RE/MAX 440
Tim Lugara

Tim Lugara
423 North Main Street  Doylestown  PA 18901
Phone:  215-348-7100 1632
Office:  215-348-7100
Toll Free:  800-360-7100
Cell:  215-917-8673
Fax:  267-354-6961

Tim's Blog

Five Must-Haves for a Smarter Home

December 5, 2014 4:21 am

Consumer excitement about the smart home has reached epic heights, with hundreds of new devices on the market that monitor, notify, control and secure the home. According to Parks Associates, mobile ubiquity, technology innovation and industry standards and partnerships have contributed to more than 13 million U.S. households now owning a connected device. Based on CNET observations, this number is set to increase threefold over the next three years to an estimated 45 million smart homes by 2018.

With connected products available to even the least tech-savvy consumers for as little as $50, there’s no better time than now to create a smarter home. Here are five ways to do it.

1. Automate your light switches. One of the easiest and most affordable places to start automating your home is with the lights. Chamberlain and other companies let you appear home when you're not by setting schedules that turn lights on and off at select or random times. These products are sold at most home improvement and electronics stores such as Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy and online for about $49.99.

2. Control the garage door. According to the Door & Access Systems Manufacturers Association, an estimated 71 percent of U.S. households use their garage as the main entry point to their homes. Automating the garage door allows homeowners to monitor and control the most active door of the house from anywhere in the world. Smartphone alerts let you know when the garage is in use or left open, and give you access to opening it any time to for guests, deliveries or workers.

3. Install smart locks. With connected door locks, a mere touch of your finger locks or unlocks the front door, providing alerts every step of the way. You can also allow access to others through their smartphones and turn off access at any time. Smart locks begin at about $200 and are available at Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe's, and other stores.

4. View your home with video.
A connected home video camera can help by streaming live video to your smartphone once movement is detected in or around the home, and video is accessible with a cloud storage option. These products start at about $150.

5. Save money and energy through temperature control. Installing a connected thermostat can save you up to 20 percent on your heating bill throughout the year. Smart thermostats allow you to adjust the temperature based on your comings and goings from anywhere—turn up the heat in your house just before returning from a trip, or switch your setting to vacation mode if you forgot to do so before leaving. These devices sell for about $250 from various online, electronics and home improvement retailers.

Source: Chamberlain

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Give Wisely This Holiday Season

December 4, 2014 4:21 am

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) and Better Business Bureaus across North America caution philanthropists about phony donation solicitations this season, recommending careful review of organizations before making a donation.

Ensure your donations will be applied ethically by following these tips:
  • Rely on rigorous evaluations. Charities can demonstrate they are trustworthy by undergoing a rigorous evaluation based on holistic standards, such as the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.
  • Watch out for copycats. Since there may be hundreds of charities seeking support for the same cause, some may have similar sounding names. Don't fall for a case of mistaken identity.
  • Consider the whole picture, not just finances. While financial ratios help in identifying cases of financial abuse, it's a mistake to use them as the sole basis for giving. A good ratio does not necessarily mean a charity is well managed, honest in its appeals, transparent about its activities, and effective in achieving its mission.
  • Avoid being pressured. Don't succumb to pressure to make an on-the-spot giving decision. Responsible organizations will welcome your gift tomorrow just as much as today.
  • Keep emotions in check. Donors need to be mindful that con artists will often strike when emotions are running high. Always take a moment to verify that your selected charity operates ethically.
Source: BBB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Most Adults in the Dark on Down Payment Assistance

December 4, 2014 4:21 am

A recent survey found that 70 percent of U.S. Adults are unaware of down-payment assistance programs available for homebuyers in their community, bearing out increasing concerns over the complexities of the housing process. NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit community development corporation who commissioned the survey, is one of many assistance programs designed to help buyers achieve homeownership status.

"Down-payment assistance programs make home purchasing more accessible for first-time buyers," said Marietta Rodriguez, vice president of Homeownership Programs and Lending at NeighborWorks America. "In addition, because many down-payment assistance programs require homebuyer education, these purchasers tend to be more successful in the long term. Research has shown pre-purchase counseling helps reduce mortgage default and equips homeowners with the information they need to budget for other expenses and maintain their property."

Down payment assistance is especially helpful for homebuyers who are unsure about affordability because of student loan debt. Resources like NeighborWorks America and other housing programs are readily available for adults interested in purchasing a home.

Source: NeighborWorks America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Prevent Landscape Damage from Deer this Winter

December 4, 2014 4:21 am

(BPT) – Cold weather signifies mating season for deer, and numerous insurance industry and government studies indicate that during this time, deer become more active, aggressive and a greater threat to suburban landscapes.

Eliminating deer from suburban settings is no easy task, since accessible, nutritious food found in yards sustains urbanized deer. As cold weather approaches, here’s what you need to know about deer, how they can adversely affect your home and yard and what you can do to protect your landscape:
  • Deer are smarter than many people give them credit for. They quickly learn where to find easy food sources when the weather gets cold. "Unless deer are given a reason to change their browsing trail, they will continue to visit your yard," says Nora Kwochka of Bobbex, a leading manufacturer of proven effective, natural deer repellants.
  • In cold weather, food is harder to find, and deer become much bolder, looking for food closer to your backyard. Deer can eat up to 10 pounds of food a day - half a ton over their lifetime – and their foraging can cause significant damage to trees, shrubs and garden beds.
  • Deer move freely through suburban landscapes when temperatures drop because they have no natural predators - other than humans - in suburbia. In the wild, predators serve as natural population control for deer, but such predators are rare or non-existent in suburban areas.
  • While fences can be a sure way to keep deer out of your yard, you probably can’t build one tall enough. Deer can jump as high as 8 feet, and many municipalities and homeowners associations limit suburban fence height to 5 or 6 feet.
  • When it comes to deterring deer, fencing, chemicals and devices don't always work. Most homeowners associations and municipalities prohibit building a fence higher than 5 or 6 feet, and most deer can jump as high as 8 feet. Natural deterrents in the form of topical sprays are much more effective, and are safe to use for even the most sensitive plants. In addition, natural deterrents won’t wash off after heavy rain or snow.
As cold temperatures arrive and more deer activity occurs, it’s important to protect your yard and home from foraging deer. Armed with knowledge and the right repellent, you’ll be able to enjoy your landscape without worrying about deer damage.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What's Your Kitchen Style?

December 3, 2014 4:21 am

(Family Features) With a multitude of design options available for kitchens, which style would you choose for your home?

Aside from aesthetics, homeowners must consider the kitchen’s compatibility with the design of the rest of the home, and factors such as durability and functionality. Often viewed as features that anchor the space, kitchen cabinets are a good place to start when determining your kitchen’s overall style:

Traditional – Traditional rooms are distinguished by their details. Classic kitchen cabinets contain embellishments such as corbels, moldings and raised panels. One advantage to a traditionally-styled kitchen is the freedom to mix design elements.

Contemporary – Contemporary spaces are characterized by distinctive hard, sleek, horizontal lines. A full overlay slab door cabinet is typically the norm for these types of kitchens. There may be horizontal wood grains to match up with the linear quality of the room, but visually, the wood grain comes off as textured.

Transitional – Transitional design pulls together the warmth of traditional with the crispness of contemporary. Stained, shaker-style cabinets are popular because they combine the best of both worlds, suiting a range of homes.

Casual – Comfort is the name of the game for casually-styled kitchens. Coastal (driftwood or white washed cabinets) or country (natural or stained cabinets) designs make for a beautiful, laid-back look.

Whether your preferences fit perfectly into one category or a combination of several, the goal of creating your special kitchen space is to listen to what style speaks to you.

Source: Wellborn Cabinets, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Protect Your Home from Increased Fire Risk over the Holidays

December 3, 2014 4:21 am

(Family Features) As the holiday season approaches, the risk of house fires increases drastically as cooking, decorating and other traditions require the use of candles and open flames. The U.S. Fire Administration reports there are approximately 128,700 fires during the month of December, a sharp uptick that compromises the safety of your family and your home.

Stay safe this holiday season with these tips:
  • Make sure your tree is at least three feet away from heat sources such as fireplaces, radiators, space heaters, candles or heat vents. If you have a live tree in your home, keep it well watered and remove it after the holiday or when it becomes dry.
  • Inspect holiday lights each year for frayed wires, bare spots and excessive kinking or wear before use. Connect strings of lights to an extension cord before plugging the cord into the outlet.
  • Consider using battery-operated, flameless candles. When using lit candles, make sure they are in stable holders and placed where they cannot be knocked down easily. Never leave lit candles unattended.
  • When cooking, stand by your stove and turn pot handles toward the back of the stove so children cannot reach them. Wear short sleeves or roll up long sleeves, and keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby to cover the pan if it catches on fire.
  • Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers. The holiday season is a great time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms and to check fire extinguishers.
Source: Shriners Hospitals for Children

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Better Ways to Cut Home Insurance Costs

December 3, 2014 4:21 am

While there are many smart ways to save money on homeowners insurance, there are also mistakes that can result in a highly detrimental lack of coverage.

“Asking about available discounts and comparison shopping is an excellent way to cut insurance costs,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). “However, consumers who try to save money by reducing or dropping necessary coverage could be left dangerously underinsured.”

Following are the five biggest home insurance mistakes consumers can make, along with suggestions for better ways to save money:

1. Selecting an insurance company by price alone. It is important to choose a company with competitive prices, but also one that is financially sound and provides good customer service.

A better way to save: Check the financial health of a company with independent rating agencies and ask friends and family for recommendations. You should select an insurance company that will respond to your needs and handle claims fairly and efficiently.

2. Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding. When real estate prices go down, some homeowners may think they can reduce the amount of insurance on their home. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding, not the sales price of the house. You should make sure that you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace your belongings.

A better way to save: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your premium payments.

3. Dropping flood insurance. Many homeowners are unaware they are at risk for flooding, but in fact, 25 percent of all flood losses occur in low risk areas—and damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies. Keep in mind that significant snow fall in winter may cause spring related flooding to be particularly severe.

A better way to save: Before purchasing a home, check with the NFIP to determine whether the property is situated in a flood zone; if so, consider a less risky area. If you are already living in a designated flood zone, consider mitigation steps that can reduce your risk of flood damage.

4. Neglecting to buy renters insurance.
A renters insurance policy covers your possessions and additional living expenses if you have to move out due to an insured disaster, such as a fire or hurricane. Equally important, it provides liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue.

A better way to save: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto and life will generally provide savings.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Prevent Winter Dehydration

December 2, 2014 4:35 am

(Family Features) When the mercury drops, it's more important than ever to stay properly hydrated. During the winter, people may not seem to sweat as much as in the summer, but that doesn't lessen one's risk of dehydration.

"As a hospital physician, I've seen far too many people succumb to dehydration-related health scares, stemming from high-elevation ski trips to travel to simply forgetting to drink water because it's cold outside," says Dr. Ralph E. Holsworth, director of clinical and scientific research for Essentia Water and medical physician at Southeast Colorado Hospital. "Staying properly hydrated can help ensure good health through the winter, reduce dry skin and even help you flush toxins out of your body to reduce the chances of getting a winter cold or flu."

Roughly 75 percent of the North American population is chronically dehydrated. By the time you feel thirsty (and sometimes when you don't) you may already be dehydrated. Whether you're skiing or just taking a walk on a brisk day, experts recommend these tips to stay hydrated throughout the winter season and beyond.
  • Set a daily water intake goal. A good rule of thumb for daily water intake from food and fluids is 2 liters for females and 2.5 liters for males with moderate physical activity levels. Adjust your personal goal to account for climate and activity level. Start your day by filling a tumbler or setting out bottles of your favorite water totaling your goal. Supplement with healthy foods that have high water content like soup, salad and pears.
  • Winter it up. During cooler weather, chilled water isn't very enticing. To make it more appealing, warm a mug of water or add a burst of flavor from your favorite winter fruit like oranges, tangerines or cranberries. Drop in a cinnamon stick for an added flavor kick and enticing aroma.
  • Check the mirror. A tried and true way to know if you're getting enough water is to check your mirror. If your skin appears dry and flaky, it's time to drink more fluids.
  • Drink electrolyte-enhanced alkaline water (also called functional water). Wellness experts agree that disease and infection have a hard time thriving in an alkaline environment. High-pH water can help neutralize acid levels and restore your body to a natural state. Functional water can help you avoid or fight winter colds and flu, hydrate your skin and re-hydrate someone who is showing signs of dehydration.
  • Pack the H2O. From carrying a backpack to wearing a special hydration pack, it's important to bring water with you during winter outings. If you simply can't bring it with you, be sure you have a list of stores that offer bottled water, and keep a supply of it in your car's trunk for emergencies.
Source: Essentia Water

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Five Home Safety Measures for the Holidays

December 2, 2014 4:35 am

The end of the year is traditionally festive and celebratory, but it is also a time when you and your family are most susceptible to home break-ins and fire hazards. In fact, December and January are most common for burglaries, with the average number of incidents increasing by 20 percent during those months. Additionally, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that the most home fires happen in winter months, causing over $2 million in reported property loss.

Despite these statistics, there are effective ways to reduce the likelihood of being victim to these holiday hazards. Porch.com recommends these five tips to keep your home and family safe this holiday season.

1. Prevent Christmas tree fires – The U.S. Fire Administration reports that one out of every three Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems. Make sure to only use indoor UL-listed lights for decorating your tree and always turn off the tree lights at night and when you leave your home. If you have a real Christmas tree, make sure it stays fresh by watering it regularly. Dry trees are more flammable, and at higher risk to catch on fire. When using artificial trees, make sure the tree is labeled as “fire resistant.”

2. Check your smoke detector batteries – Test every smoke and carbon monoxide detector in your house and change out the batteries. This is a simple and inexpensive way to protect your home, and should be done every few months throughout the year.

3. Use your home security system – Security systems will deter criminals from breaking into your home. In fact, cities and neighborhoods that have a higher number of security installs have lower burglary rates.

4. Don’t give burglars reasons to break in – The FBI reports that around 400,000 home burglaries occur during November and December each year. Leaving valuable items out in the open and near doors and windows will make your home an easy target for quick break-ins. Wrapped or unwrapped, if you need to leave valuables and gifts out in the open, simply draw the blinds or cover them so they aren’t easily seen.

5. Make it look like you’re home, even when you’re not – Whether you are gone on an extended holiday or just out for holiday dinner, burglars watch for homes that have no activity. Make sure you have an automatic light timer for your indoor lights, and set the timer to change the turn-on time regularly. (Burglars will notice if your lights come on at 5 p.m. every day, for example.) For your outdoor lights, install motion sensor lighting. Have a friend or family member check on your house periodically while you are gone on vacation. In some cities you can even request the police to do “vacation checks,” where they will drive by your home a few times to make sure there is no suspicious activity.

Source: Porch.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Myths about Buying a New Home

December 2, 2014 4:35 am

Choosing whether to purchase a new or pre-owned home is a critical decision for homebuyers, and it’s important to know the reality behind some misconceptions about buying a new home.

KB Home, one of the nation’s largest and most recognized homebuilders, debunks three myths associated with buying new construction.

Myth #1: A new home is more expensive than a pre-owned home.

Fact: New homes can be built to accommodate any budget. Buyers can select from a variety of floor plans tailored to meet a range of budgets, so they only pay for what they value. Also, with standardized energy-efficient features, monthly utility expenses can be lower than those of an older home or rental property.

Myth #2: A new home will have features I don’t want.

Fact:
While it’s true that some new home builders produce communities in bulk and sell speculative inventory homes, homebuyers typically get to select the floor plan and features that best fit their needs and preferences before construction begins.

Myth #3: Buying a pre-owned home is better for the environment.

Fact: Just like today’s cars run much more efficiently than the clunky gas guzzlers of the past, all new homes use energy far more efficiently than a typical pre-owned home. In addition, new homes utilize sustainably-sourced or recycled-content products whenever possible when building, and often employ advanced supply chain management and recycling practices to minimize waste in the home construction process.

Myth #4: I won’t save money buying a new home.

Fact:
There are a lot of ways that purchasing a new home can lower the total cost of homeownership. Along with saving on energy and water bills, homeowners generally save on renovations and repairs. More importantly, homeownership can offer long-term financial advantages, including the opportunity to deduct mortgage interest payments from your income taxes and the potential to build equity in your home.

Source: KB Home

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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