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Colleen Gular


Colleen Gular
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880 | Skippack, PA 19474
Phone: 610-584-1160 | Office Phone: 610-584-1160 | Fax: 267-354-6836
Cell: 267-266-2084 | email: cgular@remax.net

My Blog

Five Ways to Maximize a Small Kitchen

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

A small kitchen can quickly become cluttered and feel cramped. According to Consumer Reports, a few small upgrades can make a big improvement. To maximize the space you have, rethink where you store things, especially if counter space is at a premium. Here are five additional ways to make every available inch count:
  1. Place your dishwasher strategically. Choose a location near the sink but where the dishwasher won't stop traffic when the door is open. Remember to think about access to other appliances, too. You don't want the dishwasher door to block the refrigerator door, for example.
  2. Incorporate a landing spot for food by the refrigerator and for pots and pans on at least one side of the stove. These small details can easily improve your kitchen's efficiency.
  3. Install roll-out cabinets where possible. A roll-out spice rack near the range is a great use of space and eliminates clutter on the countertop or in a cabinet.
  4. Drawers and pull-out shelves can make a big difference. They're a perfect way to store pots, pans, kitchen tools and even dishware. Most commercial cabinets can be outfitted with pull-out shelves and other organizers.
  5. Before making any updates, take an inventory of everything you need and use in your kitchen and where it's kept. Remember to plan storage for small, easily overlooked items such as pot holders and plastic bags.
Source: Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

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Job Openings Increase in Top 50 Metro Areas, Says New Report

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

The July 2012 Employment Outlook from job search engine Simply Hired®, reports a 9.2 percent increase in nationwide job openings month-over-month and a 13.3 percent increase year-over-year. Job competition held steady at a nationwide ratio of three unemployed persons for every one job opening.

"For the second month in a row we're seeing positive growth in job openings nationwide," says Gautam Godhwani, Co-founder and CEO of Simply Hired. "This steady increase is reflected across all the major metro areas, showing that employers have a confidence in today's economy, which is very encouraging as we head towards the fall hiring season."

Job openings increased in all 50 of the major metros, with Boston and Pittsburgh (both 16 percent, respectively) and Salt Lake City (15 percent) showing the largest increases. While nationwide job competition held steady, regional competition eased up slightly. Job seekers in a number of metro areas are facing improved conditions, including those in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle & Tacoma, Tampa & St. Petersburg, Denver, Sacramento, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh & Durham, Greenville (S.C.), and Las Vegas.

Job openings in all 18 industries increased in June, with agriculture (31.6 percent) and non-profit (18.2 percent) showing the largest amount of growth. Financial services (11.5 percent) and real estate (11.5 percent) also saw noticeable increases.

With nearly two-thirds of all occupation categories experiencing growth in job openings, office and administrative workers (15.3 percent) and food workers (8.7 percent) saw the largest increases. Occupations experiencing the largest declines month-over-month included financial specialists and accountants (-23.2 percent) and military personnel (-9.1 percent).

Source: Simply Hired

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How to Reduce Wildfire Risk

July 5, 2012 2:06 am

Few homeowners prepare for a wildfire or take steps to reduce wildfire risk unless one is threatening their home. However, according to Allstate, the fires raging in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, along with the dry, drought-like conditions across the country should have every homeowner taking steps to reduce wildfire risk.

Allstate recommends homeowners reduce wildfire hazards by taking a few simple steps that can make a big difference if a wildfire threatens your community.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), homeowners should remove potential fuel sources and create a defensible zone around a home which will dramatically reduce wildfire hazards. This may help slow flames or help direct the flames away from your home during a wildfire. Allstate and IBHS also recommend homeowners do the following within 30 feet of most houses to reduce wildfire risk:
  • Eliminate fuel sources like dry landscaping, woodpiles and decks.
  • Prune trees and shrubs.
  • Trim taller trees so lowest branch is no less than six feet from the ground.
  • Remove dead leaves and branches from the yard.
  • Clear branches from around the roof and chimney.
  • Mow lawn regularly and dispose cuttings and debris promptly.
  • Clear roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
  • Maintain your irrigation system.
  • Move firewood and storage tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
  • Store flammable liquids properly.
Source: The Allstate Corporation

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Fourth of July Grilling Tradition Continues

July 3, 2012 2:04 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, a whopping 90 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on the Fourth of July, a nine percent jump from last year.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23rd 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.

The survey revealed the following fun grilling facts:
  • Independence Day remains the most popular "grilling holiday" of the year, followed by Labor Day (77 percent); birthdays (76 percent); Memorial Day (71 percent) and Father's Day (53 percent).
  • The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
  • Hot dogs and burgers remain the top two foods considered easiest to grill (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively; followed by steak (49 percent), brats (43 percent) and chicken (38 percent).
  • Three in 10 grill owners feel that grilling is an extremely important activity when entertaining guests in their home (30 percent); with 77 percent say grilling is an important activity when entertaining.
  • The grill brings people together. During grill parties, more than one-half of grill owners (59 percent) say their guests tend to congregate outside—of those, 26 percent enjoy "hanging out" exclusively by the grill.
  • On average, grill owners host approximately 2.8 barbecues during the summer; nearly 19 percent say they hosted at least five barbecues during the summer months.
Source: Weber-StephenProducts LLC

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Five Tips for Effective Retirement Planning

July 3, 2012 2:04 am

Planning for retirement can be a time of great anticipation as well as great anxiety. And, given the current economic climate, many individuals have changed their plans for retirement by either pushing back their retirement date or have considered working part time during their retirement to supplement their fixed incomes.

According to Jim Cantrell, a certified financial planner and owner of Financial Strategies, Inc. in Brookfield, Wis., while some people close to retirement have changed their goals or approach, others simply don't know what to do.

He provides the following five tips to help create a solid financial plan for the future:
  • Know what you are going to do. If you have grandiose thoughts of spending months in exotic destinations, you will need to put a bit more into your retirement fund than if your goal is to do volunteer work and stay close to home. One of the best ways to ensure that your future plans are appropriate for you is to get involved in activities that are of interest before you retire. For example, if you plan to spend your time volunteering, consider giving a few hours a week before retirement to see if this will work with your future plans. Additionally, if relocation is part of your retirement goal, spend time vacationing in the areas you could potentially call your future home.
  • Know your benefits. It is important to talk to your organization's human resources department well before you plan to retire. Consider items such as health insurance, pension and stock options. Each of these things could have a big impact on your finances once you are retired.
  • Diversify your stock options. As you approach retirement, it is important to ensure that you do not have an over concentration of stock positions. Sometimes senior management and upper level executives have a lot of their portfolio tied up in their company; however, once they retire, they will not have the same level of control in the direction the company takes. Having all your eggs in one basket (or a lot of them) is never a good idea, this is why it is important to consider diversifying your investment portfolio.
  • Move to stable investments. As you approach retirement (approximately five to seven years prior), consider shifting your investment portfolio from a higher percentage of equities to less risky, fixed or stable investments. This will make your portfolio a much safer place to go and get your money when you need it.
  • Have a solid plan. How much will you need to put away to live the lifestyle you currently enjoy, or what things do you plan to cut out? Know what you currently have available and what you will need and put it all down in a solid and workable plan. One of the best ways to ensure that you have a solid plan is to meet with a certified financial planning practitioner (a fee-only advisor is recommended) to create a program that meets all your future needs.
Source: Financial Strategies, Inc.

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Strong Showing for Luxury Real Estate

July 3, 2012 2:04 am

Luxury home prices climbed and closings on some of the world's most beautiful properties picked up in the second quarter of 2012, according to luxury real estate executive Robbie Briggs. "The luxury real estate market appears to be vibrant in many places domestically and internationally," says Briggs. "In my experience, buyers are coming in with strong offers of cash or heavy down payments. For the first time in a long time, I see homeowners with renewed confidence, thanks to lower interest rates."

The improvements in the luxury home market kept pace with reported gains in the domestic real estate market overall in recent months. Sales of existing homes of more than $1 million improved by nearly 17 percent in some regions in April over the same period in 2011, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, while new home sales at the high end of the market remained strong through May, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Briggs reports an uptick in sales of premium properties in a variety of areas, based on information from his colleagues in the luxury real estate market:
  • In Manhattan, people are buying co-ops and condos at top prices, and a penthouse on 57th Street just sold for more than $90 million - a record sale for New York City, according to Royce Pinkwater.
  • Attracting buyers from around the U.S., Brazil and other countries, the Miami market has seen price per square foot rise 18 percent over the past year, and sales were up 66 percent in the first quarter, according to Mayi de Ia Vega.
  • Michael Rankin reports the demand for luxury homes has grown so much in Washington, D.C., that many are being offered as "private exclusives," and kept off of the multiple listing service.
  • Gloria Smith in San Francisco reports that homes in the $5 million range continue to sell quickly.
  • Briggs’ European associates report record-setting sales prices in Sweden and increased interest from Americans and Russians looking at villas in Italy. “The European debt crisis has driven the world's super-rich to seek stable investments in high-end properties in London,” he adds.
CEO Robbie Briggs independently owns and operates a luxury real estate firm in Dallas, Texas.

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Six Surprising Six-Figure Jobs

June 29, 2012 2:02 am

Although many people associate six-figure salaries with executive positions, those with a knack for technology and creative thinking can earn handsome compensation, too. According to research from Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group, salaries often top $100,000 for roles such as information architects, data security analysts and user experience (UX) designers. The generous compensation levels are due to high demand for these professionals as organizations strive to enhance their digital presence and boost investments in information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Following are six technology and design jobs that can pay six-figures:
  1. Mobile applications developer - As companies strive to reach consumers on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, they need professionals who can develop applications for the small screen. Average starting salaries for mobile applications developers range from $85,000 to $122,500. The midpoint is $103,750.
  2. Data security analyst - Security threats are constantly changing, and staff members who can analyze risk and protect against it are in demand. These workers can make between $89,000 and $121,500, on average. The midpoint is $105,250.
  3. Interactive creative director ¬ These individuals lead interactive creative teams, composed of designers, writers and art directors, who together are responsible for visual and conceptual creative direction and user experience. Average base compensation is $93,500 to $150,000. The midpoint is $121,750.
  4. Business intelligence analyst - As companies strive to gather more information about their customers, they need professionals who can design and develop enterprise-wide data analysis and reporting tools. Starting salaries range from $87,750 to $123,500 for this position, on average. The midpoint is $105,625.
  5. Information architect - These individuals help define content strategy and design website features, as well as analyze audiences and their needs, in order to improve architecture and navigation. Base compensation for this position is between $78,250 and $116,000, on average. The midpoint is $97,125.
  6. User experience (UX) designer - Because so much customer interaction happens online, companies are looking for professionals who can create positive digital experiences. The average starting pay range for these individuals is $71,750 to $104,000. The midpoint is $87,875.
All salaries listed are U.S. national averages based on data published in the 2012 Salary Guides for Robert Half Technology and The Creative Group. Actual salary ranges may vary depending on location.

Source: Robert Half Technology; The Creative Group

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Why Appliance Warranties are Key for New Homeowners

June 29, 2012 2:02 am

These days, making the decision to purchase a new home can be much more stressful than it once was. There are countless factors and steps that need to be taken into account before you settle in. A major factor is around finances and how you, as a new homeowner, will make sure your home's appliances are in check and that your home system components are maintained while avoiding needless spending.

That new kitchen or laundry room may seem like it will last forever; however, if six months down the line when your dishwasher breaks or your refrigerator is acting up, you may find yourself stressed—both mentally and financially. One way to relieve stress and protect against unexpected repairs is to ensure your home system components and appliances are backed by an appliance warranty. A homebuyers warranty or appliance warranty will cover replacement or repair costs and give you access to a network of service contractors.

Many homeowners do not realize that simple homeowners insurance does not cover the repair or replacement of all your major home appliances due to normal wear and tear. The manufacturer’s warranty that comes with the appliance also expires within a year or two, and if you purchase a home with aged appliances, this can be a major issue.

If you’re considering an appliance warranty, there are a few options. You can either get an extended warranty for each appliance, or choose a home warranty which covers all appliances in your house. Some home warranty companies let you choose the appliances you want to cover. This can be helpful; if you choose fewer items, you reduce your premium.

An appliance warranty can not only help save you money down the road for when repairs might be needed, but can help relieve stress and provide you with reassurance when investing in a new home. It's your home; you can make sure the appliances within it are taken care of.

Source: American Home Shield

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Workers Less Miserable, but Not Exactly Happy Either

June 29, 2012 2:02 am

Americans of all ages and income brackets have the highest job satisfaction levels since the beginning of The Great Recession. However, the majority continue to be unhappy at work, according to a recent report from The Conference Board.

The report, based on a fall 2011 survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company, finds 47.2 percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs. Though a slight improvement from 2010 and 2009 — when the figure stood at 42.6 and 45.3 percent, respectively — job satisfaction remains below the 48.8 percent recorded in 2008. According to the report, 2005 was the last year in which a majority of Americans was happy at work (52.1 percent), but compared to the 1980s and '90s, widespread dissatisfaction has been entrenched since the turn of the century.

Though the overall numbers remain negative, there are many key upward trends such as higher satisfaction with job security, wages, promotion policy, educational/job training, and bonus plan. Employees are reporting higher interest in their jobs, relationships with fellow employees, and the level of recognition and acknowledgment from supervisors. All these higher assessments reflect the over many job aspects that were rated more favorably in 2011 than in 2010.

Worker satisfaction rates by income levels are mixed. Year-to-year satisfaction rates dropped slightly among those earning an annual salary of $15,000 – $25,000 as well as those earning $35,000 – $50,000. However, those earning under $15,000 annually as well as those earning between $25,000 and $35,000 and over $50,000 were more satisfied in 2011 than 2010. Satisfaction among those earning more than $50,000 has risen 6 percentage points since 2009.

Additionally, workers have a mixed reaction to economic elements of their jobs. On the positive side, workers indicated their job security, wages, promotion policy, bonus plans, vacation policy, sick leave, health plans, pension/retirement, flex time, family leave, and education/job training were better in 2011 than in 2010. However, workers have become increasingly dissatisfied with their health care plans since 1987. Only 40 percent of employees are satisfied with their current health plan, down from 50 percent in 1987.

In a bright spot, 55.2 percent of employees were satisfied with their supervisor, up from 49.1 in 2010 and 58 percent of workers were satisfied with their physical environment, up from 48 percent in the previous year. Similarly, 55 percent of workers were satisfied with the quality of their equipment, up nearly 11 percent from 2010, a sign that companies may be beginning to invest infrastructure.

Source: The Conference Board

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5 Ways to Curb Overeating

June 28, 2012 2:02 am

In today’s fast-paced world, nutrition often takes a back seat to the hectic pace of our daily lives. We eat while we work. We eat while we watch TV. We eat while we drive. We eat in ways that elicit stress, frenzy, and a complete disconnect with the bodies we are unsuccessfully trying to nourish.

"When we are out of touch with our eating, and with our bodies, it is easy to overeat and for weight to creep upwards," says Jenny Conviser, Psy.D., co-owner of Insight Psychological Centers and a leading expert in the treatment of eating disorders. "Some of the strategies we use in working with patients can be useful to everyone who wants to establish mindful eating patterns."

Conviser offers the following strategies for healthful eating:
  • Carve out time for meals. Tend to work through lunch? Stop and take an actual lunch break, even if it's fifteen minutes. Research suggests that our brains don't even fully register the things we're eating outside of time we've set aside for eating (thus, we stay hungry), though our waistlines do.
  • Eat sitting down. If you're going to eat at the refrigerator, pull up a chair! If you commit to eating only while sitting down, you're less likely to mindlessly munch. And eat without distractions, like the TV or computer, so you can fully experience what you are eating.
  • Learn what "hungry" feels like. Ask yourself if you really are hungry before you eat, or if you’re eating due to the time of day, habit, or to cope with stress. If you are hungry, allow yourself to eat and plan for healthy snacks during your day. Driving yourself to extreme hunger by skipping meals or not allowing yourself to snack can result in unhealthy binges.
  • Notice each sensation. Next time you sit down to eat something, take a moment to notice the shape, the color, the size. Bring the food to your nose and inhale the aroma. When you take a bite, notice how the texture feels on your tongue, and chew fully before swallowing. Take a moment before taking another bite. Sure, this takes a few extra minutes, but you get to experience food as it's meant to be – a full sensory experience.
  • Check in with yourself. Try stopping for a break midway through your meal for a few minutes. Are you still really hungry? If so, keep eating, and check in again after a few more bites. If not, maybe it's time to stop and put away the rest for later.
Mindless eating patterns can lead to digestive problems, nutrient deficiencies, and weight gain. "Eating on the fly might save us a few minutes here and there, but there is a huge cost to doing many things without thinking and eating is one of them," adds Conviser. "When you change your mind, you can change your life."

Source: Insight Psychological Centers

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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