgages to help the kids pay for college, or getting home equity loans to pay for brand new gourmet kitchens and spa-like master bathrooms. Unfortunately, the housing bubble burst before many of them got a chance to make up for the cost. In fact, the average American lost 40 percent of his or her net worth during the recession, and those Baby Boomers were no different. As a result, many of them will be unable to have that carefree, mortgage-free retirement they dreamed of.

But what about younger Americans? Even though they have more time to plan, the investment options are slimmer than they were a few years ago – meaning there's not as many opportunities to "close the gaps" on mortgages as there were before. For example, back in the mid-2000s, flipping houses was all the rage. If you had enough for the initial investment, you could make massive sums of money, and relatively quickly, to boot! Today, flipping has started to rise from the ashes, but it's not nearly as popular as it once was. And, until the housing market gets back on its feet, it won't be the quick source of money that it once was.

So, what are your options in today's economy if you want to enjoy your golden years without a mortgage hanging over your head?

1. Increase your monthly payments now.
By paying a little more now, you can get your home loan paid off sooner. If you don't think you have extra money to pay now, think again. Remember, mortgage rates are at all-time lows. Take the money you're saving on interest, and put it towards higher monthly payments. That way, you won't necessarily need to spend more money than you had originally budgeted.

2. Cool it with additional debt.
Just because banks are starting to write more second mortgages and home equity loans again doesn't mean you have to take advantage of them. Instead, find ways to pay for things without taking out a loan. Even if it means cutting back on "fun" spending now, you'll thank yourself later!

3. Don't forget about your retirement savings.
Even if it feels like retirement is still a long way away, it's not. If you don't put money towards your retirement savings now, you're going to regret it later. In fact, make your retirement fund part of your monthly budget – just like your car payment or your grocery bills. That way, it will get the attention it deserves.

As long as you learn to work with the current economic landscape (and adjust your finances accordingly), you may not have to be tied to mortgage payments all throughout your retirement!

Source: RealtyPin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Holiday Overspending Can Have Long-Term Consequences

November 27, 2012 5:38 am

Millions of consumers have begun their holiday shopping, snagging sale items either in-person or online, and therefore, considering themselves savvy shoppers. At the same time, many lost sight of the fact that regardless of the price, a bargain isn’t a smart purchase if it compromises a person’s overall financial health.

“If there’s one time of the year when people shop with their heart, not their head, it’s the holiday season,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). “Emotional spending during the holidays is often the tipping point that pushes people over the edge financially, as common sense can take a backseat during this time of the year.”

To help consumers remain financially responsible during the holidays, the NFCC offers the following five reminders of the long-term consequences of over-spending, some of which can last far after the lights are taken down and the tinsel is packed away.

• Paying additional interest - Adding new debt to an existing debt load, one which cannot be paid in full when the bill arrives, equals paying a larger dollar amount of interest due to the higher outstanding balance. Even worse, when a balance is carried over from month-to-month on an account, interest is paid on the previous months’ interest. People often boast of buying an item on sale, then pay for it over time, thus wiping out any savings.

• Diminished future borrowing power – An increased level of debt could cause lenders to decline applications for new lines of credit or loans. Since no one knows what the future holds, not being in a position to tap into new credit is something to guard against.

• Diminished future buying power – Buying on credit is a contractual agreement to pay the debt later, often with money that has yet to be earned. Using tomorrow’s money for today’s expenses compromises future spending.

• Lower credit score – Excessive debt often leads to paying late, skipping payments, and utilizing too high a percentage of open credit, all of which could lower the all-important credit score. Further, applying for new lines of credit simply to save money on today’s purchase will not only increase the temptation to spend, but will show as an inquiry on the credit report, potentially lowering the score.

• Debt interferes with life - Debt is a 24/7 problem, distracts people from their job and home-life, interrupts sleep and potentially causes marital strife.

“With the economy still on shaky ground and job security not something to be counted on, it makes no sense to self-inflict financial damage this holiday season,” continued Cunningham.

Source: www.DebtAdvice.org

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Five Tips to Rodent-Proof Your Home

November 27, 2012 5:38 am

As the cool temperatures start to settle in for the next few months, homeowners are advised to pest-proof their homes, garages and sheds now, because fall is when most insect and rodent pests seek shelter for the winter months.

With temperatures recently dropping, rodents and other pests tend to move inside structures this time of year to find a warm place to overwinter and breed. A pregnant female mouse can produce an average of eight pups in a litter, and a rat, seven pups on average, and there are typically four to five litters per year. Their gestation period is about a month, so before you know it, one mouse can turn into a major problem for homeowners.

Mice can fit through an opening the size of a dime, so it is important to fix any cracks in and under siding, doors and windows. In addition to warmth, rodents enter homes looking for food and water. They prefer cereals and grains, but will eat just about anything.

As you prepare your home for winter, keep the five following tips in mind:

• Make sure all holes, gaps and cracks larger than 1/4 of an inch are sealed.
• Replace door sweeps and make sure doors and windows close tightly.
• Clean out gutters and install gutter guards to prevent leaves and debris from accumulating.
• Store firewood as far from the home as possible.
• Trim branches, plants and bushes that hang over the home.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Keeping Homes Safe During The Holiday Season

November 26, 2012 5:38 am

Plumbing and appliance emergencies are the most frequent service requests during the holiday season. Kitchen appliances, chimneys, furnaces and garbage disposals are especially prone to malfunction during the hectic holiday season. HomeAdvisor's Home Improvement Expert and DIY Network host Amy Matthews offers useful tips to help homeowners prepare their homes for the winter season.

"The holidays can be as stressful as they are joyous, especially if an unexpected home repair emergency occurs," said Matthews.

Kitchen Appliances
According to HomeAdvisor, the most frequent home emergency repair in 2012 has been for appliance repairs. Avoid having an emergency situation during a big family feast by thoroughly cleaning your oven and grill and keeping kitchen appliances in tip-top shape. If the oven isn't cleaned properly, homeowners risk the chance of filling their house with smoke and ruining their meal. A professional can inspect top trouble areas and provide insights on repairs or replacements.

Garbage Disposals

Matthews advises that homeowners avoid garbage disposal repairs by never placing coffee grounds, grease, eggshells, bones or potato skins in the disposal. It is also important that homeowners do not overfill their garbage disposal or use chemical drain cleaners to unclog it. It is unlikely that chemical cleaners will work completely and they leave the sink full of toxic liquids.

Chimney and Fireplace
A crackling fire is charming during the holidays, but dirty chimneys can be extremely dangerous and can cause a fire in the home. A professional should inspect the fireplace to ensure the chimney is clean before lighting the first fire of the season. A money saving tip is to install a glass enclosure or glass doors on the opening of the fireplace to reduce the amount of hot air that escapes from the house.

Furnace
Keeping a clean filter in the furnace through the winter is essential to maximizing its efficiency. Dirty filters make the furnace work harder and may even damage it. It is also best to hire a professional on an annual basis to install proper filters, vacuum the unit, and recommend appropriate upgrades. Annual maintenance on a furnace can increase its life expectancy by up to four years.

Yard
Dead and dying tree branches can be a danger to people and power lines. Keep your home safe and prevent power outages this season by hiring a professional to prune branches and limbs close to your home.

Source: HomeAdvisor

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Multifamily Market to Remain Strong through 2015 With 1.7 Million New Renters

November 26, 2012 5:38 am

The Freddie Mac Multifamily Research Group released its multifamily real estate market demand forecast for the next several years. The paper forecasts a base case that entails slow economic growth with an additional 1.7 million new multifamily renter households between now and 2015. In addition, the paper forecasts that the multifamily market and demand for rental housing will remain solid and healthy during the same period of time.

The forecast analyzes demographic trends, housing supply and economic data. The scenario-based approach explores rental market conditions under different economic environments: slow growth, no growth and accelerated growth.

Forecast Highlights:
• Recent declines in homeownership related to economic stress and high foreclosures in the single-family housing market have benefited the multifamily market.
• The homeownership rate will drop 1 to 2 percentage points if the current slow recovery continues.
• The single-family rental market, a growing and distinct market from multifamily, has expanded 16 percent (about 3 million units) since 2007.
• Multifamily market demand is expected to be strong through 2015 primarily due to demographic trends and a decreasing national homeownership rate.
• Rental demand will continue to grow faster than historical averages.
• Multifamily demand is likely to be 1.7 million new renter households between now and 2015. If the economic recovery accelerates, demand will be in the 1 million new renter range; and if no recovery, then in the 1.6 million range for new renters.

"The research supports the optimism that currently pervades the multifamily market. It confirms that multifamily is a bright spot in the real estate market and the economy more broadly, and it will likely continue to shine for quite some time," says David Brickman, senior vice president of Freddie Mac Multifamily.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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What's All the Buzz About Reverse Mortgages?

November 26, 2012 5:38 am

If you're near retirement age, and need some funding to finance home renovations, pay off your current mortgage, or to help cover medical expenses, there is a way to get cash fast without taking out a loan. It's called a reverse mortgage and many Americans over the age of 62 are taking advantage of it these days. How does it work? In a traditional mortgage, you pay your lender. In a reverse mortgage, your lender actually pays you. That's because in a reverse mortgage, you convert the equity of your home into cash, and you don't have to repay the loan as long as you live in the home. Instead, the loan is repaid to the lender when you die, sell the home, or when it's no longer your primary residence. In most cases, the proceeds of this type of loan are tax-free, and many reverse mortgages do not have income restrictions. There are three types of reverse mortgages:

1. Single-Purpose Reverse Mortgages - Offered by some state and local government agencies and non-profit organizations, these are usually the cheapest option. Like the name implies, these can only be used for one purpose, as specified by the lender. For example, if you need money specifically to pay off medical bills, a lender may grant you this type of reverse mortgage, but you can only use the money for that purpose, and must provide proof that you are doing so. Typically, single-purpose reverse mortgages are for people with low to moderate income levels.

2. Federally-Insured Reverse Mortgages -- These are often referred to as Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM) and are backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Before applying for a HECM, you are required to meet with an independent government-approved housing counseling agent to go over the costs and alternative options. These reverse mortgages are very common, and they don't come with any income or use restrictions. The only catch is that the amount of money you can borrow is determined by your age, the appraised value of the home, and current interest rates. There are also several options of how you receive the money. You may get a fixed amount each month, fixed cash advances, or a line of credit where you can draw money whenever you need it. One thing to remember -- these reverse mortgages come with upfront costs. Be prepared to pay origination fees, a mortgage insurance premium and closing costs.

3. Proprietary Reverse Mortgages -- These are private loans that are backed by the companies that develop them. They are similar to HECM in that they generally do not have income restrictions, and you can use the money any way you'd like. However, the value of your home and how much you still owe on your original mortgage can affect how large of a reverse mortgage you receive. Regardless which type of reverse mortgage you choose, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- Reverse mortgages do not affect your Social Security or Medicare benefits.

- You'll get to keep the title of your home.
- The reverse mortgage does not have to be paid off until the youngest borrower in the home dies, sells the home, or no longer lives there.
- In the HECM program, you can live in a nursing home for up to 12 consecutive months before you have to start paying the loan back.
- Some reverse mortgages have fixed rate interest, but many come with adjustable rates.
- The amount you owe on a reverse mortgage grows over time. Interest is charged to the outstanding balance and added to the amount you owe each month.

Source: www.RealtyPin.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Lattes: A Nutritious and Delicious Breakfast Complement

November 23, 2012 5:36 am

 There's good news for the millions of Americans who start each day with a cup of coffee. Making a latte at home for breakfast is not only a delicious start to the day, but it can provide much-needed nutrients including calcium, Vitamin D and potassium that most Americans are lacking. Your morning latte delivers a full serving of milk's nine essential nutrients, including eight grams of high quality protein – even more than an egg.

Breakfast with milk, whether in a latte, your cereal or straight from a glass, can help you feel satisfied, focused and energized, so you can make the most of your day. At a time when specialty coffeehouse prices can be high, being your own barista at home could also help save you money. For only a quarter a serving, coffee's latte counterpart, milk, adds nutrients without breaking the bank.

Whatever your personal latte order, the National Milk Mustache "got milk?"® Campaign has at-home recipes for easy ways to make your morning latte the way you like it. Whether it's a simple two parts milk, one part espresso drink or a triple shot with extra foam, caramel drizzle and cinnamon, being your own barista is as easy as:

-Espress-o Yourself: Thinking about getting an espresso machine? Great! If not, no problem... just brew your coffee beans stronger than usual.
-Get Frothy with It: Milk frothers are a great gift. But you can also heat the milk on the stove or in the microwave, then whisk for extra foam.
-Have Fun with Flavor: Check your spice cabinet to add great flavors like cinnamon or nutmeg. You can also buy your favorite syrups for a coffee shop-worthy flavor boost.

Source: Facebook.com/MilkMustache

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Hard vs. Soft Water - What Do They Really Mean?

November 23, 2012 5:36 am

By Barbara Pronin

In a nutshell, hard water, which to one extent or another is most of the water that flows through our neighborhood pipes, is water that contains an appreciative amount of dissolved minerals. Soft water is treated water in which the only ion is sodium.

As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. But as it makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk and lime and a lot of calcium and magnesium.

Hard water is to blame for dingy looking clothes, dishes with spots and residue, and bathtubs with lots of film and soap scum. Because soap is less effective in hard water, it takes more soap and more shampoo to achieve acceptable results, and even appliances will work harder and use more energy in the process.

Most consumers prefer using soft water because chores can be performed more efficiently. Lather is rich and bubbly even when using a minimal amount of soap or shampoo. Glasses will sparkle, hair will look healthier, and the shower curtain will be scum-free.

Soft water users will also save money. In addition to saving on detergents and soaps, appliances have to work less hard, prolonging their productive lives, and energy bills are noticeably lower in households with soft water systems.

There is a downside to soft water in that it is not as healthy to drink. In the softening process, as minerals are removed, sodium content increases. Soft water not only tastes salty, but research shows the risk of cardiovascular disease is lowest where water has the most mineral content.

But the conundrum may be easily solved. Consumers may enjoy all the benefits of softened water while safeguarding their health by bringing bottled water into the home for drinking purposes – or by installing a reverse osmosis system, which may be installed under the kitchen sink for less than $500.

If you are on a municipal water system, the water supplier can tell you the hardness level of the water they deliver. If you have a private water supply, you can have the water tested for hardness. They can also help you evaluate the significance of the test results, so that you can make an informed decision about how – and where – to opt for softened water.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Clean Your House Naturally and Avoid Toxic Cleansers

November 23, 2012 5:36 am

It's time to tackle the annual home cleaning. But just because you're thoroughly washing, scrubbing and disinfecting your home, it doesn't mean you need to turn to cleansers with harsh ingredients and chemicals. In fact, you can easily clean using inexpensive products already in your kitchen, such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice. Use these tips to clean your home naturally.

Start seeing clearly: Are your windows coated with a layer of grime? A solution of two teaspoons of white vinegar and one liter of warm water can be used to gently remove dust or dirt from all glass surfaces including windows and mirrors.

Freshen up the fridge: In addition to food spills, your refrigerator takes on odors from all the different foods stored throughout the year. Discard old items and be sure you are regularly cleaning out the fridge. Help reduce odors year-round by keeping a box of baking soda in the fridge at all times, replacing it every 30 days for best results.

Reawaken your wardrobe: Start the season feeling good in clothes that smell fresh. Even when carefully stored, clothing can still be exposed to dust, and may require a good washing before wearing. Add a cup of baking soda to your next wash to naturally boost the power of your detergent. The combination will help balance PH levels to leave clothing cleaner and fresher. You can also freshen non-washable items like gym shoes, bags and sports equipment by sprinkling baking soda inside.

Renew the everyday rooms: Avoid the fumes of harsh kitchen and bathroom cleaners by naturally cleaning surfaces with baking soda. A sprinkle of baking soda on a damp sponge will clean counters, stainless steel sinks, microwaves, ovens and much more without scratching. For tough grease, mix vinegar and lemon juice to leave your surfaces like new.

Bet on a BBQ: After the inside of your home is looking spic-and-span, get your grill ready to prevent bad tasting hot dogs and hamburgers from ruining your next BBQ. Sprinkle baking soda on a damp brush, then scrub away any residue and rinse clean. For really difficult stains, make a paste with three parts baking soda to one part warm water and use a wire-bristled brush to work away at grime and grease stains.

Source: www.armandhammer.com

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